Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs were primed for a big weekend of action when they began play Friday night in Milwaukee. For a while, things looked great for the piglets. By “a while”, I mean nearly two full minutes.

The Hogs scored 36 seconds into their tilt in Milwaukee. Rockford was subsequently wiped out for the bulk of the first two games of a three-game set with the Admirals. When the smoke cleared at the BMO Harris Bank Center the following evening, the IceHogs had been outscored 12-4, losing both contests to a Milwaukee.

Two regulation wins would have given Rockford a solid hold of the final playoff spot in the Central Division and sent the Ads postseason hopes in peril. Instead, the IceHogs are just part of the four-team pack hoping to snatch a Calder Cup Playoffs berth.

Following Dennis Gilbert’s put-back of an Andreas Martinsen rebound, Milwaukee scored three times over the rest of Friday’s opening period. Viktor Ejdsell got Rockford to within a goal with a third-period power play strike. However, the Admirals scored just over a minute later to restore what was to become the winning margin, besting the Hogs 4-2.

Saturday night, Milwaukee roared out to a three-goal advantage through twenty minutes. The Hogs responded with a quick pair of goals by Jordan Schroeder and Joni Tuulola to get Rockford back in contention. The Ads beat Hogs goalie Collin Delia for two quick goals near the end of the middle frame, then piled on three more scores in the third period for an 8-2 shellacking.

 

Weekend Lines

My plan was to give you readers some honest to goodness recaps, complete with line combos, this week. Based on the manner in which Rockford was blown out in both games, however, I reconsidered that notion.

In my mind, though, I feel like I owe you some pairings. So…

Lines (Starters in italics)

Friday, March 22

Viktor Ejdsell-Peter Holland (A)-Jordan Schroeder

Andreas Martinsen (A)-Tyler Sikura (A)-William Pelletier

Anthony Louis-Luke Johnson-Alexandre Fortin

Dylan McLaughlin-Nathan Noel-Spencer Watson

Joni Tuulola-Henri Jokiharju

Lucas Carlsson-Dennis Gilbert

Blake Hillman-Dmitri Osipov

Anton Forsberg

 

Saturday, March 23

Viktor Ejdsell-Peter Holland-Jordan Schroeder

Andreas Martinsen-Tyler Sikura-William Pelletier

Dylan McLaughlin-Nathan Noel-Spencer Watson

Anthony Louis-Alexandre Fortin

Joni Tuulola-Henri Jokiharju

Lucas Carlsson-Dennis Gilbert

Blake Hillman-Dmitri Osipov

Josh McArdle

Collin Delia

 

Fun Facts

  • Going into Wednesday’s game with Milwaukee, the Hogs have converted just once in 38 power play chances against the Admirals.
  • The Ads now lead the season series with a 5-1-3 record in head-to-head action with Rockford.
  • All of the IceHogs wins over Milwaukee this season have been by one goal. The Admirals have now posted two, three and six-goal wins in addition to a pair of one-goal victories.
  • With both teams having played 67 games this season, the Admirals (71 points) are just a single point behind Rockford (72 points). Manitoba currently holds the fourth-place spot via points percentage.
  • With four points (2 G, 2 A), William Pelletier is the active leader in scoring for Rockford vs Milwaukee this season. Darren Raddysh, now out of the organization, has seven points against the Ads.
  • As you would expect, the two squads are getting a little chippy with all this together time. Dennis Gilbert and Mathieu Olivier had themselves a pretty spirited bout near the end of the first period Saturday. It’s Olivier’s eighth fighting major of the season and Gilbert’s seventh. Both are near the top of the league leaders in the catagory.
  • Rockford is tied with Cleveland for 26th in the AHL in FMs with 18, though that’s more than last season’s paltry total of 11 fights. Nathan Noel has three bouts for the Hogs, while Luke Johnson has two.
  • Johnson left Friday’s game in the third period after a nasty spill into the boards. He was not in the lineup Saturday, as the Hogs went with seven defensemen. Johnson is going to be missed down the stretch if he continues to be out of the lineup.
  • While Forsberg was no great shakes in net Friday, Delia was flat-out terrible the following night. Neither goalie got a lot of help from his skaters, but the Cucomonga Kid seemed a bit slow going post to post. Chalk it up to an off night and back to the grind this week.

 

This Week

The IceHogs really need to post a regulation win over Milwaukee Wednesday night at the BMO, because the top two clubs in the Central Division come a-calling over the weekend. Grand Rapids visits on Saturday night, while Chicago is in Rockford Sunday afternoon.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for news and notes on the guys in Rockford all season long.

 

 

Everything Else

For the Rockford IceHogs, the action in March gets underway quickly. The Blackhawks AHL affiliate opens what is a pivotal month of the 2018-19 season at the BMO Harris Bank Center against Grand Rapids.

For the IceHogs, a team trying to secure a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs next month, every point counts. The fourth spot in the Central Division is shaping up to be a battle between Rockford, Texas, Milwaukee and Manitoba.

Right now, the Stars are in that final playoff spot in terms of points percentage (.536).  The Hogs are not far behind with a .526 percentage. Rockford holds a one-point lead over Texas in the standings, though the Stars have two games in hand.

Both the Ads and Moose have .509 points percentages and are within four points of the Hogs. Any of these four teams (or even last-place San Antonio, for that matter) could wind up with a spot in the playoffs with a extended run. Conversely, even treading water in March could spell the end of postseason dreams.

Texas hosts first-place Chicago on Friday and Saturday, while Rockford’s game with the Griffins is the lone contest for the piglets this weekend. Following that contest, the Hogs will have eight days off before traveling to Manitoba for a pair of games on March 9 and 10.

The IceHogs beat Grand Rapids in comeback fashion in the last meeting between the teams on February 20. The Hogs have dropped three straight games since that night, including a 1-0 loss in Chicago Tuesday night.

Colin Delia, in his first game back with the Hogs since being re-assigned by the Hawks, stopped 15 of 16 shots. However, his counterpart in net, Max Lagace, blanked Rockford with 27 saves on the night.

After a return visit to Grand Rapids March 15, the IceHogs will have eight of their next nine games at the BMO. If they can go 7-2 as they did in their most recent home stand, they should be in in good shape to make a run at the postseason.

 

On Their Own

Does this group have the talent to turn in another dominant spring? We’ll see. Unlike last year, what you see in Rockford is what you are going to get, for the most part.

The only current member of the Blackhawks who would be eligible for the Calder Cup Playoffs (not counting Delia, who is already with the IceHogs) is Dylan Sikura, who was sent to Rockford in a paper move at the trade deadline. Only players on the Hogs roster as of February 25 can skate in the postseason, not counting late spring ATO and PTO signings.

Whether the Blackhawks get into the playoffs or not, we won’t see a big influx of players coming in to upgrade the Hogs. In fact, Rockford might lose a player or two to emergency call-ups. Depending on how much time Drake Caggiula misses after his concussion, the Hawks may bring up a player like Andreas Martinsen, Luke Johnson or Peter Holland to fill out the bottom six.

Delia was a huge part of last spring’s playoff run to the conference final. That said, he’s not a huge upgrade in goal. Both Anton Forsberg and Kevin Lankinen have played very well in Delia’s absence. I think any of the three goalies could excel if required to carry the workload in net.

The X-factor for the IceHogs is health. There are several players who could make a difference for Rockford who are currently injured. Defenseman Brandon Davidson missed almost a month of action, came back for two games February 17 and 20, then has been out the last three. If he could stay on the ice, Davidson would be a nice veteran piece to have in the lineup.

Forward Terry Broadhurst has not played since February 16. William Pelletier was banged up February 20 and has missed three games. Tyler Sikura has been out since early January with a broken thumb. Matthew Highmore, last season’s MVP, is practicing but has yet to return from a November shoulder injury.

If all the above players could all get back into the Hogs lineup in the coming weeks, it would made a huge impact on Rockford’s playoff chances. This doesn’t seem likely. However, getting Highmore and one of the Hogs AHL signings (Broadhurst or Pelletier) back for the last four or five weeks would still be a positive for Rockford.

 

Bit ‘O Hoggies

  • Rockford has 18 games remaining in the regular season. Ten of those games are at home.
  • The IceHogs play Texas three more times, including back to back nights in Cedar Park April 5 and 6. Texas has won four of the five games with the Hogs so far this season. They’re all big ones from here on out, but these tilts with the Stars could well decide who dances in April and who sits home with their thoughts.
  • Same goes for the five games remaining with the Admirals. Both teams have taken nine points from the first seven games of the season series. Rockford is 4-2-0-1 against Milwaukee but needs to rack up some regulation wins over the Ads.
  • The Hogs have put themselves in position to grab a postseason berth primarily through defense. Rockford is still last in the AHL in scoring at 2.40 goals per game. The power play is 29th in the league, converting at just 15.4 percent.
  • On the other hand, the Hogs allow just 2.76 goals per contest. That’s good for fourth-best in the AHL. The penalty kill is 15th in the league with a 81.5 percent success rate.
  • The key to the solid defense? Between the pipes, where the IceHogs goalies have a combined .917 save percentage. That is by far the best in the league. Syracuse is second at .911; Manitoba and San Jose are both at .910.

 

Roster Moves

Nathan Noel, who had been out since January 12, returned to action this past weekend. On Wednesday, the Hogs sent Brett Welychka back to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. Recently acquired forward Spencer Watson played for the Hogs Tuesday night in Chicago.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for intermission updates tonight, as well as thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs saw a losing streak swell to four games before knocking off the Chicago Wolves in Rosemont Saturday night. The piglets are mired in a pretty rough patch since the holidays.

Rockford is 2-8-1-1 since December 26. This stretch has resulted in the Hogs dropping to last place in the AHL’s Central Division with a .488 points percentage.

The fortunes of AHL teams can change quickly as rosters fluctuate. That said, the gap between the division’s playoff teams and the IceHogs is growing. Fourth-place Texas has a five-game points lead over the Hogs with three games in hand.

