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It's No Longer Early

11/23/2012 2:05 PM - Mike Peck

The term "it's still early" is commonly used in sports' who's seasons contain upwards of 70, 80, over 100 games. So when is it not "early"?

For me, once we hit Thanksgiving week, the hockey season isn't early anymore. Typically, we're 15-18 games into the season and all the early season jitters, bugs,  chemistry issues, etc. should have worked themselves out.

Anything that carries over tend to be habits and trends, not misnomers.  So these issues, like all the first period goals against, will take a lot more effort to correct then if it were just a blip on the radar.

Through 16 games, I haven't really felt this team has put it all together for one full contest yet.  Whether it's a bad period, slow offense, off goaltending or subpar special teams for a game or a part of a game, the IceHogs are still looking for that proverbial "60-minute" effort.

It's starting to sound like a broken record, but Rockford's goaltending needs to improve as the early season struggles by the IceHogs goalies are beginning to become an unwanted tradition. Like I've said in the past, all the blame can't be passed on to the goalies, but a goalie can really dictate a team's confidence.

I don 't want to sound like a Debbie Downer as it really hasn't been that bad. The IceHogs special teams are relevant with the power play improving. The penalty kill has been a top 10 unit in the AHL since Week 1 and the power play has shown flashes, especially lately, going 4-10 over the past two tilts.

Martin St. Pierre has been as advertised and as we remember, if not better. I don't remember St. Pierre being as physical five years ago as he is now and I think he is the right captain to lead this team.

Marcus Kruger is a true professional and has been an absolute joy to watch and be around.  I know that there were some questions out in cyber space about Kruger spending his first full professional season in North America with the Blackhawks in 2011-12, but watching him play here, he is such a good all around player and could in the NHL for a long time.

Another guy that has really impressed me lately is Brandon Saad. Saad had to have been hobbled by his lower body injury badly to start the season because since his return, he's been a completely different player. Few at the AHL level has his breakaway speed and he seems to have a great hockey sense. I see why he's often listed as a top prospect in the organization. I know he's a second round pick, but there are no sure things in the draft and it appears Mark Kelley and his scouting crew have found another gem.

Earlier in this post I mentioned that it isn't early anymore, which it isn't. But it isn't time to hit panic buttons or anything like that either.  Moving forward, here are some observations that thoughts about what could improve the IceHogs as we enter in the middle portion of the schedule:

NHLers Need To Make A Bigger Impact: The reason that I'm signaling out this group is because Rockford really benefited from the NHL lockout, getting five or six players who could be in Chicago. Andrew Shaw, Dylan Olsen, Brandon Bollig and Nick Leddy all have the capability of contributing more and I think will.

Obviously I'm not talking just offensively for all of these players (although Shaw and Leddy should be relied on a little more on the offensive side), but playing their roles on the team more effectively and not trying to do too much, which might be a part of the problem.

Jimmy Hayes has contributed, but has been trying to find more consistency. Some of that has to do with the experiment of using him as a center.  But consistency is always a battle for young players and we have to remember that Hayes is just in his second season.

Goaltending/D-Zone Coverage: This was covered earlier a bit with the goaltending. I believe this will improve once the IceHogs get better in their defensive zone. It hasn't been as porous as it was last season for the first half of the campaign, but there is some room for improvement that would help out the tenders.

Energy: Do not take this as I don't think the team is not trying or working or not caring. That is not the case. This is a case of the fourth line needing to provide a more consistent spark, staying even keel emotionally and coming out of the locker room ready to play.

Last season, when Rockford was winning games down the home stretch, Philippe Paradis and Rob Flick were providing a big spark for the IceHogs.  I'd love to see them and whoever is paired with them on the "Energy Line" re-establish that.

As for Friday's game Alec Richards is going to get an opportunity to earn more ice time as he'll be back in goal for the IceHogs. It'll be just his third start in 17 games this season and his fifth overall appearance.

With Shawn Lalonde still suspended (two more games) and Brandon Svendsen injured, Rockford's healthy scratches are Wade Brookbank, Brett Lebda and Peter Leblanc.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and I hope you all enjoy some IceHogs hockey this weekend on 23-2 "Weather Now"!

Los IceHogs Exposed

11/09/2012 8:33 AM - Mike Peck

It's kind of crazy watching something blow up (in a good way) right before your eyes.

This week, the IceHogs promotion, Los IceHogs Night, for next Friday's game (Friday, Nov. 16) against Houston has taken on a life of its own.

It's funny that when we announced the promotional schedule back in September and even put an image of the jersey on that same day, it hardly caused a ripple of reaction.

But thanks to Puck Daddy (click here), the promotion has gone as viral as any that the IceHogs have ever done.

First off, we need to send a big thank you out to the Latino Leadership Coalition of Rockford for helping with this promotion and providing guidance and advice throughout the process of putting this fun event together. From their standpoint, I know they've stuck their necks out trying to open up a different entertainment option to the Hispanic community.

Secondly, a thanks to SP Apparel for bringing the jersey to life (insert joke here) and to Exclusive Pro Sports in Rockford for custom designing the numbers on the back.  Those numbers are unreal!

Listen, we aren't blind. Yes, the jerseys are loud and borderline outrageous. But this is a good opportunity to partner with a segment of our community that we normally aren't known to entertain as an organization and have some fun.

Fortunately for us, the folks who helped organize this event at the Latino Leadership Coalition of Rockford has had the foresight to help us try to grow our product. Call me cynical, but you don't see that in Rockford everyday!

They have been supportive to the idea that hockey, as a sport, and the IceHogs, as an entertainment option in Rockford, are an important and enjoyable part of our community

Unfortunately, every "ying" has its "yang".  Again, we know what the jersey looks like and we don't expect everyone to "like" them. But I have seen the word "racist" used in correlation with this jersey.

Here are two definitions of racist:

a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.

having or showing the belief that a particular race is superior to another

To say that the jerseys are racist is not an accurate statement.  I don't have a problem with criticism on the organization or someone saying how stupid it is to try to do a night like this or wear jerseys like these. But please be accurate with the choice of words.

As a matter of fact, with the support that the IceHogs have received from the Latino Leadership Coalition of Rockford, I believe that Los IceHogs Night has been the exact opposite of racist as it is building a bridge between two different cultures in the Rockford community.

Here are some thoughts from locals on the jersey through a story on WTVO: Click Here

I will say, as a broadcaster, it might take a day or two to recover from staring at those jerseys for an entire game! So I would like to send out an apology in advance to the voice of the Houston Aeros Joe O'Donnell. At least he'll be feeling my pain.

Hopefully everyone can make it out to the BMO Harris Bank Center on Nov. 16 for the game as we truly believe the night will be a success. We will also be posting information in the next couple of days how you can get your hands on one of the Los IceHogs jerseys.