Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs took two out of three games this past week. The piglets spoiled Wednesday morning for hundreds of Grand Rapids children with a morning stomp of the Griffins, then split a home-and home with the Chicago Wolves over the weekend.

Rockford is now 7-6-0-1 on the season. With 15 points, the IceHogs sit in fifth place in the AHL’s Central Division. Faced with the prospect of treading water in the face of some depth issues in net, Rockford has managed to hover around the .500 mark. With the pace that is expected of the Hogs, the goaltending will be paramount to the team’s playoff aspirations.

 

Scoreboard!

What is keeping Rockford afloat the first month is offense. The Hogs are soaring at 3.79 goals per game, tied for fourth in the league.

Rockford has three skaters in the top 20 of AHL scorers. By way of comparison, the IceHogs seldom have anyone in the top 100 scorers. David Gust (8 G, 10 A) sits in eighth place, with Luke Philp (10 G, 6 A) and Brett Seney (7 G, 9 A) are among several skaters tied for 14th. Philp leads the Hogs in goals with ten and is tied for second in the league in that category.

Several Blackhawks prospects are also filling the net on a regular basis. After a torrid start, Lukas Reichel (6 G, 8 A), has tapered off after a lackluster performance on November 2 against Milwaukee. Reichel has two goals and two assists in eight November games.

Michal Teply, on the other hand, started the season with four scoreless outings before getting on track. In his last seven games, Teply has three goals and five helpers. That includes the game-winning goal in Rosemont on Saturday night.

 

Roster News

After returning from an injury last week, Jaxson Stauber was a scratch for both weekend games against the Wolves. Mitchell Weeks was recalled from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel on Thursday and dressed for both games. He stopped 24 shots at Allstate Arena in Rockford’s overtime win over Chicago.

On Wednesday, D Alec Regula was reassigned to Rockford by the Blackhawks. The next day, Ian Mitchell was called up to Chicago. On Friday, D Cliff Watson was sent to Indy by the IceHogs.

Rockford captain Garrett Mitchell suffered an injury midway through Saturday’s win in Rosemont. Mitchell was sent hard into the end boards in the Wolves zone by Chicago defenseman Max Lajoie. Mitchell quickly got up, but skated directly to the locker room with appeared to be a separated left shoulder.

Mitchell has been an unquestioned leader of this IceHogs team nearly from the moment he arrived in the middle of the 2019-20 season. There are several veterans who can pick up the slack on the ice in terms of leadership should Mitchell be out for a stretch, as may well be the case by the way he looked exiting the rink Saturday.

 

Who’s Got The Call?

Over the last couple of weeks, a voice has been missing from the IceHogs broadcast booth. Joseph Zakrzewski, who manned the microphone for nearly five seasons, broadcast what turned out to be his final game at the BMO on October 23 vs Manitoba.

Zakrzewski has been absent from the airwaves ever since. His tweet on November 8 announced that his time with the team was at an end. Like his arrival in 2017, Zakrzewski departs in the middle of the season. No announcement was made by the organization.

If the Blackhawks, who own the Rockford franchise, has a plan for the broadcast booth, it is unclear at this time. It does not appear that a permanent replacement for his position has been hired.

Several hired guns have filled the void on the air over the last few weeks. These include Chicago Steel broadcaster Mark Citron, Kane County Cougars announcer Connor Clingen, Wisconsin Women’s hockey broadcaster Reid Mangum, Tyler Kuel, and WGN’s Joe Brand, who called this weekend’s games.

Where will the carousel stop? Who knows at this point?

Zakrzewski was a well-liked broadcaster at the BMO Center who knew his game and was a fun listen. The powers that be have some big shoes to fill.

 

Who’s Got The Cup?

Rockford has hosted the Wolves on three occasions this season. I’ve been searching the BMO Center during each matchup searching for the grail-like token of glory that is the Illinois Lottery Cup.

My search, alas, has been fruitless. The ILC debuted back in 2011, where the Hogs and Wolves, along with the Peoria Rivermen (then of the AHL), waged battle for the magical chalice. When the 2019-20 season was halted early, Rockford stood poised to claim the cup with a 6-3-1 record against Chicago. Last season, the cup was earned via the Hogs 8-3-0-1 record against the Calder Cup-winning Wolves.

So, I inquire again…where is the Illinois Lottery Cup?

All signs point to money. No sponsor, no Illinois Lottery Cup. However, does it really have to be that way? Couldn’t the Lottery folks just donate this talisman to the rivalry? Could an enterprising fan purchase the cup for, say, ten bucks?

That’s the price the Blackhawks are selling the Stars Of Tomorrow placards that used to hang proudly on the wall heralding the former IceHogs that reached the NHL. Could the Blackhawks earmark some of the money they saved on the new Hammy Hog mask to obtain the trophy of Wolves domination?

All right. Way too fired up right now. Time for those recaps.

 

Recaps

Wednesday, November 16-Rockford 5, Grand Rapids 1

The piglets spotted Grand Rapids a 5-1 lead at Van Andel Arena before the Rockford offense snowed under the Griffins.

Joel L’Esperance had the only goal of the morning with his lamp-lighter 13:38 into the opening period. From that point, it was all Rockford.

The Hogs tied the game 1:18 into the second stanza with a goal by Luke Philp. The eventual game-winner came from the stick of Ian Mitchell, who scored the first of his two goals at the 3:02 mark. Lukas Reichel and Buddy Robinson also sent rubber to twine in the second period, which ended with Rockford up 4-1.

Like his first goal, Mitchell’s second tally was on the power play. It came at 4:57 of the third period and closed out the scoring for both teams.

Dylan Wells posted 29 saves to pick up his second win of the season. Mitchell, Reichel, and Robinson were voted the game’s Three Stars.

 

Friday, November 18-Chicago 4, Rockford 3

In a game where special teams played a big factor, the Wolves Nathan Sucese potted a short-handed game-winner midway through the third period.

Rockford was the aggressor for several stretches of action on Friday. That included the opening minutes, which saw the Hogs take a 1-0 lead on a Buddy Robinson goal. Robinson’s fourth goal of the season was a tip-in of an Adam Clendening shot at the 2:09 mark of the first period.

Chicago didn’t get much going until the latter stages of the period. However, they capitalized twice in the last five minutes on goals by Griffin Mendel and Vasily Ponomarev to take a 2-1 advantage into the locker room.

Luke Philp got the first of two goals on the night to tie the game midway through the second period. The goal was a short-handed set up by a fantastic effort by Rockford forward Josiah Slavin, who skated a loose puck from coast to coast before centering to Philp in the high slot.

The score stayed at 2-2 until the start of the final frame, when Malte Stromwell sent a shot past Hogs goalie Dylan Wells at the 1:51 mark for a power-play goal. Philp tied the game again with his second goal. This one also came on the man-advantage, a shot from the left circle that beat Chicago goalie Zachary Sawchenko 9:22 into the third.

