Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs continue their October tour this weekend. The action takes place in DesMoines, where the piglets will face the Iowa Wild on Friday and Saturday nights. After splitting the first two games of the season in Grand Rapids and Chicago, the Hogs could see their points percentage climb above the .500 mark for the first time since the 2019-20 campaign.

Roster News

On Monday, the Blackhawks called up forward Mike Hardman, sending defenseman Ian Mitchell to Rockford. The IceHogs assigned goalie Cale Morris to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL.

Morris joins goalie Tom Aubrun in Indy. In addition to the two netminders, Rockford has several AHL contracts assigned to the Fuel roster. These include forwards Liam Folkes, Riley McKay and Chad Yetman. Indy hosts Cinncinati on October 23 to open its schedule.

 

A Look At The Wild

Iowa has some new faces, though the Hogs should be familiar with some of them. Forward Dominic Turgeon and defenseman Joe Hicketts come over from Grand Rapids. Longtime Iowa forward Kyle Rau is back after spending last season with Minnesota. Center Connor Dewar returns for his third season after posting 23 points (12 G, 11 A) in 32 games for the Wild in 2020-21. He currently leads Iowa in scoring (2 points) following the first weekend.

The Wild split two games with the Texas Stars to open their season. Veteran goalie Andrew Hammond shut out the Stars on October 16. He’s coming off a solid season with Rochester last spring (2.53 GAA, .908 save percentage) and will likely split starts with prospect Dereck Baribeau against the IceHogs. Baribeau was 2-0 against Rockford last season, with a 2.10 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. Overall, he was 6-1-2 in ten appearances (2.54 GAA, .914 save percentage).

The IceHogs were 1-4-1 at Wells Fargo Arena last season. Nicolas Beaudin had a lot of success against the Wild; in five games, the defenseman had six points (2 G, 4 A). In ten games with the Wild, Reese Johnson also posted six points (2 G, 4 A). Rockford was 4-5-1 in those games.

The Hogs will be leaving Malcom Subban at home for the weekend. Collin Delia looks to get his first start of the season. Arvid Soderblom, who will likely get the other start this weekend, shut out the Wild when the teams met in the preseason on October 23.

Nothing has been announced as of yet, but Chad Krys may be out for a stretch after suffering a knee injury on October 16 in Chicago. Mitchell will likely draw into the defensive mix regardless.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates on this weekend’s games, as well as my thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

 

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs faced a stiff challenge to open the 2021-22 season. The Blackhawks AHL franchise had a pair of tough road opponents on tap over the weekend in Grand Rapids and Chicago. I thought a split of the first two games would be just fine in my book.

Well…the piglets got that split. Rockford dropped a 6-1 decision to the Griffins Friday night, then rallied to defeat the Wolves 5-3 in Rosemont on Saturday.

Heading into the second period with Chicago, fans had a right to be concerned with the way the offense was faring. The passing looked off by just a bit and the Hogs seemed to be getting used to the lines set out by head coach Derek King.

Four unanswered goals in the next two periods gave cause for hope.

Rockford wasn’t moving the puck around the zone like the Wolves were for most of the evening on Saturday. However, they did make the most of some turnovers and counterpunched their way to a big win over their biggest division rival.

A few other observations of the opening weekend:

  • Lucas Reichel picked up his first AHL goal Saturday on a fine effort, bringing a puck into the Chicago zone and streaking past the Wolves defense. Reichel skated with Alex Nylander and Mike Hardman all weekend; the combo could prove quite productive as Reichel gets used to his line mates.
  • We got a glimpse or two of the skill Nylander brings to Rockford. He missed a breakaway attempt in Grand Rapids, but chased down a puck into the Wolves zone the following night and stickhandled it into the back of the net for the eventual game-winner.
  • Dmitri Osipov made his season debut Saturday…at forward. He did spend most of the latter half of the game on defense when the Hogs became short handed on the blue line.
  • Osipov was in the lineup in place of Andrei Altybarmakian, who played Friday night. Osipov, captain Garrett Mitchell, alternate captain Ryan Stanton, and defenseman Michael Krutil were the only AHL contracts on the ice this weekend. Dylan McLaughlin, who led the Hogs in scoring last season, did not see action on opening weekend.
  • Also inactive this weekend was Alec Regula, who the Blackhawks assigned to Rockford on Thursday. The Big Regu had been on injured reserve with a back issue; perhaps he’ll be ready to skate in Iowa this weekend.
  • Malcom Subban and Arvid Soderblom were King’s goalies of choice this weekend. Subban gave up six goals on 24 Griffins shots. Soderblom got his AHL career off to a promising start with a 40-save performance against the Wolves. Each goalie served as the other’s backup.
  • Collin Delia and Cale Morris were not used this past weekend. Four goalies is too many for the Hogs to be carrying. Delia was the odd man out in Chicago for the bulk of the season. Does this carry over in Rockford?
  • Subban is the obvious experienced goalie to be recalled if necessary. Soderblom could earn a call up if he continues to play well. They need to be getting most of the work in net. Where does that leave Delia? He’s a fan favorite in Rockford, but the Hogs don’t open the season at the BMO Harris Bank Center until November 6. Will he be around by that time?

 

Krys Injured

Chad Krys, who played just six games a season ago, was in the lineup in both games this weekend. Unfortunately, he may be facing more time off the ice after a collision with Chicago’s David Cotton late in the first period Saturday night.

