They are the Blackhawks' best prospects, and they showed why Friday night at the Allstate Arena.
The Rockford IceHogs got 2 goals from Troy Brouwer, another from Jack Skille, plus four-star goaltending by Corey Crawford to down the Chicago Wolves 5-1 in the pivotal Game 5 of their Calder Cup playoff series.
The Wolves are in big trouble. The victory was the third straight by the IceHogs, who can wrap up the series Sunday in Game 6 back in Rockford.
"There's a time frame now," Wolves coach John Anderson said. "We don't have any more time to waste."
Crawford was the difference, particularly in a scoreless first period when the Wolves outshot the IceHogs 11-4. Crawford made 40 saves and was largely responsible for the Wolves going 0-for-6 on the power play.
It was Rockford's first win in Rosemont this season after 7 losses.
"Playing against them in here is tough," Crawford said. "Finally we were able to play our game in this building. Before, there was something about it and we weren't able to play the game we could, but tonight the guys came through."
The second period was all Rockford and may have decided the series.
Skille, the Hawks' first-round draft pick (seventh overall) in 2005, broke the scoreless tie at 2:08 when he battled for a loose rebound and beat Wolves goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
The teams were playing 4-on-4 when Colin Fraser made it 2-0 at 5:45, scoring perhaps the biggest goal of the game strictly on his hustle. Fraser chased down Wolves defenseman Grant Lewis, stole the puck behind the net, and stuffed it past a startled Pavelec.
"We made a mistake not protecting the net and exposing the puck, but those things can happen," Anderson said. "You've got to give Fraser a great effort there. He forechecked us hard and gained that little turnover behind the net, then it's in our net.
"We've got to be better than that. We can't have any unforced errors."
Brouwer's goal at 9:11 was a killer for the Wolves, coming short-handed. Brouwer, who the Hawks see competing for a roster spot at forward in the fall, one-timed a pass from Martin St. Pierre past Pavelec.
Brouwer, who led Rockford with 35 goals during the regular season after bagging 41 in 2006-07 at Norfolk, has 4 goals in the last two games.
"We had to steal one here to obviously win the series," Brouwer said. "Now we can go home with a little momentum and hopefully close it off."
The Wolves made it a game when Jason Krog scored with 1:33 left in the second period to make it 3-1, but Rockford held it together in the third period and got clinching goals from Brouwer and Adam Berti.
"When they got that late one in the second, I was pretty hard on the guys in between periods about playing the best we could in their end in the third and not sit back," Rockford coach Mike Haviland said.