Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs are about to begin a three-game weekend with big-time playoff implications. Chicago’s AHL affiliate kicks things off with a home-and-home with Grand Rapids before paying a visit to Rosemont and the Chicago Wolves.

Here’s a quick look at what’s waiting for the IceHogs this weekend.

Both the Griffins and Wolves are ahead of Rockford in the Central Division standings. The Hogs have split the season series with Grand Rapids. Their rivals from Michigan have taken ten points out of the first eight games between the teams, compared to Rockford’s eight.

Both teams have won twice on the road in the season series, though in recent years the trend has favored the home team in the rivalry. Over the last five seasons, Rockford is 15-8 against the Griffins at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Grand Rapids owns a 15-4-2-2 mark against the Hogs at Van Andel Arena.

Things get started in Rockford Friday night. A split just isn’t going to be good enough with the Griffins. The piglets need points in regulation, especially against a team battling with them for the postseason.

Back on February 18, Grand Rapids beat the Hogs 2-1 in Rockford. Three of this season’s tilts have been decided by that score. The next two games should also be hotly contested.

Veteran Chris Terry is pacing the Griffins in scoring, with 20 goals and 30 assists on the season. Grand Rapids also gets offense from familiar faces like Matthew Ford (10 G, 16 A) and Matt Puempel (15 G, 22 A). Goalies Calvin Pickard and Pat Nagle have been excellent against Rockford, giving up just seven goals in five games between them.

Rockford enters the weekend with John Quenneville (13 G, 9 A) still out with a strained neck. Joseph Cramarossa’s phyiscal game would be a welcome addition to the Hogs lineup. However, he also may not be ready to play this weekend.

The big injury news comes with Rockford’s announcement Thursday that goalie Kevin Lankinen is finished for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Things may not have ended like Lankinen had hoped this year, but the net is still in the capable hands of Collin Delia and Matt Tomkins.

Could Delia play in three straight games this weekend? He’s been the primary man in goal since Lankinen left a February 13 game after the first period. It would probably make sense to use Tomkins on Saturday in Grand Rapids and give the net to Delia Friday and Sunday, when Rockford visits the Wolves.

Chicago has lost four straight, including Thursday’s 4-2 decision to Tucson. The Roadrunners are at Allstate Arena Saturday night before Rockford comes a calling on Sunday.

The Wolves have been a little undermanned of late. They did, however, knock off the Hogs 5-1 in Rosemont on February 23 and made the piglets look pretty bad in doing so. Rockford is 6-2 against Chicago this season. They can wrap up the vaunted Illinois Lottery Cup for the first time in three years with a win in any of the last four meetings with the Wolves.

What’s really important, of course, is overtaking Chicago in the standings. That means getting the job done Sunday afternoon.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have 19 games remaining in the 2019-20 season. The piglets had a tough week, earning just two of eight possible points as they attempt to hold on to their playoff aspirations.

At the moment, I am watching the latter stages of the IceHogs 5-1 loss to Chicago in Rosemont. Monday brings the uncertainty of the NHL trade deadline and the turnover that may possibly ensue. How is Rockford equipped to push to the Calder Cup Playoffs over the next few weeks?

Well…it looks like the Hogs will have to get to the postseason largely on the players that have been toiling in Rockford most of the season. Unless they don’t.

The next few hours should tell quite the tale for both the Hawks and IceHogs. If a prospect is obtained in any trades made before the deadline, they will most certainly be sent to Rockford. We may also see a couple of paper transactions over the course of Monday.

Any player on an NHL roster as of the trade deadline is not eligible for the remainder of the AHL season, including the playoffs. That would include Lucas Carlsson, who made his NHL debut yesterday in Dallas.

We may see Carlsson reassigned to Rockford and brought up later Monday evening. Chicago may also choose to yo-yo some other waiver-exempt players down I-90. The short list could include Adam Boqvist, Matthew Highmore and Alexander Nylander. This would allow some young players to get in some extra game experience just in case (sigh) the Blackhawks don’t reach the playoffs.

Of course, if Chicago decides to punt on the season, it could mean a couple of IceHogs may depart to get looks with the Blackhawks or as part of a swap. If a goalie is sent to another club, I’d expect Collin Delia to slide into the backup role. With Kevin Lankinen out with an injury, Rockford may need to call up or sign a backup for Matt Tomkins should the situation dictate.

The bottom line is this; don’t expect the IceHogs roster to improve dramatically in the final two months. Anton Wedin and Phillipp Kurashev both returned to action after lengthy absences. On the other hand, John Quenneville left Sunday’s game with an injury and Hogs coach Derek King hinted that forward Joseph Cramarossa may have injured a shoulder in a fight with Chicago’s Jermaine Loewen.

Sunday’s loss to the Wolves stung, as they occupy the final playoff spot in the Central Division. Back on Tuesday night, Rockford dropped a 2-1 decision to third-place Grand Rapids. The IceHogs rebounded Friday, getting 28 saves from Collin Delia 28-saves to defeat San Antonio 1-0. However, Rockford was on the short end of a 7-2 shellacking in Milwaukee the following evening.

Rockford has now started a crucial stretch of games in which they play all of the teams currently battling for the third and fourth playoff spots in the Central Division. Rockford is in fifth place with 55 points in 57 games.

The Griffins are four points away. Chicago, who has two games in hand on the Hogs, are two points ahead. Just behind Rockford are San Antonio (54 points in 54 games and Texas (51 points in 53 games).