Krys was trying to intercept Cotton as he drove toward the Hogs net. The Wolves forward was knocked down on Ryan Stanton’s backcheck attempt. The sliding Cotton took Krys down with him. It appeared that Krys’s knee took the brunt of the accidental hit.

Krys got up and hopped off the ice to the Rockford locker room. He was not putting any weight on his right leg and did not return to the game.

Krys, a second-round selection by the Hawks in the 2016 NHL Draft, is in the final year of his entry deal. He played 45 games (2 G, 6 A) in his rookie campaign before the season came to an abrupt end. Last season came and went without much action due to some injuries.

It looked as if Krys was going to get some early time in the lineup this season to showcase his game due to injuries to Caleb Jones and Wyatt Kalynuk. Now he may be looking at missing some extended time himself.

 

Recaps

Friday, October 15-Grand Rapids 6, Rockford 1

The season got underway in less than impressive fashion, with the Griffins breaking open a close game in the second stanza and handing the Hogs the loss.

The Griffins converted on a power play set up by an interference penalty by Ryan Stanton. Joe Veleno skated into the slot and fired past Hogs goalie Malcom Subban at the 7:48 mark.

The first Rockford goal of the season came on a put-back effort by Josiah Slavin 14:52 into the opening frame. Slavin’s attempt at a redirect of Nicolas Beaudin’s point shot was turned aside by Grand Rapids goalie Calvin Pickard. However, Cameron Morrison knocked the rebound back to the crease, where Slavin steered it across the goal line. The teams skated into the intermission tied at a goal apiece.

The Griffins took a 3-1 lead early in the second period on goals sixty-six seconds apart by Tyler Spezia and Turner Elson. Rockford had some impressive stretches of puck possession in the second stanza, but it did not show up on the scoreboard. Hayden Verbeek gave Grand Rapids a 4-1 advantage at the 17:11 mark, and the IceHogs found themselves down a three-spot heading into the final 20 minutes.

Things got worse in the third period, with the Griffins adding a pair of goals by Chase Pearson and Dennis Yan. The Hogs and Grand Rapids each had 24 shots on goal, but Rockford just didn’t have it at either end of the ice.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Jakub Pour-Reese Johnson (A)-Brett Connolly

Alex Nylander-Lucas Reichel-Mike Hardman

Michal Teply-Josiah Slavin-Cameron Morrison

Evan Barratt-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Andrei Altybarmakian

Ryan Stanton (A)-Jakub Galvas

Nicolas Beaudin-Issak Phillips

Chad Krys-Michael Krutil

Malcom Subban

Arvid Soderblom

Saturday, October 16-Rockford 5, Chicago 3

Rockford was able to rally from a two-goal deficit as the offense roared to life at Allstate Arena. Hogs rookie goalie Arvid Soderblom sent away 40 shots to nab First Star honors and pick up the victory in his AHL debut.

The Wolves dominated the opening twenty, outshooting Rockford 16-3.  Miraculously, Soderblom and the IceHogs kept the game scoreless until Chicago got a power play goal from C.J. Smith 18 seconds into the second period. The Wolves added a shorthanded goal by Ryan Suzuki a few minutes later, putting them up 2-0 before the Hogs offense would get to work.

Rockford got on the board at 6:48 of the second, when Garrett Mitchell forced a turnover between the circles in the Chicago zone. He backhanded a pass to Evan Barratt, who wristed home his first goal of the season to cut the lead to one.

The IceHogs got the equalizer from rookie Lucas Reichel. Reichel took a pass from Josiah Slavin, skated to the doorstep, and flipped the puck at Wolves goalie Alex Lyon. The shot bounced off of Lyon’s glove and tumbled into the Chicago basket at the 14:21 mark.

Brett Connolly struck on an odd-man rush, converting on a fine pass from Cameron Morrison, giving the Hogs a 3-2 advantage 15:20 into the second. The play was set up by a defensive zone faceoff win by Reese Johnson. Jacob Galvas got the puck out of the Hogs zone to Morrison to pick up the secondary assist.

Rockford went up 4-2 on the first of two goals by Alex Nylander. The forward chased down a exit pass by Mike Hardman into the Wolves zone behind the defense and deked Lyon 5:46 into the third period.

The Wolves closed the gap to 4-3 on a power play goal by Eric Gelinas with 5:46 remaining, but an empty netter by Nylander sealed the contest for the IceHogs. Nylander, Reichel (1 G, 1 A) and Hardman (2 A) all had multi-point evenings for Rockford.

Chad Krys left the game late in the first period favoring his right leg. He did not return to action.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Cameron Morrison-Josiah Slavin-Michal Teply

Jakub Pour-Reese Johnson (A)-Brett Connolly

Mike Hardman-Lucas Reichel-Alex Nylander

Evan Barratt-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dmitri Osipov

Issak Phillips-Nicolas Beaudin

Ryan Stanton-Chad Krys

Jakub Galvas-Michael Krutil

Arvid Soderblom

Malcom Subban

 

This Weekend

Rockford will be in DesMoines Friday and Saturday for two games with the Iowa Wild. I’ll be previewing that weekend trip on Friday.

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

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs, now owned and operated by the Chicago Blackhawks, will continue their youth movement at defense. There are plenty of familiar faces among the prospects. They will be led into the 2021-22 campaign by another one.

