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High On The Hog: Of Moose And Men

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate to the Chicago Blackhawks, had some trouble with one of the league’s worst teams when the Manitoba Moose came to town. The Hogs dropped a pair to the antlered ones at home this week before hopping on I-90 East and beating the Wolves.

Despite two defeats, some new faces on defense and a gaffe by coach Ted Dent, Rockford maintains hold of first place in the Central Division standings. They are, however, a little banged up as they continue a five-game road jaunt.

Missing this week’s action was Pierre-Cedric Labrie, who suffered a lower body injury February 12 in Milwaukee and hasn’t played since. Along with Mark McNeill, Labrie leads the Hogs with 13 goals.

Marko Dano was sent into the boards early in Wednesday’s early game with Manitoba and has been out with an injury of the upper body variety. According to the tweets of Chris Block Saturday night, Dent tabbed Dano as “day-to-day” and thought Labrie could be skating with the team this week.

Block also got Dent to offer up status reports on goalie Mark Visentin and defenseman Kyle Cumiskey. Both appear to be rehabbing lower body injuries and are still weeks away from returning to action.


Is That Your Roster In Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?

As of Sunday, the IceHogs roster boasted 26 players. There are no roster limits in the AHL. However, it’s about as large a group as Rockford has carried this season.

Sam Jardine was sent to the Indy Fuel Tuesday after the team signed Jonathan Carlsson to a PTO the day before. Wednesday, the Blackhawks sent Rob Scuderi to Rockford after the veteran defenseman cleared waivers. Daniel Ciampini was recalled from Indianapolis later that day in the wake of Dano’s injury.

UPDATE-Monday, the Hawks reassigned Vinnie Hinostroza to Rockford. Later that day, the Hogs sent Ciampini and Nick Mattson to the Indy Fuel.


Trade Winds

With the NHL trade deadline February 29 and the Hawks in the mix to bring in a player for the stretch run, we could very well see some more movement on the IceHogs roster.

The defense was depleted with several moves over the course of the 2014-15 campaign. The only guy on the back end who makes sense as a throw in for a possible trade would be Ville Pokka.

If teams wanted Scuderi, they could have had him last week for nothing. Cameron Schilling, Dennis Robertson and Nolan Valleau could be included in a trade as they are on NHL deals with Chicago, but don’t have the upside of Pokka. Cumiskey’s hurt. Everyone else in on AHL contracts.

On the other side of the puck, I would imagine that several forwards could make their way to another organization. Garret Ross is a player who might be in line for a change of scenery. McNeill’s name is sure to come up in trade discussions. It certainly would not be a shock to see any of Rockford’s forward prospects leave town if the right deal is whispered seductively into the phone of Stan Bowman.


Hogs (Illinois Lottery) Cup Runneth Over

With Saturday’s win in Chicago, the IceHogs locked up another season of ownership to the vaunted Illinois Lottery Cup. With just two Illinois teams in the league for the past couple of seasons, the ILC is given to the team with the best point total in the 12 head-to-head meetings.

Rockford is 6-1-2-0 with three games left with the Wolves. The teams had held serve at home all season until the Hogs bested Chicago 4-2 Saturday.

If you are on the lookout, you can get a glimpse of the ILC around the BMO Harris Bank Center from time to time. I can personally attest to the fact that the cup is fabricated from some sort of metal and not plastic as I have speculated over the years.

This is the third time in the five years of the promotion that Rockford has held the mighty talisman that is the ILC. Here’s a quick rundown:





Of course, after 2012-13 it became a two-horse race between Rockford and Chicago.

I don’t really need the visage of the ILC to get me juiced about the prospect of beating the Wolves. However, if they’d like to create more excitement, how about free scratch-offs to the fans of the winning side?


Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em

With Labrie out of the lineup for the time being, Dent put an A on the sweater of Mike Liambas Friday and Saturday. The 5’9″ forward has been a mainstay on the Hogs fourth line since returning from an early-season foot injury.

In 23 games since his late December return, Liambas has ten fighting majors. He has vaulted into a tie for third in the AHL in that category with eleven (former Hog Kyle Hagel is one of those tied with Liambas).

Earlier this month, Liambas was asked for his opinion as to his role on the team:

“I turn 27 in a week (February 16), so I guess I’m a bit of an older guy, now. Just right on the fence, there. You know, (I’m) more of a penalty-killing, fore checking energy guy. Scoring every now and then…that’s kind of a bonus for me…making sure all my teammates in that room feel safe out there.

I’m all about gauging momentum out there, you know. I don’t know if you can feel it there in the stands or what, but you can feel it on the bench. When our team’s got the momentum, you don’t want to do anything to give it away. Or, if we need to go out and get momentum, whether we’re at home, whether we’re on the road, you know…just gauging that stuff is pretty important. Most people don’t really see what’s going on.

