Things are starting to get a little tight down Rockford way. The IceHogs completed a five-game road trip by going 1-3-1, punctuated by a 5-1 beating at the hands of the Chicago Wolves Saturday night. Rockford preceded that loss with a 2-1 overtime setback in Grand Rapids Friday.
The piglets find themselves shorthanded due to injury and call-ups. It’s not a unique development in the AHL, but it’s coming hard and heavy for Rockford, as well as at a most inopportune time.
The Wolves, 10-4-0-1 in their last 15 games, are making a strong push to grab a playoff spot and defend their Calder Cup title. Saturday dropped Rockford to a tie with Iowa for fourth place in the Central Division. The Wild claimed third with Sunday’s win over Manitoba, knocking the Hogs into the fifth and final playoff spot. Chicago, along with the Griffins, is eight points behind Rockford with 16 games remaining.
The Hogs and Wild each have 14 games left. It was inconceivable just a month ago that the Wolves could overtake one of or both of these teams. Now, Rockford is struggling mightily and is staring at some truly scary numbers. Here are but a few.
This was the number of goals the piglets managed on the five-games away from the BMO Center over the past couple of weeks. After falling 5-3 to Toronto in the opening game of the trip, Rockford scored all of one regulation goal in each of the remaining four games. To have won one of those contests and earned a point in another is a testament to the strong play of goalie Arvid Soderblom.
Seven is also the number of the IceHogs top seven scorers from the first five months of the season who were out of the lineup Saturday in Rosemont.
Adam Clendening and Dylan Sikura were traded. Cole Guttman, Reichel, and Philp are with the Hawks. Brett Seney is in concussion protocol. David Gust is with his wife awaiting the birth of their first child.
Pieces were picked up in exchange for some of the players moved out of Rockford. However, right now a lot of pieces are with the Blackhawks. Philp (who signed a two-way deal with Chicago for next season on Thursday) was an emergency recall on Saturday, leaving the Hogs with just eleven forwards for that night’s game.
The organization’s plan was for a host of players to return to Rockford following the conclusion of the NHL regular season. Help is on the way…it just isn’t going to get to ‘Bago County for another month. Following the last game on the Hawks schedule on April 13, Rockford has just three games on its regular season schedule.
Since defeating the first-place Texas Stars on January 3, this is the IceHogs record in the subsequent 25 games. In that span, Rockford is averaging 2.20 goals per contest.
Want another gut punch?
This year’s IceHogs through 58 games: 27-22-5-4, 63 points
Last year’s IceHogs through 58 games: 28-24-4-1, 63 points
In other words, the veteran-laden club the organization compiled this summer has fared no better than the scrappy prospects that toiled the previous season. I would never have believed this having watched this team challenge for the top of the division most of the first three months, but the numbers are screaming it.
Dropping seven straight games in January will do that. The Hogs went 8-2 from November 13 to December 7, their best stretch of the season so far. Since then, most of the remaining Central clubs have gone on similar runs. It’s the Wolves turn at the moment.
Last season’s scrappy prospects finished 8-6 in their final 14 games. Rockford needs to respond in its remaining games. Eight wins might be enough to maintain position for a play-in series. The question is…can they manage eight wins?
The Hogs have four games with second-place Milwaukee and three with third-place Manitoba. Rockford hosts the Moose Wednesday night before Colorado arrives at the BMO for two games this weekend. They also have two games remaining with the hungry Wolves, a pair with Grand Rapids, and a single date with Laval among the remaining schedule.
Regulation wins by the IceHogs this season, tied with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (last in the Eastern Conference). Only San Diego (last in the AHL) has fewer. There are no chances of winning a tie-breaker if things continue to head south.
Times Rockford has needed Gus Macker Time to settle a contest this season, by far the tops in the league. The IceHogs are 12-9 in those games; 7-5 in overtime and 5-4 in the shootout.
We’ve heard head coach Anders Sorensen tout the resiliency of his team, and that is apparent. Rockford has eight third-period rallies for wins. The number the Hogs need to note is their 15-0-1-1 mark when leading after two periods. Just avoid digging holes.
Last week, Nolan Valleau was released from his PTO. Koletrane Wilson was returned to the Indy Fuel, then recalled back to Rockford when Filip Roos was recalled by the Hawks.
Pavel Gogolev, obtained by the Hawks in a trade with Toronto, was waived and released from his NHL entry deal. He then signed an AHL contract with the Marlies and was assigned to Newfoundland of the ECHL, where he had been at the time of the trade.
Along with Philp being recalled by the Hawks Saturday was G Anton Khudobin. Philp, Khudobin, and Roos were all assigned to Rockford on Sunday.
UPDATE-Monday, the Hawks recalled forwards Mike Hardman and Buddy Robinson. The Hogs recalled goalie Mitchell Weeks from the Indy Fuel.
Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.