Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs picked up a huge overtime win over the Chicago Wolves at the BMO Harris Bank Center Wednesday night. The 2-1 victory was in line with the way the piglets have won for the bulk of the 2018-19 campaign. Rockford leaned on its goaltender and picked up two valuable points in the Central Division standings.

On Wednesday, it was Collin Delia who kept the Hogs in contention with a 32-save performance. The frugal IceHogs have won four straight games despite scoring just eight regulation goals in that span.

Buoyed by this winning streak, Rockford has the fourth and final playoff spot in its possession for the time being. The Hogs (31-24-4-6) own a .554 points percentage with 11 games remaining in the regular season.

Texas and Manitoba are right behind Rockford, with Milwaukee still in the hunt for a postseason berth. The IceHogs can put a damper on the dreams of the Admirals, as the two teams face off with each other in each of the next three games.

Rockford visits Milwaukee Friday before the action returns to the Forrest City Saturday and next Wednesday. The Hogs have won four of the seven matchups with the Admirals this season. Three of those wins have come at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.

The IceHogs did themselves a huge favor this past Sunday in beating the Stars 2-1 in regulation. Anton Forsberg, who paces the AHL with a .924 save percentage, stopped 34 shots to pick up the win over Texas. Forsberg is 4-2 against the Admirals this season with a 1.99 GAA and a .920 save percentage.

 

Hot And Cold Running Hogs

Anthony Louis is currently mired in a 15-game goal-less drought. In fact, Louis has just one goal and four helpers in his last 26 games dating back to January 12. Tyler Sikura has been back in the lineup for six games but is looking for his first goal since coming back from a broken thumb.

Jordan Schroeder, who posted the lone shootout goal to beat Chicago Wednesday, continues to put up a steady stream of points. He has two goals and four assists in seven March contests. Since coming aboard last month, Peter Holland has also provide offense for the Hogs. In eleven games with Rockford, Holland has four goals and three assists.

Holland’s four goals since coming aboard February 20 pace Rockford in that span. The Hogs still man the league basement, scoring a paltry 2.40 goals per contest. To be in a position for the postseason is a testament to the play of Forsberg, Delia and Kevin Lankinen in net.

 

Roster Moves

The influx of college and junior players has begun for the IceHogs. Rockford signed center Dylan McLaughlin to a two-year AHL deal on March 13. McLaughlin, who was a Hobey Baker finalist with Canisius College last season, has skated in four games with the Hogs.

The IceHogs also signed Indy Fuel defenseman Dmitri Osipov to a PTO on Saturday. Osipov has skated in two games with Rockford. Wednesday, the Hogs inked forward Fredrik Olofsson, a fourth-round selection by the Blackhawks in 2014, to an Amateur Tryout contract.

On Thursday, Rockford extended the AHL contract of goalie Matt Tomkins through next season. He’s played well in Indy this season, with a 25-17-2 record. He has been named the CCM/ECHL Goaltender of the Week on three occasions this season.

At this point, forwards Jacob Nilsson, Matthew Highmore and Nick Moutrey are still missing from the IceHogs lineup. Defenseman Brandon Davidson is also out, as has been the case since February 20.

I’ll be back on Monday to recap what is shaping up to be another big weekend of action. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for game updates this weekend and thoughts on the IceHogs 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, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, have been at home for most of the last three weeks. They made the most of the extended time in their own barn.

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

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

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

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

 

Musings

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

 

Roster News

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

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

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

 

Recaps

Tuesday, February 12-Texas 3, Rockford 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, February 17-Rockford 5, San Antonio 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs had a six-game win streak snapped Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The recent success of the ‘Bago County Flying Piglets has brought at least a smidge of hope to an appearance in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The Hogs boosted their season mark to 23-20-3-5 with a 7-3 record over the last ten games. Rockford is in a tie for fourth in points with Milwaukee (54) in the Central Division. However…

…if the season ended today (which it won’t), neither the Hogs or the Ads would qualify for the postseason. Texas is in that fourth position due to its .531 points percentage, the stat that decides the highest-ranking teams in each division.

In case you are unaware, several Pacific Division teams play 68, not 76 games over the course of the season. This necessitates the use of the points percentage statistic. Since it ranks the teams regardless of how many games in hand one team may have on another, I choose to set the standings in this fashion.

I guess points will eventually matter in the Central Division after the final day of the regular season. Until that day arrives, I will report the standings (as I have for some time now) according to points percentage. So Rockford is tied for fifth, not fourth place. I am killjoy, hear me roar.

Actually, there is a lot to be excited about here on our stretch of I-90. The IceHogs still have home-cookin’ ahead of them through this upcoming weekend. They have three division opponents coming in, with the opportunity to keep pushing up North in the standings. There’s the potential of a trade deadline pact that could provide some help in Rockford.