What does thee IceHogs schedule look like for the next three weeks? Rockford begins a road trip with games Wednesday and Friday in Texas. They play the Rampage Sunday afternoon, then return to the BMO March 6 against Grand Rapids. After visiting the Griffins on March 7, Rockford is back in Rosemont the next day against the Wolves. The piglets are then off six days before playing Chicago at Allstate Arena on March 14.

It’s pretty simple, really. To come out ahead of the pack, you need to beat those teams in regulation. The schedule makers have laid out all of the teams Rockford needs to knock off to vault into a playoff spot. It would have been nice to get started on a run Sunday, but it will have to wait until the Hogs get to Texas.

 

Additional Thoughts

  • Garrett Mitchell, signed to a PTO on February 6, has already made an impact in the Rockford locker room. Mitchell, in just his eighth and ninth games with the Hogs, was an alternate captain against the Admirals and Wolves.
  • Dennis Gilbert was involved in a post-game scrap with Grand Rapids defenseman Dylan McIlrath Tuesday. Gilbert wore a full face shield this weekend as a result.
  • The lone goal in Friday’s victory over the Rampage came in the first period came off the stick of Alexandre Fortin. It was a shorthanded triumph eight minutes in, set up by some Tyler Sikura hustle along the boards to gain access to the puck. Fortin took Sikura’s feed in the slot and sent a laser over the glove of Ville Husso.
  • The Hogs produced five goals in their four games this week. They were 0-14 on the power play. The goal scorers for Rockford this week were Carlsson, Fortin, Mitchell, Cramarossa and Brandon Hagel.
  • Kurashev was just beginning to show flashes of offense at the time of his injury in Manitoba. If he can pick up his production from where is was trending in December (3 G, 6 A), good for the Hogs.
  • Tomkins got his first action in net Saturday since being slapped with seven goals against Milwaukee back on February 1. Milwaukee scored six against him before Tomkins night ended in a goalie fight with the Admirals Troy Grosenick. Grosenick, by the way, is 9-0-2 against Rockford over the last two seasons.
  • Like I said a couple of weeks ago, Milwaukee has been feasting on the IceHogs the last two months. If Delia is brought up to Chicago this week, Tomkins may finally see some steady work after signing his NHL contract last month. That would be all right with me. I mean, why sign a guy if you aren’t going to send him out between the pipes on a regular basis?
  • Regardless of how the goalie tandem turns out in the next 24 hours, I think the fact that the Blackhawks now have three NHL contracts in goal should result in one of these goalies serving as an inexpensive backup next season to whomever is tapped to tend goal in Chicago.
  • Who’s to say that Delia can’t come up and be very effective? Does anybody remember when Corey Crawford went from long-time AHL starter to NHL success once he got the opportunity? Before Chicago signs five or six more goalies this summer, why don’t we see what one of the current youngsters can do in net?
  • Brandon Pirri, who scored twice for the Wolves Sunday afternoon, has 34 points (15 G, 19 A) in 37 games. That point total would lead the IceHogs through 57 games.
  • Could picking up one forward and one defenseman make a difference for Rockford’s chances? Heck, yeah, if it’s the right couple of players.  However, I would count the Hogs fortunate if their parent club could nab even one skater to provide a boost.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey

As the AHL schedule begins to approach the finish line, the Rockford IceHogs were able to begin righting the ship after two months of rough seas. Chicago’s AHL affiliate won three straight games this past week and have now won five of their last six.

Rockford got the job done against basement dwellers, but the points count the same in the standings.  The Hogs will now have to parlay this stretch into the final two months of regular season action.

The recent wins have come against San Antonio, Texas, Manitoba and Cleveland. The former three teams sit below Rockford in the last three spots in the Central Division. The Monsters occupy last place in the North Division. Again, points are points.

All of the IceHogs remaining 23 games will be against division rivals. Four of those are with the Stars and three more with the Rampage. On the other end of the spectrum, Rockford has four games apiece with the top two teams in the Central, Milwaukee and Iowa. The Hogs are 1-6-1 against the Admirals and 1-3 against the Wild this season.

Rockford hosts Grand Rapids on Tuesday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center in the first of three games remaining in the season series. The Griffins are just above the IceHogs in the division standings, sitting in fourth place with 55 points. Rockford is 4-3 versus Grand Rapids this season, though both teams have earned eight points against the other.

With 75 and 70 points respectively, it is unlikely that the rest of the division will overtake Milwaukee and Iowa. The third place team in the Central right now? The Chicago Wolves, who have 55 points and a game in hand on the Griffins.

Rockford still has five tilts remaining with the Wolves. They have a 6-1 record against Chicago so far this season. Remaining dominant over their interstate rival would sure help the Hogs climb into the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Of course, every game is going to be important for the IceHogs from here on in. It appears that two postseason spots are available in the Central Division, with the bottom six teams scrapping for them.

 

Sweeping The Week

Rockford won in Manitoba on back-to-back nights Wednesday and Thursday. They scored a 2-1 win in the first game behind a strong performance by goalie Kevin Lankinen, who made 28 stops. The Hogs went down a goal early but battled back, getting a second-period tally by Alexandre Fortin before John Quenneville potted the game-winner 4:47 into the final frames.

The following evening, Lankinen was back in net, making 16 saves in the opening period as the Hogs took a 2-0 advantage on goals by Joseph Cramarossa and Garrett Mitchell (who would later score and empty netter in the closing minutes). Collin Delia then came out for the last two periods in a 5-2 Rockford victory. Also lighting the lamp in Thursday’s win were Jacob Nilsson and Tyler Sikura.

