Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have offered opportunities for prospects throughout the 2020-21 campaign. The lack of NHL contracts on the Hogs roster has allowed some players the ice time to make an impression on the organization.

Several of Rockford’s AHL contracts have been regulars in coach Derek King’s lineup. King cited one in particular in last week’s media availability.

“A kid who has really opened my eyes is (D.J.) Busdeker,” King admitted.

Busdeker is a 5′ 10″ forward who signed an AHL contract with the IceHogs after posting 57 points (22 G, 35 A) for Saginaw in the OHL last season. The 21-year-old native of Dexter, Michigan spent about a month with the Indy Fuel before the AHL season got underway. He’s been in Rockford from opening day on, and has ten points (5 G, 5 A) in 17 appearances for the Hogs.

“When he did come back up, he took full advantage of it,” King said. “He’s probably one of our biggest surprises of this season.”

Busdeker is one of several players who may have spent this season with the Fuel under ordinary conditions. However, he’s been a contributor up and down the lineup for Rockford. Busdeker has a nose for the puck and has been an effective forechecker and penalty killer.

In April, Busdeker has points in four of Rockford’s six games. He has points in each of the IceHogs three wins this month, including a pair of goals in Saturday’s victory in Iowa. He was also instrumental in a comeback win over the Chicago Wolves back on April 17.

Busdeker is second among IceHogs rookies in goals and points. Like Chris Wilkie (who tops Rockford in both rookie categories), he has taken a unique opportunity and made the most of it.

 

A Weekend Split In Iowa

This weekend’s action in DesMoines was about as physical as the piglets have had to deal with. They gave as good as they got, splitting a pair of games with the Wild.

Friday, April 23-Iowa 3, Rockford 2

The game was scarcely underway when Dimitry Osipov delivered a big open ice hit to Iowa forward Damien Giroux. Keaton Thompson objected to Osipov’s rough play; the two battled fifteen seconds in.

Rockford got the first goal of the game at the 3:33 mark. Josiah Slavin came up with a loose puck in the Wild zone, passing to Chris Wilkie. Wilkie was allowed to operate on the doorstep of the Iowa crease, hitting the top right corner to put the Hogs up 1-0.

A bad bounce off the boards set Gerry Mayhew up for an easy tap-in at 7:53 of the first to tie the game. However, less than a minute later, Rockford took a 2-1 lead after Garrett Mitchell tipped in a long-distance offering by Anton Lindholm.

Wilkie was chasing down a stretch pass when he collided with Iowa goalie Derek Baribeau, who had come out to clear the puck. Baribeau had to leave the game in favor of Hunter Jones. Wilkie was assessed a five-minute penalty for elbowing and a game misconduct.

The Wild began the middle frame with over four minutes of power play time. Iowa drew even at two goals with a Connor Dewar strike at 1:21 of the second. The IceHogs held first for the rest of the shorthanded time to limit the damage.

Iowa gained a 3-2 lead after forcing a turnover behind the Hogs net. Morris stopped a shot by Gabriel Dumont, but Brandon Duhaime gathered in the rebound, skated back out to the right dot and threaded his shot between Morris and the right post. The goal came at the 15:00 mark and Rockford skated to the locker room needing to rally.

Jones kept the IceHogs at bay, stopping all 20 shots he faced in relief of Baribeau in the final two periods. Rockford was 0-3 on the night on the power play, including a chance twelve minutes into the third period.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Josiah Slavin-Caron Gicewicz-Chris Wilkie

Tim Soderlund-Dylan McLaughlin-MacKenzie Entwistle

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-Michal Teply

Andrei Altybarmakian-Garrett Mitchell (A)-D.J. Busdeker

Anton Lindholm-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Alec Regula

Cole Moberg-Michael Krutil

Cale Morris

Ivan Nalimov

 

Saturday, April 24-Rockford 5, Iowa 3

The physical tone set the previous evening continued in the rematch. Iowa took a 1-0 advantage 2:10 into the game on a Cody McLeod tally. Hogs goalie Ivan Nalimov did a nice job keeping the Wild from building on that lead in the remainder of the frame. In all, the Hogs were listless in the offensive zone, getting out-shot 17-8 by Iowa.

