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.


The Rockford IceHogs suffered through a disappointing, abbreviated weekend. Despite an influx of talent from the Blackhawks taxi squad, the piglets dropped the first of two scheduled games in Cleveland Saturday night.

Are you ready for the abbreviated part? ‘Cuz here comes the abbreviated part.

Sunday’s game with the Monsters was postponed less than an hour before puck drop “due to league COVID-19 protocols affecting the Cleveland Monsters”, per an AHL release.

Now, Cleveland had just skated with (and beaten) the Hogs with a depleted lineup the evening before. The Monsters played most of Saturday’s contest with nine forwards and five defensemen, after starting the game with ten forwards and six defensemen.

Columbus sent Zac Dalpe and Ryan MacInnis, the players they recalled on Friday, to Cleveland on Sunday. It was obvious that they were set on playing (and beating) Rockford again…until just before game time.

The Monsters organization enacted a policy before the season that they would provide no specifics pertaining to COVID-related happenings. You will have to read between the lines and assume there was a positive test result Sunday morning. The IceHogs skated with this team Saturday. There could be issues ahead for Rockford in the coming weeks.


Roster Moves

The Blackhawks shuffled the taxi squad on Friday. Chicago recalled forwards Mikael Hakkarainen and Brad Morrison and goalie Matt Tomkins. They sent forward Reese Johnson to Rockford, along with defensemen Wyatt Kalynuk and Nicolas Beaudin. Chicago also sent goalie Collin Delia to Rockford for a 14-day conditioning stint.

With Chad Krys out with and injury, the Hogs are a little thin at defense. Kalynuk and Beaudin slotted right into the Rockford lineup, as did Johnson…and Delia.

On paper, this was the most-talent laden group the IceHogs have iced this season. Cleveland was playing down two (and later, four) skaters, including two of their most experienced centers. The Monsters prevailed, in large part due to the performance of the Cucamonga Kid.


Delia’s Return

Delia looked like a goalie that hadn’t manned the crease in game conditions for over five weeks. He started slowly, giving up a pair of goals in the first five minutes. He settled down a bit, but still had problems covering loose pucks and was victimized by several shots he appeared to be in position to stop.

Delia has been prone to severe funks throughout his tenure with the organization. His rookie year was looking like a washout before bouncing back to lead the Hogs to the Western Conference Final. Last season, Delia was benched for a month after another poor stretch to open the season. Again, he was able to work out whatever issues that caused the slump.

It would have been great for Delia to get right back on the horse Sunday to begin the process of playing his way out of his current doldrums. For the record, the Hogs should have Delia in net as much as possible on his conditioning assignment.

There are four games scheduled for the remainder of the assignment. Delia should be allowed the chance to pick up some confidence and work out the kinks in his game. If the Blackhawks are serious about player development, Delia should be in net at every opportunity these next couple of weeks.



Saturday, February 27-Cleveland 6, Rockford 3

A short-handed Monsters team was still too much for Rockford at Rocket Mortgage Field House Saturday. Collin Delia did not impress in his first game with the IceHogs while on a conditioning assignment.

Cleveland lit the lamp at 3:04 of the first period on a Nick Lappin strike from the high slot. The score was the culmination of Hogs goalie Collin Delia being on the ice without a stick for nearly ninety seconds. The shot beat Delia to the glove side, giving the Monsters a 1-0 lead.

Lappin would leave the game soon after following a collision with the end boards. The Monsters, who were skating down two forwards already, iced just nine forwards for the bulk of the contest.

Four minutes later, Brett Gallant came off the bench and made a beeline for the slot. Taking a pass from Carson Meyer, who was along the half boards, the veteran forward struck cord for a two-goal Cleveland advantage at the 7:04 mark.

Rockford got on the board 6:25 into the second period. Cody Franson took in a pass along the blueline from Wyatt Kalynuk and tossed the puck toward the net. Monsters goalie Matiss Kivleniecks made the pad save, but the rebound found the stick of MacKenzie Entwistle at the right post. Rubber and twine united, cutting the Cleveland lead to 2-1.

The Hogs got the first man advantage of the evening after Zach Jordan was called for tripping midway through the second period. As the power play expired, Evan Polei hit Jordan with a stretch pass as he came out of the box. The attempt to Delia’s stick side found the back of the Rockford net for a 3-1 Cleveland lead 11:42 into the middle frame.

Late in the second, Delia failed to cover a loose puck at the right post on a Connor McDonald shot. Tyler Sikura was on hand to poke the biscuit across the goal line at the 18:17 mark. Heading into the second intermission, the Hogs trailed 4-1.

Rockford cut the lead to two goals early in the third period. Kalynuk got the scoring play started by hitting Dylan McLaughlin coming across the red line. McLaughlin took the puck hard to the Cleveland net. He lost the handle coming across the crease, but Matej Chalupa was at the right post to finish the play at the 3:20 mark.

Cleveland came right back with a power play goal by Trey Fix-Wolansky at 3:52 of the third. Rockford returned fire moments later when Alec Regula sent a backhand from the bottom of the right circle past Kivleniecks at 5:19 of the period.

That’s as close as things got. Fix-Wolansky got his second power play goal of the night, firing past Delia for a 6-3 Monsters lead with 5:09 remaining.

It wasn’t Delia’s night. He made 24 stops on 30 Cleveland shots and struggled most of the way in his first action in more than a month.

The Hogs power play was fruitless in two chances. The Monsters struck cord on two of their three opportunities.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mitchell Fossier-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Chris Wilkie

John Quenneville (A)-MacKenzie Entwistle-Reese Johnson

Andrai Altybarmakyan-Evan Barratt-Tim Soderlund

Matej Chalupa-Dylan McLaughlin-Gabriel Gagne

Nicolas Beaudin-Cody Franson (A)

Wyatt Kalynuk-Alec Regula

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Collin Delia

Cale Morris


This Week

The IceHogs come back to the BMO Harris Bank Center to begin a four-game home stand. Wednesday night, the Grand Rapids Griffins pay the piglets a call.

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





The Rockford IceHogs split the first two games of a four-game set with the Cleveland Monsters Monday and Tuesday. The Hogs picked up their first win of the season on Tuesday, but it came with some measure of concern.

Rockford was blown out in the series opener on Monday. The next night, the IceHogs came out with a different mindset on defense. The normally aggressive piglets sat back and limited shots at close range as best they could, grinding out a 3-2 come from behind victory.

Cale Morris, making his first start after relieving Matt Tomkins the night before, was strong. The rookie make several great stops in his 35-save performance. That said, the IceHogs managed to keep the shots in front of the former Notre Dame goalie, as well as far enough back for him to gauge.

Rockford played the part of counter-puncher Tuesday, hoping that one of their limited chances would find the back of the net. It was a real grind-it-out win; nothing wrong with that.

On the other hand, we’ve spent the last few seasons hearing the organization preaching possession and pace. I’m not sure this year’s Hogs are built to play a slow-down type of game night in and night out.

It was nice to see Rockford get one into the win collum. It may not happen often this season.


