Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs put a positive finish on what was a tough stretch for the Blackhawks AHL affiliate. The IceHogs were blown out at the BMO Harris Bank Center by the Chicago Wolves to start a three-in-three weekend. Rockford recovered to take a point in Milwaukee before knocking off the Wolves Sunday at Allstate Arena.

The win broke a six-game losing streak for the piglets and saw them hit the three-goal mark in a contest for the first time since November 10. Incidentally, Rockford defeated Chicago 4-3 that day in Rosemont.

The IceHogs (9-8-1-4) are fifth in the Central Division standings with a .523 points percentage. They could move up the ladder this week despite being inactive until Saturday night, when they host Milwaukee. Grand Rapids (.556), just above Rockford in the standings, plays Iowa, Chicago and San Antonio this week.

 

Putting The Feet Up

After playing ten of 13 November games on the road, the IceHogs will be settling in for a nice home stand to begin December. Rockford will be at the BMO exclusively for four games over the next two weeks. The Hogs visit Grand Rapids December 14, then return to Rockford for three more home games.

The Hogs were 5-3-0-2 on the road in November. Oddly enough, home cooking did not agree with the piglets. Rockford lost all three home games played this month. With seven of the next eight at the BMO, hopefully the boys can reverse that trend.

IceHogs coach Derek King welcomes the chance to unpack his suitcase. “We got a whole week of practice, then we’ve got a little home stand, so it will be nice to get home,” King said following Rockford’s 3-2 win in Rosemont. “I know my wife will be happy, being around the kids, too.”

“I think these guys need it. They need a little R and R; they need to get away from the rink, too. So, we’ll think about Monday off and maybe we’ll look for another day off during the week.”

There are several players on the mend in Rockford. Terry Boadhurst has missed a couple of weeks now and would be a nice addition when he returns. Collin Delia (see below) tweaked his leg Saturday night and could use the time to be recovered for the upcoming home games.

Roster Moves

On Saturday night, goalie Kevin Lankinen was recalled to Rockford. Collin Delia, who played the third period Friday and the entirety of the Hogs shootout loss in Milwaukee Saturday, suffered a lower body injury that kept him from suiting up in Sunday’s game with Chicago. Lankinen backed up Anton Forsberg in that game.

King hinted that Delia was being rested as a precaution. With nearly a week off, it would seem likely that he’ll be back in action this weekend.

Also returning to the IceHogs was forward Luke Johnson. The Blackhawks re-assigned Johnson to Rockford Sunday. He started for the Hogs against the Wolves, potting the game-winner early in the third period.

Johnson could be a spark for coach Derek King and the piglets as they enter the month of December. An alternate captain for much of his sophomore season in Rockford, Johnson will contribute at both ends as well as on both special teams.

 

A Quick Word On Last Night’s Trade News

The Blackhawks sent Nick Schmaltz to Arizona yesterday. In return, Chicago received forwards Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini. I wouldn’t expect either player to make an appearance for the IceHogs in the near future (both players are waiver-exempt). However, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think Strome might wind up in Rockford for a spell.

Strome did play in the AHL for Tucson last season, putting up 53 points (22 G, 31 A) in 50 games for the Roadrunners. Perlini spent 17 games in Tucson back in 2016-17. He had 14 goals and five assists in his time in the AHL.

Strome, in particular, needs to show he can utilize his skills at the game’s highest level despite a lack of speed. There are plenty of first and second-round draft picks bouncing around the AHL who can dominate offensively but lack the skill set to do the same in NHL rinks. Here’s hoping Strome, who is still just a 21-year-old kid, can make that jump with the Blackhawks.

Recaps

Friday, November 23-Chicago 7, Rockford 2

The losing streak reached five games as the visiting Wolves broke out in a big way against Rockford.

Chicago took a 1-0 lead when Hogs starter Anton Forsberg lost track of the puck following a shot on goal by Reid Duke. Forsberg believed he had the shot absorbed by his pads, but instead the puck trickled next to him for Curtis McKenzie to guide into the Rockford net at 4:39.

