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High On The Hog: Going Streaking With A New Captain

The kids down Rockford way have been red-hot in their last week of action. The IceHogs return to the BMO Harris Bank Center Tuesday with a five-game winning streak in tow.

Rockford won in Grand Rapids Wednesday and followed that up with back-to-back pastings of the San Antonio Rampage this weekend. The IceHogs are 7-2-0-1 through their first ten games and sit atop the AHL’s Midwest Division as of Monday.

With 15 points on the 2014-15 campaign, Rockford is currently in second place in the AHL’s Western Conference. The Hogs also have a new captain in place and an offense that has scored 18 times in the last four games. Here are some notes on a very successful road trip.

Cap’n Hog

On Tuesday, the IceHogs named forward Joakim Nordstrom the captain of this year’s club. The 22-year-old Swede is the youngest Rockford captain in the team’s AHL history. Tim Brent (2008-09) and Jake Dowell (2009-10) were both 24 when they wore the C for the Hogs.

Alternate captains were also announced. Adam Clendening, Cody Bass, Klas Dahlbeck and Pierre-Cedric Labrie will handle those duties throughout the season. It wasn’t revealed who would wear letters on what nights, though Clendening and Peter Regin (Bass is still recovering from injury) were alternates on the road trip this past week. That would presumably leave Dahlbeck and Labrie to serve as home alternates.


Loading Up On D-Men

Hogs coach Ted Dent has a plethora of defensive prospects and has had to sit at least one out in these early games. He solved that problem this weekend.

Dent suited up all seven defensemen on his roster that are under contract with the Blackhawks-Adam Clendening, Kyle Cumiskey, Klas Dahlbeck, Ville Pokka, T.J. Brennan, Stephen Johns and Viktor Svedberg. There were no blue liners masquerading as forwards, however.

Icing just 11 forwards, Dent rotated defensive pairings throughout the two games in San Antonio. There were also a lot of changes in the forward lines during these games. Rockford put up 11 goals in Friday and Saturday’s action, so something is clicking.

Despite Cody Bass and Ryan Schnell being injured, I believe Dent has healthy forwards he could have used in the lineup. Pierre-Cedric Labrie was in the lineup in Grand Rapids but didn’t play against the Rampage. Alex Broadhurst and Drew LeBlanc was scratched Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Will Dent employ a similar lineup with the Hogs coming home Tuesday? We will find out tomorrow but there is no denying the potency of the combinations he has been sending out there.


Who’s Off To A Hot Start? Danault

Last season, Phillip Danault really had trouble finding the offensive part of his game. He spent a lot of time on the bottom lines and took a while to get going. That has not been the case in the first ten games of the 2014-15 season.

Danault has been skating on scoring lines for the most part and often beside fellow 2011 first-round pick Mark McNeil. Danault is taking advantage of his position in the lineup, with a pair of goals and six helpers this fall. His eight points lead the team along with McNeill (3G, 5A) and Regin (2G, 6A).


The Dane In The Plastic Mask

Regin was sporting a full face shield for Saturday’s contest. He was also checked hard by John McFarland at the Rampage blue line about five minutes in Friday night. He went down face first before rising and skating back to the bench.

I can only speculate as to the nature of the injury but I have to imagine it is related to his jaw. I didn’t see him get struck in the face with a puck so the smoking gun may be the check he took early Friday. Perhaps more will be revealed once the team gets back to home action.


Three Games…Six Points

Wednesday, October 29-Rockford 2, Grand Rapids 1

The Hogs shook off a Griffins goal right after the opening faceoff to get two points in the house of a tough Midwest division foe.

Red Wings center Stephen Weiss, in town on a rehab assignment, won the draw to start the game and Grand Rapids got a goal from Mitch Callahan ten seconds into the contest. It would be the only shot Michael Leighton would allow past him on the night. The oft-injured Weiss didn’t finish the game, by the way, leaving in the final period.

Rockford tied the score in the sixth minute. Peter Regin, fresh out of the penalty box, brought the puck through the neutral zone and passed to Teuvo Teravainen entering the offensive zone. Teravainen dropped a backhand pass into the slot for Matt Carey, who one-timed a shot over the glove of Griffins goalie Tom McCollum at the 5:46 mark.

Leighton stopped the last 38 Grand Rapids shots to keep the IceHogs even. Rockford killed eight Griffins power plays, including three each in periods two and three. Leighton saved the game with two of his 17 saves in the final frame. Midway through the period, he slid across the crease to knock away a Jeff Hogan redirect. He then went post-to-post to stop Jeff Hogan on a second attempt with his right pad.

Leighton’s heroics paid off for Rockford in the 19th minute of the third period. McCollum sent the puck to Landon Ferraro but the forward couldn’t handle the pass. Teravainen snapped up the loose puck along the left boards and fed Nordstrom in the slot. The captain’s blast kissed cord with 1:16 to play, earning the IceHogs the victory.

Nordstrom was tabbed the game’s first star. The press box somehow rated Callahan’s early goal over Leighton’s huge night in the Rockford net. The Hogs goalie can take solace in knowing his efforts were a big part of picking up his team’s third straight win.

