Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs hit the road this past week, badly in need of a win to break what was a season-long losing streak. They didn’t get it.

The piglets dropped three games, picking up points in two of them, but now have the AHL’s longest current stretch of futility at seven. As is the case in such things, the Hogs are seemingly finding different ways to lose every night.

Rockford rallied late in Iowa Tuesday, tying the game on a nice drive to the net by rookie Cole Guttman. The Hogs fell short of the elusive win in Gus Macker Time by a score of 2-1, dropping their sixth of seven games in the season series to the Wild.

Friday, the IceHogs managed to break the two-goal barrier for the first time in nine games. Unfortunately, most of the offense came in garbage time, as Milwaukee jumped ahead early and piled on late in an 8-4 drubbing at the hands of the Admirals.

Saturday, it was the Chicago Wolves turn to hand a basket of disappointment to Rockford. The IceHogs led the game twice, getting goals from Bobby Lynch and Carson Gicewicz. Chicago drew even both times before Max Lajoie got an overtime breakaway shot past Arvid Soderblom, sending Rockford away from Rosemont 3-2 losers.

In case you’re wondering, the IceHogs are approaching the franchise record in consecutive losses. Rockford’s seven-game winless streak vaults ahead of several six-game skids and into a tie for third longest; the Hogs dropped seven in a row back in the 2013-14 season.

In February of 2008, in it’s inaugural AHL season, Rockford was defeated in eight straight games. The IceHogs lost nine straight back in the 2016-17 campaign, from November 23 to December 10 of 2016.

Rockford is now 20-16-4-2 in 2022-23. They sit in fourth place in the Central Division with 46 points. Can the Hogs recover from this New Year Slump? Sure; that 2007-08 squad was 30-11-8 before losing eight straight. They rallied to go 14-9 the rest of the way and reached the second round of the playoffs. There is a measure of hope that the IceHogs can shake off the stink of the last month and start moving back up the division ladder.

 

Time To Find One’s Game

Soderblom, who missed three weeks with a groin injury, has not had the opportunity to stretch out in Rockford’s net. After playing in 38 games with the IceHogs in his rookie campaign, Soderblom had just two appearances after the Hawks returned him to Rockford before leaving minutes into a game with Grand Rapids December 28.

Soderblom gave up seven goals in his return January 20. To the credit of the organization, Rockford has stuck with him and given him a chance to get his game back in shape despite the injury to Alex Stalock. Soderblom remained in Rockford and started all three games for the IceHogs this week, with mixed results.

On Tuesday, he stopped 32 shots and kept the Hogs in the game long enough to earn a point. Saturday, he may or may not have mishandled Lajoie’s overtime winner. However, Lajoie was unchecked and skating into the slot. The same could be said for the Wolves game-tying goal in the third, when Logan Lambdin came out of the penalty box and had ample opportunity to deke Soderblom out of position.

In between, it wasn’t as debatable; it was a rough outing on Friday in Milwaukee. Soderblom was pulled after 40 minutes after allowing five goals on fifteen Admirals shots. Mitchell Weeks came out an promptly gave up three in the final period, so maybe it wasn’t in the cards for any Hogs goalie that evening.

With Jaxson Stauber playing surprisingly well in his first two starts with Chicago and the Hawks off until February 7, perhaps the organization has decided to give Soderblom some much-needed time to right the ship in the confines of the BMO Center, where the IceHogs play their next three games.

 

Roster News

A long-anticipated medical update was sent out by the team on Friday. Captain Garrett Mitchell is out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Mitchel had returned from a month-long absence earlier this season after injuring the shoulder November 19 in Rosemont. He’d played 13 games before going down with a similar injury January 18 against Grand Rapids.

In addition, forward Buddy Robinson (9 G, 8 A) suffered a right wrist fracture on January 13. He has missed seven games since then and will likely miss another month of the season.

Rockford will miss Robinson’s net presence on the scoreboard. Mitchell was still looking for his first point of the season at the time of his injury, but having your captain go down is never good news.

Kale Howarth was recalled from the Indy Fuel last week and should be able to replicate Mitchell’s game as a bottom-six forward. Howarth was in the lineup for all three games this week.

Last Monday, F Luke Philp and D Filip Roos were recalled to the Blackhawks, with D Issak Phillips returning to Rockford. Might Philp, Roos, and possibly Stauber be sent to Rockford to get some game action in the light of Chicago’s down time? The answer is yes; all three were assigned to the Hogs on Sunday.

 

This Week

Rockford is at the BMO for its next three games. All would be nice to win.

Tuesday, the Hogs host Manitoba, who is right below them in the division standings. Friday and Saturday see the Wild, the Western Conference’s hottest team at 8-0-1-1 in their last ten, come to Rockford for two games.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs as they attempt to snap the losing streak this week.

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have hit a rough patch. As the piglets prepare for three games away from the BMO Center this week, there’s an issue for the team to address. It is a problem previously absent from Rockford’s list this season.

Namely, scoring goals.

The Hogs are currently mired in a season-long four-game losing streak. Since beating Central Division-leading Texas in overtime January 3, Rockford has scuffled to a 1-5-1 mark. In those seven games, the IceHogs have just eleven goals. They haven’t scored more than two in any of those games.

This past week was particularly troubling, considering that Rockford was hosting three of the leagues worst teams in Grand Rapids, Springfield, and Chicago. The Griffins dropped four goals on the Hogs in the first four minutes of action, winning 5-2 on Wednesday night. On Friday, the Thunderbirds brought down the…uh…thunder, racing to a 2-0 advantage in the first ten minutes and crushing Rockford 7-2. Saturday, it was the Wolves turn to feast on the Hogs. Chicago, who led all the way, scored four times in the final frame en route to a 6-2 win.

Some lowlights:

  • The IceHogs went a combined one for fourteen on the power play in three games this week.
  • Rockford quickly found itself in a hole early in each of the games.
  • Dylan Wells gave up nine goals in his two appearances (he was pulled in favor of Mitchell Weeks 3:47 into Wednesday’s tilt). Arvid Soderblom, returning from a groin injury on Friday, showed plenty of rust, allowing all seven Springfield goals.
  • Soderblom, the Hawks “Goalie Of The Future”, has made six starts for Rockford this season. In those games, he is 1-4 with a 4.79 GAA and a .837 save percentage.

Now, let’s not pile blame on the Rockford goalies. Wells and Soderblom had plenty of help.

When the Hogs offense is firing on all cylinders, they play a fast-paced game that keeps opponents on their heels. If the pace slows and the passing suffers, as it has during this recent stretch, there are a lot of holes that open up in the defensive zone.

Both goalies were bombarded with waves of enemy skaters exploiting those holes, jumping on turnovers and getting Wells and Soderblom out of position trying to defend the resulting rush. The losing has been a true team effort; no one has been especially good.

Lukas Reichel was up with the Hawks for a spell, which didn’t help at the offensive end. In four games back since his last cup of coffee in Chicago, Reichel has just a single assist. He skated with Dylan Sikura and Cole Guttman on Friday and had no more scoring luck than he did the following night with Mike Hardman and Michal Teply. Which is to say none.

Rockford is in its worst stretch since opening the season 1-3 with three straight defeats. It happens. It happened against three very beatable teams this week, but the Hogs are playing opponents, not records.

The IceHogs (20-15-2-2, 44 points) sit in third place in the Central Division standings. They’re three points behind Milwaukee and just a point ahead of Manitoba and Iowa.

The piglets will attempt to right the ship on the road this week. They will have to start in an arena (Wells Fargo) in which they lost twice to the Wild on January 7 and 8 to start this current funk. After taking on Iowa on Tuesday, Rockford visits Milwaukee on Friday before a stop in Rosemont to tangle with the Wolves.

