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High On The Hog: Colliton Keeps An Even Keel

A young Rockford IceHogs team has experienced both highs and lows so far in the first six weeks of their 2017-18 AHL schedule. Expect that to be the case for the piglets throughout the season. IceHogs coach Jeremy Colliton seems to get that.

The new Rockford skipper was able to find some positives in a 6-0 shellacking at the hands of San Antonio Friday night. The team’s fourth-straight loss might have been frustrating, especially coming off of a 5-3 loss at Iowa. The Hogs wound up on the short end of that result despite doubling up the Wild in shots Thursday morning.

However, even following a blowout defeat, Colliton wasn’t in panic mode.

The IceHogs were sent to the box nine times and gave up four power play goals to the Rampage. Colliton lauded his team’s play at even strength in his press conference. He also stressed to the assembled media (his post-game thoughts can be viewed on the Hogs website) the importance of his young charges staying the course:

Sometimes you do good things, you do good things, you do good things…you don’t get rewarded, and sometimes your game slips…and then you don’t deserve anything. So, we just need to keep pushing.

If we string together a bunch of good efforts, over time, we’ll get paid off for it. But, if you slip and you all of a sudden start getting away…start playing as individuals and everyone trying to do their own thing and taking care of themselves…then that’s where you get in trouble. So we’ve gotta avoid that at all costs.

We’re talking about it in the leadership group. The guys who think they are gonna drive the bus for us…they need to sort of take ownership of this and just make sure we play a good, hard, smart road game tomorrow…and if we do that, probably it will pay off in points.

I can’t say for sure it will, but I do know that over time if you do good things night in and night out, you get rewarded.

The IceHogs effort resulted in a 5-2 road win in Milwaukee Saturday, so some of those bus drivers got the word out. Overall, Rockford moved to 8-6 in 2017-18. Colliton appears very aware that there are going to be peaks and valleys throughout the season. Such the case of the special teams.


Not So Special Teams

The IceHogs special teams are in need of some special attention after a spate of poor play in recent weeks. During the team’s hot start, both the power play and penalty kill units were top-five in the AHL. Neither group has fared well of late.

After hitting the man advantage jackpot with four goals against Grand Rapids on October 28, the IceHogs have found the back of a net just once in 21 power play opportunities. Even with the slump, Rockford has a fairly respectable 17.9 success rate.

The penalty kill has been a sieve over the Hogs last seven games. They have surrendered a power play tally in all of those games, including two to Milwaukee on October 27, three in Iowa November 9, and four to open their game with San Antonio November 11.

Rockford, incidentally, lost all three of those games. The IceHogs PK unit is the league’s worst with a 74.6 kill rate.

Despite not scoring on three third period power plays Saturday night in Milwaukee and giving up a shorthanded goal late in the second period, Rockford was still able to snap a four-game losing streak with a 5-2 win over the Admirals. The passing on the power play looked sharp Saturday; maybe that group can start showing up in the box score with more frequency.


A Look At The Stat Sheet

Vinnie Hinostroza continues to compile points, with four in three games of action this week. He currently sits atop the IceHogs in goals (7), assists (8, tied with Erik Gustafsson) and points (15).

Luke Johnson, who is taking a leadership role in his second season, has gotten off to a solid start. After a 17-point rookie campaign, Johnson has three goals and five helpers in 14 games this season. More importantly, he is showing a bit more finishing ability on scoring plays.

Gustafsson leads the IceHogs blueline with 11 points (3 G, 8 A). That total is also good for a tie for second among AHL defensemen.

Four rookies are in Rockford’s top ten scorers right now. Matthew Highmore has ten points (5 G, 5 A) after a couple of helpers this week. David Kampf is next among the first-years with nine points (4 G, 5 A), followed by Matheson Iacopelli (3 G, 4 A) and Anthony Louis (2 G, 4 A).