Lines (Starters in italics)-The forwards came out in lots of different combos throughout the night.
Garret Ross-Teuvo Teravainen-Joakim Nordstrom(C)
Peter Regin(A)-Phillip Danault-Mark McNeill
Brandon Mashinter-Dennis Rasmussen-Ryan Hartman
Matt Carey-Alex Broadhurst-Pierre-Cedric Labrie

Adam Clendening(A)-Kyle Cumiskey
Klas Dahlbeck-Ville Pokka
T.J. Brennan-Stephen Johns

Michael Leighton


Friday, October 3-Rockford 6, San Antonio 3

Paced by a hat trick-or-treat by Garret Ross, the IceHogs got their fourth straight win at the expense of the Rampage. Despite being out shot 25-23, Rockford doubled up their Halloween hosts.

Matt Carey got the Hogs on the board in the sixteenth minute off a nice stretch pass from Stephen Johns. Carey bore down on the Rampage net and beat goalie Dan Ellis on the stick side for his third tally of the season. San Antonio tied the score less than a minute later, but the IceHogs took the lead for good early in the second period on a Joakim Nordstrom power play goal.

Ross got his first goal of the season midway through the second period. The play was set up by Phillip Danault who grabbed a loose puck in his own zone and went up the left side toward the San Antonio blue line. After making a nifty move to avoid defenseman Alex Petrovic, Danault skated to the left post before hitting Ross in the slot.

Rockford took a 3-2 advantage into the second intermission and looked to be playing a bit defensively upon hitting the ice in the third period. That was before the Hogs took control with three goals in the final nine minutes.

Ross got goal number two 11:27 in, a one-timer from the slot assisted by Mark McNeill and Danault. San Antonio closed to 4-3 but Danault redirected a Klas Dahlbeck shot into the promised land at the 16:25 mark. Ross was credited with an empty net goal at the buzzer to complete the hat trick.

Ross (also a plus-four on the night) and Danault (a goal and a pair of assists) were the game’s first and second stars. McNeill, who also dropped the gloves in the second period with Tony Turgeon, added a pair of assists.

Lines (Starters in italics)
Rockford elected to skate seven defensemen Friday night. As a result, there were a lot of combinations on the ice throughout the contest.
Garret Ross-Phillip Danault-Mark McNeill
Matt Carey-Teuvo Teravainen-Ryan Hartman
Peter Regin (A)-Dennis Rasmussen-Joakim Nordstrom (C)
Brandon Mashinter-Drew LaBlanc-various skaters

Stephen Johns-T.J. Brennan
Adam Clendening (A)-Kyle Cumiskey
Ville Pokka-Klas Dahlbeck
Viktor Svedberg

Michael Leighton


Saturday, November 1-Rockford 5, San Antonio 1

If the Rampage thought Rockford was due for a letdown heading into Saturday’s portion of the San Antonio back-to-back, they were sorely mistaken. With Darling in net, the Hogs dominated the contest and won in a rout.

The scoring got underway on Rockford’s first power play opportunity. A Brandon Mashinter turnover in his own zone nearly resulted in a Rampage shorty but Darling knocked the attempt away. Joakim Nordstrom gathered the puck and streaked into the San Antonio zone. Nordstrom dropped a pass to Peter Regin at the right circle and Regin found Mashinter knocking on the back door. Mashinter scored from the left post at the 10:35 mark and the Hogs never looked back.

Rockford struck again four minutes later. Ville Pokka collected a long rebound off of the pads of Rampage goalie Michael Houser and centered to Mark McNeill. The redirection went over Hauser and got intimate with the net, giving the IceHogs a 2-0 advantage.

T.J. Brennan scored 2:59 into the second off a faceoff win by Dennis Rasmussen to put Rockford up 3-0. Pokka, who registered his first point with the Hogs earlier, took care of his first goal with a power play tally in the 14th minute. The shot pinballed off the crossbar and right post before settling into the biscuit basket for a four-goal IceHogs lead.

The final Rockford tally came off the stick of Rasmussen 35 seconds into the final frame when Regin fed him in the slot from behind the San Antonio net. Darling lost the shutout in the 16th minute but was still named the game’s first star for his 30-save performance. Pokka and Rasmussen were bestowed second and third star honors.

Lines (Starters in italics)
Garret Ross-Phillip Danault-Mark McNeill
Peter Regin (A)-Dennis Rasmussen-Joakim Nordstrom (C)
Matt Carey-Teuvo Teravainen-Ryan Hartman
Brandon Mashinter-Alex Broadhurst-various forwards (Rasmussen centered this line a lot)

T.J. Brennan-Stephen Johns
Ville Pokka-Klas Dahlbeck
Adam Clendening (A)-Kyle Cumiskey
Viktor Svedberg

Scott Darling (Mac Carruth was sent down to Indianapolis of the ECHL Saturday after the Blackhawks reassigned Darling to Rockford.)


Next Up

Rockford now hits a stretch that sees them at home for six of its next eight games. The IceHogs host Lake Erie Tuesday and head to Iowa for a Thursday match-up with the Wild. Rockford then comes back to the BMO Saturday for another go round with Grand Rapids.

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