 

Roster Happenings

IceHogs captain Garrett Mitchell was taken down in the offensive zone midway through the second period by Griffins defenseman Simon Edvinsson Wednesday. Both skaters slid hard into the half-boards, after which Mitchell rose and skated off to the locker room holding his right arm.

Mitchell did not return to action. No update as of yet, but Mitchell, who missed a month with a shoulder injury earlier this season, could be looking at another stretch on the shelf. He was a scratch for both games this weekend. It has been a tough campaign for Mitchell, who is pointless in 24 games in 2022-23.

On Monday, the Chicago Blackhawks recalled goalie Jaxson Stauber, who played so well in his NHL debut Saturday. On Friday, Rockford did see the return of goalie Arvid Soderblom from a groin injury sustained on December 28. Unfortunately, he gave up all seven Thunderbirds goals in the loss.

Buddy Robinson (9 G, 8 A) has been out of the lineup since playing in Colorado on January 13. Again, no medical update has been released by the team. Last season, the IceHogs were consistently updating the status of injured players. This season, it’s largely been back to the usual guessing game.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

Hockey

This past weekend, the Rockford IceHogs wrapped up the first half of the season with a split of two games in Colorado. It has been a successful 2022-23 campaign so far, but we only have one-half of the picture.

How did things go in the season’s first half? How might things go as the piglets enter the final 36 games? Set your timer; I’m free-wheeling for sixty minutes with a thought or two.

With 36 games in the books, Rockford is 20-12-2-2. The IceHogs are 10-5-1-2 at the BMO Center and 10-7-1-0. They’ve avoided long skids; after losing three straight in beginning the season 1-3, the Hogs have not dropped consecutive regulation tilts.

Rockford is tied with Milwaukee for second place in the Central Division with 44 points. Texas has put together an impressive run in the last two months and pace the division with 50 points. Manitoba is fourth with 39 points, while Iowa is fifth with 38.

Despite scoring just three goals over the weekend, the IceHogs are ninth in the AHL in offense, scoring at a 3.44 goals per game clip. Rockford is giving up 3.11 goals per game, putting the Hogs in the middle of the pack defensively. The power play is 13th in the league at 19.9 percent. Rockford’s is killing penalties with 80.9 percent efficiency, good for 17th in the AHL.

In short, the piglets are getting plenty of goals to win regular-season games. The goaltending was very shaky in the first month of the season. However, it has improved over the last two months, despite Rockford having to dip into their ECHL depth for a good portion of that time.

Rockford’s top three scorers were selected to the Central Division squad in this year’s AHL All-Star Classic. Brett Seney (15 G, 24 A) David Gust (18 G, 20 A) and Lukas Reichel (14 G, 23 A) have dominated the IceHogs scoresheet, though they have had steady contributions from veterans like Luke Philp (13 G, 14 A), Dylan Sikura (9 G, 13 A), and Buddy Robinson (9 G, 8 A). Rookie Cole Guttman overcame a concussion that kept him out of most of the first month of the season and has 12 goals and 11 assists.

Issak Phillips was one of the best defenseman in the AHL until being recalled by the Blackhawks. Adam Clendening (2 G, 16 A) and Jakub Galvas (1 G, 17 A) currently lead the Hogs blueline in scoring.

It certainly isn’t the way the organization drew it up in terms of the Rockford crease, but the play in net has been solid after some early struggles. The two goalies tabbed for the Indy Fuel at the start of the season have led the way for the Hogs.

Dylan Wells was an emergency call-up to Chicago. After securing an NHL contract, Wells has returned to Rockford and put together his best season of his four-year pro career. He currently leads Rockford in games played (13) wins (eight), goals against average (2.63) and save percentage (.909). This, after giving up five goals in two periods in his IceHogs debut October 23.

Wells was red hot in December, with a 4-0-1 record, a 1.95 GAA, and a .928 save percentage. Despite this, he went over three weeks between an impressive 3-2 overtime win in Texas December 21 and Friday night’s impressive 2-1 overtime win in Colorado.

Mitchell Weeks has been nearly as good (5-2-3, 2.67 GAA, .908 save percentage) for Rockford. Good thing, because injuries and call-ups have kept the opening night tandem of Arvid Soderblom (1-3, 4.17 GAA, .862 save percentage) and Jaxson Stauber (6-4, 3.0 GAA, .896 save percentage) from steady work for the IceHogs through the first half.

Soderblom has been out with a groin injury, but should be returning to action soon. Once that happens, he’ll probably be getting a big workload, with Wells and Stauber (who was just reassigned to Rockford Saturday) likely splitting the backup starts. It’s hard to ignore the success Wells has had of late, though. He might have earned more consistent work in net until Soderblom gets into a groove.

 

Speculatin’ Time

  • Can the Hogs keep up their winning ways? Sure, so long as there isn’t an exodus to Chicago post-trade deadline. As long as the goalies play to the form of the last six weeks, Rockford should be able to stay in the division hunt.
  • Physical teams like Colorado and Iowa have proved to be a bit problematic for the IceHogs. Rockford is built on speed and may have to adjust as the postseason draws closer.
  • Might some more physical help be obtained in trade? Perhaps. However, bigger forwards like Mike Hardman (2 G, 10 A) and Michal Teply (5 G, 7 A) could also help internally by asserting themselves a bit more.

 

This Week

Rockford has a three-game home stand this week, starting Wednesday night when Grand Rapids visits the BMO. The Hogs then host Springfield on Friday and the Chicago Wolves on Saturday.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for news and thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs are in a tie for third place entering the last two weeks of December. The 14-8-1-2 piglets won two of three games this past week and have the opportunity to climb up the Central Division ladder to close out the calendar year.

To do that, however, they’ll have to tame the hottest team in the AHL. That would be the Texas Stars, who have won nine of its last ten contests.

Texas has yet to be defeated in December. The Stars have won their last seven games to rocket to the top of the Central wit 36 points. Milwaukee (32 points), Manitoba (31 points), and Rockford (31 points) are all bunched up and chasing their Lone Star rivals.

The IceHogs visit Cedar Park Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Rockford has two wins in three previous games with the Stars this season, the last being a 7-2 shellacking of Texas at the BMO Center on November 23. The Stars have gone 9-1 since that loss.

Texas has performed well. However, in its last five wins, three were against Chicago, who inhabits the division basement. The Stars then swept a weekend series in Iowa, where Rockford defeated the Wild 7-4 on Tuesday night.

The formula for Texas has been to get control of games early. The Stars are 11-0 when leading after the first period. Rockford has been able to overcome first-period deficits, having gone 7-4 in such situations this season. Games in this rivalry are usually fast paced and usually hinge on who has control of the puck.

Sweeping the Stars would put the IceHogs right behind Texas in the standings. Rockford finishes December with three games against the Wolves along with one verses Grand Rapids. The schedule is favorable for a contending club to finish the month strong. It will be up to the IceHogs to take advantage.

 

Roster Moves

Sunday, the IceHogs recalled D Cliff Watson, along with F Kale Howarth. Watson has been shuttled between Rockford and the Indy Fuel several times this season. For Howarth, this is his first recall after scoring six goals in 14 games with Indy. Last year, he took part in 12 games for the Hogs, with two goals and an assist.

Rockford captain Garrett Mitchell returned to the lineup on Saturday night, which saw the IceHogs beat Hartford 3-2 at the BMO. Mitchell had been out since November 16, when he injured his left shoulder against the end boards of Allstate Arena in a game against the Wolves.

Filip Roos, sent to Rockford by the Blackhawks a week ago, has made an immediate impact on the ice. He picked up his first AHL goal in the win over Iowa on Tuesday, then potted the game-winner Saturday against Hartford.

 

The Week That Was (Readers Digest Version)

David Gust (13 G, 16 A) led the way in Tuesday’s 7-4 win with a hat trick against the Wild. Cole Guttman (9 G, 7 A) added a pair of goals in the victory.