The IceHogs tied the game at the 8:25 mark with the teams skating four to a side. Anthony Louis took a drop pass from Jordan Schroeder along the left half boards, skated to the bottom of the left circle, and five-holed Wolves goalie Max Lagace.

The game began to get away from Rockford late in the opening frame. McKenzie and Schroeder took simultaneous roughing minors and the teams played four-on-four for two minutes. By the time the two veterans came out of the box, it was 3-1 Chicago.

Tomas Hyka made a slick feed to Zach Whitecloud coming down the slot; the shot got past the blocker of Forsberg, glanced off the left post, and put the Wolves up 2-1 at 17:07 of the first. Seconds later, Brandon Pirri went coast-to-coast with a Hogs turnover. The former Blackhawks farmhand capped off a marvelous play by going stick side on Forsberg at the 17:45 mark.

The Wolves took a 4-1 advantage when Nic Hauge finished off an odd-man rush at 3:42 of the second period. Rockford closed to 4-2 on a power play goal by Darren Raddysh, who took advantage of a Viktor Ejdsell screen. At that point, the bottom dropped out of the IceHogs game.

Chicago restored the three-goal advantage 35 seconds later, converting off a Blake Hillman turnover. Zac Leslie scored on a redirect for a 5-2 Wolves lead. Pirri fed Hyka in the left slot for a power play goal at the 12:11 mark, then Keegan Kolesar finished a 2-on-1 rush up the ice 18 seconds later to make it 7-2 Wolves.

Collin Delia entered the game for Forsberg to start the third period. Rockford out shot Chicago 16-13 in garbage time, though neither team made a dent in the score over the last 20 minutes.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Dylan Sikura-Tyler Sikura (A)-Jacob Nilsson

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Henrik Samuelsson

Viktor Ejdsell-Jordan Schroeder-Anthony Louis

Hunter Fejes-Nathan Noel-Nick Moutrey

Darren Raddysh-Joni Tuulola

Carl Dahlstrom (A)-Blake Hillman

Dennis Gilbert-Andrew Campbell (A)

Anton Forsberg

Collin Delia

Power Play (1-4)

Louis-Schroeder-Ejdsell-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Nilsson-Noel-Sikura-Sikura-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Chicago was 1-6, Hogs did kill off two 5-on-3s)

Knott-Noel-Dahlstrom-Gilbert

T. Sikura-Nilsson-Campbell-Hillman

Fejes-Moutrey-Raddysh-Tuulola

 

Saturday, November 24-Milwaukee 2, Rockford 1 (SO)

Collin Delia turned away all but one of the 29 shots he faced, but Milwaukee’s Troy Grosenick was his equal in regulation and came up with the stops in the shootout. The IceHogs dropped their sixth-straight decision in frustrating fashion.

Matheson Iacopelli was the recipient of a turnover by Ads goalie Troy Grosenick. Taking Grosenick’s outlet attempt at the right circle, Iacopelli fired into the vacated net at 3:03 for a 1-0 Rockford lead.

Seconds later, Justin Kirkland got a shot on net that glanced off the stick of Andrew Campbell and trickled under the pads of Rockford starter Collin Delia. This evened up the game at the 3:44 mark.

Both goalies shut down their respective nets through the remainder of regulation. Milwaukee had a two-man advantage in overtime after Tyler Sikura and Nathan Noel were sent to the box a minute apart. However, the Hogs held firm and forced the shootout.

