Hockey

The scariest thing happening on the ice this Halloween was far and away the Hawks’ defense or lack thereof against the Wild on Sunday. It was recently announced that Amy’s Eldest broke his thumb blocking a shot on Saturday night and is out approximately 3-4 weeks. So the Hawks gave one of the Johnson simulations a promotion all the way to the top pairing and gave us a middling at best defensive effort against the Wild—though it was an effort given while short a D-man, respectively. It was only by the grace of God that this team was able to grab a point. To the bullets!

10/30 – Hawks 3, Wild 3 (Hawks lose their last $6 to a pool shark)
Box Score
Game Log
Natural Stat Trick

  • Jake McCabe continues to exhaust me on a nightly basis. Tonight he was able to put his usual annoying gameplay on pause to open the scoring and give the Hawks a 1-0 lead thanks to a wrister from the point. But then seconds later he lost his stick in a puck battle to the Wild because he just had to be THE BIG HIT GUY who DELIVERS BIG HITS. This utterly nonsensical play led directly to the Wild easily moving right around McCabe and Matt Boldy scoring to tie the game. After the few things he does right, he will automatically remind you about all the things he does wrong.
  • Never this season did I think I’d see Toews’s give-a-shit meter be higher than Kane’s, but for this game it was definitely Toews sticking with it and taking as many offensive chances as he could get. Although he only had one goal to show for it, it was a game-tying goal where he went five-hole on old friend Marc-Andre Fleury. Now leading the team in goals, those chances have obviously paid off for the captain. Kane, however, looks like he couldn’t care less, which isn’t very helpful when the Hawks are down a goal. Maybe he’s just REALLY committed to Kyle Davidson’s tanking plan.
  • It was a very nifty play by Kane and lots of quick maneuvering by Athanasiou that should be commended for the 3rd Hawks goal that turned into the big highlight of the night. I think it would’ve been awesome had Connor Murphy and Jarred Tinordi not left Matt Boldy once again all alone seconds after the goal was scored to easily fake out Alex Stalock and score on a wide-open net.
  • There was plenty of roughhousing between the Hawks and Wild—the fast, skilled Hawks teams of yore have dissipated into whatever this team is, moving back in time to a classic physical hockey style which continues to exhaust me to my very core. Tinordi, who is just about only good for fighting, won a two-punch fight against Ryan Hartman, which was I guess fine. Then there was more tomfoolery after a hit that seemed to hurt Athanasiou’s hand and later on a dangerous hit on Kane that ended in his head slamming into the boards. What could’ve been a Hawks powerplay was instead turned back into a regular 5-on-5 situation, and the Hawks certainly didn’t win the game, so I’m still not sure what the point of it all was.

 

Next Game: 11/1 vs. Islanders

Game Time: 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio:
NBCSCH+, WGN 720
New York Telephone Conversation: Lighthouse Hockey

The Islanders have won three straight against the likes of the Rangers, the Hurricanes and the Avalanche, some of the top teams in the league. If New York can continue to put the pedal to the metal, it might be an ugly night for the Hawks tonight.

The Islanders started out on a bit of a skid to start the season, starting out 2-4 before their recent win streak. But since then, the Islanders have had shutdown goaltending from Ilya Sorokin, who has a .933 save percentage so far this season, and also find themselves 4th in the league in 5-on-5 scoring. Their powerplay, however, leaves little to be desired as the Isles are 5th-worst in the league in PP%.

The Islanders forward groups have finally found some sort of formation it seems, with Josh Bailey, Mathew Barzal, and Oliver Wahlstrom sitting on the top line. Barzal leads the team in assists and points, whereas Wahlstrom has the team highest goals. Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier are on the second line and responsible for about as much offense as the first. The aging skeleton of Zach Parise finds itself on the third line and is sporting a career-worst CF% so far this season. J.G. Pageau and Kyle Palmieri, his linemates, don’t do much for offense either. And of course the 4th line for the Islanders is the same as it always is, with Cal Clutterbuck in his 15th year, probably-overpaid Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas the most likely to be seen gooning with this younger, shittier Hawks team tonight.

Like the Hawks, the Islanders are finding themselves under the coaching guise of a first-year NHL coach in Lane Lambert, and the defense is starting to crack under the new style of play. It is no longer the defensively-solid, bore-teams-to-sleep style they were moderately successful at under Trotz’s rule. But having one of the best goaltenders in the league in Sorokin has recently masked some of this for the Islanders. Against Alex Stalock, who can’t even keep himself in his own crease, this game could spell trouble for the Hawks.

Hockey

Back before the Rockford IceHogs home opener the previous weekend, I predicted that the scoring potential of this veteran-laden team would result in a slew of goals. Rockford put up four goals in a pair of losses at the BMO Center.

Turns out I was just a week off. The piglets were flying around the BMO ice this past weekend, and the offense came out to play.

The Hogs sent 13 shots to the back of opposing nets in a pair of wins, beating the Wolves 5-3 on Friday, then clobbering the Belleville Senators 8-2 on Saturday night. Rockford evened up its overall record to 3-3 while racing up the AHL offensive leaderboard.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows; the IceHogs are dangerously thin in their own cage. That situation may have become exacerbated with an injury to rookie Jaxson Stauber that may take a few days to evaluate.

