Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, have been at home for most of the last three weeks. They made the most of the extended time in their own barn.

The Hogs had nine of their last ten games at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Their record at home during that stretch was 7-2. That includes a thrilling finish to the home stand this weekend.

Rockford had dropped two games in a row heading into the weekend and found themselves down 4-0 Saturday night against visiting Iowa. The piglets roared back into contention to force a shootout and bested the Wild, then finished the weekend with a win over San Antonio.

The IceHogs are now 25-21-3-5 on the season. The pendulum swings the other way for Rockford, who are on the road for seven of its next eight games. The current jaunt begins in Grand Rapids, where the Central Division leaders are 20-5-1-3 this season. The Griffins have won eight of the last tilts at Van Andel Arena; Rockford is 1-2 in Grand Rapids this season.

From there, the Hogs go East to take on Hershey on Saturday and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Sunday. Rockford has home victories in prior meetings with the Bears and Penguins.



  • Kevin Lankinen was in net for all three of Rockford’s games this week, including work on back-to-back nights. The rookie has proved himself this season, sporting a 2.47 GAA and a .911 save percentage despite a 7-6-3 record. If Lankinen needed to carry the load in net for Rockford, it appears that he would be up to the task.
  • On the other hand, why has Anton Forsberg been glued to the bench? There’s the possibility that Collin Delia could be back in Rockford sometime soon and would likely get a bigger share of the starts. Could Forsberg be sitting while a deal to send him out of town is made?
  • Luke Johnson has stepped up his play the last few weeks, with two-point efforts in both weekend games. Johnson’s shooting percentage is 17.5, the highest of the active IceHogs skaters. Right behind him is Jacob Nilsson, who hits nets at a 17.1 percent rate.
  • In contrast to Johnson and Nilsson, two guys who have difficulty converting on their opportunities are Alexandre Fortin and Graham Knott. Both create some decent scoring chances with speed (Fortin) and hustle (Knott). The problem is that those chances don’t cue many horns.
  • Saturday night, Fortin was sprung for a breakaway chance early in the contest. As happens with frequency, he was not able to put an effective shot on net. This has been a consistent problem with the speedy forward. Fortin has 29 games in Rockford and has nine points (4 G, 5 A) to show for it. In 33 games, Johnson has collected 22 points (11 G, 11 A).
  • In fairness to Fortin, his 8.2 shooting percentage is nearly double last year’s effort. He is a plus-seven this season, highest on the squad. You can still see plenty of potential in his game. Sooner or later, however, the kid’s got to knock the cover off of the net.
  • Knott, who like Fortin has another year on his entry deal, is going to better his rookie numbers. His passing has been more noticeable in the offensive end and two of his three goals are game-winners. Aside from the penalty kill, Knott has yet to really stand out in any area of the game. How much higher is the ceiling on Chicago’s second-round pick from 2015?
  • Henri Jokiharju is not long for Rockford; I would imagine he’ll be back in Chicago by the beginning of next month. In eight games with the Hogs, he has seven points (1 G, 6 A). He is also creating a slew of scoring opportunities from the point. Jokiharju is averaging nearly four shots a game and is making an impact since being assigned to Rockford.
  • Jordan Schroeder is emerging as the team MVP. The 28-year-old forward leads the IceHogs in goals (14), assists (19) and points (33). Schroeder’s five-game point streak came to a close on Tuesday in a 3-2 loss to Texas. However, he had a pair of goals in Saturday’s comeback win on the way to a four-point weekend.
  • Rockford’s power play had scored in five straight games before coming up empty Sunday against San Antonio. However, the Hogs (15.3 percent) are still 30th out of 31 teams on the man advantage. The penalty kill has slipped a bit, to 80.8 percent. That’s good for 17th in the AHL.
  • The Rockford offense is still the worst in the league, with an average of 2.46 goals per game. However, over this last ten-game stretch, the Hogs have scored 3.50 goals per game.
  • Simply put, if Rockford can get three goals, they have an excellent chance of winning. There’s still a lot of battle in these kids and the defense and goalie play are going to keep them in games.


Roster News

There hasn’t really been any roster activity this week. Brandon Davidson returned from injury Sunday. He scored the game-winner against the Rampage after being out for nine games. Blake Hillman also rejoined the lineup Saturday after missing five games.

Nathan Noel’s last game was back on January 12. Tyler Sikura’s thumb has kept him out of the lineup since January 6. Terry Broadhust was a late scratch on Sunday; no word as to his status for this week.

Matthew Highmore, who had shoulder surgery back in November, is practicing with the team. A return from the second-year forward could provide a big boost to the Hogs playoff hopes.



Tuesday, February 12-Texas 3, Rockford 2

The Hogs dropped their second straight game as the Stars inched closer to Rockford in the Central Division standings.

Texas drew first cord late in the opening period. The goal came from Park Ridge native Michael Mersch, who sent a deflection past Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen at the 17:10 mark.

The IceHogs narrowly avoided a shorthanded goal against them early in the second period, then came down the ice to tie the contest. Luke Johnson brought the puck out of the Hogs zone after Lankinen stopped a Justin Dowling attempt. Making his way to the opposite coast, Johnson maneuvered between the circles and passed to Henri Jokiharu.

Jokiharu’s shot rebounded off the pads of Texas goalie Phillipe Derosiers, where Johnson had first dibs. The putback was denied, but Jacob Nilsson finished off the scoring play by knocking the puck across the border and into the city. The game was tied at one 2:37 into the second.

The Stars responded with a pair of power play goals of their own to build a 3-1 advantage. Travis Morin added to his hefty scoring totals against Rockford at 6:51 of the second, while rookie Joel L’Esperance put in his league-leading 27th goal of the season 3:31 into the third period.

The IceHogs rallied for a Viktor Ejdsell strike with Lankinen on the bench at the 16:51 mark, but Rockford ran out of clock before they could finish the comeback.


Saturday, February 16-Rockford 5, Iowa 4 (SO)

In what just may have been the game to see at the BMO this season, Rockford erased a four-goal deficit in the last 21:32 of action. The Hogs triumphed over the Wild to break a two-game skid in exciting fashion.