Delia made the start Saturday against Cleveland, stopping 25 shots as the IceHogs won 4-1. Rockford went out to a 2-0 lead with first-period goals by Dylan Sikura and Brandon Hagel. Ian McCoshen picked up his first goal of the season midway through the third period. His second came with the Monsters net empty net late in the contest.

 

Musings On A Monday Morn

  • Matt Tomkins signed his NHL deal back on January 24. Since that signing, he has been used just once-a 7-1 loss to Milwaukee on February 1. Delia gave up seven goals to the Admirals last month. Of course, it wasn’t Matt Tomkins Bobblehead Night at the BMO Saturday. Hence, it wasn’t a surprise that Delia, who played really well and picked up an assist on the McCoshen empty-netter, got the start after relieving Lankinen in the previous game.
  • That said, it should be interesting how Tomkins is deployed in the immediate future. Lankinen obviously tweaked something Thursday and Rockford has four games this week, included a three-game weekend.
  • Dylan Sikura ran his points streak to ten games over the weekend. During that run, he has four goals and nine assists.
  • John Quenneville is in a stretch of eight games in which he has five goals. Two of those goals came via the power play. Two of the others were game-winners.
  • Brandon Hagel is now sixth among AHL rookies with 18 goals. His 27 points on the season has him 16th in rookie scoring. Hagel has goals in five of the last nine games.
  • Lucas Carlsson owns a six-game points streak heading into Tuesday night’s game with Grand Rapids. He has three assists in six games against the Griffins. Carlsson has really emerged as the team’s go-to defenseman in terms of getting the puck up the ice.
  • The rest of Rockford’s blueline has evolved into a pretty physical bunch. Dennis Gilbert, McCoshen, Joni Tuulola and Dmitri Osipov are all bigger players that have made the Hogs a bit tougher to play against. The level of competition was down a bit from earlier this month, but I thought the IceHogs were better defensively the last couple of weeks in terms of limiting shots.
  • With a week before the NHL trade deadline, there may still be a chance that an impact player will join the Hogs as part of a swap involving the Blackhawks. If not, it may come down to Rockford making its own attempt to bolster the roster.
  • Garrett Mitchell, signed to a PTO February 6, has five games with the IceHogs. He had a pair of goals Thursday night and added an assist on Cramarossa’s goal Saturday. Mitchell is a nice pickup for Rockford. He well-versed in the physical nature of the AHL and skates hard at both ends of the ice.
  • With Nick Moutrey injured at the moment, Mitchell will capably fill Moutrey’s role in the bottom six. PTO Gabriel Gagne has also been a solid contributor for Rockford, with seven points (3 G, 4 A) in 13 games.
  • Defenseman Josh McArdle was up with Rockford this past week. He did not see action before teh IceHogs sent him back down to the ECHL’s Indy Fuel on Saturday. Also returning to Indianapolis was forward Liam Coughlin, who skated in two games for Rockford after being recalled February 1.

 

Busy Week

After facing Grand Rapids at the BMO Tuesday, the IceHogs have three games in three nights over the coming weekend. Rockford will play host to San Antonio Friday night before hitting the road for Milwaukee Saturday. On Sunday, the Hogs have an afternoon date with the Wolves in Rosemont.

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

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs faced the best team in the AHL twice this weekend. They were soundly defeated in both tilts.

Following Saturday’s game, the league went on its All-Star break. Rockford’s equipment managers should take the impending free time to sew a patch onto the IceHogs sweaters.

One that reads “Property Of The Milwaukee Admirals”.

Milwaukee has been outstanding through 45 games this season. They sport a 31-8-4-2 mark and a .756 points percentage. They now sit atop the AHL with 68 standings points, nine more than any other team in the league.

The Ads boast the best goalie tandem in the league, with Connor Ingram and Troy Grosenick combining for a 2.16 GAA and a .924 save percentage. Combined with the AHL’s top power play (25.7%), the league’s sixth-best offensive output (3.36 goals per game) and a fast-paced, aggressive brand of hockey, Milwaukee is taking it to the opposition on a nightly basis.

Rockford has faced off with the Admirals seven times since the first meeting of the teams this season on December 7. In those games, the IceHogs have gone 1-6 and been outscored 26-12. The lone win came on December 10; all Kevin Lankinen had to do that night was make 55 saves to propel Rockford to a 2-1 overtime victory.

The last three confrontations with Milwaukee have resulted in three-goal losses, including both games this past weekend. Following a physical affair in Milwaukee Friday, Hogs coach Derek King was left without a full set of forwards. Even with rookie Tim Soderlund returning to the lineup, King iced ten healthy forwards, used defenseman Ben Youds as a forward and went with seven defensemen.

The Admirals had no issues using their depth advantage this weekend. Milwaukee camped out in high-danger scoring areas and whaled away at Rockford goalies Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen. Both saw their goals against average rise thanks to Milwaukee.

I’ll attempt resembling a broken record, but the All-Star break comes at a good time for the Hogs. Somehow, they have to get healthier and in a new mindset following a span in which they have lost 14 of their last 17 games.

Rockford gets back at it with two games at home this coming weekend. The piglets host Manitoba on Friday night, followed by a Saturday contest with…you guessed it…the Admirals Juggernaut.

 

Roster Happenings

On Saturday, Rockford sent goalie Chase Marchand, who they have on an AHL deal, back to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL.

Phillipp Kurashev, Mikael Hakkarainen, Anton Wedin and Matthew Thompson continue to be unavailable due to injury. John Quenneville sat out the weekend as well.

Alexandre Fortin, Dylan McLaughlin and Peter Quenneville were all scratches on Saturday.

