The Rockford IceHogs dug themselves a mighty big hole at the BMO Center this weekend. With two chances to grab some momentum in their Central Division Semifinal series with Texas, the Hogs  whiffed against the division’s top club. Texas returns home with a 2-0 series advantage on the strength of a superior transition game and a knack for capitalizing on IceHogs mistakes.

Game 3 is Wednesday night in Cedar Park. Rockford must win three in a row on the road to stay in the playoffs. To do that, the Hogs will need to start making passes with purpose, as opposed to sending pucks into the ether.

Friday’s 5-3 loss was pivotal, as it was a game well within reach of the piglets. Rockford let two leads slip away through sloppy passing and overzealousness.

The Stars took a 1-0 lead on a Rhett Gardner tally 12:34 into the contest. Lukas Reichel dropped a pass to no one in the neutral zone, leading to a Texas rush to the net. Rockford then built a 2-1 advantage on a power-play goal by Joey Anderson in the final seconds of the first period, followed by a D.J. Busdeker goal 1:16 into the second.

Texas was able to use a misplay by Rockford goalie Arvid Soderblom behind his own net in the second period to erase the deficit. Marian Studenic did the honors 14:33 into the middle frame. After the IceHogs took a 3-2 advantage early in the third on Bobby Lynch’s put-back, the Stars got the equalizer from Scott Reedy on the power play after a Mike Hardman elbowing penalty.

The game-winner was a direct result of a blind spinning pass from the stick of Reichel, who is still looking for his first point of the playoffs. Stars defenseman Alex Petrovic hauled in the puck in the high slot to start the rush the other way. Mavrik Bourque skated the puck to the left circle before finding Nicholas Caamano, who had snuck behind Issak Phillips, for a tap-in with less than four minutes remaining in the third period. Studenic found the empty net late for his second goal of the night.

On Sunday, the big guns came out to play for the Stars. Curtis McKenzie and Riley Barber gave Texas a 2-0 lead heading into the third period. Anderson got the Hogs on the board early in the third, but that’s as close as things got. Barber got his second of the evening 16:32 into the third, with Tanner Kero adding an empty-netter in the final minute.


  • There was no need for Hartman to finish a check as far behind the play as he was. Same for Reichel just forcing pucks into areas with nary a teammate in sight.  Rockford can not afford to make mistakes like these against the best offensive team in the league. Texas can and did make the Hogs pay for those mistakes Friday night.
  • Soderblom played pretty well for most of the first two games. Before coughing up the puck in the second period Friday, he prevented at least two pucks from finding the net. Sunday was another good, but not great, type of performance. Matthew Murray was the better goalie in both games.
  • Several times during Friday’s game, fans were warned not to throw objects onto the ice. Midway through the third period, a puck was tossed over the glass, initially resulting in a delay of game call against Rockford. It turned out that a Texas fan had committed the transgression, so the penalty was rescinded and the fan was removed from the game.
  • The IceHogs played a smarter game on Sunday, but just couldn’t get a puck past Murray at several key moments. This included hitting a post on a second-period power-play chance.
  • Jalen Luypen, who was signed to an entry contract by the Hawks last fall, made his AHL debut on Friday and also played in Sunday’s tilt. Centering the fourth line, he certainly did not look out of place for Rockford.

Wednesday’s Game 3 is set to start at Cedar Park’s H.E.B. Center at 7:00 p.m. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates.


The Rockford IceHogs have advanced to the Central Division Semifinals for the second year in a row. It’s a familiar tale-the piglets sweep their play-in opponents and are rewarded with the division’s top club in a best-of-five series.

Last season, the Hogs swept Texas before being swept themselves by the Chicago Wolves. This season, Rockford won two straight overtime decisions against Iowa in the play-in series. The team awaiting them? The Stars, who finished the regular season by winning five of their last seven games for the Central Division title.

How did the IceHogs get into this position? To recap:

  • In Game One Wednesday, a pretty healthy (for a weeknight) crowd was on hand at the BMO Center to watch a back-and-forth affair that came to a halt when Rocco Grimaldi forced a turnover in the Wild zone. After knocking down Nic Petan’s attempt to clear the puck, Grimaldi streaked to the right dot and sent the game-winner past Iowa goalie Jesper Wallstedt 3:59 into overtime.
  • The Hogs lost a 2-1 lead early in the third period of Friday’s Game Two in DesMoines. Rockford fell behind 3-2 but tied the game on a Michal Teply put-back midway through the final frame. Arvid Soderblom made a key stop on Steven Fogarty’s point-blank shot from the left post 30 seconds into overtime. A minute later, Grimaldi skated a puck behind the net and tried to find Lukas Reichel out front. The pass did not connect, but Alex Vlasic hauled it in at the top of the left circle, skated to the half boards, and threw a shot on goal that Buddy Robinson was able to redirect past Wallstedt. Rockford knocked Iowa out of the series with the 4-3 triumph.
  • The following day, the Wild announced that they were moving on from a good portion of their AHL coaching staff, including head coach Tim Army. (I’m not sure that is a direct consequence of the IceHogs sweep, but I’m mentioning it all the same.)

Rockford’s additional depth certainly helped get over the hump against the Wild, especially in Game Two. The bottom six were active at both ends of the ice, something that will have to happen consistently against Texas when the division semis begin. That will be on Friday at the BMO, where the IceHogs play host for the opening game of the series.

Last spring, I believed that the piglets matched up well with the Wolves and might have a chance to surprise them. Wrong; Chicago shifted into another gear and completely overwhelmed a young Rockford team on the way to the Calder Cup. Sure, Texas was the class of the division this season. However, I again believe that the Hogs can present a stiff challenge for the Stars.