The Wild skated into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead courtesy of Brennan Menell’s deflection of Cal O’Reilly’s shot 18:36 into the first period. Goals by J.T. Brown and Sam Anas in the first two minutes of the middle frame had the IceHogs reeling and down three. A Gerald Mayhew tally 16:34 into the second had Iowa leading 4-0 and the outcome seemed academic.

The rally started on a late power play chance, after William Pelletier was cross-checked by Iowa’s Michael Kapla. Luke Johnson won the subsequent draw, with Jacob Nilsson sliding the disc to Jordan Schroeder in the high slot. The offering beat Wild rookie Kaapo Kahkonen’s glove and caught the upper right corner of the net at 18:28 of the second period.

Down 4-1 to start the third period, the piglets came out with some urgency for the first time all evening. Johnson got to the left post to redirect a Henri Jokiharu blast into the Iowa cage 4:38 into the third period. The secondary assist was given to Andrew Campbell, who made a nice play to keep a Wild clearing attempt in the offensive zone.

Midway through the third, Nilsson dropped the puck off to Jokiharju, who skated to the right corner of the Iowa zone and center to Schroeder for his second goal of the night. With 9:10 left in regulation, the Hogs had cut the lead to 4-3.

The much-anticipated equalizer came after Rockford had come up short on a power play. After the Wild’s Mason Shaw came out of the box. Viktor Ejdsell withstood a hard check along the half boards to keep possession. Andreas Martinsen got clear with the puck and sent a pass across the ice to Joni Tuulola at the left dot. Tuulola’s shot cleared the blocker of Kahkonen and rattled into the net at the 15:59 mark.

Neither team could breach the opposing goal in the remainder of regulation or overtime. This comeback would have to be completed via the shootout. Jokiharu and Schroeder were stopped by Kahkonen. Sam Anas and Dimitri Sokolov were denied by Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen.

Ejdsell’s third-round attempt would be the pivotal moment. The shot met Kahkonen’s pads but still retained the giddy-up to slide across the goal line. Mayhew’s attempt was snuffed out by Lankinen and the BMO erupted in celebration.


Sunday, February 17-Rockford 5, San Antonio 2

The IceHogs won their second straight game, closing out a six-game home stand with a 4-2 mark.

Rockford got the first goal of the game late in the opening period. Nifty backhand passing by William Pelletier and Andreas Martinsen set up Luke Johnson coming across the Rampage crease. Johnson was able to wait out San Antonio goalie Jared Coreau and slide in his eleventh goal of the season at the 16:33 mark.

The Hogs doubled the lead early in the second period when Dennis Gilbert got off a long pass to Jordan Schroeder coming into the Rampage zone. Schroeder skated to the right circle and let fly with a lamp-lighter for a 2-0 advantage at the 1:02 mark.

San Antonio got a goal back at 3:54 of the period when Adam Musil sent a shot past Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen. A couple of minutes later, Mitch Reinke sent a shot off of Lankinen. Joey LaLeggia got a hold of the rebound and banked in the equalizer off of the Hogs rookie.

The score remained knotted at two through the second intermission, until the IceHogs got a goal from returning defenseman Brandon Davidson. Davidson crashed the Rampage net to follow up on a Nilsson attempt. Collecting the rebound, Davidson stuffed the puck past Coreau at 4:51 of the third period to put Rockford up 3-2.

San Antonio went with an empty net for most of the final minutes, allowing William Pelletier and Nick Moutrey the chance to send the BMO faithful home with free Culvers and wrap up a weekend sweep.

If the feeling moves you, follow me @JonFromi on twitter for news, updates and thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.





Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, like their parent organization, are currently riding a four-game winning streak. The Blackhawks AHL affiliate put together a pair of victories over the weekend; the current streak is the longest of the 2018-19 campaign for the Hogs.

Following Saturday’s overtime win in Milwaukee, Rockford has six straight games at the BMO Harris Bank Center over the next two weeks. The IceHogs have been much better in their own building this season, with a .568 home points percentage versus a .481 mark on the road. If there is an opportune time to make a push up the Central Division standings, it is now.

At press time, Rockford (21-19-3-5) is in seventh place in the division standings with a .521 points percentage. The Hogs sit right behind San Antonio (.522) and are withing striking distance of Texas and Milwaukee, who occupies the fourth playoff spot in the Central.


Roster Activity

On Tuesday, forward Brett Welychka was recalled from the Indy Fuel. Welychka, whose last game in Rockford was November 20, skated for the Hogs in Milwaukee Saturday night.

A bigger move was make on Wednesday, with defenseman Henri Jokiharju coming to Rockford from the Blackhawks. The 19-year-old rookie was very noticable over the weekend. Jokiharju picked up his first goal twelve minutes into his Hogs debut Friday, then led Rockford with nine shots on goal against the Admirals Saturday.

Jokiharju’s arrival comes at a good time. Joni Tuulola has been out of the lineup the last few weeks. Luc Snuggerud hasn’t played for almost three months. Brandon Davidson last played on January 21. Blake Hillman took a nasty fall into the boards Friday night. The team has indicated that Hillman, who did not skate Saturday, wasn’t seriously hurt.

That’s good news, but the fact is that the blueline is still banged up. Rockford can benefit from a talented puck-mover like Jokiharju as they try and pick up points in the coming weeks.


Hogs Of Note

William Pelletier had goals in both wins this weekend. In 16 games since returning from offseason surgery, the 5’7” forward has four goals and four assists. He’s also a plus-seven in those games.

Terry Broadhurst has a five-game point streak going and chipped in with a pair of helpers in Friday’s win. He also assisted on Pelletier’s goal on Saturday night.

Rookie Lucas Carlsson was paired with Jokiharju on Friday to form what could be an exciting duo in the coming weeks. Carlsson has points in his last four games. In his last four contests, Luke Johnson has four points (2 G, 2 A).

Until the roster is changed through trade or assignments by the Blackhawks, Rockford needs contributions throughout the lineup. The Hogs have managed to put together some solid team efforts in the course of the four-game winning streak.


Friday, February 1-Rockford 5, Chicago 2

The IceHogs matched a season high in picking up their third win in a row. A trio of second-period goals paved the way for the victory in this Illinois Lottery Cup tilt.

Chicago’s Daniel Carr got the Wolves on the board 3:13 into the contest with his 22nd goal of the season. That lead survived until the 12:30 mark, when Henri Jokiharju drew cord for his first North American professional goal.