Stauber took a puck to the mask in the second period in Saturday’s win that stuck in the eye hole. He left the game under his own power, but his immediate status is unknown. Regardless, the organization needs to address the lack of a veteran backstop for Rockford.

 

The Best Line In The AHL?

You could definitely make an argument that David Gust, Lukas Reichel and Brett Seney have been the league’s most effective forward line. They certainly are the hottest.

Gust had a tremendous weekend, following up a five-point effort against his former team with a pair of assists against Belleville. He’s tied for second in the league with eleven points (3 G, 8 A).

Reichel (4 G, 6 A) and Seney (4 G, 6 A) are tied for ninth in AHL scoring, with each player totaling ten points.

 

Goalie Depth Stretched To The Limit

Jaxson Stauber took a puck to the eye in the second period of Saturday’s win. After stopping seven of eight Senators shots, Stauber left the contest and did not return. Dylan Wells came in for the remainder of the game. Although he gave up a goal, he denied sixteen shots. The evening before, Wells picked up the win over the Wolves, stopping 24 of 27 shots.

Assuming that Rockford isn’t going to post five or six goals every night, the Hogs are dangerously thin in net at the moment. With Arvid Soderblom up in Chicago with the Blackhawks for the foreseeable future, the potential of Stauber missing some time does not give Rockford much experience in the crease.

Wells has 25 games of AHL action in four professional seasons. Stauber was removed from just his third AHL start when he was injured. In hindsight, the Blackhawks organization may have wanted to pick up a veteran who could have slipped through waivers and floated back and forth from Chicago to Rockford when needed.

If Stauber isn’t ready to play by Rockford’s game with Milwaukee Wednesday, expect Mitchell Weeks to be recalled to the IceHogs from the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. Weeks is 3-0 for Indy, with a 3.00 GAA and a .899 save percentage.

 

Loose Change

  • Friday morning, the IceHogs were 31st in the AHL (out of 32 teams) in offense with a 2.25 goals per-game average. Monday morning, Rockford was ninth at 3.67 goals.
  • The IceHogs power play was also 31st in the league, at just 6.1 percent (1-16). Monday morning, Rockford was…well, 25th, but at least they got their success rate (16.1, 5-31) into double digits.
  • Minus Adam Clendening, who did not play in either game this weekend, the D scored their first three goals of the season. Alec Regula had one in each game; Jakub Galvas pinched in on Friday for the lamp-lighter that ignited Rockford’s scoring explosion.
  • It was good to see Dylan Sikura and Buddy Robinson get their first goals over the weekend. Both players, especially Robinson, were just missing on prime chances until Saturday night. The line of Sikura and Mike Hardman, centered by Luke Philp, has the potential to be just as effective as the firm of Seney, Reichel, and Gust.
  • Carson Gicewicz and D.J. Busdeker are two of the few AHL holdovers from last season getting regular work so far this season. They’re toiling on the fourth line with good returns so far. Gicewicz tipped in an Issak Phillips slap shot for the sixth Hogs goal on Saturday, a play on which Busdeker was awarded the secondary assist. Both are high-motor skaters that helped anchor a group that killed ten of eleven penalties over the weekend.
  • Garrett Mitchell, Rockford’s captain, sat out the Belleville game, with Bobby Lynch joining the fourth line.
  • Lost in the shuffle of Saturday’s goal-fest was new acquisition Cooper Zech getting his first start on the IceHogs defense. Zech didn’t break into the scoring column.

 

Recaps

Friday, October 28-Rockford 5, Chicago 3

The IceHogs broke a three-game skid in a big way Friday night.  With a pair of goals and three helpers, Gust factored in on every Rockford goal in the victory. Rockford picked up its first win this season at the BMO Center, thanks in part to a flurry of second-period goals.

The Wolves started strong, taking a 1-0 lead midway through the first on an Alexander Pashin tally. Rockford created some scoring opportunities late in the period but trailed by that score heading into the locker room.

The goal that got the Hogs rolling came off the stick of defenseman Jakub Galvas, who drove to the right slot and went far side on Chicago goalie Zachary Sawchenko. This tied the game at a goal apiece just 2:12 into the middle frame. Gust gave Rockford a 2-1 lead at the 6:15 mark, taking a pass from Brett Seney before splitting the defense and backhanding the puck into the Wolves net.

Chicago knotted the game at 8:39 of the second period when Nathan Sucese put back a long rebound of a David Ferrance attempt. However, the IceHogs responded by capitalizing on a Wolves turnover in their own zone. Mike Hardman deflected a pass attempt to Gust, who sent a shot from the slot past Sawchenko at 14:30 of the second.

The key sequence in the contest came in the closing minutes of the period. With 1:27 remaining, Max Lajoie appeared to tie the game for Chicago. The officials, however, ruled that Lajoie had knocked in the puck with a high stick, disallowing the goal. Rockford took full advantage, getting a deflection of a Galvas shot by Seney with two seconds to play in the second. This gave the IceHogs a 4-2 advantage at the second intermission.

An Alec Regula slapshot 25 seconds into the third period provided plenty of insurance. The Wolves Jamieson Rees closed out the scoring a few minutes later, but the Hogs held on behind Dylan Wells, who picked up his first win in net with 24 saves.

