Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs continued to play winning hockey this week, earning five of a possible six points against Central Division opponents. Rockford sits in fourth place in the division standings, thanks to several hot players.

At the top of that list is Brett Connolly, who is riding a six-game point streak. Connolly posted four goals and a pair of assists in three games. This included two-goal efforts in consecutive games; Wednesday’s 5-4 win over Manitoba and Friday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Iowa.

Dylan McLaughlin returned after missing the last month with a concussion, notching four points over the weekend. After helping send Friday’s game into Gus Macker Time with assists on both of Rockford’s third period goals, the forward added a goal and a helper in Saturday’s 4-0 win over the Moose at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

The story of Saturday’s victory was a 38-save performance by goalie Mitch Gillam, signed to a PTO by the IceHogs on Thursday. Gillam, who has spent this season with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel, blanked Manitoba in his first career AHL start. Cale Morris is nursing a sore hip at the moment. Tom Aubrun was loaned to the Fuel Thursday.

Rookie Lukas Reichel had his five-game point streak snapped on Saturday. With four goals and four assists in that span, Reichel remains on top of Rockford’s goals (20) and points (46) list.

With 16 games left in the regular season, the Blackhawks top prospect is approaching two rookie marks. Namely, Vinnie Hinostroza’s 51 points, set in 2015-16, and Matthew Highmore’s 24 goals, accomplished in the 2017-28 campaign.

 

Roster News

With the Hawks trade of Marc-Andre Fleury on Monday, Collin Delia was recalled by Chicago, along with forward Reese Johnson. Morris was recalled by the IceHogs as well. Defenseman Alex Vlasic was assigned to Rockford long enough for him to be eligible for the AHL playoffs before returning to Chicago.

On Saturday, forwards Riley McKay and Chad Yetman were recalled to Rockford. Yetman skated in that night’s game for the IceHogs.

On the injury front, Michal Teply suffered a shoulder injury Wednesday night after being boarded by Manitoba captain Jimmy Oligny late in the third period. Hogs captain Garrett Mitchell jumped in for a bout with Oligny and is now day-to-day with a lower back injury.

 

Busy Piglets

Rockford will now enter a stretch of five games over the next eight days. This starts with a big home date with Milwaukee Tuesday. The Hogs will then head West for two games each with Tucson and Henderson. Rockford takes on the Roadrunners on Friday and Saturday, then tangles with the Silver Knights on April 4 and 5.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs traveled to Manitoba for the first two games of a five-game road trip last week. For the piglets, March came in like a Moose.

A Moose that outscored Rockford 12-5 in two games.

Manitoba won both games, a 7-2 shellacking Thursday night and a 5-3 come-from-behind triumph on Saturday afternoon. The IceHogs fell to sixth place in the AHL’s Central Division, having lost their last three games.

The IceHogs were able to skate with Manitoba early in both contests. However, Rockford had no answer for the Moose as the games progressed. Manitoba broke open a 2-2 game on Thursday with five unanswered goals. On Saturday, the Moose rallied from a two-goal deficit late in the second period before pulling away with a pair of third-period strikes.

Rockford’s penalty kill has been top-notch of late but surrendered key goals in both defeats. Manitoba potted three goals in five chances on the man advantage.

Two power-play goals in the space of five minutes in the first and second periods paved the way for the Moose on Thursday. Saturday afternoon saw Manitoba capitalizing on Hogs goalie Arvid Soderblom losing his stick in a collision with teammate Ryan Stanton. David Gustafsson sent a shot over Soderblom’s blocker, starting a sequence of four Moose goals over the next five minutes of game action.

 

Weekend Thoughts

  • Rockford was outshot in both games. Collin Delia faced 46 shots on Thursday; Manitoba outshot the Hogs 17-5 in the third period. Rockford was outshot 23-11 in the first two periods with Soderblom in net on Saturday.
  • The IceHogs sent 17 shots toward Moose goalie Mikhail Berdin, who stopped them all to pick up the win. Berdin was in net for Manitoba in both games.
  • Manitoba’s Greg Meireles had a four-point weekend, with a goal and three helpers.
  • Saturday’s defeat was tougher to stomach, in that the IceHogs led 2-0 and then 3-1 in the first two periods of the game. Rockford was really prone to giving up goals in bunches over the weekend.
  • The IceHogs placed forward Chad Yetman into the concussion protocol Friday. He joins Dylan McLaughlin, who has been out of the lineup since suffering a concussion on February 20.
  • Rockford forward Mike Hardman picked up his twelfth goal of the season on Thursday. An assist in Saturday’s loss has Hardman on a four-game point streak.
  • Defenseman Alec Regula was reassigned to Rockford by the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday. Regula skated in both games in Manitoba.

Next Up

The IceHogs have a couple of days to stew about their three-game losing streak. Rockford is next in action Friday night when the Hogs visit Milwaukee. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CST.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs split a pair of games with the Texas Stars this weekend. Rockford lost control of a tight game in the third period Friday, winding up on the short end of a 5-2 decision. The following evening, the piglets played the grinder role to perfection, rallying from a goal down in the final frame of regulation. Rockford outlasted the Stars 3-2, though it took a seven-round shootout to do so.

The IceHogs are 15-14-1-1 this season, good for fourth place in the AHL’s Central Division. Saturday’s win broke a three-game losing streak. Rockford is 2-3 during this January home stand, which wraps up  Wednesday against Iowa.