D.J. Busdeker provided some net-front presence to tie the contest 4:29 into the second stanza. Busdeker got his stick on a drive by Dylan McLaughlin to redirect the puck past Iowa goalie Hunter Jones.

Late in the second, Dimitry Osipov sent a shot from the right point that glanced off the right post. The puck struck Jones in the back and into the Wild cage at the 15:51 mark for a 2-1 Rockford lead. The goal was set up by some dirty work behind the net by Carson Gicewicz, who gained possession and found Osipov for the primary assist.

The Wild got some late momentum with a Gabriel Dumont goal with 32 seconds remaining in the second period. Dumont jumped on a loose puck in the slot and fired past Nalimov to send the teams to the locker room all square at two goals.

Rockford stormed out to a 4-2 lead early in the third. Busdeker potted goal number two on the evening at the 3:39 mark, pouncing of a rebound of a McLaughlin shot. McLaughlin got in on the goal scoring at 6:30, putting a shot from the high slot through the pads of Jones.

Iowa responded quickly, getting a goal from Connor Dewar at 7:02 of the third period to draw within one. However, Nalimov and the IceHogs prevented the equalizer, locking up the contest with an empty-netter from Garrett Mitchell in the final minute.

Lines (Starters in italics)

MacKenzie Entwistle-Dylan McLaughlin-D.J. Busdeker

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-Michal Teply

Josiah Slavin-Carson Gicewicz-Mitchell Fossier

Matej Chalupa-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Andrei Altybarmakian

Cole Moberg-Cody Franson (A)

Anton Lindholm-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Alec Regula

Ivan Nalimov

Cale Morris

 

Grand Rapids State Of Mind

The IceHogs begin a three-game set with the Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday in Rockford. The piglets travel to Grand Rapids Saturday before returning to ‘Bago County on May 1.

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

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have been limited on game action in recent weeks due to some schedule changes. That should change on Wednesday when the Hogs play four times in an eight-day span.

After defeating the Chicago Wolves for the second straight time at the BMO Harris Bank Center, the piglets get the opportunity to knock off the Central Division leaders in Hoffman Estates Wednesday night. A weekend set in Iowa follows on Friday and Saturday, then Rockford heads to Grand Rapids for a rescheduled date with the Griffins on April 28.

 

Rainy-Day Thoughts

  • It was against a Wolves team that was down a few scorers, but Saturday’s shootout win was arguably the most satisfying win of the year for Rockford. The IceHogs had to erase two deficits, including a desperation goal in the final moments of regulation. In a rare display of offensive push, Rockford managed to tip the rink toward an opponent’s zone and generate some real scoring chances.
  • Ivan Nalimov wasn’t razor-sharp, but he did pick up a win in his second start against the Wolves. It was an upgrade over his debut when he got lit up by Chicago to the tune of six goals. Nalimov and Cale Morris are looking at some work over the next two weeks unless Matt Tomkins is sent back to Rockford from the Blackhawks taxi squad.
  • On Sunday, F John Quenneville, who missed the last 40 minutes of action Saturday night, was called up to the taxi squad. I assume it is injury-related. It has been a trying season for Quenneville; he has just two points (1 G, 1 A) in 16 games.
  • Anton Lindholm came back to Rockford Sunday. The defenseman last skated for the IceHogs on April 3. He is pointless in six appearances.
  • There was another Brandon Pirri sighting at the BMO Saturday. The veteran forward logged an assist on the MacKenzie Entwistle goal that tied the game late in regulation and contributed a successful shootout attempt. He also looked to have scored in the third period on a breakaway attempt, but the AHL is not reviewing goals this season. Pirri had to settle for extending his point streak to four games (basically every game he’s played in Rockford this season).
  • IceHogs captain Garrett Mitchell had himself a rare two-fight evening Saturday. He dropped the gloves with Josh Healey in the second period and had to head to the locker room for a little maintenance. Midway through the third, he stepped in to tangle with Cavan Fitzgerald. Mitchell was then sent to the locker room, not to heal, but with a game misconduct.
  • After leaving Wednesday’s game in Iowa with a leg injury, Evan Barratt did not skate Saturday. It is possible that we get more details this week from the IceHogs.

