Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs playoffs were unceremoniously ended by the Chicago Wolves over the weekend. Rockford dropped three straight to the Wolves, looking very overmatched. After having a lot of success against their interstate rival in the regular season, it wasn’t far-fetched to think the piglets could compete with the best team in the AHL.

Instead, Chicago shifted into a gear that the Hogs could not match.

The Wolves were able to keep Rockford on its heels for the entire series. The details varied a bit, but the formula was the same: swamp the Hogs in their own zone and hammer away at goalie Arvid Soderblom. Chicago out-shot Rockford 127-61 overall and prevented the IceHogs from putting any kind of offense together.

Here’s a quick rundown of the Wolves sweep:

Game 1: On Thursday night, Lukas Reichel forced a turnover and skated in for the first goal of the contest. That would be the only lead the Hogs would hold. Chicago potted two goals in the final minute of the first period, then scored three times on the way to a 6-2 win at Allstate Arena.

Game 2: The Wolves treated the first period like a 20-minute power play Friday. Rockford, who managed a single shot in the opening frame, held on for dear life until a pair of goals late in the period gave Chicago a 2-0 advantage. From there, the Wolves cruised to a 4-1 win.

Game 3: The IceHogs did their best to extend the series, but fell behind early at the BMO Harris Bank Center on Sunday afternoon. Rockford actually put together its only serious pressure in the Wolves zone in the second stanza. Not only did the Hogs fail to score, however, but Chicago made it 2-0 late in the period. Rockford mustered a goal down three in the third, but the Wolves converted a 5-on-3 chance to end the IceHogs season with a 4-1 victory.

Rockford didn’t play terrible. Soderblom had a .910 save percentage in the final two games and the IceHogs were still routed. Chicago simply overwhelmed them. Rockford’s only even-strength goals came in Game 1; Reichel’s steal and score and another forced turnover that wound up in the Wolves net via Evan Barratt.

Alec Regula went coast-to-coast for a sweet power-play goal in Game 2. Ian Mitchell followed up a nifty move in the corner into a power-play snipe over Alex Lyon’s glove in the final period of Game 3. None of these goals were the result of steady presence in the Wolves zone.

It’s a sudden end to a pretty decent 2021-22 campaign for the Hogs. That’s the playoffs, kids. It would have been nice to see a couple or additional games, but once the Wolves flipped the switch it was just a matter of a more talented, more experienced squad taking care of business.

In the coming weeks, I’ll break down the season offer some thoughts on the highs and lows contained within. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for some musings on the Hogs in the wake of their playoff exit.

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have extended the time they have to develop some key prospects by qualifying for the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs. The postseason gets underway Wednesday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center, when the IceHogs play Texas Stars in a best-of-three play-in series.

Rockford is the fourth-seed and will host the fifth-seeded Stars for every game of the series, per the league’s travel guidelines. The winner moves on to face the Central Division champs, the Chicago Wolves in a best-of-five affair.

Here is the postseason forecast for the Piglets as I see it.

First of all, it would not shock me for the IceHogs to knock off any of their Central Division rivals in a playoff series. Even after dropping a 3-2 decision to the Wolves in the regular season finale Saturday night, Rockford finished 8-3-0-1 against Chicago. They have split the season series with Texas and Milwaukee and were 5-3 against Manitoba. The only Central opponent that dominated them (Iowa) is not in the playoffs.

The IceHogs have generated enough offense to be competitive. For the first time in a couple of seasons, Rockford posted a per game average of over three goals this season. The Hogs 3.10 per game clip was their highest since the 2017-18 season, when they reached the Western Conference Final scoring 3.14 goals per contest.

Unlike that veteran-laden group, this year’s group have been grinding out wins for the bulk of the season. A poised and deep blueline, coupled with very capable goaltending, have been the ticket in the past couple of months. This could prove to be a major strength in the postseason.

Or, the youngsters could get bounced in two games by a hot Texas team that won its last four games. Such is the mystery of playoff hockey. Some confidence and a hot goalie can take you far. A slow start could quickly slam the door on a very solid season for Rockford.

 

Roster News

On Sunday, the Blackhawks assigned D Nolan Allen and F Colton Dach to the IceHogs following the conclusion of their junior seasons. I wouldn’t expect either to play. Maybe one or both could step in and make a surprise impact. I would avoid holding my breath on it, though.

Chicago could also assign some players like G Collin Delia, D Alex Vlasic to bolster the IceHogs roster. As of Monday, they have not done so. At this point, it looks like Rockford will dance with the players it has leaned on for the last month of action.

Ian Mitchell has been out of the lineup since injuring his right wrist in practice last Tuesday. He would be set to come back late in the week, but is probably out for the opening series. The IceHogs depth at defense makes this a little easier to bear, but Mitchell was voted the team’s top defenseman award for good reason. His return makes the Hogs a bit tougher to play against.

D.J. Busdeker returned from a shoulder injury for the last two games of the season, though Brett Connolly is likely out for the duration of the playoffs with a knee injury.

Cale Morris took the net against the Wolves Saturday and stopped 50 shots in the loss. I would imagine that he will back up Arivd Soderblom, who, along with F Dylan McLaughlin, were selected co-MVPs for Rockford this season.

 

Under The Microscope: The Texas Stars

Rockford battled the Stars eight times this season. Both teams won four games. The season series concluded way back on February 27, when Texas won 3-2 at the BMO.

