Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs are just short of the quarter pole in the 2022-23 season. So far, the team has had little problem putting the puck in the net. Rockford is competing, though this is a team that should be able to find another gear in regards to challenging for a Central Division title.

With injuries forcing the IceHogs to use the latter half of their depth chart at goalie, Rockford has had to put up huge offensive numbers in order to win. Through 17 games, they have been able to supply the necessary goals to compete on a nightly basis.

I’ve been a broken record in my concerns for the goal-keeping. If Arvid Soderblom returns to the Hogs for a stretch and plays to form, it could push the piglets into that aforementioned gear. Here’s a closer look at the season through the first two months.

 

The Numbers So Far

This is how the 9-7-0-1 piglets are faring 17 games into their 72-game schedule:

The IceHogs sit right in the middle of the Central Division standings. That would be fourth place, with 19 points. Milwaukee leads the Central with 24 points, followed by Texas (22) and Manitoba (20).

Rockford is tied with Milwaukee atop the AHL in scoring with a 4.06 per game average. Defensively, the Hogs give up 3.59 goals per game, 26th in the league. They’re fourth in the league in shots (33.53) per game, and 26th (32.35) in shots allowed. The latter number is consistent with last year’s team.

The IceHogs are converting 23.2 percent of their power play opportunities, while snuffing out 77.3 percent of their opponent’s chances. Rockford has given up five shorthanded goals, tied for the worst in the league, while potting just one shorty themselves.

The Hogs have four players in the top 20 scorers in the AHL. Brett Seney (10 G, 13 A) is tied for third. David Gust (10 G, 12 A) is tied for fifth. Lukas Reichel (8 G, 11 A) is tied for tenth, while Luke Philp (11 G, 7 A) is tied for 13th. Philp leads the team with his eleven goals and is fourth in the AHL in that category.

Issak Phillips (2 G, 12 A) leads the league in skater rating (plus-16) and is tied for fifth in scoring among defensemen. Jakub Galvas (1 G, 11 A) is tied for 12th. Alex Vlasic (1 G, 5 A) leads AHL rookies with a plus-11 rating.

 

How Are Those Veteran Pickups Doing?

Go back a couple of paragraphs. They’re spanking fantastic.

The firm of Gust, Seney, and Philp have accounted for 31 goals and 36 assists in 17 games. That’s 45 percent of the IceHogs team goal total of 69. Can this be sustained? Probably not, but several players are starting to find the range.

Dylan Sikura (6 G, 5 A) had back-to-back two-goal games this weekend and could be poised for a December to remember. Buddy Robinson (4 G, 3 A) is chipping in and has been a threat around the net for most of the season so far.

Defenseman Adam Clendening has been a bit underwhelming, though he does have a goal and eight assists. Five of those apples have come on the power play. Clendening is a player who can be attacked in the defensive zone. Hence, his minus-14 rating, which is the lowest in the AHL at the moment. The Hogs didn’t sign Clendening to be a defensive stopper, but there is room for improvement.

 

What About The Kids?

Cole Guttman is starting to pick up some steam in his rookie season. Guttman missed almost a month of action after suffering a concussion on October 15. In eight games since returning to the lineup, he has three goals and four assists.

Phillips, Galvas, and Vlasic have been the backbone of the Hogs blueline. Rookie Louis Crevier (0 G, 2 A) has played 16 games and been a solid third-pairing defender. At 6’8″, Crevier moves pretty well and is adjusting to the pro game.

Michal Teply (3 G, 6 A) started the season slowly but is getting to the net a lot more. Like some other young prospects, Teply is having to compete for ice time. Hogs coach Anders Sorensen recently placed him on a line with Reichel, so his offensive production could soon take off.

 

Roster Happenings

Captain Garrett Mitchell was missing from the lineup for the past three games after injuring his shoulder in Rosemont on November 19. No announcement from the team; until that happens, I’d assume that Mitchell will be out for at least three or four weeks.

Buddy Robinson had a scare on Wednesday night, taking a hit from the Stars Rhett Gardner along the boards by the Rockford bench in the first period of action. Robinson was helped from the ice, unable to put weight on his right leg. He did not return to the game, but was in the lineup for both games against Milwaukee.

After a strong performance in net in Wednesday’s victory, Mitchell Weeks was returned to the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. Despite being Rockford’s top-performing goalie so far this season (3-1-1, 2.95 GAA, .909 save percentage), Weeks is the current odd man out because both Jaxson Stauber and Dylan Wells are on NHL contracts.

On Thursday, Ian Mitchell returned to the IceHogs from Chicago. He played in both games with the Admirals this weekend, picking up an assist on Friday night.

Friday saw D Cooper Zech being assigned to the Fuel. Since being swapped for Evan Barratt a month ago, Zech has been a healthy scratch in all but two games on October 29 and November 2. Zech was scoreless in both contests. Incidentally, since the trade, Barratt has played just two games in Lehigh Valley, with one assist.

 

Recaps

Wednesday, November 23-Rockford 7, Texas 2

Rockford chased Matthew Murray from the crease with three goals in the first 10:30 of action, cruising to a win over the visiting Stars.

The IceHogs wasted little time carrying the attack to Texas, converting on a turnover to take a lead they would never relinquish. Cole Guttman picked off a pass along the halfboards of the Stars zone, skated to the right dot, and sent an offering that beat Murray to the far side at 1:24 of the first period.

Guttman’s tally was quickly followed by a goal by Brett Seney at the 3:26 mark. Issak Phillips‘ strike from the right circle at 10:30 of the first ended Murray’s evening with three goals allowed on seven Rockford shots. The Texas net was filled by Anton Khudobin for the remainder of the game.

Down 3-0 entering the second stanza, Texas got on the board when Stars captain Curtis McKenzie redirected a Ben Gleason shot past Hogs goalie Mitchell Weeks at the 3:24 mark. Rockford quickly re-established the three-goal advantage at 4:56 when David Gust guided a loose puck into the Stars net for his ninth goal of the season.

Rockford limited Texas in the Hogs zone, breaking up centering attempts and effectively preventing a lot of traffic in front of Weeks. The Stars put on some pressure in the final twenty minutes, but Weeks stopped 15 of 16 shots in the third period. Only Alex Petrovic‘s shorthanded goal got past the Rockford rookie, while the Hogs lit the lamp three more times.

Seney’s second goal of the night midway through the third gave Rockford a 5-1 lead. After Petrovic cut the lead to 5-2, Luke Philp and Lukas Reichel got in on the scoring in the final minutes of action.

 

Friday, November 25-Rockford 6, Milwaukee 4

When the smoke cleared, the IceHogs stood tall in this Central Division track meet. Rockford broke the Admirals’ four-game winning streak with a come-from-behind victory.