Last year’s club was in better position (22-16-5, .534 points percentage) than the 17-18-3-5 IceHogs are after 43 games this season. The key push started in February when the organization picked up veteran reinforcements.

This begs a pair of questions. Will the Blackhawks be able to bolster the AHL roster in the coming weeks? More importantly, will reinforcements make a difference?

 

Mega-Scary Stat

Two seasons ago, the IceHogs suffered through their worst finish in franchise history, finishing dead last in the Central Division and winning just 25 games. The offense, which also marked a franchise nadir, was last in the AHL at 2.30 goals per game.

Through 43 games in 2018-19, Rockford is scoring at a 2.26 goals per game clip. It should come as no surprise that the Hogs are still last in scoring among the 31 AHL clubs. Rockford is the only team in the AHL that has not eclipsed the 100-goal mark.

 

Ejdsell Returns

Viktor Ejdsell was back in action last week after missing almost a month to injury. The big Swede made his return January 11 in Texas. He didn’t get on the scoresheet that night. However, Ejdsell has posted points in each of his last five games.

Ejdsell scored the Hogs only goal Tuesday night. He sent a shot off the pads of Harri Sateri Friday to set up William Pelletier’s goal, then cleaned up a rebound of Lucas Carlsson’s attempt to get Rockford on the board in Saturday’s overtime win.

With Rockford hurting for offense, Ejdsell coming back is a positive. If he can get on a roll, maybe a few other players can find the scoring touch.

 

Roster Moves

Defenseman Neil Manning, who was on an AHL contract with the IceHogs, was released from his contract on Monday. Manning, who had appeared in three games with Rockford, was named to the ECHL’s Western Conference All-Star Team. By mutual agreement, Manning was released so that he could pursue work overseas. He quickly signed with the EC Kassel Huskies in Germany.

Matheson Iacopelli was recalled to Rockford on Thursday. It’s been a tough year for Iacopelli, who has been in an out of the lineup with the IceHogs. He has two goals and two assists in 26 games this season.

Following Friday’s game, Hogs coach Derek King revealed that F Tyler Sikura, last season’s team MVP and second-leading goal scorer, had suffered a broken thumb in practice. Rockford will miss his high compete level for however long he is out of action.

Recaps

Tuesday, January 15-San Antonio 2, Rockford 1

It was yet another one-goal loss for the IceHogs this season. This one was the third straight loss on the Texas road trip.

Rockford got the game’s first goal 14:08 of the opening period. William Pelletier brought the puck from behind the Rampage net and sent a pass out to Blake Hillman just inside the San Antonio blueline. Hillman swiftly sent the biscuit to Viktor Ejdsell at the right circle. The shot beat Rampage goalie Jared Coreau to the stick side and put the IceHogs up 1-0. It would remain that way into the first intermission.

The Rampage tied the game midway through the second period on a goal by Mitch Reinke. The shot got past Rockford goalie Anton Forsberg, who was fighting a lot of traffic in front of his crease.

The game remained even until late in the final frame. A Luke Johnson turnover was snatched up by San Antonio’s Trevor Smith. Smith sent the puck into the slot, where Bobby MacIntyre slapped it past Forsberg and into the back of the net. With 3:19 to play, the Rampage went up 2-1.

The Hogs pulled their goalie with 2:20 left but was unable to secure the equalizer.

 

Friday, January 18-Grand Rapids 3, Rockford 1

Rockford returned to the friendly confines of the BMO Harris Bank Center Friday, dropping its fourth-straight game.

The IceHogs got on the board late in the opening frame. Dennis Gilbert brought the puck into the Griffins zone, came around the net and hit Viktor Ejdsell at the right dot. Ejdsell stickhandled into a shooting position and sent an offering off the right pad of Grand Rapids goalie Harri Sateri. The rebound found the stick of William Pelletier, who buried it into the twine at 17:38 for a 1-0 Hogs lead.

Grand Rapids tied the game two minutes into the second after Wade Megan scored a clean faceoff win. The puck came out to Jake Chelios, who sent the puck high on Lankinen. The shot, which may or may not have glanced off of the stick of Nick Moutrey, fluttered into the Hogs net to knot the contest at a goal apiece.

Midway through the final frame, Megan put Grand Rapids up 2-1, taking a pass from Matt Puempel at the right dot and roofing the shot past Lankinen. That was enough to beat the Hogs, though Megan added an empty-netter to put a bow on this one.

 

Saturday, January 19-Rockford 3, Chicago 2 (OT)

The Wolves erased a two-goal Rockford advantage early in the third period. However, the Hogs persevered to claim the win in Gus Macker Time.

Neither team found the back of a net in the opening twenty. Rockford got the game’s first goal from the stick of Viktor Ejdsell, who followed up on a shot by Lucas Carlsson. Carlsson had gotten the scoring play started after gaining possession in his own zone. Working with Graham Knott, the two made their way to the Chicago net, where Oscar Dansk made the initial stop before Ejdsell took care of the rebound at 2:37.

A few minutes later, Andrew Campbell took a pass from Andreas Martinsen at the top of the left circle and sent a shot above Dansk’s glove. The IceHogs now had a 2-0 lead at the 6:51 mark of the middle frame.

That cushion was gone early in the third period following penalties by Dennis Gilbert and Luke Johnson. Dylan Coughlin scored on the resulting 5-on-3 at 2:32 of the third. While still up a skater, Erik Brannstrom tied the game at the 3:18 mark. The Wolves out shot Rockford 12-3 in the final period of regulation; the IceHogs failed to log a shot on goal until the final minutes.

Anton Forsberg kept the Wolves at bay for the remainder of the third period. In all, the Hogs goalie stopped 36 shots on the evening. Forsberg’s efforts were not in vain. Rockford broke the tie 1:29 into the extra session, when Knott knocked a loose puck in at the right post.

 

 

 

Everything Else

Box Score

Hockey Stats (SKY POINT)

Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks logged their first preseason win against a team that’s an anthropomorphic therapy session. I watched the game so you didn’t have to. Let’s kick it quick, because I have a couple double Cheesy Gordita Crunches I want inside me, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER.

Collin “Cucamonga” Delia and his superfluous L was one of the more surprising bright spots on the night. While he allowed both goals, neither were really his fault. The first came after Jokiharju (whom McClure tells me we are calling HJ from here on in, so remember that) and Dahlstrom decided to compare whose shit erupted out of the toilet bowl higher at the offensive blue line, leaving Alex Formenton alone on a breakaway. The second goal came after Delia made a strong save on Duchene during a penalty kill, only to have Duchene stuff the rebound past him. After that he was nails, shutting an admittedly shitty Senators team down, including a highlight-reel split save on Duchene in the second. He’s nowhere near ready for any meaningful time, but he’s nice to have in the back pocket.

– HJ looked abysmal in the first. He had a 33.33 CF% in the first while pairing with Carl Dahlstrom, whose only real skill appears to be winning second place in any Jared Dunn lookalike contests he enters. Away from Dahlstrom he was infinitely better, posting a 100 CF% (7 CF, 0 CA) primarily with Brandon Davidson for a grand total 54.55 CF%.

– Foley floated the idea of a Kruger–Johnson–Martinsen line out there, and after tonight, that might make sense at some point. Each had a goal and an assist. Again, this is against the Ottawa Senators, a team that traded Erik Karlsson for a pile of recycled toilet paper, but there was some cohesiveness out there. Kruger should be a lock to make the team, but Johnson and Martinsen might be OK in spots, too.

– It’s good to see Dominik “Screw You Guys, I’m Going Home” Kahun contribute as well. His third-period pass from behind the goal line to John Hayden for a goal was legitimately nice. It’s hard to figure where he’d fit on the roster, but it’s nice to know he’s not a complete schlub.

– Luc Snuggerud also looked decent tonight. He’s a lot bigger looking than I expected, and he came through with a solid 56 CF% at 5v5 in just under 15 minutes. He made a great sliding block on a 2-on-1 about midway through the second period. He also took the point shot that led to Kahun’s goal in the second. He’s another nice “if you need him” option back there, and with a little more seasoning, might become a nice third-pairing guy in the near future.

More than anything, I think we learned that even when they dress most of their good players—including Matt Duchene—the Ottawa Senators are an affront to not only the game of hockey but also theology and geometry. There were a lot of retreads and babies out there for the Hawks, but no one who matters looks utterly putrid, which is all you can ask for a game like this.

Everything Else

There were many new faces at forward for the Rockford IceHogs in the 2017-18 season. On a roster that went through some changes in the latter half of the campaign, there was a lot to cover in this area.

I’ve previously cast a magnifying glass on the goalies and defensemen in recent posts. For now, let’s move forward with the forwards from Rockford’s big season.

Rookies

Matthew Highmore-64 games, 24 G, 19 A, minus-six

Rockford’s rookie of the year was the big story throughout the first half of the season. Highmore epitomized the fast-paced style Colliton emphasized, with 15 points (9 G, 6 A) in his first 21 games. His nose for the net resulted in Highmore pacing the team in goals.

An appearance at the AHL All-Star Classic, coupled with a spring call-up to the Hawks made for a memorable first-year of pro hockey for the free-agent signing. Highmore is definitely in the mix of prospects who could find themselves in Chicago in the coming years.

Like a lot of the prospects, Highmore’s numbers dipped just a bit with the veteran influx in February. By the playoffs, he was skating on one of the lower lines while still playing solid hockey. In 13 postseason games, he was a plus-eight to go with a pair of goals and seven helpers.

 

Anthony Louis-70 games, 14 G, 30 A, plus-six

Louis was Rockford’s point leader (44) in the regular season, though the addition of the veterans had a big effect on his game down the stretch. To say his role was diminished is probably an understatement.

Skating a little lower in the Hogs lineup, Louis still managed 14 points (5 G, 9 A) in the last two months of action. However, the physical nature of the playoffs seemed to take a toll on his effectiveness. After five assists in 9 games, Colliton sat Louis in favor of Samuelsson three games into the conference final.

Louis is a strong passer and can flourish with linemates who can finish the chances he creates. I think he’ll be a player to watch as he makes the adjustments to raise his game in his sophomore campaign.

