Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs had themselves a roller-coaster weekend on the road, earning three or four points in the first two games of a three-game Lone Star set. The Blackhawks AHL affiliate let leads slip away in Texas before dropping a 7-6 decision via shootout. The next afternoon, the resilient piglets stormed back from two goals down in the final half of the third period to beat San Antonio in overtime.

Goalie Collin Delia did not play in either affair; he backed up Kevin Lankinen on Saturday, then was a scratch Sunday. After Lankinen let in six goals on 36 Texas shots, he backed up Matt Tomkins against the Rampage.

It was the Hogs AHL signee who posted the standout performance of the weekend for Rockford, keeping the Hogs in contention with 21 saves on 23 shots until the offense got on track late in the contest. In his first action in two weeks, Tomkins won his third game in four starts this season.

Tomkins has allowed two goals or less in each of those three victories. He currently has a 2.48 GAA to go with a .915 save percentage. You can forgive Lankinen for a stinker, considering he’s been excellent in his other five starts this season.

Delia’s goals against average remains at 4.09 after sitting out the weekend. It would seem like Hogs coach Derek King would give Delia the net on Tuesday in the rematch with San Antonio, but time will tell soon enough.

 

Roster Move

On Wednesday night, it was announced that the Blackhawks had traded Graham Knott, Chicago’s second-round selection in the 2015 NHL Draft, to Pittsburgh in exchange for veteran forward Joseph Cramarossa. Cramarossa, 27, was on the ice for the Hogs in both games this weekend.

This move was a response to the retirement of Kris Versteeg earlier in the week. In Cramarossa, the Hogs get a physical, veteran who is joining his fifth AHL team in Rockford. The six-foot, 195-pounder has a rugged style that is in short supply on the Hogs roster.

Cramarossa found himself in a scrap behind the Stars net early in Saturday’s game in Texas, then played a key part in Rockford’s first goal against the Rampage. He should be able to make the Hogs a little tougher to play against. Cramarossa kills penalties pretty well, is not a stranger to dropping the gloves, and can chip in offensively on occasion.

The price for this veteran pickup was Knott, which is to say that Chicago bolstered the AHL roster without giving up a piece of said roster. With his entry contract expiring this season, Knott spent the first two months of the season in the ECHL. Knott had five goals and four assists in 13 games with the Indy Fuel but has has been assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton by the Penguins.

 

Recaps

The IceHogs (9-7-0-1) own a .589 points percentage, though they are sixth in the Central Division with 19 points. Rockford is 7-2-0-1 over their last ten games and have several games in hand compared to the rest of the division.

Saturday, November 23-Texas 7, Rockford 6 (SO)

Rockford blew a two-goal lead in the second period and rallied to tie the game in the closing minutes. Ultimately, the Hogs came up short in the shootout in a wild affair at Cedar Park.

Alexandre Fortin put Rockford ahead 1-0 with his second goal of the season 6:31 into the game. The Stars scored twice to take the lead on goals by Jason Robertson and Michael Mersch before an unassisted power play marker by Tyler Sikura tied it at two goals at 15:25 of the first period.

John Quenneville’s pair of goals resulted in a 4-2 Rockford advantage by the mid-point of the contest. However, Texas would return fire with power play goals by Joel L’Esperance and Nicolas Caamano. Late in the second, Anton Wedin tipped in a caroming puck for a 5-4 Hogs lead after 40 minutes.

The Rockford lead would turn into a 6-5 deficit after Gavin Bayreuther and Robertson found the back of Kevin Lankinen’s net. It would take a Brandon Hagel put back with 3:24 to play in the game to draw the teams even once more.

The outcome remained up in the air following Gus Macker Time. In the shootout, Robertson and Dylan Sikura traded goals in the second round before L’Esperance beat Lankinen in the fourth. New IceHogs acquisition Joseph Cramarossa was stopped by Texas goalie Landon Bow to give Texas the win.

The Hogs power play found the net on both attempts, though Rockford did give up three power play goals to the Stars.