Milwaukee took an early 2-1 lead on a pair of goals by Tommy Novak, sandwiched around a power-play tip-in by Rockford’s Cole Guttman. Bobby Lynch tied the game midway through the first period with a put-back of Carson Gicewicz‘s initial shot. However, Cole Schneider converted a power-play chance for the Admirals, who led 3-2 after 20 minutes.

There was no scoring in the second period, though the pace did not slow. Both teams dismantled rushes up and down the ice, contesting passes and checking hard at both ends. Milwaukee goalie Devin Cooley made 15 saves in the middle frame to keep his club in the lead.

At the other end, Hogs netminder Dylan Wells wasn’t as busy, stopping eight Milwaukee attempts. However, he might have made the two biggest saves of the night midway through the second.

Wells stood his tallest when Brett Seney was stripped of the puck at the Milwaukee blue line by Luke Evangelista. The Admirals forward streaked toward the Hogs’ net completely unchallenged. Wells denied the shot attempt, as well as Zach Sanford‘s follow-up shot to snuff out the scoring threat.

The IceHogs got power-play goals from Lukas Reichel and Dylan Sikura early in the third period, surging to a 4-3 lead. Schneider’s second goal on the man advantage pulled Milwaukee even at four 9:32 into the period before Rockford took over the game.

Seney, whose slashing infraction had led to the Admirals’ equalizer minutes before, skated to the high slot in time to take in a backhanded pass from behind the net by Alex Vlasic. Seney’s aim was true, and the Hogs led 5-4 on his tenth goal of the season at the 12:18 mark.

Wells sent a couple of Milwaukee shots away over the next few minutes, allowing Sikura the chance to put the game away with 3:04 remaining. Sikura maneuvered into the slot and sent a shot through some well-placed traffic to get it past Cooley and into Twinesville to close out a busy night of scoring.

Sikura’s two goals earned him First-Star honors. Reichel and Seney, each of whom had a goal and two helpers, were Second and Third Stars, respectively. Guttman (1 G, 1 A) could also claim a multi-point evening.

Wells recovered from a frustrating opening frame to stop 15 of Milwaukee’s last 16 shots on goal. He picked up his third win of the season with 24 saves on the night.

 

Saturday, November 26, Milwaukee 5, Rockford 3

The Admirals gained a measure of revenge on visiting Rockford at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena Saturday night, using a big third period to split the weekend home-and-home with the IceHogs.

Milwaukee wasted little time in building a lead. Egor Afanasyev pounced on a rebound in front of Hogs goalie Jaxson Stauber and flipped it into the basket 2:19 into the contest. The Admirals added tallies from Cole Schneider and Roland McKeown. Schneider attempted a centering pass to Tommy Novak in front of the Rockford net. Defenseman Adam Clendening denied the pass, but the puck came off his stick and into the goal at the 7:36 mark.

McKeown made it a 3-0 game at 10:22 of the first. Taking a pass from Kevin Gravel, McKeown launched it from the right point past Stauber, who was screened by Zach Sanford and Tommy Apap.

Midway into the opening period, the IceHogs were in a hole. Dylan Sikura started the digging for Rockford, jumping on loose pucks for a pair of goals in the last 3:53 of the first. Both were set up by defenseman Issak Phillips, who had three helpers on the night. The IceHogs were able to draw even with Milwaukee 7:04 into the second stanza when David Gust streaked to the right dot and went to the far post with his shot past Admirals goalie Yaroslav Askarov.

Milwaukee regained the lead 3:18 into the third period. With Stauber way out of his net, Afanasyev skated around the Rockford cage and completed the wraparound attempt just ahead of the stick of Hogs defenseman Louis Crevier.

The Admirals lead became 5-3 after the IceHogs first penalty of the evening. Alec Regula was called for slashing 7:08 into the third period. At 8:47, Markus Nurmi , set up by Afanasyev, sent a shot over Stauber’s glove from the left circle. Rockford attempted to load up for another comeback, pulling Stauber in the final minutes for an extra skater, but Askarov kept the puck out of harm’s way for the remainder of the game.

Askarov finished with 23 saves for Milwaukee. The Admirals rookie is now 7-3 on the season with Saturday’s win. Stauber stopped 23 of 28 shots in a losing effort.

 

Head East

Rockford travels to Springfield (Friday) and Hartford (Saturday) this weekend.

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

 

Hockey

How many goals do the Rockford IceHogs have to score to get a win these days?

A lot. At least for a while.

The piglets are dropping an average of 3.73 goals per game on opponents in eleven games this season. Unfortunately, Rockford is giving up 3.82 goals to those opponents.

The Hogs dropped a 3-2 decision to Texas on Saturday night. A sluggish middle frame doomed Rockford as Texas scored three times to take control of the contest. On Sunday, Rockford prevailed in a see-saw affair by a score of 5-4, garnering a split of the weekend road trip.

As was the case last season, the IceHogs are surrendering a lot of shots-32.9 a game this season, the third-highest in the AHL. Last year, the play in net negated that stat to a certain extent. With a current lack of AHL experience in goal, it’s a different story.

Jaxson Stauber and Dylan Wells have a total of 30 AHL games between them. At the moment, Rockford lacks a goalie that can carry the main workload and hold opponents under three goals. In the Hogs first eleven games, they have held an opponent to under four goals just four times. Rockford is 3-1 in those games.

In the other seven games, the IceHogs are 2-4-0-1, despite averaging over three goals a game.

Rockford’s current goalie tandem is likely to continue to struggle to hold down the score. Until a goalie comes down from Chicago (Arvid Soderblom, perhaps?), the piglets will have to rely on their quick-strike offense in order to stay competitive in the Central Division.

 

Some Triumphant Returns

Ian Mitchell, who had been recovering from a right wrist injury since training camp, was assigned to Rockford on Friday by the Chicago Blackhawks. Mitchell was on the ice for both games this weekend, picking up an assist in Sunday’s victory.

Cole Guttman had been on concussion protocol since hitting his head on the ice in Manitoba on October 15. He scored his first professional goal in his return to action on Saturday and was quite active on Sunday as well.

Stauber, who had been out since taking a puck to his mask on October 29, got the start on Sunday, stopping 42 of 46 shots to pick up his second win of the season. Also returning in net for Rockford was Wells, who had been with the Blackhawks the previous week. Wells made 33 saves in the IceHogs loss on Saturday night.