The Stars were 9-4-1 in April, while Rockford wound up 9-6. Of all the possible opponents for the piglets to have, Texas is the one who shouldn’t intimidate the Hogs physically.

There are four players who took the ice in the 2018 Western Conference Final contested between these two franchises; all currently reside on the Stars roster. This includes former Hogs forwards Anthony Louis (24 G, 31 A) and Tanner Kero (5 G, 12 A), as well as Texas captain Curtis McKenzie (21 G, 29 A) and Joel L’Esperance (24 G, 25 A).

Center Ty Dellandrea had an impressive rookie campaign, with a 50-point season (23 G, 27 A). Riley Damiani (13 G, 23 A) was last year’s outstanding rookie in the AHL and could play a big part in the opening series. Ben Gleason (9 G, 35 A) and Ryan Shea (3 G, 29 A) pace the Texas defense.

The x-factor in this series could well lay in the crease. Matthew Murray has been used quite a bit since signing an ATO out of UMass this spring. He split time with second-year goalie Adam Scheel, who was recalled to Dallas on Saturday.

If Murray winds up being the man in net for Texas, he’s coming in hot. Currently, he is sporting a 1.68 GAA and a .947 save percentage in his six AHL starts. Likely to serve as Murray’s backup is LaGrange native Matt Jurusik.

 

Keys For The IceHogs

  • Rockford needs to be to limit the Stars speed in transition and continue to take care of the puck in their own zone. That’s been the formula for the Hogs success this season; no reason to change things up.
  • Players like Mike Hardman (19 G, 13 A), Michal Teply (13 G, 18 A) and Andrei Altybarmakian (10 G, 21 A) have to capitalize on the play-making abilities of Lukas Reichel (the team’s Rookie Of The Year with 21 goals and 36 helpers) and McLaughlin.
  • In 14 April games, Josiah Slavin has eight goals and seven assists. He is a big part of the Hogs penalty kill and leads the team with three shorthanded goals.  It’s important for Slavin to continue leading Rockford’s forecheck against the Stars. Slavin’s game should be well-suited for playoff hockey; he could have a big series.
  • Slavin sat out the final regular season game with Chicago along with Altybarmakian, Alec Regula, Kurtis Gabriel and Soderblom. Texas has been off since April 26, but both teams should be rested and ready Wednesday night.

 

Schedule

Game One is set to begin on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., as will Game Two on Friday. If necessary, Game Three will start at 6:00 p.m.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the Calder Cup Playoffs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs traveled to Manitoba for the first two games of a five-game road trip last week. For the piglets, March came in like a Moose.

A Moose that outscored Rockford 12-5 in two games.

Manitoba won both games, a 7-2 shellacking Thursday night and a 5-3 come-from-behind triumph on Saturday afternoon. The IceHogs fell to sixth place in the AHL’s Central Division, having lost their last three games.

The IceHogs were able to skate with Manitoba early in both contests. However, Rockford had no answer for the Moose as the games progressed. Manitoba broke open a 2-2 game on Thursday with five unanswered goals. On Saturday, the Moose rallied from a two-goal deficit late in the second period before pulling away with a pair of third-period strikes.

Rockford’s penalty kill has been top-notch of late but surrendered key goals in both defeats. Manitoba potted three goals in five chances on the man advantage.

Two power-play goals in the space of five minutes in the first and second periods paved the way for the Moose on Thursday. Saturday afternoon saw Manitoba capitalizing on Hogs goalie Arvid Soderblom losing his stick in a collision with teammate Ryan Stanton. David Gustafsson sent a shot over Soderblom’s blocker, starting a sequence of four Moose goals over the next five minutes of game action.

 

Weekend Thoughts

  • Rockford was outshot in both games. Collin Delia faced 46 shots on Thursday; Manitoba outshot the Hogs 17-5 in the third period. Rockford was outshot 23-11 in the first two periods with Soderblom in net on Saturday.
  • The IceHogs sent 17 shots toward Moose goalie Mikhail Berdin, who stopped them all to pick up the win. Berdin was in net for Manitoba in both games.
  • Manitoba’s Greg Meireles had a four-point weekend, with a goal and three helpers.
  • Saturday’s defeat was tougher to stomach, in that the IceHogs led 2-0 and then 3-1 in the first two periods of the game. Rockford was really prone to giving up goals in bunches over the weekend.
  • The IceHogs placed forward Chad Yetman into the concussion protocol Friday. He joins Dylan McLaughlin, who has been out of the lineup since suffering a concussion on February 20.
  • Rockford forward Mike Hardman picked up his twelfth goal of the season on Thursday. An assist in Saturday’s loss has Hardman on a four-game point streak.
  • Defenseman Alec Regula was reassigned to Rockford by the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday. Regula skated in both games in Manitoba.

Next Up

The IceHogs have a couple of days to stew about their three-game losing streak. Rockford is next in action Friday night when the Hogs visit Milwaukee. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CST.

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

Hockey

Rockford IceHogs defenseman Ian Mitchell has owned a hot hand over the last few weeks. Mitchell is one of several young blueliners making an impact for the Blackhawks AHL affiliate.

Rockford dropped both ends of a home-and-home with Grand Rapids this weekend, ending a season-high four game winning streak in the process. Still, the Hogs defense continues to perform well at both ends of the ice.

Mitchell had a four-game points streak snapped in Friday’s 5-2 loss to the Griffins. He did pick up an assist at the BMO during Sunday’s 5-2 to Grand Rapids. In February, Mitchell has five goals and three assists.