 

Sunday, November 24-Rockford 3, San Antonio 2 (OT)

The Rampage scored on their first shot of the afternoon. Ryan Olsen guided a deflected centering pass under IceHogs goalie Matt Tomkins at 3:30 for a 1-0 San Antonio lead. That lead was extended at the close of the first period on a Derek Pouliot goal with five seconds left.

Rockford broke the lock Adam Wilcox had on the net midway through the third period. Joseph Cramarossa found Adam Boqvist skating into the offensive zone. The shot was stopped by the Rampage goalie, but the rebound came out to Boqvist, who skated toward the right post looking for a pass recipient.

Tyler Sikura was in the slot waiting; Boqvist found his stick and Sikura cut the San Antonio lead to 2-1 with ten minutes left to play. Tomkins, who kept Rockford in the game throughout the third period, was brought to the bench in the final minutes for an extra skater.

As the final seconds ran out, Matthew Highmore gained possession of a loose puck off the half boards. Highmore found Dylan Sikura at the right post; Sikura the Younger elevated the puck over the glove of Wilcox to tie the score 2-2 with three seconds left.

Overtime did not last long. Boqvist got the biscuit to Jacob Nilsson at the Hogs blue line. Nilsson did the rest, splitting the defense to spring himself for a breakaway. One backhand later, the Hogs had pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat.

Tomkins played very well between the pipes for Rockford, saving 21 of 23 shots to post his second win of the season. Neither team was able to score on the power play; San Antonio was stopped three times, while the Hogs failed to convert their only opportunity.

 

This Week

The road trip concludes with another tilt in San Antonio Tuesday night. Rockford then comes back to the BMO Harris Bank Center for post-Thanksgiving clashes with Chicago (Friday) and Grand Rapids (Saturday).

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs showed off a can-do attitude over the weekend, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in back-to-back games. The resilient piglets continued their winning ways at the BMO Harris Bank Center, beating the Iowa Wild Saturday and the Chicago Wolves the following afternoon.

The Hogs (5-5) are still in the bottom half of the Central Division standings. However, Rockford has won three in a row, potted 16 goals in that span, and leapfrogged over Texas to claim the sixth spot with a .500 points percentage.

 

Hot Hogs

Dylan Sikura is now leading the team in scoring after a four-point night Saturday. Sikura the Younger, who posted a hat-trick in a furious comeback against the Wolves Sunday, has six goals and three assists on the season.

Right behind Sikura on the leaderboard is Sikura the Elder. Tyler’s fifth goal of the season tied the Wild Saturday, allowing Matthew Highmore (2 G, 5 A) to win it in overtime. Both Tyler Sikura and Highmore  have seven points for Rockford and are on three-game point streaks.

Jacob Nilsson (2 G, 4 A) also has points in each of the last three games, as does D Philip Holm. Forward Anton Wedin (2 G, 4 A) collected three apples in Sunday’s wild victory over Chicago.

 

Hurt Hogs

Forwards Kris Versteeg, John Quenneville and Mikael Hakkarainen all sat out another weekend of action. For Versteeg, it has been six games out of the lineup. Quenneville has been out since taking a hard hit along the boards on October 19. Hakkarainen has been out since October 4.

Kevin Lankinen made a second consecutive start Saturday, with Collin Delia between the pipes Sunday. Matt Tomkins is still up with the Hogs, though I would think he’ll be sent down to Indy to start getting some steady work in net.

 

Recaps

Saturday, November 2-Rockford 3, Iowa 2 (OT)

It was a case of late being better than never for the Hogs, who came back from a two-goal deficit in the waning moments of regulation and swiped two points from the Central Division-leading Wild.

Iowa took a 1-0 lead midway through the first period on a Kyle Rau goal. Colton Beck went coast-to-coast for a power play goal late in the second period.

As the third period ticked away, there was little to suggest that Rockford would be getting back into the contest. However, Hogs goalie Kevin Lankinen was called to the bench and the gambit paid off, big time.