The Return Of Sikura The Elder

Last year’s leading scorer and captain, Tyler Sikura, made his return to the BMO with the Monsters this week. Sikura, the MVP of the 2017-18 IceHogs, skated on the top line with Zac Dalpe and Trey Fix-Wolansky for Cleveland. He was more than noticeable on the ice, posting a goal and two assists in the two games.

On Thursday, Dalpe, who potted two goals Monday, and center Ryan MacInnis were recalled to the Columbus taxi squad. That should make the Monsters top six a bit easier for the piglets to try and stop.


Sneaky Soderlund

Tim Soderlund came into Tuesday night’s contest looking for his first point of the season. The second-year forward is more impressive live than on AHLTV, so I was shocked when it hit home that Soderlund had assists on all three Rockford goals.

A fourth-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2017, Soderlund has speed and plays with his ears pinned back. His task right now is to make his game work within the team structure. His three-point night Tuesday equaled his point production in his 34 prior AHL games (1 G, 2 A).

Soderlund’s assists came from hustle as opposed to vision. On each of the three IceHogs tallies, he was able to get to loose pucks and make it possible for teammates to start scoring plays. He dug out a puck in the corner that allowed Andrei Altybarmakyan to power to the night on Tuesday’s equalizer late in the game. On the game-winner, he forced a turnover by charging in behind Evan Barratt’s dump-in to the end boards.

Soderlund nearly got his first goal of the season, just missing on a pass from Chris Wilkie on an odd-man rush minutes before Rockford tied the game in the third. He’s a prospect to watch in this shortened season. If Soderlund can convert on some scoring opportunities and keep creating pressure on the forecheck, he could make a nice bottom-six forward for Chicago in a couple of years.


Roster News

The Blackhawks did not make any moves between Chicago and Rockford this week.

The IceHogs announced that Cam Morrison suffered a knee injury in Rockford’s preseason game with the Chicago Wolves on January 27 that ultimately required MCL surgery. With a recovery time of five to six months, it appears his season is over before it started.

Chad Krys left Monday night’s game after the first period and did not return. I am not sure about the injury, but he was a scratch the following night.



Monday, February 22-Cleveland 7, Rockford 3

By the time the sleepy piglets woke up, the visiting Cleveland Monsters were on their way to a rout. The Hogs quickly fell behind 3-0 on the way to a 7-3 loss to Cleveland, who picked up its first win of the season. Rockford fell to 0-5-1 to begin the 2020-21 campaign.

The Monsters roared out to an early 2-0 lead after Zac Dalpe pulled off two back-door tallies in the first five minutes. Dalpe was set up for the opening goal by former IceHogs captain Tyler Sikura at 4:15 into the first period. Slipping past Rockford defenseman Issak Phillips, Dalpe one-timed the Sikura feed into the basket before Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins could close the door.

On the subsequent faceoff, Sikura got another scoring play started with a pass to Trey Fix-Wolansky. Dalpe was at the left post to double the Cleveland advantage at the 4:26 mark.

Just two minutes later, Monsters defenseman Wyatt Newpower hit Carson Meyer with a stretch pass as Meyer entered the Hogs zone. Meyer split the defense and fired past Tomkins to give Cleveland a 3-0 lead 6:26 into the first.

Rockford got back in the game on the penalty kill. Cleveland goalie Brad Thiessen misplayed a puck behind his net, allowing Mitchell Fossier to gain possession of the biscuit. Fossier found Chris Wilkie crashing the net. His shot banked off the diving Thiessen and into the goal at 8:04 of the first to cut the Monsters lead to 3-1.

Rockford closed to 3-2 after some hard work by MacKenzie Entwistle to chase down a loose puck behind the Cleveland net. Entwistle hit Brad Morrison at the left dot. The shot from Morrison whizzed over Thiessen’s glove for the goal at the 10:53 mark.

The goals just kept coming for the Monsters in the middle frame. Fix-Wolansky used a Sikura screen of Tomkins to fire in a power play strike at 4:37 to make it 4-2 Cleveland. A Meyer shot off a faceoff win slipped under the pads of Tomkins at 5:28.

The IceHogs gained a power play opportunity when Cleveland was nabbed for too many men on the ice. However, Justin Scott swiped the puck from Cody Franson in the first seconds of the man advantage. The shorthanded goal came past the glove side of the beleaguered Tomkins for a 6-2 Monsters advantage at the 10:28 mark.

Cale Morris relieved Tomkins to begin the third period. The Hogs got the final frame off to a promising start when Fossier forced a turnover in front of the Monsters net. Thiessen couldn’t keep the shot out of the cage. Nine seconds into the third, Rockford cut the lead to 6-3.

Morris stopped the first 13 shots he saw as Cleveland kept the Hogs pinned down in their own end most of the third period. The Monsters tacked on a final goal at the 17:07 mark when Nathan Gerbe one-timed the setup by Fix-Wolansky from the right dot.

Three Stars-Meyer, Fix-Wolansky, Dalpe

Lines (Starters in italics)

Hogs went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.

Mitchell Fossier-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Chris Wilkie

John Quenneville (A)-MacKenzie Entwistle-Gabriel Gagne

Matej Chalupa-Evan Barratt-Andrei Altybarmakyan

Brad Morrison-Mikael Hakkarainen

Chad Krys-Cody Franson (A)

Alec Regula-Michael Krutil

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Dmitry Osipov

Matt Tomkins

Cale Morris


Tuesday, February 23-Rockford 3, Cleveland 2

A tenacious IceHogs defense, coupled with 35 saves by rookie Cale Morris, was the difference in a 3-2 triumph over the Monsters Tuesday night.

The Hogs picked up their first win of the season behind Morris, starting his first professional game. Rockford was able to rally from a goal down late in the contest to gain a measure of revenge for the previous night’s defeat.

A more conservative approach by coach Derek King’s club kept Cleveland from the opportunities from close quarters that sunk the Hogs the evening before. Despite being out shot 37-24, Rockford kept the game close all night until the offense could find cord.

The two teams held each other in check in a scoreless first period. Cleveland gained a power play on a slash by Chris Wilkie six minutes into the second. The Monsters capitalized, taking a 1-0 lead on former Hogs forward Tyler Sikura’s first goal of the season. Sikura was attempting a centering pass from the right post that banked off of the leg of Hogs defenseman Cole Moberg and past Morris at the 6:26 mark.

The IceHogs answered late in the second, following an offensive zone faceoff win by Rockford captain Garrett Mitchell. Issak Phillips gathered in the puck and fired from the left point. Cleveland goalie Veini Vehvilainen made the pad save but left a rebound at the skates of Evan Barratt. Barratt slid the biscuit into the Monsters net at 15:52 of the second period to tie the game at a goal apiece.

Morris and the Rockford defense kept up the good fight despite being pinned in their own end for much of the final period. The levee broke at the 12:27 mark when Evan Polei got a stick on a rebound of Justin Scott’s shot. The puck hopped over Morris and into the cage, giving Cleveland a 2-1 advantage.

Rockford clawed back to level ground with 3:23 remaining. Andrei Altybarmakyan won a battle for the puck in the corner of the offensive zone and fought his way to the right post. The initial shot was snuffed out by Vehvilainen. Altybarmakyan stayed in the crease, ending a scrum around the net by knocking the puck into the net for the equalizer.