Plus, some of the boys currently residing in town are beginning to step up.

 

Pacing A Winning Streak

The Rockford win streak was anchored by solid defense and some outstanding play in net. However, pucks need to get into the net for a six-pack of wins.

As needs to be the case with the current roster, the push is communal. Here are some players who have  come to the forefront the last few weeks:

Luke Johnson

Johnson (9 G, 8 A), leads Rockford with five game-winning goals this season. He picked up the deciding tally in both IceHogs wins this week. Over the last seven games, Johnson has four goals and a pair of helpers, including two power play strikes. All four of those goals came in Rockford victories.

 

Dylan Sikura

The Hogs leader in goals and points this season (13 G, 17 A) was very noticeable during the winning streak. Sikura The Younger put up eight points (2 G, 6 A) in his last eight games and is currently on a four-game points streak. (UPDATE-The Blackhawks recalled Sikura Monday morning.)

 

Jordan Schroeder

In 42 games, the veteran has 11 goals and 18 assists on the season. Schroeder is on pace to set a career-high in points, his previous high being 44, set with the Wolves in 2011-12. Schroeder ran his current point streak to five games and has seven points (2 G, 5 A) in his last eight contests.

 

Lucas Carlsson

With several injuries on the blue line, the rookie has continued to contribute at both ends of the ice. With eight goals and 17 helpers in 47 games this season, he is a lone assist from tying Darren Raddysh as the team’s top-scoring defenseman. In his last seven games, Carlsson has a goal and four assists.

 

Dennis Gilbert

I’m throwing Gilbert into this bunch mostly because of his outstanding evening on Saturday night. Even before the big rookie notched what was a game-tying goal at the time, I was impressed with how aggressive his was in the offensive zone.

Gilbert sent a personal-best five shots on the Tucson net Saturday, just missing on a couple of attempts and following up on several rebounds. He has 45 shot on the year in 39 games. In his last 15 games, however, he has put pucks on goal 24 times.

A very nice pass by Gilbert set up Johnson’s eventual game-winner Friday to go with his strong showing the following night. Gilbert may be benefiting from increased responsibility in lieu of several Hogs defenders out of commission at the moment.

The former Notre Dame skater has consistently brought a hard-nosed style to the ice this season. Gilbert is not a puck-moving type by any means. However, if he can display just a bit more of the aggressive game he showed Saturday on a regular basis, he could be an exciting player to watch.

 

Roster Moves

Last Monday, forward Matheson Iacopelli was assigned to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. Iacopelli, a third-round draft pick in 2014 for the Blackhawks, had a goal for the Fuel Saturday night in a 5-4 loss to the Quad City Thunder.

At times, Iacopelli has displayed a high-quality shot from the left side. This season, he has again failed to get solid footing in the IceHogs lineup. With his rookie contract set to expire this summer, it’s hard to see the young man back in the organization.

Several IceHogs defensemen are still nursing injuries. Blake Hillman, who took a nasty turn into the end boards February 1, was proclaimed to be okay the next day by the coaching staff. Hillman, however, has not played since. He skated in warmups Saturday night but was still a scratch. Also scratched Saturday was D Joni Tuulola, who did return from injury the previous night. Brandon Davidson has not played since January 21, missing the last seven games.

Luc Snuggerud, who has missed three months with a concussion, may be at a crossroads in his hockey career. It was reported by theathletic.com’s Scott Powers yesterday that the Blackhawks have placed Snuggerud on unconditional waivers.

Snuggerud, a fifth-round selection in the 2014 NHL Draft, also missed a sizable chunk of his rookie season with a concussion. After putting up 5 goals and 12 assists in 40 games last season, Snuggerud had appeared in just four games this season before suffering his current injury November 6.

 

Recaps

Wednesday, February 6-Rockford 2, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 1

Rockford won its fifth-straight game with a pair of first-period goals, riding a fine night of goal tending by Anton Forsberg to the victory.

Local product Josh McArdle got the Hogs on the board with his first AHL goal just 1:42 into the contest. The play developed after Viktor Ejdsell sent a shot on goal from the high slot. The rebound was fought for in front of the net by Jordan Schroeder and Nick Moutrey, who sent the puck back out to the slot. McArdle pounced on the opportunity, knocking the biscuit past Penguins goalie Anthony Peters for a 1-0 IceHogs lead.

Just over a minute later, Jarrett Burton beat Darren Raddysh to a Ryan Haggerty pass, leading to a breakaway goal that tied the game. The IceHogs got the game-winner 12:49 into the first, however, converting on a 5-on-3 power play.