At the BMO Center back on January 3, Rockford beat Texas (who was also in first place at the time) 4-3 in overtime. The IceHogs roster was still as it was for much of the season’s first three months. In eight meetings with the Stars in the regular season, Rockford was 5-3. It’s safe to say that Texas is more than capable of ramping up its game for the playoffs. As opposed to last spring, I feel like the IceHogs are equally capable of raising their game a level.

Rockford carries more experience into this series than it did against the Wolves. Several prospects like Soderblom, Teply, Lukas Reichel, Issak Phillips, Jakub Galvas, and Mike Hardman were part of last season’s playoff team. Add in high-scoring playoff veterans like David Gust, Rocco Grimaldi, and Luke Philp, and there is plenty of postseason experience on hand.

This is not to say that the Stars don’t know their way around a playoff game. Long-time Texas captain Curtis McKenzie has several long postseason runs, including a Calder Cup with the Stars back in 2014. McKenzie has been around the AHL for a dozen years, but is still a dangerous scorer who had 22 goals and 32 helpers this season.

Veteran Riley Barber (32 G, 32 A) led Texas in scoring and had eight game-winning goals for the Stars. The Hogs will also have to contend with former Rockford forward Tanner Kero (17 G, 33 A), Marian Studenic (21 G, 27 A), and rookies Mavrik Bourque (20 G, 27 A) and Matej Blumel (19 G, 25 A).

Anchoring Texas in net is Matthew Murray, who finishes up his first full AHL season with a record of 18-10-5 to go with a 2.37 GAA and a .911 save percentage. One of the leagues best goalies, Murray has not been good in three prior matchups with the Hogs this season. In those games, he is 0-2-1 with a 5.09 GAA and an .849 save percentage. He was a tough man to get a puck past in last spring’s playoff sweep of Texas, in which he played both games.

As poorly as Murray was against Rockford this season, Soderblom was even worse against the Stars. He gave up four goals in a loss to Texas on February 22. In the other start, Soderblom’s first after a couple of months with the Blackhawks, ended midway through the second period after he surrendered five goals on 12 shots.

Murray’s play earns Texas the edge in goal heading into the series. However, Soderblom turned in solid performances against the Wild and is carrying a 2.13 GAA and a .925 save percentage over his last eight games dating back to March 31. Soderblom was a couple of saves better than Jesper Wallstedt last week. If he can match Murray this weekend, Rockford has a chance to pick up one or both of the first two games.

The Hogs are smack dab in the middle of exactly what the organization wanted from it’s AHL affiliate; meaningful spring hockey games. How many additional games Rockford gets factors on if it can hold its own in the crease and control what promises to be a track meet in terms of pace.

The AHL’s travel policy affords the IceHogs a chance to get the most out of their two home dates. Grabbing a Game One win on Friday is the obvious course of action; it would be nice to see Rockford extend the Stars at the very least.

Follow me @JonFromi for the occasional thought and game update throughout the playoffs.



The Rockford IceHogs have advanced to the Central Division Semifinal via a sweep of Texas in their play-in series. The piglets capped off an impressive defensive performance against the Stars with a 1-0 overtime triumph after winning Game 1 by a score of 2-1.

Rookie goalie Arvid Soderblom stopped 68 of 69 Texas Stars in the two games, good for a .986 save percentage. To the surprise of no one, he was voted the First Star of Game 2 for his 36-save shutout.

After a couple of days to prepare, Rockford opens a best-of-five series with the Chicago Wolves in Rosemont on Thursday night. The Wolves are the top seed in the Central Division. They won more games in the regular season than any team in the league. Their .724 points percentage was the best in the AHL.

The Wolves roster boasts the leagues top goal scorer (Stefan Noessen, 48 goals) as well at the league’s top point-producer (Andrew Poturalski, 101 points). On paper, the Flying Piglets of ‘Bago County will be lucky to win a single game.

Not only do I think the Hogs could win one game, I figure the belief is there for Rockford to shock everyone and win this series.

These teams met 12 times in the regular season. Rockford won eight times.

The IceHogs are 5-0-0-1 at Allstate Arena this season.

Each of the last five meetings was a one-goal decision. Rockford was 4-1 in those games.

The last meeting between Rockford and the Wolves came in the regular-season finale April 30. Chicago was gunning to out-do Stockton for the AHL’s top record. The IceHogs had nothing to gain, having been locked into fourth in the division.

Rockford rested several starters, including Soderblom. Chicago pinned back its ears and swamped the Hogs in their own zone. The Wolves out-shot Rockford 54-25 on the evening.

And yet, the IceHogs had an offensive draw in the final 30 seconds with a chance to tie the contest before ultimately losing 3-2.

Rockford can win this series. They know it. The Wolves know it.

The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, Chicago was the division champ. The Wolves were swept by the fourth-seeded Hogs. That history, plus Rockford’s success against this year’s division champs, makes it unlikely that the piglets are going to be taken lightly by Chicago.

What does Rockford have going for it? Confidence and momentum. They have a hot goalie heading into a series against a team that hasn’t had a game in what will be 12 days when the teams collide on Thursday, May 12.

The Hogs calling card for much of the last couple of months is solid play in the defensive zone and timely goals from a host of young prospects. They’ve had a wildly successful season and have nothing to lose as they enter this series.


Playoff Musings

  • The goal scorers in Game 1 were Lukas Reichel and Carson Gicewicz. Reichel deftly handled a pass from Michal Teply on a 2-on-1 in the second period and snapped home the first goal of the game. Gicewicz deflected an Issak Phillips shot past Stars goalie Matthew Murray (who played very well in the two games for Texas) for the eventual game-winner.
  • After a scoreless regulation, Dylan McLaughlin got loose in the high slot, hauled in a pass from Phillips, and sniped the Game 2 winner 56 seconds into overtime.
  • The secondary assist on McLaughlin’s goal went to Ian Mitchell, who returned from a wrist injury suffered in practice April 26.
  • IceHogs forwards Kurtis Gabriel, Dimitri Osipov, and Garrett Mitchell played their part in the series sweep. The three were able to regularly administer devastating hits to Texas skaters without so much as a single infraction between them. In all, the IceHogs committed just three penalties in the two games.
  • Forward Andrei Altybarmakian, who came on strong in the last month of the season, did not skate in either game of the series. His last game action was April 30 in Milwaukee.
  • Game 1 vs Chicago will take place at Allstate Arena on Thursday, May 12 at 7:00 p.m. Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday night at 7:00 p.m., with Game 3 coming to the BMO Harris Bank Center Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates and thoughts throughout Rockford’s playoff run.