On August 4, the Blackhawks secured the services of Ryan Stanton via an AHL contract. Stanton spent his first three professional seasons in Rockford, starting in the 2010-11 campaign. Hogs coach Derek King was more than pleased with the pickup.

“Exactly what we needed,” King told Rockford broadcaster Joseph Zakrzewski after learning of the acquisition. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about this guy. I had a nice conversation with him and I think he’s going to be a perfect fit for this organization.”

The reason Stanton will come in handy this season is the departure of Cody Franson, who anchored the blueline last season and is now playing for Hershey. Franson put up 17 points (4 G, 13 A) in 26 games with Rockford.

Stanton was a prospect himself in his first stint with the Hogs. He is now at the other end of the spectrum; a 32-year old blueliner entering his twelfth season in pro hockey, Stanton has spent time with six NHL organizations.

His best Hogs campaign came in 2012-13. Stanton skated in 73 games for Rockford, with three goals and 22 assists. The following fall, Chicago tried to sneak him through waivers and he was nabbed by the Canucks. Stanton spent two years with Vancouver, where he played 118 of his 120 career NHL games. He has 514 AHL tilts under his belt, spending last season on an AHL contract with Bakersfield.

With the Condors, Stanton was cast in a similar leadership role that he’s being asked to play with the IceHogs. In 35 games, he had 13 points (1 G, 12 A). Stanton had a 20 point (5 G, 15 A in 65 games) effort with Bakersfield in 2018-19, the last full AHL season.

Stanton probably doesn’t put up offensive numbers like Franson is capable of producing. However, he should chip in and solidify the back end with a physical, defense-first game. It should be to Rockford’s benefit. With fellow AHL teammate Dmitri Osipov being converted to forward this season, the IceHogs can use what Stanton brings to the table.

Stanton will be mentoring a young crop of prospects that may be cycling back and forth between Chicago and Rockford. Wyatt Kalynuk will start the season with the Hawks, as he is currently injured and can’t be sent to the AHL until healthy.

Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin, and Jakub Galvas are players who will be trying to become permanent NHL defensemen this season. It’s likely that each will have plenty of ice time in Rockford.

At least one of this trio is probably beginning the season in Chicago. With news that Caleb Jones will be out up to six weeks with a wrist injury, all three could remain in Chicago. Mitchell and Beaudin both had time with the Blackhawks in 2020-21. Galvas has a couple of years of experience in the top professional Czech league and has impressed the brass with his play.

Two young prospects who are looking to move up the ladder are Alec Regula and Issak Phillips. Regula was the prospect many fans were interested in seeing develop at the beginning of the 2021-22 season. He appeared in just 16 games with the IceHogs due to some injuries. However, he did earn a call-up late in Chicago’s season.

Phillips, on the other hand, was off the radar heading into last season because he wasn’t expected to be around long. Starting the season on an amateur tryout, Phillips was in a position to take advantage of being allowed to skate in the AHL when his junior season was canceled.

Phillips posted a pair of goals to go with seven helpers in 27 games with the IceHogs last season, earning his entry contract with Chicago. Both Phillips and Regula are big defensemen who could help the Blackhawks in a couple of years. Filling out and continuing to learn the pro game will be priorities for both players.

Injuries limited former second-round pick Chad Krys to six games in Rockford in 2020-21. Entering the final year of his entry deal, Krys may have a tough time finding a regular spot in the IceHogs lineup. With Kalynuk out for the first few weeks of action, Krys needs to make an impact early.

In addition to Stanton, Rockford has a couple of players signed to AHL contracts. Michael Krutil was signed last season, appearing in 21 games with the IceHogs. He’s still just 19, but is another bigger body at 6’3″ and 203 pounds. He’ll be playing to earn an NHL entry deal from Chicago.

Cliff Watson was signed to several PTO contracts by Rockford last season, appearing in eight contests. He was signed to an AHL deal this summer, though he will probably spend most of his time with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel.

On Thursday, the IceHogs announced that they had signed Jacob LeGuerrier to an AHL contract. LeGuerrier was scoreless in four games for the Laval Rocket in 2020-21.

Rockford surrendered 3.59 goals per game in a 32-game slate last season. The piglets were overmatched everywhere on the ice in 2020-21 and there was a fair share of breakdowns from a green defensive corps. Most of the lineup is another year older and (hopefully) wiser. With Stanton being the lone veteran penciled into the Hogs pairings, the kids are going to hold up their end in order for Rockford to see improvement defensively.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my thoughts and coverage of the IceHogs all season long. Next week, I’ll offer up a look at the forwards.

 

 

 

Hockey

In two games separated by eight days, the Rockford IceHogs were out scored 12-5 by the visiting Grand Rapids Griffins. Rockford (3-8-1 on the season) and Grand Rapids (6-3) now move to Van Andel Arena for their next two games. Can the IceHogs turn the tables on Grand Rapids on Saturday and Tuesday?

That will be a tall order for the piglets.

Thursday night, the Blackhawks AHL affiliate got solid goal tending from Matt Tomkins and kept the Griffins in check for most of the first two periods. The IceHogs didn’t get blown out on the scoreboard, as was the case in last week’s 9-4 loss. However, Rockford still wound up on the short end of a 3-1 decision at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Rockford just doesn’t have the skill in the offensive zone to compete with most AHL teams. The Hogs are dependent on getting to the net and capitalizing on rebounds and loose pucks. Rockford just doesn’t generate open looks at close range. The Griffins have excelled at this in both of their last two games at the BMO.