 

Alexandre Fortin-53 games, 4 G, 17 A, minus-one

Based on the expectations of a player who had such a strong training camp in 2016 before being sent back to juniors, Fortin was an under-performer in his first season with the IceHogs.

To be fair, he missed a couple weeks in January and three more in March due to injury. His speed was often on display, though there were many instances of Fortin streaking out of control and committing turnovers. A shooting percentage of 4.3 did him no favors; finishing scoring plays and playing under control should be at the top of Fortin’s list of improvements heading into next season.

 

Matheson Iacopelli-50 games, 11 G, 7 A, plus-seven

The real head-scratcher among the piglets. Iacopelli brought offense, scoring 20 goals between Rockford and Indy, where he had nine in ten games for the Fuel. He is arguably the best sniper the IceHogs had this season. So…why couldn’t he find a place in the lineup?

With someone to get him the puck, coupled with a net hound who can convert on rebound opportunities, Iacopelli could be a dangerous AHL forward. He is going to have to improve on his skating as well as find a way to create space for his shot. The question will be if he can do that at age 24.

Iacopelli often found himself on the bottom line with players more suited for checking roles. He’s not that type of player right now. Hopefully he got a list of things to work on this summer. If he can carve out a steady spot on a scoring line, we could see big numbers out of Iacopelli.

 

Graham Knott-70 games, 4 G, 5 A, minus-one

There isn’t much offense to Knott’s game. He had three separate 11-game pointless streaks while skating fourth line minutes and killing penalties. In his final 38 games this past season, he had three goals and no apples.

Knott held down the fourth line through the regular season; he did not appear in the playoffs for Rockford. On the other hand, he was a frequent winner of the Schnucks Grand Prix over speedier teammates Alexandre Fortin and William Pelletier.

Knott is still just 21 and has two more years on his entry deal to develop at both ends of the ice. With most of the new faces coming in on defense, he may still have the spot in the lineup to do so next fall.

Nathan Noel-17 games, 1 G, minus two

Noel really deserves a redo button; his season never really got on track after being injured in training camp.

By the time he was set to return, there was no spot in Rockford to be had. Noel went to Indy, where he played 17 games before getting hurt and missing a couple of months. He was brought up to Rockford in mid-February and had limited chances to develop into the IceHogs agitator.

Until Chris DiDomenico arrived, that job was up for grabs. A healthy Noel might have run with that role. My interest was peaked in the short stint Noel was with the IceHogs.

Finishing the regular season with the Fuel, Noel played well in Indy’s short playoff appearance. If Noel is in game shape to start 2018-19, he may be able to find his niche.

 

Call Ups

Vinnie Hinostroza-23 games, 9 G, 13 A, plus-seven

Tomas Jurco-36 games, 13 G, 12 A, plus-four

David Kampf-33 games, 7 G, 11 A, plus-one

Laurent Dauphin-33 games, 4 G, 10 A, minus-six

These players, Hinostroza in particular, carried Rockford in the first couple of months. Hinostroza was recalled by the Hawks December 8, Kampf on December 27 and Jurco on January 8.

Kampf returned in April to finish up the season and playoffs for the Hogs. In 16 games, he managed just a goal (Game Five vs Texas) and two assists (in Chicago in the last game of the regular season).

Dauphin, who played with a full face shield following a altercation in San Antonio December 15, was traded back to Arizona in the Anthony Duclair deal. Adam Clendening came to Rockford was a key part of the spring resurgence; Dauphin played 17 games for Tuscon (5 G, 10 A) before being recalled to the Coyotes. He was injured blocking a shot March 11 and missed the rest of the season.

 

Reinforcements

Chris DiDomenico-22 games, 8 G, 15 A, plus-three

All this guy did was spark Rockford into its late-season push to the Calder Cup Playoffs. Once there, he was the league’s top point producer (7 G, 11 A in 13 games) until the final games of the Calder Cup Final. If anybody saw this coming, step forward and be called Fibber McGee.

Returning to AHL rinks after several seasons abroad, DiDomenico was obtained for Ville Pokka in a trade with Ottawa in mid-February. Along with a heavy dose of veteran leadership that was injected into the piglets, DiDomenico brought a chippy element to a club that had practically none before he arrived.

By the time the playoffs started, you had skaters of all shapes and sizes finishing checks all over the ice. The motor was still firing, but the Hogs picked up a definite snarl that was a major part of the playoff success.

DiDomenico rides off into the sunset, having signed to play in the Swiss League for two seasons soon after cleaning out his locker at the BMO. One richly deserved stick tap, coming right up.

 

Lance Bouma-20 games, 7 G, 7 A, plus-seven

Chicago sending the physical forward to Rockford in February proved to be good for the IceHogs. Like DiDomenico, Bouma added veteran grit that was in short supply at that point of the campaign. Like DiDomenico, I would not expect to see Bouma in a Hogs sweater next season.

 

Tanner Kero-36 games, 8 G, 12 A, minus-ten

I’m finding out about the Hawks trade with Vancouver just as I was set to ponder Kero’s season for this post. Basically, Kero’s 2017-18 season has produced Michael Chaput.

Kero came to Rockford in December. He was out for about a month after an injury against San Antonio on February 18 and also missed a few games at the close of the regular season.

 

John Hayden-24 games, 5 G, 12 A, even

Arrived January 10 when he was assigned to the Hogs by Chicago, playing through the beginning of March before being recalled. Hayden was also with Rockford once the Blackhawks season ended.

Hayden was physical for sure…but he just didn’t seem to make the impact I imagined when he was sent to Rockford. That goes double in the playoffs; he delivered his share of hits but accounted for just three goals in 13 postseason games.

 

Henrik Samuelsson-25 games, 9 G, 3 A, minus-one

The former first-round selection of the Coyotes was skating in the ECHL for Idaho when Rockford inked him to a PTO in February. The move became a permanent arrangement when the IceHogs signed him through the 2018-19 season.

Samuelsson found the net in each of his first three games with Rockford, including a game-winner against San Antonio February 18. He worked his way onto a power play unit and was a steady presence through the rest of the regular season.

Samuelsson showcased some offensive know-how to go with a strong presence in the corners in his stint with the Hogs. After sitting out the first two rounds of the postseason, he was inserted for the last four games of the conference final with Texas.

 

Viktor Ejdsell-five games, 1 A, minus-three

Ejdsell, of course, made his mark in the postseason, where he totaled 12 points (7 G, 5 A) in 13 games. The lanky forward displayed a nice shot and enough skating ability to keep up with his linemates. He certainly didn’t look out of place in the smaller North American rinks.

The 23-year old Swede had a good sense of timing. Four of his postseason goals were game-winners, the most notable being the one that ended the Game 3 triple-overtime affair with the Wolves. Another came in an elimination game with Texas, where he had a three-point Game 4.

A full season in Rockford could prove to be very interesting, as Ejdsell could probably use a year to hone his skating before hitting NHL ice. Depending on the makeup of the Hawks roster, he could see himself riding the I-90 shuttle for parts of next season.

 

The Vet

Andreas Martinsen-64 games, 12 G, 16 A, plus-seven

So far as early season veteran presence, Martinsen was about it through the first months, save for Jurco and Dauphin. The big Norwegian was key to any physical element to the piglet’s game until the latter part of February when guys like DiDomenico and Bouma showed up.

Obtained for Kyle Baun just before the start of the season, this trade was a definite win for the Blackhawks. Baun wasn’t terrible this season, with 22 points (5 G, 17 A) in Laval and the Toronto Marlies (with whom he won a Calder Cup despite not playing in the playoffs). For the IceHogs, however, Martinsen brought more to the table and was a good fit.

Aside from a spell in Chicago this spring, Martinsen was a mainstay in the lineup, often teaming with Sikura and Alexandre Fortin on what proved to be a very effective group. The 6’4″, 230-pounder re-upped with the Blackhawks for 2018-19. He should be able to skate fourth-line minutes in Chicago if needed and is a nice piece for Colliton to have in Rockford.

 

AHL Standouts

Tyler Sikura-74 games, 23 G, 16 A, plus-24

Sikura failed to stick in three AHL cities following his college career at Dartmouth. Before signing with Rockford, he was still looking for his first AHL point. This season, he earned the team MVP award and an NHL entry contract to boot.

Sikura was a hard worker in the first two months of the season, but it wasn’t showing up on the scoreboard. Through November, he had three goals in 19 contests. In fact, it wasn’t until the post-Christmas part of the schedule that Sikura started seeing the fruits of his efforts.

Starting on December 28 until signing his NHL contract for next season March 6, Sikura put up 13 goals and six helpers in 29 games. To celebrate his new ink, he had 14 points (7 G, 7 A) to close out the last 17 games of the regular season.

Sikura proved to be quite the redirection artist throughout the season. By the spring, not only was he killing penalties but was on the red-hot first power play unit. Sikura also showed that he can create scoring chances on occasion when away from the net.

This was by far the most productive season by a Hogs AHL-signing in the history of the franchise, eclipsing P.C. Labrie’s 2015-16 34-point explosion. Labrie, however, was between NHL deals at the time. Sikura truly announced his presence with authority in his rookie season.

What lies ahead for the elder Sikura brother? I don’t know if he can match last season’s 18.3 shooting percentage, but he’s welcome to try. It will be interesting to see how he follows up such a remarkable performance.

 

William Pelletier-69 games, 14 G, 15 A, plus-13

Another AHL rookie that kept several Hawks prospects out of the lineup was Pelletier, who came out of Division III Norwich looking to prove he could skate at this level. He did.

Pelletier’s wheels allowed the Hogs to send pucks way down the ice, knowing the 5’7″ forward could negate icing and chase down the biscuit. His fore check was tenacious all season and as the playoffs got underway, he started bringing the action to his opponents along the boards.

This was good to see, because Pelletier was a guy opposing teams loved to target on the ice with big hits. Dishing back a little physical business didn’t hurt his effectiveness. Pelletier earned an extension of his AHL deal with Rockford for his efforts and should yet again be a fun player to watch zooming up and down the ice.

