AHL

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Round 2 of the Calder Cup playoffs isn’t going so well for the Chicago Wolves. They’re currently down two games against the Toronto Marlies.  The Wolves began their Round 2 run Friday night with a 5-2 loss at home.  Unfortunately they suffered a second loss, site 4-2, Saturday night also at home.  The series now moves to Toronto and the Ricoh Coliseum.

marlieslive_rd2game2_preview644x396-1Chicago will look to rally Wednesday night in Toronto.  A win gives them a chance to stay in the series and ultimately the playoffs.  A third loss puts them in a very bad position in this best of 7 series. Keep in mind Toronto swept the Milwaukee Admirals in the first round of the playoffs so they’ll be looking to repeat that performance in Round 2.

So what do the Wolves need to keep themselves in the run for the Calder Cup?  Now I don’t claim to know everything about hockey (shocking, I know!), but I can speculate. To me, the Wolves looked tired Saturday night.  Their game lacked focus and energy. If they can take the next few days off to re-focus and re-energize, they stand a good chance of keeping themselves in the playoffs.  The team certainly has the talent.

Wolves fans not looking to make a last minute trip to Canada can catch the game at 6pm on The U too, XFinity 248 or ahllive.com on Wednesday night.  These will be your options through most of the rest of Round 2, unless it goes to Game 7 which will be back on home ice Monday May 19.article_9b3e17a0-bc49-4fd6-b3ff-a5e2ebcafb10

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Ladies, sickness if you’re like me, getting to a playoff game or two is essential, but with Blackhawks playoff tickets so out of reach, what’s a gal to do?  Why not check out the AHL Calder Cup playoffs?  Our hometown team, the Chicago Wolves, defeated the Rochester Americans in Round 1 to move on to Round 2 against the Toronto Marlies (the Toronto Maple Leafs affiliate).  The best of seven series begins tonight (Friday, May 9th) at home, the Allstate Arena, at 7:30pm.

What You Need To Know:

The Wolves earned 100 points during the regular season, finishing second in the AHL’s Western Conference.  The Marlies were third with 96 points.  The Wolves have the brennan_leafs.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxnumber one goalie in the league, Jake Allen, who has a 2.03 GAA and a .928 save percentage.  The Marlies have T.J. Brennan, the number four goal scorer in the AHL, with 25 goals during the regular season.

In Round 1, the Wolves battled through 5 games against the Rochester Americans to get through to Round 2.  Despite a shutout Game 3, Chicago lost Game 4, but rallied for Game 5.  The Marlies swept the Milwaukee Admirals in only 3 games.  The Wolves seem to be the “comeback kids”, having come from behind in a number of games during the regular season and battling back to win Round 1.  The Marlies won 45 of their 76 regular season games, one of which was against the Wolves.  These two teams are pretty evenly matched, which I believe will make this second round series a very exciting one.

Players to Watch:

Chicago Wolves: First and foremost, I must mention goaltender Jake Allen.  As I previously stated, he’s the number one goalie in the AHL but its more than that.  There’s just something about Jake in net that’s very impressive.  Check out some of his highlights with the Wolves’ NHL affiliate, the St.Louis Blues:

images (3)Chicago also has right-winger Ty Rattie, their points leader for the regular season; 31 goals, 17 assists, 48 points.  He has 1 goal, 1 assist, and 2 points in the playoffs.

The Toronto Marlies, also as previously stated, have the AHL’s number four goal scorer in T.J. Brennan.  The 25 year old New Jersey native has 25 goals, 47 download (4)assists, and 72 points in the regular season; 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points in the playoffs.  The Marlies’ goalie is Drew MacIntyre, who earned himself a 2.53 GAA and a .917 save percentage during the regular season.

What’s Next:

Having been at Games 3 and 4 of Round 1, I know just how fun and exciting they are. My bestie and I sat on the glass for Game 3 at just $50 a piece; ya can’t beat that! Each game begins with Motley Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart”, fireworks, and pyrotechnics.  Skates, the Wolves’ mascot, even shoots fireworks from his paws!  Game 3 was extra exciting considering it was a shutout.  Even though the Wolves lost Game 4, it was still just as fun and I got to experience the family friendly vibe, having taken my friend and her two young boys.  The boys even got to meet Skates and some of the Wolves‘ players, which made their night!  Wanna get in on the action?  Round 2 begins Friday night, grab some tickets here. Game 2 continues at home on Saturday (tickets here).  Catch Games 3 and 4 are in Toronto but you can catch them on The U Too on Wednesday May 14 and Friday May 16.  Complete Western Conference Semis schedule is below.  See you at AllState!

