Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs had weekend plans with the Iowa Wild. They still do…kinda.

The AHL, in response to COVID-related issues in the Wild organization, pushed back what would have been Friday and Saturday games at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Instead, the two games are now scheduled for Sunday, March 21, and Tuesday, March 23.

Rockford’s schedule has been altered several times this season. Each time, the issues have been in the opponent’s camp. Right now, it still appears that the IceHogs, who have won two straight games, will have a chance to extend that streak against a struggling Iowa team that has dropped its last five contests.

 

McLaughlin Strikes Twice

Forward Dylan McLaughin is one of many AHL contracts signed by the Hogs that has capitalized on an increased role on the team this season. McLaughlin split his rookie season between Rockford and Indy; he had two goals and five helpers in 28 games with the IceHogs and 13 goals and 11 assists in 20 games with the Fuel.

McLaughlin spent most of 2019-20 as a fourth-line skater and penalty killer. Lately, he has seen a lot of top-six minutes and also has a spot on a power-play unit. As a result, McLaughlin is having his most noticeable stretch in his short IceHogs career.

Rockford got game-winning overtime goals from McLaughlin in consecutive victories over Grand Rapids on Saturday and Tuesday. He also assisted on the two goals that tied each game for the IceHogs.

McLaughlin, who spent four seasons at Canisius College before starting his pro career, is now second on the team in scoring with seven points (2 G, 5 A) in ten games for Rockford. So far this season, he’s made the most of the chances afforded to him.

 

Roster News

On Tuesday, it was announced that the Blackhawks had signed forward Josiah Slavin to a two-year entry contract that begins this fall. The IceHogs inked Slavin, whose season at Colorado College ended recently, to an amateur tryout, which should run through the rest of the AHL season.

Wednesday, Rockford assigned G Tom Aubrun to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. The Blackhawks sent F Brandon Pirri from the taxi squad to the IceHogs. Pirri had two goals and an assist in two games with Rockford earlier this month.

D Anton Lindholm got into his first game action of the season for Rockford Tuesday after suffering a broken thumb in training camp. Also returning to action Tuesday was forward Michal Teply.

 

Tuesday, March 16-Rockford 2, Grand Rapids 1 (OT)

Rockford won its second-straight game in Grand Rapids, prevailing in nearly the exact manner of Saturday’s overtime victory. This time, Matt Tomkins made 46 saves, allowing Dylan McLaughlin to pot another game-winner for the Hogs.

The Griffins took advantage of an ill-advised pass attempt by Hogs rookie defenseman Alec Regula to take a 1-0 advantage midway through the first period. Regula was in the corner of his own zone and tried to send a no-look backhand pass to Dylan McLaughlin.

The pass did not connect; instead, the puck found the stick of Givani Smith. A quick pass to Chase Pearson at the left post was knocked past Tomkins at the 10:26 mark. The Hogs were out shot 16-9 in the opening twenty and went to the locker room down a goal.

Rockford capitalized on a Griffins turnover to tie the game early in the second stanza. Grand Rapids captain Brian Lashoff was unable to gather in a bouncing puck in the corner of the Griffins zone. McLauglin swooped in to take control and sent the puck out to Cody Franson at the right point.

Franson’s shot was stopped by Grand Rapids goalie Calvin Pickard, but McLaughlin gathered in the rebound and sent it to the blue paint. Gabriel Gagne slid the biscuit across the goal line 1:15 into the second to make it a 1-1 game.

The Griffins kept Rockford on its heels for most of the remainder of the second period. Tomkins, as he had in Saturday’s Hogs victory, kept his team in the game with many point-blank stops. Grand Rapids out shot the piglets 16-3 in the third period. Tomkins sent them away time and again, including two power plays in the final twenty minutes.

The ending was short, sweet, and nearly a carbon copy of Saturday’s triumph. The Griffins won the opening faceoff in Gus Macker Time and got set to bring it up the ice. A long stretch pass knocked the stick out of Tim Soderlund’s hands, effectively making it a 3-on-2 Grand Rapids advantage. No matter.

Issak Phillips retrieved the loose puck and skated into the offensive zone. With all three Griffins defenders surrounding him at the right dot, Phillips dropped a pass to McLaughlin. The resulting shot to the far corner caught twine and earned Rockford the win 19 seconds into the extra session.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Andrei Altybarmakyan-MacKenzie Entwistle-D.J. Busdeker

Matej Chalupa-Evan Barratt-Michal Teply

Tim Soderlund-Dylan McLaughlin-Gabriel Gagne

Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Mitchell Fossier

Alec Regula-Cody Franson (A)

Anton Lindholm-Michael Krutil

Issak Phillips-Dimitry Osipov

Matt Tomkins

Cale Morris

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

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, are opening the 2020-21 season. Just not the way we thought they would.