Jordan Schroeder fed Jokiharju for an initial attempt from the right point. That shot did not get through, striking Jacob Nilsson and coming back out to the rookie defenseman. The second offering got by Wolves goalie Oscar Dansk and into the net.

Rockford took a 2-1 advantage on an Alexandre Fortin goal 2:54 into the second period, then doubled that lead a few minutes later. William Pelletier got open in the slot and punched Terry Broadhurst’s centering pass off the right post and into the cage at the 6:19 mark.

In the 12th minute, Viktor Ejdsell got control of a loose puck in the Wolves zone, skated to the slot and sent an attempt off the pads of Dansk. Ejdsell gathered in his own rebound and sent a successful shot past Dansk to make it 4-1 Rockford. At that point, Dansk gave way to backup Zach Fucale.

Chicago got a power play goal from Gage Quinney late in the period, but that was as close as the game got. Fortin added his second goal of the evening with an empty netter in the final minute.

Rockford defenseman Blake Hillman took a head-first spill behind the boards in the first period and was taken from the ice to the locker room. The Hogs played with five defensemen the rest of the way.


Saturday, February 2-Rockford 3, Milwaukee 2 (OT)

For over 40 minutes, the game was a scoreless affair, something that has been typical of the action with Milwaukee this season. The Hogs let a two-goal lead slip away in the third period but regrouped to post a fourth-straight victory.

The first goal of the contest came 2:40 into the third period. Andreas Martinsen hauled in a pass from Darren Raddysh behind the Ads net. Martinsen powered to the front of the net before he lost the handle on the puck. Dylan Sikura was on hand to throw the biscuit past Milwaukee goalie Troy Groesnick for the lead.

Rockford went up 2-0 midway through the final frame on a bit of good fortune. Alexandre Fortin hustled to negate an icing call on the Hogs, then slid the puck behind the Admirals net. Terry Broadhurst sent it to the left circle; Lucas Carlsson got a stick on it before William Pelletier got control. The subsequent backhand centering attempt glanced off of the skate of Milwaukee’s Scott Savage and past Grosenick at 12:18 of the third.

The Ads had plenty of fight left, rallying to tie the game with late goals by Eeli Tolvanen and Yakov Trenin, who redirected a Vince Perdie blast between the pads of Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg with 43 seconds left in regulation.

Rockford had the last say in this one. In Gus Macker Time, Jordan Schroeder brought the puck into the Milwaukee zone and was able to wait for his fellow Hogs to get into position. Schroeder hit Raddysh coming into the right slot. Raddysh lifted a shot over Grosenick’s glove to end the contest in favor of the IceHogs.


Coming Up

The IceHogs have a couple of non-divisional opponents visiting the BMO this week. First up is Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, who comes a-calling on Wednesday night. Tucson arrives for a two-game weekend set Friday and Saturday.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my Hogs-related musings throughout the season.






Everything Else

Like many of you, weather and work kept me away from the BMO this weekend. I pledged to pack in an hour of Hogs-related musings. The clock starts…now.

First off, the kids down in Rockford put together a gritty weekend at home and came out with a pair of victories. Friday night, the IceHogs tied the game with a Jordan Schroeder goal with three seconds in regulation, completing a comeback from two goals down in the final two minutes with a 4-3 shootout win over Manitoba.

On Saturday, Rockford hosted Iowa. The Hogs got enough rubber past Kaapo Kahkonen knock off the Wild 3-1. The game-winner came off the stick of Terry Broadhurst early in the third period. First star of that game was Anton Forsberg, who stopped 33 of 34 Iowa shots.

So…for the sixth time this season, the IceHogs have a two-game win streak. Plus, Rockford joined the rest of the AHL on the 100-goal plateau this season, though those 105 goals are still last in the league.

Just once in the 2018-19 campaign has Rockford stretched a streak to three games. Conversely, the piglets have compiled losing streaks of six (twice) and four games. Rockford (19-19-3-5) shares the Central Division basement with the Moose. Both teams sport a .500 points percentage.

Can the IceHogs parlay a pair of home wins into some sort of climb up the division ladder? I just don’t know. As was the case at this point last year, the piglets were not a playoff-level squad. A lot of things had to change on the personnel side in February of 2018 to transform the roster into the juggernaut that reached the conference final.

As of this morning, this is not a roster that’s going to be competing for a postseason berth. Prove me wrong, boys.

Are there additions from the Hawks roster that could make a difference in the next couple of months? Not unless you think Gustav Forsling can come down and have the impact Cody Franson had in Rockford the last three months of last season. Which I don’t.

Even with some tinkering from above, the hole may be just a bit too deep for the Hogs to vacate. Like last year, the prospect talent alone isn’t close to being able to go on an extended tear through the league. Now, Rockford is two games into a stretch of nine home dates in a span of ten games. If this team has anything resembling a hot patch in it, now would be a great time to display that fire.

Broken record, but the goalies have really been good. Kevin Lankinen and Anton Forsberg have been splitting the work in net and the Swedish Connection continue to stand out despite some less than optimal goal support.

A quick look at this weekend’s AHL All-Star Classic puts things into perspective. With goalie Collin Delia in Chicago, the only representative is Western Conference captain Andrew Campbell.  The veteran defenseman was not selected for his play on the ice.

Anthony Louis is the team’s leading scorer with 27 points (10 G, 17 A). He’s on his way to a similar showing to last season’s 44-point effort. Dylan Sikura leads the team with 12 goals to go with a dozen assists. Jacob Nilsson picked up his 11th goal this weekend, while Louis and Jordan Schroeder each have ten.

Rookie defenseman Lucas Carlsson has been a bright spot, with seven goals and 15 helpers. Darren Raddysh has identical numbers, though he had just a single point in his last 12 games.

Alexandre Fortin assisted on Broadhurst’s game-winner Saturday. The trouble is that was his first point in a month. As was the case last year, Fortin hasn’t made an impact on the scoreboard, with just six points (2 G, 4 A) in 21 games.

Well…the sands are running out on me this week. Rockford hosts the Wolves this Friday, then visit Milwaukee Saturday. With two wins to close out the month, perhaps February is more hospitable to the IceHogs.

