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Friday, May 18, 2007

K-Wings shut down Hogs in 3-0 win; Put away the brooms

Put away those brooms. The Rockford IceHogs will not be sweeping the Kalamazoo K-Wings in the United Hockey League Colonial Cup finals. The K-Wings, in fact, came back big with a 3-0 shutout of the Hogs in play on Wednesday.

Backed by rookie Derek Ryan’s two goals and the stellar performance in net of Ryan Nie, the K-Wings suffocated a big early effort by the Hogs and held on to win.

The IceHogs blasted out of the gate with five shots on goal in the first ten minutes, two of which dented the iron. However Nie hung on in a first period with no penalties, no goals and a combined 17 shots on goal, ten by the Wings.

Then in the second period, Ryan knit the twine with two goals. Ryan, the scoring leader for the Western Hockey League Spokane Chiefs, told the Kalamazoo Gazzette “It was a little weird at first (on the wing) because I’ve been playing center…” Nie has played just nine of the K-Wings post season games. He has been a healthy scratch for the other games.

“It’s pretty hard (to sit in the stands)” Ryan told the Gazzette, “you don’t know what you did wrong, sometimes.”

The 3-0 win puts the K-Wings back in contention for their second consecutive championship Colonial Cup. If the IceHogs win the trophy, it would mark the first banner the team has ever won. Next season the IceHogs are affiliating with the Chicago Blackhawks and playing in the American Hockey League. The current AHL team, the Norfolk Admirals, will largely replace the on-ice players and coaches in Rockford.

Coach Steve Martinson told the Rockford Register Star the bad bounces had a big effect, “a couple of those (shots) go in and it’s a different game.”

Martinson promised a faster and more physical game Saturday night when the two teams face off again at the K-Wings Stadium, “We’ve got more speed we can get in the lineup… and I think we can skate better… That was our least physical game.”

There were a total of only four power plays in the game, three for the K-Wings. It was also the smallest number of shots on goal for the IceHogs in the playoffs, 19. Kalamazoo registered 35 shots on goal. Nie received the win. Frederic Cloutier received the loss.

The IceHogs lead the best of seven series 2-1. Game four occurs in Kalamazoo on Saturday at 6:30 PM Eastern Time. Game five is scheduled at the MetroCentre of Rockford Sunday at 6:05 PM Central Time. Game six, if necessary is scheduled to be played in Kalamazoo Tuesday at 6:00 PM Eastern Time.

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