Anthony Richard and Kirkland beat Delia in the first two rounds. Anthony Louis was denied by Grosenick’s right pad; Viktor Ejdsell was stopped by his left and the contest came to an end. Grosenick, who made 31 saves plus two shootout stops, was awarded the game’s First Star.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Jacob Nilsson-Tyler Sikura (A)-Henrik Samuelsson

Dylan Sikura-Graham Knott-Justin Auger

Annthony Louis-Jordan Schroeder-Viktor Ejdsell

Matheson Iacopelli-Nathan Noel-Nick Moutrey

Carl Dahlstrom (A)-Lucas Carlsson

Andrew Campbell (A)-Dennis Gilbert

Joni Tuulola-Darren Raddysh

Colin Delia

Power Play (0-7)

Nilsson-T. Sikura-D. Sikura-Auger-Dahlstrom

Louis-Schroeder-Ejdsell-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Penalty Kill (Admirals were 0-6)

Knott-Noel-Dahlstrom-Gilbert

T. Sikura-Nilsson-Campbell-Carlsson

Auger-Moutrey-Raddysh-Tuulola

 

Sunday, November 25-Rockford 3, Chicago 2

The Hogs avenged Friday’s blowout loss with a more focused effort, ending a six-game losing streak.

After killing off a pair of Chicago power plays early in the game, the IceHogs took a 1-0 lead on a Tyler Sikura goal. Sikura had set up Graham Knott at the right circle for a one-timer with an open net at which to shoot. Knott misfired and the Wolves cleared the zone. Sikura regained possession in the neutral zone, skated to the right circle and fired under the pads of Chicago goalie Max Lagace at 12:15.

Following the subsequent faceoff, the Wolves came up with an equalizer. Gage Quinney out-maneuvered Luke Johnson coming down the left side and sent a centering pass to Tomas Hyka streaking to the left post. Hyka redirected the pass by Hogs starter Anton Forsberg and into the net to make it 1-1 at the 12:47 mark.

The score stayed even until late in the second period, where the Hogs power play came up big. Viktor Ejdsell gloved a blocked pass attempt by Jordan Schroeder and brought it around the net to Anthony Louis. Louis waited it out at the right circle before hitting Ejdsell at the goal line with a pass. Ejdsell backed up a bit and went far side on Lagace to put Rockford ahead 2-1 at 18:50 of the middle frame.

The IceHogs posted a big goal early in the third. The play started when Dylan Sikura was the first man to a loose puck in the neutral zone. He backhanded a pass to Jacob Nilsson as the center was crossing the Wolves blueline. Nilsson went across the ice to Luke Johnson, who was seeing his first action for Rockford since being sent down by the Hawks.

Johnson sent a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that went past Lagace’s blocker and snuggled into the soft twine in the back of the Chicago net. The Rockford advantage was now 3-1 5:13 into the third.

Chicago closed to within a goal with 4:24 remaining with Lagace on the Wolves bench and pulled him again with just under two minutes left. Despite losing three draws in the defensive zone, Forsberg and the Hogs were able to persevere and pick up their first win since beating Chicago back on November 10.

Ejdsell, Chicago’s Reid Duke, and Johnson were named the three stars of the game. Forsberg picked up a measure of redemption with 26 saves after surrendering seven goals to the Wolves two days hence.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Dylan Sikura-Jacob Nilsson-Luke Johnson

Tyler Sikura (A)-Graham Knott-Henrik Samuelsson

Anthony Louis-Jordan Schroeder-Viktor Ejdsell

Nick Moutrey-Nathan Noel-Justin Auger

Lucas Carlsson-Carl Dahlstrom (A)

Andrew Campbell (A)-Dennis Gilbert

Joni Tuulola-Darren Raddysh

Anton Forsberg

Power Play (1-5)

Louis-Ejdsell-Schroeder-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Nilsson-Sikura-Sikura-Johnson-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Wolves were 0-4)

Knott-Noel-Dahlstrom-Gilbert

T. Sikura-Nilsson-Campbell-Carlsson

Johnson-Moutrey-Raddysh-Tuulola

 

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

 

Everything Else

After beginning the 2017-18 season 0-for-Cleveland, the Rockford IceHogs are back in action in friendlier confines this weekend. Chicago’s AHL affiliate kicks off the home portion of the schedule Saturday night vs Texas. Sunday, the IceHogs host the Hershey Bears.