Follow me @JonFromi for tidbits on the Hogs throughout the season.


Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs have 34 games behind them this season. They currently sit in sixth place in the AHL’s Central Division with a 15-12-3-4 mark, good for a .544 points percentage. Truth be told, this year’s Hogs are faring about as well as they did a season ago.

Yes, before the roster was bolstered with veteran talent in the last three months, it was a young, inexperienced group that was in a similar position at this time of the 2017-18 campaign. Through 34 games, that club was 18-14-1-1 for a .558. That’s about the difference of a standings point for those of you who don’t want to do the math.

The glaring difference in this year’s and last year’s club is the offensive numbers. The IceHogs of a season ago scored at nearly a goal per game better than this year’s crop of piglets. In 2017-18, Rockford had 105 goals scored and 101 goals allowed at this point of the season. This year, the Hogs have drawn cord 78 times while surrendering 98 goals.

Even with the Wolves putting together a 10-0-1 streak this month, the Central Division is pretty closely contested. No one has run away with the division yet. Last season, several teams put together hot stretches of hockey that had them moving up and down the division ladder. It stands to reason that the playoff spots are all up for the taking come spring.

For that to happen, Rockford is going to have to be better in the opposing zone. The IceHogs do not have a player in the top 20 scorers of the league. That’s a huge understatement, actually. Defenseman Darren Raddysh, Rockford’s top point man with 21, is currently tied for 85th in the AHL in that category.

Last season, the IceHogs were shut out just once. So far, Rockford has been already been blanked on four occasions. The lack of scoring punch is being felt all over the lineup

The Hogs potted three goals in three games this week, squeezing a point on Saturday because of a strong performance from goalie Kevin Lankinen. At 2.29 goals per game, they occupy the league basement. Like Saturday’s overtime loss, what’s keeping Rockford in contention this season is the play in the crease.

There is rarely elite scoring on the Hogs roster from year to year. Most seasons, they’ve put up points by committee. This season, Rockford again lacks top-end scoring power…and the committee has been out to lunch.

Matthew Highmore, last year’s high goal scorer, has missed all but seven games with a shoulder injury. Tyler Sikura, who put up 23 goals a season ago, has just six so far. Vikor Ejdsell is currently out with a groin injury and has just four goals in 27 games.

Jordan Schroeder has 18 points (7 G, 11 A) on the season and is putting up numbers that measure up to his past output in the AHL. However, he is a complimentary scorer. Veteran Terry Broadhurst (2 G, 4 A) hasn’t been productive from a scoring standpoint, but, like Schroeder, he isn’t a guy who should be pacing your club.

There are bright spots. Raddysh has stepped up his game in his sophomore campaign, with seven goals and 14 helpers. Rookie Lucas Carlsson (6 G, 10 A) has also come on in the last few weeks in response to increased responsibility on the blue line.

Jacob Nilsson (7 G, 8 A), who was up for one game with the Blackhawks, has five goals this month. Nilsson isn’t going to lead this team to offensive respectability single-handed. Several players need to bring more to the table. Here are but a few:

Graham Knott (2 G, 6 A in 32 games)-If this kid could find the net on the opportunities he’s had, it certainly would help. Knott has had some top-six time at center and has put himself in places to score at times. He just hasn’t shown any knack for getting a puck past a goalie in his season-plus in Rockford.

Alexandre Fortin (2 G, 3 A in 10 games)-Fortin seems to be a bit more under control after a spell in Chicago. He’s now getting top-line minutes and power play time with the Hogs. Now would be a good time for him to go on a points explosion.

William Pelletier (0 G, 2 A in five games)-Recently returned from offseason surgery, Pelletier is a player who can be used throughout the lineup. He’s capable of chipping in on the offensive end; hopefully he’ll start making a dent as he gets more games under his belt.

You can also toss Sikura and Broadhurst onto that heap. Unless the organization swings a trade that brings a blue-chip AHL goal scorer to town (not counting on it), Rockford is going to have to pick it up throughout the lineup.


Roster Bits

On Friday, Jacob Nilsson was sent back to Rockford by the Blackhawks. He played in both weekend games against Chicago. Defenseman Dennis Gilbert suffered a lower body injury in Wednesday’s loss in Iowa. He did not suit up for either game this weekend.

Following Sunday’s trade with Edmonton, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a player assigned to Rockford from the current Hawks roster. If Garrison, who had 28 points (8 G, 20 A) in 58 games with the Wolves last season, gets through waivers, his shot would be a welcome pickup for the IceHogs.



No lines this week.

Wednesday, December 26-Iowa 4, Rockford 0

This Boxing Day effort was nothing to write home about. The Hogs went to DesMoines and got shut out by Kaapo Kahkanen. The rookie goalie stopped 39 Rockford shots to continue his impressive season.

The IceHogs out shot Iowa 15-3 in the opening period, though neither team scored. The Wild took a 1-0 lead 3:11 into the second period on a Matt Bartkowski snipe. A defensive zone turnover led to a Gerry Fitzgerald goal at the 14:41 mark put the Hogs down a pair.

A Will Bitten tip-in made it 3-0 1:25 into the final frame and pretty much sealed the fate of Rockford. Hogs coach Derek King yanked starting goalie Kevin Lankinen for an extra skater with 3:17 remaining to try and foil the shutout bid, but Matt Read intercepted a pass and threw in an empty netter to close out the scoring.

Rockford denied three Wild power plays but failed to convert on four of its own man advantage opportunities.


Friday, December 28-Chicago 4, Rockford 2

Rockford dropped its second straight game despite leading twice in this game. Curtis McKenzie’s two goal effort provided the winning margin at the BMO Friday night.

After skating to the tune of no goals for most of the opening period, the teams traded goals in the latter part of the frame.

Jordan Schroeder got Rockford up 1-0 at the 15:26 mark. Schroeder got to a rebound off a Darren Raddysh shot at the right post, knocking his attempt through Wolves goalie Oscar Dansk and just across the goal line. Moments later, Chicago responded with a Curtis McKenzie goal. The teams went to the first intermission all even.

Lucas Carlsson was set up by Graham Knott early in the second period to give the Hogs a 2-1 lead. At the seven minute mark, the Wolves Keegan Kolesar potted the equalizer. After a delay of game penalty on Rockford, McKenzie drew cord on the power play for his second goal of the contest. His back hand attempt slipped under the stick arm of Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg at 11:24 to give Chicago a 3-2 advantage.