The game-winner came off the stick of Issak Phillips, who one-timed a pass from Barratt at the left point. Vehvilainen got a piece of the blast. However, the puck had enough juice left to reach pay dirt with 1:33 remaining.

Three Stars-Morris (First), Barratt (Second), Phillips (Third)

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mitchell Fossier-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Chris Wilkie

Dylan McLaughlin-MacKenzie Entwistle-John Quenneville (A)

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Evan Barratt-Tim Soderlund

Brad Morrison-Chad Yetman-Mikael Hakkarainen

Alec Regula-Cody Franson (A)

Michael Krutil-Dmitri Osipov

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Cam Morris

Matt Tomkins


More Of The Same, Just In Ohio

Rockford is on its way to Cleveland, where the Hogs will finish the season series with the Monsters. The games will be at 6:00 p.m. Central Time on Saturday night and noon on Sunday.

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



The Rockford IceHogs are readying themselves for a heavy dose of the Cleveland Monsters. The Blackhawks AHL affiliate has just four games with the Monsters this season. However, they all are to be played this week.

The Monsters were to have started the season at the BMO Harris Bank Center on February 5 and 6. Those games had to be rescheduled. Rockford hosts back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday, then travels to Cleveland for games on Saturday and Sunday.

COVID-19 issues kept the Monsters grounded in Cleveland to open the season, with only three games under their belt. The Monsters, like Rockford, are still looking to pick up their first win of the season. They’re coming off an overtime loss in Grand Rapids Saturday afternoon.


Easy Breezy Weekend

Rockford was idle over the weekend. That isn’t going to happen for the remainder of the AHL season unless something changes.

Cam Morrison is still waiting to play his first game with the IceHogs after being banged up in training camp. Anton Lindholm, as reported last week, will be missing the next month-plus with a broken thumb.

Forward John Quenneville took a puck to the face in the third period of Thursday’s loss to Grand Rapids. He quickly returned to action in that game, but it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see him sit out with so many forwards available.

It may also be a week that coach Derek King elects to give one or both of his young AHL contracts, Cale Morris and Tom Aubrun, a turn in the Hogs crease. Matt Tomkins has been solid so far, but I wouldn’t think he plays both ends of both back-to-backs.


Closeup On The Monsters

This Cleveland squad may not be among the AHL’s elite. However, the Monsters have a large collection of veteran players who are more than capable of taking advantage of rookie mistakes.

First of all, Rockford’s leading scorer and captain, Tyler Sikura, signed with Cleveland. Sikura plays a straight-forward game and always around the net to convert on opportunities.

Zac Dalpe is a long-time Monsters center who was selected as the team’s captain this season. He’s coming off an injury-plagued 2019-20 campaign. However, he’s well-accustomed to putting pucks into Rockford nets over the years. Dalpe and Sikura have been teamed with second-year forward Trey Fix-Wolanski on Cleveland’s top line.

Nathan Gerbe is another experienced player the young campers will have to deal with. Forwards like Nick Lappin, Justin Scott, and Kole Sherwood all have several seasons of AHL action under their belts.

Liam Foudy, the Blue Jackets first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, was recently sent to the Monsters for some work on his game. Foudy is a big, speedy forward that will need to be accounted for.

The defense will be led by Dillon Simpson, who had 23 points (9 G, 14 A) for Cleveland last season. Joining him is AHL veteran Adam Clendenning, who is quite adept on running a power play at this level. The former IceHog had 41 points (7 G, 34 A) in 55 games with the Monsters last season. He was recently sent to Cleveland from the Columbus taxi squad.

Veini Vehvilainen is back at goalie for his second pro season, having posted a 2.76 GAA and a .901 save percentage in 33 games in 2019-20. However, long-time Monsters backup Brad Theissen has been in goal for all three of Cleveland’s games and will no doubt see action in the back-to-back series.

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





The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. had themselves a rough stretch in Cleveland. After winning their first two games of the season last weekend, Rockford went into Ohio and got knocked around by the Monsters.

The IceHogs took back-to-back lickings, falling 7-1 Friday night before being shut out 5-0 the following afternoon. Rockford fell to 2-5 in 2019-20. With four standings points and a .286 points percentage, the Hogs sit in seventh place in the Central Division heading into a five-game home stand that gets underway Wednesday night.

Rockford’s lone goal came in the first period Friday night, as Tyler Sikura drew even with Dylan Sikura for the team lead with his third goal of the season. From there, it was all Monsters. Up 1-0, the IceHogs gave up 12 unanswered goals the remainder of the weekend’s action.

Cleveland was able to maneuver around the Hogs defense for point-blank attempts in both contests. The Monsters fired 43 shots at Matt Tomkins Saturday. Neither Tomkins or Collin Delia could do enough to stop the deluge of scoring opportunities.

So far this year, the piglets have been flat out bad in all areas of the game. Through this weekend, Rockford is giving up 3.71 goals per contest, ranking them 25th in the AHL. Offensively, the Hogs are in a familiar place-namely, the nether regions of the league.

Only winless San Diego (1.67) score less frequently than Rockford, who average 1.71 goals per game. The power play has been on the ice 28 times and has yet to score. The penalty kill unit has surrendered eight goals in 28 chances. That 71.4 percent is second-worst in the AHL.

To summarize, the Hogs can’t score, allow tons of juicy scoring chances and are stinking up the joint on special teams. A recent spanking at the hands of an experienced Monsters team makes it easy to take a negative point of view. However, Rockford is running pretty low on sunshine and rainbows at the moment.



  • Kris Versteeg and John Quenneville both sat out the weekend with injuries. Kevin Lankinen practiced last week but did not make the trip to Cleveland. Rookie Mikael Hakkarainen also remained out.
  • With Versteeg missing his second and third straight games, Nick Moutrey was the closest thing to veteran presence in the Hogs lineup. The leadership group is comprised of second and third-year players. This contrasted mightily with Cleveland, who got production from Nathan Gerbe and Zac Dalpe. Both have been key veterans for the Monsters.
  • Perhaps Versteeg will be able to get back into action this week. Regardless, he’s not going to be able to carry the offensive load all by himself.
  • Reese Johnson was the first Hogs skater to engage in fisticuffs this season, dropping the gloves in a brief bout with Cleveland’s Justin Scott early in the second period Friday with Rockford down 4-1.
  • There was a extended fracas at the end of that game and some very chippy play Saturday afternoon. The Monsters pulled the piglets into a style Rockford is not set up to play. It showed up on the scoreboard, big time.
  • This has been the case for the two previous seasons, but this young Rockford club is even less equipped to handle bigger, more physical foes. If the Hogs continue to try and play to the strengths of their opponents, it’s not going to end well most nights.
  • The talented rookies that have flooded the current roster have combined for zero goals in the first seven games. This includes the three games Adam Dach took part in while on his conditioning assignment. D Chad Krys and C Phillipp Kurashev each have two assists to pace the Hogs rookies in scoring.
  • Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin, two of the organization’s highly-touted defensemen, are both looking for their first point as professionals. Boqvist played both games in Cleveland after missing the previous two games. Beaudin sat out of Friday’s affair but had three shots on goal on Saturday.
  • I seem to be painting a rather dour picture of the piglets first month of action. Rockford is just seven games into a long season; I’ll put away my crayons for now.