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs put in a decent effort in Texas this past weekend, earning a split against the Stars. With each contest being of the must-win variety, two points in Cedar Park just isn’t enough to get the piglets over the playoff hump.

Rockford is currently on the bottom of a five-team sprint for the last two playoff spots in the Central Division. With three games left to play in the regular season, the Hogs figure to wind up on the outside looking in.

On the strength of an eight-game winning streak, Milwaukee (83 points) has leapfrogged Iowa for third place in the Central Division. The Wild, who have dropped eight in a row, now sit in a tie with Manitoba with 81 points. Texas trails Iowa and the Moose by a single point. In seventh place, with 78 points, are the IceHogs.

Rockford winds up its schedule with the Admirals in Milwauke Tuesday and at Iowa Saturday before wrapping up the regular season at the BMO against the Ads Sunday afternoon. Even if Rockford were to sweep this week, it seems unlikely that they can earn enough points to vault into fourth place.


Texas Trip

Peter Holland led the Hogs in Texas with four points (2 G, 2 A) in the back-to back. He had the only goal for Rockford in a 2-1 loss to the Stars Friday night and got another in the Hogs 4-3 shootout victory Saturday.

Holland’s goal Friday tied that game in the third period; Texas would pull out the win on a penalty shot by Ty Dellandrea midway through the final frame. Saturday was a back and forth affair, with the IceHogs tying the contest on a Tyler Sikura goal with just over five minutes remaining.

Holland, who had scored in the second period of regulation, kept Rockford alive in the third round of the shootout, which ended with a successful attempt by Jacob Nilsson in the fifth round.

The goal tending was solid throughout the weekend. Collin Delia stopped 26 of 28 Texas shots in a losing effort Friday. Anton Forsberg turned away 32 Stars shots, including a pair of point-blank attempts following Rockford turnovers in overtime.


Epic Comeback Against San Antonio

Forgive the hyperbole, but Rockford really pulled a rabbit out of its hat back on Tuesday night at the BMO. Trailing San Antonio 3-1 through two periods, a listless IceHogs team came out in fast-strike mode in the final frame to keep hopes alive.

William Pelletier scored twice in a thirteen-second span in the seventh minute to tie the contest. Rockford gave the stunned Rampage a reprieve until Dylan Sikura scored his second goal of the night at 15:25 of the third to put the Hogs ahead. On the next shift, Andreas Martinsen knocked in a rebound of Brandon Hagel’s attempt to cap off a 5-3 triumph.

As impressive as Tuesday’s rally was, it came at a price. Jordan Schroeder was helped off the ice at the end of the first period and did not return to action. Schroeder did not skate in Texas this weekend.


Roster Changes

Last Monday, Dylan Sikura was assigned to Rockford by the Blackhawks. The next day, Sikura was joined in the Hogs lineup by Matthew Highmore. Highmore made his return to action following an injury suffered back on October 28.

Dennis Gilbert was recalled by Chicago Tuesday, played for the Hawks Wednesday and was returned to Rockford that night. I was happy to see Gilbert get a look from the parent club; I felt like he was a player who made strides in his development this season.

Thursday, Rockford re-signed defenseman Dmitri Osipov to a new PTO after releasing him last week. They also inked forward Philipp Kurashev to an ATO after his junior season ended. Kurashev played in both games against the Stars; Osipov skated on Saturday night.

Friday, goalie Kevin Lankinen was recalled by Chicago to back up Cam Ward in Nashville in the Blackhawks season finale Saturday. He was assigned back to Rockford Sunday.


One Timers

  • In 19 games with the IceHogs, Holland has 15 points (7 G, 8 A). That’s not quite at the pace he was scoring with Hartford for most of the season, but he leads Rockford in points since joining the club. For the season, Holland has 64 points (27 G, 37 A), good for a tie for seventh in the AHL.
  • Schroeder had 16 points (8 G, 8 A) in his last 19 games dating back to February 16. Even if he doesn’t play again this season, he has set a career-high in points with 45 (19 G, 26 A).
  • Highmore was back in the lineup for all three games this past week. He had an assist in each of the games against the Stars.
  • From February 1 to March 16, the Admirals were 4-7-7-1 and just about out of the playoff race. Beginning with the three-game set with Rockford, with started March 22, Milwaukee is 8-0. That three-game sweep at the hands of Milwaukee will wind up the difference between The IceHogs making and missing this year’s Calder Cup Playoffs.
  • As of Monday morning, all eight Central Division teams have played 73 games. No games in hand for anyone in the division at the moment.
  • Despite two helpers this weekend, Anthony Louis is going to see a drop in his offensive numbers from his rookie campaign. More concerning is the fact that his scoring has faded badly in the latter part of both his pro seasons. In his last 32 games this season, Louis has two goals and six assists.
  • Rookie defenseman Lucas Carlsson, who paces the Hogs blueliners with eight goals, is on a twenty-game goal drought.
  • In his last 20 games, Alexandre Fortin has one goal and one assist.
  • It’s been a disappointing return to Rockford for Terry Broadhurst, who hasn’t skated for the Hogs since March 1. In 40 games played this season, Broadhurst has four goals and eight assists. These are by far the worst scoring numbers in five full AHL seasons.
  • Tyler Sikura’s goal Saturday was his first since December 19. In a season win which he missed two months with a broken thumb, Sikura The Elder has 19 points (7 G, 12 A) in 47 games. With a plus-five skater rating (fourth among active Hogs), Sikura is an RFA I’d like to see back in town next season. Goals or no goals, his work ethic is evident on the ice every night.


