Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs have a couple of new faces in the fold. With the NHL trade deadline fast approaching, there could be a couple more before the day is out.

The Blackhawks made two trades this past week. They aren’t likely to have a big impact in Chicago, but they could boost the playoff chances of the Hogs, who beat Grand Rapids in overtime Wednesday before dropping games in Hershey and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton over the weekend.

Rockford (26-22-3-6) are currently fourth in the Central Division with a .537 points percentage. With Chicago, Grand Rapids and Iowa a bit above the rest of the division, the last postseason spot could turn into a dogfight between the IceHogs, Texas and Milwaukee.

On Monday night, the Hawks made a move to bolster the offense, which is still last in the AHL as the month of February nears an end. Chicago sent defenseman Darren Raddysh to the Rangers in exchange for center Peter Holland.

The 28-year-old Holland is a veteran of 266 NHL games with ANaheim, Toronto, Arizona and the Rangers. He is nearly a point-a-game player in his stints in the AHL. In 52 games this season with the Hartford Wolf Pack, Holland had 20 goals and 29 assists.

Obtaining one of the AHL’s top scorers was worth the price of losing Raddysh, who has shown steady improvement in two seasons in Rockford. With a young defenseman like Lucas Carlsson showing he can bring a similar game and a number of young defensemen poised to join the club next year, Raddysh was expendable.

Holland made an impact upon joining the Hogs; he had two assists in a 3-2 win over the Griffins Wednesday, then potted his first goal in a Rockford sweater Saturday in Hershey. I’ve frequently said this season that the IceHogs needed some top-end veteran scoring. Stick tap to Hawks GM Stan Bowman for going out and adding a piece for Rockford.

On Sunday, it was announced that a deal had been struck with the Kings to send Matheson Iacopelli to Los Angeles in exchange for forward Spencer Watson. This is not a move that figures heavily in the plans of the Blackhawks…or the IceHogs, for that matter.

Watson turned pro last season and played 11 games for the Kings AHL affiliate in Ontario. He’s amassed great point totals in the ECHL, including 47 points in 47 games with Manchester. So far this season, though, he hasn’t been able to break into an Ontario lineup that is last in the league. Watson has been up for two games with the Reign this season.

Iacopelli, despite possessing a beauty of a shot, couldn’t find steady work with the IceHogs. He has 27 games in Rockford and has been in Indy for most of the last two months. Watson, who was added to the Hogs roster Sunday, could see some action in lieu of AHL forwards Terry Broadhurst and William Pelletier being banged up.

For the time being, Watson gets a chance to win a regular spot and help keep Rockford afloat at forward. Worst case, he moves down to Indy and helps the Fuel in their hunt for the playoffs.

Could any of the current IceHogs be moved today before the deadline? Very possible. Aside from goalie Kevin Lankinen, not much would surprise me over the next few hours.

 

Roster Moves

Henri Jokiharju and Josh McArdle were men on the move this week. Both left and returned to the Hogs in the matter of a couple of days.

Jokiharju was an emergency call-up by the Blackhawks Friday. He was re-assigned to Rockford the next day and arrived in Hershey in time to dress for Saturday’s game. McArdle was sent to the Fuel last Sunday, then was recalled by the Hogs Saturday.

 

Recaps

Wednesday, February 20-Rockford 3, Grand Rapids 2 (OT)

Rockford stayed the course after a rough opening period to outlast the Central Divisions top team. They beat the Griffins in Gus Macker Time and at Van Andel Arena to boot.

Grand Rapids got goals from Wade Megan and Matt Peumpel in the first period. That 2-0 lead held until the fourteenth minute of the middle frame. Joni Tuulola sent a Peter Holland pass by Griffins goalie Harri Sateri to foil the shutout bid.

Jordan Schroeder knotted the game on the power play, aided by Holland’s second apple of the evening. The game remained a 2-2 affair through the remainder of regulation.

Both teams had chances in overtime. For most of the extra five minutes, Sateri and Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg made the required stops. In the closing seconds, Rockford was able to get into the Griffins zone.

Graham Knott sent a shot from the right circle that came off of Sateri’s pads and right onto the stick of Luke Johnson. Johnson sent the rebound into the open Grand Rapids net with less than a second remaining in the overtime period.

Forsberg sent away 37 shots on the evening to pick up the win, Rockford’s third in a row.

 

Saturday, February 23-Hershey 3, Rockford 2 (SO)

The Bears kept their recent win streak going, winning their eleventh straight. Rockford picked up a point to keep their point streak alive at four games.

Newcomer Peter Holland got the Hogs on the board first, via the power play. Holland one-timed a Henri Jokiharju pass into the Hershey net just 1:21 into the contest. The Bears tied the score at the 14:54 mark when Ryan Sproul’s shot from the goal line caught the blocker of Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg and tumbled into the cage.

Rockford regained the upper hand a few minutes later after Viktor Ejdsell sent a clearing attempt ringing around the boards and out of the defensive zone. Anthony Louis eventually caught up with the puck coming into Bears territory, skated to the goal line, and dropped a pass to a waiting Jacob Nilsson. The shot beat Hershey goalie Ilya Samsonov to the upper right corner of the net for a 2-1 IceHogs advantage.

After a scoreless middle frame, Hershey tied the game after an early Rockford turnover in the final period. Henri Jokiharju sent a pass that Joni Tuulola couldn’t get under control. The Bears Beck Malenstyn scooped up the puck and dealt it to Garrett Pilon, who beat Forsberg to the cord at 1:28 of the third.

The remainder of regulation and overtime passed with nary a puck in a net. The shootout would decide this contest. With the tally 1-1 going into the third round, Hershey’s Nathan Walker beat Forsberg. Anthony Louis lost control of the puck on his third-round attempt. The biscuit rolled into the net under Samsonov but was ruled a no-goal by the officials, ending the game.

 

Sunday, February 24-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 4, Rockford 1

The Penguins scored first, getting a Ryan Scarfo goal at the 6:48 mark. Rockford evened things up late in the period. The Hogs were established in the offensive zone and benefited from some slick passing from defensemen Dennis Gilbert and Lucas Carlsson.

Gilbert sent the puck out to Luke Johnson at the point, who slid a pass to Carlsson along the blue line before skating to the high slot. Carlsson found Johnson on the return feed; Johnson’s shot beat the glove of Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry. The light came on at 18:07 of the first and the teams went into the intermission on equal ground.

Former Rockford skater Jimmy Hayes provide the offense in the second stanza, scoring twice to give Wilkes-Barre/Scranton a 3-1 advantage. Hayes banked a centering pass off of Carlsson 5:45 into the second, then beat Lankinen with a one-timer from the right circle at the 11: 21 mark.

The IceHogs pushed to get back in the game to no avail. Rockford put 12 shots on Jarry (the Hogs out shot the Penguins 34-27 on the afternoon) but couldn’t chip into the deficit. Adam Johnson added and empty-net goal for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 3:18 remaining.

 

Action This Week

Rockford continues its road trip Tuesday in Rosemont and an Illinois Lottery Cup tilt with the first-place Wolves. The Hogs are at the BMO Harris Bank Center on Friday night to host Grand Rapids.

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

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, like their parent organization, are currently riding a four-game winning streak. The Blackhawks AHL affiliate put together a pair of victories over the weekend; the current streak is the longest of the 2018-19 campaign for the Hogs.