A recent example of Mitchell’s surge came back on February 15, when he one-timed a late goal to tie Iowa. He then earned Rockford the third point with a successful shootout attempt.

The IceHogs have also gotten strong defensive play from Wyatt Kalynuk, Issac Phillips, Jakub Galvas, Alec Regula and Nicolas Beaudin. All six prospects have proven adept at forcing turnovers and jumping into the offensive rush.

 

Musings

  • It has proven difficult for the piglets to put together wins in recent seasons. Rockford’s four-in-a-row was the longest such streak since December of 2019. The Hogs managed that feat twice in the 2019-20 campaign.
  • Both losses to Grand Rapids this weekend came as a result of the Griffins breaking open tight games in the final frame. Rockford had tied the contest on Saturday with a Cameron Morrison goal early in the third, only to see Grand Rapids pull away with three scores.
  • Sunday’s loss stung because Rockford frittered away a 2-0 advantage in the final 40 minutes. Grand Rapids tied the game with a pair of goals in the second, then surrendered another three goals in the third.
  • The Blackhawks continue to shuffle players back and forth from Chicago to Rockford. Brett Connolly had a goal Sunday in his return to the IceHogs. Josiah Slavin was also reassigned to Rockford on Sunday.
  • The IceHogs recalled center Liam Folkes to Rockford from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel this morning. Folkes has been with the Fuel all season, with 11 points (5 G, 6 A) in 25 games.

 

This Week

The IceHogs travel to Iowa Friday for the first of a three-game weekend. Rockford then returns to the BMO Harris Bank Center Saturday and Sunday for two games with the Texas Stars.

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

 

Hockey

The NHL will be eliminating the taxi squad following this weekend. For goalie Cale Morris, it was both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the taxi squad garnered him an NHL entry contract. However, it came at a price.

The effects of spending nearly two months removed from game action were on full display Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Morris struggled mightily in a 4-2 loss to the Iowa Wild.

Hard to blame a guy who got his last start seven weeks before.

Rockford was finishing up a home-and-home weekend with Iowa on Saturday. Arvid Soderblom, who has been fantastic of late, had started the piglets last four contests, including a 4-2 victory in DesMoines Friday night. The organization must have felt it an opportune time to get their latest goalie prospect some time between the pipes.

To the surprise of no one, there was significant rust that needed shaking off.

Morris gave up four goals of varying softness on a night where the IceHogs out shot Iowa 35-22. Rockford controlled a large portion of the action Saturday but found themselves in a deep hole through 40 minutes.

A rebound left in front of Kyle Rau at the right post opened the scoring for the Wild 14:30 into the first period. Rockford continued to create scoring chances and was still in the game at the midway point. That’s when the bottom dropped out.

Marco Rossi entered the Rockford zone with Hogs defenseman Ian Mitchell defending him. Rossi’s perimeter shot beat Morris to the twine for a 2-0 Iowa advantage 11:38 into the second period. Morris let a puck tumble out of his glove to give Mason Shaw a power play goal at the 16:27 mark, then was victimized by a ill-timed Hogs turnover a minute later. Mitchell Chaffee converted on his wide-open look from the slot and Rockford’s fate was cast.

Morris did prevent a fifth Iowa goal in the third period, aided by facing just four Wild shots and spending the last five minutes on the bench while Rockford attempted a comeback with an extra skater.

Morris was excellent in his previous start with the IceHogs, a 2-1 victory over Henderson on December 11. The former Notre Dame goalie then returned to the Indy Fuel, where he had spent most of the 2021-22 season, for a pair of wins before the Blackhawks needed a goalie in the face of COVID. Morris was signed to a one-year entry deal on December 31 and was added to the taxi squad.

Being idle for the sake of filling a roster spot is not ideal for a goalie. Ask Collin Delia, who spent a good portion of last season twiddling his thumbs. Rockford faced veteran Andrew Hammond, who had sported a 2.01 GAA in nine starts before joining Minnesota’s taxi squad. Friday was his return to action after a month of watching and waiting. He gave up four goals to Rockford on 23 shots.

If I understand correctly, Morris would need to okay an assignment back to Indy as a player on an NHL contract. When Kevin Lankinen returns to Chicago from his hand injury, that may be the only way Morris gets the work in net he needs.

 

Weekend Musings

  • Friday and Saturday’s games were nearly mirror images of each other. Rockford built a four goal lead Friday, then weathered a big pushback effort from the Wild. The next night, the piglets were on the other side of the situation.
  • Since returning to action for Rockford on January 14, Arvid Soderblom has a 1.96 goals against average and a .967 save percentage while going 4-2-1. In his last five starts, he is sporting a 1.35 GAA and a .953 save percentage.
  • Rockford’s top scorers, Lukas Reichel (13 G, 16 A) and Dylan McLaughlin (6 G, 15 A), both had multi-point weekends. Reichel had a goal and an assist in Friday’s win and a beauty of an assist to Alec Regula in Saturday’s setback. McLaughlin had helpers in both games.
  • Ian Mitchell (5 G, 10 A) had his first two-goal performance as a pro with a pair of power play tallies Friday. Besides Reichel, the Hogs also got Evan Barratt’s first goal since his two-goal performance on December 1.
  • You know who played some decent hockey this weekend? Dimitri Osipov, who skated on a physical forward line with Garrett Mitchell and Kurtis Gabriel. He dished out some big hits as well as a sweet pass from the half boards to Reichel in the third period. The defenseman turned forward was noticeable in good ways in both games.
  • Rockford really needs some goal-scoring in the lineup. Perhaps the Blackhawks acquire some AHL depth as a trade throw-in down the road.
  • The Hogs have another home-and-home this weekend. This time, it’s with the Chicago Wolves. Rockford hosts Chicago Friday and visits Rosemont Saturday.