 

Saturday, October 29-Rockford 8, Belleville 2

After scoring five times in a win over Chicago on Friday, Rockford erupted for eight goals at the BMO Center.

The IceHogs got to work early, scoring 51 seconds into the contest with Dylan Sikura‘s first goal of the season. Less than a minute later, Lukas Reichel worked a two-man rush with Brett Seney and scored from the right post to put the IceHogs up 2-0.

Sikura got his second of the night at the 11:36 mark of the first period, the first of what would be four Rockford power play tallies. The one-timer from the top of the left circle trickled through the pads of Senators goalie Kevin Mandolese, prompting Belleville coach Troy Mann to remove him from the game for Mads Sogaard.

Belleville, who was outshot 9-1 by Rockford, stopped the bleeding and went into the locker room down 3-0. Instead of a push back from the Senators, the Hogs turned the offense up a notch.

The middle frame was a wild affair. Rockford put up four goals in the span of 2:15, starting at the three-minute mark with a power-play goal by Alec Regula. Buddy Robinson (PP), Carson Gicewicz, and Reichel quickly followed suit.

Mann removed Sogaard from the action after Reichel’s second of the evening in favor of Mandolese. it didn’t mater. Mike Hardman quickly sent a shot off the right post and into the net at the 7:40 mark.

Jake Lucchini broke up the shutout with a goal at the 11:03 mark, but Belleville trailed 8-1 at the second intermission. From there, it was mostly the teams trying to run out the clock and the officials trying to prevent garbage-time fights. Angus Crookshank converted on a power-play chance midway through the third to close out the scoring.

 

Busy Week Ahead

The piglets will rise early to take on Milwaukee in a 10:30 a.m. start on Wednesday. After getting its first gander at the Admirals, Rockford ends the seven-game home stand Saturday and Sunday. Saturday at 7:00 p.m., the Hogs open the season series with Grand Rapids. The following afternoon, the Iowa Wild visit the BMO Center for a 4:00 p.m. puck drop.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs opened the refurbished BMO Center (note the refurbished name) with a pair of disappointing losses. On Friday, the Chicago Wolves picked up an easy win over Rockford. The next afternoon, Manitoba moved to the top of the Central Division standings behind a half-dozen goals.

What went wrong over the weekend? Allow me to share some thoughts before this week’s recaps.

  • Offensively, Luke Philp and Brett Seney have been as good as advertised. Each has three goals and an assist in Rockford’s first four games. Lukas Reichel (2 G, 4 A) paces the piglets with six points, but looks to be pushing the action a bit, rather than slowing down and letting scoring opportunities develop.
  • Aside from David Gust’s goal in Manitoba October 15, the firm of Philp, Seney and Reichel have accounted for all of Rockford’s goal scoring. Some diversity is sorely needed.
  • The IceHogs were better Sunday in terms of creating legit scoring chances. They just didn’t convert. Passes connected but couldn’t be hauled in. Pucks were in the crease with no one to jump on them. In short, this Rockford offense is just a tad out of synch.
  • Players like Buddy Robinson and Dylan Sikura had some chances that weren’t fully realized. Hopefully Hogs coach Anders Sorensen can get three lines that click in practice this week, then get the occasional greasy goal from players like Josiah Slavin and Evan Barratt.
  • The goalie situation suffered with Arvid Soderblom being recalled to the Blackhawks Friday after a injury to Petr Mrazek. A tandem of Jaxson Stauber and Dylan Wells is not the tandem of a contending AHL team. It was on full display this weekend, particularly on Sunday. If Soderblom is to be with the Blackhawks for an extended period of time, a move needs to be made to obtain a veteran goalie to pick up some slack in Rockford.
  • Adam Clendening had a rough game on Saturday, taking three penalties and encountering trouble quarterbacking the power play. He was better on Sunday, with a secondary assist on Seney’s third-period goal. The first power play unit is four forwards and Clendening. On several occasions, opponents have been able to generate shorthanded opportunities by skating hard up the ice and forcing Clendening to defend.
  • Rockford was 1-8 on the man advantage this weekend, while giving up four power play goals on ten opponent chances. The lack of success on the penalty kill had a big effect on the Hogs fortunes; both Chicago and Manitoba swung the games in their favor with two power play strikes in the second period.
  • Morgan Adams-Moisan made his IceHogs debut on Sunday afternoon. He scrapped with Jeff Malott and Mikey Eyssimont in a ten-minute span of the third period and was given a game misconduct for doing so. He now leads Rockford with two fighting majors and 20 penalty minutes.
  • On Saturday morning, the IceHogs announced that rookie forward Cole Guttman was in concussion protocol, dating back to October 15 in Manitoba when he appeared to hit his head on the ice in a fall.
  • Alex Vlasic and Alec Regula added to the blueline depth in Rockford. Both Vlasic and Regula played in both games this weekend.

Recaps

Saturday, October 22-Chicago 4, Rockford 1

A rash of penalties in the first two periods was too much for the IceHogs to overcome despite several key scoring opportunities. The Wolves spoiled Rockford’s home opener, beating their Central Division rival in convincing fashion.

