Tales from the Trough: IceHogs’ 2012-2013 season recap

By Todd Reicher
Sports Columnist

First off, I would like to thank Mike Peck and his staff within the Rockford IceHogs organization for providing me with a majority of the stats included in my story.

It’s very difficult to rate the Rockford IceHogs’ 2012-2013 season. Coming into training camp, Rockford had a very large number of returning players, all with superb talent and experience. One would have expected this was a team that could go deep into the playoffs. Although Rockford had a very successful season with 42 wins and 87 points, they still failed to make the playoffs.

The team’s 87 points was their most productive season since 2009-2010 when Rockford amassed 94 points, good enough to finish in fourth in the Western Conference.

Despite earning 87 points, Rockford missed the playoffs by 2 points, thanks, in part, to a surging Milwaukee Admirals squad that won seven of their last 10 games to squeak into the last spot with 89 points.

On top of the 87 points, Rockford finished with 42 wins on the season, which set a new AHL record for the most wins by one team in a season that did not make the Calder Cup playoffs. Rockford has now missed the Calder Cup playoffs for three straight years after making the playoffs their first three years in the AHL.

Rockford split their 42 wins evenly, with 21 at home and 21 on the road. However, Rockford finished with a slightly better road record, finishing 21-14-2-1, while coming in at 21-17-0-0 at home.

The ’Hogs were also good in the shootout going, 5-1 overall — 2-0 at home and 3-1 on the road.

Close games also played a big part in the season, as Rockford was involved in 36 one-goal games. Rockford had the upper hand in one-goal games, finishing with a 19-14-2-1 record.

Once again, Rockford was one of the hottest teams closing out the season, finishing 8-1-1 in April and 22-10-1 in the last three months of the season.

With 42 wins on the season came a great deal of scoring. In fact, Rockford came in second in the league in scoring with 246 goals, which was one goal behind last year’s Calder Cup champion Syracuse Crunch, who finished with 247 goals. The goal total gave Rockford an average of 3.24 goals per game, which set an AHL and franchise record for Rockford. The IceHogs also finished with a plus-21 goal differential, as the opponents tallied 225 goals against Rockford.

One-hundred fifty-three of Rockford’s goals came while the teams were at five-on-five, even strength. The ’Hogs tallied 63 powerplay goals, which gave the team’s powerplay a third-place finish in the AHL.

The IceHogs’ most successful period by far was the third period. Rockford outscored their opponents 90-62 in the third period, for a 28 goal differential. That period was the only period Rockford held an advantage in scoring. First-period scoring was close, with Rockford amassing 76 first-period goals to their opponents’ 78. The middle frame was the harshest for Rockford, with their opponents outscoring the ’Hogs 85-73.

Three Rockford skaters finished in the top 15 in the league in scoring: Brandon Pirri, Martin St. Pierre and Jeremy Morin. Pirri’s 75 points made him the first IceHogs player to lead the league in scoring, earning him the John B. Sollinger Trophy. In addition, rookie defenseman Adam Clendening finished third in the league in points by a defenseman with 46 (nine goals, 37 assists).

Morin and Pirri also led the team in multi-point games with 17 each. To break it down even further, Morin had 14 2-point games and three 3-point games. Pirri finished with nine 2-point games, six 3-point games, one 4-point game and one 6-point game.

Morin also led the team in goals with 30 and paced the special teams scoring in powerplay points with 26 (12 goals, 14 assists) and shorthanded points with three goals and one assist.

Jimmy Hayes led the ’Hogs with seven multiple-goal games with six two-goal games and one three-goal game. Two other players tied with six multiple goal games: Morin, with six two-goal games, and Ben Smith, with five two-goal games and one three-goal game.

Once again, Rockford led the league in third-period, come-from-behind wins with 11, which was four more than the second-place team. When trailing in the third period, Rockford finished 11-24-2-0.

Rockford fared well against their Midwest Division opponents, finishing with a 23-19-1-1 record. The IceHogs had a winning record against three of their four divisional opponents: 6-5-0-1 against the Chicago Wolves, 7-4-1-0 against the Milwaukee Admirals and 7-5-0-0 against the Peoria Rivermen. The only team Rockford had a losing record against was the Grand Rapids Griffins, where Rockford finished 3-5-0-0.

Rockford played Chicago, Peoria and Milwaukee 12 times, six at home and six on the road. Of the three teams, Rockford only had a home winning record against Peoria, to whom they finished 4-2 against. Rockford was an even .500 against both the Admirals and Wolves, holding a 3-3 record.

The IceHogs’ other remaining divisional opponent, the Grand Rapids Griffins, held a 2-2 record at the BMO Harris Bank Center, and held an advantage over Rockford at home with a 3-1-0-0 record.

While on the road against their divisional opponents, Rockford held an advantage against two of the remaining three teams: 3-2-0-1 against Chicago and 4-1-1-0 against the Admirals. Rockford was even with Peoria at 3-3 at the Carver Arena.

Pirri was Rockford’s home-scoring leader by a wide margin, tallying 45 points in 38 home games for the ’Hogs (14 goals, 31 assists), which was 15 points more than second-place Morin, who finished with 16 goals and 14 assists for 30 points on home ice.

St. Pierre tied with Pirri for road points, with each skater coming in at 30. St. Pierre tallied 12 goals and 18 assists, compared to Pirri’s eight goals and 22 assists.

In the net, Carter Hutton carried the lion’s share of the load, playing in 51 games this season, earning a 26-22-1-2 record, a 2.72 goals against average and .908 save percentage. Henrik Karlsson replaced Alec Richards in net after the NHL lockout and finished with a record of 11-5-0-0 in 18 appearances, a 2.86 goals against average and a .898 save percentage. Before heading overseas, Richards played in 11 games and finished with a 4-5-0-0 record with a 3.50 goals against average and an .874 save percentage. Rookie Kent Simpson managed two games for Rockford and finished with a 1-1 record, 3.07 goals against average and a .924 save percentage. Simpson replaced Karlsson in Texas against the Stars during the final game of the season. Karlsson was pulled after giving up three goals on 15 shots, leading to Simpson coming in and stopping all 32 shots he faced for his first win of the season.

One final stat Rockford led the league in was penalty minutes (PIM), with 1,716. Rockford’s closest challenger was the Bridgeport Sound Tigers with 1,694. In Rockford’s conference, the nearest in PIMs was the Hamilton Bulldogs with 1,447. Of those 1,716 PIMs for the IceHogs, a majority of them can be contributed to three particular games: the bench-clearing brawl in Rockford against the Grand Rapids Griffins Jan. 19 (139 PIMs), at the Allstate Arena versus the Chicago Wolves March 17 (70 PIMs) and Nov. 3 in Rockford against Lake Erie (88 PIMs).

Looking forward

In the next “Tales from the Trough,” I will have a multi-issue interview with the voice of the IceHogs, Mike Peck, where we discuss the 2012-2013 season as well as looking toward the 2013-2014 season.

From the May 15-21, 2013, issue

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