 

Talking Points

  • David Gust was the First Star of Sunday’s game with two goals and an assist. Those were his first points since a two-goal performance on November 3. Gust (7 G, 9 A) leads the IceHogs with 16 points. His seven goals is tied at the top of the Rockford stat sheet with Brett Seney (7 G, 8 A) and Luke Philp (7 G, 6 A).
  • Seney, who had an assist on Sunday, is currently on a nine-game point streak. He has recorded a point in ten of Rockford’s eleven games this season.
  • Philp, who potted the game-winner to go with two helpers on Sunday, has a streak of four games with points for the Hogs.
  • In addition to Guttman getting his first goal of the season, Bobby Lynch and Issak Phillips each found the twine for the first time this weekend. Both Lynch and Phillips scored in the second period Sunday to get Rockford back in the game.
  • Sunday’s game had more penalty minutes compared to a pretty tame contest Saturday. Both teams went 0-2 on the man advantage on Saturday and 1-4 on Sunday.
  • Philp’s goal came on the power play late in the third period Sunday after Texas forward Riley Damiani tied the game via the power play earlier in the period
  • Following this weekend’s action, the IceHogs (5-5-0-1) sit in sixth place in the Central Division standings with 11 points.

Lone Star Recaps

Saturday, November 12-Texas 3, Rockford 2

A solid start went for naught, as a sloppy second period spelled defeat for Rockford at the H.E.B. Center.

Cole Guttman made his return to the lineup count with his first professional goal. It came at 9:14 of the first period, when Guttman cleaned up a rebound of a Bobby Lynch shot. Garrett Mitchell got the play started, skating into the offensive zone and sending a pass off the halfboards to Lynch for the secondary assist.

The Hogs lead disappeared in the middle frame, as the Stars got a put-back by Fredrik Karlstrom at 10:44 of the second. Rockford was awarded a power play shortly after, but the puck suddenly became slippery. Brett Seney lost possession in the d-zone, leading to a Thomas Harley goal at the 12:14 mark.

Texas out shot the Hogs 18-4 in what may have been the worst span of play of the season for Rockford. The Stars capped the humiliation with Marian Studenic’s snipe from the top of the left circle, which got by Hogs goalie Dylan Wells at 17:36 of the second for a 3-1 Texas advantage at the second intermission.

The bulk of the third period saw the Stars prevent Rockford from rallying. Hogs starting goalie Dylan Wells was brought to the bench, leading to Seney tipping in a shot by Lukas Reichel with 2:31 remaining. Despite bringing Wells, who made 33 saves on the night, back to the bench, Rockford could not get the equalizer.

 

Sunday, November 13-Rockford 5, Texas 4 

The Stars sent 46 shots toward Jaxson Stauber on Sunday. The rookie goalie denied 42 shots, which was enough for the Hogs to prevail in the closing minutes.

The IceHogs got on the board early in the game when Issak Phillips gained possession in the neutral zone. He connected with Luke Philp, who hit David Gust entering the Texas zone. The shot from the right dot beat Stars goalie Matthew Murray 1:19 into the game for a 1-0 Hogs lead.

Texas evened the score behind a drive by former Hogs forward Tanner Kero. Kero was well-defended by Jakub Galvas, preventing Kero from getting off a serious shot. The puck, however, slid under the pads of Rockford goalie Jaxson Stauber at the 4:49 mark.

Gust restored the IceHogs lead 8:37 into the first. Cleaning up Philp’s wrister from the left circle, Gust converted on the rebound left by Murray for a 2-1 Rockford advantage. The Stars had two power-play chances turned away by Rockford, who held that 2-1 lead into the first intermission.

The middle frame was a see-saw affair. Texas quickly went out to a 3-2 lead on Kero’s second tally of the night and a deflection by Riley Tufte. Both goals came in the first two minutes of play.

The IceHogs took a while to respond, but got the game knotted at three in the fourteenth minute. This time, Gust played the part of facilitator, flipping a puck out of the defensive zone and to a streaking Bobby Lynch. The shot beat Murray to the high glove side at 13:30 of the second.

Issak Phillips gave Rockford a 4-3 lead late in the second with a one-timer set up by a offensive draw victory by Brett Seney. Ian Mitchell received the puck and slid it to Phillips for the long-distance strike with 44 seconds left in the period.

The Stars knotted the game at four goals on the power play three minutes into the third period. Riley Damiani got a shot over the glove of Stauber just as the man advantage was expiring.

Damiani was called for a high-stick 15:55 into the third to set up the eventual game-winner. As the IceHogs skated the puck across the Texas blueline, Mike Hardman threaded a pass to a streaking Luke Philp in the slot. Philp nabbed the feed behind the Stars defense and sent a backhand past the prone Murray at the 16:18 mark.

Murray was pulled for the extra attacker for most of the last two minutes, but Rockford held on to earn the weekend split.

 

This Week

Rockford is back on the road Wednesday, when they play an 11:00 a.m. EDT tilt with Grand Rapids. This coming weekend, the Hogs have a home-and-home with the Chicago Wolves. Friday’s 7:00 p.m. CDT puck drop takes place at the BMO Center before the teams move to Rosemont for a 7:00 p.m. CDT start on Saturday at the Allstate Arena.

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

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have advanced to the Central Division Semifinal via a sweep of Texas in their play-in series. The piglets capped off an impressive defensive performance against the Stars with a 1-0 overtime triumph after winning Game 1 by a score of 2-1.

Rookie goalie Arvid Soderblom stopped 68 of 69 Texas Stars in the two games, good for a .986 save percentage. To the surprise of no one, he was voted the First Star of Game 2 for his 36-save shutout.

After a couple of days to prepare, Rockford opens a best-of-five series with the Chicago Wolves in Rosemont on Thursday night. The Wolves are the top seed in the Central Division. They won more games in the regular season than any team in the league. Their .724 points percentage was the best in the AHL.

The Wolves roster boasts the leagues top goal scorer (Stefan Noessen, 48 goals) as well at the league’s top point-producer (Andrew Poturalski, 101 points). On paper, the Flying Piglets of ‘Bago County will be lucky to win a single game.

Not only do I think the Hogs could win one game, I figure the belief is there for Rockford to shock everyone and win this series.

These teams met 12 times in the regular season. Rockford won eight times.

The IceHogs are 5-0-0-1 at Allstate Arena this season.

Each of the last five meetings was a one-goal decision. Rockford was 4-1 in those games.

The last meeting between Rockford and the Wolves came in the regular-season finale April 30. Chicago was gunning to out-do Stockton for the AHL’s top record. The IceHogs had nothing to gain, having been locked into fourth in the division.

Rockford rested several starters, including Soderblom. Chicago pinned back its ears and swamped the Hogs in their own zone. The Wolves out-shot Rockford 54-25 on the evening.

And yet, the IceHogs had an offensive draw in the final 30 seconds with a chance to tie the contest before ultimately losing 3-2.

Rockford can win this series. They know it. The Wolves know it.