Chicago took a 1-0 lead at the 14:28 mark of the opening period, after the Hogs sent an early flurry of pucks toward Wolves goalie Zachary Sawchenko. William Lagesson struck from the left post to give Chicago a lead they would never relinquish.

Rockford had a chance to tie the score when Bobby Lynch was awarded a penalty shot at 16:37 of the first period. Lynch got Sawchenko down on the ice, but couldn’t get the backhand shot over the goalie’s pads.

The Wolves began the middle frame with a short power play held over from a slashing penalty by Hogs defenseman Adam Clendening. Chicago needed just 16 seconds to convert. Jack Drury knocked in a feed by Anttoni Honka for a 2-0 Wolves lead.

The IceHogs closed the gap to 2-1 with a one-timer off the stick of Lukas Reichel. Assists went to Brett Seney and former Wolves forward David Gust at the 14:08 mark.

Seney was called for tripping late in the second period, leading to Brenden Perlini‘s first goal of the season with 51 seconds remaining. Outshot by Chicago 26-16 through 40 minutes, the IceHogs trailed 3-1.

The pivotal point in the final period was near the midway point, when Griffin Mendel and Ryan Dzingel committed penalties 51 seconds apart, leading to a 5-on-3 advantage for Rockford. The Wolves hustled defensively and killed both infractions, ending the Hogs best chance to get back into the contest. Malte Stromwall closed out the scoring with an unassisted shorthanded goal with 1:25 to play, sealing Rockford’s fate.

Hogs goalie Jaxson Stauber made his pro debut Saturday following Arvid Soderblom‘s recall by the Blackhawks. Stauber stopped 19 of 22 Wolves shots. Sawchenko made 27 saves to pick up the win for Chicago.

Sunday, October 23-Manitoba 6, Rockford 3

The IceHogs got off to a solid start, attacking the Manitoba net and scoring the first goal of the game. It came off the stick of Brett Seney, who buried home Lukas Reichel’s feed 4:04 into the game. The Moose surged in the latter stages of the first period, tying the contest at the 18:03 mark. Jansen Harkins gathered in a rebound of Ville Heinola’s initial shot and beat Rockford goalie Dylan Wells to the twine.

Things went south for Rockford five minutes into the middle frame. Jeff Malott put Manitoba up 2-1 at 6:41 of the second period. Eight minutes later, Henri Nikkanen scored to put Rockford into a two-goal hole. The wheels came off for the IceHogs in the final five minutes of the second.

Two Rockford penalties gave the Moose a chance to put the game out of reach. They did just that, needing just seven seconds to convert on a Buddy Robinson interference penalty. Declan Chisholm sent a slap shot past the glove of Wells at 15:29 for a 4-1 Manitoba advantage.

Shortly thereafter, Reichel sent a puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. At 17:09, Kevin Stenlund scored his second goal of the season and put the IceHogs down 5-1 heading into the second intermission.

Rockford was able to mount a response in the third period, picking up a Luke Philp goal and Seney’s second of the game, sandwiched around a Mikey Eyssimont tally for Manitoba.

Seney’s two-goal night earned him First Star honors in a losing effort. Eyssimont had a goal and two assists in being named Second Star. Reichel was Third Star on the strength of two assists. Heinola also recorded two helpers in the contest.

Wells had a rough night, giving up five goals on 21 shots before being lifted for Jaxson Stauber to start the third period. At the other end of the ice, rookie Oskari Salminen went to 3-0 on the season with the win, with 28 saves on the afternoon.

 

This Weekend

Rockford continues what is to be a seven-game home stand this weekend. The Wolves come back to play another Illinois Lottery Cup game Friday night. The Belleville Senators come to the BMO Center on Saturday.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

Hockey

The regular season continues on after the Hawks so kindly gave us a five-day break from watching their mediocrity. The rest of the NHL has been in full swing, however, and the Hawks are set for opening night in Chicago with a week-long homestand that will next see them taking on two worthy opponents, plus the Kraken, who certainly aren’t playing like they’re worthy.

10/21 vs. Scum

Game Time: 7:30PM CST
TV/Radio:
NBC Sports Chicago / WGN 720
These retro jerseys are so god damn ugly: WIIM

Nothing brings more pain than when the Hawks are mired in mediocrity and Detroit finally seems to be coming out on the other side of the years-long Yzerplan, but this is how Chicago will be opening their season at home. The scum find themselves 2-0-1 so far this season, though it was only by the sheer willpower of their top center Dylan Larkin that they received a point in Monday night’s game against LA after he poked the puck away from Viktor Arvidsson on an empty-net breakaway. The Wings were able to secure their other two wins against New Jersey and Montreal, two dogshit teams at the moment. Although that doesn’t seem very impressive, the Red Wings don’t seem to face a particularly challenging matchup until the Bruins in another week, and grabbing every point you can is the name of the game in the Metro, so overall this team couldn’t have asked for a much better start.

