Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs dropped a pair of games to the Chicago Wolves over the weekend. The piglets were blown out in the Wolves practice facility in Hoffman Estates Saturday night. The following afternoon, Rockford lost a back-and-forth affair to Chicago at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Here are some musings on the first two of what will be four straight games with the Wolves.

  • The Hogs were never in Saturday’s 6-3 loss. Ivan Nalimov made his debut in net for Rockford and was not good at all. The Wolves were up two goals before the opening minute elapsed and led 3-0 after the first. Cody Franson, Evan Barratt, and Reese Johnson scored for the piglets.
  • Rockford had just one power play chance in Hoffman Estates. Sunday, the Hogs went three-for-five on the man advantage, which allowed then to be more competitive against the class of the Central Division.
  • In his pro debut, Josiah Slavin tied the score with a power play goal early in the third period on Sunday. 1:15 into the final frame, the score was tied 4-4. From that point on, the Hogs were out shot 11-1 over the rest of the contest, losing 5-4.
  • Barratt picked up another goal in Sunday’s loss, his fourth of the season. Barratt has eleven points in 18 games (4 G, 7 A) and is on a three-game point streak. Dylan McLaughlin and Wyatt Kalynuk also caught cord for Rockford.
  • Franson had a three-point weekend and has a four-game point streak going. He is atop the Hogs in points with 14 (4 G, 10 A).
  • Andrei Altybarmakyan sat out the weekend. Hopefully it’s nothing long-term, as he’s been a bright spot in terms of Hawks prospects.
  • Matt Tomkins didn’t fare much better than Nalimov in net in Sunday’s defeat. He was victimized by a couple of deflections, but misplayed a puck behind his net which led to the game-winner from the Wolves Jamieson Rees.
  • Tomkins is still deserving of the bulk of Rockford’s work load in net. That said, I would really like to see rookie Cale Morris (1.72 GAA, .956 save percentage in three appearances) get a chance to face down the Wolves in one of the IceHogs next two games.
  • Chad Yetman, who had a goal in Rockford’s first game of the season, was sent to the Indy Fuel on Friday. The IceHogs also sent D Dimitry Osipov to their ECHL affiliate. Cliff Watson returns to the Fuel after Rockford released him from his PTO. The Blackhawks also assigned Brad Morrison (3 G, 2 A in six games for the Hogs) to Indy Friday.
  • Mikael Hakkarainen is one of several Chicago prospects to yo-yo between Rockford and Chicago’s taxi squad. Hakkarainen has appeared in just six games for the IceHogs this season. Currently in his second season of his entry contract, Hakkarainen is pointless in 14 games for his pro career.
  • Brandon Pirri and Alec Regula also were recalled to the taxi squad, with forwards MacKenzie Entwistle and Reese Johnson and defensemen Wyatt Kalynuk, Lucas Carlsson, and Ian Mitchell coming down to Rockford for the weekend’s action.
  • John Quenneville has struggled to produce on the offensive end this season. In twelve games, he has just one goal and one assist. Quenneville has spent most of the campaign dealing with nagging injuries. He took a big hit against the Wolves on Saturday and was out of the lineup on Sunday.
  • Rockford finishes March with a 5-5 record and is 6-11-1 overall. They are currently 0-5 against the Wolves this season. The Hogs will attempt to pick up that elusive first win over Chicago on the road Saturday night.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for news and opinions on the IceHogs throughout the season.

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs had a big weekend, sweeping the Iowa Wild at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The piglets won consecutive games for the first time this season. Several players stood out. Below are some thoughts.

 