Following Saturday’s overtime win in Milwaukee, Rockford has six straight games at the BMO Harris Bank Center over the next two weeks. The IceHogs have been much better in their own building this season, with a .568 home points percentage versus a .481 mark on the road. If there is an opportune time to make a push up the Central Division standings, it is now.

At press time, Rockford (21-19-3-5) is in seventh place in the division standings with a .521 points percentage. The Hogs sit right behind San Antonio (.522) and are withing striking distance of Texas and Milwaukee, who occupies the fourth playoff spot in the Central.

 

Roster Activity

On Tuesday, forward Brett Welychka was recalled from the Indy Fuel. Welychka, whose last game in Rockford was November 20, skated for the Hogs in Milwaukee Saturday night.

A bigger move was make on Wednesday, with defenseman Henri Jokiharju coming to Rockford from the Blackhawks. The 19-year-old rookie was very noticable over the weekend. Jokiharju picked up his first goal twelve minutes into his Hogs debut Friday, then led Rockford with nine shots on goal against the Admirals Saturday.

Jokiharju’s arrival comes at a good time. Joni Tuulola has been out of the lineup the last few weeks. Luc Snuggerud hasn’t played for almost three months. Brandon Davidson last played on January 21. Blake Hillman took a nasty fall into the boards Friday night. The team has indicated that Hillman, who did not skate Saturday, wasn’t seriously hurt.

That’s good news, but the fact is that the blueline is still banged up. Rockford can benefit from a talented puck-mover like Jokiharju as they try and pick up points in the coming weeks.

 

Hogs Of Note

William Pelletier had goals in both wins this weekend. In 16 games since returning from offseason surgery, the 5’7” forward has four goals and four assists. He’s also a plus-seven in those games.

Terry Broadhurst has a five-game point streak going and chipped in with a pair of helpers in Friday’s win. He also assisted on Pelletier’s goal on Saturday night.

Rookie Lucas Carlsson was paired with Jokiharju on Friday to form what could be an exciting duo in the coming weeks. Carlsson has points in his last four games. In his last four contests, Luke Johnson has four points (2 G, 2 A).

Until the roster is changed through trade or assignments by the Blackhawks, Rockford needs contributions throughout the lineup. The Hogs have managed to put together some solid team efforts in the course of the four-game winning streak.

Recaps

Friday, February 1-Rockford 5, Chicago 2

The IceHogs matched a season high in picking up their third win in a row. A trio of second-period goals paved the way for the victory in this Illinois Lottery Cup tilt.

Chicago’s Daniel Carr got the Wolves on the board 3:13 into the contest with his 22nd goal of the season. That lead survived until the 12:30 mark, when Henri Jokiharju drew cord for his first North American professional goal.

Jordan Schroeder fed Jokiharju for an initial attempt from the right point. That shot did not get through, striking Jacob Nilsson and coming back out to the rookie defenseman. The second offering got by Wolves goalie Oscar Dansk and into the net.

Rockford took a 2-1 advantage on an Alexandre Fortin goal 2:54 into the second period, then doubled that lead a few minutes later. William Pelletier got open in the slot and punched Terry Broadhurst’s centering pass off the right post and into the cage at the 6:19 mark.

In the 12th minute, Viktor Ejdsell got control of a loose puck in the Wolves zone, skated to the slot and sent an attempt off the pads of Dansk. Ejdsell gathered in his own rebound and sent a successful shot past Dansk to make it 4-1 Rockford. At that point, Dansk gave way to backup Zach Fucale.

Chicago got a power play goal from Gage Quinney late in the period, but that was as close as the game got. Fortin added his second goal of the evening with an empty netter in the final minute.

Rockford defenseman Blake Hillman took a head-first spill behind the boards in the first period and was taken from the ice to the locker room. The Hogs played with five defensemen the rest of the way.

 

Saturday, February 2-Rockford 3, Milwaukee 2 (OT)

For over 40 minutes, the game was a scoreless affair, something that has been typical of the action with Milwaukee this season. The Hogs let a two-goal lead slip away in the third period but regrouped to post a fourth-straight victory.

The first goal of the contest came 2:40 into the third period. Andreas Martinsen hauled in a pass from Darren Raddysh behind the Ads net. Martinsen powered to the front of the net before he lost the handle on the puck. Dylan Sikura was on hand to throw the biscuit past Milwaukee goalie Troy Groesnick for the lead.

Rockford went up 2-0 midway through the final frame on a bit of good fortune. Alexandre Fortin hustled to negate an icing call on the Hogs, then slid the puck behind the Admirals net. Terry Broadhurst sent it to the left circle; Lucas Carlsson got a stick on it before William Pelletier got control. The subsequent backhand centering attempt glanced off of the skate of Milwaukee’s Scott Savage and past Grosenick at 12:18 of the third.

The Ads had plenty of fight left, rallying to tie the game with late goals by Eeli Tolvanen and Yakov Trenin, who redirected a Vince Perdie blast between the pads of Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg with 43 seconds left in regulation.

Rockford had the last say in this one. In Gus Macker Time, Jordan Schroeder brought the puck into the Milwaukee zone and was able to wait for his fellow Hogs to get into position. Schroeder hit Raddysh coming into the right slot. Raddysh lifted a shot over Grosenick’s glove to end the contest in favor of the IceHogs.

 

Coming Up

The IceHogs have a couple of non-divisional opponents visiting the BMO this week. First up is Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, who comes a-calling on Wednesday night. Tucson arrives for a two-game weekend set Friday and Saturday.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my Hogs-related musings throughout the season.

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs have 34 games behind them this season. They currently sit in sixth place in the AHL’s Central Division with a 15-12-3-4 mark, good for a .544 points percentage. Truth be told, this year’s Hogs are faring about as well as they did a season ago.

Yes, before the roster was bolstered with veteran talent in the last three months, it was a young, inexperienced group that was in a similar position at this time of the 2017-18 campaign. Through 34 games, that club was 18-14-1-1 for a .558. That’s about the difference of a standings point for those of you who don’t want to do the math.

The glaring difference in this year’s and last year’s club is the offensive numbers. The IceHogs of a season ago scored at nearly a goal per game better than this year’s crop of piglets. In 2017-18, Rockford had 105 goals scored and 101 goals allowed at this point of the season. This year, the Hogs have drawn cord 78 times while surrendering 98 goals.

Even with the Wolves putting together a 10-0-1 streak this month, the Central Division is pretty closely contested. No one has run away with the division yet. Last season, several teams put together hot stretches of hockey that had them moving up and down the division ladder. It stands to reason that the playoff spots are all up for the taking come spring.

For that to happen, Rockford is going to have to be better in the opposing zone. The IceHogs do not have a player in the top 20 scorers of the league. That’s a huge understatement, actually. Defenseman Darren Raddysh, Rockford’s top point man with 21, is currently tied for 85th in the AHL in that category.

Last season, the IceHogs were shut out just once. So far, Rockford has been already been blanked on four occasions. The lack of scoring punch is being felt all over the lineup

The Hogs potted three goals in three games this week, squeezing a point on Saturday because of a strong performance from goalie Kevin Lankinen. At 2.29 goals per game, they occupy the league basement. Like Saturday’s overtime loss, what’s keeping Rockford in contention this season is the play in the crease.

There is rarely elite scoring on the Hogs roster from year to year. Most seasons, they’ve put up points by committee. This season, Rockford again lacks top-end scoring power…and the committee has been out to lunch.