 

Luke Johnson

Luke Johnson-73 games, 13 G, 17 A, minus-four

I’m giving Johnson his own category in this review. On a roster of first-year prospects and veteran additions, Johnson perhaps had the most to prove out of any of the returning players.

In last year’s season recap, I suggested that Johnson needed to step up his game from a 17-point rookie campaign in 2016-17 to avoid being pushed to the bench by all the new faces in Rockford. I’d say that Johnson took that step and then some.

Johnson was a steady producer at both ends of the ice for Rockford. He also was a player who took on some big dance partners when circumstances dictated. Four of the IceHogs league-low 11 fighting majors were attributed to Johnson.

In a very quiet manner, Johnson raised his position within the organization. He drew praise from NHL veteran Cody Franson as well as with coach Jeremy Colliton. John Dietz of the Daily Herald got both men to open up about Johnson’s game during the playoffs.

If Colliton names a captain for the 2018-19 IceHogs (after not doing so this past season), don’t be surprised if the C is slapped on Johnson’s sweater.

 

Coffee Cups

Alex Wideman

Tommy Olczyk

Kyle Maksimovich

These three players produced a grand total of zero points for the IceHogs this season. Wideman (13 games in Rockford) did have another good season with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel, with 16 goals and 32 assists. Most of his time in town came in January and February.

Olczyk saw action once for the Hogs, skating in Grand Rapids January 20. Maksimovich was signed to an ATO in March after scoring 31 goals in the OHL for Erie. He got into four games late in the season and was inactive once the playoffs got underway.

 

Unlike a year ago, there should be lots of returning faces up front for the Hogs. Depending on what kind of veteran skaters Rockford is afforded, there could be several players who could make big strides in their games. Like last season, it should be exciting to watch.

I’m sure there will be some activity worth shouting about in the coming weeks. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter just in case I think of something. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks to sort through the summer.

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate to the Chicago Blackhawks, are halfway to a Central Division Final victory over Manitoba. The Hogs have surged to a 2-0 series advantage of the strength of two wins on the road this past weekend.

Rockford took Game 1 Friday by a score of 4-2, then came back the next afternoon and beat the Moose 4-1. The IceHogs are 5-0 so far in the postseason. They can build upon that streak in the confines of the BMO Harris Bank Center with Wednesday night’s Game 3.

The Hogs special teams continued to be a difference-maker in the playoffs. Rockford was 3-10 in power play opportunities, while holding the Moose scoreless in five chances. The IceHogs controlled large stretches of action in Manitoba and were more effective physically to boot.

Here are a few thoughts to chew on as the action returns to Winnebago County in a couple of days.

 

A Team Transformed On The Fly

A lot has been made about the six players the Blackhawks sent to Rockford following the conclusion of their season. The broadcasters in Manitoba brought it up several times this weekend, as did the Chicago Wolves crew in the first round.

To suggest the Hogs are being led by mercenaries who arrived just to buoy a Rockford playoff run is not giving enough credit to the players who were around for the late-season push to the postseason. Yes, Victor Ejdsell has certainly been an x-factor so far. John Hayden and David Kampf have deepened the lineup for sure.

However, Andreas Martinsen spent most of his season toiling in Rockford. Jeff Glass, due to the strong play of Collin Delia, hasn’t seen the ice in the playoffs. The other goalie that came down, J.F. Berube, didn’t even report to Rockford after being re-assigned.

When the 2017-18 season began, the IceHogs were well-stocked with prospects but lacking in veteran leadership and physical know-how. At some point in the schedule, this glaring need was recognized and addressed in a host of moves.

This includes Cody Franson’s January assignment to Rockford, the acquiring of Chris DiDomenico in mid-February and Lance Bouma being assigned to the Hogs  to Rockford late in that month. Over the last half of the AHL season, the piglets got a year of experience under their belts. They also were reinforced in a way that added a physical, veteran element that is tailor-made for postseason staying power.

 

Short Handed Moose

Manitoba went into this series without its leading scorer. Mason Appleton, the league’s top rookie, has been out with an injury suffered in the previous round of playoff action.

Saturday, Bouma crunched AHL Defenseman Of The Year Sami Niku against the boards in the corner of the Manitoba zone in the second period. Niku was able to finish his shift but left the game. He did not return. Appleton and Niku were arguably the two best rookies in the league this season. Having them both out against Rockford is going to leave a lot of scoring slack for the Moose to pick up.

 

Hogs Of Note

Tyler Sikura potted goals in both games and played strong hockey in his own end as well. The IceHogs MVP of the regular season has continued to do the dirty work needed to get pucks in the net. For the postseason, he’s tied for the team lead (with DiDomenico and Ejdsell) with three goals.

Rockford’s rookie goalie has been Deliariffic, stopping 57 of the 60 pucks sent to his net. He was instrumental in the Game 1 win, negating several Rockford turnovers that could have had the Hogs in a hole over the first 40 minutes. Delia owns a 1.52 GAA and a .949 save percentage in addition to a 5-0 postseason mark.

 

Packing The BMO…Or Not?

I am definitely interested in how the piglets will draw as the games take on more importance. The Moose, on a weekend, drew 3,816 and 3,955 fans to the Bell MTS Place for the opening pair of contests. That is more than a bit off their season average of 5,277; to be fair, Winnipeg does have an NHL team in the same building in action this spring.

In 2017-18, Rockford saw an average of 3,915 enter the BMO Harris Bank Center each game. This is the lowest season attendance for the IceHogs since the 2008-09 campaign and an 1,100-fan per game drop-off from two seasons ago, when Rockford drew over 5,000 a night.

Game 3 is Wednesday, which isn’t typically a big attendance night at the BMO. Back in the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs, Rockford hosted three games against Grand Rapids in the second round. The IceHogs averaged 4,834 that season but had the following gates attend the playoff match-up:

Wednesday, May 13-1,780

Thursday, May 14-1,620

Sunday, May 17-1,624

Over 5,400 fans turned out for the Hogs win over Chicago in Game 2 of the first round. I believe that that is a franchise high for playoff attendance by a couple of thousand people. The previous high was May 11, 2008, when 3,306 showed up for Game 6 of Rockford’s second-round series with the Wolves.

Is the playoff buzz sufficient around this part of Northern Illinois to pull people away from local high school sports action? The IceHogs have an enthusiastic fan base who will be making the trek to the BMO Wednesday night. If that total tops 2,500 fans, I will be pleasantly surprised. If the game draws over 3,000 fans, I’ll be stunned (but in a good way).

It would be great if the IceHogs playoff run could pick up fan momentum; a telling indicator may well come on Friday, when Rockford hosts Game 4.

 

Central Division Final-Game 1

Friday, May 4-Rockford 4, Manitoba 2

The IceHogs opened the Central Division Final in impressive fashion, taking Game 1 at the Bell MTS Place.

The Moose opened the scoring late in the opening period after Julian Melchiori lobbed the puck out of his zone and into Hogs territory. Viktor Svedberg and Cody Franson were both safely back, but Svedberg was unable to get control of the bouncing biscuit. Buddy Robinson got the handle on the loose puck and beat Hogs goalie Collin Delia at the right post for a 1-0 Manitoba advantage at the 16:56 mark.

Rockford got an equalizer midway through the game on a slick transition play that started with Carl Dahlstrom getting possession of the puck in the corner of his own zone. In short order, the puck made its way to Matthew Highmore in neutral ice. Highmore sent it across the ice to Victor Ejdsell entering the Moose zone. The big forward zipped around Melchiori to gain a path to the right post, where his backhanded attempt got by Manitoba goalie Eric Comrie at 11:53 of the second.

The IceHogs used the power play to take the lead 3:29 into the final frame after a delay of game penalty on Manitoba. Tyler Sikura got a stick on a Chris DiDomenico offering to redirect the puck past Comrie for a 2-1 Rockford advantage.

Just 45 seconds later, John Hayden one-timed a pass from Andreas Martinsen. The shot from the slot kissed cord and put Rockford ahead 3-1.

The Hogs added an empty net goal from Cody Franson when a shorthanded Moose club yanked Comrie from the crease with less than a minute to go. Manitoba got a tip-in from Jan Kostelek, but the clock ran out with Rockford on top.

Delia, who kept his team close in the first two periods on several point-blank chances off of Rockford turnovers, made 24 saves to pick up the win along with first star honors.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Hayden-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Chris DiDomenico-David Kampf-Lance Bouma

William Pelletier-Tanner Kero-Anthony Louis

Matthew Highmore-Victor Ejdsell-Luke Johnson

Cody Franson (A)-Viktor Svedberg (A)

Adam Clendening-Carl Dahlstrom

Gustav Forsling-Darren Raddysh

Collin Delia

Power Play (2-6)

DiDomenico-Johnson-Sikura-Franson-Clendening

Highmore-Ejdsell-Louis-Bouma-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Manitoba was 0-2)

Kampf-Bouma-Franson-Svedberg

Kero-Pelletier-Raddysh-Forsling

Johnson-Martinsen-Clendening-Dahlstrom

 

Central Division Final-Game 2

Saturday, May 5-Rockford 4, Manitoba 1 

Game 2 was another strong effort, as the IceHogs controlled the pace of the game on the way to a weekend sweep of Manitoba.

For the second straight game, the Moose scored first, getting the best of Hogs goalie Collin Delia when Brenden Lemiuex redirected a shot by Nic Petan 16:03 into the game. As was the case Friday night, Rockford responded with the next three goals.

The Hogs answered Lemiuex’s goal 2:35 later when Viktor Svedberg intercepted Petan’s clearing attempt in the high slot. Manitoba goalie Eric Comrie made the stop but left a juicy rebound in the front of the net. Tyler Sikura was on hand to knock it into the cage to tie the score.

The Hogs man advantage unit gave Rockford a 2-1 lead 4:45 into the second. Chris DiDomenico gained possession of a puck along the left half boards, skated across the ice into the slot and fired past Comrie’s stick side for the lamp-lighter.

