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High On The Hog: No Luck With Grand Rapids

The Rockford IceHogs continue to limp toward the end of the 2016-17 campaign. The Blackhawks AHL affiliate dropped a weekend set with Grand Rapids, losing in Michigan Friday before being shutout at the BMO Harris Bank Center the following evening.

Since losing several top scorers at the NHL trade deadline, the Hogs have not fared well. They’ve lost ten of their last eleven; Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the Griffins put an exclamation point on what has been a franchise-low showing this season.

With nine games remaining in the schedule, Rockford’s .418 points percentage isn’t going to get substantially better. By way of comparison, the IceHogs lowest previous points percentage is a .520 mark in the 2011-12 season. Rockford could run the table and still finish with a .486 percentage.

That is not likely to happen.

Management is probably going to give the kids signed to tryout deals plenty of ice time to see what next year’s team could look like. Players like Luc Snuggerud, Anthony Louis, and Luke Johnson were given power play time this past weekend.

One skater we won’t be seeing in action these last two weeks is Roy Radke, signed to an ATO following the conclusion of his junior season. Radke, according to Scott Powers of theathletic.com, is slated for shoulder surgery after his physical showed an issue in that area. The IceHogs released Radke from the ATO on Sunday.


P.C.’s Doughnut Shop

Rugged veteran forward Pierre-Cedric Labrie dropped the gloves with Grand Rapids defenseman Dylan McIlrath midway through Saturday’s affair. McIlrath had laid a crushing hit (for which he was penalized) on Vinnie Hinostroza late in the opening period, so it was good to see Labrie send a message.

This has not been the best of seasons on the ice for Labrie. Arguably one of the most popular players in the history of the Rockford franchise, Labrie had a career year last season while on an AHL deal with the Hogs.

Labrie earned an NHL deal from the Blackhawks after his 20-goal, 34-point 2015-16 campaign. It wouldn’t be fair to expect that many goals from him again; Labrie makes his living with a physical style that leads to goals of the greasy variety. However, with a veteran-heavy lineup coming into this season, Labrie was a guy who was going to have to contribute on the offensive end.

In 47 games, Labrie has six assists on the season. He is the only regular in the lineup that has not registered a goal.

Labrie has only recently come back to active duty after an injury suffered February 11 kept him out for over a month. He has also spent most of the season skating fourth-line minutes. Still, for a guy who can be counted on for chipping in eight to ten goals every season, this lack of production is indicative of the frustrating season the IceHogs are close to completing.

UPDATE, March 30-Labrie’s off-ice accomplishments were duly recognized when the IceHogs named him one of 30 finalists for the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man Of The Year. Labrie is the Hogs team recipient based on his work in the Rockford community. Foremost in that work is his anti-bullying campaign, which he helped start last season.



Friday, March 24-Grand Rapids 5, Rockford 3

The Griffins took control of this see-saw affair in the latter stages of the third period and won their half of a home-and-home weekend.

The teams traded goals in the fifth minute of the contest. Rockford struck first after Kyle Baun took a puck out of the corner and fed Martin Lundberg in the slot. The shot was stopped by Grand Rapids goalie Jared Coreau, only to glance off teammate Filip Hroneck and into the net.

Up 1-0 at the 4:31 mark, the IceHogs surrendered an Eric Tangradi goal 25 seconds later to knot the game. Brandon Mashinter tipped in a Gustav Forsling shot at 8:08 of the opening period and Rockford skated into the locker room with a 2-1 advantage.

The Griffins took advantage of a holding penalty on Forsling, notching a power play goal 1:58 into the second period to draw even again. Grand Rapids took a 3-2 lead following a turnover by Luke Johnson near the left circle of his own zone. Johnson’s subsequent tumble to the ice gave the Griffins Kyle Criscuolo the room to drop a pass to Matt Lorito. Lorito easily fired past Hogs goalie Lars Johansson 11:19 into the second.

The IceHogs responded quickly, with Michael Latta flipping a clearing attempt through the neutral zone and onto the stick of Tyler Motte. Motte’s offering from the left dot glanced off Coreau’s pads and tumbled across the goal line. It was 3-3 at 11:49 of the period; that score held up through 40 minutes.

Grand Rapids broke the tie 13:25 into the third. Dylan McIlrath’s shot from the point was deflected by Criscuolo in front of the Rockford net. The puck slid into the slot, where Martin Frk banged it past Johansson for what would be the game-winner. Frk added an empty-net goal in the final minute to put the Hogs away.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Tyler Motte-Michael Latta-Luke Johnson

Brandon Mashinter (A)-Jeremy Langlois-Anthony Louis

Kyle Baun-Vinnie Hinostroza-Martin Lundberg

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

Luc Snuggerud-Gustav Forsling

Nolan Valleau-Carl Dahlstrom

Erik Gustafsson-Ville Pokka

Lars Johansson

Power Play (0-3)



Penalty Kill (Grand Rapids was 1-5)





Saturday, March 25-Grand Rapids 4, Rockford 0

The Hogs skated hard but were no match for the skill of Grand Rapids, dropping their third straight game in unspectacular fashion.

The high point of the game was Brandon Mashinter’s put-back goal three minutes into the contest. Unfortunately, the officials waved off the goal due to goalie interference. Things went downhill from there.

Seconds later, Ben Street scored to give the visiting Griffins a 1-0 advantage 3:36 into the first period. Grand Rapids struck late in the second with a Martin Frk goal, then added a pair in the third period to win going away.

Rockford had no solution to the puzzle that was Eddie Pasquale. The Griffins goalie stopped all 37 IceHogs shots. Although the puck was often in the Grand Rapids zone, there were few prime chances to be had for the home team.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Brandon Mashinter (A)-Jeremy Langlois-Anthony Louis

Martin Lundberg-Vinnie Hinostroza-Kyle Baun

Tyler Motte-Michael Latta-Luke Johnson

Pierre-Cedric Labrie (A)-Jake Dowell (C)-Evan Mosey

Erik Gustafsson-Ville Pokka

Gustav Forsling-Luc Snuggerud

Carl Dahlstrom-Robin Norell

Jeff Glass

Power Play (0-2)



Penalty Kill (Grand Rapids was 0-2)





Coming Up

Rockford visits Iowa on Tuesday before coming to the BMO Harris Bank Center for home dates with Texas and Grand Rapids Friday and Saturday night.

Follow me @JonFromi for tweets throughout the week on the IceHogs.