The only Rockford skater not to notch a point is D Robin Norell, who has not scored in his eight appearances. Norell, Andreas Martinsen and Alexandre Fortin are all looking for their first goal of the season.


Where’s Fortin?

One of the more intriguing rookies to come on board was Fortin, who earned an NHL entry deal from Chicago in 2016. The free agent was inked following a strong prospect camp coupled with an impressive preseason with the Blackhawks.

To date, Fortin hasn’t had a similar impact in Rockford.

The young wing is currently mired in a seven-game scoreless streak. Fortin has just four assists to show for his first dozen games of AHL competition. This, despite being grouped with Tomas Jurco and David Kampf the last two weeks. On what should be a high-scoring line, Fortin hasn’t made a lot of noise.

Maybe on a team filled with speedy skaters, I just haven’t noticed Fortin and what he’s been bringing to the table. However, he isn’t getting any time on special teams and his play hasn’t stood out these first six weeks of the campaign.

Fortin began the season as a bottom-six forward and has been a healthy scratch twice so far this season. Perhaps the move up to skate with Jurco and Kampf was an attempt to provide a boost to the rookie. If so, it has yet to kick in.


Forcing Delia?

Hawks goalie prospect Colin Delia has been getting a lot of attention from the organization since Chicago signed the free agent to an entry deal. It’s a little early for a pronouncement of his capabilities, but it has been rough going so far for Delia.

After backing up J.F. Berube in a couple of games the previous week, Delia was tapped to start Thursday’s morning affair in Iowa. From the onset, he did not look comfortable in net. In the Rockford loss, Delia gave up four goals on just 16 Wild shots.

A single start, and an AHL debut at that, does not a career make. After all, this is a guy who’s been a wall in his carefully arranged ECHL schedule with Indianapolis…except…he hasn’t.

As has been noted on several occasions, Chicago is developing the rookie goalie in Rockford and sending him to the Fuel purely for game experience. Delia has appeared in eight games for Indianapolis, compiling a 1-5-2 record, a 3.87 goals against average and a .892 save percentage.

Saturday night in the Quad Cities, Delia gave up five goals in a 5-2 loss to the Mallards. He had been pulled in his previous start in the third minute of the second period after surrendering five goals against Wheeling. Fair to say that the kid is scuffling right now, though Delia turned in a good performance Sunday in an overtime loss to the Mallards.

It’s also fair to question the strategy of yanking Delia back and forth between Rockford and Indy as opposed to letting him settle in with the Fuel for at least a couple of weeks. I know the Blackhawks want to keep close tabs on what they believe to be a legitimate goalie prospect. Surely, however, Delia’s progress wouldn’t be badly stunted with a three or four-week stretch with the Fuel?


Dauphin Injured

Forward Laurent Dauphin has missed two straight games after being helped from the ice in Thursday’s 5-3 loss to Iowa. Dauphin was injured after being sandwiched against the boards by the Wild’s Hunter Warner.

Warner had a pretty good head of steam going when he delivered the hit. Dauphin landed hard and looked to hit his head on the ice. He has not played since departing that game in Des Moines.


The Week That Was

Thursday, November 9-Iowa 5, Rockford 3

Three Iowa goals on the man advantage were too much for the IceHogs to overcome. Rockford lost for the third straight time despite out shooting the Wild 36-17.

The Wild built a 2-0 advantage on the power play in the first ten minutes of the opening frame. Rookie goaltender Colin Delia, making his first AHL start for Rockford, surrendered goals to Cal O’Reilly and Zack Mitchell to put the Hogs in a two-goal hole.

Luc Snuggerud halved the Iowa lead at 11:41 of the first with his first goal of the season. The shot came from the left point, glanced off of O’Reilly and made its way past Wild goalie Steve Michalek. Assisting on the play was Carl Dahlstrom and Andreas Martinsen, who provided the grunt work in the corner to dig out the puck and get things started.