The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, Chicago was the division champ. The Wolves were swept by the fourth-seeded Hogs. That history, plus Rockford’s success against this year’s division champs, makes it unlikely that the piglets are going to be taken lightly by Chicago.

What does Rockford have going for it? Confidence and momentum. They have a hot goalie heading into a series against a team that hasn’t had a game in what will be 12 days when the teams collide on Thursday, May 12.

The Hogs calling card for much of the last couple of months is solid play in the defensive zone and timely goals from a host of young prospects. They’ve had a wildly successful season and have nothing to lose as they enter this series.

 

Playoff Musings

  • The goal scorers in Game 1 were Lukas Reichel and Carson Gicewicz. Reichel deftly handled a pass from Michal Teply on a 2-on-1 in the second period and snapped home the first goal of the game. Gicewicz deflected an Issak Phillips shot past Stars goalie Matthew Murray (who played very well in the two games for Texas) for the eventual game-winner.
  • After a scoreless regulation, Dylan McLaughlin got loose in the high slot, hauled in a pass from Phillips, and sniped the Game 2 winner 56 seconds into overtime.
  • The secondary assist on McLaughlin’s goal went to Ian Mitchell, who returned from a wrist injury suffered in practice April 26.
  • IceHogs forwards Kurtis Gabriel, Dimitri Osipov, and Garrett Mitchell played their part in the series sweep. The three were able to regularly administer devastating hits to Texas skaters without so much as a single infraction between them. In all, the IceHogs committed just three penalties in the two games.
  • Forward Andrei Altybarmakian, who came on strong in the last month of the season, did not skate in either game of the series. His last game action was April 30 in Milwaukee.
  • Game 1 vs Chicago will take place at Allstate Arena on Thursday, May 12 at 7:00 p.m. Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday night at 7:00 p.m., with Game 3 coming to the BMO Harris Bank Center Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates and thoughts throughout Rockford’s playoff run.

Hockey

Rockford IceHogs defenseman Ian Mitchell has owned a hot hand over the last few weeks. Mitchell is one of several young blueliners making an impact for the Blackhawks AHL affiliate.

Rockford dropped both ends of a home-and-home with Grand Rapids this weekend, ending a season-high four game winning streak in the process. Still, the Hogs defense continues to perform well at both ends of the ice.

Mitchell had a four-game points streak snapped in Friday’s 5-2 loss to the Griffins. He did pick up an assist at the BMO during Sunday’s 5-2 to Grand Rapids. In February, Mitchell has five goals and three assists.

A recent example of Mitchell’s surge came back on February 15, when he one-timed a late goal to tie Iowa. He then earned Rockford the third point with a successful shootout attempt.

The IceHogs have also gotten strong defensive play from Wyatt Kalynuk, Issac Phillips, Jakub Galvas, Alec Regula and Nicolas Beaudin. All six prospects have proven adept at forcing turnovers and jumping into the offensive rush.

 

Musings

  • It has proven difficult for the piglets to put together wins in recent seasons. Rockford’s four-in-a-row was the longest such streak since December of 2019. The Hogs managed that feat twice in the 2019-20 campaign.
  • Both losses to Grand Rapids this weekend came as a result of the Griffins breaking open tight games in the final frame. Rockford had tied the contest on Saturday with a Cameron Morrison goal early in the third, only to see Grand Rapids pull away with three scores.
  • Sunday’s loss stung because Rockford frittered away a 2-0 advantage in the final 40 minutes. Grand Rapids tied the game with a pair of goals in the second, then surrendered another three goals in the third.
  • The Blackhawks continue to shuffle players back and forth from Chicago to Rockford. Brett Connolly had a goal Sunday in his return to the IceHogs. Josiah Slavin was also reassigned to Rockford on Sunday.
  • The IceHogs recalled center Liam Folkes to Rockford from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel this morning. Folkes has been with the Fuel all season, with 11 points (5 G, 6 A) in 25 games.

 

This Week

The IceHogs travel to Iowa Friday for the first of a three-game weekend. Rockford then returns to the BMO Harris Bank Center Saturday and Sunday for two games with the Texas Stars.

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

 

Hockey

Rockford IceHogs goalie Collin Delia may have won the most important game of his career Saturday night. Too much hyperbole for a mid-November tilt with the Chicago Wolves? Not for a 27-year old goaltender that’s being used as infrequently as Delia.

Saturday night, the Rancho Cucamonga, California native was between the pipes for the Chicago Blackhawks AHL affiliate for the first time in nearly a month. Delia’s 31-save performance in Rockford’s 3-2 shootout win over the Wolves in Rosemont comes at a most crucial time for the fifth-year pro.

Before Saturday, Delia had played eleven games over the previous 20 months. Thanks to last year’s NHL taxi squad and some poor planning by the Blackhawks organization, time in the crease has been at a high premium for Delia.

“When you have three,” explained Hogs interim head coach Anders Sorensen last week, “you’ve got to make sure you’re getting the right development times, they’re getting the right game times. Sometimes it’s hard, but we’re working through it.”

Coming into the stoppage that ultimately ended the 2019-20 campaign, Delia was being handled like a future NHL backup for the Blackhawks. Having played in 16 games for Chicago the season before, Delia was getting his work in with the IceHogs as the spring of 2020 began.

Beginning in February, Delia started 12 of Rockford’s final 17 games before play was halted in mid-March. Since then, Delia has felt the crunch in net more than any other goalie in the organization over the past two seasons.

Malcom Subban was obtained in the summer of 2020. With the NHL requiring three goalies on the 2020-21 rosters, the Blackhawks grouped Delia with Subban and Kevin Lankinen. Delia had shaky performances in his first two starts of the season and quickly became the odd man out in Chicago’s goalie mix.

He sat, inactive, for six weeks before requesting and receiving a conditioning assignment to Rockford, where he played four games in two weeks. After shaking off some understandable rust, Delia beat the Iowa Wild in back-to-back starts March 6 and 7 with solid performances.

Two months later, Delia got into his next game, a 5-2 loss to Carolina. Relieving Subban, Delia stopped all 19 shots he faced. He was 1-1-1 in three starts following that contest.

This past summer, Marc-Andre Fleury’s acquisition crowed the goalie room further. The Blackhawks passed Delia and Subban through waivers, perhaps hoping one would be claimed. They were not.

Based on then-coach Derek King’s comments earlier this month, Chicago’s plan was to give rookie Arvid Soderblom half of the starts in Rockford this season, dividing the other half to the tandem of Subban and Delia.

“Right now, when those guys (Delia and Subban) came down, Soderblom was obviously going to play a lot of the games,” explained King back on November 2. “So, it’s always been Soderblom, plus one of those guys. Then, the next weekend, it’s been Soderblom plus Delia or Soderblom plus Subi. Those guys (Delia and Subban) haven’t gotten in rhythm at all. They’re kind of playing once every two weeks, which is hard to be fresh and be sharp.”