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

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have become quite familiar with overtime hockey of late. Following this weekend’s action, Rockford has needed extra skating to decide each of its last four games.

The IceHogs (16-14-3-1) have earned six of a possible eight standings points in that span, despite just four regulation goals. Rockford’s latest overtime thriller was a big shootout win Saturday in Chicago. The piglets were badly outshot (36-21) but still prevailed 1-0, winning the shootout 2-1 on successful attempts by Michal Teply and Lukas Reichel.

A big road win against the Central Division leaders provided a bit of redemption after a disappointing 2-1 overtime loss in Milwaukee the evening before. Rockford scored a single goal in the weekend jaunt but improved to third place in the division standings with a .529 points percentage.

Leading the way defensively for the Hogs was rookie goalie Arvid Soderblom, who received back-to-back starts for the first time this season. Soderblom denied 68 of the 69 shots he faced this weekend, shutting out the high-powered Wolves with 36 saves Saturday.

Rockford has also tightened down the net when down a man on the ice. The IceHogs penalty kill has not allowed a goal in their last 15 chances over this four-game overtime streak.

With a 5-3-2 mark in January, Rockford’s next action comes on February 2, hosting Milwaukee at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The Admirals are the division’s hottest team, having won six in a row.

Roster News

Defenseman Alec Regula missed two games with a bone bruise on his left leg, returning for Saturday’s win. Forward Cameron Morrison has been out the last seven games with a left hamstring injury. Dimitri Osipov has not played since receiving a game misconduct in Rockford’s January 21 game with Texas. Not sure if he is injured or sitting out while Kurtis Gabriel fills a similar role in the Hogs lineup.

A scary moment occurred late in Gus Macker Time Saturday when Lukas Reichel was checked in the offensive zone by Chicago’s Jamieson Rees. The Blackhawks top prospect was slow to get up and appeared to be favoring his right leg as he struggled off the ice.

Replays seemed to show Rees’ knee making contact just above Reichel’s right knee. Reichel remained on the Hogs bench and wound up potting the goal that won the shootout for Rockford.

Rees was not penalized for what, at first glance, looked like a knee-on-knee hit on Reichel. The contact was more incidental and looked a bit higher up on Reichel’s leg. Still, the organization may be holding its breath over the next couple of days.

 

Spare Thoughts

  • Despite helping Rockford win Saturday’s game, Reichel saw his seven-game point streak end in Rosemont. His is the longest such streak for a Hogs skater this season.
  • This weekend, the lone Rockford goal was the handiwork of Andrei Altybarmakian, who converted from the outside of the right circle in the first period against Milwaukee. Over his last ten games, Alrybarmakian has eight points (3 G, 5 A).
  • The Blackhawks continued shuttling players, sending defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk to Rockford on Friday. Kalynuk played for the Hogs in Saturday’s win, then was recalled by Chicago the following day.
  • Evan Barratt returned from a stretch on the AHL’s COVID protocols this weekend, though he did not make a dent on the scoresheet. Barratt’s last goal came on December 1, when he had a pair in a win over Milwaukee. Since that night, he’s managed just three assists in his last 15 games.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs earned a split in a two-game series with Cleveland this past weekend. Both teams picked up a win at the BMO Harris Bank Center-along with plenty of bruises.

The piglets, now 13-12-1-1 on the season, were in two of the more physical affairs of their 2021-22 season in the first half of the season series with Cleveland. In Friday’s contest, Rockford was able to handle the Monsters in the defensive zone, anchored by 33 saves by Arvid Soderblom. The IceHogs took the opener 5-2.

Saturday, Cleveland was even more aggressive, generating a lot of odd-man rushes at Collin Delia to the tune of a 5-2 second-period advantage. The Hogs rallied in the third and had chances to tie the game in the closing seconds, but wound up dropping a 5-4 decision.

 

Roster News

Following Saturday’s loss, the Blackhawks recalled G Cale Morris to the taxi squad, along with F Mike Hardman, who had a pair of goals over the weekend for Rockford.

Ian Mitchell played a big part in Friday’s win, was recalled to Chicago Saturday and subsequently sent back to Rockford. Also coming back to the IceHogs was rookie forward Lukas Reichel.

Both Chad Yetman and Brandon Pirri were on personal leave for the weekend.

Cameron Morrison was banged up in Friday’s game and did not play on Saturday. In his place was F Kale Howarth, who has recently come back from a shoulder injury.