The young Hogs were supposed to raise the curtain against the Cleveland Monsters, who were set to visit Rockford this weekend. Unfortunately, the AHL’s COVID-19 protocols have prevented this from happening. The two games have been postponed. Stepping in as an opponent are the Chicago Wolves, who will take on the piglets Saturday at 3:00 p.m.

There are plenty of top-level prospects on the Chicago roster, along with a host of players who have multiple seasons of AHL experience. This is in stark contrast to the IceHogs roster.

Of the 30 players listed on the IceHogs roster heading into Saturday, 17 of them have yet to play an AHL game. Four players (Garrett Mitchell, Cody Franson, Gabriel Gagne, and John Quenneville) have combined for 974 of the 1281 AHL games played by this year’s team.

You could say “Well, everyone’s in the same boat this season.” However, the Hogs are dead last in the AHL in games played by almost 400 games. The Wolves have 17 players on their 30-man roster with at least 50 games of AHL experience. Rockford has just seven.

In his media session this week, head coach Derek King stressed patience with a young squad that will be making a lot of mistakes as they learn the professional game. Regarding the match-up with Cleveland, King was realistic about his young team, especially at forward, where he described the IceHogs as “young and naive”.

“I don’t think they know what’s going to hit them,” King said, “until that first game when the game is really on the line.”

Though King was referring to the scheduled first game with the Monsters, the same thoughts apply for Chicago, who beat Rockford 6-1 last week in the piglets sole preseason tilt.

Here’s what’s going to hit the Hogs at the BMO Harris Bank Center Saturday afternoon.

A Look At The Chicago Wolves

Chicago is drawing prospects from two NHL clubs; Carolina and Nashville.

Carolina just vacated Charlotte as its AHL affiliate, but not before the Checkers won the 2019 Calder Cup. Nashville’s affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, was the best team in the league when play stopped last spring. The Ads elected to sit out this shortened season and send their prospects to Chicago.

The result of this dual affiliation is that the Wolves are loaded.

Both of Carolina’s first-round picks from 2019 and 2020, Ryan Suzuki and Seth Jarvis, have turned pro and are on the Wolves roster. Suzuki played for Canada in this year’s World Junior Championships. Jarvis is coming off a 98-point season with Portland of the WHL.

Nashville’s first-rounder from 2019, Philip Tomasino, will also be entering his rookie season with the Wolves. He had six points (4 G, 2 A) for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships. Dominik Bokk is also a former number one selection, by St. Louis in the 2018 NHL Draft, making his league debut.

Drew Shore, who has AHL service time for the Panthers and Flames, spent the last four years in Europe. Orland Park native Dave Gust posted 31 points (11 G, 20 A) for Charlotte in 60 games last season. Anthony Richard comes over from the Admirals, where he’s been a reliable goal-scorer over the last four seasons.

All the Wolves defensemen have at least one year of AHL experience. The exception is rookie D.J. King, son of Hogs coach Derek King, who is on an amateur tryout.

Anchoring the blue line is Alexandre Carrier, a Predators prospect who had five goals and 32 helpers for the Admirals last season. Milwaukee teammate Jeremy Davies (4 G, 24 A) joins him in Chicago.

Joey Keane split his rookie season between Hartford and Charlotte. Combined, the Chicago native finished with 37 points (9 G, 28 A) in 58 games. Tyler Lewington has five years under his belt with the Hershey Bears and will add yet more experience to the Wolves defense. Cavan Fitzgerald spent the last three seasons with San Jose and Charlotte.

The Wolves Achilles Heel may be in the crease. Jeremy Helvig is a Hurricanes prospect who has just two AHL starts over the last two seasons. Beck Warm is on an AHL contract with the Wolves after a junior career in the WHL.

Veteran AHL goalie Antoine Bibeau was assigned to the Wolves from Carolina and does lend six seasons of work in net for Toronto and SanJose. He started just two games for the Colorado Eagles last season before undergoing hip surgery.

Chicago kicks off its 2020-21 season at home against Grand Rapids Friday night, so the Hogs will likely be the fresher team coming into the contest. Rockford probably has the advantage in net, but Saturday should prove to be a tough opening test for Rockford.

 

Roster Moves

Wednesday, the Blackhawks recalled defenseman Madison Bowey to the taxi squad, sending two rookies to Rockford. Forward Michal Teply and defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk are now available for coach Derek King to work into the lineup.

Matthew Thompson, one of the Hogs AHL contracts, was sent to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL on Wednesday.

I will be live-tweeting the game @JonFromi and will be up for discussing what transpires at the BMO as the Hogs begin the season.