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



Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs have six games in the 2018-19 season to wrest a playoff berth from a host of Central Division rivals. Whether the piglets can do so hinges on how this group of youngsters can finish up, starting this coming weekend in Texas.

The Stars, along with Milwaukee, put themselves in the catbird seat for the time being with a pair of wins in Iowa this weekend. The Admirals, who’s three-game sweep of Rockford last week propelled them back into playoff consideration, beat division leaders Chicago and Grand Rapids in back-to-back games.

The Hogs beat the Griffins 4-1 at the BMO Saturday night. They then dropped a 5-2 decision to the Wolves the following afternoon. A split was a pretty decent effort for Rockford. It just wasn’t enough to keep pace with Texas and Milwaukee.

Through 70 games, Rockford (32-28-4-6) are sitting in seventh place in the division standings with 74 points, three points behind the Admirals and Stars and one behind Manitoba. Fourth place is attainable. The road is uphill, but it is very, very clear.

How does Rockford break out of the pack? Simple. The Hogs must follow these easy steps…

  1. Take care of business Tuesday night against last-place San Antonio. Do not leave the BMO with any less than two points. Overtime, shootout…doesn’t matter.
  2. Sweep Texas this weekend. Two regulation wins. The Stars must be denied even a single point.
  3. Beat the Ads April 9 in Milwaukee, then come to the BMO and beat them again in the final game of the regular season April 14. Regulation wins? Yup.
  4. I was going to suggest that dropping the penultimate game on the schedule to Iowa might be all right if the first three steps were met. You know what? Better knock off the Wild as well.

Hey, if things had gone differently against Milwaukee last week, it wouldn’t be so dire. However, the Admirals have an eight-game point streak going and Texas has won three in a row. That postseason berth will have to be won. That may well mean running the table the last two weeks.


Setting Things Straight

In the action on Saturday (I was there in the stands) and Sunday (I was on the internet), I picked up a lot of frustration on the part of the BMO faithful. Whether I heard it live or via social media, a vocal portion of IceHogs nation have pinned the blame for the team’s struggles to match last-year’s spring awakening on the following transgressions, which I will summarize below:

  1. The kids aren’t putting in enough effort.
  2. The team doesn’t score because they aren’t shooting enough.
  3. Derek King is a terrible coach because he stands behind the bench with his arms crossed.
  4. Anton Forsberg is the worst goalie in the history of ever.

I lack the time to fully dissect these theories for validity, but respectfully disagree with each of the above takes. Last night, on my twitter page, I belched out a lengthy diatribe on the subject. Below is said diatribe.


My Twitter Diatribe (@JonFromi)

1. Reading a lot of fan frustration following the Hogs 5-2 loss to Chicago this evening. Words like “effort” and “coaching” and “Forsberg” trying to point a finger at what is a borderline playoff team.

2. RFD split the weekend and probably needed to get four points after dropping three straight games to MIL last week. Hogs are three points behind the Admirals, who have the fourth Central berth with six games to play in the regular season.

3. It’s not a lack of effort or a desire to hit the links this spring that has RFD in its current position. Interim coach Derek King is not the the anchor keeping the Hogs from another spectacular postseason run. Nor is it any of the three goalies.

4. The truth is that this is pretty much where last year’s club would have slotted…had they not been fortified with a slew of NHL-level players coming down from the Blackhawks. Don’t agree? Let’s look at the names…

5. David Kampf, Lance Bouma, Chris DiDomenico, John Hayden, Cody Franson and Adam Clendening were all added to the IceHogs roster in the spring of 2018, This is the sole reason that the IceHogs reached the postseason and why they went as far as they did.

6. This season, King lost his top goal scorer, Matthew Highmore, to injury. Then leading point-producer Dylan Sikura was called up. Peter Holland was obtained and has been a big part of the RFD offense. However, King received a pittance of the bounty provided for Jeremy Colliton.

7. Not sure King is going to have the “interim” removed from his title following the season. I will say this; no way Colliton gets substantially more out of the current piglets. They don’t score consistently, at evens or on the man advantage.

8. RFD may or may not get to the playoffs. They are kids; young teams are streaky by nature and effort has nothing to do with this. If King manages to coax the IceHogs into the postseason despite the AHL’s worst offense and power play, tip your cap to the guy.

In the spirit of honesty, the Hogs scored a power play goal this weekend to move up to 29th in the league with a man advantage.


Roster Moves

Brandon Hagel and Reece Johnson both made their pro debuts Saturday night. Hagel was assigned to Rockford by the Blackhawks; Johnson signed an ATO with the Hogs.

On Sunday, Spencer Watson was recalled to Rockford from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. Fredrik Olofsson was released from his ATO.


Win ‘Em All

San Antonio visits the BMO Harris Bank Center Tuesday night. Then, it’s off to Texas for two pivotal contests.





Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs are coming off three straight losses to a Milwaukee club that was teetering on the edge of the playoff hunt. As a result, the Hogs can take a simple approach to their final eight games of the regular season.


Adrian Balboa I’m not, but Rockford would do well to follow that edict. The IceHogs host the top two teams in the Central Division this weekend in Grand Rapids and Chicago. That tall order is followed up by crucial tilts involving two of the three teams currently scrapping with Rockford for the division’s final playoff spot.

The Hogs fared a bit better in Wednesday’s game with the Admirals, though Milwaukee still posted a 4-2 victory. Chad Krys had a solid pro debut for the piglets, creating a scoring opportunity after picking off an Ads clearing attempt and sending a nice drop pass to Anthony Louis in the third period. Louis’s goal tied the score at two, though the Admirals would prevail.

