AHL players getting plenty of attention
Blackhawks president John McDonough paid a visit to Rockford recently to watch a practice.
Before McDonough left, he addressed the team with a simple message.
"It was just a quick simple message of good luck, play hard and the spotlight is on you guys right now — not only as individuals but as a league, and to take advantage of it," said Rockford general manager Mark Bernard.
"It was short and brief and to the point. It was great for our players to have John come out and watch a practice and take in a very big interest what's happening in Rockford."
All eyes are on the American Hockey League with the NHL in a lockout. That means more scouts and NHL coaches at games, more time to evaluate and more attention in general.
Hawks general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville were back at the Allstate Arena on Sunday for the second game between Rockford and the Chicago Wolves. McDonough took in the game as well, won by the Wolves 5-3.
Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault also was in attendance for a second day in a row watching his prospects with the Wolves.
"I think it's great for the whole league," Bernard said. "It's not something we wished on. We want hockey being played at the National Hockey League level.
"I think it's great for these players to learn on a day-to-day basis and see these people here around them. I think it's great for our players to see that they're there and be evaluated on a nightly basis."
The players are well aware of the added attention.
"It's great for this team," Rockford's Ben Smith said. "We're getting a lot of attention from scouts and coaches. It's great for us as players to get in front of those coaches to show what we can do.
"Obviously with no NHL it's making this league better. But even with the NHL this league is a challenge every night."
IceHogs goalie Carter Hutton has a different take on the situation.
"It doesn't really change a ton," Hutton said. "The ultimate goal is to get to the NHL, and you have to play well here to get there."
The Wolves got goals from Andrew Ebbett, Nathan Longpre and Brett Sterling to build a 3-0 lead in the third period before Rockford mounted a comeback.
Ebbett scored in the first period, and Longpre short-handed in the second following a Rockford turnover. When Sterling scored 2:44 into the third period the game appeared to be over.
But Jeremy Morin spoiled goalie Eddie Lack's shutout with a power-play goal, then Marcus Kruger beat Lack on the short side on another power play at 7:28.
Longpre got his second goal of the game to make it 4-2, but Morin quickly answered with his second goal to cut the deficit to 1 again with 9:45 to play.
Bill Sweatt's goal with 2:44 to play decided it for the Wolves.
"It looked like it was a nice 3-0 game there and we take some penalties and they made some nice plays on the power play to make it interesting," Wolves coach Scott Arniel said.
"But I like the way we responded. We came right back at them and got the momentum back."
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