The game-winner came less than two minutes later. The Wolves had exploited Wells losing his net several times throughout the evening. This time, a rebound came off the pads of Wells, rolling just out of his reach. Sucese beat several Hogs to the loose puck and deposited it into the cage at 11:20 of the third period.

Down 4-3, Rockford mounted a big push for the equalizer, pulling Wells with just under three minutes to play. A Wolves penalty gave the IceHogs a six-on-four advantage for most of the last two minutes of the game. Several shots were taken, but Sawchenko held firm to give Chicago the win.

 

Saturday, November 19, Rockford 4, Chicago 3 (OT)  

Rockford gained redemption in the rematch at Allstate Arena, though it took some extra skating to do so.

Jamison Rees put the Wolves up 1-0 4:33 into the game with his third goal of the season. The IceHogs generated plenty of chances, though they were turned away by former Rockford goalie Cale Morris.

The action picked up in the middle of the second stanza. David Gust got his stick on a loose puck at the left post, sliding it past Morris at the 7:16 mark. Shortly after Gust’s tally, Michal Teply sent an Issak Phllips feed from the left circle to the back of the Wolves net at 8:10 of the second.

Rees quickly responded for Chicago. Mitchell Weeks stopped the initial attempt, but Rees gathered the rebound and tied the game at 8:42.

Rockford took a 3-2 advantage 14:06 into the period when a shot by Alex Vlasic snuck past Morris from to top of the right circle. The Wolves got back to even ground with a shorthanded goal by Nathan Sucese at the 1:58 mark. Rockford nearly got the lead back in the final minute, but Phillips’ shot from the left circle came to a stop on the goal line, just not across it. The teams went into the intermission all even.

Neither Weeks or Morris wavered in the final 20 minutes of regulation, despite each team getting ample time on the power play. Rockford was stymied by the Wolves penalty kill four times, while the Hogs denied Chicago twice on man-advantages.

The IceHogs started Gus Macker Time with four skaters thanks to an unfinished power play from regulation. However, it took the bulk of the extra session to declare a winner. That declaration was made by Teply, who skated into the slot as the clock began to run out. His shot beat Morris, clanged off the crossbar, and tumbled into Twinesville to end the game with 11 seconds remaining in overtime.

 

This Week

The piglets have a Wednesday night showdown with Texas at the BMO, then start a home-and-home with Milwaukee in Rockford on Friday. Saturday, the Hogs travel to Milwaukee for another tilt with the Admirals.

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

 

Hockey

Mitchell Weeks was in Indy trying to settle into his rookie season in net with the Fuel as of last week. Circumstances have resulted in him getting plenty of time in the cage of the Rockford IceHogs.

Weeks was recalled to Rockford Monday and been thrown right into the action at the BMO. The former Sudbury Wolves goalie found himself in all three of Rockford’s games this past week. Sandwiched between losses to Milwaukee and Iowa, Weeks picked up his first AHL victory Saturday night at the BMO Center against Grand Rapids.

From an organizational standpoint, Weeks, on an AHL deal with Rockford, is sixth on the depth chart at goalie. Dylan Wells, played for the Blackhawks on Saturday after being signed to an NHL deal. That was because Jaxson Stauber was injured last weekend in Rockford’s win over Belleville.

Arvid Soderblom, who should have been taking most of the workload for the IceHogs this season, is currently in Chicago (and possibly injured himself) after a groin injury to Petr Mrazek. Alex Stalock going down last week forced the Blackhawks to find help in net, hence the quick signing of Wells.

The IceHogs signed goalie Owen Savory to a PTO on Wednesday. Savory backed up Weeks Wednesday morning and Saturday night before Stauber returned to serve as the backup Sunday afternoon.

Rockford has shown that it has the firepower to put up big numbers on the scoreboard. The play in goal is going to go a long way toward making the Hogs a contender in the Central Division. Right now, that task is being shared by a very green crop of goalies.

 

Weekend Notes

  • D Alec Regula was recalled to Chicago on Halloween. The next day, Dylan Wells was released from his AHL deal so he could sign a contract with the Blackhawks. This move was done out of necessity, as Wells had a 4.27 GAA and an .867 save percentage in three games with the Hogs. Still, good on him for getting into his first NHL action in Winnipeg.
  • Wednesday, the IceHogs signed G Owen Savory to a PTO so that there would be a backup for Weeks this, uh, week. His last game action came last spring with U-Mass-Lowell. He had yet to start a game with Fort Wayne of the ECHL this season.
  • Rockford had pretty good luck with another U-Mass-Lowell goalie they signed to an AHL contract many years ago. That would be Carter Hutton, who spent two years in the Hogs/Hawks organization. Hutton had two outstanding seasons with the IceHogs and administered a beating to current Chicago goalie Petr Mrazek before moving on to a nine-year stint in the NHL. What will the future hold for Savory with Rockford? Only time will tell.
  • Gust (5 G, 8 A) and Brett Seney (6 G, 7 A) lead the IceHogs in scoring with 13 points each. Seney and Luke Philp (6 G, 3 A) pace the club with six goals. Gust and defenseman Jakub Galvas (1 G, 8 A) share the team lead in assists.
  • David Gust did not get a point in either weekend game after potting two goals Wednesday. He did, however, make himself a pest in front of the net and on the forecheck as teammates were able to score.
  • The piglets are currently scoring 3.78 goals per contest, fifth-best in the league. Unfortunately, Rockford has been surrendering 3.89 goals per game. That’s 27th in the AHL. Would those numbers be better with Arvid Soderblom and an AHL veteran sharing the net? Probably.
  • The Rockford power play (21.7 percent) and penalty kill (79.1 percent) are both ranked 16th in the AHL at the moment, pretty much smack dab in the middle of the league.
  • Wednesday’s loss was tempered by a couple of thousand screaming kids from area schools, gathered at the BMO at 10:30 a.m. for the early start with the Admirals. The enthusiastic cheers and morning start must have thrown Lukas Reichel off a bit, as it was not one of his better outings.
  • The BMO Meathead Society managed to put off starting the “Detroit Sucks” chant until a few minutes into the third period on Saturday. Usually, this group serenades the Griffins of Grand Rapids within a few seconds after the opening faceoff.
  • Despite goalies dropping like flies in the organization, one recent acquisition has proved to be up to the physical demands of the AHL. I’m talking, of course, about the paper towel dispensers in the BMO restrooms. They’ve stood tall in this opening homestand, providing assists to the new sinks on a nightly basis.

 

Recaps

Wednesday, November 2-Milwaukee 6, Rockford 4

The Rockford IceHogs dug themselves into an early hole in a rare morning matchup with the Milwaukee Admirals. A three-goal deficit proved too much for the Hogs to overcome Wednesday at the BMO Center.

Milwaukee was able to jump on rookie goalie Mitchell Weeks to the tune of 17 shots and three goals in the opening period. Igor Afanaseyev opened the scoring with a snipe from the slot 6:39 into the contest when Rockford left the middle of the ice open.