Lucas Carlsson had won a battle for the puck behind the boards after a Raddysh attempt was wide of the net. Dylan Sikura gained possession in the corner, skated it back up top and sent a pass to Luke Johnson at the bottom of the left circle. Johnson didn’t get all of the one-timer, but the shot found its way past Peters for a 2-1 Hogs advantage at the 12:49 mark.

That lead held up for the remainder of the game, largely because of Forsberg. Rockford was out shot 39-13 in the final 40 minutes, but the IceHogs goalie was up to the challenge. Fittingly, Forsberg was named the game’s First Star for his 45-save performance.

 

Friday, February 8-Rockford 3, Tucson 1

Late in the first period, Rockford opened the scoring on a transition goal set up by a long cross-ice pass by Jordan Schroeder. The pass found the stick of Jacob Nilsson, who skated the the left dot before hitting Anthony Louis at the opposite dot for the one-timer. The goal came at the 17:38 mark.

The Hogs lead doubled 6:27 into the second period after Dennis Gilbert gathered in a loose puck in the Rockford zone. The rookie defenseman slid a stretch pass to Luke Johnson as he entered Tucson ice. Johnson skated to just outside of the right dot before letting fly with a shot that bested the glove of Roadrunners goalie Adin Hill.

Tucson’s Lane Pedersen knocked home a rebound past Hogs goalie Kevin Lankinen later in the period to cut the lead to a single goal. However, the rookie net-minder would not allow another puck past him on this night, stopping 23 shots to secure the victory.

Meanwhile, the IceHogs picked up a late insurance goal when Nilsson caught cord on the power play, drifting across the slot and flinging the puck past Hill at 15:09.

Saturday, February 9-Tucson 5, Rockford 3

The Hogs put together a rally in the third period from two goals down, tying the game before ultimately losing to end a six-game winning streak.

Rockford took a 1-0 lead 8:19 into the game with a power play goal from the top of the left circle by Lucas Carlsson. With time running out on the man advantage, Carlsson sent a Darren Raddysh feed past Tucson goalie Adin Hill.

The Roadrunners quickly responded, tying the game 25 seconds later on Brayden Burke’s ninth goal of the season. New pickup Jeremy Gregoire made it a 2-1 game at the 11:22 mark. Five minutes into the second period, Robbie Russo got a shot past Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg on a power play. Rockford faced a 3-1 deficit heading into the final frame.

The IceHogs comeback hinged on a roughing penalty by Tucson captain Dakota Mermis, who was called for his mugging of Hogs forward Jacob Nilsson. Rockford took advantage, with Jordan Schroeder catching the top corner of Hill’s net 10:28 into the third period.

Less than a minute later, the Hogs came up with the equalizer. Alexandre Fortin drove into the Roadrunners zone and sent a shot off of Hill’s pads. Dennis Gilbert, who had four previous shot attempts turned away, punched in the long rebound from the left circle and drew Rockford even at 11:08 of the period.

Unfortunately, a penalty on the Hogs side proved to be the turning point of the contest. Andreas Martinsen somehow avoided a boarding call on Mermis before shoving him to the ice. Martinsen was sent to the box for interference at 15:55; near the end of the subsequent power play, Russo banged in his second goal of the evening to give Tucson a 4-3 lead. An empty netter 30 seconds later sealed the fate of the IceHogs.

 

This Week

The Hogs are back at it Tuesday night in Rockford, when they host the Texas Stars. Iowa visits the BMO on Saturday night, followed by a game with San Antonio that will close out this lengthy home stand.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts and updates 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

The Rockford IceHogs dropped the first two games of what will be a three-game road trip in Texas. The IceHogs picked up a standings point Friday against the Texas Stars, but lost that game in Gus Macker Time before losing the following night in San Antonio.

In losing 4-3 to the Rampage, San Antonio leapfrogged the Hogs in the Central Division standings. Rockford (16-16-3-5) is now in seventh place in the division.

 

Roster Activity

Defenseman Neil Manning was brought back from the Indy Fuel of the ECHL on Wednesday. Going to Indy (on paper at least) was defenseman Luc Snuggerud, who returned to the Hogs the following day.

Snuggerud has been inactive since a concussion suffered on November 3. Perhaps this is a sign that he is ready to begin skating in Indy or Rockford soon.

Also being assigned to the Fuel was forward Matheson Iacopelli. Like last season, Iacopelli has found it difficult to secure steady ice time in Rockford. He’s appeared in 25 games with the IceHogs this season with two goals and two assists.

On Sunday, defenseman Brandon Davidson was loaned to Rockford by the Blackhawks after he cleared waivers earlier this week. Jan Rutta, who Chicago had sent to the Hogs a month ago, was traded Friday to Tampa Bay.

Recaps

Friday, January 11-Texas 4, Rockford 3 (SO)

This back and forth contest was settled in penalty shots, where veteran Stars forward Travis Morin got the only puck into a net to limit the Hogs to a point in the standings.