Some Thoughts

  • It was a huge weekend for Collin Delia, who was lit up like a pinball machine (remember those?) in his first two conditioning starts for Rockford. Delia was much improved against Iowa, stopping 35 shots in Saturday’s 3-2 win and 27 more in Sunday’s 4-3 overtime thriller. I imagine he gets the start Thursday vs Grand Rapids, his last opportunity for work while on this 14-day stint.
  • It’s premature to tab rookie Andrei Altybarmakyan “Baby Hossa”, but I’m going to anyway. The Hawks third-round pick from 2017 has been surprisingly hardy with the puck. His effort on Sunday’s game-winner was impressive, taking the puck around the offensive zone with Iowa’s Connor Dewar draped all over him and finishing from the slot. Despite being only 5’11”, Altybarmakyan is one of a few IceHogs who can consistently drive hard to the net with the biscuit. He was rewarded with a three-point weekend and is tied for second on the team with six points (3 G, 3 A)
  • I’d like to see Nicolas Beaudin hang around the BMO for a while. He’s getting top-pairing minutes with Cody Franson and is heavily active on special teams. In just four games, he has six assists.
  • With WHL players returning to their teams, I’m wondering how much time D Issak Phillips has on his ATO. I assume he returns to his junior team if/when the OHL get back to action. The 19-year old Phillips has two goals and two helpers in nine games in Rockford and should be a big part of the IceHogs next season.
  • D Alec Regula has been out the last three games with an injury. D Chad Krys has been out since leaving the game against Cleveland February 22. Aside from veteran Cody Franson, it’s a youthful group on the blueline. With just six defensemen healthy at this point, I’m surprised the Hogs haven’t inked any PTOs at the position.

 

Roster News

On Friday, the IceHogs signed goalie Ivan Nalimov to a one-year AHL contract. Nalimov is a 2014 sixth-round pick who has bounced around the KHL for the past six seasons. He was released by Dinamo Riga last month, paving the way for the 26-year-old Nalimov to come to Rockford.

Just before game time on Saturday, the Blackhawks recalled D Wyatt Kalynuk and D Lucas Carlsson. On Sunday, F Brandon Pirri and F Tim Soderlund were recalled to Chicago’s taxi squad. Coming down to Rockford was F Brad Morrison and F Mikael Hakkarainen, both of who played that afternoon against Iowa.

 

Weekend Recaps

Saturday, March 6-Rockford 3, Iowa 2

Rockford was out shot 37-19 but broke a two-game losing skid with strong play from goalie Collin Delia and a two-goal performance by Cody Franson.

The Wild out shot Rockford 13-3 in the first period. However, it was the Hogs who took a 2-1 into the intermission. Iowa took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Iowa captain Gabriel Dumont. Dumont was in front of the Hogs crease, where he collected a feed from Mason Shaw. The pass came from behind Delia’s net; Dumont was able to knock the puck into the cage before the Rockford goalie could locate it. Dumont’s sixth goal of the season came at the 4:26 mark.

Rockford would respond with the game’s next two scores. Franson threw in his first goal of the season at 9:33 of the opening frame. The point shot was set up by Andrei Altybarmakyan, who sent a loose puck around the end boards to Nicolas Beaudin. Beaudin sent a pass along the blue line to Franson for the primary assist.

Shortly after tying the game, the IceHogs utilized some crisp passing to take the lead at 12:46 of the first. Franson got the lay of the land from behind his own net before firing to Beaudin at the Rockford blueline. Beaudin got to center ice and found Matej Chalupa coming into the Wild zone. The rookie forward skated to the left dot before slapping the biscuit past the blocker of Iowa goalie Hunter Jones.

The Rockford man advantage unit propelled the Hogs to a 3-1 lead at 11:34 of the second period. Franson’s second of the game came from the left dot, set up by Brandon Pirri and Beaudin.

After a potential goal by Will Bitten was waved off with five minutes left in the middle frame, Iowa cut the lead to 3-2 with 3:59 remaining. Veteran Cody McLeod was in front of the net to collect the rebound of Josh Atkinson’s shot from the point to reduce the IceHogs lead to one goal through forty minutes.

Iowa pushed hard for the equalizer to no avail. The IceHogs come up with two penalty kills in the last five minutes of action, highlighted by some incredible play by Delia. The Rockford goalie somehow managed to make a stick save on a sure Connor Dewar goal from the seat of his pants.

Delia, on a conditioning assignment from the Blackhawks, made 35 stops on the night. His terrific performance comes after giving up 13 goals in his first two starts with Rockford.

Three Stars: Franson (First), Beaudin (Second), Delia (Third).

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville (A)-MacKenzie Entwistle-Brandon Pirri

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson

Matej Chalupa-Garrett Mitchell-D.J. Busdeker

Riley McKay-Chad Yetman-Chris Wilkie

Nicolas Beaudin-Cody Franson (A)

Michael Krutil-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Collin Delia

Cale Morris

 

Sunday, March 7-Rockford 4 , Iowa 3 (OT)

The IceHogs finally have a winning streak going after a tough start to the 2020-21 campaign. A two-goal performance by rookie Andrei Altybarmakyan was the difference in the IceHogs 4-3 overtime victory.