Wolves Playoff Schedule

 

 

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While the Blackhawks had their Olympic break, sick things were heating up with the team’s affiliate in the minor leagues. Prior to Saturday’s loss, there the Rockford IceHogs had an 11-game point streak, viagra led by our HAM of the Week, Jeremy Morin. With only 18 games left of the regular season, the team is riding on momentum—12 of their last games were high scoring affairs, and Morin has had one point in each of those games.

Jeremy Morin, http://www.indianheadnation.com

Jeremy Morin, http://www.indianheadnation.com

The Auburn, New York native began his hockey career in 2006 with the Syracuse Stars in the Eastern Junior Hockey League, earning Rookie of the Year honors. Morin joined the US National Team Development Program for the following two seasons. After playing one season in the Ontario Hockey League, the 6’1”, 189 lbs left-winger was selected by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2009 NHL draft before being traded to the Blackhawks in 2010. He was assigned to Rockford at the start of the 2010-11 season, but bounced between the two teams for the next three years.

Morin also represented the United States in the IIHF World Championships in 2008 and 2009, earning a bronze and a gold, respectively, and in the World Junior Championships, earning a gold in 2010 and a bronze in 2011.

The Blackhawks recalled the 22-year-old Morin at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season, in November when Bryan Bickell got injured and again in early December. Though he has only managed one goal and four assists in 15 games, Morin has found his A-game in Rockford, posting a club-leading 21 goals and 22 assists. The IceHogs’ win streak helped lead them to a sixth place standing in the Western Conference, and are likely to nab a spot in the playoffs.

Jeremy Morin, http://blackhawks.nhl.com

Jeremy Morin, http://blackhawks.nhl.com

Morin, along with former HAM of the Week Brandon Pirri, who was just yesterday traded to the Florida Panthers for future draft picks, were both in the hunt for a final spot in this season’s roster. Morin still has a lot to learn, and with Pirri now out of the picture, it’s only a matter of time before he’s called up to finish the rest of the season.

So what else is there to know about the organization’s current hottest prospect?

Morin is second in team scoring, with 43 points in 43 games, and recorded six goals and seven assists (and his second hat trick) in February alone. He has plenty of skill to contribute both offensively and defensively, and, according to Rant Sports, Morin would fit well on the third line. Now that Thor (er, Michael Kostka) was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightening, we hope Q will take note and call up Morin soon.

Morin is a surefire candidate for February’s AHL Player of the Month honors, both on the ice and off. In a 2008 interview with USA Today, Morin said he’s the kind of player who wants to create opportunities to score goals and isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty.

He also isn’t afraid to tell the world what’s really important:

 

And, in this interview with the Rockford IceHogs, “Mo” dishes how to appropriately “celly” a goal:

Sounds like a player who deserves a roster spot next season. Hear us, Q?

Follow Morin on Twitter at @jmorin91.

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Road Trip to Rockford

If you’re a Blackhawks fan then you’re probably familiar with the team’s AHL affiliate the Rockford IceHogs. Known as the Blackhawks’ ‘farm team’, pills the IceHogs are responsible for keeping the Hawks stocked with the best young talent season after season as they independently play and compete in the extremely competitive western conference of the 30-team American Hockey League.

While it’s tough to beat a trip to the UC to see the Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks, decease a  road trip to Rockford to see the IceHogs delivers best-in-class hockey without the steep ticket prices, huge crowds and horrendous traffic, all while providing a fun and quick getaway from the big city.

The IceHogs were introduced to Rockford in 1999 and in 2005 became the first AHL team to be affliaited with a NHL, at the time, the Nashville Predators. Conveniently for Chicagoans, the IceHogs became affiliated with the Blackhawks in 2007. In just the last few years the IceHogs have produced players like Corey Crawford, Brandon Bollig, Andrew Shaw, and Antti Raanta to name a few.

Source: IceHogs.com

IceHogs tickets are a fraction of what you would pay for a Blackhawks game with prices starting at $8.00 for terrace level seats and max out at $30.00 to sit on the glass for premium games. Last time I checked, a domestic draught at the United Center is $8.00.

Depending on where you are in the Chicagoland area, a trip to Rockford will set you back one to two hours. I’ve spent that much time sitting in traffic trying to get to the United Center from the north side of the city. At least on the drive to Rockford, you’re actually moving. 

To prove just how much of a value play and the fun that is in store in a Road Trip to Rockford, my friend Sam and I made the hike west this Saturday night for the Lake Erie Monsters matchup.

It took us just over an hour to get there from the western suburbs and once we arrived in Rockford we parked directly across the street from the BMO Harris Bank Center and it only cost us $5.00.

We decided to have dinner at District a local bar that’s known for its support of the IceHogs.  The city of Rockford seemed to be relatively quiet on a Saturday night, that is every place but District. Unfortunately at 5:00pm the bar was packed to the gills.  We didn’t want to risk missing puck drop so we decided to find food elsewhere.  Note: if heading to District for pre game dinner, get there early or call ahead for reservations.