Here’s an update on the piglets as coach Jeremy Colliton readies his charges for the weekend set, along with an in-depth look at the upcoming opponents.

 

Roster Moves

On Tuesday, Alexandre Fortin was recalled to the Blackhawks. He played Thursday night in Minnesota. He may be headed back to Rockford in time to take part in the festivities this weekend. If not, there’s a possibility that the Hogs could recall one of their AHL contracts in Indianapolis.

 

Texas Stars-Saturday, 10/13 @ 6:00 p.m.

The home portion of the season gets underway at the BMO Harris Bank Center when the Texas Stars visit following their Friday night tilt in Iowa.

The Stars are new to the Central Division, though Hogs fans are mighty familiar with this team from the 2018 Western Conference Final. Texas defeated Rockford in six games to advance to the Calder Cup Final, which they dropped to Toronto.

The Stars develop players and are also committed to winning, which they have done with regularity. Now entering their tenth year of operations, Texas has three trips to the Calder Cup Final, including an AHL championship in 2013-14. They have reached the playoffs in seven of the last nine seasons.

There was quite a bit of turnover from last spring’s club. Several lynchpins to the Stars playoff run, like their Rockford counterparts, have moved on. This includes captain Curtis McKenzie, forwards Brian Flynn, Sheldon Dries and Jason Dickinson as well as swingman Brent Regner.

First on the list of familar faces is Travis Morin, who has been with the team since its inception. The 34-year-old forward is on an AHL deal with Texas and is coming off a 61-point season (10 G, 51 A). Center Justin Dowling (17 points in the postseason) is also a long-time fixture for the Stars who is capable of creating offense, as is Denis Gurianov (19 goals in 2017-18).

Texas added Park Ridge, Illinois resident Michael Mersch, a power forward who scored 49 points (21 G, 28 A) for Ontario a season ago. Also coming in to help up front is former Bruins farmhand Colton Hargrove, who is coming off a 33-point season (16 G, 17 A) with Providence.

Erik Condra, who spent the last two seasons with Syracuse, has 366 games of NHL action under his belt. He is still an effective two-way player at the AHL level and will bring a lot of experience to the table for Texas, much like Flynn did last season.

On the defensive side of the puck, AHL veterans Dillion Heatherington and Reece Scarlett (who injured his left leg in the season opener with Grand Rapids) are joined by Joel Hanley, who has spent time in Portland, St. Johns and Tuscon in his five-year pro career. Gavin Bayreuther is also back for his third season after a seven goal, 25 assist effort in 2017-18.

John Nyberg is beginning his first pro season, though he did square off with the Hogs in the playoffs last spring. Free agent defenseman Ben Gleason is also in his rookie year with Texas.

Mike McKenna, who anchored the crease for the Stars late last season, is now continuing his tour of the AHL with Belleville (his 15th AHL stop). Last year’s starter through much of the regular season, Landon Bow, should be the primary goalie for Texas. Joining him in net is rookie Colton Point.

 

Hershey Bears-Sunday, 10/14 @ 4:00 p.m.

Arriving at the BMO Sunday, after visiting Grand Rapids on Friday night, is the AHL’s oldest franchise, the Hershey Bears. The IceHogs have a home and away with the Bears after facing Hershey for the first time ever in two games last season. Rockford won both meetings.

The Bears were last in the Atlantic Division in 2017-18, missing the playoffs for only the second time in the last 13 seasons. A number of the team’s leading scorers are with other clubs, like Chris Bourque (53 points) and Wayne Simpson (42 points). Riley Barber (20 G, 18 A) returns to Hershey for his fourth season. Liam O’Brien (17 G, 9 A) is another holdover.

One new addition is center Mike Sgarbossa, a seven-year AHL vet who had 40 points (16 G, 24 A) with Manitoba last season. Another notable newcomer to Hershey is former Hogs forward Jeremy Morin. Back to the AHL after a year in Europe, Morin is on an AHL deal with the Bears. Morin had several productive campaigns with the IceHogs, including a 30-goal effort in the 2012-13 season.