 

Saturday, April 17-Rockford 4, Chicago 3 (SO)

Rockford capped off a blue-collar effort at the BMO, rallying in the final minutes and besting the Wolves for the second straight game between the clubs.

The IceHogs took advantage of a Wolves miscue to take a 1-0 lead 5:56 into the contest. Chicago defenseman Frederic Allard whiffed on a one-time attempt at the IceHogs blueline, allowing D.J. Busdeker to lead an odd-man rush the other way. Busdeker found Reese Johnson at the right circle; the resulting shot beat Wolves goalie Connor Ingram high to the glove side.

Chicago scored the next two goals of the game. Cole Smith redirected a Joey Keene blast past Hogs goalie Ivan Nalimov, who had lost his stick trying to handle a dump-in behind the net, to tie things at one goal at the 14:11 mark. The Wolves quickly picked up a power play after a cross-check by MacKenzie Entwistle. At 14:46, David Cotton put Chicago up 2-1 right off the faceoff with his eighth goal of the season.

Rockford was able to draw even late in the middle frame. Busdeker sent a shot to the Wolves net that Ingram appeared to handle. However, the puck came out and the Hogs rookie was able to regain possession. This time Busdeker sent a backhand attempt that glanced off of a Chicago defender and found Andrei Altybarmakian at the right post. Altybarmakian shoveled the puck into the cage, making it a 2-2 affair at 15:47 of the second.

Chicago secured a late goal to regain the lead. Sean Malone brought the puck into the Rockford zone, skating around the net and back up to the left dot. A quick backhand pass to Smith in the slot resulted in a one-timer that beat Nalimov with eleven seconds left in the second period. The IceHogs entered the second intermission down 3-2.

The IceHogs pressed for the equalizer for most of the final period. It would not come until the final minutes, with Nalimov on the Rockford bench in favor of an extra skater.

Brandon Pirri hustled to beat a Wolves defender to a pass attempt by Cody Franson at the right circle before threading a pass of his own to Entwistle in the slot. Entwistle stickhandled to the net, only to see his initial shot stopped. Gathering in the rebound, Entwistle sent a shot off the back of Ingram.

The puck caromed into the air in front of the crease. Smith attempted to knock it down and inadvertently batted it into the Chicago net with 2:11 remaining in regulation. After a scoreless overtime session, it would come down to penalty shots.

Tim Soderlund and Pirri drew cord for the IceHogs, while Nalimov denied Patrick Harper and Cotton to earn Rockford the victory.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Josiah Slavin-MacKenzie Entwistle-Brandon Pirri

John Quenneville (A)-Reese Johnson-D.J. Busdeker

Matej Chalupa-Dylan McLaughlin-Tim Soderlund

Andrei Altybarmakian-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Michal Teply

Issak Phillips-Cody Franson (A)

Cole Moberg-Michael Krutil

Alec Regula-Dimitry Osipov

Ivan Nalimov

Cale Morris

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs are readying themselves for a heavy dose of the Cleveland Monsters. The Blackhawks AHL affiliate has just four games with the Monsters this season. However, they all are to be played this week.

The Monsters were to have started the season at the BMO Harris Bank Center on February 5 and 6. Those games had to be rescheduled. Rockford hosts back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday, then travels to Cleveland for games on Saturday and Sunday.

COVID-19 issues kept the Monsters grounded in Cleveland to open the season, with only three games under their belt. The Monsters, like Rockford, are still looking to pick up their first win of the season. They’re coming off an overtime loss in Grand Rapids Saturday afternoon.

 

Easy Breezy Weekend

Rockford was idle over the weekend. That isn’t going to happen for the remainder of the AHL season unless something changes.