Subban’s weekend was first up. Delia gave up five goals to the Wild in his season debut on October 23. He dressed in Texas on October 28 as Subban’s back up. Subban was used the last two weeks in tandem with Soderblom. Where was Delia? The answer arrived on November 16 from Sorensen.

“Collin was on COVID protocol the last ten days here. He just got back this week,” Sorensen explained when discussing his goalie situation.

Delia practiced this past week and backed up Soderblom in Friday’s 6-3 win over the Wolves at the BMO Harris Bank Center. On Saturday, the crease was finally his.

After the Wolves put a shorthanded chance and a power play goal past him early, Delia settled down and denied Chicago’s last 28 shots in regulation and overtime. He then stopped four shootout attempts from the Wolves to allow Rockford to prevail.

It can’t be overstated how important this result was for Delia. Meanwhile, the issue remains; Rockford has three goalies who are capable of carrying the work load. There just aren’t enough minutes to go around.

“If you look at Arvid,” Sorensen points out, “he’s had a really good start to his North American career. He’s been really poised. He’s a big kid. He reads the play well, he comes ready to practice, he comes ready to play every day. Malcom has been fantastic. He’s been really good in the locker room, but also his last couple of outings in net have been really good. (Delia) needs some practice time here, but obviously we know him from the past and we know what he can do.”

In the current state of affairs, the best Delia can hope for is a start every other week. It is poor asset management by the Blackhawks, who signed Delia to a three-year, three million dollar contract back in February of 2019.

A goalie needs to be traded or loaned out. The organization either can’t or won’t make that move happen. Delia, who, like Subban is an unrestricted free agent this summer, isn’t going to have many chances to make his case for being an NHL goalie. Saturday night was a pivotal game for his future.

 

Roster Moves

The IceHogs recalled forward Kale Howarth from Indy on Thursday. Howarth missed the start of the season with a lower body injury before being loaned to the Fuel November 9. The former UCONN skater had two goals and an assist for Indy in five games in his stint in the ECHL. Howarth played in both games for the IceHogs this weekend.

Issak Phillips also made his return to the lineup after the Blackhawks removed him from COVID protocols and assigned him to Rockford last week.

 

Weekend Recaps

The piglets won two in a row over Chicago, grinding out wins in both ends of the home-and-home series.

Friday, November 19-Rockford 6, Chicago 3 

The Hogs trailed by a pair early, picked themselves up off the deck, rallied behind their special teams, and wound up topping the Wolves. Rockford improves to 4-6-1 and claimed the first of a home-and-home series with Chicago.

The Wolves (8-4-1) dug into the Rockford zone throughout the first fifteen minutes of action. Dominick Bokk finished off a barrage of pucks in front of Hogs goalie Arvid Soderblom for a 1-0 Chicago advantage 2:48 into the contest. Josh Jacobs capped a slick faceoff sequence with a scoring strike from the outside of the right circle at the 7:31 mark to make it 2-0 Wolves.

At this point, Rockford was being dominated at even strength. The turning point in the game came when a Joey Keane hooking infraction gave the IceHogs their only man advantage of the evening. Brett Connolly capitalized on the opportunity, one-timing a Lukas Reichel feed into the back door of Eetu Makiniemi‘s crease. The goal signaled a significant change of momentum at 13:57 of the first period.

Down 2-1, the Hogs got back to even ground on the penalty kill. After being tagged with too many skaters on the ice, Rockford’s Ian Mitchell and Josiah Slavin dug a puck out the boards in front of the IceHogs bench. Slavin found Carson Gicewicz leaving the defensive zone to start an odd-man rush toward the Chicago net. Gicewicz returned the puck to Slavin at the left post; the resulting tap-in tied the game at two goals at 15:07 of the first.

Rockford came out in the second period with a bit more jump, matching the Wolves intensity and grabbing its first lead of the night midway through the frame. Alexander Nylander put back a rebound off of a Dylan McLaughlin offering 10:55 into the period to make it 3-2 Rockford.

Back came the Wolves, who tied the game on David Gust‘s fourth goal of the season. Gust finished off a quick-developing Chicago rush into the Hogs zone, sending a pass from Maxim Letunov from the right dot past Soderblom at the 12:21 mark.

The score remained 3-3 until the second minute of the third period. Issak Phillips got the game-winner started, tipping a pass into the Wolves zone before finishing his shift. Reichel chased the puck down behind the net before Wyatt Kalynuk won possession coming around the endboards. Kalynuk circled the Chicago net before threading a pass to Reichel, who guided the biscuit past Makiniemi 1:04 into the final frame to give the Hogs a 4-3 lead.

The Wolves pushed hard for the equalizer, but it was not in the cards. Rockford added empty-net goals from Evan Barratt and Garrett Mitchell in the final minutes to secure the victory.

Soderblom wound up stopping 31 of 34 shots on the night. It was all Rockford for the Three Stars, with Nylander (First), Reichel (Second) and Slavin (Third) earning the honors.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Evan Barratt-Josiah Slavin-Carson Gicewicz

Alexander Nylander-Lukas Reichel-Brett Connolly (A)

Jakub Pour-Dylan McLaughlin (A)-Michael Teply

Kale Howarth-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dmitri Osipov

Jakub Galvas-Nicolas Beaudin

Issak Phillips-Alec Regula

Wyatt Kalynuk-Ian Mitchell

Arvid Soderblom

Collin Delia

 

Saturday, November 20-Rockford 3, Chicago 2 (SO)

Collin Delia got his first start in almost a month Saturday. He saved 31 shots to lead the Hogs (5-6-1) to a second straight victory over Chicago.

Rockford had an early power play opportunity that led to the first goal of the night. Unfortunately, it was a shorthanded tally by the Wolves. Andrew Poturalski picked the pocket of Nicolas Beaudin just across the Hogs blue line. He passed to Stefan Noesen, who smartly maneuvered through D.J. Busdeker and sent a shot past the stick side of Hogs goalie Collin Delia. The Wolves led 1-0 2:26 into the contest.

The Wolves burned the Rockford defense in transition later in the opening frame. David Gust sped through the middle of the ice, leaving several Hogs in his wake. Gust beat Delia at the left at the 8:06 mark to make it 2-0 Chicago.

The Hogs patiently tried to cut into the Wolves advantage in the second stanza. It took most of the period, but Rockford finally figured out Chicago goalie Alex Lyon in the closing minutes. Jakub Galvas sent a shot on goal from the point that was redirected by Busdeker. Lyon stopped the attempt, but Dylan McLaughlin was on hand to clean up, flipping the rebound into the cage with 1:01 remaining in the second.