Matthew Highmore, last year’s high goal scorer, has missed all but seven games with a shoulder injury. Tyler Sikura, who put up 23 goals a season ago, has just six so far. Vikor Ejdsell is currently out with a groin injury and has just four goals in 27 games.

Jordan Schroeder has 18 points (7 G, 11 A) on the season and is putting up numbers that measure up to his past output in the AHL. However, he is a complimentary scorer. Veteran Terry Broadhurst (2 G, 4 A) hasn’t been productive from a scoring standpoint, but, like Schroeder, he isn’t a guy who should be pacing your club.

There are bright spots. Raddysh has stepped up his game in his sophomore campaign, with seven goals and 14 helpers. Rookie Lucas Carlsson (6 G, 10 A) has also come on in the last few weeks in response to increased responsibility on the blue line.

Jacob Nilsson (7 G, 8 A), who was up for one game with the Blackhawks, has five goals this month. Nilsson isn’t going to lead this team to offensive respectability single-handed. Several players need to bring more to the table. Here are but a few:

Graham Knott (2 G, 6 A in 32 games)-If this kid could find the net on the opportunities he’s had, it certainly would help. Knott has had some top-six time at center and has put himself in places to score at times. He just hasn’t shown any knack for getting a puck past a goalie in his season-plus in Rockford.

Alexandre Fortin (2 G, 3 A in 10 games)-Fortin seems to be a bit more under control after a spell in Chicago. He’s now getting top-line minutes and power play time with the Hogs. Now would be a good time for him to go on a points explosion.

William Pelletier (0 G, 2 A in five games)-Recently returned from offseason surgery, Pelletier is a player who can be used throughout the lineup. He’s capable of chipping in on the offensive end; hopefully he’ll start making a dent as he gets more games under his belt.

You can also toss Sikura and Broadhurst onto that heap. Unless the organization swings a trade that brings a blue-chip AHL goal scorer to town (not counting on it), Rockford is going to have to pick it up throughout the lineup.

 

Roster Bits

On Friday, Jacob Nilsson was sent back to Rockford by the Blackhawks. He played in both weekend games against Chicago. Defenseman Dennis Gilbert suffered a lower body injury in Wednesday’s loss in Iowa. He did not suit up for either game this weekend.

Following Sunday’s trade with Edmonton, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a player assigned to Rockford from the current Hawks roster. If Garrison, who had 28 points (8 G, 20 A) in 58 games with the Wolves last season, gets through waivers, his shot would be a welcome pickup for the IceHogs.

 

Recaps

No lines this week.

Wednesday, December 26-Iowa 4, Rockford 0

This Boxing Day effort was nothing to write home about. The Hogs went to DesMoines and got shut out by Kaapo Kahkanen. The rookie goalie stopped 39 Rockford shots to continue his impressive season.

The IceHogs out shot Iowa 15-3 in the opening period, though neither team scored. The Wild took a 1-0 lead 3:11 into the second period on a Matt Bartkowski snipe. A defensive zone turnover led to a Gerry Fitzgerald goal at the 14:41 mark put the Hogs down a pair.

A Will Bitten tip-in made it 3-0 1:25 into the final frame and pretty much sealed the fate of Rockford. Hogs coach Derek King yanked starting goalie Kevin Lankinen for an extra skater with 3:17 remaining to try and foil the shutout bid, but Matt Read intercepted a pass and threw in an empty netter to close out the scoring.

Rockford denied three Wild power plays but failed to convert on four of its own man advantage opportunities.

 

Friday, December 28-Chicago 4, Rockford 2

Rockford dropped its second straight game despite leading twice in this game. Curtis McKenzie’s two goal effort provided the winning margin at the BMO Friday night.

After skating to the tune of no goals for most of the opening period, the teams traded goals in the latter part of the frame.

Jordan Schroeder got Rockford up 1-0 at the 15:26 mark. Schroeder got to a rebound off a Darren Raddysh shot at the right post, knocking his attempt through Wolves goalie Oscar Dansk and just across the goal line. Moments later, Chicago responded with a Curtis McKenzie goal. The teams went to the first intermission all even.

Lucas Carlsson was set up by Graham Knott early in the second period to give the Hogs a 2-1 lead. At the seven minute mark, the Wolves Keegan Kolesar potted the equalizer. After a delay of game penalty on Rockford, McKenzie drew cord on the power play for his second goal of the contest. His back hand attempt slipped under the stick arm of Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg at 11:24 to give Chicago a 3-2 advantage.

Late in the second period, the Wovles man advantage struck again. Dylan Coughlin sent a hard slap shot from the slot that skidded past Forsberg for a 4-2 Chicago lead with 14 seconds to play in the period.

The IceHogs made a push to get back into the contest but found the post uncooperative on numerous occasions in the third period. The Wolves couldn’t score, but didn’t need to.

Chicago won the special teams battle, converting twice in six chances. The IceHogs came up empty on four power play attempts.

 

Saturday, December 29-Chicago 2, Rockford 1 (OT)

The Hogs salvaged a point in Rosemont solely on the strength of Kevin Lankinen’s performance on the evening. The rookie goalie stopped 43 shots and weathered a first-period assault by the Wolves to keep his team in the game.

Chicago came out smoking; Lankinen fended off 25 of the 26 shots the Wolves sent at him in the opening frame. Brooks Macek capped an extended scrum in front of the crease by knocking in his 17th of the season at the 14:18 mark, giving Chicago a 1-0 lead that they would hold through the bulk of regulation.

Rockford managed to play a more competitive game after the first intermission. However, they wouldn’t come up with the equalizer until the waning minutes. Stefan Matteau provided the opportunity after throwing an elbow at the IceHogs Blake Hillman.

Nathan Noel and Curtis McKenzie were already in the bin of sin for an earlier altercation. As they exited the box, Jordan Schroeder faked the shotand hit Jacob Nilsson at the goal line with a pass. Nilsson got Wolves goalie Max Lagace to bite on a fake, scooted around the cage and beat Max Lagace to the right post. Nilsson’s wrap-around made it 1-1 with 3:25 remaining.

An IceHogs infraction would set up the Chicago game-winner. Rockford was called for too many men on the ice three minutes into Gus Macker Time. The Hogs got caught in a partial change and Macek set up McKenzie in front of the net. Lankinen stopped the point-blank chance, but Dylan Coughlin followed up on the rebound, backhanding the puck though Lankinen’s pads and across the goal line at 3:55 of overtime.

Both teams scored once on the power play; Rockford was one of four, while the Wolves were one for six.

 

This Week

The IceHogs will be in Grand Rapids Monday night to close out the 2018 portion of the schedule. Starting Wednesday, the Hogs will don their white sweaters at the BMO. First home date of the new year is with Milwaukee. Friday, Rockford travels to Iowa before hosting the Wild on Sunday afternoon.

 

Everything Else

Entering Friday’s game in Grand Rapids, the Rockford IceHogs are staring at three consecutive games this weekend. The piglets, who have already been struggling, will be missing their leading scorer, along with their most capable defender.

Dylan Sikura (9 G, 9 A) and Carl Dahlstrom were recalled this week to the Chicago Blackhawks, leaving several players behind that will need to pick up the slack. One of those players could be Alexandre Fortin, who was assigned to Rockford after spending the first couple of months with Chicago.

Provided no other team makes a claim, defenseman Jan Rutta may also be with the IceHogs in time to take part in this weekend’s action. How much impact Fortin and Rutta could have in Rockford remains to be seen. However, there are several players currently on the Hogs roster who would do well to step up. Time to name names…

 

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Tyler Sikura (5 G, 5 A)

Over his last ten games, Sikura the Elder has just one goal and one assist. He has been as active around the net as any of the Hogs have been in that time, but it hasn’t shown up on the scoreboard.