Longtime AHL veteran Aaron Ness is back for another season on the Hershey blueline after scoring four goals and 25 assists for the Bears last year. 6’2″ defenseman Lucas Johansen (6 G, 21 A) is back for his second season, as is Connor Hobbs (3 G, 13 A). Colby Williams is another experienced defender who returns to the Bears lineup.

The net duties are being handled by Vitek Vanecek, who is starting his third pro season in Hershey. He posted a 3.04 goals against average and an .888 save percentage in 32 games last season. The IceHogs beat him in 4-3 in an overtime game in Hershey back in February.

Rookie Ilya Samsonov was the Capitals second-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. The 21-year-old came over from the KHL, where he had played for the last three years.

Everything Else

The calendar is telling me that hockey is soon to be underway for the Blackhawks AHL affiliate. That would be the Winnebago County Flying Piglets, known to folks in these parts as the Rockford IceHogs.

Second-year coach Jeremy Colliton will be hard at work this week getting Rockford prepared to open its season. That happens this weekend with a pair of games in Cleveland.

Colliton helmed the Hogs to their deepest foray ever into the Calder Cup Playoffs. Rockford reached the Western Conference Final before being beaten in six games by the Texas Stars.

Four IceHogs who spent a portion of 2017-18 in Rockford (John Hayden, David Kampf, Andreas Martinsen and Luke Johnson) are now on the Blackhawks roster. Colliton is once again charged with pushing more talented skaters through the pipeline to Chicago.

To show just how important the preseason is, Rockford had no exhibition games on its training camp schedule. Fans were treated to an intersquad affair at the BMO Friday night before the Hogs pared down the roster.

The Hogs vs Hogs tilt resulted in a 3-2 win for Team White, following a Gus Macker tally by Darren Raddysh. Regulation goals from the winning squad came from Conner Moynihan (who got sent to Indy for his effort) and Terry Broadhurst, both on AHL contracts with Rockford.

Team Red also got a goal from one of the Hogs AHL signings, courtesy of Henrik Samuelsson. New Hawks prospect Jacob Nilsson got a put back goal to round out the scoring.

After some moves from Chicago, we now have a pretty decent idea of who will begin the 2018-19 season in the Forest City. Here is a look at the roster heading into practice this week.

 

Forwards (15)

NHL Contracts (11)

Dylan Sikura, Tyler Sikura, Viktor Ejdsell, Jordan Schroeder, Anthony Louis, Matthew Highmore, Jacob Nilsson, Nathan Noel, Matheson Iacopelli, Graham Knott, Alexandre Fortin.

At 28, Schroeder is the elder statesman in a group otherwise made up of first or second-year players. Most of the forward group is preparing for their second loop around the AHL. Noel is hoping for a healthy go-round and a full campaign in Rockford. Ejdsell saw mostly playoff action last season.

The two rookies in this group are Nilsson, who has several years of pro experience in Europe, and Dylan Sikura, who was assigned to the Hogs after joining the Blackhawks after his college season ended. Both players could make a big impact in Rockford early in the season.

Noel, Iacopelli and Fortin are looking to entrench themselves into Jeremy Colliton’s lineup in 2018-19. Knott will be looking to raise his level of play a notch or two from his rookie season.

AHL Contracts (4)

William Pelletier, Henrik Samuelsson, Terry Broadhurst, Brett Welychka.

Pelletier did not draw an invite to the Hawks NHL training camp. He was also absent from Friday night’s intersquad scrimmage and most (if not all) of the team workouts before that. If he is healthy and ready to play when the puck drops Friday in Cleveland, he should be a steady presence in the Hogs lineup.

Regardless of Pelletier’s availability, Samuelsson and Broadhurst should see a lot of action. Welychka could find himself with the Indy Fuel at times this season but may hold onto a roster spot for now. (UPDATE-Welychka was sent to Indy Monday afternoon.)

