The Rockford IceHogs are the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. Unlike many NHL teams, the Hawks do not own their franchise in Rockford.


The story being floated around is that the city of Rockford is looking to sell the IceHogs franchise. Some reports are implying that the Blackhawks will be the buyers.

The affiliation agreement between Rockford and Chicago is set to expire after the 2021-22 season. The fact that it hasn’t been renewed has been curious, though I would have figured that there would have been some movement towards the Hawks sticking with Rockford soon.

If you believe the hype, Chicago buys the IceHogs and renovates the BMO Harris Bank Center to better develop Blackhawks prospects. The Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority (RAVE), who operate the IceHogs, accepted a request for proposal to accept bids for the team.

It sounds like the RAVE is prepared to accept several bids. Reports imply that the buyers will be the Blackhawks. I haven’t seen any official word of such intent from the Hawks. Most of the talk is coming from Rockford’s side.

Is this a case of Chicago seeking ownership of their affiliate, or are the cash-strapped IceHogs making the primary overtures? I looked over the post on and see an awful lot of the word “could”, as opposed to the word “will” concerning this potential change of ownership. This suggests to me that nothing is set in stone at the moment.

Is this a good or bad thing for the parties involved? It’s hard to say. The folks in Rockford seem to be trading autonomy for the promise of keeping the team safely at the BMO. Might the community be a little desperate to hang on to the Chicago connection, necessitating offering a sweet deal on a team?

From the Hawks perspective, operating in Rockford allows swing players and prospects to reside in the suburbs and still have a manageable drive either way. It’s also convenient for team brass to take a quick jaunt West to see the prospects in action. Reports cite the fact that the Blackhawks want to continue basing their prospect pipeline in Rockford. Might the team be looking elsewhere?

This is surely a story worth following. We should soon see if a purchase by the Blackhawks has legs or not.


Roster Moves

On Tuesday, Brandon Pirri and Lucas Carlsson were assigned to Rockford. Both played in Wednesday’s loss to Grand Rapids. Pirri had a pair of goals. Carlsson, coming off an injury, also potted a goal.

Thursday, the Hawks recalled forward Michal Teply to the taxi squad. Teply has been injured; his only appearance for the IceHogs was on February 6 against the Chicago Wolves.

NOTE-Teply was returned to the Hogs following Chicago’s game with the Lightning, according to the AHL transaction page. Expect similar paper moves over the weekend to keep the taxi squad at the minimum of four players.


Recap…Blowout Edition

Wednesday, March 2-Grand Rapids 9, Rockford 4

Despite several players coming down from Chicago to deepen the talent pool, the piglets got a spanking from the Griffins, who won their fifth of their last six games in a rout at the BMO.

Brandon Pirri needed less than five minutes to pick up his first goal of the season after being assigned to the IceHogs Tuesday. The goal came from the right dot on a power play set up by a Dylan MacIlrath tripping infraction. Cody Franson got the play started by digging a puck out of a scrum at the left half boards. Pirri struck with a one-timer of Wyatt Kalynuk’s pass at 4:37 of the first period.

Grand Rapids exploded for the next three goals of the contest. The Griffins fired 21 shots on net in the opening twenty. Dominik Shine tied the game at the 8:15 mark, getting to the front of the net and redirecting Max Humitz’s blast from the high slot past Hogs goalie Collin Delia.

On the same shift, Humitz was on hand to collect a blocked attempt by Joe Hicketts betwen the circles. Delia was in position but the puck beat him to the stick side at 8:53 of the first for a 2-1 Grand Rapids advantage.

Delia continued to be deluged with vulcanized rubber. The Hogs fell behind 3-1 at the 16:04 mark on a power play goal by Patrick Curry. The shot came after Troy Loggins snuck a pass through the Rockford defense to Curry, who gathered in the puck at the bottom of the right circle and sent it into the far corner of the cage.

The Griffins would extend their advantage to 5-1 with goals by Humitz and Tyler Spezia in the first two minutes of the second period. Pirri potted his second goal of the evening, getting a pass from John Quenneville in the slot and five-holing Grand Rapids goalie Kevin Boyle at 3:39 of the second.

After Pirri’s goal cut the lead to 5-2, it was all Grand Rapids for the rest of the middle frame. The Griffins out shot Rockford 21-4 in the second,  picking up goals from Riley Barber and Turner Elson to send Delia to the bench in favor of rookie Tom Aubrun.

Grand Rapids welcomed Aubrun to the AHL with goals from Barber and Spezia. Rockford went into the second intermission down 9-2. The Hogs did pick up a power play goal from Lucas Carlsson 19 seconds into the third period. Chris Wilkie added his fourth goal of the season at the 7:07 mark, but that’s as close as the Hogs got to making this one respectable.