Assists on the goal came from Sikura and Luke Johnson. However, a big part of the scoring play came when Cody Franson lifted the stick of Buddy Robinson of the Moose, allowing Sikura’s ring-around pass to get to DiDomenico.

The IceHogs moved out to a two-goal lead late in the middle frame. Some nice puck work in the corner of the Manitoba zone by Ejdsell and Tanner Kero resulted in Gustav Forsling sliding a cross-ice pass to a waiting Carl Dahlstrom. The one-timer sailed past Comrie for a 3-1 Rockford advantage 16:03 into the second period.

From there, Rockford kept its collective thumb on the Moose offense, killing a couple of Manitoba power plays and limiting scoring opportunities. Andreas Martinsen added an empty net goal in the closing seconds after the Moose went with six skaters most of the last three minutes.

Delia’s effort nabbed him First Star honors for the second consecutive night. Lemieux and Sikura were voted second and third stars. Luke Johnson left after a rough collision with the end boards in the second period, but returned for the start of the third.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Hayden-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Chris DiDomenico-David Kampf-Lance Bouma

William Pelletier-Tanner Kero-Anthony Louis

Matthew Highmore-Victor Ejdsell-Luke Johnson

Gustav Forsling-Carl Dahlstrom

Cody Franson (A)-Viktor Svedberg (A)

Adam Clendening-Darren Raddysh

Collin Delia

Power Play (1-4)

DiDomenico-Johnson-Sikura-Franson-Clendening

Highmore-Ejdsell-Louis-Bouma-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Manitoba was 0-3)

Kampf-Bouma-Franson-Svedberg

Kero-Pelletier-Raddysh-Forsling

Johnson-Martinsen-Clendening-Dahlstrom

 

Coming Up

Following Game 3 Wednesday, Rockford hosts the Moose for Game 4 Friday night. Game 5 will happen on Sunday afternoon, should it be deemed necessary.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for tidbits of lucid thought throughout the AHL playoffs.

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, are playing a waiting game until later this evening. Monday night, Rockford’s Central Division Final opponent will be decided when Manitoba or Grand Rapids wrap up their Game 5 tilt.

The IceHogs have been to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs on two previous occasions since the Hawks affiliate arrived in the Forest City. They have never advanced past this round.

Back in 2008, Rockford’s inaugural campaign, the Hogs were eliminated by the Chicago Wolves. The piglets swept Chicago last week to advance to their current position.

In 2014-15, the IceHogs finished a single point behind Grand Rapids for the top spot in the Midwest Division with a franchise-high 46-23-0-5 mark. They swept Texas to meet the Griffins in round two. Grand Rapids then dispensed the Hogs in five games.

Will the third appearance in the second round be the charm for Rockford? The ingredients for a successful postseason run have been stewing over the course of the past six weeks.

 

How’s That, You Say? Here’s Why The Arrow Is Pointing North:

The IceHogs are playing their best hockey of the season.

Rockford finished the regular season 14-5-1-1 before winning three straight against the division champions in the opening round of postseason action.

They’re getting loads of veteran leadership at both ends of the ice.

Veteran players like Chris DiDomenico (arguably the Hogs best forward the past few weeks), Lance Bouma and Andreas Martinsen have added a layer of ruggedness that has served Rockford well as the physical nature of playoff hockey becomes more of a factor. Cody Franson and Adam Clendening deepened the back end dramatically.

Their special teams, particularly the power play, has kicked it up a couple of notches.

Heading into the Wolves series, I pointed out that just looking at Rockford’s pathetic man-advantage numbers would be misleading. I’m guessing Chicago knew that going in. I’m darn sure the Wolves knew that when they skated off the Allstate Arena ice following their 4-3 loss to Rockford.

The IceHogs converted their power-play chances at a rate of 39 percent (7-18) against Chicago. ‘Nuff said.

The goal-tending has been very good.

Rookie Collin Delia has earned the right to anchor the Hogs in net regardless of the opposition in the division final. He was by far the hottest goalie in town heading into the postseason, going 10-1-2 in his final 13 starts of the regular season.

In three playoff games (nearly four, with the extra sessions Thursday night), Delia posted three wins with a 1.62 GAA and a .927 save percentage.

Since the IceHogs punched their ticket to the second round, speculation on who Rockford would be better off facing has run rampant. Personally, I’d rather face the team that lost their best-of-five series. That’s not the way it works, though.

I figured that the Griffins would make quick work of a slumping Manitoba club, but the Moose have played well. Grand Rapids had to win Thursday to force a Game 5. Either of these teams are going to be a formidable opponent.

Eric Tangradi, the Griffins leading goal-scorer and a veteran of AHL playoff battles, is out for Game 5 via suspension. Both teams have won in the other’s barn this series, with Game 5 being in Grand Rapids. It could go either way, to be honest.

Later this week, when the IceHogs have an opponent, I will return with a in-depth look at what could be a historic playoff series for the folks here in Winnebago County.

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs are a single point away from earning a spot in the 2017-18 Calder Cup Playoffs. With the Blackhawks season over, there will be a lot of options for Rockford coach Jeremy Colliton this week.

Following the conclusion of the NHL season, the organization sent six players to Rockford to fortify the ‘Bago County Flying Piglets. Is this flood of talent a boon or bane to the IceHogs?

On the surface, this is a great problem for Colliton and the Hogs to have. What we have is a team that has put it together at an opportune time picking up some high-caliber talent. Lake Erie (now Cleveland) parlayed that combination into a Calder Cup just two years ago. Surely Colliton is going to find it hard to keep arrivals John Hayden, Andreas Martinsen, David Kampf and Victor Ejdsell off the forward lines.

On the other hand, why mess with what’s working? The current group has played very well in the past few weeks. Shouldn’t that be taken into consideration?

It would be easy to suggest that Colliton sit his AHL contracts in favor of a more high-end lineup. Of course, that would mean sitting your second leading goal-scorer and some other key personnel.

I can’t see the IceHogs sitting Tyler Sikura for anyone at this point. Having earned an NHL-deal for next season, Sikura added three more goals this weekend to push his season total to 22. Over his last ten games, Sikura the Elder has six goals and six helpers.

William Pelletier is another AHL contract that would be hard to see in the press box. His speed alone has been a huge plus for the IceHogs, who can count on the former Division-III standout to chase down pucks and negate icing. Oh…he also has 28 points (13 G, 15 A) on the season.

Hayden, Martinsen and Kampf have all spent a good portion of the season in the AHL. It’s difficult not to see them making Rockford a much tougher team to face, chemistry be damned. With three games remaining on the IceHogs regular season schedule, Colliton is going to have some interesting choices to make in the final week of the season, and possibly beyond.

So…who shines a seat? Here’s some speculatin’…

  • First off, I would think the depth at forward would keep D Robin Norell off a forward line, regardless of how much Colliton and/or the organization likes him skating on a wing.
  • If a playoff spot were to be locked up early this week, maybe we see Kyle Maksimovich or recently-signed Mathias From out there in the final weekend of action. Otherwise, they’ll just be along for the ride.
  • Graham Knott, who has been a fourth-line center for the bulk of the campaign, is probably the first regular who loses his spot.
  • Tanner Kero was injured Wednesday night in San Antonio; no word so far as I know regarding a return.
  • Henrik Samuelsson, who earned a full-time AHL contract from the Hogs with some strong play during the stretch run, is likely to be another candidate to sit.

Colliton will also have to decide which of three goalies (Collin Delia, J.F. Berube or Jeff Glass) anchors this team from here on out. Delia has had the hot hand, going 7-0-2 in his last nine starts, including both of Rockford’s wins this week. In that nine-game span, he’s posted a 1.84 GAA and a .935 save percentage.

Of course, Berube has taken a team to the AHL championship back in 2014-15 with Manchester and has good AHL numbers this season (2.37 GAA, .920 save percentage) despite being 7-8 for the Hogs. Glass has had some effective stints in Rockford this season as well, with very similar season numbers to Delia.

If Rockford can collect a single point in any of its last three games, or if Milwaukee fails to win any of its last three, then the IceHogs are playoff bound. Depending on how the final week plays out, it is possible that Rockford winds up as any of the four playoff seeds. Chicago leads the Central as of Monday; the Hogs have a home-and-home Friday and Saturday with the Wolves that could well decide the division.

The recent additions, along with the potential for advancement in the standings, are going to make for a crazy final week of the regular season.

 

Recaps

The IceHogs traveled to Texas this past week, claiming a pair of wins to put them on the brink of locking down a postseason berth. Rockford is fourth in the Central and within striking distance of first-place Chicago. Manitoba and Grand Rapids, who, like the Wolves have assured themselves of playoff action, sit just two points ahead of the Hogs.

Wednesday, April 4-Rockford 4, San Antonio 2

Rockford’s fifth win in a row came against a desperate Rampage club that was fighting for their playoff lives. The IceHogs came out on top of a fast-paced contest that saw quality chances turned away at both ends of the ice.

Matthew Highmore got the scoring started 4:21 into the first period, taking a backhand drop pass from Tanner Kero in the slot and five-holing San Antonio goalie Spencer Martin. Kero would wind up missing most of this game with an injury, but got hold of a stretch pass from Carl Dahlstrom coming into the Rampage zone to set up the goal.

The Rockford lead was short-lived, as San Antonio quickly potted goals by Michael Joly and Tommy Vinnelli. The Hogs tied the score late in a wild first period when Anthony Louis hoisted a backhand into the Rampage zone from just inside his blueline toward a waiting Martin. The bouncing puck was mishandled by Martin, allowing Lance Bouma to get to the rebound and knock it into Twine Town at the 17:11 mark.

The rest of the scoring on this night would be provided by rookie forward William Pelletier. The eventual game-winner came early in the second period with Rockford on the penalty kill. Viktor Svedberg got the play started by winning control of the puck along the half boards of the defensive zone. He tapped the biscuit to Highmore, who banked it to Pelletier in neutral ice.

Pelletier streaked down the left side into San Antonio territory, leading Highmore on a two-on-one rush. Electing to hold on to the puck, Pelletier struck gold short side to complete the shorthanded lamp-lighter 3:03 into the period.