 

Teply On A Tear

The offensive game of forward Michal Teply has suddenly roared to life this month. Teply, Chicago’s fourth-rounder in the 2019 NHL Draft, was goalless through his first 34 professional games. In his second season with the Hogs, Teply finally drew cord on January 7 against the Wolves. Since that night, Teply has five goals and three assists spanning the last seven games.

He had both regulation goals for Rockford Saturday and added a successful shootout attempt in the victory. He also had a goal on Friday night. What gives?

Teply has been active on the offensive end most of the season, creating a lot of scoring opportunities that somehow hadn’t found a home. He has 47 shots in 2021-22, which is fourth on the team.

Both interim head coach Anders Sorensen and Teply acknowledge that his play away from the puck is the secret to his recent success. His presence around the net will be vital to Rockford, who were scraping for goals again this weekend.

 

Fight(s)!

The pivotal moment in Saturday’s loss to Texas game came in the third period. The Hogs were down 3-2 with 10:54 remaining when Garrett Mitchell delivered a slash to the hands of Stars defenseman Jared Rosburg. Texas captain Curtis McKenzie responded by cloths-lining Mitchell and engaging in fisticuffs.

Coinciding with that scrap was Dimitri Osipov grabbing Stars center Fredrik Karlstrom and swinging away. Following the melee, the officials removed McKenzie and Osipov from the game. Each received instigation minors, fighting majors, and game misconducts.

Mitchell was tagged with fighting as well as the slash that started the fireworks. Karlstrom, who did not remove his gloves or swing at Osipov, remained in the game. The Stars were handed a seven-minute power play as a result.

I do not recall ever seeing seven consecutive minutes of power-play time go up on a scoreboard. At the time, I was hopeful that it would be the IceHogs with some much-needed man advantage time. However, it quickly became apparent that Karlstrom had not engaged with Osipov and that the time on Rockford’s side of the scoreboard was no mistake.

Three guesses as to which Texas skater gave the Stars a 4-2 lead about two minutes later? Karlstrom’s power-play goal was more than enough insurance, as Rockford spent the next five minutes killing the rest of the penalty.

By the time they got back to even strength, Texas had a two-goal lead and just under four minutes left to play. RFD pulled Collin Delia in desperation but gave up an empty netter, on which Rosburg assisted for good measure.

Texas is one of the more penalized teams in the league; getting physical with the Stars was to Rockford’s detriment Friday. The IceHogs committed just one penalty Saturday, neutralizing the Texas power play in its only chance.

 

Roster News

Several IceHogs are doing the I-90 shuffle between Rockford and Chicago. Mike Hardman and Cale Morris were moved three times this week. Hardman is currently with the Hogs; Morris is on the Blackhawks roster. Wyatt Kalynuk played for Rockford Friday before being recalled to Chicago the following day.

Chad Yetman has played a similar role, oscillating between Rockford and the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. He was in the Hogs lineup for both games this weekend. Saturday, Rockford sent Riley McKay to the Fuel.

The IceHogs released veteran forward Brandon Pirri from his PTO on Wednesday after three goals and an assist in three appearances. Whether Pirri winds up on Canada’s Olympic squad or just decided to pursue other opportunities is not yet apparent.

Forward Kurtis Gabriel came out of COVID protocols on Friday and skated in his first game with Rockford on Saturday, drawing in for Osipov.

On Sunday, goalie Arvid Soderblom, who stopped 20 shots to pick up the win Saturday, was recalled to the Blackhawks.

 

Weekend Notes

  • Andrei Altybarmakian, like Teply, has begun to get onto the scoresheet on a regular basis. He has points in five of his last seven games, including his first two goals of the season.
  • Center Dylan McLaughlin has nine points (3 G, 6 A) in January. He’s second on the team behind Lukas Reichel (12 G, 12 A) with six goals and 13 helpers.
  • The Hogs out shot their opponents both nights. However, many of Rockford’s attempts came on the perimeter as opposed to between the circles. This has been an issue for much of the season; hopefully players like Teply, Altybarmakian, and Kale Howarth, who got to the left post to score the IceHogs second goal Friday, can point the rest of the Hogs toward the front of the net.
  • The 18-year-old (who, as the nine-year-old, only occasionally watched the games when he wasn’t spilling Dippin’ Dots under everyone’s seats) commented that Saturday’s game was perhaps the most exciting result of the season for Rockford. Tall praise, as he’d attended hoping for gloves to drop and was not obliged. I only partially agreed, as he had lamentably chosen to skip Rockford’s 8-0 shellacking of the Wolves earlier this month. I did concur that it was possibly the most dramatic Hogs win so far this season.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs earned a split in a two-game series with Cleveland this past weekend. Both teams picked up a win at the BMO Harris Bank Center-along with plenty of bruises.

The piglets, now 13-12-1-1 on the season, were in two of the more physical affairs of their 2021-22 season in the first half of the season series with Cleveland. In Friday’s contest, Rockford was able to handle the Monsters in the defensive zone, anchored by 33 saves by Arvid Soderblom. The IceHogs took the opener 5-2.

Saturday, Cleveland was even more aggressive, generating a lot of odd-man rushes at Collin Delia to the tune of a 5-2 second-period advantage. The Hogs rallied in the third and had chances to tie the game in the closing seconds, but wound up dropping a 5-4 decision.