Cam Morrison is still waiting to play his first game with the IceHogs after being banged up in training camp. Anton Lindholm, as reported last week, will be missing the next month-plus with a broken thumb.

Forward John Quenneville took a puck to the face in the third period of Thursday’s loss to Grand Rapids. He quickly returned to action in that game, but it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see him sit out with so many forwards available.

It may also be a week that coach Derek King elects to give one or both of his young AHL contracts, Cale Morris and Tom Aubrun, a turn in the Hogs crease. Matt Tomkins has been solid so far, but I wouldn’t think he plays both ends of both back-to-backs.

 

Closeup On The Monsters

This Cleveland squad may not be among the AHL’s elite. However, the Monsters have a large collection of veteran players who are more than capable of taking advantage of rookie mistakes.

First of all, Rockford’s leading scorer and captain, Tyler Sikura, signed with Cleveland. Sikura plays a straight-forward game and always around the net to convert on opportunities.

Zac Dalpe is a long-time Monsters center who was selected as the team’s captain this season. He’s coming off an injury-plagued 2019-20 campaign. However, he’s well-accustomed to putting pucks into Rockford nets over the years. Dalpe and Sikura have been teamed with second-year forward Trey Fix-Wolanski on Cleveland’s top line.

Nathan Gerbe is another experienced player the young campers will have to deal with. Forwards like Nick Lappin, Justin Scott, and Kole Sherwood all have several seasons of AHL action under their belts.

Liam Foudy, the Blue Jackets first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, was recently sent to the Monsters for some work on his game. Foudy is a big, speedy forward that will need to be accounted for.

The defense will be led by Dillon Simpson, who had 23 points (9 G, 14 A) for Cleveland last season. Joining him is AHL veteran Adam Clendenning, who is quite adept on running a power play at this level. The former IceHog had 41 points (7 G, 34 A) in 55 games with the Monsters last season. He was recently sent to Cleveland from the Columbus taxi squad.

Veini Vehvilainen is back at goalie for his second pro season, having posted a 2.76 GAA and a .901 save percentage in 33 games in 2019-20. However, long-time Monsters backup Brad Theissen has been in goal for all three of Cleveland’s games and will no doubt see action in the back-to-back series.

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

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs are still looking for their first win of the recently-started 2020-21 season. Rockford resumes the quest for victory Saturday night when the piglets travel to DesMoines. The first of ten meetings with the Iowa Wild is set to start at 6:00 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena.

Here is how the week went for the IceHogs, along with a look at their Saturday foe.

 

Roster Moves

On Thursday, the Blackhawks recalled defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk to the taxi squad. Kalynuk had played in both of Rockford’s first two games, posting a goal and an apple in the season opener.

In a reciprocal move, Chicago assigned defenseman Anton Lindholm to the IceHogs. Lindholm had been on the taxi squad and had not appeared in a contest with the Hawks so far this season. The 26-year-old Lindholm had 164 games of AHL experience under his belt with the San Antonio Rampage and the Colorado Eagles.

 

A Look At The Iowa Wild

Minnesota’s AHL affiliate is 1-1-1 on the season. All three games were at home with Texas. The Wild is coached by Tim Army, who is starting his third season as the head man in Iowa.

AHL veteran Gabriel Dumont is pacing Iowa with four points (3 G, 1 A) on the season. Second-year center Connor Dewar also has four points (2 G, 2 A). Forward Dimitry Sokolov (2 G, 1 A) is entering his third full season, with 15 and 16 goals the past two years.

Former IceHogs forward Joseph Cramarossa signed a one-year contract with Minnesota this past summer. Moxie Joe has a goal this season to go with a fighting major so far for the Wild. He’s another experienced skater that should agitate the piglets.

Cody McLeod has a dozen NHL seasons under his belt. The 36-year-old forward spent last season with the Wild and returns as an alternate captain. Center Jarrett Burton is another veteran who has time with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Rochester over the last five seasons.