So, yeah. Energy, some leadership and penalty-killing…and momentum.”


A Slice Of The BMO

In the first period of IceHogs games, the team holds their “Let’s Make A Deal” promotion with a lucky fan. The contestant is offered two (and sometimes four) tickets to a future game against whatever might be offered up behind the secret curtain. It could be a game-worn sweater, concert tickets, or…a teeth whitening system, among other things.

Friday night, it seemed odd that the host had a couple with him, until the gentleman brought out the goods and offered a proposal to his lady friend.

From the peanut gallery came the following; “Take the tickets!”

I am quite certain I heard this, seeing as how I was the one who yelled it. To be fair, I shout that to everyone who plays the game. I mean, what could be better than free IceHogs tickets?

Epilogue: The lady said yes anyway.


From The Moose To The Wolves: A Week Of Recaps

Wednesday, February 17-Manitoba 5, Rockford 2

An arena filled with school children was witness to the first meeting between the Hogs and Manitoba this season. They left full of hot dogs, soda, cotton candy and disappointment.

At 3:52 of the opening period, Rockford took a 1-0 advantage with a shorthanded tally. The goal opportunity was generated by the fore check of Marko Dano near the end of a Dennis Robertson tripping infraction.

Dano won control of the biscuit from Manitoba’s Brended Kichton and headed for the Moose net. Tanner Kero came streaking down the slot to take Dano’s feed and cued the horn with a shot over the pads of goalie Connor Hellebuyuk.

Manitoba tied the game three minutes later with a J.C. Lipon goal. On the next shift, Moose defenseman Julian Melchiori drove Dano hard into the half boards of the Rockford zone. No boarding penalty was called but Mark McNeill skated over to dispense some schoolyard justice. Dano was helped to the dressing room, the combatants skated into detention and the game went on.

The audience of young learners was treated to a lesson in proofreading early in the second period. Two quick strikes by the Moose in the first 2:33 of the middle frame resulted in coach Ted Dent pulling Michael Leighton, who was left out to dry on a pair of Patrice Cormier goals.

In came Mac Carruth…and out went Mac Carruth. It turned out that Dent had listed injured goalie Mark Visentin as the backup on the official lineup card. Carruth was declared ineligible and was sent to the locker room. Leighton returned to the crease.

Lipon, who assisted on Cormier’s power play goal, completed the Gordie Howe before the game reached its midpoint. That occured when he and Jake Dowell went at it in the Hogs zone in the eighth minute.

Rockford counter-punched its way back into the game in the 16th minute after Nick Mattson broke up a 2-on-1 chance. Ryan Hartman gathered the loose puck and started back down the hall with McNeill in tow. Hartman’s shot struck the stick of Manitoba’s Josh Morrissey before banking off McNeill and past Hellebuyuk. The IceHogs had closed the gap to 3-2 15:43 into the second.

Unfortunately for the little tykes at the BMO, Rockford could not muster the equalizer. John Albert took advantage of a Mattson turnover at the Moose blue line, cruised all alone to Leighton and beat him stick side for a 4-2 Manitoba lead at 4:31 of the third.

With Rockford on the power play midway through the period, Ville Pokka had a pass intercepted at the blue line. Leighton kept Matt Halischuk from nailing the breakaway attempt but could only watch from the ice surface as Cormier followed up on the rebound to post the hat trick and complete the scoring.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Bryan Bickell-Tanner Kero-Kyle Baun

Garret Ross-Jake Dowell (C)-Ryan Haggerty

Marko Dano-Mark McNeill (A)-Ryan Hartman

Mike Liambas-Chris DeSousa-Dane Walters

Kirill Gotovets-Nick Mattson

Cameron Schilling-Nolan Valleau

Ville Pokka-Dennis Robertson

Scratches-Kyle Cumiskey, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Jonathan Carlsson, Mark Visentin

Power Play (0-7, gave up a shortie)



Penalty Kill (Manitoba was 1-2, with the Hogs potting a shortie)


Kero-McNeill-Robertson Pokka



Friday, February 19-Manitoba 3, Rockford 2

The IceHogs didn’t get much going until the latter stages of this game, dropping a second straight decision to the Moose at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Scott Kosmachuk got around new Hogs defenseman Rob Scuderi to open the scoring for Manitoba 8:55 into the contest. Thomas Raffl knocked in a loose puck past Rockford goalie Mac Carruth nealy two minutes into the second period to double that advantage.

Meanwhile, the Hogs just couldn’t get much going in the offensive end. Through the first 35 minutes, Rockford had managed just nine shots on net. The last five minutes of the middle stanza saw increased traffic in the Moose end of the ice, though Rockford still trailed by two going into the second intermission.