 

Roster News

Following Saturday’s loss, the Blackhawks recalled G Cale Morris to the taxi squad, along with F Mike Hardman, who had a pair of goals over the weekend for Rockford.

Ian Mitchell played a big part in Friday’s win, was recalled to Chicago Saturday and subsequently sent back to Rockford. Also coming back to the IceHogs was rookie forward Lukas Reichel.

Both Chad Yetman and Brandon Pirri were on personal leave for the weekend.

Cameron Morrison was banged up in Friday’s game and did not play on Saturday. In his place was F Kale Howarth, who has recently come back from a shoulder injury.

 

Weekend Notes

  • Reichel and Pirri, two of the Hogs’ more prolific scorers of late, did not take part in the action this weekend. Despite this, Rockford was still able to get consistent scoring. It’s a good sign that the piglets can put points on the board after really struggling to do so in the first three months of the season.
  • Dylan McLaughlin is now on a four-game point streak. He had goals in both games this weekend and added a pair of assists in Friday’s win.
  • Hardman had a nice weekend in his return to the Hogs, with three points in the two games. He had a shorthanded goal after forcing a turnover on Friday, then added a power-play goal and assist Saturday.
  • Former IceHogs captain Tyler Sikura skated in both games for Cleveland, recording an assist on Saturday. In 29 games with the Monsters this season, Sikura The Elder has six goals and eight helpers.
  • Wyatt Kalynuk picked up a power play goal to kick off the scoring for Rockford on Friday. He had a spirited bout with Trey Fix-Wolansky late in that game. Kalynuk landed several punches to the helmet of his Monsters opponent, yet it was Fix-Wolansky who sat out Saturday’s rematch with a sore hand.
  • Two more Rockford skaters picked up their first goals of the 2021-22 campaign. Both came on Saturday night when Dimitri Osipov and Nicolas Beaudin both drew cord.
  • Osipov, who is being used as a forward for the first time this season, had one of his better games despite the loss Saturday. He was as involved on the offensive end as he has been all season and still was able to throw his weight around with several big hits.
  • Defenseman Alec Regula picked up assists on all four IceHogs goals in Saturday’s loss.
  • Collin Delia did not receive the same support in the Hogs zone Saturday as Soderblom had the previous evening. Coming into the contest, Delia was sporting a 1.01 goals against average and a .969 save percentage in his last four starts. However, he found himself struggling to stop the waves of Monsters bearing down on him.
  • The Hogs win streak ends at three games, matching a season-high that was set back in December. Rockford has not won four in a row since November 29-December 6 of 2019.

 

This Week

The IceHogs host Chicago Monday afternoon as the home stand continues. The Texas Stars arrive on Friday and Saturday for a weekend set.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs are coming off the road a bit lighter in the roster than when they left for the three-game jaunt. They did, however, manage a 2-1 record this week.

Rockford ran up a three-game winning streak with a 2-1 triumph in Milwaukee Wednesday and a 4-1 win in Grand Rapids Friday. The wheels came off in a 6-2 loss to the Griffins in the finale, but overall the piglets played pretty well.

There were some more subtractions to the lineup, though.

Malcom Subban, who turned in a fine performance against the Admirals Wednesday, was traded by the  Blackhawks to Buffalo. Dylan McLaughlin, who has been a steady offensive presence in the lineup, was held out of Saturday’s game in Grand Rapids on the COVID protocol.

Rookie defenseman Jakub Galvas took an elbow from Luke Witkowski in the first period of Saturday’s loss. He missed the rest of the game and might be looking at some time off. Defenseman Ian Mitchell was recalled by Chicago on Saturday. Rockford got a blueliner back when the Hawks reassigned Wyatt Kalynuk on Sunday. The IceHogs also recalled D Cliff Watson Sunday.

Goalie Arvid Soderblom did not dress for any of the three road games this week. No reason has been given, but Cale Morris was recalled to Rockford from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel on Friday to back up Collin Delia. Morris wound up relieving Delia Saturday, making 17 saves on 19 shots in 50 minute of action.

With McLaughlin unavailable Saturday, Chad Yetmen was a late call up from Indy. Yetman, who has five goals and nine assists for the Fuel in 15 games, was in the lineup for interim coach Anders Sorensen Saturday night.

Back on Tuesday, the IceHogs announced that Lukas Reichel (concussion), Brett Connolly (right leg), Kale Howarth (right shoulder) and Michael Krutil (left hand) would be out for the next couple of weeks. Reichel is in concussion protocol and could return at any time.

Despite having a slew of players on the shelf, Rockford is treading water in the Central Division. The Hogs record sits at 8-8-1-1. This .500 points percentage has them in a tie for fourth with the Griffins. Points percentage will factor into any postseason decisions. Grand Rapids, Chicago and Milwaukee each are scheduled for 76 games, as opposed to the 72 scheduled for the rest of the division.

 

Coming Up

The IceHogs stay busy this week; Rockford hosts the Iowa Wild on Wednesday. The Henderson Silver Knights are scheduled to visit the BMO Harris Bank Center for games Friday and Saturday.

 

Weekend Recaps

Friday, December 3-Rockford 4, Grand Rapids 1

Rockford picked up a satisfying victory, anchored by a marvelous 40-save performance by Collin Delia.