Down 2-1 entering the third, Rockford got back to even footing in the opening minutes. The equalizer came on the power play; McLaughlin brought the puck to the Chicago blue line and hit Andrei Altybarmakian coming down the middle of the ice. Altybarmakian sent a shot wide of the Wolves net that rebounded out to Evan Barratt at the bottom of the left circle. His shot banked off of Lyon and tumbled into the cage 1:44 into the period.

From there, the Hogs concentrated on keeping Chicago from prime scoring chances. Delia stopped 12 Wolves shots in the final 20 minutes and another two in Gus Macker Time, forcing Rockford’s first shootout of the season.

Lyon stopped Alexander Nylander, Lukas Reichel and Brett Connolly. Delia responded by denying Noesen, Dominick Bokk and Andrew Poturalski. In round four, McLaughlin sent a shot under Lyon’s blocker and into the net. Delia snuffed out Gust’s attempt to claim First Star honors and pick up his first win of the campaign.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Alexander Nylander-Lukas Reichel-Brett Connolly (A)

Evan Barratt-Josiah Slavin-Carson Gicewicz

Andrei Altybarmakian-Dylan McLaughlin (A)-D.J. Busdeker

Kale Howarth-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dmitri Osipov

Jakub Galvas-Nicolas Beaudin

Issak Phillips-Alec Regula

Wyatt Kalynuk-Ian Mitchell

Collin Delia

Arvid Soderblom

 

Next

The IceHogs have their first three-game weekend to close the book on November. Rockford hosts a struggling Milwaukee team on Friday and Sunday, bookending a Saturday night trip to Rosemont and the Wolves.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have two major problems ten games into the 2021-22 campaign:

  1. They have problems getting shots.
  2. They have problems preventing shots.

The piglets 3-6-1 record and status as cellar-dwellers in the AHL’s Western Conference can be easily explained with a look at the stat sheet. Rockford is badly outshot on a nightly basis and gives up tons of chances from close range.

The IceHogs are dead last in the league in both shots taken (21.50) and shots allowed (37.40) per game. Rockford is being outshot in the first period 134-68. When your opponent gets double the pucks to the net to open play, it’s easy to dig yourself into a hole.

Friday night, the Hogs took on the visiting Chicago Wolves, who were at the top of the AHL’s Central Division entering the contest. Rockford mustered a single shot on goal midway through the opening frame-Brett Connolly’s offering from the outside of the right circle.

Chicago, on the other hand, went up 3-0 after peppering rookie goalie Arvid Soderblom with 16 shots. The IceHogs skated to the locker room to a chorus of boos.

Rockford is 1-3 four games into a five-game home stand. They are off until this weekend, when they have a home-and-away with the same Wolves who spanked them so thoroughly Friday night.

 

Musings

  • The goalie rotation of Arvid Soderblom, Malcom Subban, and Collin Delia has been shortened to Soderblom and Subban. Delia has not dressed for Rockford since the Hogs returned home from Texas.
  • Wyatt Kalynuk made his season debut for Rockford Wednesday after the Blackhawks assigned him to the Hogs the day before. His goal against the Wild was the first for an IceHogs defenseman this season. It is also the only one.
  • Hogs defenseman Alec Regula made his season debut Friday after missing most of the last six weeks with a back issue.
  • Defenseman Issak Phillips was returned to Rockford Wednesday after being removed from COVID protocol, but did not play this week.
  • Defenseman Cliff Watson was loaned to the Indy Fuel on Thursday.
  • Forward Chris Wilkie, who tied for the team lead in goals (eight) last season and was fourth in points (13), was traded to the Belleville Senators on Saturday for future considerations. Wilkie was scoreless in his only game with Rockford on October 30. However, he had a goal and an assist in his debut with the Senators, a 3-2 win over Bridgeport Saturday night.
  • I caught my first action at the BMO Wednesday night. The ice looked great. The paper towel dispensers must be getting repaired in the next wave of renovations.

 

Hey There, Indy…’Sup?

The IceHogs have many contracted players with the Fuel…how are they faring?

Well, the Fuel finished a five-game road trip Sunday. Indy was 0-4-0-1 on the jaunt, which concluded with a 7-4 loss to Toledo. The Fuel are 2-6-0-1 overall and in the basement of the ECHL’s Central Division.

Chad Yetman leads Indy in scoring with nine points (3 G, 6 A). Riley McKay (2 G, 3 A) and Liam Folkes (3 G, 1 A) are also contributors for the Fuel in the early going. Kale Howarth, who began the season with an injury, had a pair of goals Sunday in the loss. Watson (3 A in four games and Jacob Leguerrier (one goal in six games) are Rockford contracts on the blueline.

Cale Morris has seen the bulk of the work in net, appearing in seven of Indy’s nine games. He is currently 1-3-0-1, with a 2.97 GAA and an .894 save percentage. Tom Aubrun, in his first start of the season, gave up seven goals in a 7-2 loss to Kalamazoo Saturday night.

(Note: How’s this for a fun road weekend? Indy was in Coralville Friday night, losing 5-3 to the Iowa Heartlanders. Then, they drove six-plus hours to Kalamazoo to get blown out by the Wings Saturday. Then, a couple of hours east to lose to the Walleye. Ouch.)

Recaps

Wednesday, November 10-Iowa 4, Rockford 3 (OT)

The IceHogs were seconds away from their first winning streak of the 2021-22 season Wednesday night. Unfortunately for Rockford, the Wild rallied to force Gus Macker Time, then handed the Hogs a tough loss.

Iowa scored first, getting a Dakota Mermis goal 11:15 into the game. However, the IceHogs special teams put Rockford in the lead heading into the intermission.

Brett Connolly one-timed a Josiah Slavin pass from the slot to convert on the man advantage at 15:15 of the first period. Two minutes later, Connolly started a shorthanded rush up the ice with Carson Gicewicz in the box for slashing. Ian Mitchell and Slavin reached Wild goalie Dereck Baribeau with no defender in front of them. Slavin’s third goal of the season had the Hogs up 2-1 at the break.

The Wild evened the score on Connor Dewar’s goal 3:21 into the second stanza. The score remained tied until Wyatt Kalynuk sent a slap shot from the left point 8:12 into the third. Rockford limited the Iowa offense for most of the final frame until Wild coach Tim Army brought Baribeau to the bench in favor of an extra skater.

Hogs goaltender Malcolm Subban was able to keep shots by Mason Shaw and Swaney out of the net as the final minute ticked away. However, Swaney was able to put back his own rebound past Subban with 26 seconds left to set up overtime.