 

Recaps

Friday, January 24-Milwaukee 7, Rockford 4

Rockford picked up the scoring but couldn’t keep the Ads out of the net, opening the weekend home-and-home series with a loss.

The IceHogs snapped a seven-game scoreless streak early in the game. Dylan Sikura took a shot at goal nine seconds into a Rockford power play. His offering glanced off the stick of Milwaukee’s Jared Tinordi and sailed by Ads goalie Troy Grosenick 3:39 into the game for a 1-0 Hogs lead.

Milwaukee answered on their first man advantage a few minutes later. Alexadre Carrier set up Frederick Gaudreau at the left circle for a one-timer that beat Rockford goalie Collin Delia to the cord. The goal tied the game 1-1 6:15 into the first.

The Ads took a 3-1 advantage after Mathieu Olivier and Mikka Salomakki got pucks past Delia at 10:59 and 14:54, respectively. Rockford would close the gap to 3-2 late in the period on MacKenzie Entwistle’s power play goal. The breakaway attempt was set up by a finely-threaded pass from Nicolas Beaudin. Entwistle skated across the crease and backhanded the puck over Grosenick.

Milwaukee ran out to a 5-2 lead after Gaudreau and Eeli Tolvanen hit on power play markers 20 seconds apart in the opening 67 seconds of the middle frame. The Hogs climbed back into the contest with a pair of their own.

Chad Krys found the back of the net from the blueline at the 4:56 mark to close to within two goals. Three minutes later, the power play came up big for the third time in the game. This time, Brandon Hagel put back a rebound of Gabriel Gagne’s shot 8:34 into the period to cut the Milwaukee lead to 5-4.

The Admirals went up 6-4 following some nifty passing that ended with Rem Pitlick knocked in Tolvanen’s pass at the right post at the 14:50 mark. Milwaukee stretched the lead to 7-4 on Daniel Carr’s goal 4:33 into the third period.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Joseph Cramarossa

Brandon Hagel-Jacob Nilsson-MacKenzie Entwistle

Dylan Sikura-Tyler Sikura (C)-Gabriel Gagne

Alexandre Fortin-Peter Quenneville-Dylan McLaughlin

Chad Krys-Dennis Gilbert

Joni Tuulola-Lucas Carlsson

Nicolas Beaudin-Ian McCoshen (A)

Collin Delia

Kevin Lankinen

Power Play (3-8)

Carlsson-Hagel-D. Sikura-Gagne-Nilsson

Beaudin-McLaughlin-Entwistle-T. Sikura-Fortin

Penalty Kill (Milwaukee was 3-7)

Forwards: Nilsson-Johnson-Moutrey-Fortin-T. Sikura

Defense: Tuulola-Gilbert-Krys-McCoshen

 

Saturday, January 25-Milwaukee 5, Rockford 2

The IceHogs dropped the back half of the home-and-home, losing to the Admirals at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Rockford opened the scoring as they had the previous evening, on the power play. MacKenzie Entwistle got inside position on his defender and was on hand to send the rebound of Ben Youds shot attempt past Admirals goalie Connor Ingram. At 10:09, the piglets owned a 1-0 lead.

From that point on, Milwaukee took over. Eeli Tolvanen tied the game at the 11:42 mark with a put back in front of Hogs goalie Kevin Lankinen. Michael McCarron’s presence in the crease yielded a pair of goals in the second period to stake the Admirals to a 3-1 lead through 40 minutes.

Milwaukee pressed its advantage in the final frame, with Tanner Jeannot and Daniel Carr finding the back of the net midway through the third. Rockford picked up a late goal at the 18:30 mark when Tyler Sikura redirected a Chad Krys blast from the point.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Rockford employed seven defensemen tonight and skated an eighth (Ben Youds) as a forward.

Dylan Sikura-Tyler Sikura (C)-Gabriel Gagne

Brandon Hagel-Jacob Nilsson-MacKenzie Entwistle

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Joseph Cramarossa

Tim Soderlund-Ben Youds

Dennis Gilbert-Ian McCoshen (A)

Joni Tuulola-Lucas Carlsson

Dmitri Osipov-Nicolas Beaudin-Chad Krys

Kevin Lankinen

Matt Tomkins

Power Play (1-4)

Carlsson-Hagel-D. Sikura-Gagne-Nilsson

Beaudin-Soderlund-Entwistle-T. Sikura-Youds

Penalty Kill (Milwaukee was 1-4)

Forwards: Nilsson-Johnson-Moutrey-Cramarossa-Soderlund-T. Sikura

Defense: Tuulola-Gilbert-Krys-McCoshen

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey

The offensive woes of the Rockford IceHogs were on full display this week. Twice the piglets took to the BMO Harris Bank Center ice. Twice they came away with nothing.

The Blackhawks AHL affiliate was beaten Monday afternoon by Belleville, then dropped a Wednesday night decision to Texas. The IceHogs were shut out in both contests.

The last time a Rockford squad was held scoreless two games in a row came in March 25 and 28 of 2017, when Grand Rapids and Iowa held the Hogs without a goal. That season, a dismal IceHogs team averaged a league-worst 2.30 goals per game.

Over Rockford’s last 15 games, the team is scoring at a 1.53 goals per game clip. The Hogs have been shut out three times and held to a single goal four times during that span.

Wednesday’s loss to the Stars left the IceHogs with a 20-21-1-1 mark, good for sixth place in the AHL’s Central Division. With 42 points and a .488 points percentage, Rockford is still right there in the hunt for a playoff spot. The Hogs are still within reach of the Stars, Chicago and Grand Rapids with 33 games remaining on the schedule. They’ve just picked a poor time to be spinning their tires.