Anthony Louis (8 G, 5 A)

Last year’s points leader is scoreless in four December contests heading into Friday. His last goal came on November 23 in a loss to the Wolves.

Jordan Schroeder (4 G, 7 A)

Since returning from an injury that kept him out for a couple of weeks back in November, Schroeder has just one goal in ten contests. His other three goals this season have come off the power play, which has been a little quiet the last month.

Viktor Ejdsell (4 G, 7 A)

Ejdsell has a goal and five helpers in 16 games in November and December. He’s also carrying a minus-three skater rating in that span.

Darren Raddysh (5 G, 10 A)

In his last 11 games, Raddysh has a goal and two asssists.

Terry Broadhurst (2 G, 4 A)

Like Louis, Broadhurst is pointless in December. In his defense, he’s recently returned from injury. However, the Hogs thirst for veteran scoring and Broadhurst is one of the players who can help in this area.

Rockford’s best players are not producing on the scoreboard. That has to change soon. If each of the above players could get on the score sheet this weekend, I like the IceHogs chances for a couple of wins.

 

Who Could Provide Some Jump To The Lineup?

Well, Fortin brings speed. He had trouble hitting twine last season; perhaps he’ll come down from the NHL and contribute on the offensive end. It appears that William Pelletier could be ready to get his season started soon. He might be able to provide a spark.

You know what? If Graham Knott could convert on his scoring chances, you could see a scoring outburst out of him. He’s put himself in some high-percentage opportunities but just lacked the power to finish. Maybe it takes that one shot that gets past a goalie to open some sort of flood gate.

 

Statistics Of Note

With strong goal-tending this season, it should come as no surprise that the IceHogs are quite adept at killing penalties. Their kill rate of 87 percent is third in the AHL in this catagory. The power play is converting at just 14.5 percent, though.

The Hogs are still dead last in the league in goals and by a fair sight. They are scoring at a 2.27 goals per game clip. Rockford only gives up 2.88 goals per game, good for third in the AHL. As mentioned earlier, if the team’s top offensive players could start representing, the play in net could sustain a hot stretch.

As it is, Rockford (11-10-1-4) just hasn’t been able to string together victories. The IceHogs have not won more than two in a row all season long.

 

Three In Three

The weekend is book ended with meetings with the Griffins, with whom Rockford has split two previous meetings this season. The Hogs visit Van Andel Arena Friday and host Grand Rapids at the BMO Harris Bank Center Sunday afternoon.

Rockford has not fared well in Grand Rapids in recent seasons. In the past five years, the piglets are 5-11-3-0 at Van Andel Arena. The Giffins are third in the Central Division and are coming off of a 5-2 loss in Milwaukee Tuesday night.

On Saturday night, the IceHogs host Texas, who have won four straight and are fourth in the division standings. This is the third meeting between the two teams, having split the first two.

The Stars are scoring four goals a game and have the AHL’s second-best power play unit (28.4%). Leading the way for Texas is Eric Condra (13 G, 17 A), Denis Gurianov (9 G, 19 A), Justin Dowling (7 G, 17 A) and rookie Joel L’Esperance (12 G, 11 A).

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

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs came out of their first three-game weekend with a pair of victories and five of six possible points. However, that success was tempered a bit with two more injuries that are keeping a lot of Rockford skaters in street clothes.

The piglets sit in fourth place in the Central Division standings. Rockford defeated first-place Milwaukee on Friday before splitting a home-and-home with second place Iowa.

 

Add Snuggerud To The List Of Injured Hogs

Defenseman Luc Snuggerud hasn’t seen a lot of ice time this season. Saturday night, the second-year pro made his first appearance since October 20 in Tucson. Early in the second period, former Rockford forward Mike Liambas delivered a bit hit in the corner of the Hogs zone that sent Snuggerud to the ice unconscious.

First off, it was a completely legal hit. Liambas, who was not penalized on the play, doesn’t shy away from finishing checks. That said, both players were chasing a puck in the corner and Liambas planted his shoulder squarely into the chest of Snuggerud. Snuggerud’s head slammed into the glass and the young man was taken off the ice on a stretcher.

Snuggerud missed time last season after suffering a concussion, so it is very concerning to see him leave the ice like that. He was hospitalized for observation and sent home Sunday, though it’s hard to say when he’ll be back in action.

There are several players missing from the IceHogs lineup. The defense, in particular, has been hit hard, with four players out of commission in the wake of Snuggerud’s injury. Veteran Andrew Campbell left Saturday’s game with a leg issue when Snuggerud was taken off. He didn’t return and did not skate on Sunday.

Already among the injured were defensemen Carl Dahlstrom and Gustav Forsling. Both players are suffering from groin injuries. Forwards Matthew Highmore and Jordan Schroeder were also unavailable this weekend.

To bolster the blueline corps, Rockford recalled AHL signees Josh McArdle and Neil Manning from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. Both played on Sunday in Iowa as Colliton used all seven of his defensemen in the contest.

 

No Response

Tim Mattila, who was providing commentary with Joseph Zakrzewski on the Hogs broadcast, had this to say on the play that knocked out Snuggerud:

“I thought it was a clean hit, A, but, B, old school, somebody takes that guy out and does their thing, in my opinion,” he said. “That’s old school; that’s not the way it is anymore, but somebody would have challenged that guy, whoever it was that hit him, to a fight. Immediately. But that’s not the way it is nowadays.”

Moments later, Mattila again voiced his opinion on the hit, adding, “I don’t want to reiterate the fact…typically, someone would have taken care of somebody’s business there.”

Mattila’s comments were spot on; there was a time when it would not have come as a shock to see an IceHogs player come off the bench to dance, suspension be damned. I have no doubt Liambas would have obliged anyone who wished to discuss business with him.

In defense of the piglets, there seemed to be more concern for how Snuggerud was than getting in the face of Liambas, a longtime veteran with 87 AHL scraps under his belt.

It should also be pointed out that fighting is not Rockford’s thing; none of the current crop of IceHogs possess the skills to routinely drop gloves with any opponent. You may consider this a good thing or a bad thing; it is simply a fact.

Later in this contest, Henrik Samuelsson laid a check on Iowa’s Colton Beck and was immediately engaged by Wild defenseman Louis Belpedio. It was Belpedio’s first pro fight, though the two mostly jostled for position before being separated.

Snuggerud’s injury was not caused by Rockford’s lack of pugilistic fortitude. The IceHogs are not built to fight. They’re built to skate, so that’s what they do.

 

Spotlight On The Stat Sheet

One player who stepped up to lead the depleted back end was Darren Raddysh, who is now second on the team in points with nine. He got on the score sheet in both Rockford wins this weekend. Friday saw the second-year pro contribute a pair of goals. He tied the game in the third period in Milwaukee, then tossed in the game-winner against the Ads.

Also logging a three-point weekend was Dylan Sikura, who paces the Hogs with ten points (4 G, 6 A). Sikura the Younger has points in seven of Rockford’s first twelve games.

The team leader in goals, with six, is Anthony Louis, who had three in the two games with Iowa Saturday and Sunday. His goal at the BMO Saturday tied the game and earned the Hogs a point despite coming up short in the shootout.