Texas took a 1-0 lead with a power play goal by Joel L’Esperance, who put a rebound past Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen at 12:41 of the first period. The IceHogs drew even late in the period while on the man advantage. Lankinen had just stopped a shorthanded attempt by the Stars James Phelan. Rockford came down the ice, scoring with 44 seconds left when Dylan Sikura knocked in a pass from Andreas Martinsen.

Denis Gurianov put Texas up 2-1 midway through the second period. Late in the period, Nathan Noel tied the game with an outstanding individual effort for a shorthanded goal. An Anthony Louis power play goal 4:38 into the third period gave Rockford a 3-2 advantage. Texas, however, tied it up at 15:42 with Gurianov’s second goal of the night.

It was a scoreless overtime before Morin beat Lankinen in the shootout. Viktor Edjsell, Sikura and Louis all came up empty on their attempts.

 

Saturday, January 12-San Antonio 4, Rockford 3

Jordan Schroeder had a two-goal evening…but so did the Rampage’s Jordan Nolan. The veteran’s three-point night proved to be too much for the Hogs.

Trevor Smith hit a one-timer from the slot that zipped past Rockford goalie Anton Forsberg and into the net 7:43 into the opening period. The IceHogs tied the score early in the second. Luke Johnson dropped a pass to Dylan Sikura above the right circle. His attempt found its way past San Antonio goalie Jared Coreau at the 1:29 mark.

The Rampage built a 3-1 lead in the second period on strikes by Tanner Kaspick and Nolan. The IceHogs closed the gap to 3-2 4:23 into the third after a faceoff win by Johnson. Schroeder gathered in the puck in front of the San Antonio crease and lifted home the goal past Coreau’s blocker.

San Antonio caught the Hogs napping midway through the third. Nolan took a stretch pass from Joey LaLeggia, skated to the high slot and beat Forsberg to the cord for a 4-2 Rampage lead at the 11:05 mark. Schroeder got his second goal with ten seconds to play with Forsberg on the bench, assisted by Darren Raddysh and Viktor Ejdsell. Unfortunately for Rockford, time ran out on the comeback bid.

 

Coming Up

The IceHogs finish the road trip with a rematch with the Rampage on Tuesday night. Rockford then comes back to the BMO Harris Bank Center for a Friday tilt with Grand Rapids. Saturday night, the Hogs visit Rosemont for a game with the Wolves.

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

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Blackhawks, have a real issue with goal scoring this season. As the midway point of the 2018-19 season approaches, it’s beginning to create some separation in the AHL’s Central Division standings. For the Hogs, that’s not in a good way.

As has been the case for a while now, Rockford is in sixth place in the division. However, the gap between the IceHogs and fifth-place Milwaukee is growing. The Hogs (.514 points percentage) are closer to seventh-place San Antonio (.485) than they are the Admirals (.571).

This week, the IceHogs were on the short end of a pair of 2-1 decisions. Kevin Lankinen and Anton Forsberg kept things close. In the end, Rockford was not up to the task offensively.

The defense, surrendering just 2.83 goals per game, is ranked fifth in the league. It’s a crying shame the organization doesn’t put some goal-scorers on this team every year. Right now, the IceHogs are made up of prospects and a couple of decent complimentary scorers.

As of this morning, the Hogs are still dead last in the AHL in scoring. Their figure has dropped over the last five games to 2.22 goals per contest. RFD has scored 0, 2, 1,1 and 1 in those past five. To the surprise of no one, the piglets have lost all five of those games.

If RFD is going to pick it up in the second half, some of the kids need to start finding the net. They also are going to need some help in the form of veteran pickups.

Last year, Stan Bowman filled the scoring needs with some trade deadline acquisitions, as well as assigning some players from the bottom of the Hawks roster. The bolstered Hogs reached the conference final. Two years ago, things went sour in Rockford when the team was not shored up with needed talent.

The organization may not start making moves for a few weeks yet. That means that the IceHogs are going to have to start treading water and hope help arrives.

 

All-Star Selections

The AHL announced the rosters for the leagues All-Star Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts at the end of this month. Andrew Campbell was named a captain of the Western Conference squad back on December 20. Goalie Collin Delia, who is currently playing with the Blackhawks, was also named from the Central Division.

 

Roster Moves

On Thursday, the IceHogs brought up defensemen Josh McArdle and Neil Manning from the Indy Fuel. Though Dennis Gilbert was back in the lineup this week after missing a few games, Lucas Carlsson and Jan Rutta were out for Wednesday’s game with Milwaukee. The IceHogs were forced to go with 13 forwards and just five defensemen against the Admirals.