Weeks suffered some bad luck later in the period, when a pass attempt by Phil Tomasino wound up striking the skate of Hogs center Lukas Reichel and sliding past the Rockford goalie for a 2-0 Milwaukee lead at the 12:55 mark. Cole Schneider made it 3-0 via a power-play goal 16:42 into the first.

Rockford was able to convert on an Admirals turnover to get on the board late in the opening frame. Josiah Slavin led the rush and found Buddy Robinson, who got the play started in the defensive zone, at the right post. The tap in got past Milwaukee goalie Yaroslav Askarov at 18:24.

The Admirals took a 4-1 advantage midway through the second period on Luke Evangelista’s second goal of the season. Again, the IceHogs responded late in the frame, with Adam Clendening one-timing a pass from Alex Vlasic past Askarov at the 18:16 mark.

A Reichel turnover led to a Juuso Parssinen backhander 4:56 into the third period. Down 5-2, Rockford put on a late rally behind a pair of David Gust tallies. The second, coming with Weeks on the bench in favor of an extra skater, pulled the Hogs to within a single goal with 2:28 left.

Sorensen brought Weeks back to the bench in an attempt to pull even, but Schneider ended Rockford’s comeback bid with an empty-netter with 58 seconds remaining.

Weeks finished the night with 26 saves on 31 shots in his debut. Askarov stopped 29 shots to pick up his third win of the season.

 

Saturday, November 5-Rockford 4, Grand Rapids 1

Saturday night, Weeks gave up an early goal, then settled down, posting a 25-save gem against the visiting Grand Rapids Griffins.

The effort allowed Rockford’s quick-strike offense to eventually take control of the Central Division matchup. A big second period proved to be the difference.

Grand Rapids took an early lead on a Cross Hanas goal three minutes into the contest. In contrast to Wednesday’s loss, Weeks got stingy in the crease from that point on.

Rockford went into the first intermission tied at one on the strength of a Carson Gicewicz goal late in the period, set up by a beautiful backhand pass by line-mate Bobby Lynch.

Rockford broke the game open in a four-minute span late in the second period. With Pontus Andreasson and Drew Worrad in the penalty box with infractions four seconds apart, the Hogs power play got to work.

Lukas Reichel came around the boards with the puck, drove down the slot, and beat Griffins goalie Jussi Olkinuora to the twine at the 13:02 mark. Still up a man after the eventual game-winner, Luke Philp lit the lamp just 1:15 later, giving the IceHogs a 3-1 advantage. At 17:13 of the second, Brett Seney completed a power move to the front of the net, scoring his fifth goal of the season for a 4-1 Rockford lead.

Grand Rapids had three power-play chances in the third period to try and get back in the game. However, Weeks and the IceHogs penalty kill unit stopped them cold. For the evening, Rockford held the Griffins without a goal in six attempts with the man advantage.

 

Sunday, November 6-Iowa 5, Rockford 4 (SO)

The loss spoiled an impressive afternoon for the Rockford power play, which had three goals to put the Hogs in a position to win. Mitchell Weeks, making his third-straight start for Rockford in goal, stopped 47 Iowa shots but could not prevent the Wild from winning the shootout.

The two teams traded power-play goals in the opening period. Joe Hicketts pinballed a shot off both goalposts to give Iowa a 1-0 lead 5:52 into the game. Rockford tied the game with Luke Philp’s fifth goal of the season at the 10:56 mark.

The score stayed knotted until the waning minutes of the second period, when Rockford’s Luke Seney jumped on a rebound of a Louis Crevier shot at the left post. Before Wild goalie Zane McIntyre could slide across the crease, Seney sent the puck to the twine, giving the IceHogs a 2-1 advantage at 17:15 of the second period.

Iowa initially thought that they had tied the game on a Steven Fogarty tally late in the frame. The call on the ice was no goal; a call that was upheld after the period ended when the officials took a look at the replay.

However, when the teams came out to start the third, the call was re-evaluated and Fogarty was credited for his sixth goal of the season. What changed? The tablet being used for the replay froze up, forcing the officials to take another look on a working device. The final 44 seconds of the second period were replayed, this time with the game even at two goals.

The IceHogs took control of the contest in the final frame on the power play, with Michal Teply restoring the Rockford lead with a one-timer on the man advantage at 4:34 of the third. Philp got his second of the afternoon with a snipe from the right dot at the 11:04 mark.

With Philp in the box for hooking with 1:56 left, the Wild brought McIntyre to the bench. Immediately, Iowa drew cord with a Chaffee goal at 18:09 of the third. Rockford tried staving off another six-man push by the Wild in the closing seconds, only to see Chaffee sneak into the crease to knock in a loose puck past Weeks with six seconds remaining in regulation.

With no movement in the 3-on-3 session, the extra point was decided in the shootout. McIntyre denied Teply and Seney, while Iowa got shootout tallies from Sammy Walker and Nic Petan to end the game.

 

Texas-Sized Weekend

The piglets jet to Texas for a weekend back-to-back with the Stars. The first of those two games is Saturday night.

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

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs clinched a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs this weekend, capping off a 2-2 week of action. The piglets knocked off the top two teams in the Central Division (Chicago and Manitoba), and also dropped decisions to the worst two teams (Grand Rapids and Iowa).

Rockford is in fourth place in the division standings, with an outside shot at overtaking Milwaukee for third place. The Hogs will need to win their last three games-at Iowa and Milwaukee on Wednesday and Friday, then the Wolves at the BMO Harris Bank Center Saturday night.

A fourth-place finish will result in a play-in series with the division’s fifth seed; that looks like the Texas Stars at this point. Winning the play-in sets up a best-of-five series with Chicago. Gaining third-place puts Rockford in an opening round series with the Moose.

The IceHogs have defeated the Wolves eight times in eleven meetings this season, including Tuesday’s 4-3 win in Rosemont. The season series with Manitoba is 5-3 in favor of Rockford, who beat the Moose 5-3 to punch its ticket to the postseason Saturday.

In this last week of regular-season action, the piglets will look to stay healthy and finish strong. It’s been a pretty successful campaign for Rockford. With some good fortune, this club could get some extended development time in May.

 

Roster News

The key development for Rockford is the loss of veteran forward Brett Connolly with a left knee injury. The team announced Saturday that Connolly will be out four to six weeks. It’s unlikely we see him in action with the Hogs again this season.

D.J. Busdeker is nursing a sore shoulder but could possibly return for the playoffs. However, it’s Connolly’s leadership and offensive punch (17 G, 18 A) that is going to be tough to replace.

With his last appearance being in Manitoba April 16, Rockford is 3-2 without Connolly. The IceHogs have managed to score without his presence, which will have to continue over the next couple of weeks.