 

Weekend Notes

  • Reichel and Pirri, two of the Hogs’ more prolific scorers of late, did not take part in the action this weekend. Despite this, Rockford was still able to get consistent scoring. It’s a good sign that the piglets can put points on the board after really struggling to do so in the first three months of the season.
  • Dylan McLaughlin is now on a four-game point streak. He had goals in both games this weekend and added a pair of assists in Friday’s win.
  • Hardman had a nice weekend in his return to the Hogs, with three points in the two games. He had a shorthanded goal after forcing a turnover on Friday, then added a power-play goal and assist Saturday.
  • Former IceHogs captain Tyler Sikura skated in both games for Cleveland, recording an assist on Saturday. In 29 games with the Monsters this season, Sikura The Elder has six goals and eight helpers.
  • Wyatt Kalynuk picked up a power play goal to kick off the scoring for Rockford on Friday. He had a spirited bout with Trey Fix-Wolansky late in that game. Kalynuk landed several punches to the helmet of his Monsters opponent, yet it was Fix-Wolansky who sat out Saturday’s rematch with a sore hand.
  • Two more Rockford skaters picked up their first goals of the 2021-22 campaign. Both came on Saturday night when Dimitri Osipov and Nicolas Beaudin both drew cord.
  • Osipov, who is being used as a forward for the first time this season, had one of his better games despite the loss Saturday. He was as involved on the offensive end as he has been all season and still was able to throw his weight around with several big hits.
  • Defenseman Alec Regula picked up assists on all four IceHogs goals in Saturday’s loss.
  • Collin Delia did not receive the same support in the Hogs zone Saturday as Soderblom had the previous evening. Coming into the contest, Delia was sporting a 1.01 goals against average and a .969 save percentage in his last four starts. However, he found himself struggling to stop the waves of Monsters bearing down on him.
  • The Hogs win streak ends at three games, matching a season-high that was set back in December. Rockford has not won four in a row since November 29-December 6 of 2019.

 

This Week

The IceHogs host Chicago Monday afternoon as the home stand continues. The Texas Stars arrive on Friday and Saturday for a weekend set.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have two major problems ten games into the 2021-22 campaign:

  1. They have problems getting shots.
  2. They have problems preventing shots.

The piglets 3-6-1 record and status as cellar-dwellers in the AHL’s Western Conference can be easily explained with a look at the stat sheet. Rockford is badly outshot on a nightly basis and gives up tons of chances from close range.

The IceHogs are dead last in the league in both shots taken (21.50) and shots allowed (37.40) per game. Rockford is being outshot in the first period 134-68. When your opponent gets double the pucks to the net to open play, it’s easy to dig yourself into a hole.

Friday night, the Hogs took on the visiting Chicago Wolves, who were at the top of the AHL’s Central Division entering the contest. Rockford mustered a single shot on goal midway through the opening frame-Brett Connolly’s offering from the outside of the right circle.

Chicago, on the other hand, went up 3-0 after peppering rookie goalie Arvid Soderblom with 16 shots. The IceHogs skated to the locker room to a chorus of boos.

Rockford is 1-3 four games into a five-game home stand. They are off until this weekend, when they have a home-and-away with the same Wolves who spanked them so thoroughly Friday night.

 

Musings

  • The goalie rotation of Arvid Soderblom, Malcom Subban, and Collin Delia has been shortened to Soderblom and Subban. Delia has not dressed for Rockford since the Hogs returned home from Texas.
  • Wyatt Kalynuk made his season debut for Rockford Wednesday after the Blackhawks assigned him to the Hogs the day before. His goal against the Wild was the first for an IceHogs defenseman this season. It is also the only one.
  • Hogs defenseman Alec Regula made his season debut Friday after missing most of the last six weeks with a back issue.
  • Defenseman Issak Phillips was returned to Rockford Wednesday after being removed from COVID protocol, but did not play this week.
  • Defenseman Cliff Watson was loaned to the Indy Fuel on Thursday.
  • Forward Chris Wilkie, who tied for the team lead in goals (eight) last season and was fourth in points (13), was traded to the Belleville Senators on Saturday for future considerations. Wilkie was scoreless in his only game with Rockford on October 30. However, he had a goal and an assist in his debut with the Senators, a 3-2 win over Bridgeport Saturday night.
  • I caught my first action at the BMO Wednesday night. The ice looked great. The paper towel dispensers must be getting repaired in the next wave of renovations.

 

Hey There, Indy…’Sup?

The IceHogs have many contracted players with the Fuel…how are they faring?

Well, the Fuel finished a five-game road trip Sunday. Indy was 0-4-0-1 on the jaunt, which concluded with a 7-4 loss to Toledo. The Fuel are 2-6-0-1 overall and in the basement of the ECHL’s Central Division.

Chad Yetman leads Indy in scoring with nine points (3 G, 6 A). Riley McKay (2 G, 3 A) and Liam Folkes (3 G, 1 A) are also contributors for the Fuel in the early going. Kale Howarth, who began the season with an injury, had a pair of goals Sunday in the loss. Watson (3 A in four games and Jacob Leguerrier (one goal in six games) are Rockford contracts on the blueline.

Cale Morris has seen the bulk of the work in net, appearing in seven of Indy’s nine games. He is currently 1-3-0-1, with a 2.97 GAA and an .894 save percentage. Tom Aubrun, in his first start of the season, gave up seven goals in a 7-2 loss to Kalamazoo Saturday night.

(Note: How’s this for a fun road weekend? Indy was in Coralville Friday night, losing 5-3 to the Iowa Heartlanders. Then, they drove six-plus hours to Kalamazoo to get blown out by the Wings Saturday. Then, a couple of hours east to lose to the Walleye. Ouch.)

Recaps

Wednesday, November 10-Iowa 4, Rockford 3 (OT)

The IceHogs were seconds away from their first winning streak of the 2021-22 season Wednesday night. Unfortunately for Rockford, the Wild rallied to force Gus Macker Time, then handed the Hogs a tough loss.

Iowa scored first, getting a Dakota Mermis goal 11:15 into the game. However, the IceHogs special teams put Rockford in the lead heading into the intermission.