Friday, October 25-Cleveland 7, Rockford 1

The Monsters put an end to Rockford’s two-game win streak in emphatic fashion, despite the Hogs taking an early advantage.

Rockford opened the scoring midway through the opening period. Tyler Sikura gathered in a rebound from brother Dylan’s off angle shot. The Monsters goalie, Matiss Kivelniecks, stopped Sikura’s initial attempt, but Sikura’s second effort hit paydirt at 9:52 of the first.

The lead was short-lived. Cleveland erupted for four unanswered goals in the remainder of the first period. An Anton Karlsson shot slipped past Hogs goalie Collin Delia at 10:04. Ryan MacInnis took advantage of Delia being out of his crease to give the lead to the Monsters just at the 13:01 mark.

Just 44 seconds later, Nathan Gerbe sent a centering pass off of Hogs defenseman Lucas Carlsson for a 3-1 Cleveland advantage. Paul Bittner sent a shot from the high slot past Delia in the nineteenth minute.

Cleveland added a goal at 14:05 of the second period when MacInnis fed Calvin Thurkauf at the left post for the lamp-lighter. A minute later, Sam Vigneault was credited with the tally when a Kole Sherwood pass glanced off of the shin pads of Carlsson and past Delia.

Zac Dalpe put in a power play goal midway through a chippy third period for the final margin of victory.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Dylan McLaughlin

Matthew Highmore (A)-Tyler Sikura (A)-Dylan Sikura

Anton Wedin-Jacob Nilsson-Brandon Hagel

Alexandre Fortin-Phillipp Kurahsev-MacKenzie Entwistle

Ian McCoshen-Adam Boqvist

Philip Holm-Joni Tuulola

Chad Krys-Lucas Carlsson

Collin Delia

Power Play (0-4)

Wedin-Hagel-Nilsson-Boqvist-Philip Holm

T. Sikura-D. Sikura-Kurashev-Highmore-Carlsson

Penalty Kill (Monsters were 1-2)

Forwards-Wedin, Nilsson, Highmore, T. Sikura, Entwistle, Johnson

Defense-Tuulola, Holm, Krys, Carlsson


Saturday, October 26-Cleveland 5, Rockford 0

It was all Monsters in the second game of the weekend; rookie goalie Veini Vehvilainen posted a shutout, stopping 29 Rockford shots.

All the offense Cleveland needed came in the first period. Ryan Collins threaded a shot to Matt Tomkins glove side that reached the top shelf of the goal 8:43 into the game. Ryan MacInnis took advantage of a turnover in the Hogs zone and made it 2-0 at the 16:27 mark.

Rockford gave up two goals in the first two minutes of the second period. That’s pretty much all she wrote for the IceHogs. Monsters captain Nathan Gerbe added a power play goal 7:50 into the period for the final margin of victory.

The Hogs had three chances to take the goose egg off the scoreboard vie the man advantage. Each time, they came up empty.

Tomkins made 38 saves on the afternoon in the losing effort.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anton Wedin-Jacob Nilsson-Brandon Hagel

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-MacKenzie Entwistle

Matthew Highmore (A)-Tyler Sikura (A)-Dylan Sikura

Tim Soderlund-Phillipp Kurahsev-Alexandre Fortin

Philp Holm-Lucas Carlsson

Ian McCoshen-Adam Boqvist

Nicolas Beaudin-Joni Tuulola

Matt Tomkins


Rampaging Into Rockford

Coming to the BMO Harris Bank Center Wednesday night is the San Antonio Rampage. San Antonio is tied with Grand Rapids for second place in the Central with a 4-1-2-1 mark.

Seventh-year pro Nathan Walker came over from Hershey this summer. Walker leads the Rampage with seven goals (two of which have been game-winners) and five helpers. Another Eastern Conference veteran, D Derrick Pouliot, arrives from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and has seven points (1 G, 6 A).

San Antonio added a lot of veteran pieces after a last-place finish in the division a season ago. Forwards like Cam Darcy (0 G, 5 A) Nick Lappin (four goals) and  Zach Nastasiuk fortifies the Rampage with experienced skaters.

Ville Husso (4-1-1. 2.35 GAA, .919 save percentage) has been very good in net for San Antonio the the early going. Like Cleveland, this is a team with AHL experience. The Rampage will be a tough opponent for the piglets as they try to snap their losing streak.

I’ll be back on Friday to preview Rockford’s weekend action with Iowa and Chicago. Until then, follow me @JonFromi on twitter to catch my thoughts on IceHogs hockey throughout the season.


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.







Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs suffered through a frustrating weekend at the BMO Harris Bank Center. They also may have lost more than a couple of hockey games.

The Blackhawks AHL affiliate competed hard with Cleveland and Manitoba, only to come out on the short end of back-to-back games. The IceHogs could manage just two goals in the two games, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Monsters, then falling in a shootout by that same 2-1 score to the Moose.

It’s safe to say that Rockford finished play this weekend a little banged up. There could be some roster moves necessary after two key skaters left Sunday’s games with injuries.

Defenseman Carl Dahlstrom suffered a groin injury early in Sunday’s game. He left the ice after skating his last shift in the sixth minute and did not return to action.

Late in the second period, Matthew Highmore took a spill after circling the puck around the Manitoba zone. He landed awkwardly and appeared to injure his right shoulder. After a visit from the trainer, he was led to the locker room. Highmore also did not return to the game.

The IceHogs skated with 11 forwards in both games this weekend, due to an injury to Jordan Schroeder. The nature of his injury was not disclosed, though it was thought to be minor enough that Schroeder would be ready to play moving forward.

Hogs coach Jeremy Colliton commented on Schroeder’s absence from the power play, which went 1-8 on the weekend, struggling at times to get set up in the offensive zone.

“He (Schroeder)’s a very good power play guy. Right shot, very comfortable on the puck, very comfortable entering the zone under control,” Colliton said. “That was a little bit of our issue; we had trouble entering clean and we didn’t break pressure.”

There are currently 13 forwards on Rockford’s roster. William Pelletier has not played yet this season after a very productive rookie campaign. Colliton did not seem to have a definite answer for when Pelletier would be ready to join the lineup.

“He’s out,” Colliton said. “I’m not sure, like, down to the week but it’s definitely weeks. We’re in the months situation.”

It could be a while before Pelletier is skating again. If Highmore is going to miss substantial time, there should be a call-up sometime this week. With four days between the Manitoba game and Friday’s match up in Milwaukee, we’ll have to see as to the extent of the Hogs injury woes.

UPDATE: OCT. 29-This morning, the IceHogs recalled Brett Welychka from Indy and sent down G Kevin Lankinen.