Because we love pouring salt into the word on this fair website, this game will be a stop on the glorified Hawks of Yore Reunion Tour, which starts with the return of Dominik Kubalik to Chicago. Since noted shithead Tyler Bertuzzi is out for 4-6 weeks, Kubalik finds himself on the top line with Dylan Larkin and with three points to his name so far. And yes, that is more points than he had starting off last season with the Hawks. Another notable face, Olli Maatta, who hasn’t been around since the last time the Hawks made the playoffs* in 2020, finds himself on the 2nd d-pairing after signing a one-year contract. Since that contract, he’s had 4 points in three games and everyone seems to be genuinely thrilled by that number. Finally, perhaps you remember young Pius Suter, who was so young and full of promise as a 27-point rookie on the Hawks in 2021? He is hanging on Detroit’s fourth line, where he only has 1 point and is -1, but when you have to drag around dudes like Adam Erne on your line those numbers aren’t surprising.

10/23 vs. Kraken

Game Time: 1:00 PM CT
TV/Radio:
NBC Sports Chicago / WGN 720
Underneath the Bridge, Tarp Has Sprung a Leak:
Kraken Chronicle

The Kraken haven’t looked so good to start things out, though getting domed by both Vegas and Carolina this season is about to become a reality for a lot of teams. Fans of the Kraken continue to be surprised that the expansion didn’t start off as immediately successful as that of the Golden Knights, and we as Hawks fans can look into the mirror and see ourselves in all of Seattle’s problems. Since last season, Kraken fans have been calling for the firing of head coach Dave Hakstol, whose defensive structure is dwarfed in galaxy-brained stupidity only by Coach Vinny del Colliton when he was around these parts. They find themselves at the bottom of the league for xGF/60, which is where they were last season as well, and they can’t seem to generate any offense (color me shocked when you have two ex-Blue Jackets on your top line). The Kraken seem hellbent on tossing their future players into the fire as well, what with their 2022 1st-round draft pick Shane Wright being immediately plopped into the NHL with no minor league development time and relegated to 4th-line bumslaying with fucking Brandon Tanev and Ryan Donato. Sounds pretty soul-crushing, and a little bit familiar, eh Kirby?

10/25 vs. Florida


Game Time: 7:30 PM CT
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago / WGN 720
Please don’t remember me for what I did last night:
Litter Box Cats

Florida returns this season with a 3-1 record, behind only Boston in the division. Everything seemed to be going fine and dandy until the announcement that Aaron Ekblad was added to LTIR a few days ago. I guess LTIR really means “3.5-week IR”, because they target his timetable for return to be sometime around then and they really placed him there to try and finagle their way out of the cap hell they currently find themselves in. Yes, Sergei Bobrovsky’s albatross $10 million/year contract is still in full swing, and in place for three more seasons after this one. Meanwhile, Spencer Knight, the future between the crease for Florida, is about to get a big pay raise next year from $975k to $4.5 million/year. So to say the salary cap increasing in the next few years will be a godsend for the Panthers might be putting it lightly.

In more recent news, it sounds like the Panthers are signing yet another Staal brother. Marc Staal joined the Panthers on a cheap contract in the offseason and now Eric has signed a mirroring deal after Ekblad got placed on IR. I’m not sure what kind of voodoo salary magic they are going to be dealing with once Ekblad returns in a month, but for now it’s possible we’ll see Eric in the lineup Tuesday night. And of course, the D pairings have been shuffled around for Florida and now Gustav Forsling, who we all remember, has recently found himself on the first pairing with Lucas Carlsson. Forsling is also the team’s new workhorse on the backend, averaging more TOI per game (25:38) than all but two players in the NHL. Florida also announced the return of Brandon Montour to the lineup, and that pairing wasn’t so bad last year.

As for the men of four feathers, the biggest news coming out of the week is that Jake McCabe is returning to the lineup tonight against Detroit, which means that Alex Vlasic was sent down to Rockford because who needs to develop young guys up here when you can develop young guys elsewhere? With the underwhelming season McCabe had last year and yet another major surgery he is coming back from, I can only imagine his first few games won’t be pretty. Or all of them. He will be paired up with Amy’s Eldest on the 3rd pairing, as rookie Filip Roos finds himself a healthy scratch because once again, who actually needs development around these parts?

Other than that, it looks like the Hawks are gonna roll out the same lines we’ve been seeing, so expect to see more of the same. Peter Mrazek gets the start in net, and hopefully he doesn’t blow it. A win would be nice but I guess a loss would be more productive. Go Hawks

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs will be opening their home schedule this weekend, hosting the Chicago Wolves Saturday night and the Manitoba Moose Sunday afternoon. They’ll be doing this at the BMO Center-formally known as the Rockford Metro Centre and the BMO Harris Bank Center.

It’s the same old BMO. Except that it isn’t.

There is much to marvel at as the new-look IceHogs roster settles into their home digs. Rockford’s sweaters now feature an updated logo, though not the new team logo that debuted back in the summer. Adorning the front of the sweater is Hamilton E. Hog, otherwise known as Hammy.

The folks in design have exorcised the “Rockford IceHogs” part of the logo and also taken the stick out of Hammy’s mouth. They did not, however, close Hammy’s stickless mouth.

Hammy has apparently been hitting the weights this summer, part of what will surely be a rebranding of sorts for the long-time Rockford mascot. Why is the face on the sweater the pre-health-conscious Hammy? Is the new scoreboard as awesome as has been foretold? Did they fix the towel dispensers in the restrooms? Will we ever see the vaunted Illinois Lottery Cup again, or did the Wolves lose it in Rosemont?