Delia, on a conditioning assignment from the Chicago Blackhawks, surrendered seven goals on 30 shots. Aubrun made stops on 15 of the 17 shots he faced. Meanwhile, Boyle saw just 21 shots come his way, making 17 saves to pick up the win.

Three Stars: Humitz (two goals and an assist), Spezia (two goals), Barber (two goals).

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville-MacKenzie Entwistle-Brandon Pirri

Mitchell Fossier-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Reese Johnson

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Evan Barratt-Tim Soderlund

Matej Chalupa-Dylan McLaughlin-Chris Wilkie

Wyatt Kalynuk-Cody Franson (A)

Nicolas Beaudin-Lucas Carlsson

Issak Phillips-Michael Krutil

Collin Delia

Tom Aubrun


This Weekend

The Iowa Wild visit Rockford for a two-game weekend set. Saturday night’s tilt gets underway at 6:00 p.m. The two teams finish up with a 4:00 p.m. start on Sunday.

Since an overtime win over the IceHogs in DesMoines February 13, Iowa has lost three of their four games. Gabriel Dumont (5 G, 5 A) leads the Wild in scoring.

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



We all have our security blankets. Mine is comparing Alex Nylander to a pile of microwaved dog shit. Perhaps yours is drugs, or alcohol, or comparing us to a pile of microwaved dog shit (see?). Stan Bowman’s is trading for/signing players he had under contract before, presumptively because they’re a known known. So god damn it if we aren’t remotely surprised to see Brandon Pirri coming back to Chicago, because fuck you.

Back when the Hawks were doing the will-he-or-won’t-he with Dylan Sikura, plenty of writers spilled plenty of ink talking about how Sikura fought through confidence issues to become a force at Northeastern. He went from a guy to a Hobey Baker finalist, which as we all know from past Blackhawks Luminary Drew LeBlanc is worth about as much as a two-cherry pull tab with a rug-burned scrotum as the last symbol. Despite being a sixth-round pick, there was always an overabundance of hope for him, especially from our quarters.

And aside from not scoring, Sikura wasn’t bad while he was here. In his only sustained stint here in 2018–19, over 33 games, here’s what he did:

  • Led all Hawks skaters in CF% (55+)
  • Led all Hawks forwards in xGF% (50+)
  • Finished top 5 among Hawks skaters in GF% (55+)

Those are decent peripheral stats for a guy who’s just that: a peripheral player. But much like Beavis, he never scored, which was always a fly in the ointment for Sikura. But for a team whose defense is a straitjacket made entirely of human shit and gristle, having players who can keep possession of the puck is paramount. Sikura could do that, but it obviously wasn’t good enough for a team willing to jam three minutes of John Quenneville in your face in an elimination game in the playoffs. We screamed and moaned for Sikura to get playing time over ANY of the following:

Each of whom got more time than Dylan Sikura over the past two years and each of whom brings between dick and ass to the table compared to Sikura. Though Sikura was never going to be a world beater, he could have been a role player on the third line, and that’s all he ever needed to be. It’s what he’ll become in Vegas to be sure. But instead, we got motherfuckers like John Quenneville skating in meaningful games over here. Tightly run ship, that.

Now what, pray tell, does Brandon Pirri bring to the table that Dylan Sikura couldn’t? He had a nice scoring run in Florida six fucking years ago, with 40 goals over 122 games there. And in 18–19, he scored 12 goals for Vegas. His career CF% is slightly lower than Sikura’s despite spending much more time in the offensive zone. Like Sikura, he’s had a hard time sticking in the NHL.

But Pirri is almost 30 and costs $25k more than Sikura. For a team that’s dry humping the cap, every dollar matters. Pirri is the older, balder, fatter son that the Hawks thought Sikura could be. And he’s been here before, which is apparently good enough.

This is the second time in three years that the Hawks have gone from drooling over the potential of one of their picks to trading him for a police horse’s fully filled diaper, Harju being the other. In both cases, you got the sense that they were in some kind of doghouse despite solid play. With all the hype that surrounded Sikura as he made his way to the Hawks, you’d have thought he’d get more than the 47 total games he got here. What’s frustrating is that other than the whole “not scoring” thing, he didn’t do all that much wrong. Certainly, he did more right than any of the aforementioned palookas who played more than him over the past two years.

Brandon Pirri will shuttle between Rockford and Chicago as he’s done throughout most of his career, while Dylan Sikura goes on to become an even stronger possession player on one of the best possession teams in the league. When he pots 15–20 goals next year, the Hawks will justify the trade as we can’t afford that.

It’s a fart in the wind in the long term. Sikura barely got a shake here, and now he’ll go to a team that’s nothing but guys who barely got a shake. How’s that gone for the rest of the league? But this is the state of things, wherein Bowman tries to win the 2014 Stanley Cup yet again.