Grand Rapids opened the scoring on the power play after Ryan Stanton was called for cross-checking. Kyle Criscuolo redirected Jonathan Berggren’s shot from the left circle past Delia at 5:19 of the first period.

The IceHogs used the man advantage to even the score 6:20 into the second. The goal came from a Ian Mitchell blast from the left circle, set up by Andrei Altybarmakian and Nicolas Beaudin. A few minutes later, Rockford took a 2-1 lead when Alec Regula struck from the right slot, fed by IceHogs captain Garrett Mitchell at the 9:43 mark.

Delia held the Griffins at bay, waiting for the piglets to provide some insurance. That came about seven minutes into the third period, when the Hogs gained another power play. Dylan McLaughlin won the faceoff from the left dot; Jakub Galvas gathered in the puck and slid it across the ice to Philipp Kurashev at the top of the right circle. The one-timer found the net behind Griffins goalie Calvin Pickard at the 7:24 mark for a 3-1 IceHogs advantage.

From there, it was Delia and the Hogs defense holding firm as Grand Rapids came up empty in the final minutes despite pulling Pickard and gaining a two-man advantage for the last 1:35 of play. Kurashev finished off the Griffins with an empty-net goal with 13 seconds left.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Andrei Altybarmakian-Philipp Kurashev-Alexander Nylander

D.J. Buskdeker-Dylan McLaughlin (A)-Michal Teply

Cameron Morrison-Evan Barratt-Carson Gicewicz

Jakub Pour-Garrett Mitchell (A)-Dimitri Osipov

Jakub Galvas-Nicolas Beaudin

Ryan Stanton (A)-Alec Regula

Issak Phillips-Ian Mitchell

Collin Delia

Cale Morris

 

Saturday, December 4-Grand Rapids 6, Rockford 2

The Hogs were buried by a tsunami of Griffins offense in the first period and could not overcome the 5-0 deficit. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak.

Grand Rapids wasted no time building a two-goal advantage. Kyle Criscuola opened the scoring on a Griffins power play. Grabbing a rebound off the endboards and tucking the puck past Hogs goalie Collin Delia, Criscuola made it 1-0 Grand Rapids 3:30 into the contest.

Brian Lashoff sent a long slapshot past Delia 26 seconds later to give the Griffins a 2-0 lead. At 7:08, Turner Elson forced a turnover in the neutral zone and lead an odd-man rush toward the Rockford net. Delia stopped the initial shot, but Dennis Yan was there for the follow up to put the Hogs in a 3-0 hole.

Things got exponentially worse a couple of minutes later. Dominick Shine wove through the Hogs defense, got Delia to the ice, and tucked in a goal at the right post for a 4-0 lead. At this point, Rockford coach Anders Sorensen decided to make a goalie change, sending Cale Morris into action for the first time this season.

The Griffins went up 5-0 when Ryan Murphy came out of the penalty box, skated to a long rebound of the puck in neutral ice, then juked Morris with 1:09 left in the opening period. The IceHogs limped into the locker room in a bad way.

Rockford got on the board 5:32 into the middle frame. Issak Phillips got the play started with a stretch pass to the Grand Rapids blue line. Philipp Kurashev knocked the loose puck to Carson Gicewicz, who skated to the crease and beat Griffins goalie Calvin Pickard.

The Hogs cut the lead to 5-2 with 1:40 remaining in the period on an Alex Nylander one-timer set up by Andrei Altybarmakian and Chad Krys. However, Jonathan Berggren made it 6-2 Giffins on a transition goal with 34 seconds left. Neither team added to their total in the final 20 minutes.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Andrei Altybarmakian-Philipp Kurashev-Alexander Nylander

D.J. Buskdeker-Chad Yetman-Michal Teply

Cameron Morrison-Evan Barratt-Carson Gicewicz

Jakub Pour-Garrett Mitchell (A)-Dimitri Osipov

Jakub Galvas-Nicolas Beaudin

Ryan Stanton (A)-Chad Krys

Issak Phillips-Alec Regula

Collin Delia

Cale Morris

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for news and notes on the IceHogs throughout the season.

Hockey

Last season, the Chicago Blackhawks allowed their AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, to be severly undermanned in terms of depth. Nowhere was this more evident than at forward, where the organization went with a few NHL prospects and a slew of AHL signings.

How do things look entering the 2021-22 season? Right now, I’d say there’s some optimism that wasn’t there a year ago. This forward group will still consist of a lot of fresh-faced prospects. However, the piglets should be a lot deeper up front.

Is that going to show up on the scoreboard and the standings? Time’s going to tell on that one.

Rockford has been near the league basement for several seasons in terms of goals per game. Last season, the IceHogs were 25th of 28 teams with a 2.78 per game scoring average. The lack of offensive bite was a big factor in the team’s last-place finish in the Central Division.

AHL signing Dylan McLaughlin paced Rockford with 22 points (8 G, 14 A) in 28 games last season. That point total was good for 55th place in AHL scoring in 2020-21. Chris Wilkie co-led the team with eight goals and finished the season with 13 points in 22 games, while fellow rookie Evan Barratt totaled 14 points (5 G, 9 A).

Other forwards who chipped in on offense included D.J. Busdeker (5 G, 7 A), Andrei Altybarmakian (5 G, 7 A), and MacKenzie Entwistle (4 G, 8 A). All figure to be back in action for Rockford, thought Entwistle may find a spot on the NHL roster to open the season.