Rockford pulled even with the Wild with a power play goal of its own. Martinsen again played a key part in the goal, scooping up a rebound of a Vinnie Hinostroza shot in front of the cage and finding Laurent Dauphin open at the right post. The one-timer got past Michalek at 6:46 of the second period.

The game remained tied for about five minutes before Iowa took the lead for good. A defensive breakdown in the neutral zone led to a 2-on-1 rush for the Wild. Mario Lucia took aim at Delia in the high slot and fired past Delia on the stick side. Iowa now led 3-2 at the 11:54 mark.

The Wild restored their two-goal advantage early in the third on another power play tally. Ryan Murphy wound up nailing a one-timer past Delia from the left point for a 4-2 Iowa lead at 3:37 of the third period.

Rockford closed the gap to a single goal in the 13th minute. Matthew Highmore hit Hinostroza coming across the red line. Hinostoza did the rest, skating to the left circle before some nifty moves created enough space to progress to the slot. The shot found its way into the upper left corner of Michalek’s net, making the score 4-3 with 12:40 gone in the third.

The Hogs could not pot the equalizer, despite a power play chance late in the game. Delia gave way to an extra skater to no avail; Pat Cannone scored on the empty net with 1:06 remaining to seal Rockford’s fate.

Delia’s welcome to the AHL was anything but; the former Merrimack standout stopped just 12 of 16 shots on the morning.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Vinnie Hinostroza (A)-Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson

Tomas Jurco-David Kampf-Alexandre Fortin

Anthony Louis-Tyler Sikura-William Pelletier

Matheson Iacopelli-Laurent Dauphin-Andreas Martinsen

Viktor Svedberg-Ville Pokka

Erik Gustafsson-Darren Raddysh

Carl Dahlstrom-Luc Snuggerud

Colin Delia

Scratches-Robin Norell, Graham Knott, Jeff Glass

Power Play (1-4)



Penalty Kill (Iowa was 3-4)





Friday, November 10-San Antonio 6, Rockford 0

The Rampage ran roughshod over the piglets on this evening, scoring four times as the result of Rockford penalties. Three came in the opening period, which was more than enough to best the Hogs.

Starting goalie J.F. Berube’s night ended after San Antonio scored for the fifth time 12:23 into the second period. Jeff Glass came in for what amounted to 28 minutes of garbage time.

Adding insult to the defeat was Luke Johnson taking a pounding in his second period fight with Mason Geertsen of the Rampage. Johnson showed some heart taking on a bigger opponent to try and change his team’s fortunes. However, neither the bout or the game turned out well for the Rockford contingent.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Alexandre Fortin-David Kampf-Tomas Jurco

Vinnie Hinostroza-Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson (A)

Matheson Iacopelli-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Graham Knott-William Pelletier-Anthony Louis

Erik Gustafsson-Carl Dahlstrom

Viktor Svedberg-Ville Pokka (A)

Luc Snuggerud-Robin Norell

Jean-Francois Berube

Jeff Glass

Scratches-Laurent Dauphin, Darren Raddysh

Power Play (0-4)



Penalty Kill (Rampage was 4-9)





Saturday, November 11-Rockford 5, Milwaukee 2

A big third period by Vinnie Hinostroza and solid goal tending by Jeff Glass were the keys to Rockford ending a four-game losing streak on the road. The Hogs kept the game close until breaking out for a trifecta of scoring in the final 20 minutes.

Rockford had been prone to falling behind quickly in previous losses; Friday, the Hogs drew first twine. Tomas Jurco found David Kampf in front of the Milwaukee net for the lamp-lighter past Ads goalie Anders Lindback at 8:48 of the opening frame.

That lead held up until P.C. Labrie slipped behind the Hogs defense, took a stretch pass from Trevor Murphy and potted his first goal against his former team ninety seconds into the second period. The Admirals grabbed a brief 2-1 advantage on a Pontus Aberg power play strike that got under the pads of Glass at the 17:52 mark.