Our plan B was a small bar called Kiwi Cafe & Bar.  We were very glad we did.  Not only was the food good but the waiter was just as cute as can be, and that’s always a plus in my book!  While dining we noticed from the windows  the throngs of people on the street heading towards the BMO Harris Bank Center and knew this would be a good night.

After dinner it was a quick walk across the street to the arena.  We headed to Will Call to retrieve our tickets for the 7:00pm puck drop and noticed large crowds trying to score last minute seats.

We headed upstairs to where the action is and checked out some of the merchandise, including buttons with the players faces on them where I picked up an Antti Raanta pin as a souviner.  

Now here’s the special part: the atmosphere at an Icehogs game is really something worth experiencing.  The BMO Harris Arena capacity is 10,500 compared to the United Center’s 20,500, so there’s a different level of intimacy at a Hogs game that you just can’t experience at the UC. No seat is a bad seat with great views of every slap shot and stop at the net. You can honestly see the expressions of players as they face off, take shots on goal, sit in the penalty box and on the bench. At a Hogs game you really experience a different more intimate type of play action and overall game that is hard to find in larger arenas, from the cowbells and chanting of the crowd to the mix of real families and locals in the stands.  It’s impossible not to get caught up in it all and enjoy yourself.

Jeremy Morin

A Hogs’ game is also a great way to learn the game if you’re new to hockey.  A AHL game has a slightly slower pace than a NHL matchup, so it’s easier to follow.  Saturday’s matchup was evenly matched as the #4 ranked Hogs (of the Midwest division) took on the #3 Lake Erie Monsters (of the North Division). Sam and I enjoyed a 6-1 Hogs crushing victory over the Lake Erie Monsters and we even got to vote on the three stars of the game.

One of the coolest things about going to IceHogs game is getting to see players who have previously played with the Blackhawks, like Brandon Pirri and Jeremy Morin.  Sadly for us, Pirri was scratched on Saturday night but we did get to see Jeremy Morin score a sweet snipe goal.  Check out the one-on-one below with SDI and Pirri from last season.

The stick room

Brandon Pirri and author, Erin Lerchbacker

The night got even better after the game as we had the chance to check out the Hogs official stick room and meet with SDI favorite centerman Brandon Pirri.  I asked Brandon about the difference between the fans in Rockford and the fans in Chicago.  He told us the experience with the fans in Rockford is a closer one as fans have the chance to get closer to the action. Pirri also commented on the difference between living in the Rockford community and the opportunity it allows players to interact with their fans, something Brandon said is pretty cool.

After the game, we figured we’d check out some of this Hogs’ community action first hand and headed to well-known Hogs’ post-game hangout, RBIs As I expected the place was very busy.  RBIs is definitely a local place where Hogs feel comfortable hanging out throughout the week and after games. It’s a younger crowd where you’ll see a ton of Icehogs/Blackhawks gear.

By the time we arrived there were no tables left (strike 2) so we stood and took in the scene while enjoying a post game beverage as the bar continued to fill up with people from the game.

Shortly after we arrived so did IceHogs goaltender Jason LaBarbera and defenseman Klas Dahlbeck.  It was obvious from their demeanor that they are regulars: they weren’t carded at the door and the bartender gave Dahlbeck a high five when he told her they had won their game.

Sam and I congratulated them on a good game as well.  Neither of them seemed surprised or annoyed that we knew who they were or had approached them, which is more than I can say for my last experience at RBIs with last season’s captain Martin St.Pierre.

Jeremy Morin

After finishing our drinks Sam and I decided to head home and ran into Jeremy Morin and Brandon Pirri on our way out.  I guess he wasn’t kidding about going out and interacting with the fans regularly. #score

All in all it was a fantastic night full of great hockey, good people and real experiences. Thank you Mike, Nate, Sam and everyone at the IceHogs organization who made us feel so welcome and way cooler than we really are.

So ladies, quit waiting around for the Blackhawks tickets to drop in price, because they won’t. Instead, grab your girls, your guy, whomever is ready and willing and head to Rockford for a unique and value filled hockey experience that just can’t be delivered in Chicago.

For more information on the Rockford IceHogs including upcoming games and tickets, head to their website and be sure to follow them on Twitter at @goicehogs. 

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Happy Holidays Sports Divas!

Another week has come and gone and still no NHL. As if a lockout for Christmas wasn’t bad enough, sovaldi rumors are now swirling that games in 2013 are about to get the axe!

Gary Bettman and Don Fehr are clearly the Grinch and the Scrooge of this holiday season but this hockey lover refuses to let them deprive me of cold steel on ice. This week in our weekly hockey fix we once again do not disappoint. Check out our exclusive interview with Rockford IceHogs center Brandon Pirri. We caught up Pirri during our Roadtrip to Rockford.

