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High On The Hog: Rockford Shuffle

The Rockford IceHogs rebounded a bit in this week’s AHL action, winning two of three games and gaining a bit of ground on first place Milwaukee. With a .662 points percentage, the Hogs sit in second place in the Central Division as well as the AHL’s Western Conference.

This week saw a lot of movement in the roster, including a guy that was here but wasn’t here and a guy who was here but is now in Toronto. Let’s dig into this week’s transactions.

Morin’s a Marlie

Saturday night, Jeremy Morin was a late scratch after taking warm ups before Rockford’s game with the Chicago Wolves. According to man-about-town Chris Block, the scratch was announced as a “coach’s decision”.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Post-game, Ted Dent reiterated Jeremy Morin’s late scratch, after skating in warmups, was a &quot;coach’s decision&quot; Wouldn’t elaborate. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/IceHogs?src=hash”>#IceHogs</a></p>&mdash; ChrisBlock (@ChrisBlock) <a href=”https://twitter.com/ChrisBlock/status/683499663568318464″>January 3, 2016</a></blockquote>
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Morin was a scratch Sunday afternoon as well, leaving fans to wonder about the reason for sitting Rockford’s leading scorer. The other shoe dropped after the IceHogs Gus Macker win over Milwaukee, when it was announced that Morin had been traded for Toronto Mariles forward Richard Panik.

It is interesting to note that both players were selected in the second round of the 2009 NHL Draft. Morin was picked 45th by Atlanta; Panik was selected 52nd by the Lightning. Both players are scoring types that weren’t able to stick in the NHL as of yet.

Panik, who Toronto picked up off waivers from Tampa Bay last season, spent all of 2014-15 with the Maple Leafs. He had 11 goals and seven helpers that season and was signed to a one-year deal this summer. However, he’s spent all of this season with the Marlies, scoring nine goals and 16 assists so far for the AHL’s top club.

Morin, the Hogs all-time leading goal scorer, had nine goals and 13 assists in Rockford so far in 2015-16. He’ll get the fresh start he’s likely wanted since being traded back to Chicago this summer.

Panik, according to Mark Lazerus of the Sun-Times, is not headed for Rockford.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Q says Richard Panik will be on the <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Blackhawks?src=hash”>#Blackhawks</a> roster, not the IceHogs.</p>&mdash; Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) <a href=”https://twitter.com/MarkLazerus/status/683842992596189186″>January 4, 2016</a></blockquote>
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Cap-wise, that would suggest that someone is coming down. Whether that player is Dennis Rasmussen, Brandon Mashinter (who would have to clear waivers) or another player will be determined as soon as today.


Bowman’s Library

The Blackhawks assigned David Rundblad to Rockford last Wednesday. In the days that followed, it became apparent that the young defenseman was not going to be donning the Hogs Head.

Rundblad was not in the building for the IceHogs game Wednesday against Chicago, nor was he at the Allstate Arena for Rockford’s rematch with the Wolves. Sunday afternoon, it was announced that he was loaned to ZSC Lions of the Swiss A League.


Moves, Moves, Moves

With D Kyle Cumiskey several weeks away from a possible return for the IceHogs, Nick Mattson will likely remain with the club. Mattson was recalled to Rockford Wednesday morning along with Mac Carruth, who backed up Mark Visentin in goal that night.

With Michael Leighton back after a one-game absence, Carruth was returned to the Indy Fuel New Year’s Day. The fact that Mattson stuck around despite Rundblad’s assignment suggested that Rundblad was headed in another direction. Mattson played Saturday night as a seventh defenseman after Morin was scratched.

In other moves, Rockford sent Daniel Ciampini back to Indianapolis Thursday and reassigned Dane Walters to Toledo Saturday.


Paille Back

Daniel Paille, currently on an AHL contract with the Hogs, made his stateside return Saturday after helping Team Canada win the Spengler Cup. In Switzerland, Paille did not record a point but played in all four games. Incidentally, former IceHogs forward Chris DiDimeneco, currently skating in the Swiss League, was also a member of Team Canada.


Just A Thought

Before the start of the season, the IceHogs assigned Corey Tropp, the other player that came over in the Brandon Saad trade (along with Marko Dano and Morin), to the AHL’s Albany Devils. Tropp has played pretty well out East.

Albany is third in the Eastern Conference and a part of their success should be credited to the 26-year-old right wing. Tropp has eight goals and 12 helpers in 31 games for the Devils. He’s also a plus-five in addition to being fourth on the team in scoring.