Late in the second period, the Wovles man advantage struck again. Dylan Coughlin sent a hard slap shot from the slot that skidded past Forsberg for a 4-2 Chicago lead with 14 seconds to play in the period.

The IceHogs made a push to get back into the contest but found the post uncooperative on numerous occasions in the third period. The Wolves couldn’t score, but didn’t need to.

Chicago won the special teams battle, converting twice in six chances. The IceHogs came up empty on four power play attempts.


Saturday, December 29-Chicago 2, Rockford 1 (OT)

The Hogs salvaged a point in Rosemont solely on the strength of Kevin Lankinen’s performance on the evening. The rookie goalie stopped 43 shots and weathered a first-period assault by the Wolves to keep his team in the game.

Chicago came out smoking; Lankinen fended off 25 of the 26 shots the Wolves sent at him in the opening frame. Brooks Macek capped an extended scrum in front of the crease by knocking in his 17th of the season at the 14:18 mark, giving Chicago a 1-0 lead that they would hold through the bulk of regulation.

Rockford managed to play a more competitive game after the first intermission. However, they wouldn’t come up with the equalizer until the waning minutes. Stefan Matteau provided the opportunity after throwing an elbow at the IceHogs Blake Hillman.

Nathan Noel and Curtis McKenzie were already in the bin of sin for an earlier altercation. As they exited the box, Jordan Schroeder faked the shotand hit Jacob Nilsson at the goal line with a pass. Nilsson got Wolves goalie Max Lagace to bite on a fake, scooted around the cage and beat Max Lagace to the right post. Nilsson’s wrap-around made it 1-1 with 3:25 remaining.

An IceHogs infraction would set up the Chicago game-winner. Rockford was called for too many men on the ice three minutes into Gus Macker Time. The Hogs got caught in a partial change and Macek set up McKenzie in front of the net. Lankinen stopped the point-blank chance, but Dylan Coughlin followed up on the rebound, backhanding the puck though Lankinen’s pads and across the goal line at 3:55 of overtime.

Both teams scored once on the power play; Rockford was one of four, while the Wolves were one for six.


This Week

The IceHogs will be in Grand Rapids Monday night to close out the 2018 portion of the schedule. Starting Wednesday, the Hogs will don their white sweaters at the BMO. First home date of the new year is with Milwaukee. Friday, Rockford travels to Iowa before hosting the Wild on Sunday afternoon.


Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs are currently riding a three-game winning streak for the first time this season. The piglets are 7-2-1 over their last ten games heading into the holidays. Of those ten games, eight were decided by a single goal, either in regulation or via overtime or a shootout.

Each of the IceHogs victories in the current streak are of the one-goal variety. After besting Grand Rapids 2-1 back on December 16, Rockford has defeated Milwaukee (4-3) and Chicago (5-4) with clutch overtime goals.

In fact, Rockford’s last nine wins this season, dating back to November 9, have all been by one goal. The last time the winning margin was more than one was in Iowa on November 4, when the Hogs posted a 4-2 victory.

In that stretch, the IceHogs have also lost four games by one goal. Credit the play in goal for keeping Rockford competitive in the bulk of its games.


Points vs Points Percentage

Heading into post-Christmas action, Rockford is in sixth place in the Central Division with a .581 points percentage. The Hogs (15-10-2-4) have earned 36 points so far in 2018-19. So why not regale you with points as opposed to points percentage? Simple. The AHL standard is points percentage.

In part because the West Coast clubs play only 68 games, rather than the 76 everyone else plays, the four teams with the highest points percentage qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs. Of course, the silly AHL website lists the teams according to points when the standings are shown.

I like going by points percentage, which takes most of the games-in-hand calculations out of the mix. If the season ended today, the IceHogs would not be a playoff team. The good news for Rockford is that Texas (.586), along with Milwaukee and Grand Rapids (.594) are within reach, so upward mobility is achievable.


Derek King’s Punchout

Rockford, as I mentioned last week, is the least-penalized team in the league. It’s interesting, however, to take a look at the fighting side of that ledger. The Hogs aren’t the roughest bunch of wranglers in the AHL, but they certainly have been a little quicker to drop the gloves under coach Derek King.

Last season, the IceHogs drew just 11 fighting majors. This was an all-time franchise low by a wide margin (the previous low was 2017-17’s 39 FMs) and the lowest in the AHL. Through the first 12 games of this season, under Jeremy Colliton, Rockford skaters had been involved in three fights. In 96 regular season games and 13 playoff contests, Colliton’s team picked up 14 fights.

In the first 19 games of the King regime, the Hogs have been been in seven fights. That equates to a full season total of 28 fights, still a paltry number even by recent league standards. Compared to Colliton, however, King is helming the Rock’em Sock’em Robots.

As I’ve mentioned countless times, AHL fight totals are dropping and the IceHogs have not been built to scrap. As a matter of fact, Rockford is better off avoiding such activities, as they are largely inexperienced in this area. However, it does appear that this year’s club is sticking up for itself with more frequency. The Hogs are currently tied for 16th in the AHL (with five other clubs) with 10 FMs on the season.

Two of those fights involved Hunter Fejes, who is no longer with the team after a stint on a PTO. Dennis Gilbert, who has brought a physical element to the defense, leads Rockford with four fights.


Roster Moves

On Saturday, the Blackhawks recalled Jacob Nilsson and sent Luke Johnson back to Rockford.



Friday, December 21-Rockford 5, Chicago 4 (OT)

For the third time this season, the Hogs ventured into Allstate Arena and beat the Wolves. This time, it took a good portion of extra skating to do so.

The teams exchanged goals midway through the opening period. Chicago’s T.J. Tynan created a scoring opportunity with some nice skating with the puck, opening up space for Nic Hauge at the top of the right circle. Hauge sent a bullet past Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead at the 10:40 mark.

Nathan Noel was held behind the Chicago net by Jake Bischoff soon after, sending the Hogs to the power play. Rockford won the subsequent faceoff, kept the puck in the offensive zone for over a minute and scored on a one-timer by Jacob Nilsson. The rookie center had misfired on a centering pass from Jordan Schroeder, who then regained possession and found Nilsson again for a successful attempt at 12:58 of the period.

