ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) It was a magical run through the Calder Cup playoffs for the IceHogs last season and although they came just six victories short of winning the cup, they believe they are once again title contenders.
After winning their first seven playoff games, the Hogs got bounced by the Stars in six games in the Western Conference Finals.
Rockford returns its top three point scorers in Anthony Louis, Matthew Highmore and Tyler Sikura and are joined by an injection of youth like Dylan Sikura, Dennis Gilbert and Lucas Carlson.
Goalie Collin Delia was also a major part of that postseason run and he says he is very motivated to get Rockford back to the top.
"I was really happy that we went as far as we did, but It kind of made me pissed off that we didn't go all the way," said Delia. "Obviously you compete for a championship and we were that close so now it lights a fire under myself and everybody else in the organization to get back. Anything less than that I think we'd be disappointed with."
Entering year two, head coach Jeremy Colliton definitely understands that there are raised expectations and wants to see more out of his players over the next couple of weeks.
Rockford open up the 2018-19 campaign this weekend in Cleveland with about 15 players returning from last year's roster.
Colliton will rely on last year's big contributors like Highmore, Sikura and Victor Ejdsell to get the newbies ready.
"We still have some young guys to break in and we still have some second-year guys who are going to need help," said Colliton. "But overall I do feel pretty comfortable with the guys that are coming back that they know what's expected and the mentality that we want to have on a day-to-day basis. Hopefully they can lead by example but help everyone else to get to that level as soon as we can. My approach is different in that we're going to demand more earlier. We think we have a chance to have a really good team so we're not going to accept less."