 

Recaps

Monday, December 31-Grand Rapids 2, Rockford 1

The scoreboard wasn’t used until the midpoint; Carter Camper converted for the Griffins on a two-man advantage at 11:19 of the second period. A goal by Graham Knott was waved off due to a goalie interference call on Luke Johnson a few minutes later.

Rockford tied the game for real after a faceoff win at the left dot by Nathan Noel. Henrik Samuelsson tapped the puck to Matheson Iacopelli, who slid it back to Lucas Carlsson just inside the Grand Rapids blueline. The long-distance shot got the best of Griffins goalie Harri Sateri and nestled into the twine to even the score at a goal apiece at 15:50 of the middle frame.

Grand Rapids took a 2-1 lead with 4:44 remaining in regulation when Chris Terry’s maneuvering created the space for Joe Hicketts to send a slap shot past Hogs goalie Kevin Lankinen. Lankinen was pulled with 2:32 to go for an extra skater, but the IceHogs weren’t able to get a shot past Sateri.

 

Wednesday, January 2, Milwaukee 2, Rockford 1

Rockford dropped its fifth-straight game, falling to the Admirals at the BMO in front of 3330 humans, several dozen canine friends and at least one pet of the porcine variety.

The Hogs dug a 2-0 hole for themselves over the first two periods. The Admirals swarmed Rockford in the opening minutes, taking a 1-0 advantage on a Yakov Trenin goal 1:45 into the contest. Connor Brickley put back a rebound of an Alexandre Carrier shot 4:21 into the second to double the Milwaukee lead.

Rockford’s starter in net, Anton Forsberg, did not allow another Admirals goal to give his club a chance to rally. The IceHogs had the game’s only four power play chances but could not convert. William Pelletier, Rockford’s most active skater all evening, redirected a Tyler Sikura shot for his first goal of the season. This cut the lead to 2-1 4:26 into the final period.

Hogs coach Derek King went with six skaters for the final two-and-a-half minutes, to no avail. Raddysh sent a shot off the left post but that’s as close as Rockford could get to the equalizer.

 

Wild Times With Iowa

The prospect of breaking Rockford’s losing streak is made tougher with a home-and-home series with the Iowa Wild this weekend. The Hogs begin the action in DesMoines Friday. The teams come to the BMO Harris Bank Center on Sunday.

Iowa sits atop the Cental Division. The Wild (19-8-4-3) won their fourth straight Wednesday night, beating Chicago 3-1. Iowa has won three of the four games against Rockford this season, outscoring the piglets 11-5 in those games.

The scoring has been spread throughout the lineup; 13 active Iowa skaters have double digit points, compared to just seven for the IceHogs. Cal O’Reilly, the Wild captain and an All-Star selection, paces his club with 25 points (5 G, 20 A). Iowa is getting goals from Gerry Fitzgerald (12), Colton Beck (10) and Justin Kloos (10).

Rookie goalie Kaapo Kahkonen has three wins over the Hogs this season. In fact, he’s shut them out twice. Rockford has just one goal against Kahkonen, who will also represent the Wild at the All-Star Classic, this season.

Of Rockford’s five goals against the Wild, Anthony Louis has three of them. Two came on November 4 in a 4-2 Hogs victory. Louis (8 G, 13 A) is tied with Darren Raddysh (7 G, 14 A) for the team lead in points with 21.

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

 

Everything Else

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

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

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

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

 

Points vs Points Percentage

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

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

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

 

Derek King’s Punchout

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

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

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

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

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

 

Roster Moves

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

 

Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lines (Starters in italics)

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura (A)-William Pelletier

Nick Moutrey-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Anthony Louis-Jacob Nilsson-Jordan Schroeder (A)

Terry Broadhurst-Henrik Samuelsson

Lucas Carlsson-Jan Rutta

Joni Tuulola-Dennis Gilbert

Blake Hillman-Darren Raddysh

Andrew Campbell (A)

Anton Forsberg

Power Play (1-2)

Nilsson-Louis-Schroeder-Carlsson-Rutta

Broadhurst-Fortin-Sikura-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Penalty Kill (Chicago was 0-2)

Sikura-Fortin-Campbell-Gilbert

Nilsson-Moutrey-Hillman-Tuulola

Broadhurst-Pelletier-Rutta-Carlsson

 

This Week

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

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

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs earned five of a possible six points in a three-in-three weekend. Trust me, the piglets did earn what they got in this three-game stretch.

With offense in short supply, the Hogs turned to what has become one of the AHL’s most effective goalie tandems. Collin Delia picked up an overtime win in Grand Rapids Friday, then held the Griffins to a single goal in a Hogs victory Sunday. Anton Forsberg made 49 saves to pick up a point against Texas Saturday night, though Rockford would lose that game in Gus Macker Time.