Alexandre Fortin got his first two goals of the season for Rockford in the opening minutes of the second period. After Lucas Carlsson made a heads up play to keep a clearing attempt in the Wolves zone, he passed to William Pelletier, who found Fortin open skating toward the right dot. Fortin’s shot banked off of Chicago’s Zach Whitecloud and past Wolves goalie Maxim Lagace 36 seconds into the period.

Minutes later, Fortin skated into the slot and sent an offering to the Chicago net. The rebound rattled around the front of the net before Noel and Graham Knott knocked it toward the left post. Fortin, who was crashing the net after shooting, was on hand to guide the puck into the open net for a 3-1 Rockford advantage.

Chicago would rally with a pair of goals to tie the contest. Curtis McKenzie got open in the slot and fired past Forsberg at the 9:11 mark. Five minutes later, Daniel Carr jumped on a rebound of a Whitecloud blast to knot the game at three.

The score remained tied until the late stages of regulation. Lucas Carlsson took a feed from Nilsson, used a couple of nifty moves to get open in the slot and fired low past Lagace’s glove side with 3:31 to play. The Wolves pulled Lagace soon after.

Graham Knott had a prime chance to ice the game with the puck on his stick and an empty net in front of him. However, Chicago’s Dylan Coughlin closed the gap on Knott and forced an off-target attempt. The Wolves came down and got the equalizer from Gage Quinney with 1:26 left.

Gus Macker Time saw the Wolves with early momentum. Forsberg turned aside several attempts over the first four minutes. Late in the extra session, Louis brought the puck into the Chicago zone on a two-on-one rush. Louis hit Darren Raddysh with a pass at the right circle; the defenseman’s one-timer caught cord with 39 seconds remaining to finish off the Wolves.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura (A)-William Pelletier

Nick Moutrey-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Anthony Louis-Jacob Nilsson-Jordan Schroeder (A)

Terry Broadhurst-Henrik Samuelsson

Lucas Carlsson-Jan Rutta

Joni Tuulola-Dennis Gilbert

Blake Hillman-Darren Raddysh

Andrew Campbell (A)

Anton Forsberg

Power Play (1-2)



Penalty Kill (Chicago was 0-2)





This Week

The IceHogs will spend Boxing Day in DesMoines, taking on the Wild Wednesday night. On Friday, Rockford begins a home-and-home weekend against the Wolves at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The action moves to Rosemont on Saturday night.

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


Everything Else

It’s time yet again to look at the good, the bad, and the mildly disappointing as the Hawks return from their East Coast swing during this now-finished Thanksgiving week…

The Dizzying Highs

Brandon Saad: I’m honestly not sure that anyone deserves to be considered a “dizzying high” right now, but someone has to be in this part of the post so fine, let it be Brandon Saad. Again. That’s right—Saad has been atop this pile for two weeks in a row. Yes, there were issues with the nuclear option of him, Toews, and Kane on a line, namely being on the ice for multiple Lightning goals on Friday, yet his performance Saturday was enough to overcome that. The gorgeous pass to Kane in the second, the equally if not better one to Alex DeBrincat to save the game in dramatic fashion…this man fucks, my frents. Five points in his last five games, hell, he even made John Hayden look good last Saturday. As of this writing, his shooting percentage is a career-high 13.5, and despite all the line drama he’s still managing a 55.1 CF%, currently third-best on the team. He fucks.

The Terrifying Lows

Marcus Kruger. Of all the players brought back from the dead by this team, Marcus Kruger was the only one I was actually happy to see return. But I have to admit he’s been awfully quiet lately. No one expects a fourth-line scoring juggernaut, but the problem is he’s not really succeeding at the role he’s here to play. He’s got the third-highest PK minutes on the team, yet his CF Rel on the kill is -7.8. I know, it’s the penalty kill, obviously the other team is more likely to score, but for reference, Seabrook’s PK CF Rel is 6.3, and the stat for Brandon fucking Manning, who only has six fewer seconds of PK time than Kruger, is 12.5. No, there’s no minus sign in front of that. Kruger’s possession numbers at evens are troubling too—a career-worst 46.6 CF% right now. Granted, just over 80% of his starts are in the defensive zone, but he’s had similar start numbers in years past and finished closer to or above 50%. Besides, taking a shitload of defensive zone starts and holding onto the puck anyway is his actual job description. Maybe he needs confidence. Maybe he needs better linemates than oafs like Andreas Martinsen (well, he definitely needs that regardless of any numbers). Whatever it is, I hope it’s temporary.

The Creamy Middles

Alexandre Fortin. My earnest little Fortnite has had an interesting week or so. His short-handed goal against the Panthers was darling and gave the Hawks some much-needed hope in a game that was looking like a puke stain meant to be hidden under a rug or cleverly placed piece of furniture (no I’m not speaking from experience, why would you even say that?). Conversely, his broken stick against the Lightning, while not entirely his fault, was emblematic of his enthusiasm yet lack of finish. Still, Fortin is sporting a positive Corsi (52.8 at evens) with a little over half his starts coming in the defensive zone. And, he’s been fast on whatever line he finds himself on—with fellow children Kampf and Kahun, or bouncing around with whatever Scrabble letters Colliton comes up with on a given night. He’s still just a speedy bottom-six guy, but we’ll take all the help we can get.

Everything Else

Box Score


Natural Stat Trick

Sometimes hockey is just bad, stupid fun and there’s hardly a rhyme or reason. The Hawks put up a fight when it mattered most, and with some much-missed puck luck, they managed to pull out two points in a game in which they didn’t deserve one. To the bullets.

Brandon Saad was a wild stallion from just about front to back. On the first game-tying goal, he used that straight-line power we all crave to carve up Mike Matheson and managed to squeeze a pass onto Kane’s stick perfectly, despite pressure from Aaron Ekblad and Evgenii Dadonov. His semi-blind pass from behind the net onto DeBrincat’s stick for the second game-tying goal resulted from better positioning and a bit more power against Dadonov below the goal line. And he almost potted one himself after John Hayden’s squib pass found his stick in the blue paint late in the third. Saad came to life in the third period especially, much like the rest of the Hawks, and sported a 77+ CF% when paired with Hayden and Jonathan Toews. When Brandon Saad fucks, Brandon Saad fucks.