Rockford currently has 12 healthy forwards; Kyle Baun is still out with an arm injury caused by a skate back in November. Could Tropp be an option if the numbers thin further? Might bringing back Tropp provide some scoring in the absence of Morin?

For all I know, Tropp is going to play out his contract with Albany. I haven’t heard anything suggesting otherwise. It could, however, be a card for the Hogs to play at some point this season.


Some Games Happened, Too. Here Are The Recaps…

Wednesday, December 30-Rockford 5, Chicago 2

The BMO was packed to capacity as Rockford broke its four-game losing skid. Pacing the Hogs was Ryan Haggerty and Jake Dowell, both of whom had three-point nights.

The IceHogs spent most of the opening period on their heels. Chicago came out with a lot of pressure on starting goalie Mark Visentin and kept the action in the Rockford zone. Yet when the smoke cleared, the Hogs owned a 2-0 advantage.

Garret Ross got the game’s first goal at 9:29, flipping the puck over the Chicago blue line and catching up with it in time to jam it against the pads of Wolves net-minder Pheonix Copley. Ross had to hack away to coax the little guy to slide under Copley’s equipment and across the goal line but the puck finally got hip and the Hogs had the lead.

The Wolves Spencer Asuchak jumped Jake Dowell soon after the subsequent faceoff and the two had a brief tussle in the Chicago zone before being escorted to the penalty box. P.C. Labrie was called for hooking a couple of minutes later to give the visitors a chance to tie the contest. However, Peter Harrold caught Tanner Kero in the mouth with his stick and the teams went four to a side.

Vinnie Hinostroza won the faceoff; Ville Pokka got the puck up top to Jeremy Morin, who faked a shot and slipped a pass to Hinostoza in the slot. The rookie backhanded the biscuit over Copley’s glove for his third goal of the season at the 12:01 mark.

The Wolves banged on the door in the opening minute of action. The Hogs fought off the attack and built on their lead. Dowell won a board battle with Petteri Lindbohm for possession, then backhanded a pass to Haggerty at the top of the left circle. The wrist shot that followed caught twine behind Copley at 2:16. Rockford went up 3-0 and Chicago sent Jordan Binnington in to relieve Copley.

With 2:41 remaining in the second, Danny Kristo got the Wolves on the board to close out an odd-man rush. However, the IceHogs still led 3-1 after 40 minutes.

Early in the third, Kristo found himself looking at an open net after a feed from Asuchak. Visentin made an incredible stop, diving across the crease and getting his blocker on the attempt.

With the two goal lead still intact, Haggerty got his second goal of the night. Dowell won an offensive draw at the right dot to set up the initial shot. The rebound was knocked around by the captain before Haggerty collected the puck and slid it under Binnington for a 4-1 Rockford lead at 5:06 of the third.

Chicago’s Jacob Doty tried to goad Dowell into what would be his second fight of the evening. Electing to remain in the contest, Dowell ultimately stood down. Fortunately for Doty, the Wolves ice the puck a few seconds later and Mike Liambas came into the game.

The two had had a nice chat a few minutes prior, so it came as no surprise when the two removed their gloves and helmets (drawing unsportsmanlike conduct penalties) to duke it out. Liambas got in several rights and sent Doty to the locker room.

Kristo’s second of the night cut the lead back to two goals, but the Hogs weren’t done. After all, there was free Culvers on the line, wasn’t there?

This time, it was Dowell’s turn to convert a Haggerty helper. The shot came from the left half boards and Dowell deftly redirected the puck past Binnington and into Custard Country.

Haggerty (2G, 1A) was voted the game’s First Star. Dowell (a goal, two assist and the Gordie Howe) and Visentin (28 saves) rounded out the stars of the night.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Pierre-Cedric Labrie (A)-Tanner Kero-Mark McNeill

Marko Dano-Jake Dowell (C)-Ryan Haggerty

Garret Ross-Vinnie Hinostroza-Jeremy Morin

Dane Walters-Chris DeSousa-Mike Liambas

Ville Pokka-Viktor Svedberg

Cameron Schilling-Kirill Gotovets

Nolan Valleau-Dennis Robertson

Mark Visentin

Scratches-Nick Mattson, David Rundblad, Kyle Cumiskey, Ryan Hartman, Kyle Baun, Daniel Ciampini, Daniel Paille, Michael Leighton.