Friday, the Toronto Marlies broke open a 2-2 game with two goals 31 seconds apart in the middle of the third period. The Hogs battled back and got a Brett Seney goal late, but couldn’t complete the comeback.

Saturday’s 3-2 triumph over the Wolf Pack saw D.J. Busdeker secure his first goal of the season as part of a three-goal second period. Michal Teply got his fifth of the season less than a minute later. After Hartford tied the game, Roos drove to the net and shelfed his attempt. That was enough for the Hogs to hold on, aided by 38 saves from Dylan Wells.

 

Coming Up

After the trip to Texas Tuesday and Wednesday, Rockford will journey to Rosemont for a Friday renewal of the I-90 rivalry with the Wolves.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have played host to Iowa three times this season. They have led Iowa late in both games. They have allowed the Wild to tie each game in regulation and steal standings points from them.

Rockford was 1-1-1 this week, picking up some ground in the Central Division standings. Each game needed extra skating to decide the piglet’s fate. After prevailing 2-1 in a shootout Wednesday against Milwaukee, the IceHogs dropped a 3-2 shootout to the Wild Friday before losing 3-2 in overtime to Iowa Saturday night.

The two weekend games were near carbon copies. Rockford outshot the Wild, squandered lots of chances both at even strength and on the power play, and let Iowa hang around until they could finally figure out Mitchell Weeks on Friday and Dylan Wells on Saturday.

Both Rockford goalies played very well, particularly Weeks. The rookie stopped 32 shots and a pair of shootout attempts as his AHL record fell to 3-1-2. Weeks has a 2.75 GAA and a .915 save percentage in six appearances with the IceHogs. He’s also gone 8-2-1 for the Indy Fuel (3.00 GAA, .901 save percentage).

Back on November 6, Rockford led the Wild 4-2 with less than two minutes to play, only to let Iowa off the mat and win 5-4 in a shootout (Weeks was also in net for that loss). In all, the Hogs have given away three standings points in the three losses to the Wild, while handing Iowa six points.

Rockford (12-7-1-2) is in third place in the Central Division, with 27 points. Milwaukee leads the Central with 31 points. Texas is second, with…wait for it…30 points.

Who is right behind the Hogs with 26 points? Iowa, who would be near the conference basement if not for the charitable piglets.

Rockford is back in action against…guess who? It sure would be great if the Hogs could get to DesMoines, convert on opportunities, and pick up a regulation win.

 

Games Aren’t All The Hogs Gave Away This Weekend

Saturday featured a hat giveaway as well as being the team’s annual Teddy Bear Toss. The hat was designed by Hogs forward Josiah Slavin, who picked up his first goal of the season on Friday. Fittingly, it came shorthanded, with Slavin pouncing on a rebound of Cole Guttman’s breakaway attempt.

 

Roster News

Lukas Reichel made a quick jump to Chicago Tuesday, playing for a short-handed Blackhawks club in New Jersey. The following day, Reichel returned to Rockford.

Reichel had a six-game point streak snapped this weekend, as he went scoreless in both games (though he did convert a shootout attempt Friday). In that six-game stretch, Reichel had five goals and five helpers. The Hawks prospect is now second on the team in scoring with 11 goals and 13 assists.

Sunday, Rockford recalled defenseman Cooper Zech from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. Zech, who was little used by the Hogs after being swapped for Evan Barratt earlier this season, has played well for the Fuel. In eight games, Zech had five goals and five assists in Indy.

 

Hmmmm…

  • Perhaps Zech is in Rockford because the Blackhawks want to recall one of the Hogs D-men. Issak Phillips, maybe? He’s easily been Rockford’s best and most consistent blueliner.
  • Garrett Mitchell has not been in the lineup since his November 19 injury in Rosemont. No word from the team on the nature of his injury (looked to be a separated left shoulder) or any possible return date.
  • Still no word as to a permanent on-air replacement for Joseph Zakrzewski, who is no longer working for the organization as of early November. A rotating crew of fill-ins have handled the broadcasts, while on-ice reporter Katie Florio has handled the media sessions.
  • Friday night, the IceHogs played as the “Screw City” IceHogs, a shout out to Rockford’s manufacturing history. The sweaters employed for this special night would make a great alternate look for Rockford in the future. Guttman’s wearing the uniform in the photo above.
  • Morgan Adams-Moisan, who had played in just two games and whose last appearance was November 16, was on the fourth line in both games against Iowa. If he was in the lineup to bang the Wild around and/or pick up a fighting major, he never really got the chance to do either of those things this weekend.
  • Reichel was sent to the ice after Wild forward Brandon Baddock caught him with a knee-on-knee hit near the end of the second period Saturday. Reichel was quick to get back on his skates and was not injured, but Baddock had to deal with the wrath of…Adam Clendening and Brett Seney, far from the typical enforcer types.
  • The 6’3″ Baddock was swiftly admonished by Clendening; the pair received matching roughing minors. Baddock was also called for kneeing, setting up a power play for the Hogs. Reichel could have put an exclamation point on the incident, but missed a wide open net from the right post a minute later.
  • Seney, who had a goal on Friday and an assist on Saturday, leads the Hogs in scoring with 28 points (11 G, 17 A). He’s on pace to eclipse last year’s career highs (17 G, 42 A) set with Toronto.
  • The 3,772 fans at the BMO Center tossed 4,839 stuffed animals onto the ice following Michal Teply’s put-back goal 5:11 into Saturday’s game. For a game with two promotions, the house was a little light. A good, not a great crowd for a Saturday night, but still above the team’s 3,379 average attendance this season.

This Week

After the aforementioned trip to Iowa Tuesday night, the IceHogs play host to a couple of Eastern Conference teams. The Toronto Marlies, who currently sit atop the Northern Division, come to the BMO Center Friday night. Hartford, who Rockford defeated back on December 3, is the opponent Saturday night.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates and thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

Hockey

With goalie injuries continuing to plague the Chicago Blackhawks, it appears likely that their AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, will feel the pinch on their roster for another couple of weeks. The organization is stretched thin and has been for a good portion of the 2022-23 campaign.

Fortunately, the goalies stepped up for the Hogs this weekend.

Rockford beat Springfield and Hartford to sweep a two-game eastern jaunt, getting solid play out of Dylan Wells Friday in Springfield and an outstanding performance from Jaxson Stauber against the Wolf Pack Saturday. Each gave up two goals in their starts, which is certainly good enough to make the IceHogs a very competitive team.

Stauber’s performance against a struggling Hartford team doesn’t scream “goalie win” upon a look at the box score. The Wolf Pack is the worst offensive team in the AHL even before their leading scorer, Jonny Brodzinski, was recalled by the Rangers on Saturday morning.

But it was. You had to have been there for full appreciation. In this case, it was from BMO South, watching from my basement.

Stauber was solid in the first two periods, stopping all 15 shots he faced as Rockford built a two-goal lead. Once the Hogs went up 3-0, they stopped defending and allowed Hartford full access to the crease. Stauber had another 15 shots to face, most of them of the high-danger variety and right on his doorstep.

When the smoke cleared, the Hogs rookie had surrendered two goals. The first was a three-man unencumbered rush down the ice by the Wolf Pack, just after Stauber had denied a two-man rush. The second came on a Brandon Scanlin blast in the final seconds after Rockford just left a loose puck dangling in front of their goalie.

Stauber’s 28-save night was the best performance by an IceHogs goalie this season, in terms of allowing his team to win a game that could easily have slipped away. Wells also was an asset Friday; his workload was not as heavy, but he made the key stops.

If Rockford is going to allow opponents to close the gap on its net, the goalies have to limit the damage, much like Arvid Soderblom was able to do last season in similar circumstances. Of course, Soderblom is now with the Blackhawks, as is Stauber, who was recalled on Sunday. Rockford’s opening-day goalie tandem is now Chicago’s goalie tandem for the moment.

