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High On The Hog: Back To Bickell

The Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks affiliate in the American Hockey League, split a pair of games with Central Division opponents this weekend. The Hogs extended their point streak to eight games and are now 7-3-1-1 in 2015-16.

Rockford beat Grand Rapids on the road Friday night. They came back to Winnebago County the next evening and dropped an overtime decision to Milwaukee.

Also of note; the IceHogs added over 500 games of NHL experience to the lineup this week.

The 223-Pound Bickell In The Room

Following his assignment to Rockford Monday, Bryan Bickell skated in both games for the IceHogs this week. Donning number 44 (Ville Pokka wears #29 and Mike Liambas has his old Rockford #17 sweater), Bickell skated with Vinnie Hinostroza and Ryan Hartman. He was also on the Hogs top power play unit.

How’d the guy look? Well, first off, having watched him almost exclusively on TV for the last few seasons, I’d kind of forgotten how big Bickell is. He was a wrecking ball back in his first stint with the IceHogs from 2007-08 to 2009-10.

Bickell scored a power play goal in Grand Rapids and contributed a nice pass to Pokka Saturday for a primary assist.  He didn’t shy from contact and he more than held his own on the ice. That said, he seemed just a bit tentative to me.

Perhaps that can simply be a case of a veteran NHL player trying to wrap his head around his current situation. It would certainly be understandable.

Also playing his first two games for Rockford this weekend was Kyle Cumiskey, who will certainly help out on the blue line the the IceHogs.


Shooting Blanks

An interesting streak came to an end in Grand Rapids Friday. Jeremy Morin was unable to register a shot on goal against the Griffins. It happens…just not to Morin.

The last time Morin had skated in an AHL game and not had a shot on goal was in Peoria on October 28, 2011. That was 187 games ago, way back when the Rivermen were an AHL adversary.

In fact, in 219 career AHL tilts, all with the Hogs, Morin has failed to get a puck on goal just four times. Aside from above, Morin was denied a shot on two other occasions:

October 9, 2010-Morin’s first game as a pro vs. Manitoba.

January 15, 2011-Morin was dumped on his head at the Allstate Arena by defenseman Andrey Zubarev of the Chicago Wolves (as Morin was preparing to shoot) late in the first period. Morin missed the remainder of that season with a concussion.

Morin was back on the horse Saturday with four shots on goal. He is second among current IceHogs skaters with 27 shots this season. Morin has a pair of goals, four assists and is a plus-five through 11 games. Plus, he owns a one-game shot streak.



When Hinostroza was drafted, it was Vince. When the Hawks sent him back down last week, the Hogs started listing him as Vinnie. I just looked at the stats page on the Blackhawks website and its Vincent.

Can someone ask this kid what he likes to be called, then address him as such?

Last year, Michael Leighton was listed as Mike Leighton for a while. I guess the announcers can sometimes use shortened versions of a player’s name in the course of a game. It seems a bit odd that a player is listed under different names on roster and stat sheets, though.

Maybe I’m putting too much thought into this. On the other hand, the IceHogs have always begun their player introductions with their mascot, Hamilton E. Hog. This year, he’s being announced as “Hammy Hog”. Hmmmmmm…

I don’t think we’ll hear Rockford’s coach referred to as Teddy Dent; if I do then I’ll know something’s definitely up. Or that I’m breathing in too many paint fumes.


Roster Moves

With Kyle Cumiskey making his season debut Friday night, Nick Mattson was sent to Indianapolis Wednesday. Thursday, Ryan Hartman rejoined the IceHogs.

On Saturday, Rockford recalled Dane Walters, who had been on loan to the Toledo Walleye. Mark McNeill was a scratch Saturday, which could suggest that he could have been hurting from the previous night’s win in Grand Rapids.


The Weekend That Was

Friday, November 6-Rockford 4-Grand Rapids 1

The IceHogs were out shot 41-22 on the night but prevailed thanks to a big performance by Michael Leighton and an opportunistic Rockford offense.

The Hogs fell behind 1-0 on a Martin Frk goal just 2:44 into the contest, but Ryan Hartman took a pass from Brandon Mashinter at the right circle and kissed cord to tie the game at the 6:44 mark.

Grand Rapids bombarded Leighton with 16 shots in the second period to just three for the IceHogs. Two of those shots came courtesy of Pierre-Cedric Labrie, who got to a loose puck just behind the red line while killing a penalty. Labrie went strong into the Griffins zone, getting a shot on Tom McCollum and backhanding his own rebound past the Grand Rapids goalie for what turned out to be the game-winner 7:44 into the middle stanza.