Some time today, one of these goalies will be recalled to Chicago following Corey Crawford’s injury against San Jose last night. Both have played well and merit a shot with the Blackhawks.

Delia, in particular, has put up numbers that beg for that opportunity. The second-year pro sports a 2.34 goals against average and a .933 save percentage. He’s third in the AHL among qualified goalies in the former category and first in the latter. Sunday’s effort was an impressive audition; no way the Hogs prevail 2-1 against Grand Rapids if not for the 24-year old Delia.

The argument can be made that Delia would be better off continuing to develop in Rockford and bring up Forsberg, who spent most of last season in Chicago and has also been excellent in all but one of his nine appearances. Both Forsberg and Delia have earned a call up. The other will form a new tandem with Kevin Lankinen, who should be up from the Indy Fuel in either case.

In other roster moves, Rockford welcomed Hawks defenseman Jan Rutta after he cleared waivers Friday. He played his first game Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center as well as Sunday’s contest.

Josh McArdle, who played in Grand Rapids Friday night, was sent to the Fuel on Saturday. The IceHogs also released Hunter Fejes from his PTO Saturday. Fejes skated in nine games for Rockford.

 

Carlsson Steps Up

With Carl Dahlstrom currently up with the Blackhawks, rookie defenseman Lucas Carlsson has taken advantage of some increased ice time. Carlsson, a 21-year-old from Galve, Seweden, was used by Hogs coach Derek King on the power play this weekend.

Carlsson had key goals in both home games. He showed solid offensive instincts Saturday in pinching in and maneuvering into scoring position to find the back of the net. Sunday, he factored into both Rockford goals and was named the game’s First Star.

For the season, Carlsson now has 13 points (4 G, 9 A). That puts him in a tie with Viktor Ejdsell for fourth among current IceHogs.

 

Recaps

Friday, December 14-Rockford 3, Grand Rapids 2 (OT)

Luke Johnson got the Hogs on the board first 3:03 into the opening period. Johnson took the puck out of the defensive zone and found Jordan Schroeder coming across the Griffins blueline. Schroeder pulled up and sent a centering pass to the slot, where Johnson had skated following his pass. The redirect got past Grand Rapids goalie Patrik Rybar for a 1-0 Rockford lead.

The power play added to the IceHogs advantage after Derek Hulak was called for slashing later in the first. Viktor Ejdsell took a short pass from Darren Raddysh at the top of the Griffins zone, skated to the slot and found Jacob Nilsson waiting at the right dot. Nilsson’s shot caught the far side of the net and put Rockford up 2-0 at the 13:48 mark.

The second period was not as kind to the IceHogs. Chris Terry scored on the power play for Grand Rapids to cut the lead to 2-1 midway through the frame. A late Rockford power play resulted in a shorthanded goal by Turner Elson with six seconds left. At the second intermission, the Hogs and Griffins were even at two goals.

The score remained 2-2 through regulation. In Gus Macker Time, the IceHogs gained a power play opportunity when Joe Hicketts was nabbed for slashing. Johnson, after having a shot turned away by Rybar a few seconds earlier, got the puck back from Raddysh in the slot. Johnson waited for a lane to open up and sent a wrister over the Griffins goalie to win it for the Rockford.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Alexandre Fortin-Jordan Schroeder (A)-Luke Johnson

Viktor Ejdsell-Jacob Nilsson-Anthony Louis

Tyler Sikura (A)-Nathan Noel-Nick Moutrey

Matheson Iacopelli-Terry Broadhurst-Henrik Samuelsson

Darren Raddysh-Joni Tuulola

Josh McArdle-Andrew Campbell (A)

Blake Hillman-Lucas Carlsson

Collin Delia

Power Play (2-4)

Fortin-Johnson-Schroeder-Samuelsson-Carlsson

Louis-Ejdsell-Sikura-Nilsson-Raddysh

Penalty Kill (Grand Rapids was 1-3)

Johnson-Nilsson-Campbell-Carlsson

Fortin-Noel-Hillman-Tuulola

Moutrey-Sikura-Raddysh-McArdle

 

Saturday, December 15-Texas 3, Rockford 2 (OT)

The IceHogs kept the vaunted Stars offense at bay for most of regulation. Anton Forsberg stopped 49 of 52 shots but Texas prevailed in Gus Macker Time.

The Stars got on the board with a power play tally by Eric Condra early in the second period. Rockford was ineffective offensively for the bulk of the evening. In the closing seconds of the middle frame, however, the Hogs managed to tie the score.

With a man advantage due to a Colton Hargrove slash, Anthony Louis got a shot on net that glanced off of Stars goalie Phillipe Desrosiers and briefly settled in front of the crease. Jordan Schroeder was on hand to knock it off the right post, then again into the Texas net with just over three seconds remaining in the period.