Even average goaltending would be a boon to the IceHogs over the next couple of months. This weekend was a good example of solid play in net making Rockford a tough opponent for the other teams in the Central Division.

 

Finding The Mark

Cole Guttman continues to impress since returning from an October 15 concussion that kept him out of action for nearly a month. Guttman (5 G, 5 A) had goals in both games on the way to a three-point weekend. In five games over the last two weeks, he has four goals and three helpers.

Dylan Sikura (7 G, 7 A) has also begun to put up points. He’s currently on a five-game point streak, with five goals and four assists in that span. Also on a five-game point streak is Lukas Reichel (10 G, 13 A), who has put up four goals and five assists in those games.

 

Around The Net, Just Not In It

Mike Hardman (1 G, 8 A)has had his share of opportunities, but his last lighting of the lamp occurred on October 29 against Belleville. His goal drought hit ten games this weekend.

Josiah Slavin has played in all 19 of Rockford’s games this season, but is still looking for his first goal of the season. Slavin has been in a fourth-line checking role for much of the campaign. He did not register a shot this weekend; his opportunities have not been few and far between on the offensive end.

Another player looking to find the twine for the first time is rookie Louis Crevier, who has been been a steady third-pairing defenseman in the Hogs lineup. Crevier is sans points in his last nine games.

D. J. Busdeker missed the entire month of November and made his return this weekend. He skated in both games for the IceHogs without registering a point. Like Slavin, Busdeker has been cast in a more defensive role so far.

 

Recaps

Friday, December 2-Rockford 4, Springfield 2

Lukas Reichel put the Hogs ahead 1-0 with his ninth goal of the season. The power-play goal came late on a Matthew Kessel interference call and was set up by Dylan Sikura and Brett Seney. Reichel took a one-timer from the top of the right circle to beat Thunderbirds goalie Joel Hofer at 10:51 of the opening frame.

Early in the second, Cole Guttman won control of the puck behind the Springfield net. He managed to thread a pass to a waiting Buddy Robinson in the slot for a 2-0 Rockford advantage at the 4:54 mark.

Springfield closed the gap to 2-1 on a Greg Printz goal with 4:58 remaining in the second period. A couple of minutes later, however, the IceHogs struck power-play gold once again. Guttman took a pass from Reichel across the goal mouth and snuck it past Hofel with 2:17 to play in the period.

Springfield rallied for a goal with 1:17 left when Hogs goalie Dylan Wells left a rebound in front of the net. Nikita Alexandrov nudged the puck across the goal line, cutting Rockford’s lead to 3-2 at the second intermission.

Just 39 seconds into the third, David Gust took a pass from Brett Seney and skated to the right post. He centered to Luke Philp, who beat Hofel from the front of the net to make it 4-2 Hogs.

A Thunderbirds goal midway through the final frame was waved off on an offside call. Springfield had ample opportunity to get back into the game, but the IceHogs stopped them seven times on seven tries on the man advantage. Wells made a number of big stops among his 23 saves to pick up the win.

 

Saturday, December 3-Rockford 3, Hartford 2

Dylan Sikura made Hartford goalie Louis Domingue pay dearly for misplaying a Lukas Reichel dump-in behind his own net. The puck slid in front of the Wolf Pack net, where Sikura poked it into the cage 14:03 into the contest for a 1-0 Hogs advantage.

Rockford doubled that lead 6:14 into the second period. The scoring play started with Sikura skating behind the Hartford net and sending a pass to Adam Clendening along the boards, just inside the blue line. Clendening sent a long, cross-ice pass toward the right dot, where Cole Guttman sent a one-timer into the top corner of the net.

Early in the third, Lukas Reichel drove to the left post with the puck. He was denied by Domingue, but stayed with the play, taking the rebound around the Wolf Pack net and banking home the goal off of Domingue’s pads. Rockford went up 3-0 1:58 into the third period.

The Hogs soon had a power play to potentially go up four goals, but Hartford had other plans. Rockford turned over the puck with seconds remaining on the man advantage, leading to a Bobby Trevigno goal at 6:06 of the third.

The last ten minutes were an adventure, as Hartford pushed hard and threw 15 shots to the net. Stauber stopped 13 of those shots, many of which were open looks on Rockford turnovers. Brandon Scanlin got the Wolf Pack to within a goal with five seconds left with a blast from the slot, but the Hogs survived to post their second-strait win.

 

Back To The Central Division

Rockford has a three-game home stand this week, starting Wednesday night with Milwaukee. The piglets host Iowa for back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

 

 

Hockey

The Chicago Blackhawks officially took possession of the Rockford IceHogs franchise in the spring of 2021. We are currently in the second full season in what is a 15-year agreement between the Blackhawks organization and the BMO Center (formally the BMO Harris Bank Center, more formally the Rockford Metro Centre).

The Blackhawks bought their AHL affiliate from the city of Rockford for 11.8 million dollars, giving them totally control of the franchise and ensuring that Hogs fans will be treated to AHL hockey through 2036.

Now, it’s time for those fans to get a look at the price tag for remaining the Hawks affiliate.

Cue ominous organ music here. Or not.

In reality, it would be foolish to believe that the organization would shell out nearly 12 million bucks and just retain the status quo. The Blackhawks extended a lease agreement that would have run out at the end of last season and laid down a new ice surface. This season, the big changes are being rolled out.

When this deal was announced in April of 2021, the BMO was to get 23 million dollars in renovations. The Hawks got a 13 million dollar grant from the state. The rest is being generated locally. The locals will also have to deal with the many changes that are being made around the BMO.

(Quick disclosure: I do not, nor have I ever lived in Rockford. I grew up in Northwest Illinois and currently live just south of Winnebago County. I have, however, been a IceHogs season ticket holder for over ten years.)

Where to start…where to start…let’s start with…

 

New Stuff At The BMO

This year, the scoreboard is new and is also hanging over center ice, so put a check in the “cool” column. There is a new lighting system and there are new luxury suites in the building. The restrooms have been given an overhaul. Oink Outfitters, the apparel/souvenir shop has been expanded and enclosed (more on this later).

I haven’t visited the concessions much this season, but apparently they’ve been renovated. The food stand next to section 105, which caused traffic issues, has a new roped-off crowd corral that makes a lot of sense.

The seating area of the BMO was renovated a few years back, along with the boards system, so the arena remains a pretty decent place to catch a minor league hockey game. It does appear that the Blackhawks are attempting to create an atmosphere in line with the one you’d get at the United Center, albeit on a much smaller scale.

There is definitely a movement afoot to put more of a Chicago stamp on the product, as opposed to the recent “Our Town, Our Team” slogan of recent seasons. It’s as plain as the togs the players are sporting.

 

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Over the summer, the IceHogs logo underwent a change from the previous look, shown below.

It was a pretty decent upgrade, removing the stick from Hammy’s mouth and placing his head in a circular logo with “Rockford IceHogs” surrounding him. My thought at the time, “Neat. That will look great on the sweaters.”

Change is gonna happen…no problem, right?

Cut to the announcement months later of the new Rockford sweaters. Same style, same colors, new logo…wait, what?

Where’s the ring around Hammy identifying the team as the Rockford IceHogs?

Should Rockford fans be bent out of shape because the Chicago owners erased the team name from the sweaters? Seems like a trifle, especially when you CHECK OUT THE NEW SCOREBOARD! It does seem a bit strange not to use the newly created logo being used everywhere else.

Regardless of what your opinion, we can agree that changes of this sort are done mostly to generate revenue. Before you ask, I’ve already ordered my new IceHogs sweater. Would have looked better with the redesigned logo, but there’s still a charm to the look.

Speaking of new looks…

 

Here’s Hammy Hawk…uh, Hog!

