The Rockford IceHogs’ season ended Wednesday night with a 4-2 loss at the hand of the Texas Stars. The defeat came after two consecutive losses to the Stars in Rockford. The teams headed down to H-E-B Center in Cedar Park, Texas, where the Stars finished them off.
The Stars were the best team in the Central Division throughout the 2022-23 season, and they proved why in the second round of the playoffs. They heavily outplayed the IceHogs in all three games, and they’ll be rewarded with a few rest days before playing the winner of the other Central Division semifinal game for the right to go to the conference finals.
In Wednesday night’s game, forwards Lukas Reichel and Michal Teply both scored, but goaltender Matthew Murray saved 27 of 29 shots by Rockford. Meanwhile, future Blackhawks goaltender Arvid Soderblom had a rough night, saving 22 of 26 shots and taking his third consecutive loss to the Stars.
The IceHogs posted a season that was nearly an exact replica of the 2021-22 season. They put up 79 points in the regular season, snuck into a 4v5 matchup, won both games, then got swept in the division semifinals in both seasons.
Lukas Reichel should be atop any list of IceHogs products that are poised to make an impact because he’s done so already. He can still be considered an IceHog because of his 55 games and 51 points for the team so far this season, but in 23 games near the end of the Blackhawks’ season, he proved that he has what it takes to be a leader on this team next year. He even put in a goal for the IceHogs in their season-ending defeat as he gained valuable postseason experience.
Isaak Phillips just completed his third year with Rockford and has gained respect as one of the league’s premier blueliners. He started as a fifth-round pick but should see time in Chicago as early as next season. He displayed he could hold his own against a punishing Stars attack, and that should help him make the jump.
Alex Vlasic is in the same boat as Phillips, just with higher expectations. He was selected at the top of the second round and has made occasional appearances for the Blackhawks over the past year. He should have amassed enough experience in Rockford to transition to the NHL full-time.
Arvid Soderblom has been a staple of the IceHogs over the past two years, as he almost single-handedly propelled them to a playoff berth last season. He’s expected to get back into the NHL in the fall after being sent down to Rockford this season, and the brass in Chicago can only hope he’s regained his confidence through a series of stellar performances over the past month.
All good things must come to an end, and the playoff run in Rockford is one of them. Unfortunately, the IceHogs found themselves matched up against a stellar team in Texas, and fell short. The season was a successful one, however, as this young group of players laid the groundwork for the future of Chicago hockey.
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