– It wasn’t until the third period that the Hawks made any real rumblings at making this a game. Despite tying it in the second, the Hawks had a 27+ CF% through two. But after Colliton switched up the lines, broke up 20–19–88, and re-paired Duncan Keith and Henri Jokiharju, the Hawks completely dominated play to the tune of a 75 CF% in the third. We all get the theory behind 20–19–88, but they simply haven’t dominated together. Your nuclear line can’t really be considered nuclear when it gets domed on the ice. After the break up, you saw much evener fluidity in passing.

– The only line that stayed together all night was Nick SchmaltzDavid KampfDominik Kahun, and they were mostly decent. After the first period, I wondered what exactly Kampf was doing to warrant second-line center minutes. Then he pulled that incredible power move on Ekblad off a Kahun feed, which is something I don’t think any of us expected he could do. It was nice to see a higher level in Kampf’s play, and if there’s more of that in reserve, we’ve got an interesting guy on our hands. It’s still concerning that Kampf and Kahun were much more noticeable than Schmaltz, the supposed $6 million man, but I’ll gladly take what they gave tonight. You can hear the contempt in Foley’s voice any time Schmaltz does anything out there now, though.

Alexandre Fortin is as close to a Luis Mendoza as the Hawks will ever have. I don’t know that he does anything other than go really fast in a straight line and find himself in the middle of all on-ice whimsy. After an excellent pick off Nick Bjugstad’s stick while Bjugstad attempted to set up a PP rush, Fortin got stuffed by James Reimer’s right pad, only to flick the puck by Reimer off his left skate as he was coming down from a jump. He’s got no normal finish whatsoever, but his PK trick shot tonight would have been the highlight even if the Hawks hadn’t won.

– The coverage this team has on defense is by far some of the worst we’ve seen in a while. Eddie O. took a good five minutes in the pregame to defend the system, instead blaming a lack of awareness from players for the A+ chances they give up. I get that, but this looks a lot like a chicken-egg argument. Even when the Hawks were bad last year, I don’t remember seeing as many opponents streaking full steam ahead through the slot as I have in the last two games. Florida’s second goal came when Fortin and Hayden inexplicably shadowed Colton Sceviour on the near boards, even though Jokiharju had him covered. This left Jared McCann all the time and space in the world in the slot. Their third goal came from Kane trying to cheat out of the zone, leaving Ekblad wide open in the slot. Whether it’s adjustment to a new system or a lack of talent within that system (or both), it’s made for many more high-quality chances for Hawks’s opponents.

Erik Gustafsson taketh away, and Erik Gustafsson giveth. After a mostly dogshit day, including letting his aggressiveness get the best of him and setting up Florida’s second goal after crashing too quickly and deeply by himself, Gustafsson popped the game winner in the clown show.

– For the last goddamn time, Alex DeBrincat is not a fucking third liner. We’ve done this experiment too many times over the last two years. You stick him with one of Kane, Toews, or Saad, and you let him fucking go. It’s not hard.

The Hawks had no business taking two tonight, which makes those points all the sweeter. Las Vegas is next.

Onward. . .

Beer du Jour: Eagle Rare

Line of the Night: “Unfortunately, Manning took the ice.” –Eddie O. describing a turnover between Brandon Manning and Alex DeBrincat as a result of the two being too close together.

Everything Else

A flurry of games, more overtime nonsense, and the Hawks are basically at .500 with six wins and six losses coming at various times from the third period onward. I can’t say it’s worse than I expected (it’s not, I figured they’d be doing much more poorly than this already), but it does feel like the Preds, Avs and Jets are about to pull away in the division any day now, leaving the Hawks scrambling with the dregs soon enough. And with that cheery thought, let’s see where things are at:

The Dizzying Highs

Corey Crawford I know it’s been a small sample size, and I realize he gave up a shitload of goals in the St. Louis game the other night (for the record it was 6), but anyone who’s been paying attention to this team knows Crow is making the difference right now, and he will by the linchpin to any attempt at making the playoffs. Even with the crapfest last Saturday, his save percentage is .919. He had to have a truly wretched game to bring it down to middling for the league…this guy hadn’t played in 10 months and had no warm-up time to shake off any rust. And now we know why—there wasn’t any to begin with. In his three wins thus far, Crawford’s SV% was .974, .960, and .947. And he’s doing it with the laughingstock that we call our defense. His positioning has been solid, he’s somehow restrained himself from murdering Brandon Manning yet, hell he even got an assist against the Rangers last week. He’s the hero we need but that we don’t deserve.

The Terrifying Lows

Jan Rutta What else can be said? This motherfucker is so bad he got benched in the middle of a game and then sent to the press box. His shooting percentage is literally zero, and while that’s obviously not the most important metric for a defenseman early in the season it’s still pretty indicative of how things are going for him. I can throw more numbers at you (his possession sucks at just under 50 CF% when half his zone starts are in the offensive zone, etc. etc.), but do you really want to be reminded? I don’t want to do the reminding either. Suffice it to say Rutta is one of the worst on an already-terrible defense, and Connor Murphy and Gustav Forsling really can’t get healthy soon enough.

The Creamy Middles

Alex DeBrincat Just as it’s obvious that Rutta sucks, it’s equally obvious that Top Cat is quite good. There could be a case for him in the Dizzying Highs, but I’m saving my adulation for Crawford right now. DeBrincat has had three points in his last five games, and with the exception of the St. Louis Shit Show, the top line has been pretty dominant. He’s running a 56 CF% at evens and a CF Rel of 4.7. Throw in a couple points on the power play, which are hard to come by for this crew, and he’s having a good month so far. Yes we expect him to be this good, but it’s a relief to have that consistently work out.

Alexandre Fortin It’s a theme of Alexs in the Middles today! Fortnite is starting to warm my cold, black heart. He’s only played nine games but geez if he isn’t the most motivated, eager little thing out there. And he’s holding onto the puck at the right time and the right places. He’s got a 56.1 CF% right now and that’s with nearly 53% of his starts in the defensive zone. Fortin isn’t an elite scorer and I don’t expect he’ll be much more than basically a bottom-six guy, but this team needs depth and if he’s here to provide it, then I’m here for that.