Weekend Musings

  • Cleveland is going to be a tough team to beat if they can retain its current mix. There are a lot of speedy young prospects that are bolstered by experienced NHL veterans like Mark Letestu and Nathan Gerbe.
  • Colliton had the following take on Cleveland: “I think they’re big and they skate pretty well. They’ve got a lot of depth up front. They put pressure all over the ice and we had trouble making clean plays.”
  • Colliton also remained pretty optimistic about the Hogs play in the two losses. Rockford was down to ten forwards and missing one of its better defenders in Dahlstrom but still hung tough down the stretch against the Moose. “Their goaltender played pretty well. Our goaltender played pretty well. It was a good hockey game,” he remarked on Sunday. “It’s never fun to come out on the losing end. Based on the weekend, how we played, we probably deserved better than one point. Overall, we’ll just continue to get better and the points will come.”
  • Dennis Gilbert got tangled up with J.C. Lipon of the Moose. The two dropped the gloves coming out of the corner of the Manitoba zone 6:26 into the game. It was over before it really got started, with both players falling to the ice and being separated by the officials.
  • That is Rockford’s second fighting major in nine games so far. At that rate, the IceHogs would draw 17 FMs in 2018-19. To be honest, they probably don’t reach that total, having draw just 12 last season. Rockford is not employing the type of player who is capable of delivering big hits and backing it up with his fists. Manitoba turned the physical play up a notch Sunday. I can’t say the Hogs held their own in this aspect of the game, but they didn’t seem to be thrown off too much by the rugged style of the Moose.
  • An Anton Forsberg-Collin Delia goalie tandem could prove to be quite formidable if both players remain in Rockford. Kevin Lankinen should probably be getting starts in Indy. It might not be fair to the rookie from Finland, but he needs time in a net. (UPDATE-Lankinen was assigned to the Fuel October 29.)
  • Delia’s save percentage is .925; he’s handling the crease well in the face of increased rubber flying his way. He is carrying a 2.64 goals against average.
  • Curious as to how long Gustav Forsling is going to be in Rockford in the face of the current defensive landscape in Chicago. He sent a couple of bullets to the net and was on a power play unit in his first week of action in Rockford. This did not result in any points for Forsling in three games, but he seems to have no ill effects from this summer’s wrist surgery.
  • Tyler and Dylan Sikura and Highmore pace the club with seven points each. Tyler’s four goals is still tops among the IceHogs. He also has the highest skater rating (plus-five).
  • Colliton iced the same lineup, save for his goalies, in both weekend contests. With Schroeder out, he dressed seven defensemen and just 11 forwards. Defensemen Luc Snuggerud and Joni Tuulola were the healthy scratches.
  • Dylan Sikura (2 G, 7 A) is 13th among rookies in scoring. Blake Hillman has a lone assist on the season but he is also a plus-four. Viktor Ejdsell leads Rockford rookies with three goals.


Saturday, October 27-Cleveland 2, Rockford 1

The IceHogs were in this game until the end. Cleveland, however, won for the third time in as many tries against Rockford.

The pace was certainly rapid to begin the contest. Rockford had several quality scoring chances turned away by Monsters goalie Matises Kivlenieks. Cleveland gained a 1-0 advantage late in the first period. A holding penalty by Dennis Gilbert led to a Zac Dalpe put back of a rebound at the 19:08 mark. Dalpe was on the spot to gather in the initial shot by Mark Letestu.

The score held through the second, which saw Rockford go 0-3 on the man advantage. The Hogs also killed off nearly two minutes of 5-on-3 time to keep the deficit to a single goal.

The Rockford power play managed to tie the game in the third after Blake Siebenhaler slashed Terry Broadhurst behind the Monsters net. Viktor Ejdsell took a pass from Carl Dahlstrom at the left point. His drive found its way past Kivlenieks to tie the score 6:58 into the period.

Both teams had chances to break the tie. That didn’t happen until Paul Bittner gathered up a Gabriel Carlsson shot that had come off the right post. Bittner scored at the 15:27 mark to make it 2-1 Monsters.

The Hogs pulled starting goalie Anton Forsberg, who stopped 25 of 27 Cleveland shots, in favor of a sixth attacker in the closing minutes. This created some excitement around the Monsters net as the final seconds ticked away. Ultimately, the sands of time ran out on the piglets.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Viktor Ejdsell-Matthew Highmore (A)-Terry Broadhurst (A)

Dylan Sikura-Jacob Nilsson

Anthony Louis-Tyler Sikura-Henrik Samuelsson

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Andrew Campbell-Gustav Forsling

Blake Hillman-Carl Dahlstrom (A)

Dennis Gilbert-Darren Raddysh

Lucas Carlsson

Anton Forsberg

Power Play (1-6)



Penalty Kill (Cleveland was 1-5)

Highmore-T. Sikura-Dahlstrom-Hillman




Sunday, October 28-Manitoba 2, Rockford 1 (SO)

Rockford forced extra skating to earn a standings point but came up short on penalty shots, losing its second game in a row.

After a scoreless first period, both teams found their way to the twine in the middle frame. The Moose took a 1-0 lead after a dump-in knuckled over the head of Hogs goalie Collin Delia. The puck settled behind the net, where Felix Girard won control. Girard slid a pass to Tye McGinn in the slot; the ensuing shot was sent over Delia’s glove at the 10:18 mark.

The Hogs evened things up late in the period after Manitoba’s Sami Niku caught the left post on a shot attempt that would have given his team a two-goal advantage. The puck was sent around the end boards, where Lucas Carlsson took possession long enough to hit Tyler Sikura about to skate out of the Rockford zone.

Sikura skated the puck to the Moose end of the ice, sending a shot that was stopped by Manitoba rookie Mikhail Berdin. The rebound came back out to defenseman Andrew Campbell, who had joined the rush, and the put back at 17:50 made it a 1-1 game entering the second intermission.

Neither Delia or Berdin yielded a goal for the remainder of regulation. Rockford held firm in Gus Macker Time, killing off a 4-on-3 Moose advantage for the last 1:23. Unfortunately, Berdin was one stop better in the shootout. Seth Griffin’s second round goal was the difference.

Rockford shooters Viktor Ejdsell, Anthony Louis and Dylan Sikura were all denied by Berdin, who nabbed First Star honors with a 35-save performance in his first AHL game. Delia (36 saves on 37 shots) and Campbell rounded out the three stars.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Viktor Ejdsell-Matthew Highmore (A)-Terry Broadhurst (A)

Dylan Sikura-Jacob Nilsson

Anthony Louis-Tyler Sikura-Henrik Samuelsson

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Blake Hillman-Gustav Forsling

Andrew Campbell-Carl Dahlstrom (A)

Dennis Gilbert-Darren Raddysh

Lucas Carlsson

Anton Forsberg

Power Play (0-2)



Penalty Kill (Manitoba was 0-3)

Highmore-T. Sikura-Dahlstrom-Hillman




Coming Up

The piglets have their first three-in-three of the season this weekend. On Friday, the Hogs visit Milwaukee for their first meeting of the season with the Admirals. Saturday, Rockford hosts the Iowa Wild before traveling to DesMoines for a Sunday afternoon tilt.

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


Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, are hitting the weekend on a two-game win streak. Coach Jeremy Colliton will hope to extend the winning ways as the IceHogs host Cleveland and Manitoba.

