In two games separated by eight days, the Rockford IceHogs were out scored 12-5 by the visiting Grand Rapids Griffins. Rockford (3-8-1 on the season) and Grand Rapids (6-3) now move to Van Andel Arena for their next two games. Can the IceHogs turn the tables on Grand Rapids on Saturday and Tuesday?
That will be a tall order for the piglets.
Thursday night, the Blackhawks AHL affiliate got solid goal tending from Matt Tomkins and kept the Griffins in check for most of the first two periods. The IceHogs didn’t get blown out on the scoreboard, as was the case in last week’s 9-4 loss. However, Rockford still wound up on the short end of a 3-1 decision at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
Rockford just doesn’t have the skill in the offensive zone to compete with most AHL teams. The Hogs are dependent on getting to the net and capitalizing on rebounds and loose pucks. Rockford just doesn’t generate open looks at close range. The Griffins have excelled at this in both of their last two games at the BMO.
Thursday night, Rockford was credited with a single shot originating from the front of the Griffins net. That shot was an attempt from the point that struck the skate of D.J. Busdeker and found the net late in the contest. By comparison, 16 of 32 Grand Rapids shots came from right in front of the crease.
If your opponent bangs away from the porch and you can’t manage to penetrate even to the faceoff dots, chances are you aren’t going to win a lot of games. In both quality and quantity of shots, the IceHogs have been overwhelmed on a regular basis.
The recipe for success in Grand Rapids? Try like the devil to keep the Griffins away from the slot with the puck. Get monster performances from your goalie and make your offensive chances count. Like I said, grinding out a win at Van Andel is going to be tough for the young, inexperienced group currently toiling in ‘Bago County.
The IceHogs announced that defenseman Chad Krys underwent shoulder surgery this week. He is expected to miss the next five to seven months. Rockford signed defenseman Cliff Watson to a PTO on Monday to compensate. Watson has spent this season as the captain of the Indy Fuel of the ECHL.
Monday afternoon, G Collin Delia, D Nicolas Beaudin, and F Reese Johnson were recalled to the Blackhawks. G Matt Tomkins and F Tim Soderlund were returned to the IceHogs. After being sent to Indy on Monday, Tom Aubrun was recalled to Rockford on Thursday after playing Tuesday night in the Fuel’s 6-0 loss to Wheeling.
Alec Regula returned to action for the first time since February 27 on Thursday. The Big Regu is currently the only NHL contract playing on Rockford’s blueline.
Cody Franson, Dmitry Osipov, and Michael Krutil are on AHL contracts. Watson and Cole Moberg are on PTOs, while Issak Phillips is on an amateur tryout until the OHL starts back up.
Thursday, March 11-Grand Rapids 3, Rockford 1
The IceHogs kept things close before Grand Rapids pulled ahead in the final period. However, Rockford just didn’t have enough going on in the offensive zone to keep up with the Griffins. Grand Rapids was more aggressive and moved the puck around the Hogs zone with ease.
After a scoreless first, the Griffins took advantage of a turnover in the Hogs zone by Dimitry Osipov early in the middle frame. Chase Pearson skated the puck into the high slot, dropping a pass to Riley Barber. Barber sent a high shot over the glove of Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins for a 1-0 Grand Rapids lead 2:04 into the second.
Tomkins was able to keep the IceHogs in the contest despite facing a slew of Griffins shots from close range through the first forty minutes of action. Rockford was outshot 22-11 in periods one and two; the Hogs had no shot on the Grand Rapids net as close as the faceoff dots in that time.
The dam broke in the third period. Grand Rapids put up a pair of goals in a three-minute span to take full control of the contest. The first came 6:04 into the third, when Osipov blocked an attempt by Gustav Lindstrom that bounced to the left post. Kyle Criscuola was on hand to knock the puck into the cage for a 2-0 Griffins lead.
Grand Rapids captain Brian Lashoff finished off a pretty bit of passing from Tyler Spezia. Lashoff sent his shot to the stick side of Tomkins at the 9:09 mark, making it 3-0 Griffins.
Rockford broke up Pat Nagle’s shutout bid with a goal late in the game. Michael Krutil’s long-distance offering caromed off the skate of D.J. Busdeker at 16:19 of the third, cutting the lead to 3-1. Despite pulling Tomkins (29 saves on 32 shots) for most of the final three minutes, the IceHogs could not close the gap.
Nagle had a relatively easy night in net for Grand Rapids, stopping 17 of the 18 shots the IceHogs could muster. Each team had just one attempt with a man advantage. Neither the Hogs or Griffins converted.
Lines (Starters in italics)
Rockford went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen due to the late scratch of John Quenneville.
Matej Chalupa-Evan Barratt-Andrei Altybarmakyan
Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Tim Soderlund
Brad Morrison-Chad Yetman-Chris Wilkie
MacKenzie Entwistle-D.J. Busdeker
Alec Regula-Cody Franson (A)
Michael Krutil-Dimitry Osipov
Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg
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