Three goals were enough for Collin Delia, who stopped the Rampage’s last 19 shots over the final 40 minutes. Pelletier chased down Tyler Sikura’s clearing attempt in the final minute and guided it into an empty net to put a bow on the victory.

Highmore was voted the game’s first star. Along with Kero, Luc Snuggerud’s night ended early when he came off holding his wrist in the middle of the first period. Both the Hogs and the Rampage went 0-3 on the man advantage.

 

Friday, April 6-Rockford 3, Texas 2 (SO)

It took an extended shootout to decide this contest. When the smoke cleared, Rockford came out on top thanks to a big blast by Viktor Svedberg.

The piglets went down 1-0 to Texas on a Brent Regner tally late in the first. The IceHogs used a pair of power play goals to take a 2-1 lead by the first few minutes of the third period.

The first Rockford goal came midway through the game. Tyler Sikura was in front of Stars goalie Landon Bow to tip in an Adam Clendening offering from up top, tying the score 1-1 at the 8:56 mark of the second period.

The Hogs took the lead 4:11 into the third when Cody Franson found Chris DiDomenico above the right circle on the man advantage. The shot whizzed by Bow and into the top left corner of the Texas net.

The Stars pulled Bow late in the game and it paid off in the form of a Gavin Bayreuther goal that came off of a long rebound with 1:13 to play. Neither team could convert in Gus Macker Time, necessitating the shootout.

Travis Morin put Texas up 1-0 in the third round of the shootout, but Franson was able to respond for the IceHogs. In the bottom of round five, Svedberg skated to the slot and slapped home the game-winner, earning him first star honors.

Rockford wound up going 2-2 on the power play, while stopping both of the Stars opportunities. Collin Delia made 22 stops on the night as the Hogs picked up their sixth straight win.

Saturday, April 7-Texas 4, Rockford 3

Rockford couldn’t hold onto a two-goal lead in the final period, giving up a trio of Texas goals to drop the final game of a Lone Star road trip.

As he had the night before, Brent Regner put the Stars up 1-0 with a goal 5:51 into the game. This one came on the power play, which would burn Rockford twice on this evening.

The Hogs would draw even late in the first, with Tyler Sikura gaining control of a loose puck in the slot and sending it past Stars goalie Landon Bow at the 18:31 mark. Sikura would get his second goal of the game 4:29 into the second period. This one came from a long-distance attempt from the left half boards.

Rockford gained a 3-1 advantage midway through the second after Anthony Louis whiffed on a centering attempt by Luke Johnson. The puck slid through the circles and onto the waiting stick of Alexandre Fortin, who knocked it past Bow at the 11:29 mark.

Unfortunately for the Hogs, Texas rallied in the final 20 minutes. Brian Flynn sent a slap shot past Rockford goalie Matt Tomkins in the third minute. Roope Hintz skated to the bottom of the left circle and beat Tomkins high to tie the game with 6:13 remaining.

Travis Morin turned a stretch pass from Gavin Bayreuther into a two-on-one rush late in the game. His pass to Joel L’Esperance was one-timed past Tomkins to complete the comeback with 2:54 left.

Tomkins, who was starting his first game for Rockford since February 3, stopped 30 of 34 shots on the night. The IceHogs failed to convert on either of their two power play chances, while Texas was 2-5. Sikura’s two-goal performance was enough to be named the game’s second star.

 

The Final Countdown

Tuesday night in Iowa would be a great time to punch that playoff ticket. The Wild have plummeted in the standings down the stretch, losing nine of their last ten.

The regular season is an intriguing home-and-home with Chicago Friday and Saturday. The Wolves have locked up a playoff berth but is the type of organization that likes division titles to brag on. Hard to see them resting starters. The Hogs, however, had three straight wins over Chicago in March.

Milwaukee, for those that gaze upon the out-of-town scoreboard, play in Chicago Tuesday, then wind up the season with a home-and-home with Iowa. Nothing is assured yet.

For updates on Rockford’s playoff status this week, follow me @JonFromi on twitter.

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, were short on the physical element as they prepared to begin the 2017-18 season. Just before the schedule got underway in October, Chicago and Montreal made a swap of forwards. The IceHogs leading point scorer, Kyle Baun, went to the Canadiens organization in exchange for Andreas Martinsen.

This was very much an under the radar transaction, as neither player figures to see NHL action this season. However, in terms of what Martinsen has brought to the IceHogs, I think the Hawks got the better of this trade.

Baun had a pretty decent campaign in 2016-17, finishing with 34 points (14 G, 20 A) to pace a depleted Hogs lineup. While his second pro season was a very productive one, it did help that there was a dearth of prospects on the roster, giving Baun opportunities he would not have this season.

Martinsen brings two things to the table that Baun lacked; NHL experience and a propensity for big hits. While Baun was no shrinking violet, the 6’3″, 220-pound native of Norway is a much more physical player.

With 119 games of NHL experience with Colorado and Montreal, the 27-year old Martinsen adds the facet of leadership to a youthful roster. He and Tyler Sikura have anchored what has been a very productive forward line at both ends of the ice.

Both Martinsen (9 G, 13 A) and Sikura (15 G, 7 A) are tied for third among active Hogs skaters with 22 points. Whether teamed with Alexandre Fortin or another Rockford forward, the pair have been tough forecheckers and have been a big reason the IceHogs have been an effective team at even strength.

Baun currently has 15 points (3 G, 12 A) for Laval in 49 games. He works hard and is a pretty heady player, though I have long questioned Baun’s chances to be a contributor at the NHL level. Regardless, I feel like Martinsen is a better fit for the current IceHogs roster.

 

Samuelsson Inked To PTO

Sunday night, the IceHogs announced that they had signed forward Henrik Samuelsson, son of Hawks assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson, to a Professional Tryout contract. This move comes with Rockford being a little light in the forward ranks of late.

William Pelletier was a scratch in both games this weekend. No word from the team, but I would guess he could be missing some time due to injury. Nathan Noel has not played since being recalled, so I would hazard a guess that he isn’t ready to take the ice.

Luke Johnson may also be among a bevy of injured piglets. He took a big hit in the third period of Friday’s loss to Milwaukee and slowly made his way to the bench. Johnson returned to action a few minutes later, but was a scratch in Iowa Saturday and could also be dinged up.

At this point, defenseman Robin Norell has been a fixture at forward the last few weeks. Even with AHL-signing Alex Wideman on the roster from Indy, the IceHogs had just 13 forwards. With Pelletier, Noel and possibly Johnson unavailable, Rockford is in need of bodies up front.

As far as bodies go, Samuelsson should do just fine. A former first-round draft pick by Arizona in 2012, he had a 40-point season (18 G, 22 A) with AHL Portland in 2014-15. This season, Samuelsson has been with Idaho of the ECHL, where he had 16 goals and 27 helpers for the Steelheads in 49 games.

At 6’3″ and 210 pounds, the 24-year-old Samuelsson could help out in the corners for the IceHogs and has a pretty decent offensive arsenal. I’d guess we’ll see him in action this week.

In other roster moves, Rockford sent Matt Tomkins back to the Indy Fuel Thursday after J.F. Berube returned to active duty. Friday, defenseman Carl Dahlstrom was recalled to the Blackhawks, where he skated in the Hawks 3-0 loss to Minnesota.

 

Recaps

The IceHogs dropped two of three games this week, including one to Milwaukee. The Ads have won four straight and have leapfrogged Rockford in the division standings. Coupled with a streaking Grand Rapids club that has won seven of its last ten, Rockford is in sixth place in the Central Division.

Wednesday, February 7-Rockford 3, San Antonio 1

The Rampage have had Rockford’s number in three previous meetings. The Hogs came out on top in the final meeting between the two teams this season with a pair of goals in the third period.

Rockford had several scoring chances in the opening frame but didn’t get on the board until late in the period. Matthew Highmore redirected a Viktor Svedberg blast past Rampage goalie Spencer Martin for a 1-0 Hogs advantage at 18:56 of the first.

Felix Girard tied things up 8:01 into the second period, coming from behind the net and finishing a successful wraparound attempt. Through 40 minutes, Hogs goalie Colin Delia had stopped 24 of 25 shots to keep Rockford even. From there, the IceHogs power play proved to be the difference.

Working with the final seconds of a Shawn Ouellette-St. Amant interference infraction incurred late in the previous period, Rockford got the game-winner with Highmore’s second goal of the evening. The play was set up with a pass from Tanner Kero to Highmore at the goal line. The rookie forward maneuvered to the front of Martin’s cage and deposited a backhand shot into the piggy bank 22 seconds into the third.

The man advantage also provided insurance later in the period when San Antonio was called for delay of game in the eighth minute of action. Adam Clendening one-timed an Anthony Louis feed toward the net. Andreas Martinsen had Martin screened but good. The Rampage goalie never had a chance and Clendening’s goal made it 3-1 Rockford at the 8:06 mark.

The three stars proved to be an all-Rockford edition; Highmore, Delia (33 saves) and Clendening.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anthony Louis-Tanner Kero-William Pelletier

Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson-John Hayden

Andreas Martinsen (A)-Tyler Sikura-Alexandre Fortin

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Robin Norell

Luc Snuggerud-Carl Dahlstrom

Cody Franson (A)-Viktor Svedberg (A)

Adam Clendening-Gustav Forsling

Colin Delia

Scratches-Nathan Noel, Darren Raddysh, Ville Pokka, J.F. Berube

Power Play (2-5)

Highmore-Kero-Johnson-Forsling-Dahlstrom

Martinsen-Hayden-Louis-Clendening-Franson

Penalty Kill (San Antonio was 0-4)

Kero-Sikura-Franson-Svedberg

Johnson-Martinsen-Dalstrom-Snuggerud

Pelletier-Hayden-Franson-Svedberg

 

Friday, February 9-Milwaukee 5, Rockford 3

The IceHogs earased one-goal deficits twice before Milwaukee prevailed in what was a tough home loss to a division rival.