Rockford bested a scuffling San Antonio Rampage club at the BMO Wednesday night, but looked a little sloppy doing so. The IceHogs put together 15 minutes of real good hockey Wednesday; that got them by a struggling opponent who now have lost seven straight. Beating Cleveland will require a more complete performance.

With a record of 4-2-1 heading into this weekend, Rockford sits in fourth place in the AHLs Central Division standings. Two wins would keep the Hogs within reach of the Milwaukee Admirals, Chicago Wolves and Texas Stars, the teams ahead of Rockford.


Roster Moves

Defenseman Gustav Forsling was sent to Rockford on Monday, having recovered from wrist surgery over the summer. He went right into the lineup Wednesday night.

Tuesday, goalie Anton Forsberg cleared waivers and was assigned to the IceHogs. For the moment, Rockford is carrying three goalies. How long will this remain the case?

Both Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have played well for Colliton in the early going. Both may figure into the future for the Blackhawks. It doesn’t appear that Forsberg fits into those plans. On the other hand, he does have experience in an NHL net in case of an injury.

Forsberg is a very good goalie at the AHL level and will need to showcase those skills if the Hawks have designs on moving his contract. Colliton hinted that Forsberg could get a start for Rockford this weekend. From there, we may see a move made to thin the herd in the crease.

Also on Tuesday, Luke Johnson was recalled to the Blackhawks. This comes after a solid weekend of action with the Hogs in Tucson this past weekend.


Tomkins Shines In Indy

Matt Tomkins, who is on an AHL contract with Rockford, is playing well to open the season for the Indy Fuel. Tomkins was named the CCM/ECHL Goaltender of the Week for the week of Oct. 15-21. Tomkins earned the honor for the second time in his career, previously winning the award the week of Dec. 4-10, 2017.

The former Ohio State goalie turned away 72 of the 76 shots he faced last weekend, winning both games he started for the Fuel. Overall, Tomkins is 3-1 with a 2.76 goals against average and a .926 save percentage.



Wednesday, October 24-Rockford 5, San Antonio 2

Rockford broke out with four second-period goals, overcoming some uninspired play in the first and third frames to pick up the win over the Rampage.

There wasn’t much action in the opening period. Rockford had three shots at the power play but couldn’t put much together in the way of scoring chances. The same was true when the Hogs were at even strength. It was a different story, however, when the teams hit the BMO Harris Bank Center ice for the second stanza.

The first of three IceHogs goals in the opening minutes of the period came at the 1:17 mark. Darren Raddysh and Matthew Highmore moved the puck along the right half boards and into neutral ice. Viktor Ejdsell collected the puck and skated it all the way to the right dot. His shot made it past Rampage goalie Ville Husso for a 1-0 Rockford advantage.

Less than a minute later, Raddysh lifted a puck out of his zone. It was gathered in by Anthony Louis, who skated into the San Antonio zone with teammates in tow. Louis sent a nice saucer pass to Henrik Samuelsson skating toward the right post. The glove-side shot kissed cord at 1:58 of the second and made it 2-0 Hogs.

Rockford went up 3-0 a few minutes later after Terry Broadhurst sprung Highmore on a breakaway chance. Highmore lost the handle on the puck as he prepared to fire on goal. Fortunately, Ejdsell was following the play and knocked the loose biscuit into Husso’s basket at 4:11 of the second.

Dylan Sikura got a chance to showcase his speed after swiping a pass from Robby Fabbri just inside the Hogs blue line. Sikura the Younger zipped across the neutral zone and made a beeline for the San Antonio net. The shot slid between Husso’s pads at 14:26 and it was 4-0 Rockford.

A broken Plexiglas panel forced an early second intermission. The last 3:28 of the second period was played, followed quickly by the third period. This delay marked a shift in momentum as the visiting team was allowed to get back in the game.

Just 1:43 into the final frame, Trevor Smith took a rebound off the end boards and found the back of a wide open net from the left post to get the Rampage on the board. The Rampage closed the gap to 4-2 on a shorthanded goal by Fabbri at the 9:56 mark.

That’s as close as it got, however. Hussa was pulled to attempt a two-man advantage with Louis in the box for sending a puck over the glass. Tyler Sikura forced a turnover that Highmore deposited into the Bank of Empty Net at 18:40 of the third period, earning frozen custard for all at the BMO.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mattheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Terry Broadhurst (A)-Matthew Highmore-Viktor Ejdsell

Dylan Sikura-Jacob Nilsson-Jordan Schroeder

Anthony Louis-Tyler Sikura (A)-Henrik Samuelsson

Blake Hillman-Carl Dahlstrom (A)

Gustav Forsling-Darren Raddysh

Andrew Campbell-Lucas Carlsson

Collin Delia

Power Play (0-7)



Penalty Kill (Rampage was 0-5)

Nilsson-T. Sikura-Dahlstrom-Hillman




Previewing The Weekend

Cleveland-Saturday, October 27

The Monsters are 5-3 on the season and in second place in the AHLs North Division. Like San Antonio, Cleveland will be coming off a game in Milwaukee Friday before taking on the Hogs Saturday at 6:00 p.m.

Zac Dalpe paces the Monsters with nine points (6 G, 3 A). Rookie Eric Robinson has gotten off to a strong start as well, with four goals and three helpers. Both were instrumental in handing Rockford a pair of defeats in Cleveland to open the season.

The IceHogs will need to stop Dalpe and Robinson this time around, as well as captain Nathan Gerbe (1 G, 5 A) and speedy rookie Vitaly Abramov (2 G, 2 A). Forward Alex Broadhurst (1 G, 4 A) has also been tough on his former team in recent years.

One player that Rockford will see for the first time is defenseman Gabriel Carlsson, who leads the Monsters back end with a goal and three assists. J.F. Berube, who beat the Hogs in the season opener, has taken most of the turns in net. In his last start Wednesday morning, he gave up five goals in Chicago in a loss to the Wolves.


Manitoba-Sunday, October 28

The Moose make their first visit to the BMO Harris Bank Center Sunday afternoon for a 4:00 p.m. start. Manitoba is 3-3 heading into their game Saturday night in…you guessed it…Milwaukee.

Last weekend, the Moose took a pair of games at home from San Antonio. After scoring just five goals in their first four contests, Manitoba exploded for ten goals against the Rampage.

Manitoba is led in scoring by last year’s AHL Outstanding Rookie, Mason Appleton. The big winger is off to a solid start, with eight points (4 G, 4 A). He’s coming off a hat trick on October 21, when he had a five-point game against San Antonio.

Rookie C.J. Suess tops the Moose with five goals. He has found the back of the net in four of Manitoba’s first six games. There hasn’t been much scoring throughout the rest of the lineup, save for veteran Seth Griffin, who has chipped in a pair of goals and two apples. Griffin played with Rochester, where he posted 41 points (15 G, 26 A) a season ago.

Sami Niku is a dangerous scoring presence on the blue line, though he’s yet to light a lamp this season. Former IceHogs defenseman Cameron Schilling had a career-year for Manitoba last season (6 G, 26 A) and is back for the Moose.