Getting consistent offense out of players getting their feet wet in professional hockey is a challenge. Some organizations keep their rosters well-stocked with proven, AHL-level scorers to bolster their prospects. That’s a strategy the Blackhawks have employed sparingly, if at all, over the past few seasons.

In 2020-21, the taxi squad required of NHL teams kept several potential lamp-lighters in a kind of limbo. Chicago had obtained former AHL scoring champ Brandon Pirri with the plan of him anchoring the IceHogs offense. Pirri spent most of his season on the Blackhawks taxi squad.

When Pirri was unleashed on AHL opponents, he filled the net. In just seven games, the veteran forward potted eight goals, tying him for the team lead. He had points in six of those contests, including a hat trick against the Chicago Wolves on April 7. Unfortunately, Pirri spent far more time not playing for Chicago than he spent on the ice for Rockford.

Pirri, along with other experienced scorers, are still free agents waiting to contribute to an AHL club. The Blackhawks, who own the IceHogs as of this season, don’t seem to be inclined to move in the direction of seeking established scorers. However, there may still be some offensive punch on this year’s roster.

NHL veteran Brett Connelly, obtained in a trade with Florida last season, cleared waivers this month and was assigned to Rockford. 2020-21 was a tough year for Connelly, but he’s been a consistent NHL scorer in the past. He put up a 31-goal season with Syracuse in a full season with the Crunch back in 2012-13.

Chicago is getting some cap relief by sending the 29-year-old Connelly to the AHL. If this serves as motivation for him to play his way back to the Hawks or another NHL organization, the IceHogs could have a big offensive weapon to open play in Grand Rapids October 15.

Another potential goal-scorer comes in the form of Alex Nylander, who was assigned to Rockford after he was declared waiver-exempt by the NHL. Nylander, who missed all of last season, could have been claimed otherwise.

It is unclear how long Nylander remains with the Hogs. However, he is certainly skilled enough to post a 40-point season in a full AHL campaign. Skill with the puck was in short supply in the abbreviated 2020-21 season, so any time he spends in Rockford will be a bonus to IceHogs fans.

Center Garrett Mitchell will captain Rockford, as he did last season. Mitchell, who is on an AHL contract, is probably past the days where you could expect 20-30 points from his stick, but the long-time veteran is on board to mentor the prospects.

Reese Johnson is one of the elder statesmen on the IceHogs, even at age 23. Johnson split time between Rockford and Chicago and is back for his third pro season. He was in Rockford for 18 games in 2020-21, putting up eight points (4 G, 4 A).

Other Blackhawks prospects include Matej Chalupa, Josiah Slavin, and Michal Teply. Slavin showed some offensive spark after he was signed midseason, with three goals and three helpers in his first six games.

It appears that 2020 first-round pick Lucas Reichel will begin his North American career with the Hogs. Reichel will be a player to watch in terms of offensive potential. First up for the 19-year-old Reichel will be getting used to maneuvering the rink in the grinding, physical AHL.

Cameron Morrison will also be looking to get his pro career started. In Morrison’s case, it’s a bit of a restart. The former Notre Dame skater was injured in the 2020-21 preseason and was out for the year. The question last year was how Morrison’s game translated to the professional level. Hopefully he gets the chance to answer those questions starting this weekend.

Mike Hardman and Jakub Pour are additional new faces on the IceHogs roster. Hardman turned pro after his second season at Boston College and saw some action with the Blackhawks before the season ended. Pour, who, like Hardman, is 22 years old, has spent the last two seasons playing professionally in the Czech League.

Last year, the taxi squad and a lack of depth signings made it necessary for a lot of Rockford’s AHL contracts to carry the load. Besides Mitchell, McLaughlin, and possibly Busdeker, it may be harder for some returning AHL contracts to find ice time.

Wilkie, Chad Yetman, Riley McKay, and Carson Gicewicz could split time between Rockford and the team’s ECHL affiliate, the Indy Fuel. New faces include Kale Howarth, who was signed following his college career ended at UCONN, and Liam Folkes, who was obtained in an AHL trade with Bakersfield.

Dmitri Osipov is a bit of an outlier. The former defenseman is apparently being converted to forward by the Blackhawks. He may get a chance to play the position with the IceHogs, or head to Indy to continue to learn the new position.

The first month of the season may see the IceHogs struggle for points. A team of young players will need to build chemistry and find the same kind of scoring touch from their college or junior days. If Rockford has aspirations of competing in the Central Division, they will have to find some steady point producers.

How will the Hogs fare in this year’s AHL schedule? Things get started in Grand Rapids on Friday, October 15. Rockford visits Chicago the following evening. I’ll be back in a few days to preview the opening weekend of action with the Griffins and Wolves.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my thoughts on the action in Rockford throughout the season.

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs dropped a pair of games to the Chicago Wolves over the weekend. The piglets were blown out in the Wolves practice facility in Hoffman Estates Saturday night. The following afternoon, Rockford lost a back-and-forth affair to Chicago at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Here are some musings on the first two of what will be four straight games with the Wolves.