The see-saw contest at the BMO Harris Bank Center ended with the IceHogs sweeping Iowa in a two-game weekend set. Rockford, who trailed 3-2 after 40 minutes, wins consecutive games for the first time this season.

Rockford got on the board 8:19 into the game on the first of Altybarmakyan’s two goals. Taking a clearing pass from Dmitry Osipov, he motored up the left side and into the Iowa zone. Altybarmakyan drove the net and sent a backhand shot past Wild goalie Hunter Jones for a 1-0 IceHogs advantage.

The Wild took advantage of a cross checking infraction by Riley McKay late in the opening period. Up until that point, Rockford had limited Iowa to a single shot on goal. The Wild tilted the ice toward the Hogs net and teed off, tying the contest at the 18:57 mark. Connor Dewar played catch with Calen Addison before sending the equalizer past Hogs goalie Collin Delia from the top of the left circle.

Iowa controlled the action for much of the second period. The Wild out shot Rockford 15-5 in addition to gaining the upper hand on the scoreboard.

The two teams traded goals early in the second. IceHogs regained the lead at the 2:35 mark, following an unsuccessful power play for Rockford. Issak Phillips retrieved a clearing attempt, sliding the puck to Evan Barratt along the left half boards just shy of the Wild blueline. Barratt skated into the offensive zone and blasted home the shot from the top of the left circle.

Less than two minutes later, Michael Krutil suffered a blowout as he was about to skate the puck past the red line. Iowa capitalized, attacking Delia’s net until Dewar was able to poke a loose biscuit into an open cage at 4:21 of the second period.

Successive penalties by Rockford garnered a two-man advantage for the Wild in the seventh minute. With MacKenzie Entwistle and John Quenneville in the box, Iowa took a 3-2 lead on a back-door conversion by Damien Giroux. The goal was set up by Addison and Mason Shaw 6:34 into the middle frame.

The IceHogs drew even with Iowa midway through the third period. Cole Moberg got the scoring play started with a shot on goal that Jones stopped. The rebound was controlled by Entwistle, who backhanded the puck to a crashing D.J. Busdeker at the left post. Busdeker collected the feed and made a deposit into the net just ahead of a diving Jones at 8:11 of the third period.

The score remained all square at three goals through regulation. Altybarmakyan ended the contest in overtime with some strong skating with the puck. Fighting off Dewar around the end boards and back to the top of the Iowa zone, Altybarmakyan made his way to the slot. He fired past Jones for the game-winner 1:16 into the extra session.

Delia picked up the win for the Hogs in net, with 27 saves on the afternoon. Rockford survived a futile day on the power play, going 0-5 while the Wild scored twice in four chances on the man advantage.

The Hogs rally overshadowed a three-point night for Addison (three assists), as well as the pair of goals by Dewar. Jones ended the night with 21 saves on 25 shots.

Rockford is off until Thursday night, where they wrap up a four-game home stand at the BMO against Grand Rapids. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

Three Stars: Altybarmakyan (First), Dewar (Second), Busdeker (Third).

 

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anderei Altybarmakyan-MacKenzie Entwistle-John Quenneville (A)

Matej Chalupa-Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson

Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-D.J. Busdeker

Brad Morrison-Chad Yetman-Mikael Hakkarainen

Nicolas Beaudin-Cody Franson (A)

Michal Krutil-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Collin Delia

Cam Morris

 

This Week

The Hogs are off until Thursday, when they wrap up the current home stand against Grand Rapids. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs split the first two games of a four-game set with the Cleveland Monsters Monday and Tuesday. The Hogs picked up their first win of the season on Tuesday, but it came with some measure of concern.

Rockford was blown out in the series opener on Monday. The next night, the IceHogs came out with a different mindset on defense. The normally aggressive piglets sat back and limited shots at close range as best they could, grinding out a 3-2 come from behind victory.

Cale Morris, making his first start after relieving Matt Tomkins the night before, was strong. The rookie make several great stops in his 35-save performance. That said, the IceHogs managed to keep the shots in front of the former Notre Dame goalie, as well as far enough back for him to gauge.

Rockford played the part of counter-puncher Tuesday, hoping that one of their limited chances would find the back of the net. It was a real grind-it-out win; nothing wrong with that.

