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Monday, March 26, 2007

Final regular season game between two Illinois rivals

It was the final time the two teams will face each other in the regular season. To celebrate, they decided to have a fight, then another, and another and another. There was the swinging of the stick at the ref, several misconducts, unsportsmanlike conducts, another fight and somewhere in there was a hockey game too.

The longest and best professional rivalry in the state came to an end Sunday afternoon in Rockford with a 4-2 win by the Rockford IceHogs over the Quad City Mallards. As the summary above shows, it is a rivalry that has not seen a lot of love. At the end, Rockford had a record of 39-51 against the Mallards. The early years were all Mallards, with the IceHogs one year dropping every game (2001-2) played against their Northern Illinois rivals.

The two teams could face each other again in the United Hockey League Colonial Cup series as they are number two and three in the West Division standings heading into the final month of the regular season. Still, there was a bit of bitterness in the air as the teams passed each other for what could be the final time after the brawl on ice, just two players met at center ice to talk, and possibly to reminisce about the good old days.

Next year the Rockford IceHogs move to the American Hockey League, becoming the affiliates of the Chicago Blackhawks. Their new cross state rivals will include the Chicago Wolves and the Peoria Rivermen. The Milwaukee Admirals are also within 100 miles of the team. The Mallards are remaining in the UHL, if it survives. The nearest rival will be the Bloomington, Illinois Prairie Thunder and the Chicago Hounds.

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