 

Recaps

Work commitments kept me out of the basement most of the weekend. Maybe not the worst thing for me, but no lines this week.

 

Friday, November 2-Rockford 3, Milwaukee 2 (OT)

The Hogs earned two points at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, thanks in part to a pair of goals from Darren Raddysh.

Milwaukee took a 1-0 lead 14:o2 into the game on Zach Magwood’s first pro goal, a snipe from the right dot that got by the glove of Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg. Rockford was quick to tie the score after killing off an Ads power play.

Jacob Nilsson, in the bin of sin for a hook, came back onto the ice as the penalty expired and was greeted by a loose puck skidding into the neutral zone. He skated hard to the Milwaukee net only to have his backhand attempt broken up. A persistent Nilsson chased down the puck behind the net, skated to the corner and hit Dylan Sikura at the bottom of the right circle. Sikura buried the puck past Admirals goalie Tom McCullom for the equalizer at 16:59 of the first.

Magwood’s one-timer from between the circles gave Milwaukee a 2-1 advantage 4:20 into the second period. Rockford, who spent a lot of time killing penalties on the evening, went to the locker room down a goal.

The IceHogs killed off three more penalties in the third, stopping all seven Milwaukee power plays on the evening. Rockford tied the game on a Darren Raddysh blast from the right point at 12:08 after Nilsson brought the puck into the Milwaukee zone and dropped a pass to the second-year defenseman.

Gus Macker Time was pretty eventful after neither team could settle things in regulation. Terry Broadhust was defending Admirals forward Anthony Richard two minutes into extra hockey when Richard stumbled head first into the half boards. It appeared that Richard had either caught a rut in the ice or taken a stick to the shins. No penalty was called on the play; Richard skated off to the locker room  and the game continued.

Lucas Carlsson broke up a Milwaukee 2-on-1 to set up the game winner. The Hogs brought the puck back into the Ads zone, where Raddysh was hooked by Colin Blackwell. Rockford sent an extra skater into the fray on the delayed penalty.

Fittingly, Raddysh one-timed a shot from the left dot moments later to end the game in favor of the IceHogs. The goal came at 3:33 of overtime.

Forsberg stopped 22 of 24 Milwaukee shots to pick up the win. Magwood earned First Star honors from the home press box, followed by Raddysh and Anthony Louis. The IceHogs went 0-5 on the power play, but stopped all seven Milwaukee power play chances.

 

Saturday, November 3-Iowa 2, Rockford 1 (SO)

Rockford skated with an abbreviated blueline for the bulk of the night but still managed to come out of the game with a point. Collin Delia stopped all but one of the 42 shots the Wild heaped on him.

The Wild’s only goal in regulation came just 1:51 into the game when a Brennan Menell offering slipped through traffic to the back of the IceHogs net. Rockford trailed 1-0 after the first twenty minutes.

Early in the second period, Luc Snuggerud took a hit in the corner of the Wild zone from Iowa’s Mike Liambas. His head slammed into the glass as he went down and the second-year defenseman was stretchered off the ice. As that was taking place, Andrew Campbell also skated to the locker room.

Despite having just four defensemen available the rest of the way, the IceHogs stayed in the contest. Rockford tied the game late in the second after Tyler Sikura won a battle for the puck along the half boards in neutral ice.

Sikura passed to Henrik Samuelsson as he entered the Iowa zone. Samuelsson skated to the doorstep before backhanding a pass to Anthony Louis as he came down the right side. Louis back-doored Wild goalie Kaapo Kahkonen at 17:01 of the second.

The score remained 1-1 through regulation and overtime; Delia stopped 19 Iowa shots in that span. The Wild fared better in the shootout, as Sam Anas and Gerry Fitzgerald converted in the first two rounds. Kahkonen stopped Viktor Ejdsell and Louis to close out the contest.

Both teams had four power plays on the night. Neither team could cash in on any of them.

 

Sunday, November 4-Rockford 4, Iowa 2

Rockford got a pair of goals in a 1:05 span in the opening period. The first was set up by Dennis Gilbert, who broke up an entry pass attempt by the Wild. Darren Raddysh collected the puck and made a stretch pass to Viktor Ejdsell. In the resulting 2-on-1, Ejdsell fed Dylan Sikura for the lamp lighter at 7:29 of the first.

Shortly thereafter, Anthony Louis pounced on an Iowa turnover along the half boards near the red line and skated the puck into the Wild zone. He fired from the left dot past the glove of Iowa goalie Andrew Hammond for a 2-0 Hogs advantage at the 8:34 mark.

The Wild got the next two goals of the game. Matt Bartkowski finished a 3-on-1 rush at 11:54 of the first. Later, on a Wild man advantage, Ryan Kloos sent a wrister from the slot than sneaked under the pads of Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg 3:52 into the second period.

Rockford regained the lead on a power play goal. Jacob Nilsson potted his first of the season, putting back a rebound of a Lucas Carlsson point shot. The goal came at 16:44 of the period and made it 3-2 Hogs going into the second intermission.

The Hogs failed to build on the lead despite a couple of power play chances in the third period, but Forsberg kept Iowa at bay for the remainder of the game. The Wild pulled Hammond in the final minutes, leading to Louis denting the empty net for his second goal of the night.

Forsberg made 31 stops on the evening to pick up his second win of the season. Nilsson was the game’s first star, followed by Cal O’Reilly of the Wild and Louis.

The power play was one-for-six on the night, while the Wild was one-for-five.

 

Good Morning, Sunshine

Rockford faces off with the Wild for the third game in a row when they host Iowa Wednesday morning at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Then, the Hogs are off on their longest road trek of the 2017-18 campaign. The six-game jaunt gets underway Friday and Saturday with visits to Milwaukee and Chicago.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs returned to Illinois yesterday on the heels of a solid road trip. The Hogs picked up three of a possible four points in their Friday and Saturday dates with the Tucson Roadrunners.

Both games saw Rockford rally from multiple-goal deficits. Special teams played a bit part in the successs of the piglets, who lost an overtime decision Friday before pulling out a win the following evening.

The IceHogs now settle in at the BMO Harris Bank Center, where they begin a stretch of five of the next seven games at home. Rockford plays host to San Antonio Wednesday before being visited by Cleveland Saturday and Manitoba Sunday.

The Hogs are fifth in the Central Division standings with a .583 points percentage. Coach Jeremy Colliton’s club is putting pucks in the net and are showing that same never-say-die attitude that made last year’s pack of prospects so entertaining.

Question is…will this youthful, entertaining bunch bring in the box office?

 

Bringing ‘Em Into The BMO

Last week (October 12 to be exact), the IceHogs put out a release previewing that weekend’s home openers. The story drew my attention due to a quote from defenseman Carl Dahlstrom concerning the BMO faithful. This comes directly from the article on the Hogs site; I italicized the part of the quote that caught my eye.

“We have one of the fan bases in the league,” defenseman Carl Dahlstrom, who skated in each of Rockford’s 13 playoff games last spring, said. “I’m hoping they can really show that when we play in front of them this year.”

Obviously, a word was omitted. It happens to us all. I’m sure the missing word from Dahlstrom’s quote was “best” or something similar to the sentiment. I kidded on twitter the next day:

The one speculation that was based in fact? Smallest.

As I’ve pointed out on several occasions on this forum, attendance at the BMO has dropped significantly over the past two seasons. Here are the season averages the last three years:

2015-16-5014-Franchise record and the fourth straight season in which average attendance increased from the previous year.