 

Notes

  • Lukas Reichel added four assists to his team leading point total. He now owns the IceHogs rookie scoring mark with 53 points, besting Vinnie Hinostroza’s 51-point effort in the 2016-17 season.
  • Andrei Altybarmakian extended his goal streak to five games in Sunday’s 5-3 loss to Iowa. He now has 10 goals and 30 points in 63 games this season.
  • Mike Hardman had four goals this week; one of his two goals against the Wolves was the game-winner in the final minute of regulation. Hardman 19 goals is second on the team behind Reichel’s 21. He will be counted on to provide offense in lieu of Connolly.
  • Arvid Soderblom continues to be the team’s workhorse in goal, having started ten of Rockford’s last twelve games. Cale Morris turned in a solid performance in the win over Chicago Wednesday, but it would appear that Soderblom will anchor the Hogs in the postseason.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for more thoughts on the IceHogs playoff prospects as the regular season winds down.

Hockey

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

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

There were some more subtractions to the lineup, though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Coming Up

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

 

Weekend Recaps

Friday, December 3-Rockford 4, Grand Rapids 1

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

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

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

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

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

Lines (Starters in italics)

Andrei Altybarmakian-Philipp Kurashev-Alexander Nylander

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

Cameron Morrison-Evan Barratt-Carson Gicewicz

Jakub Pour-Garrett Mitchell (A)-Dimitri Osipov

Jakub Galvas-Nicolas Beaudin

Ryan Stanton (A)-Alec Regula

Issak Phillips-Ian Mitchell

Collin Delia

Cale Morris

 

Saturday, December 4-Grand Rapids 6, Rockford 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lines (Starters in italics)

Andrei Altybarmakian-Philipp Kurashev-Alexander Nylander

D.J. Buskdeker-Chad Yetman-Michal Teply

Cameron Morrison-Evan Barratt-Carson Gicewicz

Jakub Pour-Garrett Mitchell (A)-Dimitri Osipov

Jakub Galvas-Nicolas Beaudin

Ryan Stanton (A)-Chad Krys

Issak Phillips-Alec Regula

Collin Delia

Cale Morris

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

Hockey

Lukas Reichel has had eight games with the Rockford IceHogs. The Chicago Blackhawks first-rounder from the 2020 NHL Draft is getting his first taste of North American hockey. It’s safe to say that he’s becoming comfortable with AHL competition.

Reichel now has a team-high eight points (6 G, 2 A) with the piglets, following a Sunday afternoon hat trick against Manitoba. The IceHogs beat the Moose 4-3 to split the weekend’s action at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

For the moment, the rookie forward is showcasing his play-making ability for the fans in Rockford. How long before he’s asked to make his debut with Chicago?

 

Musings

  • Rockford opened the home schedule with a 2-1 loss to Grand Rapids Saturday night. The lone Hogs goal came from Brett Connolly (2 G, 4 A), who has a three game point streak going. He has provided much-needed veteran help up front.
  • The vets were all involved in the scoring in Sunday’s win; captain Garrett Mitchell potted his first goal of the season in the first period, assisted by defenseman Ryan Stanton.
  • Stanton picked up his first apple of the season on Mitchell’s goal. He is still seeking his first goal. In fact, every Hogs blueliner is looking for their first goal.
  • After then-coach Derek King admitted that Collin Delia and Malcom Subban were essentially splitting the starts not made by Arvid Soderblom, Delia did not play (or even dress) for either game this weekend. No word on whether Delia is injured or ill. Maybe he gets a start Wednesday against Iowa.
  • F Evan Barratt and D Chad Krys both returned to the lineup, playing in both games.
  • Nicolas Beaudin is becoming more accustomed to top-pairing minutes. No need to recall him for now; just let him pile up experience and build confidence for the time being.
  • Rockford’s home stand continues this week, the Iowa Wild visit on Wednesday, with the Chicago Wolves arriving Friday night.

Weekend Recaps

Saturday, November 6-Grand Rapids 2, Rockford 1

The Griffins spoiled Rockford’s home opener and Andres Sorensen’s debut as IceHogs interim head coach. The loss put Rockford in the Central Division cellar.

The Hogs were the aggressors early, but a pair of quick strikes by Grand Rapids put Rockford in a 2-0 hole midway through the first period. As an IceHogs power play wound down, Tyler Spezia and Dominic Shine came down the ice on an odd-man rush. Spezia got a one-timer past Rockford goalie Arvid Soderblom at 9:07 of the first period for the shorthanded goal. Just seconds after the subsequent faceoff, Taro Hirose redirected a pass from Jonatan Berggren to put the Griffins up two goals.

Grand Rapids controlled much of the action in the middle frame, out-shooting the IceHogs 14-5. However, it was Rockford that was able to close the gap on the scoreboard.

The goal came on a power play, set up by a Wyatt Newpower tripping infraction late in the second period. The IceHogs had just been denied entry into the Griffins zone when Ian Mitchell chased down the clearing pass. Rockford gave it another go, with Alexander Nylander threading a pass across the ice for Evan Barratt at the top of the left circle. His feed to Brett Connolly was spot on and the veteran forward guided the puck past Grand Rapids goalie Calvin Pickard 19:19 into the second.

Down 2-1, the IceHogs pinned their ears back and pushed hard for the equalizer in the third period. Pickard was up to the task, sending away all ten shots Rockford got to the net. Interim coach Anders Sorensen pulled Soderblom in the final minutes, but the Griffins came up with several key blocked shots to prevent the Hogs from tying the contest.

Hirose, with a goal and a big blocked shot in the final seconds, was named the game’s First Star. Second and Third Stars were Connolly and Spezia, respectively.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Josiah Slavin-Lukas Reichel-Brett Connolly

Alexander Nylander-Dylan McLaughlin-Andrei Altybarmakian

Jakub Pour-Reese Johnson (A)-Michal Teply

Evan Barratt-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dmitri Osipov

Nicolas Beaudin-Ian Mitchell

Jakub Galvas-Michael Krutil

Ryan Stanton (A)-Chad Krys

Arvid Soderblom

Malcom Subban

Sunday, November 7-Rockford 4, Manitoba 3

Lukas Reichel’s hat trick was the lead story Sunday, propelling the Hogs to the win in their first tilt with the Moose this season.

Despite being outplayed for the bulk of the first period, Rockford took a 2-0 lead into the intermission. The Hogs got a great individual effort from rookie Lukas Reichel to get on the scoreboard.

Reichel took a clearing pass out of the Rockford zone from Josiah Slavin and headed down the right side. He was separated from the puck in the corner, but regained possession after Brett Connolly knocked it behind the Manitoba net. Reichel calmly banked a shot off of Moose goalie Arvid Holm and into the net at the 11:08 mark for a 1-0 Hogs advantage.

Four minutes later, Holm left a rebound of Ryan Stanton’s shot in front of the crease. Rockford captain Garrett Mitchell pounced on the loose puck, skated to the right post and flipped it over Holm for a two-goal IceHogs lead at 15:10 of the first.