The IceHogs gained a 2-1 advantage on a wonderful pinch by Lucas Carlsson 8:04 into period three. Carlsson slipped into the slot to nab a rebound of a Luke Johnson attempt. He stick-handled into an open shooting lane and went high past Desrosiers to cap the scoring play.

The lead was short-lived. Joel L’Esperance dug a puck out of the corner of the Rockford zone and made a strong power move to the front of the net. His shot got by Forsberg, just catching the right post and banking into the Hogs net at 11:11 for the equalizer.

Texas ended the contest 2:52 into the extra session with a goal by Adam Macherin. This put an end to Rockford’s hope to establish a win steak.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Alexandre Fortin-Jordan Schroeder (A)-Luke Johnson

Viktor Ejdsell-Jacob Nilsson-Anthony Louis

Tyler Sikura (A)-Nathan Noel-Nick Moutrey

Matheson Iacopelli-Terry Broadhurst-Henrik Samuelsson

Lucas Carlsson-Jan Rutta

Dennis Gilbert-Andrew Campbell

Blake Hillman-Darren Raddysh

Anton Forsberg

Power Play (1-5)

Fortin-Johnson-Schroeder-Rutta-Carlsson

Louis-Ejdsell-Sikura-Nilsson-Raddysh

Penalty Kill (Stars were 1-4)

Johnson-Nilsson-Campbell-Carlsson

Fortin-Noel-Hillman-Gilbert

Moutrey-Sikura-Raddysh-Rutta

 

Sunday, December 16-Rockford 2, Grand Rapids 1

Collin Delia held off the Griffins until Rockford potted a pair of opportunistic goals in the third period. Delia stopped 37 shots, 30 of which came at him in the first 40 minutes.

The Hogs got all the offense they would require in the final frame, starting with a Lucas Carlsson goal a bit past the midway point of the period. Luke Johnson set up Viktor Ejdsell for a one-timer in the slot with Rockford on a power play. The shot was stopped by the pads of Griffins goalie Patrik Rybar; Alexandre Fortin got a stick on the rebound and slid it to Carlsson near the bottom of the right circle. Rubber met twine at 11:31 of the third to give the IceHogs a 1-0 lead.

Another rebound was the catalyst for the second Rockford mark. This time, it was a Carlsson shot that settled at the right post for Jordan Schroeder to knock in at 16:03.

Delia’s shutout bid was foiled by a Chris Terry goal with eight seconds to play. The Hogs still finished the weekend on a winning note, beating the Griffins for the second time in three days.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Viktor Ejdsell-Jacob Nilsson-Anthony Louis

Jordan Schoeder-Luke Johnson-Alexandre Fortin

Nick Moutrey-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Terry Broadhurst-Tyler Sikura-Henrik Samuelsson

Dennis Gilbert-Andrew Campbell

Lucas Carlsson-Jan Rutta

Joni Tuulola-Darren Raddysh

Collin Delia

Power Play (1-3)

Nilsson-Sikura-Louis-Ejdsell-Raddysh

Johnson-Fortin-Schroeder-Carlsson-Rutta

Penalty Kill (Griffins were 0-4)

Johnson-Nilsson-Campbell-Carlsson

Fortin-Noel-Tuulola-Gilbert

Moutrey-Sikura-Raddysh-Rutta

 

This Week

Rockford (13-10-2-4) is still in sixth place in the Central Division standings with a .552 points percentage. The Hogs welcome Milwaukee to the BMO Wednesday night before visiting Chicago on Friday.

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

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs hit the weekend in search of points. Points on the scoreboard and points in the AHL standings.

Entering a big three-games in three days stretch, the IceHogs are staring at two of the better teams in the Central Division. Rockford did post wins over the Chicago Wolves and Milwaukee Admirals two weeks ago. The problem is that they haven’t won since.

The IceHogs are in sixth place in the Central Division standings with a .526 points percentage. Texas (.533) and Grand Rapids (.531) sit right above Rockford.

It’s not hard to pinpoint a reason for the Hogs four-game losing streak. There’s a power outage on the offensive end. The last four games of Rockford’s road trip yielded just five goals. The only multi-goal game in that span did get them a point Tuesday in San Antonio, though the IceHogs lost that game in a shootout.

Right now, goal-tending is not a problem for the piglets. Anton Forsberg, who looks set to return from an illness, and Collin Delia have been excellent. Delia, in particular, has felt the pinch of the goal shortage. In his last seven starts, the Cucamonga Kid has posted a 2.22 goals against average and a .941 save percentage. His record in those starts is 1-3-0-3.

The Hogs are currently 30th out of 31 AHL teams in scoring with just 2.47 goals per contest. The team below them, San Antonio, just beat Rockford twice to close out the road trip. The IceHogs are also 30th in the league in shots at 26.79 per game.