Thursday night, Rockford was credited with a single shot originating from the front of the Griffins net. That shot was an attempt from the point that struck the skate of D.J. Busdeker and found the net late in the contest. By comparison, 16 of 32 Grand Rapids shots came from right in front of the crease.

If your opponent bangs away from the porch and you can’t manage to penetrate even to the faceoff dots, chances are you aren’t going to win a lot of games. In both quality and quantity of shots, the IceHogs have been overwhelmed on a regular basis.

The recipe for success in Grand Rapids? Try like the devil to keep the Griffins away from the slot with the puck. Get monster performances from your goalie and make your offensive chances count. Like I said, grinding out a win at Van Andel is going to be tough for the young, inexperienced group currently toiling in ‘Bago County.

Roster News

The IceHogs announced that defenseman Chad Krys underwent shoulder surgery this week. He is expected to miss the next five to seven months. Rockford signed defenseman Cliff Watson to a PTO on Monday to compensate. Watson has spent this season as the captain of the Indy Fuel of the ECHL.

Monday afternoon, G Collin Delia, D Nicolas Beaudin, and F Reese Johnson were recalled to the Blackhawks. G Matt Tomkins and F Tim Soderlund were returned to the IceHogs. After being sent to Indy on Monday, Tom Aubrun was recalled to Rockford on Thursday after playing Tuesday night in the Fuel’s 6-0 loss to Wheeling.

Alec Regula returned to action for the first time since February 27 on Thursday. The Big Regu is currently the only NHL contract playing on Rockford’s blueline.

Cody Franson, Dmitry Osipov, and Michael Krutil are on AHL contracts. Watson and Cole Moberg are on PTOs, while Issak Phillips is on an amateur tryout until the OHL starts back up.

 

Thursday, March 11-Grand Rapids 3, Rockford 1

The IceHogs kept things close before Grand Rapids pulled ahead in the final period. However, Rockford just didn’t have enough going on in the offensive zone to keep up with the Griffins. Grand Rapids was more aggressive and moved the puck around the Hogs zone with ease.

After a scoreless first, the Griffins took advantage of a turnover in the Hogs zone by Dimitry Osipov early in the middle frame. Chase Pearson skated the puck into the high slot, dropping a pass to Riley Barber. Barber sent a high shot over the glove of Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins for a 1-0 Grand Rapids lead 2:04 into the second.

Tomkins was able to keep the IceHogs in the contest despite facing a slew of Griffins shots from close range through the first forty minutes of action. Rockford was outshot 22-11 in periods one and two; the Hogs had no shot on the Grand Rapids net as close as the faceoff dots in that time.

The dam broke in the third period. Grand Rapids put up a pair of goals in a three-minute span to take full control of the contest. The first came 6:04 into the third, when Osipov blocked an attempt by Gustav Lindstrom that bounced to the left post. Kyle Criscuola was on hand to knock the puck into the cage for a 2-0 Griffins lead.

Grand Rapids captain Brian Lashoff finished off a pretty bit of passing from Tyler Spezia. Lashoff sent his shot to the stick side of Tomkins at the 9:09 mark, making it 3-0 Griffins.

Rockford broke up Pat Nagle’s shutout bid with a goal late in the game. Michael Krutil’s long-distance offering caromed off the skate of D.J. Busdeker at 16:19 of the third, cutting the lead to 3-1. Despite pulling Tomkins (29 saves on 32 shots) for most of the final three minutes, the IceHogs could not close the gap.

Nagle had a relatively easy night in net for Grand Rapids, stopping 17 of the 18 shots the IceHogs could muster. Each team had just one attempt with a man advantage. Neither the Hogs or Griffins converted.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Rockford went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen due to the late scratch of John Quenneville.

Matej Chalupa-Evan Barratt-Andrei Altybarmakyan

Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Tim Soderlund

Brad Morrison-Chad Yetman-Chris Wilkie

MacKenzie Entwistle-D.J. Busdeker

Alec Regula-Cody Franson (A)

Michael Krutil-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Cliff Watson

Matt Tomkins

Cale Morris

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs had a big weekend, sweeping the Iowa Wild at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The piglets won consecutive games for the first time this season. Several players stood out. Below are some thoughts.

 

