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High On The Hog: On The Road

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, have several short road jaunts this season. There is nothing resembling the two extended trips that is standard for the Hawks. In fact, the longest the Hogs will be away from the BMO Harris Bank Center is four games.

The IceHogs are in Charlotte today to begin the first of what will be four such stretches with two weekday tilts at Bojangles Coliseum. Let’s take a look at how the lads in Rockford are doing heading into the back-to-back down Carolina way…

This ten-day span will be the longest that the IceHogs will go without a home game this season, though this trip does not appear to be to taxing in terms of travel. After a pair with the Checkers, Rockford has a couple days off before taking on Iowa Sunday afternoon. I would assume the team will practice in familiar digs before heading to Grand Rapids on Veteran’s Day.

After eight weekend games to begin the season, the Hogs are 4-4 and have a .500 points percentage. They sit with the Wild and Checkers as well as the Chicago Wolves in that position.

I would imagine that the IceHogs will be staring down a familiar face in the Charlotte net. Michael Leighton will likely oppose his former team in at least one of these contests. In four games this season, Leighton has a 1.91 GAA and a .929 save percentage.

The scoring is coming from where I would expect it to. Spencer Abbott leads the team with four goals. With three helpers, Abbott also is tied with Mark McNeill (2G, 5A) with seven points to pace the Hogs.

On the blue line, Erik Gustafsson has six points (2G, 4A) so far. Carl Dahlstrom has had a surprising offensive start to the season, with two goals and two assists. Worth noting here is that on a team where just four players have positive skater ratings, Dahlstrom’s plus-two is tops on the team. The other above-water players are Jake Dowell, Martin Lundberg and Bryn Chyzyk, who was sent to Indianapolis on Saturday.

Dowell, Lundberg and Kyle Baun have been skating together since the season began. Hogs coach Ted Dent has taken to using the trio near the end of Rockford’s power plays to provide defense as the penalties expire. However, each player has a goal while in that role.

Together, that forward line has three of the IceHogs six tallies while up a man. Dent hasn’t been afraid to send that group out in lieu of his two power play units.

The goal tending had a rough weekend as both Chicago and Milwaukee hung seven goals on Mac Carruth and Lars Johansson in consecutive games. For the most part, both guys have played well in the other games. Right now, Johansson is getting the starter’s minutes and has earned them with solid play, a 2.64 GAA and a .910 save percentage.


Explaining A Dearth Of Fisticuffs

Former IceHogs brawler Brandon Bollig has one fight this season.

Former IceHogs brawler Michael Liambas has one fight this season.

Dang it, former IceHogs brawler Kyle Hagel has one fight this season.

Current IceHogs forward Martin Lundberg has one fight, the only altercation involving a Rockford player this season. Lundberg would be one of the last Hogs I would expect to go scrappin’.

Brandon Mashinter and Cleveland’s Brett Gallant really seemed to want to toss down the gloves at the BMO back on October 23 …but they didn’t.

For crying out loud, Mashinter and Liambas has all sorts of chances to dance but the most they could work up was matching unsportsmanlike conduct infraction that cost them each a ten-minute misconduct.

“What gives?” you may ask. Rest assured, this is not a case of kinder, gentler hockey players. The AHL implemented new rules to curb much of the staged fighting we have come to expect from a rough-and-tumble league.

I could see Mashinter and Gallant chatting each other up before a face off. Perhaps they reminded each other that any fight that is started before, during or after a faceoff will result in a game misconduct for the offending combatants.

With Dent electing to suit up seven defenders with some frequency (he hadn’t on that evening), losing a forward for the rest of a game becomes problematic. Obviously, a lot of teams are making that discovery.

The numbers are going to tell the clearer story, but I would venture to guess that fights are going to be down substantially this season. Lundberg’s tussle occurred after a scrum in front of his team’s net. Players are going to have to engage each other in the natural flow of the game. This is definitely a stat to keep an eye on in the coming months.


Last Week

I’m choosing brevity this week. Sorry; no lines and special teams. Chris DeSousa played in his first game on Sunday in a 7-3 loss to Milwaukee. Otherwise, the lines have been pretty steady in composition from previous games.

Rockford won its fourth straight game Friday night, a 3-2 win over the Chicago Wolves. Jake Dowell was the game’s first star, assisting on Cameron Schilling’s shorthanded goal in the second period before notching a power play tally of his very own in the 19th minute.

Spencer Abbott fired a loose puck into the basket past Jordan Binnington with less than a second remaining in the opening period to put the Hogs up 1-0. Dowell’s goal was the game-winner for Rockford.

The net evening, Chicago gained a measure of revenge, beating the IceHogs 7-3. Erik Gustafsson opened the scoring 3:38 into the game. However, the Wolves scored the game’s next five goals, chasing Mac Carruth from the net in the first two minutes of the middle frame.

Carruth returned to start the third period and Rockford closed the gap to 5-3 on a Tanner Kero goal and Gustafsson’s second of the night. The Hogs could get no closer, however.

Sunday, it was Lars Johansson’s turn to give up six goals (Milwaukee got an empty netter late in the game). The Admirals broke open a 2-2 game with four second period goals. Mark McNeill, Martin Lundberg and Abbott provided the three Rockford goals.

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