The 411 on Pirri: The 21-year old native of Toronto, sovaldi sale Ontario stands at 6’0” and 185 lbs. He is currently third in points on the IceHogs Roster.

Pirri started his junior career in 2007 with the Streetsville Derbys of the Ontario Junior Hockey League before committing to Rensselar Poytechnical Institute in the ECAC Hockey conference of the NCAA. Pirri was then drafted 59th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Blackhawks. He made his NHL debut in October, capsule 2010 and is holding down the center position nicely for the IceHogs.

We’ve been watching Pirri since his debut on the ice with the Hogs but after meeting him in person, we’re paying more attention than ever before. With a set of dimples, blazing dark eyes, a friendly smile, and a soft spoken voice, Pirri is definitely one to watch for.

You can follow Pirri on twitter @pirri91

The Rockford IceHogs take on Milwaukee Friday at 7pm on the road, and then return home to the BMO center Saturday night vs. Abbotsford at 7pm. The IceHogs currently sit in second place in the division. For a complete schedule and tickets head over to the Rockford IceHogs site.

Check back next week to see what other modest, delightful hockey hotties of the AHL we’ve caught up with these last few weeks.

Until then… Kisses! And oh yes, #endthelockout

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Ice Hogs

More bad news on the NHL lockout front.  After canceling all preseason games, there the league announced the cancellation of the first two weeks of the regular season through October 24th.  What’s worse, pilule the NHL and the NHLPA have no negotiations in the upcoming days.

Many of the NHL’s best have signed contracts over in Europe with elite teams.  Just last week another one of our beloved Blackhawks, Brian Bickell signed in Austria to play for HC Znojmo, joining other Hawks Michael Frolik and Michal Rozsival, who are both playing in the Czech League.

If you are wondering how we got to this point in this lockout bullshit read it HERE.  Bottom line is, with no end in sight to the NHL lockout, our sights are turning to the American Hockey League (the AHL) and you should too.

The Chicago Wolves

If there is one league that is thrilled with the current NHL Lockout, it’s the AHL.  With the NHL locked out, the AHL will receive deserving exposure, increases in ticket sales and a heightened awareness as hockey fans look for their hockey fix.

Yet, many people do not know the difference between the NHL and AHL.  There’s never been a better time to break down the differences between the two.

MUST know differences between the AHL & NHL: 

  • AHL is the top minor league to the NHL – similar to AAA to MLB.  It is where players go to develop and the professional league then gets to pick off of all year for young talent when there are injuries, under-performing players, etc.
  • The AHL includes 29 clubs that are primarily based in the US.  The NHL includes 30 clubs, where 6 clubs are from Canada and 24 are from the US.
  • The Chicago area AHL team is the Chicago Wolves, which is affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks!  I know cheering for Canucks…we are not pleased with it either….but what can a hockey loving girl do?!?!?
  • Our Blackhawks AHL affiliate is the Rockford Ice Hogs

  • The biggest difference between the NHL and AHL are the salaries:   minimum in the AHL $36,500 while the NHL is $850,000.
  • Travel: the NHL is first class accommodations all the way, charter planes, five-star hotels, meals, etc. While in the AHL some teams travel on buses still, or fly commercial and are not being put up at the Sutton Place Hotel that’s for sure.
  • Nature of Game:  many assume the NHL is faster and that the combination of skill and intelligence of the game surpasses the AHL.   While the goal of AHL players is to ultimately play in the NHL, some players will thrive in the AHL but fail to produce if and when they ever get a ‘call up’.  The reality is most AHL players will never skate in the NHL.
  • Rules:  AHL has 5 skaters each in the shootout rather than 3 like the NHL.  Also in the AHL it is mandatory to wear a visor (obviously to protect those beautiful faces) while in the NHL you can go without a visor (don’t know who wants to mess up their mug, but it is optional).
  • Referees:  During game play in the NHL there are four officials on the ice: 2 referees and two 2 linesmen. While in the AHL there are 2 officials on the ice: 1 referee and 1 linesman.

Your Take Away Piece:  

The difference between the leagues on ice is minimal at best; off the ice obviously couldn’t be more different, just look at the salaries between the two leagues. Many of the guys in the AHL are trying to make it to the show and spend their entire careers trying to get there.  One good outcome of the lockout is that these much deserving players will finally get some exposure.”

What’s Next:  

As the days go by and with no talks on tap, look for the NHL to cancel more games and many more players to jump ship. However with 2 great AHL teams in our backyard a girl doesn’t have to go far to get her hockey fix!  Click here for the Chicago Wolves website for schedules, stats, etc. http://www.chicagowolves.com/ and here for the Rockford Ice hogs: http://www.icehogs.com/

 

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