The retreads will continue until morale improves.

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs concluded the regular season this past weekend. Their season, however, has not drawn to a close just yet.

Rockford is preparing for its first-round Calder Cup Playoffs series with the Chicago Wolves, who claimed the top spot in the Central Division. This was, in part, to the fact that Chicago defeated the Hogs twice this weekend to lock in the playoff match-ups.

Rockford clinched last Tuesday with a 5-3 win in Iowa. Heading into the final weekend of regular-season action, the IceHogs actually had a shot at a division banner if everything fell into place.

It didn’t.

Friday night, Rockford came out in physical fashion at the BMO. As a result, the Hogs found themselves down 5-1 in the third period. They rallied to get the score to 5-4, but the Wolves added an empty-netter and locked up the division title with a 6-4 victory.

Saturday night, Chicago rallied to win at Allstate Arena. Rockford led 4-3 after two periods, but the Wolves got a pair of goals midway through the third to best the IceHogs 5-4. This, despite Chicago resting several regulars while Rockford iced a veteran-heavy lineup.

The way things shake out is this: the piglets get an I-90 series with a team that it matches up with very well on paper. The Wolves are division champs, yet this is a very winnable series for Rockford.

This week, I am going to focus on the pending opening to this first-round series. Things get underway Saturday night in Rosemont, followed by a Sunday matinee at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Here’s a preview of what should be quite the entertaining best-of-five tilt.

With two teams within driving distance squaring off (a bus issue required the Wolves to drive themselves to Rockford Friday), each game will alternate between Chicago and Rockford. After the home-and-home that comprises Games One and Two, the action returns to the Allstate Arena Thursday for Game Three. If necessary, Game Four is in Rockford on Sunday, April 29. Game Five would be in Chicago the next day.

There is a decent chance of this series going the distance. The two teams split the 12 games in the season series (with Chicago retaining the Illinois Lottery Cup, for those who care). The Wolves and IceHogs each went 4-2 in their respective barns.

Eight of the 12 games had a one-goal margin of victory; three of those games were decided in overtime or a shootout (Rockford won all of those contests). These are two teams who are very familiar with each other. Let’s you and me get more familiar with the Wolves, as well as our IceHogs.


How They Got Here


Chicago had a stunningly poor start to the 2017-18 season. After dropping a 3-2 overtime loss to the Hogs December 22, the Wolves were 12-12-5-1. From that point on, Chicago went 29-10-2-4 to race up the standings. They caught a Manitoba squad that had a 14-point lead in the standings a couple of months ago and put together a 13-game home winning streak while doing so.



Rockford has earned it’s ticket for the playoffs with a strong finish after struggling in the first two months of 2018. The Hogs went 8-10-2-2 from the beginning of the calendar year to February 23. The improvement of goalie Collin Delia and some veteran reinforcements around the trade deadline helped turn the tide. Rockford is a different club than the one that began the season back in October.




The Wolves have the sixth-highest scoring offense in the AHL this season with a 3.24 goals per game average. Rest assured, they can fill the net.

Back in the second round of the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs, the IceHogs were beaten in five games by the Grand Rapids Griffins. More specifically, they were beaten by Teemu Pulkkinen, who notched seven goals and a couple of assists in the series.

Pulkkinen (29 G, 36 A this season) has not been able to get a permanent NHL foothold in Detroit, Minnesota or Las Vegas. However, the 26-year-old Finnish forward has been a nightmarish presence for fans of the IceHogs.

In 32 career regular season games vs Rockford, Pulkkinen has 33 points (21 G, 11 A). In the 12 games against the Hogs this season, Pulkkinen has nine goals and 14 points. He has two-goal performances in each of his last three games against Rockford.

In addition to stopping Pulkkinen, the IceHogs will also have to contend with another offensive juggernaut that hasn’t found a home in the NHL. That would be former Rockford center Brandon Pirri, who is coming off a season in which he tied Pulkkinen for the Wolves goal-scoring title. Pirri had 29 lamp-lighters despite playing in just 57 games for Chicago.

The Wolves are tough up the middle after Pirri. T.J. Tynan had a 60-point season (15 G, 45 A). Wade Megan didn’t match his 33-goal outburst of a season ago, but still can put points on the scoreboard. Stefan Matteau brings 27 points (15 G, 12 A) and a lot of nasty to the ice.

On the outside, Chicago is also talented in addition to Pulkkinen. The Wolves can boast 24-goal scorer Paul Thompson, Beau Bennett (12 G, 45 A) and Tomas Hyka (15 G, 33 A) Long-time AHL veteran Brett Sterling has nine points (4 G, 5 A) in nine games against Rockford this season.