Brett Connolly one-timed a Josiah Slavin pass from the slot to convert on the man advantage at 15:15 of the first period. Two minutes later, Connolly started a shorthanded rush up the ice with Carson Gicewicz in the box for slashing. Ian Mitchell and Slavin reached Wild goalie Dereck Baribeau with no defender in front of them. Slavin’s third goal of the season had the Hogs up 2-1 at the break.

The Wild evened the score on Connor Dewar’s goal 3:21 into the second stanza. The score remained tied until Wyatt Kalynuk sent a slap shot from the left point 8:12 into the third. Rockford limited the Iowa offense for most of the final frame until Wild coach Tim Army brought Baribeau to the bench in favor of an extra skater.

Hogs goaltender Malcolm Subban was able to keep shots by Mason Shaw and Swaney out of the net as the final minute ticked away. However, Swaney was able to put back his own rebound past Subban with 26 seconds left to set up overtime.

With Connelly in the box for tripping, Joe Hicketts sent home the game-winner with the Wild on a 4-on-3 power play 3:53 into the extra session. Subban was a hard-luck loser, stopping 39 Iowa shots as the IceHogs were outshot 43-21.

The win put a damper on the performance of veteran Connolly, who had a three-point (1 G, 2 A) effort spoiled by Iowa’s late heroics.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Josiah Slavin-Lukas Reichel-Brett Connolly

Alexander Nylander-Dylan McLaughlin-Andrei Altybarmakian

Jakub Pour-Carson Gicewicz-D.J. Busdeker

Cameron Morrison-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dmitri Osipov

Nicolas Beaudin-Ian Mitchell

Jakub Galvas-Wyatt Kalynuk

Ryan Stanton (A)-Cliff Watson

Malcom Subban

Arvid Soderblom

 

Friday, November 12-Chicago 4, Rockford 1

The Wolves opened up a three-goal lead on the overmatched Hogs, who were never in the game.

The beating commenced from the opening faceoff. The Wolves scored 49 seconds into the contest, taking a 1-0 after Andrew Poturalski nabbed a backhand pass from Stefan Noesen and got behind a stick-less Wyatt Kalynuk. Poturalski easily maneuvered the puck past Hogs goalie Arvid Soderblom to open the scoring.

Chicago wasn’t finished in the opening period. Noesen got in on the goal-scoring at the eleven-minute mark, redirecting a Max Lejoie shot from the point past Soderblom while on the man advantage. A long shot by Eric Gelinas caught twine 17: 05 into the first period, sending the IceHogs to the locker room down three 3-0.

It was largely academic for the final 40 minutes.  The IceHogs, who were out shot 16-1 in the first period, couldn’t get much going. For the night, Chicago sent 34 pucks to the net. The IceHogs finished with 19 shots on goal.

Rockford’s Brett Connolly pushed his scoring streak to five games, sending a wrist shot from the right circle past Chicago goalie Eetu Makiniemi to spoil the shutout bid. Kalynuk and Josiah Slavin assisted on the power play strike at 16:31 of the third period, making it 3-1 Wolves. Chicago closed out the scoring with an empty net goal by Maxim Letunov.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Josiah Slavin-Lucas Reichel-Brett Connolly (A)

Cameron Morrison-Dylan McLaughlin-Alexander Nylander

Jakub Pour-Carson Gicewicz-Michal Teply

Evan Barratt-Garrett Mitchell (A)-D.J. Busdeker

Jakub Galvas-Ian Mitchell

Wyatt Kalynuk-Alec Regula

Ryan Stanton-Micheal Krutil

Arvid Soderblom

Malcom Subban

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

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs faced a stiff challenge to open the 2021-22 season. The Blackhawks AHL franchise had a pair of tough road opponents on tap over the weekend in Grand Rapids and Chicago. I thought a split of the first two games would be just fine in my book.

Well…the piglets got that split. Rockford dropped a 6-1 decision to the Griffins Friday night, then rallied to defeat the Wolves 5-3 in Rosemont on Saturday.

Heading into the second period with Chicago, fans had a right to be concerned with the way the offense was faring. The passing looked off by just a bit and the Hogs seemed to be getting used to the lines set out by head coach Derek King.

Four unanswered goals in the next two periods gave cause for hope.

Rockford wasn’t moving the puck around the zone like the Wolves were for most of the evening on Saturday. However, they did make the most of some turnovers and counterpunched their way to a big win over their biggest division rival.

A few other observations of the opening weekend:

  • Lucas Reichel picked up his first AHL goal Saturday on a fine effort, bringing a puck into the Chicago zone and streaking past the Wolves defense. Reichel skated with Alex Nylander and Mike Hardman all weekend; the combo could prove quite productive as Reichel gets used to his line mates.
  • We got a glimpse or two of the skill Nylander brings to Rockford. He missed a breakaway attempt in Grand Rapids, but chased down a puck into the Wolves zone the following night and stickhandled it into the back of the net for the eventual game-winner.
  • Dmitri Osipov made his season debut Saturday…at forward. He did spend most of the latter half of the game on defense when the Hogs became short handed on the blue line.
  • Osipov was in the lineup in place of Andrei Altybarmakian, who played Friday night. Osipov, captain Garrett Mitchell, alternate captain Ryan Stanton, and defenseman Michael Krutil were the only AHL contracts on the ice this weekend. Dylan McLaughlin, who led the Hogs in scoring last season, did not see action on opening weekend.
  • Also inactive this weekend was Alec Regula, who the Blackhawks assigned to Rockford on Thursday. The Big Regu had been on injured reserve with a back issue; perhaps he’ll be ready to skate in Iowa this weekend.
  • Malcom Subban and Arvid Soderblom were King’s goalies of choice this weekend. Subban gave up six goals on 24 Griffins shots. Soderblom got his AHL career off to a promising start with a 40-save performance against the Wolves. Each goalie served as the other’s backup.
  • Collin Delia and Cale Morris were not used this past weekend. Four goalies is too many for the Hogs to be carrying. Delia was the odd man out in Chicago for the bulk of the season. Does this carry over in Rockford?
  • Subban is the obvious experienced goalie to be recalled if necessary. Soderblom could earn a call up if he continues to play well. They need to be getting most of the work in net. Where does that leave Delia? He’s a fan favorite in Rockford, but the Hogs don’t open the season at the BMO Harris Bank Center until November 6. Will he be around by that time?