  • The Hogs were never in Saturday’s 6-3 loss. Ivan Nalimov made his debut in net for Rockford and was not good at all. The Wolves were up two goals before the opening minute elapsed and led 3-0 after the first. Cody Franson, Evan Barratt, and Reese Johnson scored for the piglets.
  • Rockford had just one power play chance in Hoffman Estates. Sunday, the Hogs went three-for-five on the man advantage, which allowed then to be more competitive against the class of the Central Division.
  • In his pro debut, Josiah Slavin tied the score with a power play goal early in the third period on Sunday. 1:15 into the final frame, the score was tied 4-4. From that point on, the Hogs were out shot 11-1 over the rest of the contest, losing 5-4.
  • Barratt picked up another goal in Sunday’s loss, his fourth of the season. Barratt has eleven points in 18 games (4 G, 7 A) and is on a three-game point streak. Dylan McLaughlin and Wyatt Kalynuk also caught cord for Rockford.
  • Franson had a three-point weekend and has a four-game point streak going. He is atop the Hogs in points with 14 (4 G, 10 A).
  • Andrei Altybarmakyan sat out the weekend. Hopefully it’s nothing long-term, as he’s been a bright spot in terms of Hawks prospects.
  • Matt Tomkins didn’t fare much better than Nalimov in net in Sunday’s defeat. He was victimized by a couple of deflections, but misplayed a puck behind his net which led to the game-winner from the Wolves Jamieson Rees.
  • Tomkins is still deserving of the bulk of Rockford’s work load in net. That said, I would really like to see rookie Cale Morris (1.72 GAA, .956 save percentage in three appearances) get a chance to face down the Wolves in one of the IceHogs next two games.
  • Chad Yetman, who had a goal in Rockford’s first game of the season, was sent to the Indy Fuel on Friday. The IceHogs also sent D Dimitry Osipov to their ECHL affiliate. Cliff Watson returns to the Fuel after Rockford released him from his PTO. The Blackhawks also assigned Brad Morrison (3 G, 2 A in six games for the Hogs) to Indy Friday.
  • Mikael Hakkarainen is one of several Chicago prospects to yo-yo between Rockford and Chicago’s taxi squad. Hakkarainen has appeared in just six games for the IceHogs this season. Currently in his second season of his entry contract, Hakkarainen is pointless in 14 games for his pro career.
  • Brandon Pirri and Alec Regula also were recalled to the taxi squad, with forwards MacKenzie Entwistle and Reese Johnson and defensemen Wyatt Kalynuk, Lucas Carlsson, and Ian Mitchell coming down to Rockford for the weekend’s action.
  • John Quenneville has struggled to produce on the offensive end this season. In twelve games, he has just one goal and one assist. Quenneville has spent most of the campaign dealing with nagging injuries. He took a big hit against the Wolves on Saturday and was out of the lineup on Sunday.
  • Rockford finishes March with a 5-5 record and is 6-11-1 overall. They are currently 0-5 against the Wolves this season. The Hogs will attempt to pick up that elusive first win over Chicago on the road Saturday night.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for news and opinions on the IceHogs throughout the season.

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have a couple of home games this week as they continue to play for their first win of the 2020-21 campaign. The piglets collected a standings point Saturday but fell in overtime in Iowa.

Despite a 0-2-1 start, the beginning of the season has been good to a couple of players who seem to be intent on taking advantage of available minutes. One such player is forward Chad Yetman.

Yetman is Chicago’s sixth-round pick in this past summer’s draft. In normal circumstances, he probably would have finished out his junior career with the Erie Otters of the OHL. With that league currently on hiatus, Yetman signed an AHL deal with the IceHogs on January 11.

Yetman led Erie with 43 goals in 61 games last season. So far, taking the chance to jump up to the AHL and make a grab at playing time has paid off. Yetman has appeared in all three games with Rockford and posted his first pro goal in a February 9 loss to the Wolves.

Yetman racked up a pair of assists in the first period of what eventually became a 3-2 overtime loss to Iowa on Saturday. His three points are tied with Cody Franson for the team lead in the early stages of the season. Yetman has also found a spot on Rockford’s first power play unit.

With several Blackhawks prospects up getting NHL minutes or sitting on the taxi squad, there are opportunities for a player like Yetman to impress the team brass and earn an entry contract. That’s a path current Hawks forward Andrew Shaw navigated back in 2011 when he signed an AHL deal with Rockford.

Yetman’s a different type of player from Shaw, but he’s off to a nice start to the season.

 

Roster Moves

Chicago made a couple of paper moves in order to keep the required four players on their taxi squad. Evan Barratt was recalled to the taxi squad Thursday and returned to Rockford Friday.

Barratt, who took a high hit from Wolves defenseman Max Lajoie last Tuesday, finished that game and skated in Iowa Saturday night.

Forward Mikael Hakkarainen made the phantom trip to the taxi squad on Saturday and was reassigned to the Hogs on Sunday. Also coming down to Rockford was forward MacKenzie Entwistle, who had 26 points (11 G, 15 A) for the IceHogs in his rookie season.

With several players, like Shaw, on the injured list at the moment, it should not be a surprise to see other Hawks prospects getting similar treatment in regard to short-term call-ups.

 

Disappointment In DesMoines

Saturday, February 13-Iowa 3, Rockford 2 (OT)

The IceHogs picked up their first point of the season. However, Rockford let a two-goal lead slip away to end the night on a disappointing note.

Rockford drew first cord 3:39 into the game. The goal came from the stick of Brad Morrison, playing in his first game for the Hogs this season. Morrison was able to toss the puck into the Wild zone and head to the net while Chad Yetman chased it down. Yetman’s centering pass was on the mark; Morrison flipped the dish over Iowa goalie Dereck Baribeau to light the lamp.