Jimmy Oligny got the scoring started for the Ads with his goal at 11:34 of the opening frame. Rockford answered a few minutes later on the power play. Anthony Louis made a cross-ice pass that Cody Franson handled at the right dot before snapping off a lamp-lighter past Milwaukee goalie Anders Lindback. This tied the game at a goal apiece at the 14:29 mark.

The Admirals gained a man advantage late in the first on a Viktor Svedberg tripping penalty. They wasted little time in regaining the lead. After winning the resulting faceoff, Frederick Gaudreau scored from the left circle to make it 2-1 Milwaukee headed into the locker room.

Rockford out shot the Ads 16-6 in the second and drew even again in the fifteenth minute. Darren Raddysh did the honors, aided in part to a nice screen in front of the net by Tyler Sikura. Raddysh’s wrister zipped through the legs of Sikura and past Lindback at 14:18, capping off a nice shift in the Milwaukee zone and knotting the game at two.

At that point, Admirals forward Justin Kirkland, who had all of one goal for the season at that point, finished off the Hogs. His nifty move across the crease after receiving a Yakov Trenin feed got Hogs goalie Collin Delia on the ice. His backhand caught cord for a 3-2 Milwaukee lead 2:42 into the third period.

Kirkland added to the lead ten minutes later, when Delia mishandled Trenin’s shot to his glove side. The puck lay unattended momentarily at the right post. Kirkland knocked it in for a 4-2 Admirals advantage at 12:33.

Rockford closed to within a goal at the 14:24 mark when John Hayden received a pass from Sikura and skated out to the top of the right circle. Utilizing another Sikura screen, Hayden beat Lindback to the twine. The IceHogs trailed 4-3.

That was as close as Rockford got, though. With Delia on the bench for an extra skater, Kirkland completed his hat trick with an empty-net goal from just inside his blueline at 18:31.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson-John Hayden

Alex Wideman-Tanner Kero-Anthony Louis

Andreas Martinsen (A)-Tyler Sikura-Alexandre Fortin

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Robin Norell

Adam Clendening-Ville Pokka

Viktor Svedberg-Cody Franson

Gustav Forsling-Darren Raddysh

Collin Delia

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, William Pelletier, Nathan Noel

Power Play (1-4)

Martinsen-Louis-Hayden-Franson-Clendening

Kero-Highmore-Johnson-Sikura-Forsling

Penalty Kill (Milwaukee was 1-2)

Johnson-Kero-Franson-Svedberg

Hayden-Knott-Forsling-Raddysh

Martinsen-Sikura-Svedberg-Clendening

 

Saturday, February 10-Iowa 2, Rockford 1

Jean-Francois Berube was back in goal for the first time in two months after recovering from a left leg injury. A 27-save effort was a solid return but not enough to get Rockford past the Wild at Wells Fargo Arena.

The first period saw the Hogs and Wild trade deflection goals. Kurtis Gabriel re-directed a Brennen Mennell shot past Berube 5:55 into the contest. Moments later, Tyler Sikura changed the trajectory of a Ville Pokka shot from the right point, knotting the game 1-1 at the 7:41 mark.

As both Berube and Iowa goalie Niklas Svedberg were quite stingy from that point on, the score remained 1-1 until the third period. Iowa potted a power play goal on a Justin Kloos one-timer from the right dot at the 7:31 mark.

The IceHogs had some strong chances to tie both before and after pulling Berube for an extra attacker, but it was not to be. Rockford dropped its second-straight and lost just a little more ground to a division rival.

Lines (Starters in italics-Rockford used 7 defensemen and just 11 forwards)

Matthew Highmore-Tanner Kero (A)-Anthony Louis

Andreas Martinsen-Tyler Sikura-Robin Norell

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Alex Wideman

Alexandre Fortin-John Hayden

Viktor Svedberg-Cody Franson

Adam Clendening-Ville Pokka (A)

Gustav Forsling-Darren Raddysh

Luc Snuggerud

Jean-Francois Berube

Scratches-William Pelletier, Nathan Noel, Luke Johnson

Power Play (0-2)

Highmore-Kero-Louis-Clendening-Franson

Martinsen-Sikura-Hayden-Raddysh-Forsling

Penalty Kill (Iowa was 1-5)

Kero-Hayden-Franson-Svedberg

Martinsen-Sikura-Pokka-Clendening

Fortin-Knott-Raddysh-Forsling

 

This Week

The Hogs are at home for all three games this week. This is the last real home stand of the season for Rockford; only seven of the IceHogs last 22 games following this week’s games will be at the BMO.

The Cleveland Monsters visit Rockford Tuesday, play in Chicago Thursday, then return to the BMO for a Saturday tilt. Both teams have won three of the six meetings this season. Each has won and lost a shootout. The Monsters have dropped seven of their last ten but did break a three-game losing streak Sunday with an overtime win over Manitoba.

Sunday afternoon, San Antonio returns to the BMO for the last time this season. Rockford won the last meeting this past Wednesday night.

Points are vital to Rockford right now, as every divisional loss extends the gap between them and the pack of teams in the playoff hunt. Getting Berube back is a step in the right direction, though losing regulars like Pelletier and Johnson will make things a bit tougher.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the Rockford scene all season long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, will be embarking on a pivotal road trip this week. At six games, it is the longest time away from the BMO Harris Bank Center this season.

This is a key stretch; after a very friendly schedule to begin the season, the piglets are going to have to get it done in the opposition’s barn for a while. With two rookie goalies still trying to get acclimated to AHL competition, Rockford is in danger of dovetailing out of playoff contention.

In what is proving to be quite the log jam behind Central Division-leading Manitoba, Rockford is finding themselves drifting down the ladder. The Hogs started the week in second place. As of Monday morning, they’re in fifth following a 1-2-0-1 week.

The play in net has been inconsistent. After Jeff Glass’s promotion to the Hawks, Rockford has won just twice in its last seven games. Rockford’s young club has grown accustomed to a bit of a Get Out Of Jail Free card behind them. That is not going to be the case as this road trip begins.

The IceHogs power play has perked up, with goals in each game of what was the team’s final three-in-three stretch of the campaign. However, the penalty kill gave up five goals in 11 opportunities for the opposition. The Hogs also surrendered a key shorthanded goal to Milwaukee Sunday that cost them a point in what became a shootout loss to the Admirals.

The youngsters have fared well in the first half of the 2017-18 season. Now comes a real gut-check of a second half…hop on the bus, Gus.

Rockford will be playing 24 of its final 39 games as the visiting team from now until the regular season ends. The Hogs are 6-7-0-1 on the road heading into action this week. For this team to nab a spot in the playoffs, they will have to be better than that.

The trip begins with a California swing that will see Rockford play three games in four days. First up is Ontario on Wednesday night. The IceHogs next visit San Jose and Bakersfield on Friday and Saturday.

Coincidentally, the Reign, Barracuda and Condors occupy the last three spots in the AHL’s Pacific Division right now. Battling cellar-dwellers isn’t all its cracked up to be; Rockford managed just one win in three games with Cleveland and Grand Rapids.

Next week, Rockford visits Cleveland on January 17 and 19 before wrapping up the trip in Grand Rapids. The boys will likely return to Rockford for a few days following the return from the coast, so it won’t be quite as demanding as it sounds.

However, Chicago (and Milwaukee to a lesser extent) is surging right now. Grand Rapids is starting to put together wins. The results of this jaunt could factor into playoff potential for the IceHogs in a few months.

 

Nay, Cap’n?

We are well into the fourth month of the season and Hogs coach Jeremy Colliton has yet to announce a captain for his club. Will Colliton find leadership out on the road?

At home, the “A”s have been on the sweaters of Laurent Dauphin, Ville Pokka and Luke Johnson.

On the road, the “A”s have been worn by Erik Gustafsson, Viktor Svedberg and Andreas Martinsen.

This week, the latter group wore the letters on Tuesday (home game), Friday (road game) and Saturday (home game). On Sunday (home game), the regular home group displayed letters.

Wrinkle: The red sweaters, usually worn on the road, were used on the aforementioned games Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Sunday, Rockford wore the alternate sweaters. Maybe they just didn’t want to take the letters off.

Seems like the team leaders should have emerged by this point. Maybe someone upgrades to a “C” when the team returns to the BMO. Stay tuned.

 

All Stars Named

Two Rockford skaters were named to the Central Division squad for the 2018 All-Star Classic, to be held January 28-29. Well…one Rockford skater and one Blackhawks skater.

Erik Gustafsson will be making his first appearance in the event. Vinnie Hinostroza will likely need a substitute for his spot on the team, unless the Hawks send him back to Rockford before the end of the month. Hey…how about Matthew Highmore? The rookie leads Rockford in points (26) and goals (17).

 

Roster Happenings

No movement from the Hogs this past week. I’d think a recall might be in order this week, though.

Rockford has been skating with 12 forwards on the current roster since David Kampf was recalled to Chicago. Alexandre Fortin was a late scratch on Sunday; it might be beneficial to have an extra forward for the road trip.

Luc Snuggerud has still not returned to the lineup. He’s been out since December 8. Carl Dahlstrom was also a scratch Sunday. Rockford still has seven healthy defensemen if both Snuggerud and Dahlstrom are unavailable.

A return hasn’t been announced for injured goalie J.F. Berube; I’m guessing he will not be ready to play in California and sits out that half of the trip.

 

Recaps

Tuesday, January 2-Cleveland 4, Rockford 1

A pair of former IceHogs factored heavily in the Monsters coming to town and handing Rockford its third straight loss. Local products Alex and Terry Broadhurst have four of Cleveland’s seven goals against the IceHogs this season. Three of those came Tuesday for the last-place Monsters.

Cleveland got the scoring started when Terry Broadhurst got an open look in front of Hogs goalie Colin Delia in the opening minutes. Delia made the pad save, but the rebound came right back to Broadhurst and the second attempt got over that left pad an into the net at the 3:23 mark.