Other familiar faces include J.C. Lipon, who’s starting his fourth season with Manitoba, and former Milwaukee and San Antonio forward Felix Girard. Girard has two goals for his new team so far.

The tandem in goal is led by Eric Comrie, who has three seasons under his belt with the Moose. In five starts, Comrie is 3-2 with a 2.80 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. His backup is former Devil’s farmhand Ken Appleby, who gave up six goals to Iowa in his last start on October 13.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for game updates and commentary on the IceHogs all season long.



Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, elected to forgo preseason exhibition games heading into the 2018-19 season. Ergo, this past weekend’s action in Cleveland was the first in which the piglets faced off against another team.

The results were a bit underwhelming. Rockford dropped two games to the Monsters to open the season.

According to a tweet by IceHogs broadcaster Joseph Zakrzewski, the Hogs coaching staff felt that the NHL exhibitions were enough, citing a large number of players in Hawks training camp this fall. It’s not like the Hogs have a rigorous preseason schedule most seasons; usually Rockford has a game or two against their AHL neighbors in Chicago and Milwaukee.

IceHogs head coach Jeremy Colliton had a full week of workouts with the bulk of his opening-night roster, so the lack of preseason games is hardly a smoking gun. Rockford, despite what the franchise accomplished last spring, is still a very young group of players. There are quite a few new faces, especially on defense, to work into the lineup.

With a few notable exceptions this weekend, the passing wasn’t particularly sharp in Cleveland. Friday’s 4-1 loss was closer than the score indicated. Saturday, the 5-2 result spoke for itself. The Monsters really got the best of Rockford in the transition game. The Hogs effort wasn’t terrible, but Cleveland was the better team on the ice both games.

While it is fair to question the decision to skip a preseason game or two, it isn’t as if this is a move that will sink the 2018-19 campaign. If the Hogs are to enjoy success rivaling that of a year ago, they will have to develop some chemistry. That’s going to take some time. How much time will be a big factor in how the season progresses for Rockford.


Jordan Maletta Retiring

One recent acquisition who had been missing from the Blackhawks and IceHogs training camps was recently acquired forward Jordan Maletta. Picked up from Arizona in trade this past summer, Maletta was not medically cleared to play this fall after an injury-filled season with Cleveland and Tuscon. Chicago put the 23-year-old Maletta through waivers and the two parties mutually terminated his contract.

Maletta battled a hand injury last year; apparently the issue is is of a career-ending nature. It’s too bad, firstly because it stinks for a young player to have to shut it down at this stage of his development. Secondly, I think Maletta could have potentially added a dimension to the IceHogs that they could have used.

Maletta showed in his rookie season with Cleveland that he could contribute offensively and play a power game. It would have been interesting to see how he would have fit in with Rockford and how he might have contributed.

Mind Made Up On Iacopelli?

The lineup in the two games in Cleveland was identical, save for the net, where Kevin Lankinen made his AHL debut Friday, followed by Collin Delia getting the start Saturday. The scratches both games included defensemen Blake Hillman and Dennis Gilbert, injured forward William Pelletier…and second-year pro Matheson Iacopelli.

The former Western Michigan skater seems to be approaching a crossroads in the Blackhawks organization. He found ice time hard to come by in his rookie year despite possessing an above average shot. Iacopelli is an offensive player who does not seem to have a place on a scoring line.

I’m not casting any proclamations on the kid’s work ethic or attitude. Perhaps Colliton is going to work Iacopelli into a line that can utilize his strengths. The fact is that two of Rockford’s AHL signings, Terry Broadhust and Henrik Samuelsson, are in the lineup ahead of Iacopelli. When Pelletier is healthy, he’s definitely in the lineup ahead of Iacopelli.

The 24-year-old right wing has shown he can fill a net. He had 11 goals in 50 games in Rockford to go with the nine he put up in ten games with the Indy Fuel. Iacopelli needs to show he can play at both ends and at the pace Colliton likes. He just may running out of time and opportunity to do that.


Roster Moves

After backing up Cam Ward in Chicago’s Thursday night’s game in Ottawa, Delia was re-assigned to Rockford Friday following the Hogs loss to Cleveland. Matt Tomkins was assigned to the Indy Fuel in the corresponding move.



Friday, October 5-Cleveland 4, Rockford 1 

Rockford drew first cord but the Monsters broke open a tie game in the third period and bested the IceHogs in the season opener for both teams.

Shortly after holding off a two-man Monsters advantage in the latter half of the first period, Rockford found itself up a skater on a delayed penalty. Cleveland’s Calvin Thurkauf got tangled up with Viktor Ejdsell. Thurkauf dropped his gloves but Ejdsell didn’t bite, choosing to skate with his teammates into the offensive zone.

Luc Snuggerud found Ejdsell at the right dot. In turn, Ejdsell sent a frozen rope to the blade of Matthew Highmore at the left post. The back door was wide open; Highmore united rubber and twine at 17:11 of the opening frame to give the IceHogs a 1-0 lead.

Cleveland knotted the score early in the second period. Zac Dalpe out muscled Snuggerud and Lucas Carlsson for the puck along the end boards behind the Hogs net. Dalpe threw the puck out to an open Eric Robinson, who beat Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen. Through two periods, the teams were tied at a goal apiece.

The Monsters took a 2-1 lead at the 3:26 mark of the third with a bullet of a snap shot by Kevin Stenlund, who took a neutral zone pass from Nathan Gerbe, skated into the Rockford zone and fired past Lankinen from the high slot. Cleveland got a key insurance goal later in the period when Vitaly Abramov brought the puck into the offensive zone.

Rockford’s defenders gave the swift forward some extra space, which proved problematic when Abramov skated to the right dot and worked a give and go with Michael Prepavessis. Taking the return pass, Abramov sent a high shot to the right corner of the Hogs net, making it 3-1 Monsters at 15:14 of the final frame. Cleveland added an empty-net goal from the stick of Justin Scott a few minutes later to close out the scoring.

Former Hogs goalie Jean-Francois Berube greeted his old teammates with a 24-save performance to pick up the win. Kevin Lankinen made his AHL debut in net for Rockford and stopped 18 of the 21 shots he faced.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura (A)-Terry Broadhurst

Anthony Louis-Jordan Schroeder (A)-Viktor Ejdsell

Matthew Highmore-Jacob Nilsson-Dylan Sikura

Henrik Samuelsson-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Andrew Campbell (A)-Carl Dahlstrom

Joni Tuulola-Darren Raddysh

Luc Snuggerud-Lucas Carlsson

Kevin Lankinen

Power Play (0-1)

D. Sikura-Schroeder-T. Sikura-Samuelsson-Raddysh


Penalty Kill (Monsters were 0-3, including 56 seconds of 5-on-3 time)



T. Sikura-Broadhurst-Snuggerud-Raddysh


Saturday, October 6-Cleveland 5, Rockford 2

Five unanswered Cleveland goals erased an early Hogs lead and then some, sending the piglets back to Rockford on a two-game losing streak.