Some Thoughts

  • It was a huge weekend for Collin Delia, who was lit up like a pinball machine (remember those?) in his first two conditioning starts for Rockford. Delia was much improved against Iowa, stopping 35 shots in Saturday’s 3-2 win and 27 more in Sunday’s 4-3 overtime thriller. I imagine he gets the start Thursday vs Grand Rapids, his last opportunity for work while on this 14-day stint.
  • It’s premature to tab rookie Andrei Altybarmakyan “Baby Hossa”, but I’m going to anyway. The Hawks third-round pick from 2017 has been surprisingly hardy with the puck. His effort on Sunday’s game-winner was impressive, taking the puck around the offensive zone with Iowa’s Connor Dewar draped all over him and finishing from the slot. Despite being only 5’11”, Altybarmakyan is one of a few IceHogs who can consistently drive hard to the net with the biscuit. He was rewarded with a three-point weekend and is tied for second on the team with six points (3 G, 3 A)
  • I’d like to see Nicolas Beaudin hang around the BMO for a while. He’s getting top-pairing minutes with Cody Franson and is heavily active on special teams. In just four games, he has six assists.
  • With WHL players returning to their teams, I’m wondering how much time D Issak Phillips has on his ATO. I assume he returns to his junior team if/when the OHL get back to action. The 19-year old Phillips has two goals and two helpers in nine games in Rockford and should be a big part of the IceHogs next season.
  • D Alec Regula has been out the last three games with an injury. D Chad Krys has been out since leaving the game against Cleveland February 22. Aside from veteran Cody Franson, it’s a youthful group on the blueline. With just six defensemen healthy at this point, I’m surprised the Hogs haven’t inked any PTOs at the position.

 

Roster News

On Friday, the IceHogs signed goalie Ivan Nalimov to a one-year AHL contract. Nalimov is a 2014 sixth-round pick who has bounced around the KHL for the past six seasons. He was released by Dinamo Riga last month, paving the way for the 26-year-old Nalimov to come to Rockford.

Just before game time on Saturday, the Blackhawks recalled D Wyatt Kalynuk and D Lucas Carlsson. On Sunday, F Brandon Pirri and F Tim Soderlund were recalled to Chicago’s taxi squad. Coming down to Rockford was F Brad Morrison and F Mikael Hakkarainen, both of who played that afternoon against Iowa.

 

Weekend Recaps

Saturday, March 6-Rockford 3, Iowa 2

Rockford was out shot 37-19 but broke a two-game losing skid with strong play from goalie Collin Delia and a two-goal performance by Cody Franson.

The Wild out shot Rockford 13-3 in the first period. However, it was the Hogs who took a 2-1 into the intermission. Iowa took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Iowa captain Gabriel Dumont. Dumont was in front of the Hogs crease, where he collected a feed from Mason Shaw. The pass came from behind Delia’s net; Dumont was able to knock the puck into the cage before the Rockford goalie could locate it. Dumont’s sixth goal of the season came at the 4:26 mark.

Rockford would respond with the game’s next two scores. Franson threw in his first goal of the season at 9:33 of the opening frame. The point shot was set up by Andrei Altybarmakyan, who sent a loose puck around the end boards to Nicolas Beaudin. Beaudin sent a pass along the blue line to Franson for the primary assist.

Shortly after tying the game, the IceHogs utilized some crisp passing to take the lead at 12:46 of the first. Franson got the lay of the land from behind his own net before firing to Beaudin at the Rockford blueline. Beaudin got to center ice and found Matej Chalupa coming into the Wild zone. The rookie forward skated to the left dot before slapping the biscuit past the blocker of Iowa goalie Hunter Jones.

The Rockford man advantage unit propelled the Hogs to a 3-1 lead at 11:34 of the second period. Franson’s second of the game came from the left dot, set up by Brandon Pirri and Beaudin.

After a potential goal by Will Bitten was waved off with five minutes left in the middle frame, Iowa cut the lead to 3-2 with 3:59 remaining. Veteran Cody McLeod was in front of the net to collect the rebound of Josh Atkinson’s shot from the point to reduce the IceHogs lead to one goal through forty minutes.

Iowa pushed hard for the equalizer to no avail. The IceHogs come up with two penalty kills in the last five minutes of action, highlighted by some incredible play by Delia. The Rockford goalie somehow managed to make a stick save on a sure Connor Dewar goal from the seat of his pants.

Delia, on a conditioning assignment from the Blackhawks, made 35 stops on the night. His terrific performance comes after giving up 13 goals in his first two starts with Rockford.

Three Stars: Franson (First), Beaudin (Second), Delia (Third).

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville (A)-MacKenzie Entwistle-Brandon Pirri

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson

Matej Chalupa-Garrett Mitchell-D.J. Busdeker

Riley McKay-Chad Yetman-Chris Wilkie

Nicolas Beaudin-Cody Franson (A)

Michael Krutil-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Collin Delia

Cale Morris

 

Sunday, March 7-Rockford 4 , Iowa 3 (OT)

The IceHogs finally have a winning streak going after a tough start to the 2020-21 campaign. A two-goal performance by rookie Andrei Altybarmakyan was the difference in the IceHogs 4-3 overtime victory.

The see-saw contest at the BMO Harris Bank Center ended with the IceHogs sweeping Iowa in a two-game weekend set. Rockford, who trailed 3-2 after 40 minutes, wins consecutive games for the first time this season.

Rockford got on the board 8:19 into the game on the first of Altybarmakyan’s two goals. Taking a clearing pass from Dmitry Osipov, he motored up the left side and into the Iowa zone. Altybarmakyan drove the net and sent a backhand shot past Wild goalie Hunter Jones for a 1-0 IceHogs advantage.

The Wild took advantage of a cross checking infraction by Riley McKay late in the opening period. Up until that point, Rockford had limited Iowa to a single shot on goal. The Wild tilted the ice toward the Hogs net and teed off, tying the contest at the 18:57 mark. Connor Dewar played catch with Calen Addison before sending the equalizer past Hogs goalie Collin Delia from the top of the left circle.

Iowa controlled the action for much of the second period. The Wild out shot Rockford 15-5 in addition to gaining the upper hand on the scoreboard.