The IceHogs lack a scorer of Pirri and Pulkkinen’s caliber up front. Rockford’s top four goal scorers are rookies. Matthew Highmore (24 G, 19 A) was the team’s rookie of the year. Tyler Sikura (23 G, 16 A) was the Hogs MVP in his first full AHL campaign.

Both players get to the net; Sikura, in particular, made a steady living in the rebound and redirect department. Anthony Louis (who led the Hogs with 44 points) and William Pelletier both had 14 goals for Rockford in their freshmen seasons.

The veteran scoring can’t rival Chicago, but it was instrumental in the late season surge. Chris DiDomenico put up 28 points (8 G, 15 A) in 22 games in the last two months of the season. Lance Bouma added seven goals and seven helpers in 20 games.

Coming down to Rockford in the last week of the season was Andreas Martinsen, who was a big contributor for the bulk of the Hogs season (12 G, 16 A). along with forwards David Kampf, John Hayden. If Hogs coach Jeremy Colliton can work them into the current team chemistry, they could be a big X-factor in this series.




The Wolves are also sixth-best in the league on the other side of the rink, giving up 2.73 goals per game.

Jason Garrison has ample NHL experience and a heavy shot from the point. He has 28 points (8 G, 20 A) on the season in 58 games for Chicago. Rookie Jake Bischoff (7 G, 16 A) leads the Wolves with a plus-23 skater rating.

Phillip Holm was acquired in February. He hasn’t put up the numbers for the Wolves like he had in Utica the first four months of the season. Nonetheless, he put up the game-tying goal against Rockford on Saturday night. Another recent addition, Zac Leslie, has five goals and 17 assists for the Wolves in 27 games.



The IceHogs have been at their best when they can push the pace of the game. It is the blueline that provides the jump to Rockford’s game.

Again, influx of veteran players has helped in this area, specifically Cody Franson and Adam Clendening. Both players had added offensive punch to the back end and, along with DiDomenico, completely revamped the power play.

With the additions of Franson and Clendening, Rockford sports a formidable group on defense. Carl Dahlstrom (3 G, 25 A) and Viktor Svedberg (6 G, 18 A) have both had solid seasons. Darren Raddysh and Gustav Forsling will likely form the third pairing.




Going into the playoffs, it looks like rookie Oscar Dansk will be backed up by Max Lagace. Dansk was the AHL’s Goalie of the Month back in March. He has a 2.47 GAA and a .917 save percentage in 20 games with the Wolves, most coming in the last two-and-a-half months.



It will be Delia and Jeff Glass in net for the IceHogs. Glass is one of the most respected voices in the locker room and Delia has been the Hogs best goalie over the last two months. Expect both to see action in this series.


Special Teams

On paper, the Wolves have a big advantage here, as Rockford struggled on both the power play and penalty kill units this season. I believe that going into this series, however, that the teams are more even that the regular season totals would suggest.

First off, the Hogs power play has been very good the last month. Second, Rockford doesn’t take a lot of dumb penalties. If they wind up giving Chicago a lot of chances, players like Pulkkinen will make them pay dearly.

This weekend, Rockford was uncharacteristically physical with the Wolves and would up in the box more than I’d like to see. As a result, Chicago had two power play goals both Friday and Saturday.


Bottom Line…How Does This Series Go?

If Rockford tries to get in a shoving match with the Wolves, as was the case at the BMO Friday night, I don’t think things auger well. I can’t imagine that Hogs coach Jeremy Colliton is going to try and out-muscle Chicago in this series, though.

This figures to be a more evenly-matched affair than the other Central pairing; I would imagine that Grand Rapids, who wound up second in the standings, will be able to handle a slumping Manitoba club in the first round.

The one-four match-up has the elements of a classic. Two interstate rivals, both of which are playing well heading into the postseason. Either team is capable of moving on to the next round. Of course, there can be only one, as they say.

I’ll play the role of homer…piglets in five.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on what should be a must-watch first-round series between the Hogs and Chicago.









Everything Else

It doesn’t look any better in the light of day I guess. While losing to the best team out there shouldn’t carry too much shame, you still feel the Hawks had a hand in their own destruction. We’ve been here for four exits, they’ve all been different. 2009 was simply not being ready and being outclassed, and that was the beginning. 2011 hurt because it was Vancouver and the Hawks were so close to pulling off that upset, but they really had no business even getting to a Game 7 and needed the Canucks to turn off for two games to do so. The Hawks wouldn’t have gone much farther that year anyway.

It’s a little similar to 2012, where you definitely felt the Hawks left something out there. That was also self-inflicted, or partly, due to Crawford’s bad OT goals, a roster with holes again, and a great performance from Mike Smith.

But we have to sort out the rubble, so let’s do so.