Morrison got his second goal of the season a bit later in the opening frame. Yetman brought the puck out of the defensive zone and found Mitchell Fossier down the left side of the ice with the entry pass. Fossier took a shot from the left dot that glanced off of the skate of Iowa defenseman Fedov Gordeev. The puck bounced off Baribeau’s mask and into the crease, where Morrison scooted it to the back of the net. The IceHogs led 2-0 at the 13:37 mark and took that advantage into the intermission.

A couple of miscues allowed the Wild to draw even in the second period. Gabriel Dumont finished an odd-man rush at the 5:58 mark following a loss of a board battle in neutral ice. Later in the period, a Cole Moberg pass was picked off in the high slot during four-on-four action. Damien Giroux crashed the net, knocking in the rebound of Adam Beckman’s shot past IceHogs goalie Matt Tomkins to make it a 2-2 game at 9:52 of the second.

The action slowed in the final twenty minutes, with neither team finding the net. Rockford ended the last 1:10 of regulation and the first 50 seconds of overtime with a man advantage, but couldn’t cash in. Tomkins denied Will Bitten on a penalty shot after John Quenneville was forced to take him down on a breakaway chance.

The Wild won the resulting faceoff in the Rockford zone, and the IceHogs never touched the puck again. Beckman wound up with a shot from the top of the left circle that got under the glove of Tomkins, ending the contest.

Tomkins stopped 33 of 36 shots for Rockford and was a big reason the Hogs were able to come away with a standings point. Garrett Mitchell squared off with Dumont in an even bout midway through the third period after a big hit on the Wild forward.

Three Stars-Beckman, Morrison, Giroux.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mitchell Fossier-Chad Yetman-Brad Morrison

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Dylan McLaughlin-John Quenneville (A)

Evan Barrett-Matej Chalupa-Chris Wilkie

Gabriel Gagne-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Tim Soderlund

Chad Krys-Cody Franson (A)

Alec Regula-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Matt Tomkins

Cale Morris

Power Play (0-2)

Barratt-Quenneville-Yetman-Regula-Franson

Penalty Kill (Iowa was 0-4)

Forwards-Mitchell-Quenneville-McLaughlin-Wilkie-Chalupa

Defensemen-Phillips-Moberg-Osipov-Regula

 

This Week

Rockford has two weeknight home dates coming up. Tuesday, the Hogs face the undefeated Chicago Wolves. On Thursday, the Grand Rapids Griffins come to the BMO Harris Bank Center. Both games are set to start at 6:00 p.m.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Blackhawks, finally got their season underway Saturday afternoon at the BMO Harris Bank Center. As I expected, the piglets were unable to slow down the talented Chicago Wolves. Rockford lost their season opener 5-4.

What I did not expect to see was the IceHogs competing with their intrastate rivals. Rockford has nowhere near the firepower the Wolves possess, yet they led twice in the contest and had an open look to tie things up late in the game.

The key for the Hogs this year will be how the young prospects will contribute to the scoring sheet. On Saturday, three rookies drew cord-Chat Yetman, Wyatt Kalynuk, and Matej Chalupa. Evan Barratt chipped in with an assist and was active around the net.

Chalupa’s third-period goal was set up with a nice feed from behind the Wolves net by D.J. Busdeker. Andrei Altybarmakyan contributed a secondary assist and, like Barrett, had three shots on goal.

It was nice to see the youth of Rockford get into the offensive mix. That is going to have to continue if the IceHogs expect to stay with teams like Chicago. Especially since the piglets will be seeing a lot of the Wolves.

Chicago, who had beaten Grand Rapids 3-1 the previous evening, was filling in as Rockford’s opponent after the Cleveland Monsters were grounded with COVID-19 issues. It was announced over the weekend that two additional games with the Wolves had been scheduled. The first of which will be in Hoffman Estates on Tuesday, February 9.

Musings

  • Matt Tomkins saw 36 shots and made 31 saves. It appears that Rockford coach Derek King is set on giving the former Ohio State goalie the starters role. Tomkins wasn’t bad, considering the Wolves kept the pressure on for the last 50 minutes of action.
  • The Wolves bore a passing resemblance to the Admirals team of a year ago that just overwhelmed opponents in the offensive zone. Makes sense, since many of those players now skate for Chicago. The Wolves aren’t quite as experienced or adept at passing as that Milwaukee bunch, but the nose for the net is there.
  • Rockford mustered just on even-strength goal in the game. Several players, including Altybarmakyan and Chalupa, created breakaway chances in the opening period only to be denied by Wolves goalie Jeremy Helvig. That turned out to be a key momentum swing, as Chicago stayed in the game long enough to get its offense rolling.
  • Kalynuk, making his pro debut, really appeared to be accustomed to the speed of the game. He made some nice plays at both ends of the ice and his one-timer was spot on.
  • Franson, who set Kalynuk up for his first pro goal, had three helpers and was easily the best defenseman on the ice. Much like his run with the Hogs in 2018, he is strong at both ends and capable of controlling the action on the power play. He’s on an AHL contract and was pretty up front about trying to earn some NHL ink. Franson could draw some interest from a team in need of some depth at defense as the season progresses.
  • In keeping with the “prospect camp” approach the Blackhawks are taking with their AHL affiliate, the piglets were sporting some pretty high numbers on their porcine sweaters. Krys, for example, went from wearing number 4 a season ago to donning number 43. Only four players had numbers lower than 40. Lots of fives, sixes, and sevens out there for Rockford.
  • Rockford’s Dmitry Osipov was involved in a brief scrap with Jeannot midway though the first period. First fight of the year…and with ten more meetings between the IceHogs and Wolves, it won’t be the last.
  • With eleven games between these two teams, there will likely be a clear winner of the vaunted Illinois Lottery Cup, presently holding open the locker room door at the BMO Harris Bank Center (or so I like to think).