The two teams traded goals early in the second. IceHogs regained the lead at the 2:35 mark, following an unsuccessful power play for Rockford. Issak Phillips retrieved a clearing attempt, sliding the puck to Evan Barratt along the left half boards just shy of the Wild blueline. Barratt skated into the offensive zone and blasted home the shot from the top of the left circle.

Less than two minutes later, Michael Krutil suffered a blowout as he was about to skate the puck past the red line. Iowa capitalized, attacking Delia’s net until Dewar was able to poke a loose biscuit into an open cage at 4:21 of the second period.

Successive penalties by Rockford garnered a two-man advantage for the Wild in the seventh minute. With MacKenzie Entwistle and John Quenneville in the box, Iowa took a 3-2 lead on a back-door conversion by Damien Giroux. The goal was set up by Addison and Mason Shaw 6:34 into the middle frame.

The IceHogs drew even with Iowa midway through the third period. Cole Moberg got the scoring play started with a shot on goal that Jones stopped. The rebound was controlled by Entwistle, who backhanded the puck to a crashing D.J. Busdeker at the left post. Busdeker collected the feed and made a deposit into the net just ahead of a diving Jones at 8:11 of the third period.

The score remained all square at three goals through regulation. Altybarmakyan ended the contest in overtime with some strong skating with the puck. Fighting off Dewar around the end boards and back to the top of the Iowa zone, Altybarmakyan made his way to the slot. He fired past Jones for the game-winner 1:16 into the extra session.

Delia picked up the win for the Hogs in net, with 27 saves on the afternoon. Rockford survived a futile day on the power play, going 0-5 while the Wild scored twice in four chances on the man advantage.

The Hogs rally overshadowed a three-point night for Addison (three assists), as well as the pair of goals by Dewar. Jones ended the night with 21 saves on 25 shots.

Rockford is off until Thursday night, where they wrap up a four-game home stand at the BMO against Grand Rapids. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

Three Stars: Altybarmakyan (First), Dewar (Second), Busdeker (Third).

 

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anderei Altybarmakyan-MacKenzie Entwistle-John Quenneville (A)

Matej Chalupa-Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson

Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-D.J. Busdeker

Brad Morrison-Chad Yetman-Mikael Hakkarainen

Nicolas Beaudin-Cody Franson (A)

Michal Krutil-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Collin Delia

Cam Morris

 

This Week

The Hogs are off until Thursday, when they wrap up the current home stand against Grand Rapids. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs head into the weekend looking to build on a two-game winning streak. Rockford is in Cleveland, where the piglets will play a pair with the Monsters.

The Blackhawks made some roster moves this week; here’s a quick look at the activity.

Wednesday, the Blackhawks recalled Dennis Gilbert and assigned newly acquired defenseman Ian McCoshen to Rockford.

McCoshen comes to the Hogs from Florida, who dealt him to Chicago in exchange for forward Aleksi Saarela. Saarela, who had 30 goals for Charlotte last season and is now with his fourth organization in four seasons, picked up his first point of the season with an assist in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Chicago.

The trade accomplishes two things on the AHL level. First, it lessens the bottleneck currently keeping several young forward prospects out of the lineup on a nightly basis. With Kris Versteeg and John Quenneville out for this weekend and Mikael Hakkarainen not back from his opening-night injury, there could be as few as 13 forwards for Derek King to choose from against Cleveland.

The swap also gives the IceHogs another solid defensive option in McCoshen, who has NHL experience. He has good size (6’3″, 218), skates pretty well and is should pair well with more offensive-minded players like Adam Boqvist and Chad Krys.

Kevin Lankinen, who has been out of the lineup following the season opener with an upper body injury, began practicing with the team this week. It’s possible that he’ll see action in Cleveland.

 

Cleveland Monsters

Cleveland is 3-3-1 to start the season. They are coming off of back-to-back losses to Toronto last weekend after a win in Rochester Friday night. The Monsters won three of the four games in last season’s series with Rockford. Cleveland is 11-3 at Quicken Loans Arena against the IceHogs over the last five seasons. They swept Rockford in Cleveland last October.

Veteran forward Nathan Gerbe (0 G, 6 A) will be a factor at both ends for the Monsters. Former Hogs defenseman Adam Clendening had 37 points for Cleveland in 45 games a season ago and has started 2019-20 with a goal and five helpers.

Zac Dalpe posted a career-high with 33 goals for the Monsters last season. In his eleventh AHL season, Dalpe has three goals and two assists in seven games. Dalpe had four goals against Rockford in 2018-19.

Long-time AHL agitator Stefan Matteau, most recently with the Wolves, has three goals so far this month. Fourth-year pro Justin Scott has five points (2 G, 3 A) for Cleveland.

Rockford will likely see both third-year goalie Matiss Kivlenieks (2.89 GAA, .895 save percentage) and rookie Veini Vehvilainen (3.04, .904) between the pipes.

I’ll be back on Monday to recap the Hogs dealings in Ohio. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates and thoughts on the action this weekend and throughout the season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey

Lack of offense plagued the Rockford IceHogs a season ago. This year’s crop of prospects fell victim to a similar fate when they lost their 2019-20 season debut Friday night in Iowa 3-2. The IceHogs did lead twice in this game before the Wild scored three times in the final 20 minutes.