With Connelly in the box for tripping, Joe Hicketts sent home the game-winner with the Wild on a 4-on-3 power play 3:53 into the extra session. Subban was a hard-luck loser, stopping 39 Iowa shots as the IceHogs were outshot 43-21.

The win put a damper on the performance of veteran Connolly, who had a three-point (1 G, 2 A) effort spoiled by Iowa’s late heroics.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Josiah Slavin-Lukas Reichel-Brett Connolly

Alexander Nylander-Dylan McLaughlin-Andrei Altybarmakian

Jakub Pour-Carson Gicewicz-D.J. Busdeker

Cameron Morrison-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dmitri Osipov

Nicolas Beaudin-Ian Mitchell

Jakub Galvas-Wyatt Kalynuk

Ryan Stanton (A)-Cliff Watson

Malcom Subban

Arvid Soderblom

 

Friday, November 12-Chicago 4, Rockford 1

The Wolves opened up a three-goal lead on the overmatched Hogs, who were never in the game.

The beating commenced from the opening faceoff. The Wolves scored 49 seconds into the contest, taking a 1-0 after Andrew Poturalski nabbed a backhand pass from Stefan Noesen and got behind a stick-less Wyatt Kalynuk. Poturalski easily maneuvered the puck past Hogs goalie Arvid Soderblom to open the scoring.

Chicago wasn’t finished in the opening period. Noesen got in on the goal-scoring at the eleven-minute mark, redirecting a Max Lejoie shot from the point past Soderblom while on the man advantage. A long shot by Eric Gelinas caught twine 17: 05 into the first period, sending the IceHogs to the locker room down three 3-0.

It was largely academic for the final 40 minutes.  The IceHogs, who were out shot 16-1 in the first period, couldn’t get much going. For the night, Chicago sent 34 pucks to the net. The IceHogs finished with 19 shots on goal.

Rockford’s Brett Connolly pushed his scoring streak to five games, sending a wrist shot from the right circle past Chicago goalie Eetu Makiniemi to spoil the shutout bid. Kalynuk and Josiah Slavin assisted on the power play strike at 16:31 of the third period, making it 3-1 Wolves. Chicago closed out the scoring with an empty net goal by Maxim Letunov.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Josiah Slavin-Lucas Reichel-Brett Connolly (A)

Cameron Morrison-Dylan McLaughlin-Alexander Nylander

Jakub Pour-Carson Gicewicz-Michal Teply

Evan Barratt-Garrett Mitchell (A)-D.J. Busdeker

Jakub Galvas-Ian Mitchell

Wyatt Kalynuk-Alec Regula

Ryan Stanton-Micheal Krutil

Arvid Soderblom

Malcom Subban

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

 

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, now owned and operated by the Chicago Blackhawks, will continue their youth movement at defense. There are plenty of familiar faces among the prospects. They will be led into the 2021-22 campaign by another one.

On August 4, the Blackhawks secured the services of Ryan Stanton via an AHL contract. Stanton spent his first three professional seasons in Rockford, starting in the 2010-11 campaign. Hogs coach Derek King was more than pleased with the pickup.

“Exactly what we needed,” King told Rockford broadcaster Joseph Zakrzewski after learning of the acquisition. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about this guy. I had a nice conversation with him and I think he’s going to be a perfect fit for this organization.”

The reason Stanton will come in handy this season is the departure of Cody Franson, who anchored the blueline last season and is now playing for Hershey. Franson put up 17 points (4 G, 13 A) in 26 games with Rockford.

Stanton was a prospect himself in his first stint with the Hogs. He is now at the other end of the spectrum; a 32-year old blueliner entering his twelfth season in pro hockey, Stanton has spent time with six NHL organizations.

His best Hogs campaign came in 2012-13. Stanton skated in 73 games for Rockford, with three goals and 22 assists. The following fall, Chicago tried to sneak him through waivers and he was nabbed by the Canucks. Stanton spent two years with Vancouver, where he played 118 of his 120 career NHL games. He has 514 AHL tilts under his belt, spending last season on an AHL contract with Bakersfield.

With the Condors, Stanton was cast in a similar leadership role that he’s being asked to play with the IceHogs. In 35 games, he had 13 points (1 G, 12 A). Stanton had a 20 point (5 G, 15 A in 65 games) effort with Bakersfield in 2018-19, the last full AHL season.

Stanton probably doesn’t put up offensive numbers like Franson is capable of producing. However, he should chip in and solidify the back end with a physical, defense-first game. It should be to Rockford’s benefit. With fellow AHL teammate Dmitri Osipov being converted to forward this season, the IceHogs can use what Stanton brings to the table.

Stanton will be mentoring a young crop of prospects that may be cycling back and forth between Chicago and Rockford. Wyatt Kalynuk will start the season with the Hawks, as he is currently injured and can’t be sent to the AHL until healthy.

Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin, and Jakub Galvas are players who will be trying to become permanent NHL defensemen this season. It’s likely that each will have plenty of ice time in Rockford.

At least one of this trio is probably beginning the season in Chicago. With news that Caleb Jones will be out up to six weeks with a wrist injury, all three could remain in Chicago. Mitchell and Beaudin both had time with the Blackhawks in 2020-21. Galvas has a couple of years of experience in the top professional Czech league and has impressed the brass with his play.

Two young prospects who are looking to move up the ladder are Alec Regula and Issak Phillips. Regula was the prospect many fans were interested in seeing develop at the beginning of the 2021-22 season. He appeared in just 16 games with the IceHogs due to some injuries. However, he did earn a call-up late in Chicago’s season.

Phillips, on the other hand, was off the radar heading into last season because he wasn’t expected to be around long. Starting the season on an amateur tryout, Phillips was in a position to take advantage of being allowed to skate in the AHL when his junior season was canceled.

Phillips posted a pair of goals to go with seven helpers in 27 games with the IceHogs last season, earning his entry contract with Chicago. Both Phillips and Regula are big defensemen who could help the Blackhawks in a couple of years. Filling out and continuing to learn the pro game will be priorities for both players.

Injuries limited former second-round pick Chad Krys to six games in Rockford in 2020-21. Entering the final year of his entry deal, Krys may have a tough time finding a regular spot in the IceHogs lineup. With Kalynuk out for the first few weeks of action, Krys needs to make an impact early.

In addition to Stanton, Rockford has a couple of players signed to AHL contracts. Michael Krutil was signed last season, appearing in 21 games with the IceHogs. He’s still just 19, but is another bigger body at 6’3″ and 203 pounds. He’ll be playing to earn an NHL entry deal from Chicago.

Cliff Watson was signed to several PTO contracts by Rockford last season, appearing in eight contests. He was signed to an AHL deal this summer, though he will probably spend most of his time with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel.

On Thursday, the IceHogs announced that they had signed Jacob LeGuerrier to an AHL contract. LeGuerrier was scoreless in four games for the Laval Rocket in 2020-21.