The Hogs night was filled with missed passes and lamentable penalties. Early in the third, the refs sent Nic Patan into the sin bin and Rockford had a legitimate chance to get back into the game. Unfortunately, Garret Ross couldn’t keep his mouth shut as the teams readied for the subsequent face off. Ross was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct and augmented that dumb penalty with a ten-minute misconduct for some choice words to the officials on his way to the box.

Chris DeSousa turned in a nice play that wound up rattling off the iron and into the far corner of the Manitoba net at the 12:02 mark of the third. With 3:40 remaining in the game, Kosmachuk was called for holding to provide a shot at an equalizer.

Coach Ted Dent took a gamble on the man advantage, pulling Carruth about 30 seconds into the penalty. Manitoba quickly broke up the party with an empty netter from J.C. Lipon.

Two quick hooking infractions by the Moose allowed Dent to pull Carruth and load up for a 6-on-3 assault. Cameron Schilling succeeded in following up on a rebound of a Mark McNeill shot and make it 3-2 with 22 seconds left. However, the Hogs never got close to attempting to tie the game in the waning seconds.

Eric Comrie kept excellent control of his rebounds all night and stopped 37 of 39 IceHogs shots, 21 of which came in the third period. Carruth had a nice game as well, keeping Rockford close with several stops on Manitoba breakaway chances.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mike Liambas (A)-Jake Dowell (C)-Chris DeSousa

Garret Ross-Mark McNeill (A)-Ryan Hartman

Bryan Bickell-Tanner Kero-Kyle Baun

Dane Walters-Ryan Haggerty

Cameron Schilling-Ville Pokka

Rob Scuderi-Kirill Gotovets

Nolan Valleau-Dennis Robertson

Jonathan Carlsson

Mac Carruth

Scratches-Nick Mattson, Kyle Cumiskey, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Daniel Ciampini, Marko Dano

Power Play (1-7)



Penalty Kill (Manitoba was 1-6)



McNeill-Kero-Schilling Pokka


Saturday, February 20-Rockford 4, Chicago 2

The Hogs kicked off a five-game road trip in fine fashion, picking up their first win at the Allstate Arena this season and wrapping up the Illinois Lottery Cup for the second consecutive season.

Dennis Robertson got Rockford on the board just 1:08 into the game, taking advantage of some traffic in front of Wolves goalie Phoenix Copley. With Tanner Kero providing a screen, Robertson flung a wrist shot from the point that limboed Copley’s right pad and nestled into the back of the Chicago net.

The Wolves evened the score at a goal apiece in the sixth minute on a power play goal. Rockford took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission thanks to a nice play by Ryan Haggerty.

The play was set up when Dane Walters brought the puck out from behind the Chicago goal and found Jonathan Carlsson for a one-timer at the right circle. Carlsson’s stick snapped on the attempt and Haggerty found himself with the puck. Fighting off Jared Nightengale near the right post, Haggerty’s backhand shot glanced off of Copley and found twine at 14:57 of the first.

Things got a bit rough 30 seconds later when Emerson Clark came in a little high on Robertson behind the Hogs net. Mike Liambas engaged Clark, drawing an instigator penalty. Jacob Doty tried sucking Kirill Gotovets into a bout as well. The officials restored order, separating the two while Liambas was restrained from entering the fray. Thirty-eight penalty minutes later, the action resumed.

The Chicago power play struck again in the second, tying the game at 7:41 of the period via the stick of Danny Kristo. The score stayed knotted at two until late in the final frame.

Gotovets brought the puck into the Wolves zone and sent a pass toward Tanner Kero, who was heading to the front of the net. The puck glanced off defenseman Jeremie Blain and wound up behind Copley to give Rockford a 3-2 lead with 5:08 remaining in regulation.

Walters added an empty netter to pad the advantage with 29 seconds left. The Wolves appeared to get a goal back with ten seconds remaining, but on further review the puck struck the crossbar and right post before settling under Michael Leighton’s pads.

Kero, who was initially credited with the game-winner, and Haggerty were named the game’s first two stars. Leighton picked up win number 25 this season with 26 stops.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Garret Ross-Mark McNeill (A)-Ryan Hartman

Bryan Bickell-Tanner Kero-Kyle Baun

Dane Walters-Jake Dowell (C)-Ryan Haggerty

Mike Liambas-Chris DeSousa-Daniel Ciampini

Cameron Schilling-Ville Pokka

Dennis Robertson-Kirill Gotovets

Rob Scuderi-Jonathan Carlsson

Michael Leighton

Scratches-Nick Mattson, Nolan Valleau, Kyle Cumiskey, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Mark Visentin, Marko Dano

Power Play (0-6)



Penalty Kill (Chicago was 2-2)



McNeill-Kero-Schilling Pokka


This Week

Rockford continues its road swing with three games. Milwaukee awaits on Wednesday night, while the Hogs will spend the weekend at Lake Erie with Friday and Saturday contests.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates on game action as well as comments and thoughts in the wake of the Hogs.