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IceHogs’ Jeremy Colliton looking forward to ‘fun’ playoff series with Wolves

By Jim Hagerty

ROCKFORD — Although the Rockford IceHogs have the depth and talent to make a deep postseason run, they must get past the Central Division champion Chicago Wolves in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The best-of-five series begins Saturday, April 21, at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, where the IceHogs dropped four games and won two during the regular season.

Rockford coach Jeremy Colliton isn’t concerned about opening the playoffs on the road and expects both clubs to come ready to play.

“We’ve had some really good games with them this season,” he said. “They’re an excellent team, so it’s a good measuring stick for us. But I think we have competitive guys who want to win.”

Rockford also went 4-2 at home against Chicago this season.

Along with team MVP Tyler Sikura, Anthony Lewis, and Luke Johnson, who’ve made their marks as core skaters, the IceHogs have a full slate of reinforcements now that the Blackhawks didn’t qualify for the NHL postseason.

That means Colliton will rely on the likes of John Hayden, Matthew Highmore, David Kampf and Carl Dahlstrom going into the Wolves series. They’ll play strong roles alongside Cody Franson, Lance Bouma and Gustav Forsling, who started the season with the Hawks but came down with plenty of time to pull Rockford from sixth place to the fourth playoff spot.

“It’s going to be a fun battle,” Colliton added. “I’m excited. You want to play at this time of year. It’s where you prove yourself. And we believe this team has a chance to do some damage.”

Franson had two points in Rockford’s 6-4 loss to the Wolves Friday, and picked up where Eric Gustafsson left off when he was recalled by Chicago earlier in the season. Franson has nine goals and 19 assists in 37 games in an IceHogs sweater and has been a key to reshaping the power play.

“We’ve tried to keep it simple,” Franson said of Rockford’s success down the stretch. “When we execute in terms of moving the puck around and do that cleanly,  it backs teams off and gives us space we’re looking for. When things are clicking, we can be good. An there’s lot of heart in our room. That’s what you need going into the playoffs.”

Collin Delia and Jeff Glass are expected to share the goaltending duties for Rockford in the playoffs. Matt Tomkins will be Colliton’s No. 3 man.

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