Lucas Carlsson sent a one-timer from the right circle past Mat Robson with 2:30 remaining. After Iowa iced the puck on a long-distance attempt at the empty net, Rockford won the resulting faceoff in the Wild zone. Carlsson was in nearly the same spot on the ice when Philip Holm’s pass found his stick. The shot was redirected by Tyler Sikura and into the Iowa net to tie the game with 2:02 left, sending the game into Gus Macker Time.

Lankinen stopped three Iowa shots in the extra session, keeping the IceHogs in contention until Matthew Highmore nabbed a Wild shot attempt that was blocked by Nicolas Beaudin and came off the end boards. Highmore started a two-on-one rush with Beaudin and sent a laser under Robson’s glove from the top of the right circle. The game-winner came 3:45 into overtime.

Lankinen made 30 saves to post his second win in a row. The game’s three stars were Highmore, Tyler Sikura and Carlsson.

 

Sunday, November 3-Rockford 7, Chicago 4

Dylan Sikura posted a hat trick with all three goals coming in a furious IceHogs rally. In all, Rockford put up five goals in the final ten minutes of action for a third-straight victory.

The Wolves built a 3-0 lead on goals by Zach Whitecloud, Lucas Elvenes and Jimmy Schuldt. The IceHogs countered with a Jacob Nilsson tally on the man advantage at 8:27 of the second period. Reid Duke made it 4-1 a few minutes later before MacKenzie Entwistle scored at the 10:51 mark.

Rockford was still down 4-2 midway through the final frame when all hell broke loose. Things got started on the power play, with Sikura the Younger zipped a Lucas Carlsson pass past Chicago goalie Oscar Dansk. The goal cut the Wolves lead to 4-3 10:41 into the third.

Just 1:25 later, Brandon Hagel tied the game with his first goal of the season. Ninety seconds later, Sikura gathered in a Matthew Highmore pass at the right dot and flung it over the glove of Dansk to put the Hogs up 5-4 at 13:37 of the third.

Rockford did not take its foot off the gas. Tyler Sikura won control of a loose puck behind the Wolves net, skated to the right post and found Dylan in the slot to cue the caps. Reese Johnson added an empty-netter in the final minute for the coup de gras.

Collin Delia stopped 21 of 25 Chicago shots, though he kept the Wolves at bay for the final 30 minutes of action to allow his teammates the chance to storm back in the third. To the surprise of no one, Dylan Sikura was voted the game’s first star, followed by Anton Wedin and Nilsson.

 

School Days

The IceHogs drop the puck on an 10:30 a.m. tilt with the Toronto Marlies Wednesday. The piglets don’t usually fare well in these affairs, but they will be trying to extend the win streak to four games. Rockford will close out their home stand on Friday night, when the Manitoba Moose come to the BMO.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates and opinions on all things Rockford IceHogs throughout the season.

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, Chicago’s AHL affiliate, wrapped up the 2018-19 season last night against Milwaukee. The Hogs were beaten by the Admirals 3-2, concluding the IceHogs season with a 35-31-4-6 mark. The 80 points earned by Rockford placed them seventh in the Central Division, out of the playoff picture this season.

As often happens with April snowstorms, I opted for my basement over the BMO Harris Bank Center to watch the curtain fall on this year’s crop of prospects. What follows are my thoughts as the piglets finished this season Sunday evening.

 

Pregame

Looks like a less than full throttle bunch to close out the season. Hogs MIAs include Peter Holland, Matthew Highmore, Jordan Schroeder, Jacob Nilsson, Dennis Gilbert, Lucas Carlsson, Collin Delia and Anton Forsberg. Kevin Lankinen is starting in goal; Matt Tomkins is backing him up. Apparently, with no tomorrow for Rockford, the Hogs have decided to punt.

Perhaps that’s a bit harsh; obviously, the brass want to see some of the newer faces take to the ice. Milwaukee, meanwhile, is gunning for the second seed in the Central Division. Back on March 22, the Ads were five points behind Rockford for the fourth playoff spot. Milwaukee has gone 9-0-1 since.