2016-17-4328-Historically poor on-ice performance, last place finish in the Central Division.

2017-18-3915-Young, exciting team morphs into an experienced, exciting team and reaches the conference final. Still, Rockford finishes the regular season 27th out of 30 AHL teams in attendance.

2018-19-?????????

Following the Hogs reaching an apex in attendance, there were two straight years of prodigious drops in fan interest. The shift from the last two years (686 and 413, respectively) represented the widest such disparities in the history of the franchise. Nearly every other shift trended higher, not lower.

The last, and only, drop in yearly attendance came in 2011-12, when the drop was 116 fans from the season before. That could easily be explained away as the season average increased by 860 fans over the next four years.

Over the last two seasons, nearly eleven-hundred fewer fans came through the gates per game. How could this be explained away? Allow me to grasp at some straws. Here goes…

People stayed away because the hockey stank.

Very true following 2016-17. Not sure why that continued with a better on-ice product, though perhaps last year’s club suffered from an aftershock from the putrid season before. If I had to put a finger on the reason attendance has dropped, this issue would be first and foremost.

 

People stayed away because they were out following high school sports.

I hear that one occasionally, mostly in the fall. Yes, a lot of people like to follow high school football. However, the local sports scene in Northern Illinois hasn’t changed significantly in the past two years.

 

People stayed away because they couldn’t see folks punching each other.

I hear this lament from many of the old guard fans, though some would quickly poo-poo this. Fighting has dropped to the point of being non-existent in Rockford, but I enjoy the game the piglets showcase at the BMO. So would a lot of other fans if they could take off their sluggin’ goggles for a couple of minutes.

 

People stayed away because they’re old and don’t want to go out.

I have seen quite a number of those old guard Hogs fans scaling back on the number of games they attend. Then again, I’m sure that happens in a lot of places. Time keeps on ticking away…

 

People stayed away because they feel they aren’t accommodated enough.

The season ticket base is afforded many amenities by the organization (Full disclosure; I’ve been a season ticket holder for eight years). Long-time Hogs fans can become a bit spoiled in this area.

As is always the case with a lower-level pro sports franchise, there is always going to be some turnover as people move on to bigger and better things. I still believe that the team is very fan-oriented and are great at working with the season ticket base for a great experience.

I don’t require a butler or anything to go catch a hockey game. Being a season ticket holder has plenty of perks without one.

That said, I will point out one practice I’d like to see more of.

During the 2012-13 season, the team started making players available for autographs outside the “Stars Of Tomorrow” display at the BMO Harris Bank Center. You could go out during the second intermission and get your program or a puck signed by a couple of players. A couple of seasons ago, the team abruptly halted the concept.

At the season opener on October 13, the IceHogs had Luc Snuggerud and William Pelletier signing at a table out in the concourse. Sunday didn’t feature a similar event, but it appears that it will be happening on occasion throughout the season. Kudos.

Is having the evenings scratches out signing autographs going to raise attendance back to the 4500-per-night range? Probably not, but it is a magnanimous nod to the fans.

The IceHogs had record attendance for their run through the playoffs this past spring. That included averaging well over 3,000 a night for the three weekday games that normally top out at half that in previous postseasons. So maybe word will get out and the numbers will pick up this winter.

With this being the 20th anniversary of IceHogs hockey in Rockford (including the UHL days), it would be great to see those attendance figures back on the rise. The brand of hockey is exciting (again) and it’s worth heading over on I-90 to check it out.

Numbers Of Note

The IceHogs special teams loomed large in this weekend’s action. Rockford was 5-12 on the man advantage against Tucson. They also turned away the Roadrunners 5-on-3 advantages in the third period of both games.

For the season, the Hogs are converting 29.6 percent of their power play opportunities. That’s good for a tie with Texas for third in the Western Conference. At 84 percent efficiency, the penalty kill unit is fifth in the conference.

Three of those power play goals have come from Jordan Schroeder. He’s in a tie for third in the league in that category.

Dylan Sikura, with six points (1 G, 5 A), is 13th in the AHL among rookie skaters. He’s third in the league in rookie assists. He leads Rockford in points along with his brother Tyler, who has a team-high four goals and a pair of helpers.

Sikura the Elder is also carrying a skater rating of plus-three; tops among the IceHogs forwards. His empty netter to close out Saturday’s win in Tucson kept alive a five-game point streak. Schroeder and Anthony Louis each have three goals for the Hogs; each are working on three-game point streaks.

The defense is paced by Darren Raddysh, who has a goal and three assists so far this season. Carl Dahlstrom has three helpers despite not finding the back of the net in the first couple of weeks.

The goalie numbers are not especially impressive, though opposing skaters are getting a lot of quality chances. Collin Delia has been much better than his 3.26 goals against average would indicate. He is stopping 91 percent of the shots fired upon him and is 3-1 on the season.

Kevin Lankinen (3.39, .825) isn’t boasting gaudy stats, though he has kept the IceHogs in both of his starts.

 

Recaps

Friday, October 19-Tucson 4, Rockford 3 (OT)

Erasing a three-goal deficit in the last 30 minutes of action earned the IceHogs a road point. However, Tucson spoiled the good feelings by nabbing the third point late in overtime.

Rockford had back-to-back power plays early in the contest but couldn’t convert. Tucson went up a man following a Terry Broadhurst slashing penalty and wasted no time getting a puck in Kevin Lankinen’s net. Immediately after the faceoff, Kyle Capobianco sent a shot toward the Rockford net. Michael Bunting was in front with the redirect to give Tucson a 1-0 advantage at 10:22 of the first.

The Roadrunners very nearly took a 2-0 lead in the waning seconds of the period, after a furious charge ended with the puck in the Hogs cage. However, it was ruled that the clock had expired before the goal line had been crossed. Rockford went into the locker room only down a goal.

Tucson’s power play unit struck again 5:28 into the second period. The goal was set up by Trevor Murphy, who got behind the net and got Lankinen out of position before hitting Adam Helewka at the right dot for the one-timer. That lead was stretched to 3-0 after a turnover led to a Trevor Cheek goal at the 10:24 mark.

Rockford got on the board shortly after the resulting faceoff. Anthony Louis chased down Henrik Samuelsson’s dump-in attempt in the right corner of the Tucson zone. Louis centered to Tyler Sikura, who was skating hard through the slot. The one-timer got over the glove of Roadrunners goalie Adin Hill at 10:46 of the second to cut the lead to 3-1.

The IceHogs drew to within a goal midway through the third after the penalty kill team came up large. Matteo Gennero was sent to the box for interference, allowing Louis to get a puck into the offensive zone. Terry Broadhurst got control of the puck along the right halfboards and sent it back to Louis in the high slot. The shot was true and rubber connected with twine to close the gap to 3-2 at the 9:53 mark.

Another Gennero penalty, this time a cross-check, gave Rockford another special teams opportunity. The Hogs converted when Jordan Schroeder knocked in a loose puck past Hill at 15:17, evening the score at three goals. Tucson had some chances to clear the puck after Darren Raddysh sent it off the end boards, but the biscuit tricked over to Schroeder at the left post.

