Wolves-IceHogs rivalry returning to playoffs

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The Wolves and IceHogs will be meeting in the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. | Todd Reichert, Rockford IceHogs

Historically, the Wolves and Rockford IceHogs haven’t gotten along. Separated by just over 70 miles, the teams have engaged in brawls and games in which every stoppage of play brought the risk of skirmishes or fights.

But since the Wolves knocked out a IceHogs team that featured Corey Crawford, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Bryan Bickell in seven games in the division finals in 2008, the rivalry hasn’t spread to the postseason. That changes this weekend in a best-of-five first-round series that starts Saturday night at Allstate Arena.

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Because of arena availability, the series will alternate between Rosemont and Rockford’s BMO Harris Bank Center.

Instead of playing with emotion, Wolves coach Rocky Thompson wants his players to play with intensity.

“Our guys have been taught that all year and they’ve controlled that all year,” Thompson said. “When you get to the point of emotion, I think that’s when you make mistakes.”

Rockford coach Jeremy Colliton said the potential for things to get messy is “something we have to be aware of,” but he wants his team to use its skill and pace, along with its size and physicality.

“We have to find that balance,” said Colliton, who added he doesn’t want to give the Wolves’ ninth-ranked power play too many opportunities. “It may be difficult, but that’s what’s required to win. We either find a way to do it or go home.”

Judging by how close the season series was, one mistake could be the difference. Both teams won six games, with the Wolves earning 16 points to Rockford’s 12.

“It’s a great test for our guys,” Colliton said. “We’re going to go head-to-head with them for five games and we’ll see if we’re up to the challenge.”

Thompson expects this series to be competitive.

“The games are so close and have been so competitive. You look at the season series, there’s been very few inches given and taken,” Thompson said.

“We anticipate that and we’re willing to get into the trenches. Our guys have been in them since December to claw their way out of it and we’re prepared for what this series is going to be.”

Friendly at Soldier Field

English Premier League champion Manchester City will face Germany’s Borussia Dortmund on July 20 at Soldier Field as part of the International Champions Cup.

While both teams likely will rest most of their players after the World Cup, Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic, a star on the American national team, plans to make an appearance.

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