On the other hand, we’ve spent the last few seasons hearing the organization preaching possession and pace. I’m not sure this year’s Hogs are built to play a slow-down type of game night in and night out.

It was nice to see Rockford get one into the win collum. It may not happen often this season.

 

The Return Of Sikura The Elder

Last year’s leading scorer and captain, Tyler Sikura, made his return to the BMO with the Monsters this week. Sikura, the MVP of the 2017-18 IceHogs, skated on the top line with Zac Dalpe and Trey Fix-Wolansky for Cleveland. He was more than noticeable on the ice, posting a goal and two assists in the two games.

On Thursday, Dalpe, who potted two goals Monday, and center Ryan MacInnis were recalled to the Columbus taxi squad. That should make the Monsters top six a bit easier for the piglets to try and stop.

 

Sneaky Soderlund

Tim Soderlund came into Tuesday night’s contest looking for his first point of the season. The second-year forward is more impressive live than on AHLTV, so I was shocked when it hit home that Soderlund had assists on all three Rockford goals.

A fourth-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2017, Soderlund has speed and plays with his ears pinned back. His task right now is to make his game work within the team structure. His three-point night Tuesday equaled his point production in his 34 prior AHL games (1 G, 2 A).

Soderlund’s assists came from hustle as opposed to vision. On each of the three IceHogs tallies, he was able to get to loose pucks and make it possible for teammates to start scoring plays. He dug out a puck in the corner that allowed Andrei Altybarmakyan to power to the night on Tuesday’s equalizer late in the game. On the game-winner, he forced a turnover by charging in behind Evan Barratt’s dump-in to the end boards.

Soderlund nearly got his first goal of the season, just missing on a pass from Chris Wilkie on an odd-man rush minutes before Rockford tied the game in the third. He’s a prospect to watch in this shortened season. If Soderlund can convert on some scoring opportunities and keep creating pressure on the forecheck, he could make a nice bottom-six forward for Chicago in a couple of years.

 

Roster News

The Blackhawks did not make any moves between Chicago and Rockford this week.

The IceHogs announced that Cam Morrison suffered a knee injury in Rockford’s preseason game with the Chicago Wolves on January 27 that ultimately required MCL surgery. With a recovery time of five to six months, it appears his season is over before it started.

Chad Krys left Monday night’s game after the first period and did not return. I am not sure about the injury, but he was a scratch the following night.

 

Recaps

Monday, February 22-Cleveland 7, Rockford 3

By the time the sleepy piglets woke up, the visiting Cleveland Monsters were on their way to a rout. The Hogs quickly fell behind 3-0 on the way to a 7-3 loss to Cleveland, who picked up its first win of the season. Rockford fell to 0-5-1 to begin the 2020-21 campaign.

The Monsters roared out to an early 2-0 lead after Zac Dalpe pulled off two back-door tallies in the first five minutes. Dalpe was set up for the opening goal by former IceHogs captain Tyler Sikura at 4:15 into the first period. Slipping past Rockford defenseman Issak Phillips, Dalpe one-timed the Sikura feed into the basket before Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins could close the door.

On the subsequent faceoff, Sikura got another scoring play started with a pass to Trey Fix-Wolansky. Dalpe was at the left post to double the Cleveland advantage at the 4:26 mark.

Just two minutes later, Monsters defenseman Wyatt Newpower hit Carson Meyer with a stretch pass as Meyer entered the Hogs zone. Meyer split the defense and fired past Tomkins to give Cleveland a 3-0 lead 6:26 into the first.

Rockford got back in the game on the penalty kill. Cleveland goalie Brad Thiessen misplayed a puck behind his net, allowing Mitchell Fossier to gain possession of the biscuit. Fossier found Chris Wilkie crashing the net. His shot banked off the diving Thiessen and into the goal at 8:04 of the first to cut the Monsters lead to 3-1.

Rockford closed to 3-2 after some hard work by MacKenzie Entwistle to chase down a loose puck behind the Cleveland net. Entwistle hit Brad Morrison at the left dot. The shot from Morrison whizzed over Thiessen’s glove for the goal at the 10:53 mark.