The IceHogs went 4-6 in their past ten games. Rockford beat the Admirals in overtime Tuesday in Milwaukee. They fell 3-0 in Iowa Saturday night; it was the seventh time this season that the piglets have been shut out this season. Right to the end, goals were too scarce for this bunch.

The Lankinen-Tomkins connection could be a preview of the goalie tandem next fall, though it’s very possible a veteran will be obtained to pair up with Lankinen, who was very good in limited opportunities for the IceHogs. He definitely needs 40 starts in Rockford instead of the 18 he got this season.

Highmore, who spent most of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, left Tuesday’s game and hasn’t played since. Last year’s top goal-scorer suffered through a disappointing season. Hopefully he’s just being held out to keep him healthy and his summer can be spent getting ready for a more productive campaign.

 

Team Awards

Before the game got underway, the IceHogs handed out their team awards. I tweeted my selections (@JonFromi) earlier Sunday afternoon. Here’s how things shook out:

Defensive Player Of The Year-Lucas Carlsson, who isn’t playing tonight.

My Pick: I had Carlsson, who led Rockford defensemen with 33 points (9 G, 24 A) this season.

Most Improved Player-Dennis Gilbert, who isn’t playing tonight.

My Pick: Gilbert, who really added to his physical game throughout the season at both ends of the ice.

Rookie Of The Year-Dylan Sikura

My Pick: Jacob Nilsson, who had a promising rookie season, with 15 goals and 18 helpers in 62 games. Sikura was an outstanding rookie for the IceHogs; my selection of Nilsson was largely because he spent the bulk of the season in Rockford, as opposed to Sikura, who played 49 games.

Unsung Hero(es)-Tyler Sikura, William Pelletier

My Pick: Andrew Campbell, who anchored this young team despite not putting up the points. His three-goal, five assist season was what I expected offensively from Campbell. I also expected a strong veteran presence, which Campbell more than delivered.

Heavy Hitter-Andreas Martinsen, who isn’t playing tonight.

My Pick: Gilbert, who put a lot of butts on the ice during the season. He also dropped the gloves seven times to pace the club.

Man Of The Year-Pelletier

My Pick: The team announced this a while back, so we all knew how this would go. I really hope Pelletier, who missed the first couple of months, is back with the IceHogs for a third season. His motor is a definite asset.

Team MVP-Jacob Nilsson, who isn’t playing tonight.

My Pick: Jordan Schroeder, who also isn’t playing tonight after being injured last weekend. All Schroeder did was set a career-high in points with 45 (19 G, 26 A) and score 19 goals for Rockford. With points in 37 of his 62 games, Schroeder’s longest point drought was three games.

He had points in 23 of those games, including the Hogs only hat trick against Iowa January 6. However, Schroeder was a steadier scoring threat for the offensively-challenged Hogs.

On a team that was woefully short on veteran scoring, Schroeder stepped up his game. He was consistently Rockford’s most productive offensive player all season. In my opinion, this was the team’s biggest miss in regards to the awards.

 

First Period

Tanner Jeanneau puts Milwaukee up 1-0 with a tip-in at 6:29. A couple minutes later, Milwaukee scores again on a power play goal by Cole Schneider. Just over eight minutes in and Rockford trails by a pair.

The Hogs get a goal back when Alexandre Fortin knocks in a centering pass by Dylan McLaughlin midway through the frame. Fortin has had difficulty converting on scoring opportunities this season (this was his sixth goal of 2018-19). The speed is there, but the kid needs to learn how to finish plays.

Pelletier gets hooked a moment later and Rockford’s 29th-ranked power play hits the ice. As happens more often than not, the IceHogs come up short. Could a more effective man advantage have helped Rockford this season? Definitely.

The IceHogs are out-shot 12-3 in the first 20 minutes and head to the intermission down a goal.

We already know that Rockford will not be participating in the postseason. That’s because (sorry) the Hogs were not a playoff-level team.