Rockford surrendered 3.59 goals per game in a 32-game slate last season. The piglets were overmatched everywhere on the ice in 2020-21 and there was a fair share of breakdowns from a green defensive corps. Most of the lineup is another year older and (hopefully) wiser. With Stanton being the lone veteran penciled into the Hogs pairings, the kids are going to hold up their end in order for Rockford to see improvement defensively.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my thoughts and coverage of the IceHogs all season long. Next week, I’ll offer up a look at the forwards.

 

 

 

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 entrance to the BMO Harris Bank Center is a revolving door for several of the Rockford IceHogs. I’ve nearly given up on following the transaction wire, which is bringing players up and down on what feels like a daily basis.

As of this morning, here is the status of several players.  With the Hogs idle until Tuesday now that Saturday’s game in Grand Rapids is postponed, there could well be additional movement as the organization navigates the taxi squad minimum.

Brandon Pirri: Taxi Squad. Was sent to Rockford long enough to post a hat trick Wednesday night and single-handedly got the Hogs their first win of the season against the Wolves.

Alec Regula: IceHogs. The Big Regu last took to the ice on March 16. I suspect he’s injured and is being used to fill the taxi squad quota as needed for Chicago. Otherwise, the back and forth makes no sense; why let a highly-touted prospect sit for three weeks?

MacKenzie Entwistle, Reese Johnson, Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin: Still in Rockford at the moment.

Lucas Carlsson: Taxi Squad. Well, Florida’s taxi squad. Carlsson was part of Thursday’s trade with the Panthers.

At this point in the season, most of these moves exist only on paper, with players “moving” to Rockford for game experience and “returning” to the taxi squad so that Chicago has the required numbers.

 

Meet The New Boss…Same As The Old Boss

On Wednesday, everyone got together at the BMO to announce that the Blackhawks had purchased the IceHogs franchise and will be making improvements to the 40-year-old barn. It was revealed that the arrangement will keep Chicago’s AHL franchise in Rockford for the next fifteen seasons.

What changes? Well, I imagine that the organization upgrades the training facilities and gives the building an overall spit-shine. The Blackhawks already dictate the hockey decisions, so it’s hard to see the on-ice product getting substantially better in terms of wins and losses.

Perhaps I am wrong. It is possible that an organization that has consistently placed development over winning will suddenly change its tune. However, I can recall the IceHogs basically having to tank a chance at a division title a few seasons ago so that the Blackhawks could play a half-dozen fresh acquisitions on the final weekend. Time, as always, will tell.

 

Catching Up On Recaps

Saturday, April 3-Chicago 4, Rockford 2

Rockford kept it close, but lost its sixth straight to the Wolves this season.

The Hogs were active defensively in the first period, breaking up Chicago rushes and limiting traffic in front of rookie goalie Cale Morris. Rockford went up 1-0 after Dylan McLaughlin picked off a pass attempt by the Wolves Max Lajoie in the high slot. McLaughlin went straight to the left circle and zipped home his fourth goal of the season past Chicago goalie Devin Cooley at the 7:33 mark.

The lead held until 13:38 of the first period, when Sean Malone centered to Dominik Bokk in the slot. The resulting one-timer got past Morris and off the crossbar before tying the game at one.

The Wolves took a 2-1 lead 4:27 into the middle frame when David Cotton struck on a shot from between the circles. Rockford came up with a response later in the second period when Chicago got caught changing lines. D.J. Busdeker led the rush, passing to Josiah Slavin at the left circle for the equalizer at the 13:44 mark.

Late in the period, Issak Phillips was called for holding trying to stop a breakaway chance by Malone. Morris was able to make a pad save on a long shot by David Warsofsky in the resulting power play. However, the rebound was scooped up by Tanner Jeannot, who flipped it past Morris for a 3-2 Chicago advantage with 43 seconds remaining in the second.

Rockford was unable to find a way to pull back even with the Wolves in the final twenty minutes. Cole Smith added an empty-net goal in the final minute to finish off the Hogs.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-Garrett Mitchell (C)

Josian Slavin-MacKenzie Entwistle-D.J. Busdeker

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Dylan McLaughlin-John Quenneville (A)

Matej Chalupa-Michal Teply

Lucas Carlsson-Ian Mitchell

Anton Lindholm-Nicolas Beaudin

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Michael Krutil

Cale Morris

Ivan Nalimov

 

Wednesday, April 9-Rockford 4, Chicago 3

Brandon Pirri posted a hat trick, leading the Hogs to their first win in seven tries this season against the Wolves. The IceHogs moved to 7-12-1 despite being outshot 33-17 by Chicago.

Rockford took a 2-0 lead in the first period with a pair of quick strikes. The first came seven minutes in, when Evan Barratt hit MacKenzie Entwistleas he came over the boards. Entwistle finished the breakaway opportunity with a nice deke past Wolves goalie Beck Warm.

Rockford’s public address announcer had scarcely finished the call of the first Hogs goal when Josiah Slavin corralled a high bouncing puck to keep it in the offensive zone. Pirri took a pass from Slavin at the right circle and sent a laser past Warm’s blocker at the 7:40 mark.

The Wolves closed the gap to 2-1 4:07 into the second period on a Phil Tomasino goal. Pirri restored the two-goal advantage minutes later with a one-timer from the right dot. Pirri’s second goal of the evening came at 7:58 with assists from Nicolas Beaudin and Slavin.

The hat trick was completed at the 14:50 mark. Andrei Altybarmakyan set the goal up by winning a board battle and sliding the puck into the high slot. Pirri skated over and slapped the biscuit past Warm for a 4-1 Rockford lead.

Chicago pushed hard in the third period, out-shooting the Hogs 12-3 in the final twenty minutes. Tanner Jeannot converted on a sweet pass by Tomasino at the 3:53 mark. The Wolves power play made it 4-3 at 8:07 on a Dominik Bokk tally. Warm was brought to the bench with two minutes remaining in regulation, but Tomkins (30 saves) and the IceHogs held on for the victory.

Pirri, to the surprise of no one, was voted the game’s First Star. He paced the IceHogs with six shots on the evening. The taxi squad has grounded Pirri for the bulk of the AHL season; Wednesday was just his third appearance for Rockford. In those games, he has posted five goals.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-D.J. Busdeker

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Dylan McLaughlin-John Quenneville (A)

Josiah Slavin-MacKenzie Entwistle-Brandon Pirri

Matej Chalupa-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Chad Yetman

Issak Phillips-Cody Franson (A)

Nicolas Beaudin-Ian Mitchell

Lucas Carlsson-Michael Krutil

Matt Tomkins

Ivan Nalimov

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