 

Roster News

Dennis Gilbert and Brandon Hagel have been doing the I-90 shuffle this week, taking part in both games for the Hogs between trips to Chicago. Both should be with Rockford through the weekend’s games with Milwaukee.

On Wednesday, Nathan Noel was sent back to the Indy Fuel. Spencer Watson was released from his PTO and returned to the Fuel as well.

 

Tomkins Signs NHL Contract

Matt Tomkins was a hard luck loser against Texas, stopping 30 shots and coming out on the short end of a 1-0 score. On Thursday, it was announced that the goalie had signed a two-year contract with the Blackhawks.

Tomkins, Chicago’s seventh-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, toiled for the Fuel for most of his first two pro seasons while on an AHL deal with Rockford. He’s been with the IceHogs for the bulk of this season, save for his stint with Team Canada in the Spengler Cup.

Tomkins is currently the team leader in goals against average (2.45) and save percentage (.916), though he has just nine starts on the season. Collin Delia has been playing well of late, shutting out the Wolves Sunday afternoon in his latest start. Kevin Lankinen, who was the Hogs best goalie in the early going and is Rockford’s representative in the AHL All Star Classic, has struggled a bit in the last month.

The three-man net takes on a different perspective with this signing. The Blackhawks now have three NHL prospects at the goalie position in Rockford. It’s hard not to imagine one of those goalies being dealt at the trade deadline to create more development time for the other two. For now, Hogs coach Derek King will have to find time for all three players.

 

Recaps

Monday, January 20-Belleville 3, Rockford 0

Belleville broke open the game in the third period to hand the Hogs the loss.

Josh Norris scored on the power play 3:36 into the second period for a 1-0 Senators advantage. Two goals early in the third period spelled doom for Rockford. Alex Formenton lit the lamp 2:49 into the final frame. Three minutes later, Joseph LaBate got his attempt by IceHogs goalie Kevin Lankinen to close out the scoring.

Rockford was 0-4 on the man advantage. The Hogs got 23 shots on goal, all stopped by Belleville goalie Filip Gustavsson. Lankinen stopped 26 of 29 shots on the afternoon.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville-Jacob Nilsson (A)-Brandon Hagel

Dylan Sikura-Tyler Sikura (C)-Gabriel Gagne

Joseph Cramarossa-MacKenzie Entwistle-Alexandre Fortin

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Peter Quenneville

Joni Tuulola-Lucas Carlsson

Nicolas Beaudin-Ian McCoshen (A)

Chad Krys-Dennis Gilbert

Kevin Lankinen

Collin Delia

 

Wednesday, January 22-Texas 1, Rockford 0 

Rockford was shut out for the second game in a row wasting a terrific performance by goalie Matt Tomkins.

After a scoreless opening period, Texas took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Riley Tufte at 4:25 of the middle frame. The Stars prospect took the biscuit away from Rockford’s Jacob Nilsson, skated to the front of the net and sent a backhand past Tomkins.

That would be the only mark in this contest. Tomkins wound up with 30 saves in a losing effort, but the Stars Landon Bow turned away all 29 shots the Hogs threw at him.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Brandon Hagel-Jacob Nilsson (A)-MacKenzie Entwistle

Dylan Sikura-Tyler Sikura (C)-Gabriel Gagne

Alexandre Fortin-Peter Quenneville-Dylan McLaughlin

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Joseph Cramarossa

Chad Krys-Dennis Gilbert

Joni Tuulola-Lucas Carlsson

Ian McCoshen (A)-Ben Youds

Matt Tomkins

Collin Delia

 

Admirals Weekend

The IceHogs have a big home-and-home with first-place Milwaukee coming up this weekend. Friday’s tilt is in Milwaukee, with the two teams returning to the BMO on Saturday.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have seen the midpoint of the 2019-20 season come and go. It has been an up and down campaign for the piglets. A young bunch of Hawks prospects gelled early in the season and was playing well in the first three months.

Then Hogs began being called up. And injured. And injured some more.

The IceHogs have struggled as the calendar turned, going 3-4-1-1 in January after dropping their final four games in December. In the nine games this month, Rockford has managed just 1.56 goals per contest.

With no fortification from above on the immediate horizon, the IceHogs signed a slew of players to tryout agreements. Three of the ECHL’s top point-producers, Spencer Watson (January 5), Peter Quenneville (January 11) and Gabriel Gagne (January 18), all inked PTOs with Rockford. The Hogs signed Joshua Winquist to a PTO on January 6, releasing him from the deal after three games of action.

Watson skated five games for Rockford before an injury. Gagne made an immediate impact with a goal and an assist in Sunday’s 2-0 win over the Chicago Wolves. Quenneville has appeared in four games since coming aboard.

The list of injured players is lengthy. Rockford has had to skate with just 11 forwards on numerous occasions over the last few weeks. With John Quenneville, Dylan Sikura and now Brandon Hagel returning to the Hogs after stints in Chicago, perhaps better times are coming.

Rockford is still in the hunt for a playoff berth 41 games into the season. They are fifth in the Central Division with a .512 points percentage.  After Milwaukee and Iowa, any of the six remaining Central teams could surge into the third and fourth-place positions.

Here’s a look at how things stand in Winnebago County, starting with the infirmary…I mean, the forwards.

 

Forward

Tyler Sikura has been the constant in the IceHogs lineup. The captain is Rockford’s top scorer, with 24 points (11 G, 13 A). He also leads the team with a plus-eight skater rating.

