The Rockford IceHogs head into battle this weekend in an unfamiliar spot, at least up front. For the bulk of the 2019-20 campaign, ice time has been at a premium for the plethora of forwards on the Hogs roster.
At one point this fall, there were 18 forwards clamoring for playing time. Injuries, Kris Versteeg’s retirement, and some recent call ups to the Blackhawks have thinned the herd a bit. Heading into Friday’s game with Chicago, Rockford’s actually a little light at the position.
Matthew Highmore was recalled by the Hawks on Sunday. Anton Wedin followed on Wednesday. Together, the two were among Rockford’s best two-way performers.
With rookie Mikael Hakkarainen still out since an injury suffered on opening night, the IceHogs were looking at 12 healthy forwards heading into the weekend. On Tuesday, Rockford signed forward Alex Krushelnyski to a PTO.
The 29-year-old Krushelnyski has been skating for the Indy Fuel this season. In twelve games, he totaled 15 points (5 G, 10 A). Krushelnyski has 118 games of AHL experience over the past five seasons, with eight goals and 13 assists.
You may be wondering why the IceHogs don’t recall Nathan Noel or Dylan McLaughlin, two of the NHL contracts currently playing for Indy right now. Why not one of the AHL contracts that Rockford has assigned to the Fuel? You got me.
Krushelnyski seems like a player whose tires have been kicked by several organizations. He has played well for the Fuel, however, so Rockford becomes his latest stop.
What’s The Delia In Net?
All three goalies traveled to Texas for a three-game road trip. Kevin Lankinen manned the pipes Saturday and Tuesday, with Matt Tomkins picking up an impressive win on Sunday afternoon.
Collin Delia did not play at all on the trip.
Delia has struggled so far this season, but has he fallen so far as to be the odd man out for the Hogs? There are two home games this weekend against opponents that Delia knows well. If he isn’t injured, and that doesn’t appear to be the case, he should be in line for a start either Friday or Saturday.
If coach Derek King goes with Lankinen and Tomkins as he did last week…
Falling Short In San Antonio
Tuesday, November 26-San Antonio 3, Rockford 2
In a back-and-forth affair, San Antonio wound up taking the second meeting between the two teams on the road trip, two days after the Hogs overtime victory.
The Rampage quickly took advantage of a high-sticking penalty by Alexandre Fortin. Mike Vecchione sticking back a rebounding puck past Hogs goalie Kevin Lankinen at 3:47 of the first period. The early going was controlled by San Antonio, who spent much of the early going on the man advantage.
Rockford drew even at the 7:15 mark when Reese Johnson came down the left side to take a pass from Brandon Hagel. Johnson’s shot from the left circle found the far side of Ville Husso’s net. Nicolas Beaudin, who got the scoring play started from the defensive zone, picked up the secondary apple.
The IceHogs found cord on the power play 5:27 into the second period. Dylan Sikura took a pass from Anton Wedin and sent it across the ice to the stick of Jacob Nilsson. Nilsson had time to settle the puck at the right dot before flinging it past Husso for a 2-1 Rockford lead.
That lead lasted until the latter stages of the second, when Jordan Kyrou knocked in a bouncing puck late in a Rampage power play. The goal came at the 18:54 mark, and the teams went to the locker room knotted at two.
San Antonio came out firing in the final period, peppering Lankinen with a slew of rubber. The Hogs repelled a couple of Rampage power plays before a turnover led to a blast by Jake Walman. The puck got by the Hogs goalie at the 13:21 mark and the IceHogs trailed 3-2. Rockford pulled Lankinen, who made 37 stops on the evening, with 2:10 remaining in favor of an extra skater. Unlike Sunday’s late rally, the piglets couldn’t come up with the equalizer.
The Wolves come a-calling to the BMO Harris Bank Center on Friday night. Rockford will attempt to make it five wins in five tries this season over their I-90 rivals.
Chicago may or may not have Gage Quinney (6 G, 11 A) in the lineup, but AHL juggernaut Brandon Pirri is back with the team. The Wolves also pick up forward Valentin Zykov, another very capable offensive player. On the other hand, Garret Sparks was recalled to Las Vegas this week, so Rockford shooters may find the going a bit easier.
Grand Rapids returns to Rockford Saturday. The two teams split a home-and-home on November 15 and 16. Rockford’s 5-2 victory at the BMO two weeks ago was physical to say the least. Dennis Gilbert was suspended for a hit that knocked the Griffins Matt Puempel out of the contest. Things could get chippy very quickly in this one.
Follow me on twitter @JonFromi for game updates and my thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.