Along with Krys, Rockford also saw Jacob Nilsson and Nick Moutrey return to action. That’s encouraging heading into two must-win contests with the cream of the division coming to the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Rockford needs at least a split against the Griffins Saturday night and Wolves Sunday afternoon to keep up with the neighbors. It’s nearly a dead heat for fourth place. Texas and Milwaukee each have 73 points, with the Hogs and Manitoba each boasting 72. The Moose and Admirals share a .537 points percentage compared to the Stars and Rockford, who both are at the .529 mark.


Four Schedules…Four Destinies

The IceHogs have a decent measure of control as far as reaching the postseason. Rockford has two games remaining against Texas and Milwaukee before the regular season ends.

The Stars finish their schedule with three games against last-place San Antonio. Before that, they visit Iowa this weekend for a pair and host the IceHogs for a back-to-back next weekend.

Manitoba has four of its last nine games against the Rampage (two games) and Pacific cellar-dwellers Stockton (two games). On the other hand, the other five are with Bakersfield (two), Grand Rapids and Chicago (two), the best three teams in the Western Conference.

Aside from their two games remaining with the Hogs, Milwaukee has two games left with the Wolves, a pair with Grand Rapids and one each with Iowa and San Antonio. Five of the Admirals last eight games are at home, while each of the other three teams have four home dates left.

Rockford closes the season with four straight road contests (two in Texas, Milwaukee and Iowa) before the regular season finale against the Ads April 14. That game could well decide the fate of the Hogs, provided Rockford doesn’t continue to wobble down the stretch.


Roster Moves

Krys, who signed his entry contract with the Blackhawks last week, signed a PTO with the IceHogs on Monday. He’ll probably be a mainstay in the lineup until the season concludes. On Wednesday, Rockford sent defenseman Josh McArdle to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL, along with forward Spencer Watson. Defenseman Dmitri Osipov was released from his PTO the same day.

You could speculate that either of the veteran blueliners, Andrew Campbell and Brandon Davidson, are ready to skate this weekend. Otherwise, Rockford just has six defensemen available. Dennis Gilbert left the ice after a big hit Wednesday but returned to action shortly thereafter.

Forwards Terry Broadhust and Matthew Highmore are nearing returns but probably won’t be on the ice this weekend. Luke Johnson did not skate on Wednesday, missing his second straight game after an injury last Friday in Milwaukee.

Follow me @JonFromi for updates on this weekend’s action as well as thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the rest of the 2018-19 campaign.





Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs take to the ice at the HEB Center against the Texas Stars Monday night in Game 6 of the AHL’s Western Conference Final. The piglets stayed alive Friday with a 3-1 victory over Texas in Rockford to necessitate a trip back to the Lone Star State.

To advance to the Calder Cup Final against the waiting Toronto Marlies, the IceHogs require a road sweep of the final two games with the Stars. Game 7, if needed, will take place Tuesday night.

Rockford turned in a gritty effort to extend the series in Game 5. It was the first game that neither club’s power play was able to score. The Hogs had to get it done at even strength, which they did after a marvelous opening period.

As they had in Game 4, the Hogs came out of the gate in attack mode. Friday night, it resulted in two goals in the first 8:15 of action. The first came on a clap shot by Cody Franson from the left point 3:01 into the game. Five minutes later, Rockford was able to double its advantage.

The scoring play took shape quickly, with Victor Ejdsell finding Luke Johnson unchecked just outside the Stars zone. Johnson bore in on Texas goalie Mike McKenna and united rubber and twine in matrimony at the 8:15 mark.

David Kampf got off a nice shot from the left dot that rang off the far post but stayed out of the net a few minutes later. Even so, it was a dominant first-period for the IceHogs.

Texas didn’t get this far in the tournament by laying down their sticks when behind. The push back came in the second period, where they began winning races to the puck. Midway through the period, Roope Hintz gathered in a rebound in front of Jeff Glass’s net and deposited it to cut the Hogs lead to 2-1.

The IceHogs were getting time in the Texas zone in the third period, but weren’t getting the type of looks that could result in the insurance goal they sorely needed. McKenna, who has been outstanding in the Stars playoff run, coughed up a softie at a most opportune time for Rockford.

Kampf crossed the blueline and tossed a shot on the Stars net. It was not much more than a dump-in, really. McKenna swatted it away with his blocker. However, the puck tumbled high over the head of McKenna and landed in the crease behind him, toddling across the goal line to put the Hogs up 3-1 at the 11:13 mark.

Glass and the IceHogs, buoyed by McKenna’s gift, kept Texas at bay for the rest of the contest. In his second-straight start, the veteran made 40 saves on 41 shots. Rockford was out shot 26-8 in the final 40 minutes but triumphed nonetheless.

Despite the Stars nearly doubling Rockford up on shots (41-21), the Hogs closed the Texas series lead to three games to two in a very heartening way. Here’s why:

  • Rockford was able to come out smoking and took charge of the game early.
  • The IceHogs were physical without spending a lot of needless time in the penalty box. The Stars had just two power play chances on the night.
  • If the Stars didn’t know much about Ejdsell before, they do now. Rockford’s x-factor in these playoffs, Ejdsell leads all AHL skaters with seven postseason goals. He has four game-winners in the playoffs, tied with Curtis McKenzie of Texas for the top spot in that category. Ejdsell followed up his two-goal, three point night in Game 4 with a key assist to Johnson in Game 5.
  • Glass had himself another good game, grabbing First Star honors. He stopped a couple of key breakaway chances to preserve the Rockford lead. He also stood pretty tall in the closing moments, when Texas pulled McKenna for a 6-on-4 power play.

Collin Delia earned his spot as the postseason goalie with some great play in the first two rounds. In turn, Glass has earned the right to man the pipes for the remainder of this series, in my opinion.