Midway through the third period, Rockford’s power play got in on the fun. Getting the goal was Bryan Bickell, who redirected a Ville Pokka shot to put the Hogs up 3-1 at 8:31 of the third.

The Rockford defense, chipped in with the fourth unanswered goal for the IceHogs. Nolan Valleau did the honors with his first AHL tally off a Mashinter assist with 14:43 gone in the third period.

Leighton, who stopped 40 of 41 shots, was named the game’s first star. Labrie earned second star honors as Rockford won its third straight game.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Brandon Mashinter (C)-Mark McNeill-Kyle Baun

Ryan Hartman-Vinnie Hinostroza-Bryan Bickell

Garret Ross-Dennis Rasmussen-Jeremy Morin

Chris DeSousa-Jake Dowell (A)-Pierre-Cedric Labrie (A)

Cameron Schilling-Ville Pokka

Nolan Valleau-Kyle Cumiskey

Dennis Robertson-Kirill Gotovets

Michael Leighton

Scratches-Mike Liambas, Sam Jardine, Daniel Paille, Ryan Haggerty.

Power Play (1-2)



Penalty Kill (held Grand Rapids scoreless in three attempts.)





Saturday, November 7-Milwaukee 3, Rockford 2 (OT)

On an evening filled with Rockford penalties, it was a late infraction that spelled defeat at the hands of the Admirals. The Hogs extended their point streak to eight games but allowed Milwaukee to pick up the second point.

Returning to the BMO (which was nearly filled to capacity) for the first time in an Ads sweater was Cody Bass, who announced his presence in a physical manner. After he got a little rough with Kyle Cumiskey between the benches early in the contest, Pierre-Cedric Labrie came around and the two former team mates squared off.

After a long stretch of clinching in front of the Milwaukee bench, Labrie, who was also tagged with a roughing infraction, got in a few shots and skated triumphantly to the penalty box. Bass skated to the locker room for some patching up.

Brandon Mashinter got Rockford on the board first with some persistence around the Ads net. The captain wound up with a loose puck at the left post and attempted a centering pass that didn’t get through. Regaining possesion, Mashinter guided the puck past Marek Mazanec into the net for a 1-0 Hogs advantage 7:54 into the game.

Milwaukee tied the game on a Jamie Devane goal later in the period and took a lead midway through the second while on a power play. Cameron Schilling lost track of Milwaukee’s Adam Payert in front of the Hogs net. Pontus Aberg got him the puck on the doorstep and Payert beat Mark Visentin to give the Admirals a 2-1 lead.

The IceHogs tied the game 8:50 into the third period on Ville Pokka’s first goal of the season. The play was set up with a nice pass by Bryan Bickell, who hit Pokka at the right dot. The Finn’s aim was true; his shot zipped through Mazanec’s five hole for the equalizer.

Rockford was shorthanded seven times in regulation and a penalty proved too much to overcome in Gus Macker Time. The IceHogs were completing a line change when Nolan Valleau took possession of a drop pass just inside the Ads zone. Unfortunately, Cumiskey, the man Valleau was replacing, had not yet stepped off the ice.

A second later and Valleau might have been eyeing a potential game-winner. Instead, a too-many-men penalty was called, giving Milwaukee an extra skater with just over a minute left in overtime. Trevor Murphy scored with 24 seconds remaining to put an end to the proceedings.

It would be tough to hang the loss on Visentin, who made 37 stops. There was little he could do on Payert’s goal and he kept the Hogs in the contest until the end. Pokka was voted the game’s third star.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Bryan Bickell-Vinnie Hinostroza-Ryan Hartman

Garret Ross-Dennis Rasmussen-Jeremy Morin

Brandon Mashinter (C)-Jake Dowell (A)-Kyle Baun

Chris DeSousa-Dane Walters-Pierre-Cedric Labrie

Cameron Schilling-Ville Pokka

Nolan Valleau-Kyle Cumiskey

Kirill Gotovets-Sam Jardine

Mark Visentin

Scratches-Mike Liambas, Dennis Robertson, Mark McNeill, Daniel Paille, Ryan Haggerty.

Power Play (0-4)



Penalty Kill (Milwaukee was 2-8, with the second being a 4-on-3 PP in the OT.)



Baun-Labrie-Schilling Pokka


Road Trip

The Hogs pack up for four consecutive road games over the next two weeks. Rockford visits Iowa for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday nights.

Follow me on twitter @JonFromi for occasional IceHogs-related musings. No live updates of the Wild back-to-back due to a work commitment but I just may post a final score.