Rockford, as you would expect from a prospect-laden squad, ran very hot and cold this season. The Hogs lost six straight games on two occasions and had several three and four-game skids.

Rockford did put together a six-game winning streak in late January and early February and had the goal-tending to put together a solid campaign. However, there was never enough offense to capitalize on the great play between the pipes.

 

Second Period

Hogs broadcaster Joey Zakrzewski mentions that there are 19 skaters for Rockford who will be free agents this summer. I will forecast which of those we can expect to return to the organization in the next few weeks.

Tyler Sikura is one of those skaters who I would like to see back. He may not be quite the prospect that Sikura the Younger is, but Sikura the Elder can still make a difference for the Hogs next fall. His season wasn’t as productive and he lost a lot of time to injury. However, Sikura still had seven goals and a dozen assists in 50 games.

The Ads go up 3-1 during some four-on-four time on a goal at 6:33 by Adam Halewka, his 21st of the season. Rockford, like last season, hasn’t let a two-goal lead get them down. This team has battled hard under interim coach Derek King. What does that mean to King’s chances of getting the gig moving forward?

I don’t know.

Rockford is on its way to a seventh-place finish. This is about how last year’s team would have fared without the slew of veterans who took over in the spring. Management is going to have to believe that King can get some of these prospects ready for action at the next level. I would think that that decision will come in the next couple of days.

Fortin has a clear path to the net midway through the period; he loses the handle and another scoring chances fritters away. The shots are now 25-9 in favor of Milwaukee, who take the 3-1 lead into the second intermission.

 

Third Period

Rockford has a couple of big rallies this season, including a four-goal third period against San Antonio last week that pulled out a crucial victory at the BMO. They came back from 3-1 in Milwaukee Tuesday, so I am not counting the piglets out of this game yet.

As if on cue, Luke Johnson gets a rebound of a Nick Moutrey shot into the cage at 8:57 of the third. It’s Johnson’s 18th of the season (career high) as well as his 31st point (also a career high), despite only 53 games played for the IceHogs in 2018-19. Johnson is an RFA this summer that has shown steady progress in Rockford.

The Hogs refusal to capitulate has been a big selling point these last two seasons. There is a nice crowd at the BMO tonight. Not sure it’s going to be enough to prevent another drop in the yearly attendance, though.

Right now, Rockford’s average is 3828, down just a tad from 3915 last season. The hockey wave may have crested, but it’s too bad more people aren’t taking an interest in a young team that plays hard and gets up and down the ice with urgency.

Rockford is pressuring the Admirals as the sands begin to run out in the final stanza; they’ve out shot Milwaukee 7-2 in the first 15 minutes of the period. Johnson and Dylan Sikura each have six game-winners this season and have a lot of other clutch goals. Maybe they sneak one past Tom McCullom to knot this game.

Lankinen heads to the bench and the Hogs take their last hacks. Phillipp Kurashev, who I imagine will be in Rockford full-time this fall, has a good look from the bottom of the right circle that is snatched out of the air by the Ads goalie. Time out called by King.

The IceHogs win the faceoff but just can’t put that key third goal in the back of the Milwaukee net. The Admirals vault Iowa and Grand Rapids for the second seed. They’ll start with the Wild in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs; Chicago gets the slumping Griffins. The Hogs skate off the ice to clear out their lockers.

So ends the twentieth season of pro hockey in the Forest City and the twelfth as the Blackhawks AHL affiliate. Was this season a success?

My thoughts on that question (and probably many others) will come in future posts. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs put in a decent effort in Texas this past weekend, earning a split against the Stars. With each contest being of the must-win variety, two points in Cedar Park just isn’t enough to get the piglets over the playoff hump.

Rockford is currently on the bottom of a five-team sprint for the last two playoff spots in the Central Division. With three games left to play in the regular season, the Hogs figure to wind up on the outside looking in.