Could Texas be feeling a bit tight around the collar after the Hogs kicked out of two elimination games? Possibly, though they still need just one win in their barn and will get two shots to do that. McKenna is still going to be a tough man to score on.

Curtis McKenzie squared off with Franson late in the first period Friday in an attempt to fire up his club. The Stars looked a bit frustrated at the physical nature of the Hogs effort, but Texas is more than able to give as well as they get in that department.

Three of the games in this series have been decided by overtime. It won’t come as a surprise if Game 6 is a hard-fought affair that may require some extra effort. Can the IceHogs force a seventh game in Texas? We’ll find out soon enough.

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs were able to extend their season a bit longer into the spring Thursday with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Texas Stars. The asterisk can be removed from Game 5 of the Western Conference Final. It is indeed necessary and will be at the BMO Harris Bank Center Friday night.

Safe to say that this will be brief. The season could end at any time for the piglets. Maybe I’m here Monday morning  crowing about a possible comeback to be completed in Texas. Maybe I’m starting to dig a hole to plant the 2017-18 campaign before beginning a season-in-review post. The way the last three games have gone, it could be either angle.

Game 4, like the previous two games in this series with the Stars, came down to extra hockey. Unlike Game 3’s scoreboard orgasm, goals were hard to come by Thursday. Rockford had to rally from a goal down in the third period and needed a good portion of the frame to come up with the equalizer. For the first time in this series, the Hogs were able to manufacture some scoring when it really counted.

Victor Ejdsell gave Rockford the lead 6:24 into the game when his attempt from the slot slipped through the pads of Stars goalie Mike McKenna. Texas tied the game via a two-man advantage in the 16th minute on a bad angle shot by Travis Morin. A late power play tally by Matt Mangene put the IceHogs down 2-1 with 25 seconds left in the second period.

Things looked a bit bleak for Rockford until Luke Johnson was able to re-direct a Cody Franson shot past McKenna with just under seven minutes to go in regulation. In overtime, Ejdsell scored from the right circle after Matthew Highmore gathered in a rebound of his own shot and found the open Swede.

IceHogs win. Cue “Chelsea Dagger”, raise the sticks and get set to try this winning thing again. Here are some additional thoughts on Game 4:

  •  First off, the biggest change in the Hogs lineup came in net, where Collin Delia had a seat and Jeff Glass, who hadn’t had a start in over a month, manned the pipes. Glass limited rebounds and stopped 28 of 30 shots.
  • If Glass had given up six goals in any game down the stretch and Delia followed it up with a solid win, you can darn well bet that Delia would be getting the next start. That’s why I can’t imagine that Jeremy Colliton changes his goalie for Game 5.
  • If Rockford continues to be overly aggressive for the sake of drawing oohs and ahs from the BMO faithful, the Texas power play is plenty good enough to end this series Friday.
  • The IceHogs had a plethora of opportunities in the first ten minutes of action Thursday. It resulted in just one goal on the scoreboard. Texas turned the tables late in the period and went in even despite being outplayed for a large stretch of the opening 20. Credit Rockford for staying on task after the air got taken out of a nice first period effort.
  • I might be the only one thinking this, but I don’t feel like Gustav Forsling is defending very well in this series.
  • 3291 showed up to watch Game 4; the Hogs were well-supported in two weeknight contests. How many folks attend a Friday night elimination game at the BMO? How about you?
  • In the third period, Stars D Andrew Bondarchuk took a puck in the mouth and left the game for stitches. A few moments after Bondarchuk was taken to the locker room and before action resumed, the referee reached down and picked up what I assume was Bondarchuk’s tooth. My quandary; how much extra effort would it have taken for the official to skate over and hand off that tooth to the Stars so they could try and reunite it with Bondarchuk?

The puck drops on Game 5 at seven bells. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter to see what the tone of Monday’s post will be.

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs headed to Texas this weekend looking to take at least a game at the HEB Center to open the Western Conference Final with the Stars. That didn’t happen.

The first two games were rife with opportunity. However, Rockford dropped Game 1 on Friday and Game 2 Sunday. Texas leads the series 2-0 as the action now shifts to Winnebago County for the next three games.

The BMO could be the difference maker for the IceHogs, though Texas earned their advantage with some hard work around the net. Greasy goals did the trick in a 4-2 Stars win Friday night. A put back in overtime made Texas 3-2 winners Sunday.


Game 1

Friday, May 18-Texas 4, Rockford 2

Game 1 of the Western Conference Final did not turn out the way the Hogs wanted. Rockford was outworked in front of the net, dropping its first postseason game.

Texas was active around the net early. After Dillon Heatherington caught a post on a shot attempt, the Stars swarmed the crease of Hogs goalie Collin Delia. Curtis McKenzie knocked in a loose puck 4:22 into the contest to give the Stars a 1-0 advantage.

The Hogs responded midway through the first period on the power play. Carl Dahlstrom took a page from fellow blueliner Cody Franson’s book to tie the game. As opposed to Franson’s happy place, the left dot, Dahlstrom sent his left-handed shot from the right dot, one-timing Chris DiDomenico’s pass into the Stars cage at the 11:19 mark.

The Texas response was quick. Roope Hintz, who had gained separation from Rockford defenseman Gustav Forsling, took a stretch pass from Denis Gurianov and entered the IceHogs zone on a breakaway. Hintz was able to five-hole Delia and the Stars led 2-1 at 12:37 of the first. Texas took that lead into the locker room.

DiDomenico evened the score for Rockford early in the second stanza. Darren Raddysh fired toward the Texas net from just inside of the Stars blueline. Lance Bouma got a stick on the puck in front of the net, sending it over to DiDomenico at the bottom of the left circle. The attempt beat Texas goalie Mike McKenna and nestled into the ropes at 4:35 to make it a 2-2 game.