Outlook

As was the case last season, this is a young group that will be more than able to play at the pace Colliton prefers. There would appear to be opportunities to crack the lineup in Chicago for guys like Sikura (pick one), Highmore, Schroeder or Fortin. There are also players who need to prove they belong in the IceHogs lineup, so this should be a motivated group.

 

Defense

NHL Contracts (8)

Andrew Campbell, Carl Dahlstrom, Darren Raddysh, Luc Snuggerud, Joni Tuulola, Dennis Gilbert, Blake Hillman, Lucas Carlsson.

Depending on how Colliton pairs up his blueline, Dahlstrom provides a solid option on the top duo. Campbell is this season’s veteran presence; don’t expect too much in the way of offense, but he can sure up a pairing with one of the rookies.

Snuggerud is looking to put some injuries behind him in 2018-19. Raddysh is hoping to build on a solid rookie campaign that earned him his entry contract.

This group lacks the overall experience that was in Rockford to begin last season. Tuulola, Gilbert, Hillman and Carlsson are untested at the AHL level and will need to get up to speed quickly.

 

AHL Contract (1)

Josh McArdle

McArdle could be destined for Indy before too long (UPDATE-McArdle was assigned to the Fuel Monday afternoon). When all of the Hawks prospects are healthy, there may not be too much ice time for him with Rockford. A native of Rockton, Illinois and a former Junior IceHogs skater, it would be a hoot and a holler if McArdle could get into some action at the BMO.

Outlook

If last year’s forward group was unproven last season, it’s the defense that offers the most question marks this fall. The development of a young blueline will have a huge impact on Rockford’s fortunes as a team. This is nothing remotely close to the group that played so well in the playoffs last spring. The goalies could be facing a different caliber of shots in the event of a steep drop-off at the defensive end.

 

Goalie

NHL Contracts (2)

Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen

Barring any other moves or injury, this is your net tandem this season. It figures to be a solid one, provided Delia builds on the momentum generated by his whirlwind spring in Rockford.

If Delia starts this season the way he finished the last one, he could earn himself some time protecting the crease for Chicago. That depends on how the Hawks goalie situation works out the first few months.

I’d think the organization would like to see Lankinen get around 30 starts in Rockford, though the primary starter’s job should be Delia’s based on his play. Let’s keep in mind that Delia has just 28 AHL games to his name heading into this season. He’s still going to be learning on the job, as will Lankinen, who is making his debut in North America.

 

AHL Contract (1)

Matt Tomkins

Tomkins should get a healthy workload in Indy once he is assigned to the Fuel, which is a move the Hogs will make early this week. He wasn’t particularly impressive at the AHL level in his stints with Rockford last season, so you’d like to see Tomkins perform well with Indy and potentially provide a bit more consistency in any action he sees with the IceHogs in 2018-19.

Outlook

Last year’s Hogs team limited traffic and high-percentage shots on Delia, giving him time to play his way into a big role in the postseason run. A younger, less-experienced defense will keep all of Rockford’s goalies on their toes.

 

New Look Central

The Hogs have some new division foes with which to contend in 2018-19. Cleveland slides to the Eastern Conference, while two teams, San Antonio and Texas, move into the Central Division this season.

That makes for an eight-team division consisting of Rockford, Milwaukee, Chicago, Iowa, Grand Rapids and Manitoba in addition to the Stars and Rampage. Of Rockford’s 76-game schedule, 64 will be contested with a Central Division opponent. As always, beating the teams in the Central is key to being in a playoff slot come April.

That includes a dozen games with the Hogs two closest foes, Chicago and Milwaukee. Rockford has ten with both the Wild and Griffins and face both San Antonio and Texas eight times. As was the case a year ago, the IceHogs see the Moose just four times.

The season kicks off in Cleveland, where the piglets are in action Friday and Saturday. Six of Rockford’s first eight games are against non-divisional opponents…then the Hogs settle in for three months and 40 Central matchups.

Rockford has a six-game road trip November 9-20 and a couple of four-game jaunts in the second half of the season. Their longest home stretch is a six-game stand in February. Starting in late March, the Hogs are at the BMO for five straight.