On the strength of an eight-game winning streak, Milwaukee (83 points) has leapfrogged Iowa for third place in the Central Division. The Wild, who have dropped eight in a row, now sit in a tie with Manitoba with 81 points. Texas trails Iowa and the Moose by a single point. In seventh place, with 78 points, are the IceHogs.

Rockford winds up its schedule with the Admirals in Milwauke Tuesday and at Iowa Saturday before wrapping up the regular season at the BMO against the Ads Sunday afternoon. Even if Rockford were to sweep this week, it seems unlikely that they can earn enough points to vault into fourth place.

 

Texas Trip

Peter Holland led the Hogs in Texas with four points (2 G, 2 A) in the back-to back. He had the only goal for Rockford in a 2-1 loss to the Stars Friday night and got another in the Hogs 4-3 shootout victory Saturday.

Holland’s goal Friday tied that game in the third period; Texas would pull out the win on a penalty shot by Ty Dellandrea midway through the final frame. Saturday was a back and forth affair, with the IceHogs tying the contest on a Tyler Sikura goal with just over five minutes remaining.

Holland, who had scored in the second period of regulation, kept Rockford alive in the third round of the shootout, which ended with a successful attempt by Jacob Nilsson in the fifth round.

The goal tending was solid throughout the weekend. Collin Delia stopped 26 of 28 Texas shots in a losing effort Friday. Anton Forsberg turned away 32 Stars shots, including a pair of point-blank attempts following Rockford turnovers in overtime.

 

Epic Comeback Against San Antonio

Forgive the hyperbole, but Rockford really pulled a rabbit out of its hat back on Tuesday night at the BMO. Trailing San Antonio 3-1 through two periods, a listless IceHogs team came out in fast-strike mode in the final frame to keep hopes alive.

William Pelletier scored twice in a thirteen-second span in the seventh minute to tie the contest. Rockford gave the stunned Rampage a reprieve until Dylan Sikura scored his second goal of the night at 15:25 of the third to put the Hogs ahead. On the next shift, Andreas Martinsen knocked in a rebound of Brandon Hagel’s attempt to cap off a 5-3 triumph.

As impressive as Tuesday’s rally was, it came at a price. Jordan Schroeder was helped off the ice at the end of the first period and did not return to action. Schroeder did not skate in Texas this weekend.

 

Roster Changes

Last Monday, Dylan Sikura was assigned to Rockford by the Blackhawks. The next day, Sikura was joined in the Hogs lineup by Matthew Highmore. Highmore made his return to action following an injury suffered back on October 28.

Dennis Gilbert was recalled by Chicago Tuesday, played for the Hawks Wednesday and was returned to Rockford that night. I was happy to see Gilbert get a look from the parent club; I felt like he was a player who made strides in his development this season.

Thursday, Rockford re-signed defenseman Dmitri Osipov to a new PTO after releasing him last week. They also inked forward Philipp Kurashev to an ATO after his junior season ended. Kurashev played in both games against the Stars; Osipov skated on Saturday night.

Friday, goalie Kevin Lankinen was recalled by Chicago to back up Cam Ward in Nashville in the Blackhawks season finale Saturday. He was assigned back to Rockford Sunday.

 