The IceHogs had an answer for the Admirals, however. Andreas Martinsen took a pass from Matheson Iacopelli in the high slot, firing the puck at Lindback. Lindback did not field the offering cleanly. Tyler Sikura made him pay for his clumsiness, knocking the loose puck into the Milwaukee net for the equalizer just 16 seconds after Aberg’s tally.

All even at two at the second intermission, Rockford got the game-winner 24 seconds into the final period. It came when Hinostroza put in a rebound of a Matthew Highmore shot. The IceHogs held that 3-2 advantage for almost ten minutes, unable to build on the lead despite three power play chances in that span.

Rockford was playing 4-on-4 with the Admirals when Hinostroza struck again. Scooping up a Milwaukee turnover, the speedy forward streaked to the net, slowed up to size up the goalie, and flung home some insurance over Lindback’s glove at 10:55.

About five minutes later, Johnson got in on the fun, taking a long feed from Raddysh near the red line and progressing unencumbered to the Milwaukee doorstep. Lindback guessed wrong, Johnson’s backhander stuck cord, and the IceHogs had a 5-2 lead at the 15:49 mark.

Hinostroza, not surprisingly, was the game’s first star. Lindback got enough press box support for third star honors, though it was Glass who stopped 23 of 25 shots and kept the puck out of the Rockford net in some dicey moments in the final ten minutes.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Vinnie Hinostroza-Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson (A)

Alexandre Fortin-David Kampf-Tomas Jurco

Matheson Iacopelli-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Graham Knott-William Pelletier

Erik Gustafsson-Carl Dahlstrom

Viktor Svedberg-Ville Pokka (A)

Luc Snuggerud-Robin Norell

Darren Raddysh

Jeff Glass

Scratches-Laurent Dauphin, Anthony Louis

Power Play (0-3)



Penalty Kill (Admirals were 1-3)





Previewing Next Week

The IceHogs are at home for their next five games against the bottom three teams in the Central Division. Don’t let that fool you; each of these contests will be hard fought.

This week’s action gets underway Wednesday morning when Iowa pays a visit to the BMO Harris Bank Center. It’s a school day game, scheduled every year so that children from the Rockford area can scream continuously for a couple of hours without fear of detention.

The Wild don’t match up will the team speed of Rockford, but that didn’t stop Iowa from beating them this past Thursday. The Hogs typically swarm the Iowa net with shots; the key will be getting those shots to fall. The Wild will return to the BMO November 22 and 24, meaning that three of Rockford’s next five games will be against Minnesota’s AHL affiliate.

On Saturday night, Grand Rapids comes to town for the third time this season. Rockford bested the Griffins in a shootout back on October 20, then rallied from a two-goal deficit with three power play goals for a 4-3 win October 28.

Rockford’s interstate rivalry with the Chicago Wolves begins Sunday, when the two teams begin the hunt for the Illinois Lottery Cup. This grail-like plastic and wooden trophy goes to the Illinois team who has the most points after the dozen head-to-head matchups this season.

The Wolves are 4-7-1 as of Monday morning but are the current holders of the ILC, having beaten the IceHogs in eight of those twelve meetings in 2016-17. Their roster is full of familiar faces, headed up by AHL point machine Teemu Pulkkinen. He, along with former Hawks prospect Brandon Pirri, has topped the league in scoring in his career and has a boatload of goals against the IceHogs

The Wolves also boast potent AHL scorers like Wade Megan and T.J. Tynan and veteran Brett Sterling. Defenseman Jason Garrison has been loaned out to the Wolves from Las Vegas since the end of October.

These Rockford-Chicago affairs are usually pretty rough-and-tumble. Seven of the IceHogs 39 fighting majors (18 percent) came against the Wolves. Come to think of it, Rockford had seven FM’s with Grand Rapids last year and six more with Iowa, for what it’s worth.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates and thoughts on the Hogs all season long.





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