Unlike 2017-18, when Rockford played a home-heavy schedule in the first few months and were frequently out of town the second half, this year sees a more balanced slate. Of the 35 games in the 2018 part of the schedule, the IceHogs play at the BMO 16 times. Starting January 1, 22 of Rockford’s last 41 games are at the big orange box.

 

Puppy Power…And Other Promotions

Last season, the IceHogs attendance was down to 3915 a night at the BMO, the lowest it’s been since Rockford’s inaugural AHL season in 2007-08. This, despite a exciting brand of hockey and a deep playoff run. It should be said that the crowds were much healthier in the playoffs, eclipsing Hogs postseason attendance records.

Hopefully the trend will reflect the previous season’s success. The Hogs are working hard to get butts in the seats…even puppy butts.

Rockford held Pucks and Paws Night on November 10 last season. The Hogs lost 6-0 to San Antonio, but enough dog lovers had their pets in tow to merit the IceHogs opening the BMO Harris Bank Center to your fur babies for all seven Wednesday home games. And your dog’s ticket is only two bucks!

The Hogs will also have their share of youth jersey, hat, shirt and blanket giveaways throughout the schedule, along with annual events like the Teddy Bear Toss (December 1) and the Pink In The Rink Night. If watching tomorrow’s Blackhawks playing fast-paced hockey isn’t enough for you, maybe some swag will get you heading to the BMO.

 

How Will The Piglets Fare In 2018-19?

Before the Hawks organization sent veteran reinforcements in February, Rockford was a young, exciting team that was fun to watch but was probably going to finish a spot or two out of the playoff picture. Not a one of the veteran catalysts remains from the club that reached the Western Conference Final.

Where does that leave this season’s group? Well, it would be foolish to think that the roster will undergo its share of turnover over 76 games.

Players are going to slide in and out of town at various points in the campaign. A lot of skaters earned looks in Chicago last season and that figures to continue with a lot of youth in the Hawks lineup.

As constructed, a lot of the load will have to be shouldered by returning players like Highmore, Sikura and Louis. Broadhurst and Schroeder getting off to hot starts and being steady, point-producing vets would be more than welcome.

Ultimately, it could come down to how Rockford grows up on the defensive side of the puck that dictates team success. Last spring’s playoff lessons could pay dividends with what is still a very young team. Will it be enough to land the Hogs in the postseason? However Rockford answers that question, the action at the BMO should be worth checking out.

I’m looking forward of another year of covering the IceHogs; follow me @JonFromi on twitter for news and commentary on all things Rockford throughout the 2018-19 season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, Chicago’s AHL affiliate, skate into November on a pretty high note. The IceHogs are on a six-game point streak that has seen them win five of six against Central Division opponents.

Despite several Hogs getting the call to join the Blackhawks last week, Rockford kept on rolling behind terrific play in net. IceHogs goalies surrendered a single goal in three games this week. This included a shootout loss to Charlotte and two shutout victories over the Iowa Wild.

Special teams also took steps toward respectability, though the power play still has a ways to go in that regard.

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs got their quest for the 2015 Calder Cup off to a bang-beat, bell-ringing start down in Texas over the weekend. The Hogs took the first two games of their AHL Western Conference Quarterfinal from the Stars in games on Friday and Saturday.

As a result, I’ll be heading to the BMO Harris Bank Center Wednesday night to watch the IceHogs try and wrap up the best-of-five series. Now…who’s coming with me?

Well…maybe not as many as management would like. I’m sure the Rockford brass isn’t completely happy with the league schedule makers.

Texas, who averaged just over 5,000 fans this season in their building in Cedar Park, drew 4,375 Friday and 4,978 Saturday. The IceHogs, who set an attendance record this season by packing an average of 4,834 into the BMO and have “home ice” in the series, get to host a weeknight game. The challenge for the Rockford area is clear; can they fill the house without dollar hot dogs?