These questions get answered starting Saturday night.

Oh…and we get to see how the veteran-laden Hogs fare against the defending Calder Cup Champions. The Wolves roster has been depleted of many of the key names that helped hoist the cup, including David Gust, who had three points (1 G, 2 A) for Rockford last weekend.

Six of Chicago’s top-seven scorers last season are with other clubs. Jack Drury (20 G, 32 A) is the lone holdover. Newcomers include veteran forward and Wheaton native Ryan Dzingel, who has a couple of 20-goal seasons with Ottawa and will provide offense for Chicago. Former Blackhawks forward Brenden Perlini also signed a PTO with the Wolves.

Max Lajoie (4 G 29 A) is back as a key piece of the Chicago blueline. Vying for playing time are several Carolina Hurricanes prospects and 37 -year-old Jason Garrison, who is also signed to a PTO.

Goalie Pyotr Kochetkov was very impressive for the Wolves down the stretch when he wasn’t stopping pucks for Carolina. His play in net may cover some of the departures in the Chicago roster.

The Wolves tangle with Manitoba Friday night heading into their first meeting with the piglets, for what it is worth. Will Rockford take advantage of fresh legs, or will there be jitters as they hit the BMO ice for the first time this season?

Aside from a four-goal explosion in the third period of the season opener October 15, the IceHogs have failed to make an impact on offense through their first two games. I would expect that to change, as the skill-level on offense should keep scoring droughts to a minimum. I’m going to stick my neck out and look for Rockford to drop a big number on one or both of their weekend opposition.

Roster News

On Monday, the Blackhawks assigned D Alex Vlasic to Rockford. The Hogs also recalled D Andrew Perrott and G Dylan Wells from Indy for the week, then sent both down to the Fuel along with D Koletrane Wilson on Thursday.

F Cole Guttman left Saturday’s game in Manitoba in the third period after taking a fall and struggling to get the the Rockford bench. The IceHogs were pretty consistent with medical updates last season, but haven’t commented on Guttman’s status for this weekend.

 

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for musings on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

 

Hockey

So far for this organization, the narrative has been followed—the team is bad, the offense is bad, the expectations are low, and games were lost. There is very little to enjoy about the Hawks but I’m gonna try to point out the good where I can. But before we get to anything positive, let’s call it like we see it: the Hawks have only scored twice so far this season on even strength, which is pretty fucking terrible. What is worse is that they are currently considered the 10th-worst team in the league, which doesn’t bode well for the whole “tanking-for-a-#1-draft-pick” plan the front office has laid out. From a numbers standpoint, other teams factually have it much worse than us. Let’s review.

Wednesday 10/12
Hawks 2, Avalanche 5
Box Score
Natural Stat Trick

Did you expect this to go any better? The Hawks had to start their season against the reigning Stanley Cup champs after they raised their banner in Colorado and were outskated, outmatched and outplayed the entire night. The only genuine highlight was Toews scoring the first Hawks goal of the season on the powerplay, with an assist from Andreas Athanasiou. The powerplay was the only time the Hawks could score, which means having one extra man on the ice was the only way to even out the talent level enough for the Hawks to have a chance. Otherwise, our d-men were getting pantsed by Cale Makar and domed in possession for 2 of the 3 periods.

Within this game scored the only goal by Kane’s line all god damn week which is not a promising start—very underwhelming, in fact. If the goal wasn’t to tank this season, our first line scoring 1 goal in the first three games would certainly be a red flag, especially since Kane is flanked by the shiny new free agent acquisitions that were supposed to placate us. But red flags like that are positive for a tanking team, right?

Thursday 10/13
Hawks 0, Knights 1
Box Score
Natural Stat Trick

The theme for this night was that it genuinely could’ve been worse. The still-undefeated Golden Knights with their new #1 center in Jack Eichel were only able to score one goal against the Hawks as opposed to the 5 goals we’d let in the night before. Alex Stalock made 36 saves and didn’t look too bad except for when he seemed to lose his net at one point in the 1st—luckily Vegas wasn’t able to score on a wide-open net.

The Hawks’ main issue of having shit and nonexistent offense continued into this game, and of course this was their second straight game without having an even-strength goal. The Hawks had 10 less shots to the Knights’ 37, and their 2-shots-per-powerplay formula was helping nobody here. In fact, the only goal of the game came right after the Hawks powerplay in the 2nd period, directly after a shorthanded opportunity for Vegas. Vegas is looking like a top team right now whether you like it or not, however, so the fact the Hawks only held them to 1 goal when their average so far this season is over 3 per game, that’s somewhat surprising.

Saturday 10/15
Hawks 5, Sharks 2
Box Score
Natural Stat Trick

Of all the teams the Hawks had to face, only the Sharks match them in pitifulness. Both teams showed up in the building with a goose egg in the win column so someone had to pick up the points. The Hawks jumped out ahead for the first few minutes of the game and the Sharks were unable to register a shot for the first 11 minutes. But the Sharks ultimately did score first, getting a shot past youngins Philipp Kurashev and Filip Roos that Peter Mrazek didn’t even see (shocking). The Sharks scored again shortly after as a shot deflected off Amy’s Eldest and went in to wrap up a shitty 1st period. Surprisingly, the Hawks were able to take control from here and turned the game around.