Rockford had to turn in a big effort to keep the game tied in the waning minutes of regulation. The IceHogs killed off 1:16 of 5-on-3 hockey to force Gus Macker Time. In the extra session, both teams had chances denied by the goalies. Jacob Nilsson kept a sliding puck out of the net to keep the piglets hopes for a win alive. However, Conor Garland led an odd man rush late in overtime and found the cord with 27 seconds remaining to end the game.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura (A)-Anthony Louis

Terry Broadhurst-Luke Johnson-Jordan Schroeder (A)

Matthew Highmore-Jacob Nilsson-Dylan Sikura

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Viktor Ejdsell

Andrew Campbell (A)-Joni Tuulola

Blake Hillman-Carl Dahlstrom

Lucas Carlsson-Darren Raddysh

Kevin Lankinen

Power Play (2-6)

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

Highmore-Ejdsell-Louis-Broadhurst-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Tucson was 2-7)

Highmore-Nilsson-Dahlstrom-Hillman

Johnson-Knott-Gilbert-Tuulola

T. Sikura-Broadhurst-Carlsson-Raddysh

 

Saturday, October 20-Rockford 5, Tucson 3

The power play was the catalyst for the season’s first road victory. The IceHogs rallied from a two-goal hole, burning the Roadrunners for three scores. Collin Delia had a big night as Rockford made a big defensive stand in the final 20 minutes.

Tucson took advantage of a turnover by the Hogs penalty kill unit early in the game. Jens Looke wound up with a shot from the high slot; the puck glanced off Collin Delia’s blocker and tumbled into the net. This gave the Roadrunners a 1-0 lead 5:49 into the contest.

The IceHogs tied the game at 9:59 of the first when Luke Johnson got credit for his first goal of the season. After Jacob Nilsson won an offensive draw at the left dot, Dylan Sikura got him the puck at the goal line. Nilsson’s centering pass struck Johnson’s leg and settled into the Tucson cage.

The Roadrunners regained the lead when a ring-around attempt by Joni Tuulola caught the skate of the official and hopped into open ice. Tucson pounced on the loose puck, resulting in Lane Pederson firing from the slot over Delia’s glove. At the 15:29 mark, the Hogs trailed 2-1. That score held up through the first intermission.

A Trevor Murphy snipe made it 3-1 Tucson 4:30 into the second period and it appeared that the game may be getting away from the piglets. That all changed in a 22-second span near the midway point of the game.

Roadrunners defensemen Kyle Capobianco and Dysin Mayo wound up in the box in quick succession in the seventh minute. Jordan Schroeder and Darren Raddysh played catch between the circles until Schroeder gained the space to sling home his third goal of the season past Tucson goalie Hunter Miska. This pulled Rockford to within a goal of Tucson at the 7:42 mark.

The IceHogs still had a man advantage to work with following the goal and got right back to work. Carl Dahlstrom took in a nice no-look pass from Terry Broadhurst and set up Anthony Louis for a one-timer from the right dot. Just like that, the game was tied at three goals 8:04 into the second.

Late in the period, Delia made a fantastic stop, gloving a shot just as former Hogs forward Laurent Dauphin crashed into the blue paint. The resulting penalty carried over into the final 20 minutes.

On that man advantage, Rockford moved the puck around the Tucson zone with aplomb. It didn’t take long for the Hogs to punch in the game-winning goal. It came off of the stick of Terry Broadhurst, who took a pass from Johnson at the top of the left circle and fired past Miska. For the first time all weekend, the IceHogs held the lead, going up 4-3 1:22 into the third period.

Holding that lead wouldn’t be easy. The Roadrunners peppered Delia with 16 shots in the last 20 minutes of action. The pivotal stretch came midway through the third when Nathan Noel was called for a slash. Just 37 seconds into the Tucson power play, Delia was whistled for delay of game after knocking the goal post off its mooring.

Rockford dug in and, for the second straight night, killed off a two-man advantage on the road in the latter stages of the game. Tucson had an extended spell in the Hogs zone a few minutes later with a stick-less Delia to shoot at. However, they were denied by the Rockford defense. Miska was pulled with just under two minutes remaining. Tyler Sikura won a battle for a loose puck in neutral ice and threw in the back-breaker at 18:26 of the third.

Delia denied 35 Tucson shot attempts on the evening and was a big part of the win. However, Broadhust was named the game’s First Star, followed by Dahlstrom and Johnson.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Jeremy Colliton went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the first time this season.

Terry Broadhurst-Luke Johnson-Jordan Schroeder (A)

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura (A)-Anthony Louis

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Jacob Nilsson-Dylan Sikura

Andrew Campbell-Blake Hillman

Joni Tuulola-Carl Dahlstrom

Luc Snuggerud-Darren Raddysh

Lucas Carlsson

Collin Delia

Power Play (3-6)

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

Nilsson-Johnson-Louis-Broadhurst-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Tucson was 1-6)

Noel-Nilsson-Dahlstrom-Hillman

Johnson-Knott-Campbell-Tuulola

T. Sikura-Broadhurst-Carlsson-Raddysh

 

Mid-Week Preview: Hogs vs San Antonio

The Rampage come to the BMO Wednesday night; they are in action the night before in Milwaukee. San Antonio is currently 1-5 and in the basement of the AHLs Central Division. This is the first season that the Blues are the sole parent team of the Rampage.

Key additions to the San Antonio lineup include Brian Flynn, who was a leader in Texas as they marched to the Calder Cup Final last spring. After a 47-point (18 G, 29 A) season with the Stars, Flynn is now in a similar role with the Rampage.

Trevor Smith comes over from Milwaukee, where he spent the last two seasons of his 11-year AHL career. Last season, he had 43 points (17 G, 26 A). The 6’1”, 200-pounder is a very capable AHL center who can put up offense.

Chris Thorburn is coming off of 12 seasons in the NHL for Pittsburgh, Atlanta/Winnipeg and St. Louis. He’s a big, physical forward with 118 NHL scraps to his name. His only full AHL campaign was in 2005-06, when he had 23 goals, 27 assists and ten fighting majors. He has yet to appear in a game for the Rampage.

Unlike Thorburn, Jordan Nolan has been an on-ice presence for San Antonio. He is a veteran of 361 NHL games, mostly with the Kings. Nolan is another big-physical forward (6’3”) with a propensity for fighting. He has 30 NHL fighting majors and 19 AHL FMs.

The Rampage don’t return a lot in the way of offense; the leading returning scorer from the 2017-18 forward group is Klim Kostin, who totaled six goals and 22 helpers last year in his rookie season.

Rookie center Zach Sanford has a pair of goals for San Antonio this season. He’s the only member of the Rampage with more than one; the team has just 13 goals in six games.

Defenseman Chris Butler has nearly 400 games of NHL experience with the Sabres, Flames and Blues. He has spent most of the past three seasons in the AHL. Last year he had 29 points (8 G, 21 A) for San Antonio.

Joey LaLeggia is a skilled point man who comes over from Bakersfield, where he played for the past three seasons. In 2017-18, he had 15 goals and 28 assists with the Condors. Tyler Wotherspoon comes over from the Stockton Heat, where he spent the last three seasons. He had career-highs in goals (7) assists (30) and points (37) with the Heat last year. He is entering his sixth AHL campaign.

Sam Lofquist is 28 and has spent the last seven years playing in Europe. He skates pretty well, has a big shot and is a physical player. He has a goal and an assist in three appearances to pace the San Antonio blueline. Rookie Mitch Reinke also has a goal and assist.

Goalie Jordan Binnington is a familiar face from his time with the Wolves, where he played three full seasons before being loaned to Providence by the Blues last year. There, he posted a 2.05 goals against average and a .926 save percentage in 28 games with the Bruins.