Rockford had several chances to even the score. Alexandre Fortin got a stretch pass and was way behind the defense. However, his backhand attempt was snuffed out by Cleveland rookie goalie Matiss Kivelnieks. The IceHogs had two power plays in the first 20 minutes but squandered both chances.The Monsters led 1-0 through the first period.

Rockford would whiff on another man advantage midway through the second before Laurent Dauphin was sent to the box. The Monsters power play, worst in the league headed into the contest, came up with a goal at 11: 14 of the second when Paul Bittner stuck back a rebound of Alex Broadhurst’s attempt.

The Hogs trailed 2-0 for most of the remainder of the game. With 3:44 left in the final period, Tomas Jurco tossed the puck toward Kivelnieks from the left corner of the offensive zone. The tough-angle shot struck the Cleveland goalie and settled into the net.

The hope of tying the game prompted Rockford coach Jeremy Colliton to pull Delia in the final minutes. Terry Broadhurst outraced Anthony Louis for a loose puck and poked it down the ice into the empty net to put Cleveland up 3-1 with 1:18 remaining.

Colliton brought Delia to the bench again; this time Alex Broadhurst was the recipient of an empty net after catching up to Brady Austin’s clearing pass. Broadhust guided the puck into the Hogs net with 15 seconds remaining.

Delia had his best night since being called up to the IceHogs. He wasn’t spectacular but turned in a solid effort, stopping 22 of the 24 shots he faced. Most nights, that would have been enough to earn a win. Just not on this night.

Kivelnieks’s 35-save performance earned him the game’s first star, followed by Terry (2 G) and Alex (1 G, 2 A) Broadhurst.

Lines (Starters in italics; Rockford went with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen)

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Anthony Louis-Tanner Kero-Tomas Jurco

Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson-William Pelletier

Graham Knott-Laurent Dauphin

Erik Gustafsson (A)-Darren Raddysh

Robin Norell-Ville Pokka

Carl Dahlstrom-Viktor Svedberg (A))

Brandon Anselmini

Colin Delia

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Robin Press, Matheson Iacopelli , Jordin Tootoo, J.F. Berube

Power Play (0-3)

Highmore-Kero-Jurco-Louis-Gustafsson

Fortin-Johnson-Raddysh-Dahlstrom-Pokka

Penalty Kill (Cleveland was 1-1)

Highmore-Kero-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

Johnson-Jurco-Gustafsson-Norell

Sikura-Martinsen-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

 

Friday, January 5-Grand Rapids 5, Rockford 3

Grand Rapids got the scoring started midway through the first with a wide open back door conversion on the power play. The fireworks came in the middle frame.

The Hogs and Griffins traded goals three times, starting two minutes into the second with a Dominik Shine tally. Just seconds later, Matheson Iacopelli  and Graham Knott played a little patty cake on a 2-on-1 rush, culminating in Iacopelli’s seventh goal of the season at 2:17.

IceHogs goalie Colin Delia misplayed a puck behind his own net following the center ice faceoff. As happens in these situations, it would up in the back of his net, courtesy of Ben Street at 2:28 of the second.

The Griffins committed their own gaffe a few minutes later, turning the puck over between the circles in their own zone. Iacopelli was there to collect the gift. The rookie victimized the stick side of Grand Rapids goalie Jaren Coreau for the second time of the night, cutting the Griffins lead to 3-2 at 5:01 of the second.

Another misplay by Delia, this time off a Street shot, slid to Eric Tangradi at the right post. The veteran Griffins forward slid the offering across the goal line at 7:13 for a 4-2 Grand Rapids advantage.

Rockford returned fire with a power play goal at the 14:05 mark. The score was set up by an Erik Gustafsson blast from the point that rebounded off Coreau. Matthew Highmore was on the scene in front of the Griffins net to knock the puck in to close the gap to 4-3. That score held up into the second intermission.

Street’s second goal of the evening, a power play tally at 12:01 of the third, proved to be the nail in the Hogs coffin. Rockford threw 17 shots at Coreau in the final 20 minutes, but no dice.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anthony Louis-Tanner Kero-Tomas Jurco

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson-William Pelletier

Graham Knott-Laurent Dauphin-Matheson Iacopelli

Robin Norell-Ville Pokka

Erik Gustafsson (A)-Darren Raddysh

Carl Dahlstrom-Viktor Svedberg (A))

Colin Delia

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Robin Press, Jordin Tootoo, J.F. Berube

Power Play (1-2)

Highmore-Kero-Jurco-Louis-Gustafsson

Fortin-Johnson-Raddysh-Dahlstrom-Pokka

Penalty Kill (Monsters were 0-2)

Highmore-Kero-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

Johnson-Jurco-Gustafsson-Norell

Sikura-Martinsen-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

 

Saturday, January 6-Rockford 4, Cleveland 3 (SO)

Down two goals early, Rockford was able to rally to win the rematch with the Monsters at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Sam Kurker and Zac Dalpe put Cleveland ahead 2-0 in the first period. Before the night got away from the Hogs, the Rockford power play got a puck behind Joonas Korpisalo. Erik Gustafsson sent a shot from the top of the right circle that the Monsters goalie stopped. Matthew Highmore and Tanner Kero took whacks at the loose puck until Tomas Jurco collected it at the extended goal line. His shot caught cord at 18:18 of the first period; Rockford skated into the locker room down 2-1.

The Hogs tied the game 15 seconds into the second when Highmore redirected a Gustafsson blast into the Griffins net. The 2-2 score held up until the midway point of the game. Cleveland forced a turnover in the IceHogs zone after Rockford had scored a clean faceoff win. Cameron Gaunce one-timed a Carter Camper set up past Colin Delia to put the Monsters up 3-2 at the 10:42 mark.

Rockford evened the score again five minutes later. Laurent Dauphin came in ahead of the Cleveland defense to get a puck on net. Korpisalo knocked it aside, but Tyler Sikura was on hand to collect the rebound in the right corner along the goal line. Sikura’s shot eluded Korpisalo and made it 3-3 at 15:51 of the second.

Neither team could manage a goal in the third period or overtime. In fact, the only shot that made it across a goal line came from the stick of Anthony Louis, who beat Korpisalo in the opening round of the shootout. Delia held off attempts from Dalpe and Terry and Alex Broadhurst to give Rockford the victory.

Highmore, Jurco and Alex Broadhurst were named the game’s three stars, but Delia deserves recognition in what may have been his strongest game to date in the IceHogs net. Delia stopped 29 of the 32 shots he faced, including a couple of big stops late in the game to keep the score even.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anthony Louis-Tanner Kero-Tomas Jurco

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson-William Pelletier

Graham Knott-Laurent Dauphin-Matheson Iacopelli

Robin Norell-Ville Pokka

Erik Gustafsson (A)-Darren Raddysh

Carl Dahlstrom-Viktor Svedberg (A))

Colin Delia

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Robin Press, Jordin Tootoo, J.F. Berube

Power Play (1-6)

Highmore-Kero-Jurco-Louis-Gustafsson

Fortin-Johnson-Raddysh-Dahlstrom-Pokka

Penalty Kill (Griffins were 2-4)

Highmore-Kero-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

Johnson-Jurco-Gustafsson-Norell

Sikura-Martinsen-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

 

Sunday, January 7-Milwaukee 5, Rockford 4 (SO)

Rockford failed to hold on to a late advantage, picking up a single point but falling to the Admirals in the shooting competition.

The power play got the Hogs started on the scoreboard midway through the opening period. As the clock wound down on the man advantage, Tomas Jurco took a pass from Anthony Louis at he top of the left circle. He worked his way toward the faceoff dot before snapping home a winner past Ads goalie Anders Lindback at 10:35 of the first.

Rockford started the second period up 1-0 and on a power play, nearly scoring early in the period. However, some sloppy play in the neutral zone allowed a shorthanded break the other way. Mark Zengerle had a free look in the slot, beating Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins high to tie the game 1-1 at 1:26 of the middle frame.

The IceHogs regained the lead 12:07 into the period. Viktor Svedberg skated the puck out of his zone and all the way to the Admirals goal line. His backhanded centering attempt was knocked into the Milwaukee net by Matthew Highmore for a 2-1 Rockford advantage at 12:07.

Former Hogs forward Cody Bass brought the Admirals back to even about four minutes later, when he batted in a floating puck off the crossbar and into the Rockford cage. The officials took a long look at the replay before upholding the goal call on the ice. That made it 2-2 at the 16:03 mark; the score held up as the buzzer ended the second period.

Milwaukee grabbed a 3-2 lead on a Bobby Butler power play goal 1:10 into the third. This time, it was Rockford’s turn to reply. They did at the 5:28 mark when William Pelletier jumped on a Milwaukee turnover and fired past Lindback in the slot. The puck hit the left post, but Tanner Kero was there to knock it into the net for a 3-3 tie.

It looked as if the IceHogs were going to come away with a win after Tyler Sikura’s terrific redirect effort of Matheson Iacopelli’s shot attempt. The score put Rockford up 4-3 at 17:08 of the third period. However, with 58 seconds remaining and Lindback on the bench, Butler stuck in a rebound to knot the game at four goals.

Milwaukee, shooting second after neither team could end the contest in overtime, got a first-round goal from Justin Kirkland. Jurco, Rockford’s third shooter, hit on a backhand attempt. Harry Zolnierczyk beat Tomkins on the Ads final shot to claim the win for the visitors.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson-Tomas Jurco

Anthony Louis-Tanner Kero-William Pelletier

Laurent Dauphin-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Graham Knott-Matheson Iacopelli

Erik Gustafsson (A)-Viktor Svedberg (A)

Robin Norell-Ville Pokka

Darren Raddysh-Brandon Anselmini

Robin Press

Matt Tomkins

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Alexandre Fortin, Jordin Tootoo, Carl Dahlstrom, J.F. Berube

Power Play (1-3)

Highmore-Kero-Jurco-Louis-Gustafsson

Penalty Kill (Admirals were 1-4)

Highmore-Kero-Pokka-Svedberg

Johnson-Jurco-Gustafsson-Norell

Sikura-Martinsen-Pokka-Svedberg