The action was back and forth in the second, with both teams getting some chances. The Moose killed off 53 seconds of 5-on-3 time early in the period; Hogs goalie Malcom Subban stopped a lot of shots at close quarters.

The IceHogs broke through late in the period when Slavin cleared the puck into neutral zone. Reichel won a race to the puck as it approached the Manitoba blueline, turned on the after boosters, and went high on Holm to unite rubber and twine. The goal came 19:02 of the second period and Rockford skated to the locker room up 3-0.

Manitoba broke up Subban’s shutout bid early in the final frame. Jeff Melott got position in front of the net and sent a feed from Cole Perfetti into the cage 3:28 into the third. Moments later, Reichel completed the hat trick with his prettiest goal of the night.

Nicolas Beaudin got things started, breaking up a Manitoba entry attempt at the Hogs blueline. Reichel retrieved the loose puck, stickhandled between the legs of Moose defenseman Declan Chisholm, and drove to the net. The backhand attempt was over the glove of Holm, giving Rockford a 4-1 cushion at 4:46 of the third period.

Despite winding down their third game in as many nights, there was no quit in the Moose. Manitoba countered with a Ville Heinola goal at the 6:04 mark to cut the lead to 4-2. They pulled Holm late and scored with 20 seconds remaining on Evan Polei’s first of the season. However, Beaudin snuffed out the comeback by clearing a rebound in front of Subban with seconds to play.

To the surprise of no one, Reichel nabbed First Star honors for his play on the evening. Slavin (two assists) and Mitchell rounded out the Three Stars. Subban posted 34 saves to pick up his first win of the season.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Josiah Slavin-Lukas Reichel-Brett Connolly

Alexander Nylander-Dylan McLaughlin-Andrei Altybarmakian

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson (A)-Carson Gicewixz

Cameron Morrison-Garrett Mitchell (C)-D.J. Busdeker

Nicolas Beaudin-Ian Mitchell

Ryan Stanton (A)-Jakub Galvas

Cliff Watson-Chad Krys

Malcom Subban

Arvid Soderblom

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs faced a stiff challenge to open the 2021-22 season. The Blackhawks AHL franchise had a pair of tough road opponents on tap over the weekend in Grand Rapids and Chicago. I thought a split of the first two games would be just fine in my book.

Well…the piglets got that split. Rockford dropped a 6-1 decision to the Griffins Friday night, then rallied to defeat the Wolves 5-3 in Rosemont on Saturday.

Heading into the second period with Chicago, fans had a right to be concerned with the way the offense was faring. The passing looked off by just a bit and the Hogs seemed to be getting used to the lines set out by head coach Derek King.

Four unanswered goals in the next two periods gave cause for hope.

Rockford wasn’t moving the puck around the zone like the Wolves were for most of the evening on Saturday. However, they did make the most of some turnovers and counterpunched their way to a big win over their biggest division rival.

A few other observations of the opening weekend:

  • Lucas Reichel picked up his first AHL goal Saturday on a fine effort, bringing a puck into the Chicago zone and streaking past the Wolves defense. Reichel skated with Alex Nylander and Mike Hardman all weekend; the combo could prove quite productive as Reichel gets used to his line mates.
  • We got a glimpse or two of the skill Nylander brings to Rockford. He missed a breakaway attempt in Grand Rapids, but chased down a puck into the Wolves zone the following night and stickhandled it into the back of the net for the eventual game-winner.
  • Dmitri Osipov made his season debut Saturday…at forward. He did spend most of the latter half of the game on defense when the Hogs became short handed on the blue line.
  • Osipov was in the lineup in place of Andrei Altybarmakian, who played Friday night. Osipov, captain Garrett Mitchell, alternate captain Ryan Stanton, and defenseman Michael Krutil were the only AHL contracts on the ice this weekend. Dylan McLaughlin, who led the Hogs in scoring last season, did not see action on opening weekend.
  • Also inactive this weekend was Alec Regula, who the Blackhawks assigned to Rockford on Thursday. The Big Regu had been on injured reserve with a back issue; perhaps he’ll be ready to skate in Iowa this weekend.
  • Malcom Subban and Arvid Soderblom were King’s goalies of choice this weekend. Subban gave up six goals on 24 Griffins shots. Soderblom got his AHL career off to a promising start with a 40-save performance against the Wolves. Each goalie served as the other’s backup.
  • Collin Delia and Cale Morris were not used this past weekend. Four goalies is too many for the Hogs to be carrying. Delia was the odd man out in Chicago for the bulk of the season. Does this carry over in Rockford?
  • Subban is the obvious experienced goalie to be recalled if necessary. Soderblom could earn a call up if he continues to play well. They need to be getting most of the work in net. Where does that leave Delia? He’s a fan favorite in Rockford, but the Hogs don’t open the season at the BMO Harris Bank Center until November 6. Will he be around by that time?

 

Krys Injured

Chad Krys, who played just six games a season ago, was in the lineup in both games this weekend. Unfortunately, he may be facing more time off the ice after a collision with Chicago’s David Cotton late in the first period Saturday night.

Krys was trying to intercept Cotton as he drove toward the Hogs net. The Wolves forward was knocked down on Ryan Stanton’s backcheck attempt. The sliding Cotton took Krys down with him. It appeared that Krys’s knee took the brunt of the accidental hit.

Krys got up and hopped off the ice to the Rockford locker room. He was not putting any weight on his right leg and did not return to the game.

Krys, a second-round selection by the Hawks in the 2016 NHL Draft, is in the final year of his entry deal. He played 45 games (2 G, 6 A) in his rookie campaign before the season came to an abrupt end. Last season came and went without much action due to some injuries.

It looked as if Krys was going to get some early time in the lineup this season to showcase his game due to injuries to Caleb Jones and Wyatt Kalynuk. Now he may be looking at missing some extended time himself.

 

Recaps

Friday, October 15-Grand Rapids 6, Rockford 1

The season got underway in less than impressive fashion, with the Griffins breaking open a close game in the second stanza and handing the Hogs the loss.

The Griffins converted on a power play set up by an interference penalty by Ryan Stanton. Joe Veleno skated into the slot and fired past Hogs goalie Malcom Subban at the 7:48 mark.

The first Rockford goal of the season came on a put-back effort by Josiah Slavin 14:52 into the opening frame. Slavin’s attempt at a redirect of Nicolas Beaudin’s point shot was turned aside by Grand Rapids goalie Calvin Pickard. However, Cameron Morrison knocked the rebound back to the crease, where Slavin steered it across the goal line. The teams skated into the intermission tied at a goal apiece.

The Griffins took a 3-1 lead early in the second period on goals sixty-six seconds apart by Tyler Spezia and Turner Elson. Rockford had some impressive stretches of puck possession in the second stanza, but it did not show up on the scoreboard. Hayden Verbeek gave Grand Rapids a 4-1 advantage at the 17:11 mark, and the IceHogs found themselves down a three-spot heading into the final 20 minutes.

