Rockford IceHogs not panicking over 0–3–0 start

  

The Rockford IceHogs are off to a historic start to the 2019–20 season. Unfortunately, it is the wrong side of history. For the first time since the IceHogs joined the AHL in the 2007–08 season, the team has started a season with three consecutive losses in regulation. With the talent and firepower on the current roster, the results have been surprising. But, head coach Derek King is not worried about the slow start to the season for the young IceHogs.

IceHogs not sweating 0–3–0 start

The IceHogs have yet to looked truly overmatched in a contest this season, despite the 0–3–0 start they have endured. Outscored 10–5 through the first three games, their downfall has been mainly self-induced from poor puck possession. Getting used to new teammates is one thing; getting used to nearly a dozen rookies playing together on a nightly basis is another.

The IceHogs are still adjusting to their chemistry together and lineups have shifted in each of the first three games. But, for King, it is all a part of the situation you endure as a coach in the AHL.

“It’s early; it’s just three games spread out over what feels like a year,” King said to the media on Wednesday. “We have extra bodies, so I just have to rotate guys in and out. … It’s not a perfect situation, but we’ll make it work; we’ll manage it. … It’s not just our youth. It’s everybody. We just lose focus or try different things. If the play is there, make it. If not, we need to get it back deep, get a change and live to fight another day. We’ve got away from that, after our starts in the firsts have been good.”

Rockford IceHogs 2019-20

The Rockford IceHogs celebrate a goal against the Grand Rapids Griffins. (Photograph courtesy of the Rockford IceHogs)

The IceHogs have held the first lead of each game so far this season, scoring the first goal in the second period against the Iowa Wild in the season opener and scoring in each of the opening periods against the Grand Rapids Griffins and Laval Rocket. The IceHogs have failed to extend on any of their 1–0 leads so far this season.

One of the focal points to begin the season has been the short arrival of 2019 Chicago Blackhawks top draft pick Kirby Dach to the IceHogs. Playing on a two-week conditioning stint, Dach has been given a substantial amount of ice time at five-on-five and on the Rockford power play unit. In his first action since the Traverse City rookie tournament, Dach has skated in two games for Rockford (out of a possible five during his conditioning assignment) and has yet to tally his first professional point. He is a -1 with four shots on net.

Rockford IceHogs not panicking over 0–3–0 start

Kirby Dach made his professional debut with the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday night. (Photograph courtesy of the Rockford IceHogs)

“The thing with him is to just play his game, not somebody else’s style,” King said of Dach. “He’s a dynamic player, big body, kind of a power forward. Just play like that. He’s doing a good job of it. It’s more or less just getting him back into the groove of playing hockey games.”

King reiterated he and his young team are not panicking despite their slow start.

“It’s still early,” King said. “I’m not ready to push any panic buttons here, but they (have) got to start figuring out our system, for at least three periods. They do it for a period and a half here or there, but they have to put in a solid effort.”

What’s next?

The Rockford IceHogs return to action on Friday, when they take on the Chicago Wolves at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford. Puck drop for Friday night’s game is set for 7 p.m. CDT and is the first of 12 meetings between the Illinois Lottery Cup rivals. Rockford held a 6–5–1 record against the Wolves last season. Rockford will turn around on face the Wolves again on Saturday night, this time at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. Puck drop on Saturday night is set for 7 p.m. CDT as well.

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