The Chicago Blackhawks' AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, got their 2012-13 season underway in Chicago this past weekend. Despite a roster loaded with familiar names, the IceHogs lost Saturday and Sunday contests to the Chicago Wolves.
Rockford salvaged a point from the weekend, losing its season opener in a 1-0 shootout. The IceHogs then staked Chicago with a three-goal lead on Sunday. They rallied with their first three goals of the season, but eventually fell 5-3 at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
The IceHogs are hoping to avoid the poor starts that kept them out of the playoff picture in each of the last two seasons. The roster now has more experience, but that didn't stop the Wolves from dominating early in both games.
Rockford allowed its opponent to control the puck in the first period all weekend. The real scoring chances were few and far between, as goalies Carter Hutton and Eddie Lack battled to a stalemate Saturday, with the Wolves prevailing 3-1 in the shootout.
Brandon Pirri was the only IceHogs skater to get a puck past Lack, who stopped 25 shots in regulation and overtime. Hutton deserved better than to take the loss in this one, though, making 31 saves in 65 minutes of action.
In Sunday's game, The Wolves took a 3-0 lead in the third period. Andrew Ebbett found the net 7:46 into the first period and Nathan Longpre picked Jeremy Morin's pocket to post a shorthanded goal 7:45 into the second. Brett Sterling banked in a shot off of Dylan Olsen 2:44 into the final frame before Rockford woke up and made it interesting.
Morin got the scoring started for the IceHogs with a power-play goal three minutes later. Marcus Kruger hit for another goal with a man advantage at the 7:28 mark to pull Rockford within a goal, but Chicago responded with another Longpre tally a few minutes later.
Down 4-2, Morin got his second goal of the night midway through the third to close the gap to a single goal, but that was as close as the game would get. Bill Sweatt found the net with 2:44 to play to send the IceHogs home with no wins in two games.
Noticeably Absent: Rockford used the same lineup both nights, with Shawn Lalonde being one of coach Ted Dent's scratches in both games. With Adam Clendening and Klas Dahlbeck both unavailable with injuries, it is becoming apparent that Lalonde, once a prized 'Hawks prospect, has lost his starting spot in favor of Ben Youds.
Captain TBA: The IceHogs usually name a captain a few weeks into the season. Ryan Stanton and Ben Smith each wore an "A" on opening night, while Smith and Martin St. Pierre shared the honor on Sunday.