 

Krys Injured

Chad Krys, who played just six games a season ago, was in the lineup in both games this weekend. Unfortunately, he may be facing more time off the ice after a collision with Chicago’s David Cotton late in the first period Saturday night.

Krys was trying to intercept Cotton as he drove toward the Hogs net. The Wolves forward was knocked down on Ryan Stanton’s backcheck attempt. The sliding Cotton took Krys down with him. It appeared that Krys’s knee took the brunt of the accidental hit.

Krys got up and hopped off the ice to the Rockford locker room. He was not putting any weight on his right leg and did not return to the game.

Krys, a second-round selection by the Hawks in the 2016 NHL Draft, is in the final year of his entry deal. He played 45 games (2 G, 6 A) in his rookie campaign before the season came to an abrupt end. Last season came and went without much action due to some injuries.

It looked as if Krys was going to get some early time in the lineup this season to showcase his game due to injuries to Caleb Jones and Wyatt Kalynuk. Now he may be looking at missing some extended time himself.

 

Recaps

Friday, October 15-Grand Rapids 6, Rockford 1

The season got underway in less than impressive fashion, with the Griffins breaking open a close game in the second stanza and handing the Hogs the loss.

The Griffins converted on a power play set up by an interference penalty by Ryan Stanton. Joe Veleno skated into the slot and fired past Hogs goalie Malcom Subban at the 7:48 mark.

The first Rockford goal of the season came on a put-back effort by Josiah Slavin 14:52 into the opening frame. Slavin’s attempt at a redirect of Nicolas Beaudin’s point shot was turned aside by Grand Rapids goalie Calvin Pickard. However, Cameron Morrison knocked the rebound back to the crease, where Slavin steered it across the goal line. The teams skated into the intermission tied at a goal apiece.

The Griffins took a 3-1 lead early in the second period on goals sixty-six seconds apart by Tyler Spezia and Turner Elson. Rockford had some impressive stretches of puck possession in the second stanza, but it did not show up on the scoreboard. Hayden Verbeek gave Grand Rapids a 4-1 advantage at the 17:11 mark, and the IceHogs found themselves down a three-spot heading into the final 20 minutes.

Things got worse in the third period, with the Griffins adding a pair of goals by Chase Pearson and Dennis Yan. The Hogs and Grand Rapids each had 24 shots on goal, but Rockford just didn’t have it at either end of the ice.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Jakub Pour-Reese Johnson (A)-Brett Connolly

Alex Nylander-Lucas Reichel-Mike Hardman

Michal Teply-Josiah Slavin-Cameron Morrison

Evan Barratt-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Andrei Altybarmakian

Ryan Stanton (A)-Jakub Galvas

Nicolas Beaudin-Issak Phillips

Chad Krys-Michael Krutil

Malcom Subban

Arvid Soderblom

Saturday, October 16-Rockford 5, Chicago 3

Rockford was able to rally from a two-goal deficit as the offense roared to life at Allstate Arena. Hogs rookie goalie Arvid Soderblom sent away 40 shots to nab First Star honors and pick up the victory in his AHL debut.

The Wolves dominated the opening twenty, outshooting Rockford 16-3.  Miraculously, Soderblom and the IceHogs kept the game scoreless until Chicago got a power play goal from C.J. Smith 18 seconds into the second period. The Wolves added a shorthanded goal by Ryan Suzuki a few minutes later, putting them up 2-0 before the Hogs offense would get to work.

Rockford got on the board at 6:48 of the second, when Garrett Mitchell forced a turnover between the circles in the Chicago zone. He backhanded a pass to Evan Barratt, who wristed home his first goal of the season to cut the lead to one.

The IceHogs got the equalizer from rookie Lucas Reichel. Reichel took a pass from Josiah Slavin, skated to the doorstep, and flipped the puck at Wolves goalie Alex Lyon. The shot bounced off of Lyon’s glove and tumbled into the Chicago basket at the 14:21 mark.

Brett Connolly struck on an odd-man rush, converting on a fine pass from Cameron Morrison, giving the Hogs a 3-2 advantage 15:20 into the second. The play was set up by a defensive zone faceoff win by Reese Johnson. Jacob Galvas got the puck out of the Hogs zone to Morrison to pick up the secondary assist.

Rockford went up 4-2 on the first of two goals by Alex Nylander. The forward chased down a exit pass by Mike Hardman into the Wolves zone behind the defense and deked Lyon 5:46 into the third period.

The Wolves closed the gap to 4-3 on a power play goal by Eric Gelinas with 5:46 remaining, but an empty netter by Nylander sealed the contest for the IceHogs. Nylander, Reichel (1 G, 1 A) and Hardman (2 A) all had multi-point evenings for Rockford.