Everything Else

Tonight felt like a bunch of coked-up ferrets were let loose on the ice and we got to watch the bizarre yet entertaining spectacle. At times it was hilarious, at times it was maddening, but it definitely wasn’t as dull as you might think for a mediocre-at-best and mostly-really-crappy team matching up for the evening. To the bullets!

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick


–To that point, neither team was really dominant. Yes I know the Hawks scored four goals, but one was an empty-netter and it wasn’t until late in the third that the Hawks put this away. Jonathan Toews scored early in the first after McQuaid and Skjei went full-on Three Stooges and fell over both the blue line and one another, leaving Toews alone on Lundqvist. But then Brandon fucking Manning being Brandon fucking Manning allowed the Rangers to tie it up moments later. Each team would get momentum and a bunch of chances, yet frantic goaltending by goalies vastly better than their respective defenses would fight off the onslaught. In total both teams gave up 6 penalties, so frequent power plays kept the coked-up pace I mentioned. Possession ricocheted as well—the Hawks had over a 60 CF% in the first, then down to 48% in the second, then back to 61% in the third. It was, as they say, a back-and-forth affair, despite the broadcast singing the team’s praises.

–So it’s admittedly annoying that the Hawks didn’t dominate this entire game because, as we’ve said, losing to truly good teams is acceptable, but stretches like this one are where the Hawks can actually pretend to be contenders. Now before I sound unappreciative, they had a goal in the third get waved off prior to the other weird one later in the third by Kane. So had that gone another way it would have been 5-1. But the fact that these two “goals” were so strange and close to non-goals (or in the case of the former, truly not a goal), didn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence. The core did well, don’t get me wrong–Kane, Toews, Top Cat, and most importantly Crawford, but I want to see the Hawks be GOOD against shitty teams, not just passable.

–OK, we’re already sick of bitching about Brandon Manning so I’m not going to spend too much time here. But, I’ve got to say, as much as I hate him, I can’t even imagine how much Corey Crawford hates him. That aforementioned goal was a direct result of Manning making a pathetic turnover at the offensive blue line and standing there mouth agape at the side of Crawford’s crease while Buchnevich scored. In the second period on one of their penalty kills (which, really, can we make this stop?) the puck bounced off his dumb ass and right on goal, and Crawford had to make the save. I would seriously not blame Crawford if he pulled some retaliatory, underhanded shit on Manning. Key his car? Leave a bag of flaming dog shit at his door? Sleep with his wife? Pretty sure all of this would be forgivable. And Crawford’s only been back for a matter of days at this point.

–Fortin had himself a night. Only one goal but he was just trying EVER SO HARD the entire game. From his first shift trying to split two defenders (and he almost made it, oh he was trying), to rabidly flying around the ice to being in the perfect position for Schmaltz’s beautiful pass in the second (sidebar: not complaining about Schmaltz passing it for once), Alexandre Fortin was a man possessed (OK, boy possessed, but you know what I mean). Some of that rabidity led to dumb turnovers, which will happen in those situations. But the Hawks need speed and I’m also not going to complain about the scoring or effort.

–I realize this is going to sound stupid and I can’t back it up with numbers, but Brandon Saad had a fire still lit under his ass. The stats won’t necessarily show it—one shot, no points and crappy possession at 48 CF%. But believe me, he was all over the ice, and while this isn’t going down as a historic game for him, his improvement this season continues.

All in all, tonight was another win that they had to have and that’s what matters. It was convincing enough and who would have thought they’d have 14 points already? I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it an inspiring win, but it’s better than the alternative. Onward and upward.

Beer: Sumpin’ Easy Ale by Lagunitas

Line of the Night: “Going to disagree with him. Strongly.” –Eddie O, in a weird moment of clarity, criticizing Adam Burish for his especially stupid comment that Henrik Lundqvist is one of the most overrated goalies in the last decade.

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

Everything Else

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

The Blackhawks were given the unfortunate task of trying to cheer me up after the Bears loss today, and instead of doing that they just took my already broken heart and ripped it out of my chest and stomped on it. Well, not really, because I don’t really think much of these Blackhawks even with how fun the early games this year have been, and with the Tampa Bay Lightning coming to town and Cam Ward in net, this was going to be ugly from the jump. But let me be dramatic, okay. Let’s do the bullets:

– Sweet merciful Jesus, can anyone on the blue line for this team skate anymore? I know the Lightning are one of the fastest teams in the NHL, but the Blackhawks defensemen literally looked like traffic cones more often than not tonight. The Lightning were skating circles around them all game long, and no one even really seemed interested in stopping them. Seriously, go watch the Lightning’s fourth goal again, if you can stomach it – I know I couldn’t. It’s like watching a new driver go through an obstacle course. Or like watching the Patriots receivers run through the Bears secondary. NO YOU ARE STILL MAD ABOUT IT.

– The second period tonight was perhaps the worst display of “professional” hockey I have ever seen the Blackhawks play. That really is where the Lightning did most of their obstacle course maneuvering, and they basically suffocated the Hawks the whole time. I don’t care how fast or good the team you’re playing in, to get outshot 34-6 in any period of NHL is hockey is inexcusable.

– Sam mentioned this on Twitter, but the Hawks best work in terms of getting out of their own zone tonight was whichever player had the puck just went up the ice with it, either skating or passing, instead of trying to fit into whichever weird-ass system Q wants them to run on the breakout. It worked for Jan Rutta, who in a a blind-squirrel-finding-a-nut moment sprung Alexandre Fortin on a breakaway for his first NHL goal.

– Those last two points bring me to a conclusion, and it’s one that I’ve talked about both sarcastically and seriously for a while now, and the podcast guys have talked about for a while now as well. And that is that it might just be time for Joel Quenneville to go. Now, I seriously doubt they’re going to make any serious move like that in season anytime soon, especially after the Scott Powers article that waxed poetic last week about how Q got here to begin with. But getting dominated in a period like that and success coming moreso from players doing their own thing rather than your system are not trends that bode well for the Stache. This is just one game, so I am not trying to jump to too wild of a conclusion, but it’s still something to monitor.

– Congrats to the Hawks on finally scoring a power play goal tonight. I look forward to the next one coming in December.