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The Hat Trick Of Bench Fights

03/18/2013 1:22 PM - Mike Peck

This has been one of the, oh what’s the word, “unique” seasons of Rockford IceHogs hockey. With the lockout and its effect on the Hogs and the AHL, to the streakiness of the team, to the on-ice antics and altercations that have surrounded Rockford, this has been a strange, but entertaining season.

On Sunday in Rosemont, the IceHogs were involved with yet another YouTube worthy altercation. In the final seconds of a 2-1 victory over the Wolves, Ben Smith was checked through the door on the IceHogs bench by Chicago winger Guillaume Desbiens setting off a bench brawl.

Now let me clarify, it was a bench brawl, not a bench clearing brawl or a player coming off the bench to start a ruckus. I need to clarify because Rockford has been involved in all three of the above mentioned this season.

In case you missed them, Rockford’s Andrew Shaw and Wade Brookbank were involved in fisticuffs against Lake Erie after departing the IceHogs bench back on Nov. 3. Then on Jan. 19, an apparent misunderstanding with the Grand Rapids Griffins resulted in a bench clearing incident at the BMO on Pink in the Rink Night.

I’m sure the league is getting tired of reviewing the “Rockford Files” and situations involving fisticuffs with the club.

Before Sunday’s bench incident at the Allstate Arena, Rockford has had seven different players suspended by the AHL, plus head coach Ted Dent for a total of 12 different suspensions resulting in 27 missed games. That doesn’t include a five-game suspension that Brad Mills carried to Rockford from the ECHL upon signing with the IceHogs after the NHL lockout.

Here is a list of IceHogs suspensions:

Kyle Beach (twice):            2 games
Wade Brookbank (twice):  2 games
Ted Dent:                           2 games
Rob Flick:                          6 games
Shawn Lalonde:                3 games
Kendall McArdle (twice):   3 games
Dylan Olsen:                     2 games
Andrew Shaw (twice):       7 games

I’m sure at this point the AHL is considering relocating the league’s office from Springfield, Mass. to Rockford.

The IceHogs, however, had been fairly clean since Jan. 19 until this weekend’s incidents on Saturday and Sunday.  Rockford totaled 116 PIMs in the two games and is again leading the AHL in penalty minute time (24.11 minutes per game).

Here the stat of the day for you…The Wolves committed 12.2% of their season total penalty time yesterday as they racked up 100 minutes of penalties. Entering play on Sunday, Chicago was the least penalized team in the AHL with 719 total minutes. Now they are at 819, or 676 fewer than Rockford.

It’s a similar story with Grand Rapids as the Griffins, against Rockford this season, have been called for 313 PIMs in eight games, 30.1% of their season total of 1,020.

What makes Rockford’s penalty total weird is that Peoria, Chicago and Milwaukee, teams that the Hogs will play a total of 36 times when it’s all said and done this season, are all ranked in the bottom seven in the AHL in PIMs, while Grand Rapids, whom the Hogs have played eight times, are 14th.

With as tight as things are in the Western Conference playoff picture, Rockford can’t afford needless penalties and more suspensions.  So with that being said, the extra-curricular activities have provided some good talking points, but it’s time for this team to get back to what got them on this recent hot streak.

That’s staying out of the box and not letting some of these distractions take them away from the game.