Chad Krys left the game late in the first period favoring his right leg. He did not return to action.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Cameron Morrison-Josiah Slavin-Michal Teply

Jakub Pour-Reese Johnson (A)-Brett Connolly

Mike Hardman-Lucas Reichel-Alex Nylander

Evan Barratt-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dmitri Osipov

Issak Phillips-Nicolas Beaudin

Ryan Stanton-Chad Krys

Jakub Galvas-Michael Krutil

Arvid Soderblom

Malcom Subban

 

This Weekend

Rockford will be in DesMoines Friday and Saturday for two games with the Iowa Wild. I’ll be previewing that weekend trip on Friday.

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

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs, now owned and operated by the Chicago Blackhawks, will continue their youth movement at defense. There are plenty of familiar faces among the prospects. They will be led into the 2021-22 campaign by another one.

On August 4, the Blackhawks secured the services of Ryan Stanton via an AHL contract. Stanton spent his first three professional seasons in Rockford, starting in the 2010-11 campaign. Hogs coach Derek King was more than pleased with the pickup.

“Exactly what we needed,” King told Rockford broadcaster Joseph Zakrzewski after learning of the acquisition. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about this guy. I had a nice conversation with him and I think he’s going to be a perfect fit for this organization.”

The reason Stanton will come in handy this season is the departure of Cody Franson, who anchored the blueline last season and is now playing for Hershey. Franson put up 17 points (4 G, 13 A) in 26 games with Rockford.

Stanton was a prospect himself in his first stint with the Hogs. He is now at the other end of the spectrum; a 32-year old blueliner entering his twelfth season in pro hockey, Stanton has spent time with six NHL organizations.

His best Hogs campaign came in 2012-13. Stanton skated in 73 games for Rockford, with three goals and 22 assists. The following fall, Chicago tried to sneak him through waivers and he was nabbed by the Canucks. Stanton spent two years with Vancouver, where he played 118 of his 120 career NHL games. He has 514 AHL tilts under his belt, spending last season on an AHL contract with Bakersfield.

With the Condors, Stanton was cast in a similar leadership role that he’s being asked to play with the IceHogs. In 35 games, he had 13 points (1 G, 12 A). Stanton had a 20 point (5 G, 15 A in 65 games) effort with Bakersfield in 2018-19, the last full AHL season.

Stanton probably doesn’t put up offensive numbers like Franson is capable of producing. However, he should chip in and solidify the back end with a physical, defense-first game. It should be to Rockford’s benefit. With fellow AHL teammate Dmitri Osipov being converted to forward this season, the IceHogs can use what Stanton brings to the table.

Stanton will be mentoring a young crop of prospects that may be cycling back and forth between Chicago and Rockford. Wyatt Kalynuk will start the season with the Hawks, as he is currently injured and can’t be sent to the AHL until healthy.

Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin, and Jakub Galvas are players who will be trying to become permanent NHL defensemen this season. It’s likely that each will have plenty of ice time in Rockford.

At least one of this trio is probably beginning the season in Chicago. With news that Caleb Jones will be out up to six weeks with a wrist injury, all three could remain in Chicago. Mitchell and Beaudin both had time with the Blackhawks in 2020-21. Galvas has a couple of years of experience in the top professional Czech league and has impressed the brass with his play.

Two young prospects who are looking to move up the ladder are Alec Regula and Issak Phillips. Regula was the prospect many fans were interested in seeing develop at the beginning of the 2021-22 season. He appeared in just 16 games with the IceHogs due to some injuries. However, he did earn a call-up late in Chicago’s season.

Phillips, on the other hand, was off the radar heading into last season because he wasn’t expected to be around long. Starting the season on an amateur tryout, Phillips was in a position to take advantage of being allowed to skate in the AHL when his junior season was canceled.

Phillips posted a pair of goals to go with seven helpers in 27 games with the IceHogs last season, earning his entry contract with Chicago. Both Phillips and Regula are big defensemen who could help the Blackhawks in a couple of years. Filling out and continuing to learn the pro game will be priorities for both players.

Injuries limited former second-round pick Chad Krys to six games in Rockford in 2020-21. Entering the final year of his entry deal, Krys may have a tough time finding a regular spot in the IceHogs lineup. With Kalynuk out for the first few weeks of action, Krys needs to make an impact early.

In addition to Stanton, Rockford has a couple of players signed to AHL contracts. Michael Krutil was signed last season, appearing in 21 games with the IceHogs. He’s still just 19, but is another bigger body at 6’3″ and 203 pounds. He’ll be playing to earn an NHL entry deal from Chicago.

Cliff Watson was signed to several PTO contracts by Rockford last season, appearing in eight contests. He was signed to an AHL deal this summer, though he will probably spend most of his time with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel.

On Thursday, the IceHogs announced that they had signed Jacob LeGuerrier to an AHL contract. LeGuerrier was scoreless in four games for the Laval Rocket in 2020-21.

Rockford surrendered 3.59 goals per game in a 32-game slate last season. The piglets were overmatched everywhere on the ice in 2020-21 and there was a fair share of breakdowns from a green defensive corps. Most of the lineup is another year older and (hopefully) wiser. With Stanton being the lone veteran penciled into the Hogs pairings, the kids are going to hold up their end in order for Rockford to see improvement defensively.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my thoughts and coverage of the IceHogs all season long. Next week, I’ll offer up a look at the forwards.