Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Pro Hockey: Blackhawks eliminated from playoffs; IceHogs still alive in AHL race

By Jim Hagerty

CHICAGO — Colorado’s win over Edmonton Tuesday night officially eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks from the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, marking the second straight year they’ve failed to qualify for the postseason.

It was a turbulent season for Chicago, one brass was prepared for when Joel Quenneville was replaced by Jeremy Colliton Nov. 6. The ‘Hawks were on a five-game losing streak when the coaching change happened. It was also revealed that Quenneville was close to being fired at the end of the 2017-18 campaign that ended with just 33 wins.

The Jeremy Colliton era didn’t start showing promise until midway through the season, and managed to have its moments even after Corey Crawford suffered his second concussion in a year and missed two months. Cam Ward and Collin Delia stepped kept things respectable while Colliton found his rhythm behind the bench.

“We wanted to drag it out as long as we could,” Colliton said after Monday’s OT loss to Winnipeg. “We’re certainly not satisfied with where we’re at, but we’ve made some progress. But, we’re all competitors and we want to go all the way.”

Speaking of going all the way, Quenneville did just that in his second year at the helm, winning the 2010 Stanley Cup after a 52-win regular season. Two more (2013, 2015) followed in his 10 full seasons. During that span, Quenneville failed to make the playoffs only once.

Colliton seems to have knack for winning, too. He was 35-4-13 in the Swedish Hockey League before leading a young Rockford IceHogs squad to the AHL Western Conference Finals in 2018.

The IceHogs are currently sitting in seventh place in the Central Division, a point behind three teams deadlocked for the fourth and final playoff spot. Rockford stayed alive in the race with a 5-3 comeback win over last-place San Antonio Tuesday night.

The ‘Hogs travel to Austin for two head-to-head matchups with the Texas Stars this weekend. They could need a little help, however, two wins in Texas would put them back into position to back into the postseason again.

“It’s going to be bingo balls– see who’s healthy and see who’s not,”  coach Derek King said. “We’re still in it.”

The IceHogs saw the return of forward Matthew Highmore and Dylan Sikura Tuesday. Highmore missed the majority of the season with a shoulder injury. Sikura, who scored two goals, spent the last month and a half with the Blackhawks.

Rockford wraps up its regular season April 14 at home against Milwaukee. The Blackhawks are at home for the next two games and end their slate Saturday in Nashville. R.

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