This summer, there were a series of vignettes that depicted Hammy Hog coming to a crossroads in his life and deciding to make an effort to get physically fit. He joined a gym (which, oddly enough, is a team sponsor), hit the weights with a vengeance, and presumably did a few sit-ups.

The new-and-improved Hammy made his debut right before the start of Rockford’s opening tilt at the BMO October 22. It was instantly apparent that Hammy had been faithfully attending his workouts. It was also apparent that he had visited a cosmetic surgeon.

Old Hammy:

Buff Hammy:

My first thought upon seeing the “new and improved Hammy”? “Geez, that looks a lot like Tommy Hawk.”

Hammy Slim roams the BMO with his drum in hand, jumping on railings and counters to lead cheers…a lot like Tommy Hawk does. You can see where this is going.

The new Hammy was greeted to more than a smattering of boos upon his entrance. When he visited our section, several fans shared some displeasure with his new look. Despite this, Hammy was cool enough to pose for the above photo.

To the credit of the mascot, Hammy walked his beat, led cheers, and took time to visit the younger fans. Stick tap for Hammy for going about his work in what must have been a hostile environment.

The team really hasn’t publicly explained the vastly different face, though it appears to be a permanent thing. Despite claims, Hammy hasn’t traumatized any young fans that I have seen. There is a petition with a lot of signatures asking for a return of a heftier Hammy. Many of the BMO fans continue to boo the mascot, though most have had little problem cheering him when he brings out free pizza.

Again, a big-city Chicago update to the local Rockford mascot. Just part of the plan. Did I mention the Hogs spent 11.8 million dollars on the IceHogs?

My defense of the changes:

  1. It’s got to be easier to move around and to see for the mascot.
  2. Hammy belongs to the kids. I’m there for the hockey.
  3. CHECK OUT THAT NEW SCOREBOARD!

I’m not wild about the head, but I’m not about teaching hate. When I enter the BMO, Hammy can count on a high-five and a “Keep On Truckin’, Hammy!” from at least one fan. (Note: That fan is me. I high-five Hammy and instruct him to keep on truckin’.)

 

The Wall Of Yesterday

One of the interesting things to check out at the BMO was the Stars Of Tomorrow Wall. It had photos of the many former IceHogs who had reached the NHL. Fans would often spend time during intermission checking out the wall and reminiscing about players and days gone by.

Remember when I mentioned the team store expansion? The Hawks removed the Stars Of Tomorrow display in the process.

Where are they relocating it? They’re not. They’re selling the photos in the store. For money. For them to have, see? Feel the local flavor diminishing and the corporate coffers filling. Muah-hah-hah-hah-hah.

Now, there is still some renovation to be done at the BMO. Maybe a similar display will be erected on some of the thousands of square feet of bare walls around the concourse. We’ll have to wait and see.

 

Wheel Of Broadcasters

The IceHogs have continued to use a rotation of fill-ins in the broadcast booth ever since parting ways with the long-time voice of the Hogs Joseph Zakrzewski, who last took to the mic on October 23. There has still been no formal announcement by the team on Zakrzewski’s departure or a permanent replacement.

Zakrzewski was also Rockford’s media director, a position that I assume is still vacant as well. Finding a mid-season replacement may prove to be difficult; stay tuned.

 

Change Is Change

It’s a little disheartening to see some of the Rockford taken out of the team. That said, there are some folks down in Peoria who would love to have their building upgraded with a new ice system. The team is in town at least through 2036; there are plenty of silver linings.

The Blackhawks are looking to get a return on investment, both on and off the ice. Attendance is up from last season and the IceHogs a fielding a vastly upgraded team from the young group of prospects of the last two seasons. Revenue streams have been upgraded as well, for better or for worse.

All Rockford fans can do is try and enjoy the on-ice product and the BMO experience in whatever form it mutates. It may be our town, but it’s their team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs are just short of the quarter pole in the 2022-23 season. So far, the team has had little problem putting the puck in the net. Rockford is competing, though this is a team that should be able to find another gear in regards to challenging for a Central Division title.

With injuries forcing the IceHogs to use the latter half of their depth chart at goalie, Rockford has had to put up huge offensive numbers in order to win. Through 17 games, they have been able to supply the necessary goals to compete on a nightly basis.

I’ve been a broken record in my concerns for the goal-keeping. If Arvid Soderblom returns to the Hogs for a stretch and plays to form, it could push the piglets into that aforementioned gear. Here’s a closer look at the season through the first two months.

 

The Numbers So Far

This is how the 9-7-0-1 piglets are faring 17 games into their 72-game schedule:

The IceHogs sit right in the middle of the Central Division standings. That would be fourth place, with 19 points. Milwaukee leads the Central with 24 points, followed by Texas (22) and Manitoba (20).

Rockford is tied with Milwaukee atop the AHL in scoring with a 4.06 per game average. Defensively, the Hogs give up 3.59 goals per game, 26th in the league. They’re fourth in the league in shots (33.53) per game, and 26th (32.35) in shots allowed. The latter number is consistent with last year’s team.

The IceHogs are converting 23.2 percent of their power play opportunities, while snuffing out 77.3 percent of their opponent’s chances. Rockford has given up five shorthanded goals, tied for the worst in the league, while potting just one shorty themselves.

The Hogs have four players in the top 20 scorers in the AHL. Brett Seney (10 G, 13 A) is tied for third. David Gust (10 G, 12 A) is tied for fifth. Lukas Reichel (8 G, 11 A) is tied for tenth, while Luke Philp (11 G, 7 A) is tied for 13th. Philp leads the team with his eleven goals and is fourth in the AHL in that category.

Issak Phillips (2 G, 12 A) leads the league in skater rating (plus-16) and is tied for fifth in scoring among defensemen. Jakub Galvas (1 G, 11 A) is tied for 12th. Alex Vlasic (1 G, 5 A) leads AHL rookies with a plus-11 rating.

 

How Are Those Veteran Pickups Doing?

Go back a couple of paragraphs. They’re spanking fantastic.

The firm of Gust, Seney, and Philp have accounted for 31 goals and 36 assists in 17 games. That’s 45 percent of the IceHogs team goal total of 69. Can this be sustained? Probably not, but several players are starting to find the range.

Dylan Sikura (6 G, 5 A) had back-to-back two-goal games this weekend and could be poised for a December to remember. Buddy Robinson (4 G, 3 A) is chipping in and has been a threat around the net for most of the season so far.

Defenseman Adam Clendening has been a bit underwhelming, though he does have a goal and eight assists. Five of those apples have come on the power play. Clendening is a player who can be attacked in the defensive zone. Hence, his minus-14 rating, which is the lowest in the AHL at the moment. The Hogs didn’t sign Clendening to be a defensive stopper, but there is room for improvement.

 

What About The Kids?

Cole Guttman is starting to pick up some steam in his rookie season. Guttman missed almost a month of action after suffering a concussion on October 15. In eight games since returning to the lineup, he has three goals and four assists.

Phillips, Galvas, and Vlasic have been the backbone of the Hogs blueline. Rookie Louis Crevier (0 G, 2 A) has played 16 games and been a solid third-pairing defender. At 6’8″, Crevier moves pretty well and is adjusting to the pro game.

Michal Teply (3 G, 6 A) started the season slowly but is getting to the net a lot more. Like some other young prospects, Teply is having to compete for ice time. Hogs coach Anders Sorensen recently placed him on a line with Reichel, so his offensive production could soon take off.

 

Roster Happenings

Captain Garrett Mitchell was missing from the lineup for the past three games after injuring his shoulder in Rosemont on November 19. No announcement from the team; until that happens, I’d assume that Mitchell will be out for at least three or four weeks.

Buddy Robinson had a scare on Wednesday night, taking a hit from the Stars Rhett Gardner along the boards by the Rockford bench in the first period of action. Robinson was helped from the ice, unable to put weight on his right leg. He did not return to the game, but was in the lineup for both games against Milwaukee.