Both John Quenneville (8 G, 7 A) and Dylan Sikura (9 G, 8 A) were a big part of the Hogs early season success. Jacob Nilsson (6 G, 12 A) has also been a steady presence in the lineup. Like Sikura the Elder, Nilsson has been on the ice for all 41 of Rockford’s games.

Brandon Hagel (13 G, 8 A) was easily the club’s top-performing rookie over the first half. He was recalled by the Blackhawks this past week but has been reassigned without taking part in a game. MacKenzie Entwistle (7 G, 10 A) has been one of the Hogs bright spots this month, showing game at both ends of the ice.

Just as Phillipp Kurashev was beginning to heat up in his rookie season, he suffered a concussion in Manitoba on December 29. He hasn’t played since. Rookie Tim Soderlund has been out of the lineup since January 3. Mikael Hakkarainen missed most of the first three months with an injury. He played seven games for Rockford before a January 5 injury shelved him again.

Anton Wedin, another solid two-way player for the IceHogs, last played on December 31. Matthew Thompson, who was recalled from Indy to help fill out the roster, promptly was injured January 3. Alexandre Fortin has been on the shelf a couple of times this season but has been back in the lineup this past week.

Joseph Cramarossa, who has three goals and six helpers in 26 games since arriving via trade in November, has provided experience and stability on the Hogs bottom six. His shootout tally gave Rockford a big win in Grand Rapids on Thursday night. AHL contract Nick Moutrey (4 G, 3 A) has also played well in a fourth-line role.

Defense

Philip Holm, Rockford’s best defenseman of the first three months, opted out of his contract to play in Europe. This has left a void on the back end.

Nicolas Beaudin (2 G, 8 A) hasn’t been spectacular in his first 38 games as a pro. I haven’t been enamored by his hockey sense like others have been. He’s had his share of rookie gaffes and his passing hasn’t been as sharp as you’d like to see. That said, he is showing some improvement and should get lots of opportunity to refine his game in the next few months.

Lucas Carlsson has been the Hogs most noticeable performer aside from Holm. With four goals and a dozen assists, Carlsson has also shown some quality puck-handling skills. His plus-six rating is tops among the defense.

I thought Chad Krys (1 G, 4 A) would have a bit more impact on the scoreboard than he has. Krys did pick up his first AHL goal in Thursday’s win over Grand Rapids. Joni Tuulola (2 G, 3 A) has probably been as steady from a defensive standpoint as anyone the fist half.

Ian McCoshen joined the team after the Hawks traded Alexi Saarela to Florida back in October. He has contributed some snarl to the blueline, along with some dumb penalties and six helpers since his arrival in Rockford.

Ben Youds is in Rockford on a PTO. He’s been a regular in the lineup since signing on December 9, even skating as a forward for coach Derek King when things got too thin up front. Dmitri Osipov was recalled from Indy December 7 and has provided solid minutes.

On Sunday, the Blackhawks reassigned Dennis Gilbert to Rockford. This move gives the Hogs another player who can help their cause. Gilbert played 20 games in Chicago with a goal and two assists. The big defenseman has just 11 games with the IceHogs this season.

Goalie

IceHogs net-minders have a combined goals against average of 2.87 and a .908 save percentage. By and large, this has been the strength of the team. The three goalies have faced a lot of high-percentage shots and kept Rockford in a lot of games.

Matt Tomkins has made a case for an NHL entry deal, posting a 5-3 record with a team-low 2.62 GAA. He also helped Team Canada win the Spengler Cup.

After struggling mightily in the first two months, Collin Delia found himself out of the mix for a couple weeks in November. Since December 3, the Cucamonga Kid has been stellar, going 6-3 with a 1.59 GAA and a .949 save percentage.

Kevin Lankinen is Rockford’s lone All-Star selection, though his has had some struggles over the last few weeks. Currently, Lankinen sports a 3.03 GAA to go with a .908 save percentage.

Collectively, this three-way in goal has been pretty good for Rockford. Again, they have fended off pressure from opponents on a nightly basis and is a big reason the Hogs have been competitive.

 

Tidbits Good And Bad

  • The power play is the worst in the AHL’s Western Conference, connecting on just 10.7 percent of Rockford’s opportunities.
  • The penalty kill is 28th in the league, at 78.2 efficiency.
  • The IceHogs are 12-8 at home and 8-11-1-1 away from the BMO this season. Unlike previous seasons, the remaining schedule is pretty balanced between home and road games.
  • Cramarossa’s six fighting majors places him tied for second in the AHL in the catagory. With 15 FMs on the season, Rockford is tied for tenth in the league. The Hogs have been a bit feistier than in recent seasons.
  • The piglets are 4-1 in overtime games and are 3-1 in shootouts.
  • On Sunday, the IceHogs recalled G Chase Marchand from the Indy Fuel. Marchand hasn’t manned the net for the Fuel in over a month. He did make ten starts for Indy this season, most coming in November. He was 4-6 with a 2.56 goals against average and a .905 save percentage.

 

First Semester Grade: B

…and a solid one at that. This team is primarily comprised of greenhorns. Healthy or not, the Hogs have played hard. When healthy, Rockford has shown that they can play with the best teams in the Central Division. Even as crushing as the injury situation has been, the 20-19-1-1 record is very respectable and has the IceHogs in playoff contention.

The key, of course, is how the roster evolves in the next couple of months. Getting players like Wedin, Kurashev and Soderlund upgrades the Hogs nearly as much as getting Quenneville and Sikura back.