It was Jason Dickinson’s first night in a Blackhawks uniform, and his line with Philipp Kurashev and Sam Lafferty took the game’s opening faceoff. The line would then go on to have 7 points between them that night (2 goals for the line). Lafferty’s 2 shorthanded goals meant the special teams scoring was starting to add up for the Hawks, although that’s not too hard when the Sharks can barely get a shot off. Still, the Hawks collected the win and the plan to tank for Connor Bedard was put on a temporary pause.

This weekend, the Hawks have their opening night game against Scum, but considering the team to the northeast is without a regulation loss this season, it appears the losses for Chicago will continue to stack up. That shouldn’t be unexpected news, however.

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs ran hot and cold in splitting a pair of weekend tilts with the Manitoba Moose. On one hand, you could certainly see the scoring potential of a veteran-laden Hogs club. However, developing chemistry seems to be another matter at the moment.

The piglets triumphed in the season opener with a stunning comeback, but lost Sunday’s rematch via the shutout. Here are some quick thoughts on the opening weekend of the 2022-23 season.

  • First off, this was a solid Manitoba club opposing the IceHogs. The bulk of the Moose return from a very good team the previous season. For the bulk of Saturday’s game, they controlled the action and looked to win going away.
  • Rockford stormed back in the first eight minutes of the third period, getting goals from Luke Philp, Dave Gust and Lukas Reichel to erase a three-goal deficit. The Moose regained a 4-3 advantage, but a second Philp tally with just over two minutes to play forced Gus Macker Time. From there, Brett Seney hit the top corner of the net to secure a 5-4 victory.
  • On Sunday, the IceHogs were the aggressor, moving the puck with aplomb in the Manitoba zone. However, it was the Moose who were able to get the puck into the Rockford crease and generate some strong chances.
  • The key play Sunday was with Rockford on a late power play in the second period. Reichel attempted a backhand pass to the blueline that was picked off. Adam Clendening wasn’t able to get into position to defend a shorthanded breakaway chance by Jansen Harkins and Manitoba took a 1-0 lead that they would not surrender, beating the IceHogs 4-0. Rookie goalie Oskari Salminen took it from there, blanking the Hogs by stopping 32 shots.
  • Rockford captain Garrett Mitchell was out of the lineup this weekend. He was suffering from an illness and did not make the trip up north.
  • Rookie Cole Guttman left the ice in the third period Saturday after being knocked to the ice in a multi-player collision. He appeared to hit his head on the ice and lost his helmet in the process. Guttman struggled to get to the Hogs bench and was helped to the locker room soon after.
  • With the influx of veteran talent on the roster this year, playing time could be at a premium for forward prospect Evan Barratt. He’s in the final year of his entry deal and is probably getting his last look from the organization. Barratt was a scratch Saturday, engaging in a scrap with Manitoba’s Leon Gawanke in the second period of Sunday’s game.
  • The IceHogs get a week to practice and make some adjustments before opening the home schedule against the Chicago Wolves Saturday night. On Sunday, Rockford gets another crack at Manitoba, who visits the BMO Harris Bank Center for a 4:00 p.m. puck drop.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have a new look entering the 2022-23 AHL season. It’s a real paradigm shift for the organization, and I’m pretty excited about heading into another season of keeping you informed on the action out west of I-39.

Back in the spring, Hawks GM Kyle Davidson announced that bringing in veterans to raise the talent pool in Rockford was a priority. This was an easy statement to take with a grain of salt, since the IceHogs roster has been comprised mostly of prospects since Rockford became Chicago’s AHL affiliate in 2007.

Turns out, the organization followed through.

Over the summer, the Blackhawks, who enter their second full season of ownership of the ‘Bago County Flyin’ Piglets, made good on reshaping the roster. Veterans with serious AHL upside were brought in to fortify last year’s bunch of overachieving prospects.

The 2021-22 crop scrapped their way to fourth place in the AHL’s Central Division and won a play-in series with Texas before falling to the Calder Cup Champions, the Chicago Wolves. Leading the way was rookie Lukas Reichel, who is back for another season at the BMO after a strong debut of 21 goals and 36 helpers.

In addition to Reichel, the current IceHogs roster now has three players that paced their clubs in scoring last season. Many of the solid defensive pieces are back and are enhanced by a familiar face.

Let’s dig into the roster!

Forward

NHL Prospects: Lukas Reichel, Mike Hardman, Josiah Slavin, Michal Teply, Evan Barratt, Cole Guttman.

AHL Contracts: Garrett Mitchell, David Gust, Bobby Lynch, D.J. Busdeker, Carson Gicewicz, Morgan Adams-Moisan.

Veteran Oomph: Dylan Sikura, Brett Seney, Luke Philp.

Guttman is the only rookie in this group. The returning prospects all were big contributors to Rockford’s success, as were Busdeker and Gicewicz. Mitchell enters his third season as the Hogs captain.

Gust (16 G, 20 A for the Wolves last season) is a player who’s been on my wish list for several years, though he’s exactly what the organization has avoided in past campaigns. The Orland Park native is a strong AHL player with a winning pedigree, having skated with the last two Calder Cup winners.