The Stars regained the lead at the tail end of a power play a few minutes later. Remi Elie finished off the scoring play by knocking another loose puck in behind Delia 8:47 into the second. The IceHogs kept the pressure on the Texas defense but couldn’t solve McKenna and entered the second intermission on the short end of the scoreboard for the first time this postseason.

Rockford gave up a key goal 7:18 into the final frame after a Sheldon Dries pass attempt was broken up in the slot by Viktor Svedberg. The loose puck came back out to Dries at the left dot. The rookie forward settled the puck and backhanded a shot toward goal. The attempt got the best of Delia, who appeared to have an obstructed view courtesy of Stars forward Jason Dickinson. The puck got through on the far side of Delia’s net to make the score 4-2 Stars.

That was too much for Rockford, who mustered only five shots in the final 20 minutes after sending 28 McKenna’s way in the first two periods. The Stars goalie stopped 31 of 33 shots on the night.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Hayden-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Chris DiDomenico-David Kampf-Lance Bouma

William Pelletier-Tanner Kero-Anthony Louis

Matthew Highmore-Victor Ejdsell-Luke Johnson

Cody Franson (A)-Viktor Svedberg (A)

Adam Clendening-Carl Dahlstrom

Gustav Frosling-Darren Raddysh

Collin Delia

Power Play (1-4)


Highmore-Ejdsell-Louis-Bouma-Dahlstrom (Clendening was in for Louis when Dahlstrom scored)

Penalty Kill (Stars were 1-4)





Game 2

Sunday, May 20-Texas 3, Rockford 2 (OT)

Too much time in the box did in the piglets in Game 2. Collin Delia stopped 34 shots but it wasn’t enough to keep Texas from going up 2-0 in the Western Conference Final.

Rockford got on the board at 6:09 of the opening period. Andreas Martinsen got the scoring play started when he won control of the puck behind the Stars net. He sent it out to Adam Clendening at the right point, who then got it back to Martinsen at the right dot.

John Hayden was in front of the net waiting for a centering pass…and got it. Whiffing on his initial attempt, Hayden slid home the lamp-lighter under Texas goalie Mike McKenna for a 1-0 Hogs advantage.

Texas scored the next two goals in the first half of the second period. Jason Dickinson struck from the right dot after getting a cross-ice pass from Matt Mangene at the 2:45 mark. The Stars took a 2-1 lead after a shot from Brent Regner pinballed off the stick of Luke Johnson, the ice surface and the right post before settling into the net for a power play goal at 8:15.

The power play allowed Rockford to even the score less than two minutes later. After a 5-on-3 chance ended, Cody Franson threaded a circle-to-circle pass to Chris DiDomenico. Streaking to the far side of the right circle, DiDomenico sniped the equalizer past McKenna at 11:09 to make it a 2-2 game.

Despite the Stars dominating the third period, Hogs goalie Collin Delia kept his team in contention, anchoring a Rockford penalty kill unit that negated four Texas chances. The IceHogs were out shot 12-4 but took the game into overtime with a chance to steal Game 2.

Alas, it wasn’t to be.

Rockford let a huge opportunity to end the game slip away when Victor Ejdsell started a 2-on-1 rush with DiDomenico five minutes into the extra session. Ejdsell tried to make a late pass which was broken up by McKenna’s stick, ending the threat.

Curtis McKenzie was tripped by Gustav Forsling 10:08 into overtime, leading to the game-winner. McKenzie did the honors on the subsequent power play, knocking in a rebound of a Brian Flynn shot to end the contest.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Matthew Highmore-Victor Ejdsell-Luke Johnson

John Hayden-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Chris DiDomenico-David Kampf-Lance Bouma

William Pelletier-Tanner Kero-Anthony Louis

Adam Clendening-Carl Dahlstrom

Cody Franson (A)-Viktor Svedberg (A)

Gustav Frosling-Darren Raddysh

Collin Delia

Power Play (1-5)



Penalty Kill (Stars were 2-7)





Back To The BMO

Game 3 will be at the BMO Harris Bank Center on Tuesday night. Game 4 is set for Thursday with Game 5 the following night provided the Hogs pick up a win in this series.

Follow me on twitter @JonFromi for thoughts on Rockford’s postseason run.

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs are in rarefied air this spring. The Flying Piglets of Winnebago County are riding a hot group of veterans, freshman goalie Collin Delia and a lethal power play into the Western Conference Final with the Texas Stars.

The Hogs are the winners of seven straight games in the postseason, sweeping both the Chicago Wolves and Manitoba Moose to reach the third round. This is the farthest a Rockford AHL squad has advanced in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Fans have flocked to the BMO Harris Bank Center to watch this exciting mix of youngsters and veterans who have put it together at the most opportune of times.

Rockford will begin the series in Cedar Park for Games 1 and 2 on Friday, May 18 and Sunday, May 20. The action returns to the BMO next Tuesday, Thursday and, if necessary, Friday.

Will that Game 5 be required, or will the IceHogs be able to dispense of their opponent as they did their Central Division adversaries? I’m holding off on the sweep talk, because the Stars present a formidable challenge.

The IceHogs are 3-1 in head-to-head action with Texas (who join the Central Division starting next season) in 2017-18. However, it’s best to look at the two April contests in Cedar Park that were split between the two teams.

Rockford took the April 6 contest in a shootout, winning 3-2 on the strength of two power-play goals and a fifth-round shootout winner from Viktor Svedberg. Two days later, the Stars put up a trio of goals in the third period, rallying from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Hogs 4-3.

Finishing second in the Pacific Division, Texas eliminated Ontario in four games before knocking off Tuscon in five. The Stars beat the Roadrunners in overtime Saturday night to win their division final.

Texas is a veteran-laden team that likes to push the pace of the game and has a red-hot goalie in net. In other words, the Stars are a lot like Rockford in make up heading into the Western Conference Final.