The goals just kept coming for the Monsters in the middle frame. Fix-Wolansky used a Sikura screen of Tomkins to fire in a power play strike at 4:37 to make it 4-2 Cleveland. A Meyer shot off a faceoff win slipped under the pads of Tomkins at 5:28.

The IceHogs gained a power play opportunity when Cleveland was nabbed for too many men on the ice. However, Justin Scott swiped the puck from Cody Franson in the first seconds of the man advantage. The shorthanded goal came past the glove side of the beleaguered Tomkins for a 6-2 Monsters advantage at the 10:28 mark.

Cale Morris relieved Tomkins to begin the third period. The Hogs got the final frame off to a promising start when Fossier forced a turnover in front of the Monsters net. Thiessen couldn’t keep the shot out of the cage. Nine seconds into the third, Rockford cut the lead to 6-3.

Morris stopped the first 13 shots he saw as Cleveland kept the Hogs pinned down in their own end most of the third period. The Monsters tacked on a final goal at the 17:07 mark when Nathan Gerbe one-timed the setup by Fix-Wolansky from the right dot.

Three Stars-Meyer, Fix-Wolansky, Dalpe

Lines (Starters in italics)

Hogs went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.

Mitchell Fossier-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Chris Wilkie

John Quenneville (A)-MacKenzie Entwistle-Gabriel Gagne

Matej Chalupa-Evan Barratt-Andrei Altybarmakyan

Brad Morrison-Mikael Hakkarainen

Chad Krys-Cody Franson (A)

Alec Regula-Michael Krutil

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Dmitry Osipov

Matt Tomkins

Cale Morris

 

Tuesday, February 23-Rockford 3, Cleveland 2

A tenacious IceHogs defense, coupled with 35 saves by rookie Cale Morris, was the difference in a 3-2 triumph over the Monsters Tuesday night.

The Hogs picked up their first win of the season behind Morris, starting his first professional game. Rockford was able to rally from a goal down late in the contest to gain a measure of revenge for the previous night’s defeat.

A more conservative approach by coach Derek King’s club kept Cleveland from the opportunities from close quarters that sunk the Hogs the evening before. Despite being out shot 37-24, Rockford kept the game close all night until the offense could find cord.

The two teams held each other in check in a scoreless first period. Cleveland gained a power play on a slash by Chris Wilkie six minutes into the second. The Monsters capitalized, taking a 1-0 lead on former Hogs forward Tyler Sikura’s first goal of the season. Sikura was attempting a centering pass from the right post that banked off of the leg of Hogs defenseman Cole Moberg and past Morris at the 6:26 mark.

The IceHogs answered late in the second, following an offensive zone faceoff win by Rockford captain Garrett Mitchell. Issak Phillips gathered in the puck and fired from the left point. Cleveland goalie Veini Vehvilainen made the pad save but left a rebound at the skates of Evan Barratt. Barratt slid the biscuit into the Monsters net at 15:52 of the second period to tie the game at a goal apiece.

Morris and the Rockford defense kept up the good fight despite being pinned in their own end for much of the final period. The levee broke at the 12:27 mark when Evan Polei got a stick on a rebound of Justin Scott’s shot. The puck hopped over Morris and into the cage, giving Cleveland a 2-1 advantage.

Rockford clawed back to level ground with 3:23 remaining. Andrei Altybarmakyan won a battle for the puck in the corner of the offensive zone and fought his way to the right post. The initial shot was snuffed out by Vehvilainen. Altybarmakyan stayed in the crease, ending a scrum around the net by knocking the puck into the net for the equalizer.

The game-winner came off the stick of Issak Phillips, who one-timed a pass from Barratt at the left point. Vehvilainen got a piece of the blast. However, the puck had enough juice left to reach pay dirt with 1:33 remaining.

Three Stars-Morris (First), Barratt (Second), Phillips (Third)

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mitchell Fossier-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Chris Wilkie

Dylan McLaughlin-MacKenzie Entwistle-John Quenneville (A)

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Evan Barratt-Tim Soderlund

Brad Morrison-Chad Yetman-Mikael Hakkarainen

Alec Regula-Cody Franson (A)

Michael Krutil-Dmitri Osipov

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Cam Morris

Matt Tomkins

 

More Of The Same, Just In Ohio

Rockford is on its way to Cleveland, where the Hogs will finish the season series with the Monsters. The games will be at 6:00 p.m. Central Time on Saturday night and noon on Sunday.

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