The IceHogs had a pair of power play opportunities in the first period. On the second, the Sikura brothers gave Rockford a 1-0 lead at the 13:53 mark. Dylan and Tyler went back-and-forth with the puck, culminating on Dylan centering to Tyler in front of the Monsters net. The redirect got past Cleveland goalie Brad Theissen and into the cage to put the IceHogs ahead.

Circumstances turned following the power play goal. Less than 30 seconds later, Eric Robinson sent a shot toward the Rockford goal. The puck glanced off the stick of Carl Dahlstrom and got the best of Hogs goalie Collin Delia to tie the score.

Less than a minute after Robinson’s goal, a turnover behind the Rockford net wound up in the Rockford net. Alex Broadhurst collected the loose puck and hit Zac Dalpe skating to the left post. The shot beat Delia under his glove to make it 2-1 Cleveland at 15:31 of the first.

Late in the frame, Matthew Highmore was sent off for a slashing penalty. It took just a moment for the Monsters to build on their advantage. Robinson got the puck in the high slot and went high on Delia. The resulting goal gave Cleveland a 3-1 advantage with nine seconds remaining in the period.

Rockford was the victim of some good luck/bad luck early in the second period after a Justin Scott wrister from the slot made it over Delia’s shoulder. The shot clanged off the crossbar but bounced off of Cleveland’s Kole Sherwood and into the net. Just 2:48 into the period, the Monsters lead was 4-1.

Late in the second, Broadhurst and Dalpe struck again. The two got an odd man rush started after Viktor Ejdsell lost his footing while attempting to hold in a clearing attempt. Luc Snuggerud was the lonely defender; he forced Broadhurst to pass but Dalpe let fly from the slot and sent it past Delia’s glove for a 5-1 advantage at 18:37 of the second.

It was largely academic in the final 20 minutes, though the Hogs put up 14 shots on goal and found the net in the eighth minute. The score was set up by Jordan Schroeder, who chased down a high clearing pass in the neutral zone and made a beeline for the Monsters zone.

Schroeder skated down the left half boards, behind the Cleveland net, and back up the right boards before backhanding a pass to Lucas Carlsson near the top of the left circle. The rookie defenseman wound up and slapped home his first AHL goal over Theissen’s blocker at 7:50 to close out the scoring.

Delia, who arrived in town the night before after being re-assigned to the IceHogs, gave up five goals on 31 Cleveland shots.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Matthew Highmore-Jacob Nilsson-Dylan Sikura

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura (A)-Terry Broadhurst

Anthony Louis-Jordan Schroeder (A)-Viktor Ejdsell

Henrik Samuelsson-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Joni Tuulola-Darren Raddysh

Andrew Campbell (A)-Carl Dahlstrom

Luc Snuggerud-Lucas Carlsson

Collin Delia

Power Play (1-4)

D. Sikura-Schroeder-T. Sikura-Samuelsson-Raddysh


Penalty Kill (Monsters were 1-4)



T. Sikura-Broadhurst-Snuggerud-Raddysh


What’s Next?

Colliton has all week to prepare the IceHogs for opening play at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The home part of Rockford’s schedule commences on Saturday night when the defending Western Conference champs, the Texas Stars, come to town. On Sunday, the IceHogs host the Hershey Bears.

I’ll have a preview of this weekend’s action coming up in what I hope will be a regular Friday post, circumstances allowing. Until then, follow me @JonFromi for thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.


Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs commence on-ice operations for the 2018-19 season this weekend. The piglets are opening their AHL slate in Cleveland, where they play Friday night and again Saturday afternoon. In the interest of getting you ready to take in the action at your respective bases of operation, here’s a preview of the upcoming weekend for the Blackhawks affiliate.

The Hogs dropped two straight to the Monsters to open 2016-17, a harbinger of miserable times to come.  Rockford split four games at Quicken Loans Arena last season, though the franchise is just 5-9-1-1 in Cleveland over the past five campaigns.

The Monsters should have a different look from the squad that finished dead last in the Western Conference by a wide margin. For starters, two of Cleveland’s top scorers from that club now don the Hogs head.

Jordan Schroeder (36 points) and Terry Broadhurst (32 points) were third and fourth, respectively, in scoring for the Monsters. I would expect both veterans to be in Rockford’s lineup this weekend. The only returning Cleveland player from the top of the score sheet is Alex Broadhurst, who was second on the team with 41 points.

Cleveland (again helmed by Hawks alumn John Madden) has several veteran players coming in that should more than make up for the loss of offense over the summer. Topping that list is former Penguins/Blue Jackets/Oilers center Mark Letestu. The 33-year-old hasn’t skated in the AHL since the 2019-10 season, when he had 55 points (21 G, 34 A) for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The scoring load will also be shouldered by 31-year-old Nathan Gerbe, who has 398 NHL games under his belt. He skated in 24 games for the Monsters after signing with Columbus mid-season with four goals and 14 assists. He is a more than capable AHL scorer.

Tommy Cross, a 6’3” defenseman, is also new to the Monsters this season after playing in the Bruins organization. The 29-year-old has spent most of his seven-year career in the AHL with Providence. Cross had 12 goals from the blueline two years ago and finished 2017-18 with eight goals to go with 28 assists. He isn’t afraid to finish a check, either.

Oilers farmhand Dillon Simpson is a new addition to the Monsters blueline, which is made up of some big bodies. Dillon is set to begin his fifth season of AHL action. Former Notre Dame defenseman and Aurora native Justin Wade was signed to an AHL deal by Cleveland.

Along with Alex Broadhurst, who skated with Rockford for several seasons, Hogs skaters may see a familiar face in net this weekend. Jean-Francois Berube was assigned to Cleveland this week; he’ll probably face off against his former team at least once or twice this season.


Roster Moves

The IceHogs roster has been trimmed to 24 players headed into game one. Brett Welychka and Josh McArdle were assigned to the ECHL’s Indy Fuel Monday. Matt Tomkins followed suit the next day.

I expect that William Pelletier will not be available to begin the season; he was at the BMO for Friday’s Fan Fest with what appears to be an injured left thumb or wrist. I don’t believe he took part in any on-ice activities in training camp.

Right now, Hogs coach Jeremy Colliton should have 13 forwards on hand to use in Cleveland. There are eight defensemen on the roster; keep in mind that Colliton would often an extra skater on the blueline and go with just 11 forwards. With several rookie defenders on the team, it is an option Colliton may choose to employ again this season.

The unexpected call up of Collin Delia following an injury suffered by Hawks goalie Anton Forsberg makes for a bit of uncertainty between the pipes. Matt Tomkins was called up from Indy while Delia is with Chicago, joining Kevin Lankinen as the current net tandem.

If Delia isn’t needed past last night, perhaps he is sent back down to the Hogs and makes a start in the crease Friday or Saturday. I would guess that with two games less than 24 hours apart, Colliton was planning on using both of his goalies against the Monsters. It will be either Delia and Lankinen or Lankinen and Tomkins, depending on if Delia’s presence is required with the Hawks in St. Louis.

It is likely that I’ll be watching both IceHogs games vs Cleveland and might just fire off a tweet or two. Follow me @JonFromi for updates, thoughts and general foofooraw all season long.