One game does not a season make, mind you. There were signs that the piglets could improve upon last year’s paltry offensive numbers. However, we’ll have to wait for this weekend’s  home stand at the BMO Harris Bank Center for signs of life.

Rockford coach Derek King was optimistic about his team’s performance. Despite the result, he praised a strong performance by goalie Kevin Lankinen and a strong compete level by his young squad.

“I think we’ve got lots to learn,” King said to Hogs broadcaster Joseph Zakrzewski following the contest. “We’ve got some work to do.”

It can hardly be considered a surprise to hear that the Hogs were particularly sharp in their curtain-jerker. There was a definite feeling-out period in the first. Neither team seemed to have a lot of rhythm and the action was back and forth. Iowa and Rockford went to the first intermission barren of goals.

The first goal of the season came early in the middle frame on the penalty kill, with Nicolas Beaudin sitting two minutes for slashing. The play got started with Chad Krys digging a puck away from Iowa’s Nico Sturm, then sending a clearing pass out to MacKenzie Entwistle.

The rookie was held coming across the Wild blueline by Louis Belpedio; seconds after the delayed call, Entwistle slid the puck on net. Kappo Kahkonen got his left pad on the shot, but Matthew Highmore was at the right post to knock in the loose rubber at 3:28 of the second period.

The Wild tied the game 24 seconds into the third when Gabriel Dumont backhanded a shot off of Lankinen’s pad. The IceHogs response was swift. Phillip Kurashev dished to Dylan Sikura from the left halfboards. The subsequent laser from the slot beat Kahkonen for a 2-1 Rockford advantage at the 1:20 mark.

Back came Iowa with a Mayhew tally at 2:30 of the third. The goal came right off of a faceoff win in the Hogs zone, with Mayhew collecting the rebound of Delpedio’s blast from the point.

The score remained even until the final minute of action. With Jacob Nilsson in the box for a faceoff infraction, Sturm sent a shot toward the Rockford crease. The puck glanced off the elbow of J.T. Brown and tumbled past Lankinen for the game-winner with 15 seconds left.

Lankinen turned away a lot of Iowa scoring chances in the last 40 minutes. He made several outstanding plays, most notably on a puck that caromed off the shin pad of rookie defenseman Nicolas Beaudin and was inches away from crossing the goal line.

At the other end, Kahkonen was good, though Rockford didn’t keep him as busy as they needed to. The passing was not up to snuff. Real legit scoring opportunities were hard to come by. The power play yielded five shots in four chances. Several potential open looks were negated by off target passing.

“The biggest thing, and we brought it up earlier,” King pointed out, “was just managing the puck, not forcing plays.”

 

Line Combos

Here’s a look at King’s opening night lines. The starters are in italics.

Matthew Highmore (A)-Tyler Sikura (A)-MacKenzie Entwistle

Kris Versteeg (C)-Jacob Nilsson-Brandon Hagel

Aleksi Saarela-Phillipp Kurashev-Dylan Sikura

Mikeal Hakkarainen-Reese Johnson-Alexandre Fortin

Lucas Carlsson-Joni Tuulola

Philip Holm-Adam Boqvist

Chad Krys-Nicolas Beaudin

Kevin Lankinen

Power Play (0-4)

Versteeg-D. Sikura-Nilsson-Boqvist-Carlsson

Highmore-Saarela-Hagel-Beaudin-Holm

Penalty Kill (Iowa was 1-5)

Forwards: T. Sikura-Fortin-Highmore-Entwistle-Nilsson-Hagel

Defense: Holm-Tuulola-Carlsson-Beaudin

 

Roster Happenings

Rookie Mikael Hakkarainen left Friday’s game in the second period and did not return.

On Saturday, Chicago re-assigned defenseman Dennis Gilbert to the IceHogs, along with forward John Quenneville.

 

A Musing Or Two For You

One line that was dripping with scoring potential was the Saarela-Kurashev-Sikura combo, who delivered the second Rockford goal. Together, that line generated nine of the Hogs 26 shots in the contest. Both Saarela and Sikura are big-time scorers at the AHL level and should give Kurashev lots of options with distributing the puck.

Saarela, Adam Boqvist and Kris Versteeg paced Rockford with four shots apiece. Despite the last-second deflection, the penalty kill was pretty effective.

Tyler Sikura was sporting a new number after wearing #28 the last two seasons. Sikura the Elder requested #16 when it became available this season. Saarela was clad in the #28 sweater.

Versteeg is sporting the #10 he wore back in his first stint with Rockford in 2007-08. Of course, he now has a “C” on the front of his current sweater.

Former Hogs forward Luke Johnson was not in action against his old team due to an injury suffered last week at practice.

 

Coming Up

Rockford has a week of practice to prepare for Grand Rapids. The Griffins, who pounded the Chicago Wolves 8-5 Saturday night, come a-calling this Saturday at the BMO. I’ll be back Friday to preview that match up. Follow me on twitter @JonFromi for more thoughts on the Hogs this week.

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs, Chicago’s affiliate in the American Hockey League, get their season underway Friday night in DesMoines. Rockford will face the Iowa Wild with fresh faces; the team released the opening-night roster Thursday. It’s time for a look at this bunch as the 2019-20 season begins.

Note: Rockford’s AHL contracts are italicized.

