The Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks affiliate in the American Hockey League, hope to continue their strong play into the month of December. The piglets got the month started right with a 4-2 win over Manitoba Tuesday. Another big Central Division weekend looms for the IceHogs. Friday sees Rockford in Grand Rapids. The first meeting of the season with Western Conference-leading Milwaukee is Saturday.
On Tuesday, D Dennis Gilbert was recalled to the Blackhawks. Rockford has seven defenseman on its current roster. However, Philip Holm has been out the last couple of games and Lucas Carlsson took a puck in the face late in Tuesday’s game with the Moose. No one has been brought up from Indy this week, so I’d guess one or both players should be ready to play.
Tuesday, December 3-Rockford 4, Manitoba 2
Rockford won its third straight game behind a strong performance from goalie Collin Delia, who posted a 37-save performance in his first action since November 3.
The Hogs drew cord on the power play 4:15 into the contest. The play was set up with a long pass by Delia to Dylan Sikura. Sikura maneuvered to the high slot and drew three defenders before sliding the puck to MacKenzie Entwistle. The rookie forward went forehand-backhand on Manitoba goalie Mikhail Berdin, striking through the five-hole to put Rockford up 1-0.
The Moose quickly responded with a Seth Griffith goal. However, the piglets regained the lead on a point blast by Joni Tuulola. Tyler Sikura picked up the apple with some deft stick work along the half boards and the IceHogs held a 2-1 advantage at the 8:53 mark.
Manitoba came back with a power play goal by Skylar McKenzie 14:48 into the first. Delia, who was having trouble securing the puck at times, made a nice pair of saves late in the period to send the teams to intermission even at two goals.
Both teams had a couple of power play chances in the second period. Brandon Hagel had recently come out of the penalty box for hooking when Matthew Highmore slid a pass his way in front of the Rockford net. Hagel did the rest, streaking past the Moose defense to buzz the goal mouth and backhand the puck into the Manitoba cage. The IceHogs led 3-2 at the 16:48 mark and held that advantage as the teams skated to the second intermission.
Delia held off the charging Moose in the third period. The Hogs goalie stopped twelve shots, including an outstanding pad save on a back door attempt midway through the period. Nick Moutrey added an empty net goal with 32 seconds remaining in regulation to put a topper on the win.
Lines (Starters in italics)
John Quenneville-Tyler Sikura (C)-Matthew Highmore
Dylan Sikura-Phillipp Kurashev-Tim Soderlund
Brandon Hagel-Jacob Nilsson (A)-MacKenzie Entwistle
Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Joseph Cramarossa
Joni Tuulola-Adam Boqvist
Lucas Carlsson-Dennis Gilbert (A)
Nicolas Beaudin-Ian McCoshen
Power Play (1-4)
Penalty Kill (Moose were 1-5)
Previewing The Weekend
Friday night, Rockford is in Grand Rapids. The Griffins have lost six straight, including a 3-1 loss to the Hogs at the BMO last Saturday.
Saturday night is the IceHogs first look at the Milwaukee Admirals. It’s also the team’s annual Teddy Bear Toss Night. The Ads had a 13-game win streak snapped by Texas on Monday night but still lead the Central Division with a 17-4-1-2 mark.
Admirals center Yakov Trenin is second in the AHL with 14 goals this season. Daniel Carr (11 G, 10 A) was a 30-goal scorer with the Wolves last year but has been out of the Milwaukee lineup for a couple of weeks. The Admirals are bolstered by the scoring of Cole Schneider (6 G, 14 A), Colin Blackwell (6 G, 13 A) as well as defensemen Alexandre Carrier (3 G, 13 A) and Matt Donovan (1 G, 13 A). Former IceHogs forward Laurent Dauphin (5 G, 5 A) will also be facing off against Rockford.
It’s been a true tandem in goal for Milwaukee. Veterans Connor Ingram and Troy Grosenick have split the workload and together boast a 2.36 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. The Admirals are the stingiest defensive team in the AHL despite giving up over 31 shots a game, so the goalies are getting it done big time.
I would speculate that the Hogs will be facing Grosenick Saturday, as Ingram will likely play Friday when Milwaukee hosts Iowa. Regardless, getting pucks in the Ads net could prove challenging.
Follow me on twitter @JonFromi for updates on the IceHogs throughout the season.