After a strong performance in net in Wednesday’s victory, Mitchell Weeks was returned to the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. Despite being Rockford’s top-performing goalie so far this season (3-1-1, 2.95 GAA, .909 save percentage), Weeks is the current odd man out because both Jaxson Stauber and Dylan Wells are on NHL contracts.

On Thursday, Ian Mitchell returned to the IceHogs from Chicago. He played in both games with the Admirals this weekend, picking up an assist on Friday night.

Friday saw D Cooper Zech being assigned to the Fuel. Since being swapped for Evan Barratt a month ago, Zech has been a healthy scratch in all but two games on October 29 and November 2. Zech was scoreless in both contests. Incidentally, since the trade, Barratt has played just two games in Lehigh Valley, with one assist.

 

Recaps

Wednesday, November 23-Rockford 7, Texas 2

Rockford chased Matthew Murray from the crease with three goals in the first 10:30 of action, cruising to a win over the visiting Stars.

The IceHogs wasted little time carrying the attack to Texas, converting on a turnover to take a lead they would never relinquish. Cole Guttman picked off a pass along the halfboards of the Stars zone, skated to the right dot, and sent an offering that beat Murray to the far side at 1:24 of the first period.

Guttman’s tally was quickly followed by a goal by Brett Seney at the 3:26 mark. Issak Phillips‘ strike from the right circle at 10:30 of the first ended Murray’s evening with three goals allowed on seven Rockford shots. The Texas net was filled by Anton Khudobin for the remainder of the game.

Down 3-0 entering the second stanza, Texas got on the board when Stars captain Curtis McKenzie redirected a Ben Gleason shot past Hogs goalie Mitchell Weeks at the 3:24 mark. Rockford quickly re-established the three-goal advantage at 4:56 when David Gust guided a loose puck into the Stars net for his ninth goal of the season.

Rockford limited Texas in the Hogs zone, breaking up centering attempts and effectively preventing a lot of traffic in front of Weeks. The Stars put on some pressure in the final twenty minutes, but Weeks stopped 15 of 16 shots in the third period. Only Alex Petrovic‘s shorthanded goal got past the Rockford rookie, while the Hogs lit the lamp three more times.

Seney’s second goal of the night midway through the third gave Rockford a 5-1 lead. After Petrovic cut the lead to 5-2, Luke Philp and Lukas Reichel got in on the scoring in the final minutes of action.

 

Friday, November 25-Rockford 6, Milwaukee 4

When the smoke cleared, the IceHogs stood tall in this Central Division track meet. Rockford broke the Admirals’ four-game winning streak with a come-from-behind victory.

Milwaukee took an early 2-1 lead on a pair of goals by Tommy Novak, sandwiched around a power-play tip-in by Rockford’s Cole Guttman. Bobby Lynch tied the game midway through the first period with a put-back of Carson Gicewicz‘s initial shot. However, Cole Schneider converted a power-play chance for the Admirals, who led 3-2 after 20 minutes.

There was no scoring in the second period, though the pace did not slow. Both teams dismantled rushes up and down the ice, contesting passes and checking hard at both ends. Milwaukee goalie Devin Cooley made 15 saves in the middle frame to keep his club in the lead.

At the other end, Hogs netminder Dylan Wells wasn’t as busy, stopping eight Milwaukee attempts. However, he might have made the two biggest saves of the night midway through the second.

Wells stood his tallest when Brett Seney was stripped of the puck at the Milwaukee blue line by Luke Evangelista. The Admirals forward streaked toward the Hogs’ net completely unchallenged. Wells denied the shot attempt, as well as Zach Sanford‘s follow-up shot to snuff out the scoring threat.

The IceHogs got power-play goals from Lukas Reichel and Dylan Sikura early in the third period, surging to a 4-3 lead. Schneider’s second goal on the man advantage pulled Milwaukee even at four 9:32 into the period before Rockford took over the game.

Seney, whose slashing infraction had led to the Admirals’ equalizer minutes before, skated to the high slot in time to take in a backhanded pass from behind the net by Alex Vlasic. Seney’s aim was true, and the Hogs led 5-4 on his tenth goal of the season at the 12:18 mark.

Wells sent a couple of Milwaukee shots away over the next few minutes, allowing Sikura the chance to put the game away with 3:04 remaining. Sikura maneuvered into the slot and sent a shot through some well-placed traffic to get it past Cooley and into Twinesville to close out a busy night of scoring.

Sikura’s two goals earned him First-Star honors. Reichel and Seney, each of whom had a goal and two helpers, were Second and Third Stars, respectively. Guttman (1 G, 1 A) could also claim a multi-point evening.

Wells recovered from a frustrating opening frame to stop 15 of Milwaukee’s last 16 shots on goal. He picked up his third win of the season with 24 saves on the night.

 

Saturday, November 26, Milwaukee 5, Rockford 3

The Admirals gained a measure of revenge on visiting Rockford at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena Saturday night, using a big third period to split the weekend home-and-home with the IceHogs.

Milwaukee wasted little time in building a lead. Egor Afanasyev pounced on a rebound in front of Hogs goalie Jaxson Stauber and flipped it into the basket 2:19 into the contest. The Admirals added tallies from Cole Schneider and Roland McKeown. Schneider attempted a centering pass to Tommy Novak in front of the Rockford net. Defenseman Adam Clendening denied the pass, but the puck came off his stick and into the goal at the 7:36 mark.

McKeown made it a 3-0 game at 10:22 of the first. Taking a pass from Kevin Gravel, McKeown launched it from the right point past Stauber, who was screened by Zach Sanford and Tommy Apap.

Midway into the opening period, the IceHogs were in a hole. Dylan Sikura started the digging for Rockford, jumping on loose pucks for a pair of goals in the last 3:53 of the first. Both were set up by defenseman Issak Phillips, who had three helpers on the night. The IceHogs were able to draw even with Milwaukee 7:04 into the second stanza when David Gust streaked to the right dot and went to the far post with his shot past Admirals goalie Yaroslav Askarov.

Milwaukee regained the lead 3:18 into the third period. With Stauber way out of his net, Afanasyev skated around the Rockford cage and completed the wraparound attempt just ahead of the stick of Hogs defenseman Louis Crevier.

The Admirals lead became 5-3 after the IceHogs first penalty of the evening. Alec Regula was called for slashing 7:08 into the third period. At 8:47, Markus Nurmi , set up by Afanasyev, sent a shot over Stauber’s glove from the left circle. Rockford attempted to load up for another comeback, pulling Stauber in the final minutes for an extra skater, but Askarov kept the puck out of harm’s way for the remainder of the game.

Askarov finished with 23 saves for Milwaukee. The Admirals rookie is now 7-3 on the season with Saturday’s win. Stauber stopped 23 of 28 shots in a losing effort.

 

Head East

Rockford travels to Springfield (Friday) and Hartford (Saturday) this weekend.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs as the season progresses.

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs took two out of three games this past week. The piglets spoiled Wednesday morning for hundreds of Grand Rapids children with a morning stomp of the Griffins, then split a home-and home with the Chicago Wolves over the weekend.

Rockford is now 7-6-0-1 on the season. With 15 points, the IceHogs sit in fifth place in the AHL’s Central Division. Faced with the prospect of treading water in the face of some depth issues in net, Rockford has managed to hover around the .500 mark. With the pace that is expected of the Hogs, the goaltending will be paramount to the team’s playoff aspirations.

 

Scoreboard!

What is keeping Rockford afloat the first month is offense. The Hogs are soaring at 3.79 goals per game, tied for fourth in the league.

Rockford has three skaters in the top 20 of AHL scorers. By way of comparison, the IceHogs seldom have anyone in the top 100 scorers. David Gust (8 G, 10 A) sits in eighth place, with Luke Philp (10 G, 6 A) and Brett Seney (7 G, 9 A) are among several skaters tied for 14th. Philp leads the Hogs in goals with ten and is tied for second in the league in that category.