Forward

Vets-Nick Moutrey, Matthew Highmore (A), Kris Versteeg (C), Dylan Sikura, Tyler Sikura (A), Jacob Nilsson (A), Alexandre Fortin, Aleksi Saarela.

Rookies-Mikael Hakkarainen, Dylan McLaughlin, Brandon Hagel, Reese Johnson, Phillipp Kurashev Tim Soderlund, MacKenzie Entwistle, Anton Wedin.

It’s hard to think that the Hogs will carry 16 healthy forwards for too long. Hawks prospects Graham Knott and Nathan Noel are already with the Indy Fuel as room is made for new prospects. The three AHL deals in this group are Versteeg, Sikura the Elder and Moutrey.

There is no way that Versteeg, freshly anointed captain by coach Derek King, is going anywhere. Tyler Sikura is an alternate captain and figures to get heavy minutes. Maybe Moutrey finds himself with the Fuel. However, there’s a good chance a few of the younger guys spends a stretch in the ECHL in the first couple of months.

Key Players

Highmore, who is returning from a 2018-19 lost to injury, is going to be counted on to help pace the offense. Saarela has 30-goal talent at the AHL level and a hot start by the new guy would be great.

Versteeg really seems stoked to be playing hockey in Rockford. If he is a constant in the lineup, there’s no reason he can’t put up 20 goals. Both Sikuras have shown a knack for point-producing in their own ways at this level. Nilsson will be looking to follow up on a promising rookie campaign.

After league-worst offensive production last season, someone’s got to sneak some rubber by opposing goalies on a regular basis. The potential is there, but the new faces are going to have to find chemistry quickly and hope the players above can light the way early.

 

Defense

Vets-Philip Holm, Dennis Gilbert, Lucas Carlsson, Joni Tuulola.

Rookies-Chad Krys, Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin, Jack Ramsey.

This is a really young group without any real veteran presence. Carl Dahlstrom getting picked up on waivers by Winnipeg really hurts in this area, but if the high draft picks perform as advertised, that may not be a problem.

Key Players

Boqvist and Beadin are the latest of a series of highly-touted defensive prospects. Will this duo go the way of Ville Pokka and Gustav Forsling, or will they develop into solid members of Chicago’s blueline?

Gilbert stuck around a good while at Blackhawks training camp. He is still in Europe with Chicago and will apparently be called up to play in this afternoon’s game in Prague. The big defenseman looks like he’s ready to build on last season, where he came on slowly but steadily for the Hogs. Look to Gilbert and Holm to be the defensive stoppers for Rockford. Carlsson showed potential in his rookie season; can he be a power play factor for Rockford?

Krys impressed me in his short stint with the IceHogs this past spring. It will be interesting to see where he will fit into the picture.

 

Goalie

Kevin Lankinen, Collin Delia, Matt Tomkins.

I’m speculating that Tomkins is on the roster until Delia returns from Europe. The Lankinen/Delia combo could be the best tandem in the league by season’s end.

 

Questions To Be Answered In 2019-20

Time to shift into full-on speculation mode. Here goes…

Who carries the scoring load?

Saarela, Highmore, Sikura the Younger, Boqvist and Krys.

Which rookies are going to impress early?

Kurashev, Boqvist…and Hagel.

Can Alexandre Fortin find an offensive game?

I really, really hope so.

How many games will Versteeg play?

He’ll play 60, with 16 goals and 16 assists. Anything above this is gravy. Heck, if he hits those numbers, its still gravy.

Can this team make the playoffs?

Well…first, the Hogs will need to find a way to get the best of the veteran-laden teams in their division like Chicago, Milwaukee and Grand Rapids. It really depends on how quickly a team with 12 rookies can get up to speed in the AHL.

Can the piglets make the postseason? Sure. Will they? That’s for them to know and all of us to find out.

 

Friday Night vs The Wild

Unlike Rockford, the Wild had a two-game preseason series with Manitoba to get into game shape. Iowa made it to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs after finishing third in the Central Division last season.

Gerald Mayhew is coming off a 60-point season and is beginning his fourth full loop in Iowa. Dmitri Sokolov returns from a rookie season of 16 goals and 14 helpers.  Kyle Rau had 26 goals for Iowa in 2018-19.

Gabriel Dumont comes over from the Lightning organization. He had 43 points (15 G, 28 A) for Syracuse in 2018-19. Sam Anas is also a forward who can fill a net.

Among the familiar faces in Iowa is former Hogs center Luke Johnson, who signed with Minnesota this summer after posting career-highs in goals (18) and points (31) with Rockford in 2018-19. Mike Liambas, who was in Rockford back in 2015-16, brings his hard-hitting mentality to the Wild after joining Iowa last season.

Brennan Menell dished out 42 helpers from the blueline for the Wild last year and returns for his third season. Louis Belpedio (6 G, 15 A), Carson Souchy (5 G, 15 A) and Matt Bartkowski (4 G, 15 A) also return to the Iowa defense.

Kaapo Kahkonen flat-out owned the IceHogs last season, shutting Rockford out three times. It is likely that Kahkonen will man the pipes for Iowa to open the season Friday night.

If things break correctly for me, I’ll be taking in Friday’s opener at BMO South (my basement) and sending out a tweet or twelve during the game. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter to join in the discussion, along with thoughts on the Hogs throughout the season.

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.

Win.

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.