 

Roster Moves (Just Where Is Jack Ramsey?)

As things got underway at the BMO Saturday, I got a tweet inquiring about defenseman Jack Ramsey, who wasn’t on the ice for the Wolves game. Ramsey also was not on the Hogs opening day roster. Or the training camp roster. Or the Indy Fuel’s roster, because that’s where I looked next.

Ramsey signed a one-year AHL contract with the IceHogs on April 30. The Minnesota defenseman was a seventh-round selection of the Blackhawks in the 2014 NHL Draft. He spent the bulk of last season with the Fuel (2 G, 8 A in 46 games). He was recalled a couple of times by Rockford but never got into a game.

I will try and follow up on Ramsey’s status for this season.

 

Hey! We Got A Recap!

Saturday, February 6-Chicago 5, Rockford 4

The Rockford IceHogs got off to a fast start in their season opener. They just couldn’t keep a talented Chicago Wolves out of the net.

The Hogs raced out to an early 2-0 lead, only to see Chicago rally from behind twice as the Wolves took over to win, 5-4. A pair of goals from Wolves rookie Seth Jarvis proved to be the difference in this high-scoring affair.

The Hogs were 2-2 on the power play in the first half of the opening period. With Lukas Craggs in the box for holding, John Quenneville took a pass from Wyatt Kalynuk into neutral ice. A give and go with Cody Franson allowed Quenneville to streak into the Wolves zone. He beat Chicago goalie Jeremy Helvig from the slot at 4:41 for a 1-0 Rockford advantage.

A few minutes later, Joey Keane was sent to time out for holding the stick. The IceHogs won the resulting offensive zone draw and maneuvered the puck to a pinching Franson. The veteran defensman found Evan Barratt in front of the Chicago crease. Helvig stopped the attempt, but Chad Yetman’s put back gave Rockford a 2-0 lead at the 8:35 mark.

The Wolves rallied in the latter half of the first period. Jarvis potted his second goal of the season, cleaning up a rebound of a Jamieson Rees power move to the Hogs net at 17:22 of the first. Just over a minute later, Cavan Fitzgerald sent a snipe from the top of the left circle. The shot beat Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins, clanged off the left post and settled into the net to tie the contest at two goals with 1:36 remaining in the fist period.

Rockford went up early in the second when Franson set up Kalynuk for a one-timer from the right dot on the man advantage 4:36 into the middle frame. The Wolves responded with three unanswered goals.

Coming off a faceoff win in the Hogs zone, Alexandre Carrier sent a shot wide of the net. However, the carom off the end boards wound up on the stick of Tanner Jeannot, who tied the game 3-3 at the 5:11 mark. Another strong move to the net by Rees got him past the defending Chad Krys. Jarvis was on hand to finish the play and put the Wolves up 4-3 at 8:10 of the second.

Rem Pitlick got in the way of a Quenneville pass attempt to set up a breakaway chance. Pitlick sent a shot over the blocker of Tomkins for a 5-3 Chicago lead at the 14:35 mark. The IceHogs found themselves down a pair at the second intermission.

Rockford cut the Wolves lead to 5-4 on an even-strength goal by Matej Chalupa, who gathered in a nice backhand pass from behind the net by D.J. Busdeker and snuck a shot past Helvig. Dylan McLaughlin was credited with the secondary assist and also helped out with a screen of Helvig on the goal, which came at 9:27 of the final frame.

The equalizer would not materialize before the final horn. Yetman had an open look from the left post on a late Rockford power play. However, his put back attempt of Barratt’s shot was just off the mark. Despite pulling Tomkins for a two-man advantage, Chicago held firm and time ran out on the Hogs.

Tomkins made 31 saves in the loss, in which the Hogs were out shot 36-32. The game’s three stars, in order, were Jarvis, Franson, and Kalynuk.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville (A)-Evan Barratt-Andrei Altybarmakyan

Tim Soderlund-Dylan McLaughlin-D.J. Busdeker

Matej Chalupa-Chad Yetman-Michal Teply

Mikael Hakkarainen-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Gabriel Gagne

Wyatt Kalynuk-Cody Franson (A)

Alec Regula-Dimitry Osipov

Chad Krys-Michael Krutil

Matt Tomkins 

Scott Darling

Power Play (3-6)

Barratt-Yetman-Quenneville-Franson-Kalynuk

Chalupa-Altybarmakyan-Teply-Regula-Krys

Penalty Kill (Wolves were 1-5)

Forwards-Mitchell-Hakkarainen-Quenneville-McLaughlin

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

 

Next up for the piglets are these same Chicago Wolves. The two teams will meet at the Triphahn Center in Hoffman Estates on Tuesday in one of those classic 2:00 p.m. starts that everyone can enjoy.

Follow me on twitter @JonFromi for game recaps, news, and thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.