The Rockford IceHogs had weekend plans with the Iowa Wild. They still do…kinda.
The AHL, in response to COVID-related issues in the Wild organization, pushed back what would have been Friday and Saturday games at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Instead, the two games are now scheduled for Sunday, March 21, and Tuesday, March 23.
Rockford’s schedule has been altered several times this season. Each time, the issues have been in the opponent’s camp. Right now, it still appears that the IceHogs, who have won two straight games, will have a chance to extend that streak against a struggling Iowa team that has dropped its last five contests.
McLaughlin Strikes Twice
Forward Dylan McLaughin is one of many AHL contracts signed by the Hogs that has capitalized on an increased role on the team this season. McLaughlin split his rookie season between Rockford and Indy; he had two goals and five helpers in 28 games with the IceHogs and 13 goals and 11 assists in 20 games with the Fuel.
McLaughlin spent most of 2019-20 as a fourth-line skater and penalty killer. Lately, he has seen a lot of top-six minutes and also has a spot on a power-play unit. As a result, McLaughlin is having his most noticeable stretch in his short IceHogs career.
Rockford got game-winning overtime goals from McLaughlin in consecutive victories over Grand Rapids on Saturday and Tuesday. He also assisted on the two goals that tied each game for the IceHogs.
McLaughlin, who spent four seasons at Canisius College before starting his pro career, is now second on the team in scoring with seven points (2 G, 5 A) in ten games for Rockford. So far this season, he’s made the most of the chances afforded to him.
On Tuesday, it was announced that the Blackhawks had signed forward Josiah Slavin to a two-year entry contract that begins this fall. The IceHogs inked Slavin, whose season at Colorado College ended recently, to an amateur tryout, which should run through the rest of the AHL season.
Wednesday, Rockford assigned G Tom Aubrun to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. The Blackhawks sent F Brandon Pirri from the taxi squad to the IceHogs. Pirri had two goals and an assist in two games with Rockford earlier this month.
D Anton Lindholm got into his first game action of the season for Rockford Tuesday after suffering a broken thumb in training camp. Also returning to action Tuesday was forward Michal Teply.
Tuesday, March 16-Rockford 2, Grand Rapids 1 (OT)
Rockford won its second-straight game in Grand Rapids, prevailing in nearly the exact manner of Saturday’s overtime victory. This time, Matt Tomkins made 46 saves, allowing Dylan McLaughlin to pot another game-winner for the Hogs.
The Griffins took advantage of an ill-advised pass attempt by Hogs rookie defenseman Alec Regula to take a 1-0 advantage midway through the first period. Regula was in the corner of his own zone and tried to send a no-look backhand pass to Dylan McLaughlin.
The pass did not connect; instead, the puck found the stick of Givani Smith. A quick pass to Chase Pearson at the left post was knocked past Tomkins at the 10:26 mark. The Hogs were out shot 16-9 in the opening twenty and went to the locker room down a goal.
Rockford capitalized on a Griffins turnover to tie the game early in the second stanza. Grand Rapids captain Brian Lashoff was unable to gather in a bouncing puck in the corner of the Griffins zone. McLauglin swooped in to take control and sent the puck out to Cody Franson at the right point.
Franson’s shot was stopped by Grand Rapids goalie Calvin Pickard, but McLaughlin gathered in the rebound and sent it to the blue paint. Gabriel Gagne slid the biscuit across the goal line 1:15 into the second to make it a 1-1 game.
The Griffins kept Rockford on its heels for most of the remainder of the second period. Tomkins, as he had in Saturday’s Hogs victory, kept his team in the game with many point-blank stops. Grand Rapids out shot the piglets 16-3 in the third period. Tomkins sent them away time and again, including two power plays in the final twenty minutes.
The ending was short, sweet, and nearly a carbon copy of Saturday’s triumph. The Griffins won the opening faceoff in Gus Macker Time and got set to bring it up the ice. A long stretch pass knocked the stick out of Tim Soderlund’s hands, effectively making it a 3-on-2 Grand Rapids advantage. No matter.
Issak Phillips retrieved the loose puck and skated into the offensive zone. With all three Griffins defenders surrounding him at the right dot, Phillips dropped a pass to McLaughlin. The resulting shot to the far corner caught twine and earned Rockford the win 19 seconds into the extra session.
Lines (Starters in italics)
Andrei Altybarmakyan-MacKenzie Entwistle-D.J. Busdeker
Matej Chalupa-Evan Barratt-Michal Teply
Tim Soderlund-Dylan McLaughlin-Gabriel Gagne
Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Mitchell Fossier
Alec Regula-Cody Franson (A)
Anton Lindholm-Michael Krutil
Issak Phillips-Dimitry Osipov
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