Things got worse in the third period, with the Griffins adding a pair of goals by Chase Pearson and Dennis Yan. The Hogs and Grand Rapids each had 24 shots on goal, but Rockford just didn’t have it at either end of the ice.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Jakub Pour-Reese Johnson (A)-Brett Connolly

Alex Nylander-Lucas Reichel-Mike Hardman

Michal Teply-Josiah Slavin-Cameron Morrison

Evan Barratt-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Andrei Altybarmakian

Ryan Stanton (A)-Jakub Galvas

Nicolas Beaudin-Issak Phillips

Chad Krys-Michael Krutil

Malcom Subban

Arvid Soderblom

Saturday, October 16-Rockford 5, Chicago 3

Rockford was able to rally from a two-goal deficit as the offense roared to life at Allstate Arena. Hogs rookie goalie Arvid Soderblom sent away 40 shots to nab First Star honors and pick up the victory in his AHL debut.

The Wolves dominated the opening twenty, outshooting Rockford 16-3.  Miraculously, Soderblom and the IceHogs kept the game scoreless until Chicago got a power play goal from C.J. Smith 18 seconds into the second period. The Wolves added a shorthanded goal by Ryan Suzuki a few minutes later, putting them up 2-0 before the Hogs offense would get to work.

Rockford got on the board at 6:48 of the second, when Garrett Mitchell forced a turnover between the circles in the Chicago zone. He backhanded a pass to Evan Barratt, who wristed home his first goal of the season to cut the lead to one.

The IceHogs got the equalizer from rookie Lucas Reichel. Reichel took a pass from Josiah Slavin, skated to the doorstep, and flipped the puck at Wolves goalie Alex Lyon. The shot bounced off of Lyon’s glove and tumbled into the Chicago basket at the 14:21 mark.

Brett Connolly struck on an odd-man rush, converting on a fine pass from Cameron Morrison, giving the Hogs a 3-2 advantage 15:20 into the second. The play was set up by a defensive zone faceoff win by Reese Johnson. Jacob Galvas got the puck out of the Hogs zone to Morrison to pick up the secondary assist.

Rockford went up 4-2 on the first of two goals by Alex Nylander. The forward chased down a exit pass by Mike Hardman into the Wolves zone behind the defense and deked Lyon 5:46 into the third period.

The Wolves closed the gap to 4-3 on a power play goal by Eric Gelinas with 5:46 remaining, but an empty netter by Nylander sealed the contest for the IceHogs. Nylander, Reichel (1 G, 1 A) and Hardman (2 A) all had multi-point evenings for Rockford.

Chad Krys left the game late in the first period favoring his right leg. He did not return to action.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Cameron Morrison-Josiah Slavin-Michal Teply

Jakub Pour-Reese Johnson (A)-Brett Connolly

Mike Hardman-Lucas Reichel-Alex Nylander

Evan Barratt-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dmitri Osipov

Issak Phillips-Nicolas Beaudin

Ryan Stanton-Chad Krys

Jakub Galvas-Michael Krutil

Arvid Soderblom

Malcom Subban

 

This Weekend

Rockford will be in DesMoines Friday and Saturday for two games with the Iowa Wild. I’ll be previewing that weekend trip on Friday.

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

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs begin their 2021-22 AHL slate Friday night in Grand Rapids. Here are some quick thoughts on what to expect on the eve of a new season.

First off, the piglets have a roster in place. And then some. There are 31 players starting the season with Rockford. It’s hard to imagine the roster being so bloated for long; There’s really no reason to keep four goalies or eighteen forwards. You’d think some moves will be made to address the surplus of players following this weekend’s action.

As of press time, here’s how things look for the IceHogs.

Forward

NHL Contracts: Brett Connolly, Evan Barratt, Lucas Reichel, Josiah Slavin, Cameron Morrison, Reese Johnson, Jakub Pour, Michal Teply, Andrei Altybarmakian, Mike Hardman, Alexander Nylander.

AHL Contracts: Garrett Mitchell, Carson Gicewicz, Kale Howarth, Dylan McLaughlin, Chris Wilkie, Dmitri Osipov, D.J. Busdeker.

As I pointed out earlier this week, this is a much deeper group than the group that started play back in February in the shortened 2020-21 campaign. There’s some potential scoring punch with Connolly and Nylander, along with last year’s captain (Mitchell) and leading point producer (McLaughlin).

Questions, Questions, Questions

How much playing time will a player like Busdeker, who was a solid contributor last season, receive now that there are several NHL prospects in front of him on the depth chart? How many of the AHL contracts are assigned to Indy in the next month or so?

Is Connolly going to play with a fire under him? Can Slavin and Altybarmakian take on a bigger part of the offense? How long does it take for Reichel to adjust to North American rinks? What rookies can be impact players in the first few weeks?

Is Osipov a forward (like he’s listed in Rockford) or a defenseman (as he’s listed on Indy’s website)? Does he see time as a hybrid player, or are the Blackhawks serious about developing him up front?

 

Defense

NHL Contracts: Issak Phillips, Chad Krys, Nicolas Beaudin, Alec Regula, Jakub Galvas.

AHL Contracts: Ryan Stanton, Cliff Watson, Michael Krutil, Jacob Leguerrier.

Regula was healthy enough to be assigned to Rockford this week. Stanton and the NHL contracts should be a decent lineup to begin the season if everyone’s healthy.

I Really Hate To Ask, But…

Is Krys, a former second-round draft pick, going to find a steady spot in the lineup after scuffling for playing time the last two seasons?

Can Phillips build on last year’s effort? Can Regula stay healthy and become a top-pairing option for coach Derek King?

Does Galvas follow up an impressive training camp with the Hawks and become an important piece of the Hogs defense? Will a long stretch in the AHL give Beaudin the chance to bloom into a steady NHL defender?

 

Goalie

NHL Contracts: Malcom Subban, Collin Delia, Arvid Soderblom.

AHL Contracts: Cale Morris.

Having Subban, Delia, and Soderblom on this roster could not have been in the organization’s plans this summer.

The 64,000 Dollar Question…

Who gets dealt, and when?

Either Delia or Subban is going to be considered the goalie who can be recalled in case of an injury. Unless the Hawks want Soderblom to go back to Sweden where he can play regularly, one of those contracts need to be moved to provide development opportunities.

I think the IceHogs would be fine with any two of the current goalies. True, they’ll likely take more bumps with Soderblom and Morris as the tandem, but the kids are playing at every other position, so who cares?

Again, I can’t see this four-headed monster lingering past the first few months. Unless the organization wants four unhappy goalies.

 

This Weekend

The IceHogs drop the puck on the season at 6:00 p.m. central time in Grand Rapids, then visit the Allstate Arena Saturday night for a 7:00 p.m. start against the Chicago Wolves.

If the piglets come out of their first two games with a split, kudos. The Griffins are one of the more experienced clubs in the AHL. The Wolves, though not the juggernaut they were when they had prospects from two organizations, are still pretty talented.