Skokie native Louie Belpedio is back for a third season on Iowa’s blueline. Also on defense for the Wild is Ian McCoshen, who spent most of last season with Rockford. Keaton Thompson is entering his fifth year in the AHL and second for Iowa. Hunter Warner is another Wild defenseman that has several seasons with the team.

In goal, the Hogs will likely be facing Dereck Baribeau, who has played well in his two starts this season. He’s sporting a 1.92 GAA and a .923 save percentage. The 6’6″ Baribeau saw limited action with Iowa last season, playing 15 games with Allen in the ECHL.

Hunter Jones gave up seven goals to the Stars in his AHL debut on February 5. Jones is a second-round pick of the Wild in the 2019 NHL Draft.

 

Recapping This Week’s Action

Tuesday, February 9-Chicago 5, Rockford 2

The piglets traveled to Hoffman Estates, losing to the Wolves for the second-straight game. Philip Tomasino and Rem Pitlick each had a pair of goals to send Rockford home 0-2 on the season.

The Wolves got the scoring started late in the opening period. Seth Jarvis took in a pass from teammate Joey Keane at the top of the right circle on a Wolves power play, set up by an Evan Barratt slashing infraction. Keane maneuvered around Michael Krutil and fired a shot that glanced off of Hogs goalie Scott Darling. The puck entered the Hogs net at 15:59 for a 1-0 Chicago lead.

Midway through the contest, Barratt had just completed a pass when he took a hit from Wolves defenseman Max Lajoie. Barratt left the game with the aid of the training staff; he was not putting weight on his right knee. Lajoie had to tangle with Andrei Altybarmakyan, who jumped in and dropped the gloves in a brief scrap.

Lajoie was given a major penalty and game misconduct for kneeing. Barratt would return to action later in the period. Altybarmakyan was handed a two-minute instigating minor and a ten-minute misconduct. After some four-on-four action, the Hogs got some power play time and were able to tie the contest.

D.J. Busdeker pounced on the rebound of a Chad Krys one-timer and sent the puck through the wickets of Chicago goalie Jeremy Helvig. Alec Regula was credited with the secondary assist for the goal, which came 13:55 into the second stanza.

The game didn’t remain tied for long. Chicago’s Philip Tomasino drove to the net and snapped a shot that got over Darling’s glove at 16:10 of the second. Two minutes later, with Rockford again on the man advantage, Krys whiffed on a one-time attempt and fell to the ice. Rem Pitlick was off to the races, easily beating Darling on the breakaway strike for a 3-1 Wolves lead.

Tomasino got a stick on a Jeremy Davies shot, changing the direction enough to get it into the Hogs net to make it 4-1 Chicago in the ninth minute of the third period. The IceHogs picked up a shorthanded goal of their own at the 10:44 mark. Chris Wilkie sent a wrist shot from the goal line near the right half boards. The puck glanced off of the leg of Helvig and into the net to cut the Wolves lead to 4-2.

Pitlick closed out the scoring in the final minutes, taking a pass from Stelio Mattheos and beating Darling to complete the odd-man rush with 1:32 remaining in the game.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville (A)-Evan Barratt-Andrei Altybarmakyan

Matej Chalupa-Dylan McLaughlin-D.J. Busdeker

Tim Soderlund-Chad Yetman-Chris Wilkie

Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Hakkarainen

Wyatt Kalynuk-Cody Franson (A)

Chad Krys-Micheal Krutil

Alec Regula-Dimitry Osipov

Scott Darling

Cale Morris

Power Play (1-9, gave up shorthanded goal)

Kalynuk-Franson-Quenneville-Yetman-Barratt

Krys-Regula-Soderlund-Altybarmakyan-Busdeker

Penalty Kill (Wolves were 1-6, Hogs posted a shorty)

Forwards-Mitchell, McLaughlin, Wilkie, McKay, Quenneville, Hakkarainen

Defensemen-Franson, Kalynuk, Krys, Osipov, Krutil, Regula

 

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts and game updates as the Hogs tangle with Iowa Saturday night.