Maybe some veteran depth is provided for Rockford in a trade down the line. Perhaps not. The IceHogs sure could use some experienced scoring types in the final months of the season. However, a healthy batch of piglets could make things interesting down the stretch.

 

Back To The Grind

The Hogs split four games last week, losing 4-1 to Milwaukee Tuesday night before spitting two games in Grand Rapids Wednesday and Friday. Sunday, Rockford blanked the Wolves in Rosemont.

This week is another busy stretch for the IceHogs. Monday afternoon sees them playing Belleville at the BMO Harris Bank Center. On Wednesday, they host Texas. A home-and-home with the division-leading Admirals is on the docket for the weekend. Friday’s tilt is in Milwaukee; the teams are in Rockford Saturday night.

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

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs continued their run of solid play this weekend, earning a split of a pair of games with division rivals. The Hogs outlasted Grand Rapids Friday before coming back to Rockford for a big test against the Milwaukee Admirals.

They didn’t pass.

Rockford was the latest victim of the hottest team in the AHL, winding up on the short end of a 5-2 decision Saturday night. The piglets will be getting another shot at the Admirals Tuesday night.

Can any adjustments be made by Rockford coach Derek King that can help his team’s chances?

“We should take some notes from them,” King told the media after the game. “That’s where we should be.”

The Admirals have won 15 of their last 16 games heading into Tuesday’s game, including a 7-1 thrashing of second-place Iowa on Friday. Milwaukee kept the pressure on the Hogs all evening, generating a slew of high-percentage looks at the net. Unlike Rockford, the Admirals followed up on many of the shots fired at Kevin Lankinen Saturday.

“They’re all on the same page,” King said when asked about Milwaukee’s winning formula this season. “The guy with the puck is skating it and his line mates know what’s going on. It’s either going in, or he’s going to make a play. At times we do that, and then there’s times where the maturity of our guys are just not quite there yet.”

What makes the Ads win more impressive is the face that two of their top scorers, Yakov Trenin (14 G, 12 A) and Daniel Carr (11 G, 10 A) were up with Nashville and out of Milwaukee’s lineup Saturday. It’s not a surprise to see why the Admirals lead the AHL with 41 points. Milwaukee is 13 points up on the Wild in the Central Division standings.

The IceHogs get to face off with Milwaukee eleven more times this season. It should be interesting to see how the youngsters respond to the challenge.

 

Roster Movement

There was a lot of action on Saturday. The IceHogs recalled forwards Matthew Thompson and Dylan McLaughlin and defenseman Dmitri Osipov from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. After Rockford’s game Saturday night, the Hawks recalled Dylan Sikura and re-assigned Anton Wedin to the IceHogs.

 

Recaps

Friday, December 6-Rockford 2, Grand Rapids 1 (SO)

The piglets went into Van Andel Arena and outlasted the Griffins to pick up their fourth straight win. At the heart of the victory was a standout performance in net by Collin Delia, who followed up his win Tuesday night with another great effort.

Delia saved 28 of 29 shots in regulation and stopped both penalty shots after the game could not be decided in Gus Macker Time. Coach Derek King elected to hand Delia the keys to the cage for a second straight game. Delia did not disappoint.

The scoring in regulation was limited to the second period. Recent acquisition Eric Tangradi gave the Griffins a 1-0 lead with an unassisted goal at the 4:24 mark. While his centering pass was broken up by Reese Johnson, the veteran forward calmly retrieved the loose puck behind the Hogs net, powered to the front of the crease and beat Delia with the backhand.

Rockford would answer late in the period. Ian McCoshen found Tyler Sikura at the right dot. Sikura sent a touch pass to brother Dylan a few feet to his right; the subsequent one-timer was over the glove of Griffins goalie Calvin Pickard. The Hogs drew even at one goal 17:07 into the second.

It would remained tied, thanks to Delia and Pickard, through regulation and overtime. Pickard stopped Dylan Sikura in the opening round of the shootout, but Tim Soderlund and Joseph Cramarossa found the back of the net to earn Rockford the win.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville-Tyler Sikura (C)-Dylan Sikura

Brandon Hagel-Phillipp Kurashev-MacKenzie Entwistle

Matthew Highmore-Jacob Nilsson (A)-Tim Soderlund

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Joseph Cramarossa

Joni Tuulola-Adam Boqvist

Philip Holm-Lucas Carlsson

Chad Krys-Ian McCoshen (A)

Collin Delia

Saturday, December 7-Milwaukee 5, Rockford 2

The IceHogs win streak ended at four games as they were spanked at the BMO by the Western Conference’s best team.

The Admirals consistently peppered Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen with pucks and swarmed the net to create lots of second and third chances. It was such a play that opened the scoring 4:06 into the game.

Jeremy Davies came around Lankinen’s net and was stopped by the goalie’s left pad. Former Laurent Dauphin was there to throw the rebound on net, only to be denied again by Lankinen. Lukas Craggs made good on his attempt from the goal line when the Hogs failed to clear the puck and Milwaukee led 1-0.

Rockford fans were in possession of 4,300 stuffed animals and were itching to let them fly to the ice. Two minutes later, they would receive their chance.

Jarred Tinordi’s pass attempt was swiped by Matthew Highmore, who hit Brandon Hagel coming out of the defensive zone. Hagel’s wheels did the rest, easily flying by Alexandre Carrier on his way to the front of the Admirals net. His shot beat the glove of Troy Groesenick at 5:59 of the first period to cue the bears and tie the contest.

That was to be the high-water mark for Rockford on this evening, however. Steven Santini was left open at the right circle late in the opening frame. His shot zipped over the shoulder of Lankinen for a 2-1 Milwaukee lead that they held at the break.