Since the play in net could well dictate which team moves on to the Calder Cup Final, we’ll start with a look in the respective cages to begin this look at the two teams.

Anchoring the Texas run and playing out of his mind of late is 35-year-old Mike McKenna. The Stars brought him in to be the starter this season after helping take Syracuse to the Calder Cup Final the previous spring. McKenna lost that job to Landon Bow with some spotty play in the regular season but has been stellar for Texas in the playoffs.

McKenna has a pair of shutouts in the postseason. He also relieved Bow in the second period of Game 3 of the Stars first-round series with Ontario and held the Reign scoreless for 68:19 as Texas prevailed 5-4 in double overtime.

The veteran of 13 AHL seasons (and 24 NHL games in that span) is sporting a 1.65 GAA and a .952 save percentage on nearly 35 shots per contest.

For Rockford, Delia has been equally impressive, with a 1.64 GAA and a .948 save percentage. He’s faced a couple of fewer shots per game (just under 32 shots), but he has been first star in four of the IceHogs seven playoff wins.

This Western Conference Final could very well wind up a case of which goalie is better on a given night. Delia has been as cool as a Rancho Cucamonga cucumber for the Hogs. The edge in experience obviously goes to McKenna, who has 54 AHL playoff games under his belt. What matters now is the games that loom ahead of these two net-minders.



Experience is all over the Texas lineup. The Stars top line, Travis Morin (10 G, 51 A), Justin Dowling (13 G, 28 A) and Curtis McKenzie (25 G, 23 A) are all holdovers from the 2014 Calder Cup Champs. Defensemen Dillon Heatherington (Lake Erie in 2016) and Andrew Bodnerchuk (Manchester in 2015) have also hoisted Calder Cups in their long AHL careers.

Nine-year vet Brent Regner, who Hogs fans may remember from his time with the Wolves and the Peoria Rivermen, had himself a career year with 10 goals and 21 assists in the regular season. Another veteran, Mark Mangene (7 G, 19 A) has spent time as a forward and a defensemen in the playoffs.

Former Sabres and Canadiens forward Brian Flynn spent 2017-18 with Texas and was quite productive (18 G, 29 A). He leads the Stars with six playoff goals.

Add in solid rookies like Roope Hintz (20 G, 15 A) and Sheldon Dries (19 G, 11 A) to a potent offensive group. First-year defenseman Gavin Bayreuther (7 G, 25 A) is picking up his game in the playoffs.

On the IceHogs side of the ledger, the move that brought Chris DiDomenico to Rockford keeps looking better and better. The veteran forward brings an edge to the Hogs that is evident in the playoffs. With four goals and seven helpers in the postseason, DiDomenico leads the team in scoring and is a catalyst on the power play along with Cody Franson (4 G, 4 A) and Adam Clendening (1 G, 8 A).

A real x-factor in the playoffs for Rockford has been Victor Ejdsell, who brings extra offensive skill to the table. Ejdsell had four points against Manitoba in the Central Division Final and leads the IceHogs with five goals.

Carl Dahlstrom and Viktor Svedberg have paired with Clendening and Franson, respectively, to form two tough defensive pairings. Gustav Forsling, who skated in 41 games for the Blackhawks this season, is on the third pairing with Darren Raddysh. This should give you an idea of the depth the Hogs boast on the blueline.

What has served as Rockford’s fourth forward line has also been led by a player with NHL experience. Tanner Kero has lent his defensive prowess with fast-skating William Pelletier and Anthony Louis. Again, to have players like Kero and Louis, who led the IceHogs in points in the regular season, skating in a fourth-line role speaks volumes about Rockford’s playoff depth.

Andreas Martinsen (2 G, 2 A in the playoffs), John Hayden and Lance Bouma have provided muscle for Rockford. The latter two have not made a big impact on the scoreboard in the postseason. Like players such as Kero and Luke Johnson, however, Hayden and Bouma could be players that step up against the Stars in the box score.


Special Teams

Rockford’s power play has been nothing short of awesome in the postseason, converting on 37.5 percent of its chances. The first unit of Franson, Clendening, DiDomenico, Johnson and Tyler Sikura have scored 10 of the Hogs 15 goals with opponents in the box.

The three veterans move the puck around the offensive zone until Franson gets open at the left dot for the one-timer. If the shot doesn’t find twine, Johnson and Sikura are there to clean up. If that look doesn’t pan out, it’s Clendening from the point or DiDomenico skating into the slot. That formula has been hard to stop.

Texas, however, held a pretty good Tuscon man advantage to just two goals in 17 opportunities in their Pacific Division Final. The penalty kill unit, which was less than average in the regular season, has stiffened up a bit. The Stars figure to be a more disciplined team than the Moose were; keeping the Hogs top power play unit off the ice will be a prime directive for Texas.

The IceHogs have been shorthanded 28 times in the playoffs and have surrendered just two goals. Neither of those were by Manitoba. Special teams have been a huge difference-maker. At some point, the Hogs may have to pick up the scoring at even strength. It will be fun to see how long this bunch can keep up the power play dominance, though.

For Rockford, the key will be the opening weekend of action and taking advantage of the 2-3-2 AHL playoff format. Getting one game in Cedar Park will give the IceHogs the chance to close out the series at home.

To say the Hogs are rolling at this point of the Calder Cup Playoffs would be an understatement. This group has the kind of chemistry that wins championships. Rockford is deep on both ends of the ice. They have dictated the style of play against two solid division opponents. It is safe to say that they have worn the opposition down with superior depth.

Texas is a veteran team that, on paper, has the horses to keep pace with the IceHogs. Like Rockford, the Stars seem to be hitting their peak right now. It should result in an exciting series.

Follow me on twitter @JonFromi for thoughts and updates on the IceHogs all through the playoffs.