Ville Husso begins his third season with the Blues organization. He played 38 games for the Rampage last year, with a 2.42 GAA and a .922 save percentage. He’s started five of San Antonio’s first six games this month, sporting a 3.24 goals against average and an .893 save percentage.

I’ll be back on Friday to preview the Monsters and Moose tilts as well as a recap of Wednesday’s action. Until then, follow me @JonFromi on twitter for game updates, IceHogs thoughts and analysis all season long.

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs were deep on the defensive side in 2018-19. It was in this area where the club had an abundance of experience to start the season. It only got better in the spring as some key pickups further strengthened Rockford on the way to a long playoff run.

Back with a look at the back end of the roster, here are my thoughts on the defense.

The Sparkplugs

Cody Franson (37 games, 9 G, 19 A, plus-nine)

Adam Clendening (38 games, 4 G, 26 A, plus-two)

The addition of these two veteran blueliners completely changed the course of the IceHogs fortunes. The power play went from being a laughing stock to the most dangerous in the AHL.

Franson performed like you would expect a NHL-level talent to upon arriving in Rockford. The 30-year-old Franson immediately became a locker room sage and offensive catalyst, with six power play goals in the regular season, then four more in the playoffs. A point a game player in the postseason (6 G, 7 A), Franson totaled 15 goals and 41 points in 50 games in an IceHogs sweater.

Clendening, who was returning to Rockford after stints in several other organizations, saw his scoring touch return in a big way. After five points in 21 games for Tuscon to begin the season, Clendening went on a tear and wound up leading all Hogs defensemen in scoring despite joining Rockford well into the season.

So far as a return engagement from this exciting duo…

Franson was quite open about his future (or non-future to be more accurate) in the organization past this season. His steamrolling through the AHL might open a few doors as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

On the other hand, Clendening is an RFA and could be re-signed at low cost to the Blackhawks. The question is, will Chicago tender an offer to a player who couldn’t secure an NHL spot in the organization in his first go-round? Clendening would be a nice piece to start building next fall’s Hogs roster; we’ll see what transpires in the next couple weeks.

 

The Big Guy

Viktor Svedberg (73 games, 6 G, 18 A, plus-18)

The 6-9 Swede began his time in the organization as a project; Svedberg is now a UFA following his fifth season, most of which was spent with the IceHogs.

I’ll come right out and say it. Svedberg brought an awful lot to the table in 2017-18. Here’s why:

This was easily his best season from an offensive standpoint. He also potted a couple of big shootout goals when called upon.

Svedberg began the season healthy and stayed that way, playing a career-high 73 games. For a guy who had trouble staying on the ice in past years, it was satisfying to see him showcase his game.

Svedberg still gets a bad rap from some Rockford fans for his defensive liabilities, which were on full display for most of his first three seasons. That’s too bad, because he was arguably the IceHogs best defender this year.

I could count on one hand the number of times that Svedberg was caught out of position in his own zone, leading to an open shot attempt. He is never going to be a player who can use his skating ability to get him out of trouble. However, he has learned to take advantage of his reach and positioning to be effective.

Svedberg was often an alternate captain (coach Jeremy Colliton never named a captain this season) and was one of the few skaters (before DiDomenico and Lance Bouma showed up) willing to stick his nose into a scrum. When Franson arrived, Svedberg completed a very solid (and physically imposing) top pairing.

Svedberg has come a long way in five years and certainly could provide some organizational depth and leadership in Rockford. It will be interesting to see what offers he fields in free agency.

 

The All-Star

Carl Dahlstrom (64 games, 3 G, 28 A, plus-14)

Dahlstrom was a substitute for Erik Gustafsson in the AHL’s All-Star Classic and took his game up a notch in his second full season in Rockford.

Dahlstrom was a steady defender and took a bigger role at the other end of the ice in 2017-18. He looked a lot more confident bringing the puck out of his zone this season and earned a stint in Chicago late in the spring. It seems likely that he is in line to earn a spot on the Hawks roster in training camp the way things look right now.

Franson and Clendening altered the pecking order among the defensemen; Dahlstrom definitely had a reduced role on the power play. His shot attempts at even strength took a hit as well, with a drop in frequency of about 23 percent after he came back from Chicago in March.

Dahlstrom last drew cord for the Hogs on January 13. In his last 26 regular season games with the Hogs, he managed just nine assists. Dahlstrom rebounded in the playoffs with three goals and six helpers.

 

The Passed Over

Gustav Forsling (18 games, 2 G, 3 A, minus-four)

The other player most affected by Franson and Clendening’s presence was Forsling. When he was sent to Rockford in January, he scored in his season debut with the Hogs, then went dormant offensively. Once the vets joined the team the next month, there wasn’t much of an offensive role for the 21-year-old.

Forsling got some time quarterbacking the second power play unit. He had one assist on the man advantage in the regular season and another one in the playoffs. He was a bit more noticeable in the postseason, with a goal and five helpers. However, most of his time was spent on the bottom pairing.

Forsling did not distinguish himself on the scoreboard in his time in Rockford. At the same time, he didn’t defend very well either, at least in my opinion. Had Forsling had a more prominent spot in the lineup, he might have picked up his play in the latter part of the season. That didn’t happen.

 

The Prospects

Darren Raddysh (66 games, 5 G, 17 A, plus-ten)

Luc Snuggerud (40 games, 5 G, 12 A, minus-three)

Robin Norell (63 games, 2 G, 5 A, plus-two)

Raddysh had the biggest impact of these three players, earning himself an NHL entry deal from Chicago last month. He found himself in the lineup over several players with NHL contracts this past season, something that also held true nine times in the playoffs.

Snuggerud’s rookie season was interrupted for two months after suffering an upper body injury December 8. He had a pair of goals and eight assists after returning in February, but did not suit up in the postseason.

Norell’s campaign began with a savage beat-down at the hands of Brett Gallant in Cleveland opening night. It ended in the press box in the postseason.

After a four-game point streak in December, Norell went 43 games without a goal or an assist until getting a goal in the regular season finale in Chicago. This, despite playing as a forward for much of that time with line mates who regularly found the net.

His defensive play at forward was often praised by Colliton, though apparently not enough to get him on the ice at any position in the playoffs.

Norell skates hard, but isn’t a real physical player and isn’t gifted with a great shot. It may be hard for him to find time on the blueline this fall.

 

The Other Guys

Ville Pokka (4 G, 18 A) played 46 games in Rockford before being traded to Ottawa for Chris DiDomenico. Pokka was perfectly serviceable for the Hogs but was spinning his tires in the organization. The return on the exchange was a vital part of Rockford’s late season success.

Gustafsson (3 G, 14 A) was with the Hogs for 25 games before spending the remainder of the season in Chicago. Joni Tuulola was scoreless in two regular season games and four postseason appearances.

Also putting up goose eggs in limited action in 2017-18 were AHL contracts Brandon Anselmini and Robin Press, who each got into seven games.  Former Hog Nolan Valleau was brought in on a PTO for three games and then released.

 

Where Does The D Go From Here?

Chicago has added Dennis Gilbert, Lucas Carlsson and Henri Jokiharju to the list of prospects on defense. With Tuulola set to begin his rookie season and five holdovers, the position is crowded even without a veteran signing like Clendening or Svedberg.

As is the case at every position, the next month will surely see some turnover. The blueline will certainly be a lot younger in 2018-19.

This week, I hope to start sifting through the forwards in one additional installment of my year-end look at the IceHogs. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the Hogs throughout the summer.