Lynch will chip in on the bottom six; he totaled eight goals and 13 assists in 46 games with Manitoba. Adams-Moisan is a big, physical forward that may wind up splitting time between Rockford and the Indy Fuel of the ECHL.

The addition of Sikura (73 points with the Colorado Eagles last season), Seney (59 points to lead the Toronto Marlies), and Philp (44 points with a strong Stockton Heat club) figures to give Rockford the kind of potency on offense that’s been missing in past seasons. If this forward group can consistently light lamps from the raising of the curtain, this could be a formidable group.

As the Hawks roster fluctuates, Buddy Robinson, who has cleared waivers, will probably wind up with the IceHogs at some point. The same goes for rookie Jaren Luypen, currently on injured reserve with the Blackhawks.

(UPDATE-The Blackhawks assigned Robinson to Rockford on Friday morning.)

Defense

NHL Prospects: Jakub Galvas, Issak Phillips, Nicolas Beaudin, Louis Crevier.

AHL Contracts: Adam Clendening, Cliff Watson, Koletrane Wilson.

The major addition is the return of Clendening for his third tour of duty with Rockford. The 29-year-old defenseman is coming off a five-goal, 37-assist season with Lehigh Valley, his best point output since his 59-point season with the Hogs back in 2013-14.

The signing of Clendening to a one-year AHL contract was the opening salvo of the new development philosophy. He’ll be a mainstay on the Rockford power play and provides yet another upgrade to the talent pool.

Galvas and Phillips may see time in Chicago, rotating with other prospects like Alec Regula (currently with the Hawks) and Ian Mitchell (injured). Beaudin is back for his fourth season in Rockford. It’s likely his final chance to realize his potential as a former first-round draft pick.

Crevier, a seventh-round pick from the 2020 NHL Draft, is a big (6’8″) rookie who should see the ice on a regular basis. He will need to adjust to AHL forwards and contribute in the offensive zone.

Watson saw action in 20 games with Rockford and spent the rest of his season with the Fuel. Wilson has spent his first two years of pro hockey in the ECHL with the Kansas City Mavericks.

 

Goalie

NHL Prospects: Arvid Soderblom, Jaxson Stauber.

Anchoring an experienced team in net are two youngsters. Primary starts are likely to go to Soderblom, who was very impressive in stretches of his rookie season. In 38 appearances, Soderblom was 21-15-2 with a 2.76 goals against average and a .919 save percentage.

Stauber was signed to a two-year entry contract by the Hawks after two seasons at Providence College. Last season, he posted a 2.10 GAA and a .921 save percentage in 37 games.

 

Coaching Staff

Anders Sorensen, who really had his young bunch playing well despite being outmanned most nights, took over early in the season as the interim coach when Derek King was promoted to Chicago. Sorensen was retained to helm the Hogs in 2022-23.

Assisting him will be a pair of former IceHogs. Jared Nightingale was brought in mid-season and did a great job with the blueline and penalty kill. He’s back as well, and rightfully so.

Joining Sorensen, Nightingale, and goalie coach Peter Aubrey is Rob Klinkhammer, a former IceHogs favorite who is making his debut in the coaching ranks after wrapping up his well-traveled pro career with six seasons in the KHL.

 

Outlook

The Central Division is no cakewalk, starting with the defending champs over in Rosemont. The Wolves lost a lot of pieces from last year’s juggernaut but are always built to compete. Manitoba returns most of last season’s second-place squad, and Milwaukee and Grand Rapids will also be tough opponents.

The IceHogs, on paper, look to be as experienced and as talented as any of their division rivals. Slow starts have always been an issue in Rockford. That’s been especially true in the last two seasons, which featured the greenest roster in the AHL by a wide margin. That shouldn’t be the case this fall.

The AHL season is full of ups and downs as roster moves by the parent clubs can have a huge effect on their affiliates. For the time being, it appears that Rockford is stocked with a veteran cast that should spend most of their seasons with the IceHogs. Davidson wants his prospects to play meaningful games well into the spring. Rockford is set up to do that; now it is time to see what the next seven months hold for this team.

 

Jerkin’ The Curtain In Manitoba

Rockford gets to work this weekend, opening the 2022-23 season with a pair of weekend matinees with the Manitoba Moose.

The action begins at the BellMTS Iceplex in Winnipeg Saturday, October 15 with a 2:00 p.m. CDT puck drop with the Moose. Rockford and Manitoba are at it again on Sunday, October 16 at 2:00 p.m. CDT

The IceHogs were 5-3 last season against the Moose but did not fare well on the road, managing just one win in four attempts in Manitoba.

The Moose had nine players that finished 2021-22 with at least 30 points. Seven of those players return to the team this season, including leading point producers Mikey Eyssimont (18 G, 24 A) and Jeff Malott (23 G, 18 A).

Manitoba’s projected starting goalie, Arvid Holm, was 0-3 vs Rockford last season with a 3.80 goals-against average and an .823 save percentage. Soderblom, who will start at least one of this weekend’s games for the IceHogs, was 3-2-0 with a 3.04 goals against average and a .919 save percentage against the Moose.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for in-game thoughts this weekend as well as throughout the season.