Power Play (0-2)



Penalty Kill (Chicago was 0-4)





Saturday, January 2-Chicago 2, Rockford 0

The Hogs were blanked for just the second time this season. Jordan Billington and Mark Visentin both played well in net but it came down to the third period in this Allstate Arena clash.

Visentin had just made an outstanding stop of a Wolves attempt midway through the final frame. Chicago regained possession, with Chris Butler sending the puck toward the IceHogs net.

Several players battled for the rebound, with Zach O’Brien getting a couple of whacks at the puck. Visentin stopped the initial offering but O’Brien backhanded the puck into the net to put the Wolves ahead 1-0 at 10:44 of the third.

Rockford, who out shot Chicago 28-23, had a couple of chances at an equalizer, the best coming about a minute after the Wolves had broken the scoreless tie. A Yannick Veilleux interference penalty was followed in short order by Jeremy Welsh catching Ryan Hartman with a high stick. The resulting double minor gave the Hogs 1:27 of a 5-on-3 advantage followed by another two minutes of power play time.

Alas, Rockford failed to convert on the opportunity. Ted Dent pulled Visentin with a couple of minutes left; a pass attempt by Viktor Svedberg hopped over the stick of Mark McNeill and slid into the empty net to close the curtain on the Hogs.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Marko Dano-Jake Dowell (C)- Ryan Haggerty

Pierre-Cedric Labrie (A)-Tanner Kero-Ryan Hartman

Garret Ross-Vinnie Hinostroza-Mark McNeill

Mike Liambas-Chris DeSousa

Cameron Schilling-Kirill Gotovets

Viktor Svedberg-Ville Pokka

Dennis Robertson-Nolan Valleau

Nick Mattson

Mark Visentin

Power Play (0-5)



Penalty Kill (Chicago was 0-2)




Sunday, January 3-Rockford 3, Milwaukee 2 (OT)

It took an extra minute and eight seconds to do so, but the Hogs got a big win over the Admirals after dropping their last two to Milwaukee at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Rockford out shot the Ads 9-0 in the first ten minutes, taking a 1-0 lead with a little help from Milwaukee goalie Marek Mazanec. Vinnie Hinostroza came up with a re-direct of a Ville Pokka blast that seemed to be smothered by Mazanec’s pads. While moving to locate the puck, Mazanec knocked the little bugger across the line at 10:40 of the opening frame.

Late in the period, Milwaukee tied the contest on an Adam Payerl goal. The IceHogs regained the upper hand in the second stanza with their first power play goal in their last six games. The play came on another redirected puck; this time it was P.C. Labrie getting a stick on a Pokka shot. The goal came at 8:18 of the second period.

In the 16th minute, Matt White got behind the IceHogs defense and was stopped by Michael Leighton. However, it was ruled that White had been slashed by Nolan Valleau on his way to the net, so a penalty shot was awarded. White fired over the left pad of Leighton to tie the game at two goals apiece at the 15:52 mark.

The two teams flailed away throughout the third period. Neither squad generated a great scoring chance until Mazanec kept a couple of loose pucks out of the net in the waning mintues. With the second point laying on the table, it was Gus Macker Time.

Pokka seemed to be poised to end the contest after stripping Connor Allen of the puck at the Admirals blue line and bearing down on Mazanec. The shot beat the goalie but not the right post; while the goal light blazed and the fans began to holler, the referee waved off the goal as the puck slid to the left side of the crease.

Labrie arrived in time to flip the reluctant rubber into the gaping maw left by the prone Mazanec, putting an end to the proceedings. Not surprisingly, Labrie was voted the game’s first star. Pokka and Hinostroza wound up with second and third star honors.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Pierre-Cedric Labrie (A)-Mark McNeill (A)-Ryan Hartman

Garret Ross-Tanner Kero-Vinnie Hinostroza

Marko Dano-Jake Dowell (C)-Ryan Haggerty

Daniel Paille-Chris DeSousa-Mike Liambas

Cameron Schilling-Ville Pokka

Viktor Svedberg-Kirill Gotovets

Nolan Valleau-Dennis Robertson

Michael Leighton

Scratches-Nick Mattson, Kyle Cumiskey, Jeremy Morin, Kyle Baun

Power Play (1-2)



Penalty Kill (Ads were 0-4)




Next Week

The IceHogs are off this week save for Sunday’s game in Iowa. I will be offering some mid-season thoughts on Rockford. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for game updates and the occasional news item.