Several Blackhawks prospects are also filling the net on a regular basis. After a torrid start, Lukas Reichel (6 G, 8 A), has tapered off after a lackluster performance on November 2 against Milwaukee. Reichel has two goals and two assists in eight November games.

Michal Teply, on the other hand, started the season with four scoreless outings before getting on track. In his last seven games, Teply has three goals and five helpers. That includes the game-winning goal in Rosemont on Saturday night.

 

Roster News

After returning from an injury last week, Jaxson Stauber was a scratch for both weekend games against the Wolves. Mitchell Weeks was recalled from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel on Thursday and dressed for both games. He stopped 24 shots at Allstate Arena in Rockford’s overtime win over Chicago.

On Wednesday, D Alec Regula was reassigned to Rockford by the Blackhawks. The next day, Ian Mitchell was called up to Chicago. On Friday, D Cliff Watson was sent to Indy by the IceHogs.

Rockford captain Garrett Mitchell suffered an injury midway through Saturday’s win in Rosemont. Mitchell was sent hard into the end boards in the Wolves zone by Chicago defenseman Max Lajoie. Mitchell quickly got up, but skated directly to the locker room with appeared to be a separated left shoulder.

Mitchell has been an unquestioned leader of this IceHogs team nearly from the moment he arrived in the middle of the 2019-20 season. There are several veterans who can pick up the slack on the ice in terms of leadership should Mitchell be out for a stretch, as may well be the case by the way he looked exiting the rink Saturday.

 

Who’s Got The Call?

Over the last couple of weeks, a voice has been missing from the IceHogs broadcast booth. Joseph Zakrzewski, who manned the microphone for nearly five seasons, broadcast what turned out to be his final game at the BMO on October 23 vs Manitoba.

Zakrzewski has been absent from the airwaves ever since. His tweet on November 8 announced that his time with the team was at an end. Like his arrival in 2017, Zakrzewski departs in the middle of the season. No announcement was made by the organization.

If the Blackhawks, who own the Rockford franchise, has a plan for the broadcast booth, it is unclear at this time. It does not appear that a permanent replacement for his position has been hired.

Several hired guns have filled the void on the air over the last few weeks. These include Chicago Steel broadcaster Mark Citron, Kane County Cougars announcer Connor Clingen, Wisconsin Women’s hockey broadcaster Reid Mangum, Tyler Kuel, and WGN’s Joe Brand, who called this weekend’s games.

Where will the carousel stop? Who knows at this point?

Zakrzewski was a well-liked broadcaster at the BMO Center who knew his game and was a fun listen. The powers that be have some big shoes to fill.

 

Who’s Got The Cup?

Rockford has hosted the Wolves on three occasions this season. I’ve been searching the BMO Center during each matchup searching for the grail-like token of glory that is the Illinois Lottery Cup.

My search, alas, has been fruitless. The ILC debuted back in 2011, where the Hogs and Wolves, along with the Peoria Rivermen (then of the AHL), waged battle for the magical chalice. When the 2019-20 season was halted early, Rockford stood poised to claim the cup with a 6-3-1 record against Chicago. Last season, the cup was earned via the Hogs 8-3-0-1 record against the Calder Cup-winning Wolves.

So, I inquire again…where is the Illinois Lottery Cup?

All signs point to money. No sponsor, no Illinois Lottery Cup. However, does it really have to be that way? Couldn’t the Lottery folks just donate this talisman to the rivalry? Could an enterprising fan purchase the cup for, say, ten bucks?

That’s the price the Blackhawks are selling the Stars Of Tomorrow placards that used to hang proudly on the wall heralding the former IceHogs that reached the NHL. Could the Blackhawks earmark some of the money they saved on the new Hammy Hog mask to obtain the trophy of Wolves domination?

All right. Way too fired up right now. Time for those recaps.

 

Recaps

Wednesday, November 16-Rockford 5, Grand Rapids 1

The piglets spotted Grand Rapids a 5-1 lead at Van Andel Arena before the Rockford offense snowed under the Griffins.

Joel L’Esperance had the only goal of the morning with his lamp-lighter 13:38 into the opening period. From that point, it was all Rockford.

The Hogs tied the game 1:18 into the second stanza with a goal by Luke Philp. The eventual game-winner came from the stick of Ian Mitchell, who scored the first of his two goals at the 3:02 mark. Lukas Reichel and Buddy Robinson also sent rubber to twine in the second period, which ended with Rockford up 4-1.

Like his first goal, Mitchell’s second tally was on the power play. It came at 4:57 of the third period and closed out the scoring for both teams.

Dylan Wells posted 29 saves to pick up his second win of the season. Mitchell, Reichel, and Robinson were voted the game’s Three Stars.

 

Friday, November 18-Chicago 4, Rockford 3

In a game where special teams played a big factor, the Wolves Nathan Sucese potted a short-handed game-winner midway through the third period.

Rockford was the aggressor for several stretches of action on Friday. That included the opening minutes, which saw the Hogs take a 1-0 lead on a Buddy Robinson goal. Robinson’s fourth goal of the season was a tip-in of an Adam Clendening shot at the 2:09 mark of the first period.

Chicago didn’t get much going until the latter stages of the period. However, they capitalized twice in the last five minutes on goals by Griffin Mendel and Vasily Ponomarev to take a 2-1 advantage into the locker room.

Luke Philp got the first of two goals on the night to tie the game midway through the second period. The goal was a short-handed set up by a fantastic effort by Rockford forward Josiah Slavin, who skated a loose puck from coast to coast before centering to Philp in the high slot.

The score stayed at 2-2 until the start of the final frame, when Malte Stromwell sent a shot past Hogs goalie Dylan Wells at the 1:51 mark for a power-play goal. Philp tied the game again with his second goal. This one also came on the man-advantage, a shot from the left circle that beat Chicago goalie Zachary Sawchenko 9:22 into the third.

The game-winner came less than two minutes later. The Wolves had exploited Wells losing his net several times throughout the evening. This time, a rebound came off the pads of Wells, rolling just out of his reach. Sucese beat several Hogs to the loose puck and deposited it into the cage at 11:20 of the third period.

Down 4-3, Rockford mounted a big push for the equalizer, pulling Wells with just under three minutes to play. A Wolves penalty gave the IceHogs a six-on-four advantage for most of the last two minutes of the game. Several shots were taken, but Sawchenko held firm to give Chicago the win.

 

Saturday, November 19, Rockford 4, Chicago 3 (OT)  

Rockford gained redemption in the rematch at Allstate Arena, though it took some extra skating to do so.

Jamison Rees put the Wolves up 1-0 4:33 into the game with his third goal of the season. The IceHogs generated plenty of chances, though they were turned away by former Rockford goalie Cale Morris.

The action picked up in the middle of the second stanza. David Gust got his stick on a loose puck at the left post, sliding it past Morris at the 7:16 mark. Shortly after Gust’s tally, Michal Teply sent an Issak Phllips feed from the left circle to the back of the Wolves net at 8:10 of the second.

Rees quickly responded for Chicago. Mitchell Weeks stopped the initial attempt, but Rees gathered the rebound and tied the game at 8:42.

Rockford took a 3-2 advantage 14:06 into the period when a shot by Alex Vlasic snuck past Morris from to top of the right circle. The Wolves got back to even ground with a shorthanded goal by Nathan Sucese at the 1:58 mark. Rockford nearly got the lead back in the final minute, but Phillips’ shot from the left circle came to a stop on the goal line, just not across it. The teams went into the intermission all even.

Neither Weeks or Morris wavered in the final 20 minutes of regulation, despite each team getting ample time on the power play. Rockford was stymied by the Wolves penalty kill four times, while the Hogs denied Chicago twice on man-advantages.