Rockford dropped its first six games to open 2020-21. Getting points in the opening weekend would make a statement that things might be different this season.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates and thoughts on Friday’s game in Grand Rapids, along with musings on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs are not going to finish with a winning record in 2020-21. However, the piglets have made substantial progress toward respectability.

Rockford opened this season back in February with a woefully stocked roster of players. The talent gap between the Hogs and the rest of the AHL was vast. In previewing this year’s crop on the farm, I noted that this young and inexperienced team was going to take its lumps in the early going. And take them they did.

The IceHogs limped out to a 1-7-1 start, losing six straight games to begin the season. The nadir of the first month was a 9-4 shellacking by Grand Rapids on March 3.

Fortunately, the Hogs got their legs under them. It hasn’t been easy or pretty, but coach Derek King has the undermanned roster scrapping to be competitive. Rockford has gone 10-8 dating back on March 6.

The IceHogs are currently coming off of a pair of wins over the Griffins. Last Saturday, Rockford bested Grand Rapids 3-2 at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Monday, the Hogs prevailed 3-2 in a shootout at Van Andel Arena.

What has proven to be the difference in the IceHogs over their last 18 games? Let’s make a list:

  • Rockford has gotten some frequent influxes of talent via the taxi squad. Players like MacKenzie Entwistle and Reese Johnson have contributed at both ends of the ice.
  • Dylan McLaughlin has really stepped up his game in his sophomore season with Rockford. Dating back to March 13, McLaughlin has 16 points (7 G, 9 A) in his last 15 games.
  • The piglets have been able to hold their own in physical affairs with Grand Rapids and Iowa in the past few weeks.
  • The goal tending has been better. Ivan Nalimov has looked more comfortable in net. Cale Morris left after two periods in Grand Rapids with an injury April 28, but was keeping Rockford in games. Matt Tomkins had a great game in Monday’s win, stopping 24 shots in regulation and overtime. Since coming down from Chicago’s taxi squad March 11, Tomkins has a 2.71 GAA and a .919 save percentage in his last seven games.
  • Brandon Pirri, when he has been used, has been an offensive force for the IceHogs. The power play has teeth when Pirri is manning the wing. In five games, Pirri is second on the team with six goals. He has points in each of those five games; Rockford is 4-1 when Pirri is in the lineup.
  • As he has done throughout his short tenure at the helm, King has the IceHogs playing hard every night. They have managed to be competitive even when being badly overmatched.

This weekend, Rockford has its last two games of the season with the Iowa Wild. The Hogs are at Iowa on Friday night; the Wild come to the BMO on Sunday afternoon.

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

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have offered opportunities for prospects throughout the 2020-21 campaign. The lack of NHL contracts on the Hogs roster has allowed some players the ice time to make an impression on the organization.

Several of Rockford’s AHL contracts have been regulars in coach Derek King’s lineup. King cited one in particular in last week’s media availability.

“A kid who has really opened my eyes is (D.J.) Busdeker,” King admitted.

Busdeker is a 5′ 10″ forward who signed an AHL contract with the IceHogs after posting 57 points (22 G, 35 A) for Saginaw in the OHL last season. The 21-year-old native of Dexter, Michigan spent about a month with the Indy Fuel before the AHL season got underway. He’s been in Rockford from opening day on, and has ten points (5 G, 5 A) in 17 appearances for the Hogs.

“When he did come back up, he took full advantage of it,” King said. “He’s probably one of our biggest surprises of this season.”

Busdeker is one of several players who may have spent this season with the Fuel under ordinary conditions. However, he’s been a contributor up and down the lineup for Rockford. Busdeker has a nose for the puck and has been an effective forechecker and penalty killer.

In April, Busdeker has points in four of Rockford’s six games. He has points in each of the IceHogs three wins this month, including a pair of goals in Saturday’s victory in Iowa. He was also instrumental in a comeback win over the Chicago Wolves back on April 17.

Busdeker is second among IceHogs rookies in goals and points. Like Chris Wilkie (who tops Rockford in both rookie categories), he has taken a unique opportunity and made the most of it.

 

A Weekend Split In Iowa

This weekend’s action in DesMoines was about as physical as the piglets have had to deal with. They gave as good as they got, splitting a pair of games with the Wild.

Friday, April 23-Iowa 3, Rockford 2

The game was scarcely underway when Dimitry Osipov delivered a big open ice hit to Iowa forward Damien Giroux. Keaton Thompson objected to Osipov’s rough play; the two battled fifteen seconds in.

Rockford got the first goal of the game at the 3:33 mark. Josiah Slavin came up with a loose puck in the Wild zone, passing to Chris Wilkie. Wilkie was allowed to operate on the doorstep of the Iowa crease, hitting the top right corner to put the Hogs up 1-0.

A bad bounce off the boards set Gerry Mayhew up for an easy tap-in at 7:53 of the first to tie the game. However, less than a minute later, Rockford took a 2-1 lead after Garrett Mitchell tipped in a long-distance offering by Anton Lindholm.

Wilkie was chasing down a stretch pass when he collided with Iowa goalie Derek Baribeau, who had come out to clear the puck. Baribeau had to leave the game in favor of Hunter Jones. Wilkie was assessed a five-minute penalty for elbowing and a game misconduct.

The Wild began the middle frame with over four minutes of power play time. Iowa drew even at two goals with a Connor Dewar strike at 1:21 of the second. The IceHogs held first for the rest of the shorthanded time to limit the damage.

Iowa gained a 3-2 lead after forcing a turnover behind the Hogs net. Morris stopped a shot by Gabriel Dumont, but Brandon Duhaime gathered in the rebound, skated back out to the right dot and threaded his shot between Morris and the right post. The goal came at the 15:00 mark and Rockford skated to the locker room needing to rally.

Jones kept the IceHogs at bay, stopping all 20 shots he faced in relief of Baribeau in the final two periods. Rockford was 0-3 on the night on the power play, including a chance twelve minutes into the third period.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Josiah Slavin-Caron Gicewicz-Chris Wilkie

Tim Soderlund-Dylan McLaughlin-MacKenzie Entwistle

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-Michal Teply

Andrei Altybarmakian-Garrett Mitchell (A)-D.J. Busdeker

Anton Lindholm-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Alec Regula

Cole Moberg-Michael Krutil

Cale Morris

Ivan Nalimov

 

Saturday, April 24-Rockford 5, Iowa 3

The physical tone set the previous evening continued in the rematch. Iowa took a 1-0 advantage 2:10 into the game on a Cody McLeod tally. Hogs goalie Ivan Nalimov did a nice job keeping the Wild from building on that lead in the remainder of the frame. In all, the Hogs were listless in the offensive zone, getting out-shot 17-8 by Iowa.

D.J. Busdeker provided some net-front presence to tie the contest 4:29 into the second stanza. Busdeker got his stick on a drive by Dylan McLaughlin to redirect the puck past Iowa goalie Hunter Jones.