Why the drought? Simple. Matthew Highmore (24 goals last season) is out for possibly the season following shoulder surgery. Tyler Sikura (23 goals last season) has been out of the lineup the last five games.

Rockford was missing a veteran scorer in Jordan Schroeder for nine games until he returned this past weekend. Terry Broadhurst, another veteran, has been out the last six games.

Having your top scorers out is going to put a dent in the offensive output. Rockford is a team of prospects. The organization, as is usually the case, did not go out and stock the roster with AHL scorers this summer. When four big point-producers miss time, it’s hard to replace them on the score sheet.

Dylan Sikura (6 G, 8 A) and Darren Raddysh (4 G, 8 A), along with Anthony Louis (7 G, 4 A) pace the Hogs in scoring. However, Rockford does not have a player in the top twenty of the league in goals or the top forty in scoring.

It seems unlikely that the Blackhawks are going to obtain veteran scoring help in the immediate future. Rockford is going to have to get healthy, then get after it in the offensive zone to turn its fortunes.

 

Weekday Action

Thursday, the IceHogs assigned two players to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. One was forward Brett Welychka, who had been in Rockford since October 29. Welychka played eight games but hadn’t recorded a point.

Also going to Indianapolis is goalie Kevin Lankinen. The rookie from Finland had a nice game in net for the IceHogs Saturday night in San Antonio despite being hung with the loss.

These moves suggest that goalie Anton Forsberg and second-year forward Tyler Sikura may be ready to rejoin the lineup. Sikura would be a particularly welcome addition in light of Rockford’s offensive woes.

 

Recap

Tuesday, November 20-San Antonio 3, Rockford 2 (SO)

Collin Delia recorded 36 saves to give the Hogs a chance to break the losing streak. However, an early two-goal lead went for naught and the Rampage prevailed on penalty shots.

It didn’t take long for the IceHogs to build that two-goal advantage. Dylan Sikura took a pass from Graham Knott into the Rampage zone, maneuvered his way into some open ice and fired past San Antonio goalie Jordan Binnington at 3:06 for a 1-0 Rockford lead. Later in the fourth minute, Anthony Louis took a cross-ice pass from Jordan Schroeder and sent an offering over Binnington’s shoulder and into the cage. 3:54 into the game, the Hogs led 2-0.

With Andrew Campbell in the penalty box for tripping, San Antonio cut into the lead with a power play goal. Jakub Jerabeck sent a shot toward goal that glanced off of the stick of defenseman Lucas Carlsson and found its way past Hogs goalie Collin Delia. The goal came at the 18:10 mark; the teams skated to the locker room with Rockford leading 2-1.

A turnover by Carl Dahlstrom set up the Rampage with a 2-on-1 rush in the Hogs zone. San Antonio tied the game when Jordan Kyrou passed to Charlie Sampair at the left post. Delia never had a chance and it was 2-2 8:52 into the middle frame.

Both Binnington and Delia stood tall in the third period as well as in overtime. The shootout started badly for Rockford as Austin Poganski and Kyrou scored on their attempts. Louis converted in the second round for the Hogs after Viktor Ejdsell was denied. Delia stopped Joey LeLeggia, but Binnington did the same to Sikura to close out the contest.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anthony Louis-Viktor Ejdsell-Jordan Schroeder

Dylan Sikura-Graham Knott-Justin Auger

Matheson Iacopelli-Jacob Nilsson-Henrik Samuelsson

Brett Welychka-Nathan Noel-Nick Moutrey

Blake Hillman-Lucas Carlsson

Joni Tuulola-Darren Raddysh

Andrew Campbell-Carl Dahlstrom

Collin Delia

Power Play (1-2)

Louis-Samuelsson-Schroeder-Ejdsell-Raddysh

Nilsson-Sikura-Auger-Carlsson-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Rampage was 1-2)

Knott-Noel-Carlsson-Dahlstrom

Nilsson-Moutrey-Tuulola-Hillman

 

This Weekend

The IceHogs touch down briefly at the BMO after a six-game road trip with a game with Chicago Friday. The Wolves are tied with Milwaukee for second place in the division.

Chicago will be missing Daniel Carr (9 G, 13 A), who was recalled to Las Vegas Thursday. Thomas Hyka (15 G, 33 A last season) comes down to join the Wolves. Brandon Pirri (7 G, 13 A) has been hot of late for Chicago, with a four-game point streak. He has three goals in his last two games.

Rockford visits Milwaukee Saturday night before going to Chicago Sunday afternoon. The Admirals got Rocco Grimaldi (4 G, 7 A) back this week after a month in Nashville. Milwaukee is led by defenseman Matt Donovan, who has eight goals and eight apples so far this season.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates between periods tonight at the BMO and thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.