Phil Pash's Simply Sports: IceHogs launch sixth season Friday night

The Rockford IceHogs’ sixth United Hockey League season starts Friday, Oct. 15, at 7:05 p.m. at the MetroCentre. Their opponent will be their fiercest rival, the Quad City Mallards.

Tickets, starting at $7, can be purchased at the MetroCentre or at (815) 968-5222. For ticket or group information, call the IceHogs office at (815) 986-6465. More info (if you’ve got a half-hour or so) can be found at, the Web site designed to sell Cadillacs or Lincolns rather than a minor-league hockey team.

As a prelude to the opener, there will be an inter-squad game tonight (Oct. 13) at 7:30 p.m. at Telfer Park in Beloit, Wis.

The ‘Hogs will play 40 home games at the MetroCentre this season.

For the 25 games on Friday and Saturday nights, the puck will drop at 7:05 p.m. Eight of nine Wednesday games also will start at 7:05. A special Rockford schools game vs. the Quad City Mallards on March 23 will start at 11:05 a.m.

Four Sunday games—Nov. 14, Nov. 28, Jan. 2 and March 10—will start at 3:05 p.m. The other two Sunday games on Dec. 19 and March 13 will begin at 1:05 p.m.

A new head coach, Steve Martinson, will be calling the shots this year as the ‘Hogs seek their first postseason appearance. Martinson led the San Diego Gulls to league titles five of the last nine seasons, recording impressive winning records each year.

“This is a better team on paper than the first-place team we had last year,” Martinson told the local daily, adding that the Gulls had the second highest point total in the East Coast Hockey League history. “There’s no doubt in my mind we’ll challenge for the (UHL) championship.”

Bruce Watson, who played for the ‘Hogs in their very first game, is a late addition. Watson played for Martinson in 2002-03 when the Gulls won the West Coast Hockey League title.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound winger has 237 points and 1,698 penalty minutes in 329 pro games.

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Icemen Going: The Rockford Icemen will play their usual demanding schedule of approximately 70 games while getting ready for a run at their ninth straight combined-school state hockey title in mid-March.

The Icemen, who play their home games at Riverview Ice House and Carlson Arctic Ice Arena, are 1-0 after opening with an 11-0 victory over Palatine/Elk Grove, reported the local daily.

Only three senior regulars return on a varsity roster of 20—Kyle Harris of Christian Life, Andy Rungren of Guilford and Trevor Bolthouse of Boylan. The Icemen relied heavily on sophomores last season, so experienced juniors will be prominent this time.

Included in that group is Troy Mattila of Guilford, the team’s top scorer and son of coach Tim Mattila. Other veterans Rockford will rely on include juniors David Nagel, Evan Krieger, Brady Norton, Matt Kiefer, John Crowley and Justin Brown; and sophomores Zach Smith and Ian Hardenbrook.

The Icemen were given permission to draw from a fourth school this season because they didn’t have a back-up goalie. That role will be filled by Harlem freshman Nate Tuttle, while Guilford junior Dayne Pyfer enters the season as No. 1.

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