Late in the second, Dimitry Osipov sent a shot from the right point that glanced off the right post. The puck struck Jones in the back and into the Wild cage at the 15:51 mark for a 2-1 Rockford lead. The goal was set up by some dirty work behind the net by Carson Gicewicz, who gained possession and found Osipov for the primary assist.

The Wild got some late momentum with a Gabriel Dumont goal with 32 seconds remaining in the second period. Dumont jumped on a loose puck in the slot and fired past Nalimov to send the teams to the locker room all square at two goals.

Rockford stormed out to a 4-2 lead early in the third. Busdeker potted goal number two on the evening at the 3:39 mark, pouncing of a rebound of a McLaughlin shot. McLaughlin got in on the goal scoring at 6:30, putting a shot from the high slot through the pads of Jones.

Iowa responded quickly, getting a goal from Connor Dewar at 7:02 of the third period to draw within one. However, Nalimov and the IceHogs prevented the equalizer, locking up the contest with an empty-netter from Garrett Mitchell in the final minute.

Lines (Starters in italics)

MacKenzie Entwistle-Dylan McLaughlin-D.J. Busdeker

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-Michal Teply

Josiah Slavin-Carson Gicewicz-Mitchell Fossier

Matej Chalupa-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Andrei Altybarmakian

Cole Moberg-Cody Franson (A)

Anton Lindholm-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Alec Regula

Ivan Nalimov

Cale Morris

 

Grand Rapids State Of Mind

The IceHogs begin a three-game set with the Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday in Rockford. The piglets travel to Grand Rapids Saturday before returning to ‘Bago County on May 1.

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

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have been limited on game action in recent weeks due to some schedule changes. That should change on Wednesday when the Hogs play four times in an eight-day span.

After defeating the Chicago Wolves for the second straight time at the BMO Harris Bank Center, the piglets get the opportunity to knock off the Central Division leaders in Hoffman Estates Wednesday night. A weekend set in Iowa follows on Friday and Saturday, then Rockford heads to Grand Rapids for a rescheduled date with the Griffins on April 28.

 

Rainy-Day Thoughts

  • It was against a Wolves team that was down a few scorers, but Saturday’s shootout win was arguably the most satisfying win of the year for Rockford. The IceHogs had to erase two deficits, including a desperation goal in the final moments of regulation. In a rare display of offensive push, Rockford managed to tip the rink toward an opponent’s zone and generate some real scoring chances.
  • Ivan Nalimov wasn’t razor-sharp, but he did pick up a win in his second start against the Wolves. It was an upgrade over his debut when he got lit up by Chicago to the tune of six goals. Nalimov and Cale Morris are looking at some work over the next two weeks unless Matt Tomkins is sent back to Rockford from the Blackhawks taxi squad.
  • On Sunday, F John Quenneville, who missed the last 40 minutes of action Saturday night, was called up to the taxi squad. I assume it is injury-related. It has been a trying season for Quenneville; he has just two points (1 G, 1 A) in 16 games.
  • Anton Lindholm came back to Rockford Sunday. The defenseman last skated for the IceHogs on April 3. He is pointless in six appearances.
  • There was another Brandon Pirri sighting at the BMO Saturday. The veteran forward logged an assist on the MacKenzie Entwistle goal that tied the game late in regulation and contributed a successful shootout attempt. He also looked to have scored in the third period on a breakaway attempt, but the AHL is not reviewing goals this season. Pirri had to settle for extending his point streak to four games (basically every game he’s played in Rockford this season).
  • IceHogs captain Garrett Mitchell had himself a rare two-fight evening Saturday. He dropped the gloves with Josh Healey in the second period and had to head to the locker room for a little maintenance. Midway through the third, he stepped in to tangle with Cavan Fitzgerald. Mitchell was then sent to the locker room, not to heal, but with a game misconduct.
  • After leaving Wednesday’s game in Iowa with a leg injury, Evan Barratt did not skate Saturday. It is possible that we get more details this week from the IceHogs.

 

Saturday, April 17-Rockford 4, Chicago 3 (SO)

Rockford capped off a blue-collar effort at the BMO, rallying in the final minutes and besting the Wolves for the second straight game between the clubs.

The IceHogs took advantage of a Wolves miscue to take a 1-0 lead 5:56 into the contest. Chicago defenseman Frederic Allard whiffed on a one-time attempt at the IceHogs blueline, allowing D.J. Busdeker to lead an odd-man rush the other way. Busdeker found Reese Johnson at the right circle; the resulting shot beat Wolves goalie Connor Ingram high to the glove side.

Chicago scored the next two goals of the game. Cole Smith redirected a Joey Keene blast past Hogs goalie Ivan Nalimov, who had lost his stick trying to handle a dump-in behind the net, to tie things at one goal at the 14:11 mark. The Wolves quickly picked up a power play after a cross-check by MacKenzie Entwistle. At 14:46, David Cotton put Chicago up 2-1 right off the faceoff with his eighth goal of the season.

Rockford was able to draw even late in the middle frame. Busdeker sent a shot to the Wolves net that Ingram appeared to handle. However, the puck came out and the Hogs rookie was able to regain possession. This time Busdeker sent a backhand attempt that glanced off of a Chicago defender and found Andrei Altybarmakian at the right post. Altybarmakian shoveled the puck into the cage, making it a 2-2 affair at 15:47 of the second.

Chicago secured a late goal to regain the lead. Sean Malone brought the puck into the Rockford zone, skating around the net and back up to the left dot. A quick backhand pass to Smith in the slot resulted in a one-timer that beat Nalimov with eleven seconds left in the second period. The IceHogs entered the second intermission down 3-2.

The IceHogs pressed for the equalizer for most of the final period. It would not come until the final minutes, with Nalimov on the Rockford bench in favor of an extra skater.

Brandon Pirri hustled to beat a Wolves defender to a pass attempt by Cody Franson at the right circle before threading a pass of his own to Entwistle in the slot. Entwistle stickhandled to the net, only to see his initial shot stopped. Gathering in the rebound, Entwistle sent a shot off the back of Ingram.

The puck caromed into the air in front of the crease. Smith attempted to knock it down and inadvertently batted it into the Chicago net with 2:11 remaining in regulation. After a scoreless overtime session, it would come down to penalty shots.

Tim Soderlund and Pirri drew cord for the IceHogs, while Nalimov denied Patrick Harper and Cotton to earn Rockford the victory.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Josiah Slavin-MacKenzie Entwistle-Brandon Pirri

John Quenneville (A)-Reese Johnson-D.J. Busdeker

Matej Chalupa-Dylan McLaughlin-Tim Soderlund

Andrei Altybarmakian-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Michal Teply

Issak Phillips-Cody Franson (A)

Cole Moberg-Michael Krutil

Alec Regula-Dimitry Osipov

Ivan Nalimov

Cale Morris

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