Tommy Novak and Mathieu Olivier would score in similar fashion in the second period to build a 4-1 Admirals lead. The Hogs found themselves just missing on several one-and-done chances, while Milwaukee was generating great looks at Lankinen, who saved 29 of 34 shots, most of which came within a few feet of the goal mouth.

The Admirals went up three goals early in the third when Anthony Richard converted on Dauphin’s pass on the odd-man rush. The IceHogs would get a goal from Phillipp Kurashev with 3:53 remaining, but by then the outcome had been decided.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville-Tyler Sikura (C)-Dylan Sikura

Matthew Highmore-Phillipp Kurashev-Brandon Hagel

Tim Soderlund-Jacob Nilsson (A)-Joseph Cramarossa

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Matthew Thompson

Philip Holm-Adam Boqvist

Chad Krys-Ian McCoshen (A)

Nicolas Beaudin-Dmitri Osipov

Kevin Lankinen

 

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks affiliate in the American Hockey League, hope to continue their strong play into the month of December. The piglets got the month started right with a 4-2 win over Manitoba Tuesday. Another big Central Division weekend looms for the IceHogs. Friday sees Rockford in Grand Rapids. The first meeting of the season with Western Conference-leading Milwaukee is Saturday.

 

Roster Activity

On Tuesday, D Dennis Gilbert was recalled to the Blackhawks. Rockford has seven defenseman on its current roster. However, Philip Holm has been out the last couple of games and Lucas Carlsson took a puck in the face late in Tuesday’s game with the Moose. No one has been brought up from Indy this week, so I’d guess one or both players should be ready to play.

 

Weekday Recap

Tuesday, December 3-Rockford 4, Manitoba 2

Rockford won its third straight game behind a strong performance from goalie Collin Delia, who posted a 37-save performance in his first action since November 3.

The Hogs drew cord on the power play 4:15 into the contest. The play was set up with a long pass by Delia to Dylan Sikura. Sikura maneuvered to the high slot and drew three defenders before sliding the puck to MacKenzie Entwistle. The rookie forward went forehand-backhand on Manitoba goalie Mikhail Berdin, striking through the five-hole to put Rockford up 1-0.

The Moose quickly responded with a Seth Griffith goal. However, the piglets regained the lead on a point blast by Joni Tuulola. Tyler Sikura picked up the apple with some deft stick work along the half boards and the IceHogs held a 2-1 advantage at the 8:53 mark.

Manitoba came back with a power play goal by Skylar McKenzie 14:48 into the first. Delia, who was having trouble securing the puck at times, made a nice pair of saves late in the period to send the teams to intermission even at two goals.

Both teams had a couple of power play chances in the second period. Brandon Hagel had recently come out of the penalty box for hooking when Matthew Highmore slid a pass his way in front of the Rockford net. Hagel did the rest, streaking past the Moose defense to buzz the goal mouth and backhand the puck into the Manitoba cage. The IceHogs led 3-2 at the 16:48 mark and held that advantage as the teams skated to the second intermission.

Delia held off the charging Moose in the third period. The Hogs goalie stopped twelve shots, including an outstanding pad save on a back door attempt midway through the period. Nick Moutrey added an empty net goal with 32 seconds remaining in regulation to put a topper on the win.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville-Tyler Sikura (C)-Matthew Highmore

Dylan Sikura-Phillipp Kurashev-Tim Soderlund

Brandon Hagel-Jacob Nilsson (A)-MacKenzie Entwistle

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Joseph Cramarossa

Joni Tuulola-Adam Boqvist

Lucas Carlsson-Dennis Gilbert (A)

Nicolas Beaudin-Ian McCoshen

Collin Delia

Matt Tomkins

Power Play (1-4)

Boqvist-Quenneville-Hagel-Nilsson-Kurashev

Carlsson-Beaudin-Sikura-Entwistle-Soderlund

Penalty Kill (Moose were 1-5)

Forwards-T. Sikura-Soderlund-Nilsson-Entwistle-Moutrey-Cramarossa

Defense-Gilbert-McCoshen-Tuulola-Beaudin

 

Previewing The Weekend

Friday night, Rockford is in Grand Rapids. The Griffins have lost six straight, including a 3-1 loss to the Hogs at the BMO last Saturday.

Saturday night is the IceHogs first look at the Milwaukee Admirals. It’s also the team’s annual Teddy Bear Toss Night. The Ads had a 13-game win streak snapped by Texas on Monday night but still lead the Central Division with a 17-4-1-2 mark.

Admirals center Yakov Trenin is second in the AHL with 14 goals this season. Daniel Carr (11 G, 10 A) was a 30-goal scorer with the Wolves last year but has been out of the Milwaukee lineup for a couple of weeks. The Admirals are bolstered by the scoring of Cole Schneider (6 G, 14 A), Colin Blackwell (6 G, 13 A) as well as defensemen Alexandre Carrier (3 G, 13 A) and Matt Donovan (1 G, 13 A). Former IceHogs forward Laurent Dauphin (5 G, 5 A) will also be facing off against Rockford.

It’s been a true tandem in goal for Milwaukee. Veterans Connor Ingram and Troy Grosenick have split the workload and together boast a 2.36 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. The Admirals are the stingiest defensive team in the AHL despite giving up over 31 shots a game, so the goalies are getting it done big time.

I would speculate that the Hogs will be facing Grosenick Saturday, as Ingram will likely play Friday when Milwaukee hosts Iowa. Regardless, getting pucks in the Ads net could prove challenging.

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