The IceHogs started Gus Macker Time with four skaters thanks to an unfinished power play from regulation. However, it took the bulk of the extra session to declare a winner. That declaration was made by Teply, who skated into the slot as the clock began to run out. His shot beat Morris, clanged off the crossbar, and tumbled into Twinesville to end the game with 11 seconds remaining in overtime.

 

This Week

The piglets have a Wednesday night showdown with Texas at the BMO, then start a home-and-home with Milwaukee in Rockford on Friday. Saturday, the Hogs travel to Milwaukee for another tilt with the Admirals.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for semi-rational thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

 

Hockey

How many goals do the Rockford IceHogs have to score to get a win these days?

A lot. At least for a while.

The piglets are dropping an average of 3.73 goals per game on opponents in eleven games this season. Unfortunately, Rockford is giving up 3.82 goals to those opponents.

The Hogs dropped a 3-2 decision to Texas on Saturday night. A sluggish middle frame doomed Rockford as Texas scored three times to take control of the contest. On Sunday, Rockford prevailed in a see-saw affair by a score of 5-4, garnering a split of the weekend road trip.

As was the case last season, the IceHogs are surrendering a lot of shots-32.9 a game this season, the third-highest in the AHL. Last year, the play in net negated that stat to a certain extent. With a current lack of AHL experience in goal, it’s a different story.

Jaxson Stauber and Dylan Wells have a total of 30 AHL games between them. At the moment, Rockford lacks a goalie that can carry the main workload and hold opponents under three goals. In the Hogs first eleven games, they have held an opponent to under four goals just four times. Rockford is 3-1 in those games.

In the other seven games, the IceHogs are 2-4-0-1, despite averaging over three goals a game.

Rockford’s current goalie tandem is likely to continue to struggle to hold down the score. Until a goalie comes down from Chicago (Arvid Soderblom, perhaps?), the piglets will have to rely on their quick-strike offense in order to stay competitive in the Central Division.

 

Some Triumphant Returns

Ian Mitchell, who had been recovering from a right wrist injury since training camp, was assigned to Rockford on Friday by the Chicago Blackhawks. Mitchell was on the ice for both games this weekend, picking up an assist in Sunday’s victory.

Cole Guttman had been on concussion protocol since hitting his head on the ice in Manitoba on October 15. He scored his first professional goal in his return to action on Saturday and was quite active on Sunday as well.

Stauber, who had been out since taking a puck to his mask on October 29, got the start on Sunday, stopping 42 of 46 shots to pick up his second win of the season. Also returning in net for Rockford was Wells, who had been with the Blackhawks the previous week. Wells made 33 saves in the IceHogs loss on Saturday night.

 

Talking Points

  • David Gust was the First Star of Sunday’s game with two goals and an assist. Those were his first points since a two-goal performance on November 3. Gust (7 G, 9 A) leads the IceHogs with 16 points. His seven goals is tied at the top of the Rockford stat sheet with Brett Seney (7 G, 8 A) and Luke Philp (7 G, 6 A).
  • Seney, who had an assist on Sunday, is currently on a nine-game point streak. He has recorded a point in ten of Rockford’s eleven games this season.
  • Philp, who potted the game-winner to go with two helpers on Sunday, has a streak of four games with points for the Hogs.
  • In addition to Guttman getting his first goal of the season, Bobby Lynch and Issak Phillips each found the twine for the first time this weekend. Both Lynch and Phillips scored in the second period Sunday to get Rockford back in the game.
  • Sunday’s game had more penalty minutes compared to a pretty tame contest Saturday. Both teams went 0-2 on the man advantage on Saturday and 1-4 on Sunday.
  • Philp’s goal came on the power play late in the third period Sunday after Texas forward Riley Damiani tied the game via the power play earlier in the period
  • Following this weekend’s action, the IceHogs (5-5-0-1) sit in sixth place in the Central Division standings with 11 points.

Lone Star Recaps

Saturday, November 12-Texas 3, Rockford 2

A solid start went for naught, as a sloppy second period spelled defeat for Rockford at the H.E.B. Center.

Cole Guttman made his return to the lineup count with his first professional goal. It came at 9:14 of the first period, when Guttman cleaned up a rebound of a Bobby Lynch shot. Garrett Mitchell got the play started, skating into the offensive zone and sending a pass off the halfboards to Lynch for the secondary assist.

The Hogs lead disappeared in the middle frame, as the Stars got a put-back by Fredrik Karlstrom at 10:44 of the second. Rockford was awarded a power play shortly after, but the puck suddenly became slippery. Brett Seney lost possession in the d-zone, leading to a Thomas Harley goal at the 12:14 mark.

Texas out shot the Hogs 18-4 in what may have been the worst span of play of the season for Rockford. The Stars capped the humiliation with Marian Studenic’s snipe from the top of the left circle, which got by Hogs goalie Dylan Wells at 17:36 of the second for a 3-1 Texas advantage at the second intermission.

The bulk of the third period saw the Stars prevent Rockford from rallying. Hogs starting goalie Dylan Wells was brought to the bench, leading to Seney tipping in a shot by Lukas Reichel with 2:31 remaining. Despite bringing Wells, who made 33 saves on the night, back to the bench, Rockford could not get the equalizer.

 

Sunday, November 13-Rockford 5, Texas 4 

The Stars sent 46 shots toward Jaxson Stauber on Sunday. The rookie goalie denied 42 shots, which was enough for the Hogs to prevail in the closing minutes.

The IceHogs got on the board early in the game when Issak Phillips gained possession in the neutral zone. He connected with Luke Philp, who hit David Gust entering the Texas zone. The shot from the right dot beat Stars goalie Matthew Murray 1:19 into the game for a 1-0 Hogs lead.

Texas evened the score behind a drive by former Hogs forward Tanner Kero. Kero was well-defended by Jakub Galvas, preventing Kero from getting off a serious shot. The puck, however, slid under the pads of Rockford goalie Jaxson Stauber at the 4:49 mark.

Gust restored the IceHogs lead 8:37 into the first. Cleaning up Philp’s wrister from the left circle, Gust converted on the rebound left by Murray for a 2-1 Rockford advantage. The Stars had two power-play chances turned away by Rockford, who held that 2-1 lead into the first intermission.

The middle frame was a see-saw affair. Texas quickly went out to a 3-2 lead on Kero’s second tally of the night and a deflection by Riley Tufte. Both goals came in the first two minutes of play.

The IceHogs took a while to respond, but got the game knotted at three in the fourteenth minute. This time, Gust played the part of facilitator, flipping a puck out of the defensive zone and to a streaking Bobby Lynch. The shot beat Murray to the high glove side at 13:30 of the second.

Issak Phillips gave Rockford a 4-3 lead late in the second with a one-timer set up by a offensive draw victory by Brett Seney. Ian Mitchell received the puck and slid it to Phillips for the long-distance strike with 44 seconds left in the period.

The Stars knotted the game at four goals on the power play three minutes into the third period. Riley Damiani got a shot over the glove of Stauber just as the man advantage was expiring.

Damiani was called for a high-stick 15:55 into the third to set up the eventual game-winner. As the IceHogs skated the puck across the Texas blueline, Mike Hardman threaded a pass to a streaking Luke Philp in the slot. Philp nabbed the feed behind the Stars defense and sent a backhand past the prone Murray at the 16:18 mark.

Murray was pulled for the extra attacker for most of the last two minutes, but Rockford held on to earn the weekend split.

 

This Week

Rockford is back on the road Wednesday, when they play an 11:00 a.m. EDT tilt with Grand Rapids. This coming weekend, the Hogs have a home-and-home with the Chicago Wolves. Friday’s 7:00 p.m. CDT puck drop takes place at the BMO Center before the teams move to Rosemont for a 7:00 p.m. CDT start on Saturday at the Allstate Arena.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.