One Timers

  • In 19 games with the IceHogs, Holland has 15 points (7 G, 8 A). That’s not quite at the pace he was scoring with Hartford for most of the season, but he leads Rockford in points since joining the club. For the season, Holland has 64 points (27 G, 37 A), good for a tie for seventh in the AHL.
  • Schroeder had 16 points (8 G, 8 A) in his last 19 games dating back to February 16. Even if he doesn’t play again this season, he has set a career-high in points with 45 (19 G, 26 A).
  • Highmore was back in the lineup for all three games this past week. He had an assist in each of the games against the Stars.
  • From February 1 to March 16, the Admirals were 4-7-7-1 and just about out of the playoff race. Beginning with the three-game set with Rockford, with started March 22, Milwaukee is 8-0. That three-game sweep at the hands of Milwaukee will wind up the difference between The IceHogs making and missing this year’s Calder Cup Playoffs.
  • As of Monday morning, all eight Central Division teams have played 73 games. No games in hand for anyone in the division at the moment.
  • Despite two helpers this weekend, Anthony Louis is going to see a drop in his offensive numbers from his rookie campaign. More concerning is the fact that his scoring has faded badly in the latter part of both his pro seasons. In his last 32 games this season, Louis has two goals and six assists.
  • Rookie defenseman Lucas Carlsson, who paces the Hogs blueliners with eight goals, is on a twenty-game goal drought.
  • In his last 20 games, Alexandre Fortin has one goal and one assist.
  • It’s been a disappointing return to Rockford for Terry Broadhurst, who hasn’t skated for the Hogs since March 1. In 40 games played this season, Broadhurst has four goals and eight assists. These are by far the worst scoring numbers in five full AHL seasons.
  • Tyler Sikura’s goal Saturday was his first since December 19. In a season win which he missed two months with a broken thumb, Sikura The Elder has 19 points (7 G, 12 A) in 47 games. With a plus-five skater rating (fourth among active Hogs), Sikura is an RFA I’d like to see back in town next season. Goals or no goals, his work ethic is evident on the ice every night.

 

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

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs are coming off three straight losses to a Milwaukee club that was teetering on the edge of the playoff hunt. As a result, the Hogs can take a simple approach to their final eight games of the regular season.

Win.

Adrian Balboa I’m not, but Rockford would do well to follow that edict. The IceHogs host the top two teams in the Central Division this weekend in Grand Rapids and Chicago. That tall order is followed up by crucial tilts involving two of the three teams currently scrapping with Rockford for the division’s final playoff spot.

The Hogs fared a bit better in Wednesday’s game with the Admirals, though Milwaukee still posted a 4-2 victory. Chad Krys had a solid pro debut for the piglets, creating a scoring opportunity after picking off an Ads clearing attempt and sending a nice drop pass to Anthony Louis in the third period. Louis’s goal tied the score at two, though the Admirals would prevail.

Along with Krys, Rockford also saw Jacob Nilsson and Nick Moutrey return to action. That’s encouraging heading into two must-win contests with the cream of the division coming to the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Rockford needs at least a split against the Griffins Saturday night and Wolves Sunday afternoon to keep up with the neighbors. It’s nearly a dead heat for fourth place. Texas and Milwaukee each have 73 points, with the Hogs and Manitoba each boasting 72. The Moose and Admirals share a .537 points percentage compared to the Stars and Rockford, who both are at the .529 mark.

 

Four Schedules…Four Destinies

The IceHogs have a decent measure of control as far as reaching the postseason. Rockford has two games remaining against Texas and Milwaukee before the regular season ends.

The Stars finish their schedule with three games against last-place San Antonio. Before that, they visit Iowa this weekend for a pair and host the IceHogs for a back-to-back next weekend.

Manitoba has four of its last nine games against the Rampage (two games) and Pacific cellar-dwellers Stockton (two games). On the other hand, the other five are with Bakersfield (two), Grand Rapids and Chicago (two), the best three teams in the Western Conference.

Aside from their two games remaining with the Hogs, Milwaukee has two games left with the Wolves, a pair with Grand Rapids and one each with Iowa and San Antonio. Five of the Admirals last eight games are at home, while each of the other three teams have four home dates left.

Rockford closes the season with four straight road contests (two in Texas, Milwaukee and Iowa) before the regular season finale against the Ads April 14. That game could well decide the fate of the Hogs, provided Rockford doesn’t continue to wobble down the stretch.

 

Roster Moves

Krys, who signed his entry contract with the Blackhawks last week, signed a PTO with the IceHogs on Monday. He’ll probably be a mainstay in the lineup until the season concludes. On Wednesday, Rockford sent defenseman Josh McArdle to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL, along with forward Spencer Watson. Defenseman Dmitri Osipov was released from his PTO the same day.

You could speculate that either of the veteran blueliners, Andrew Campbell and Brandon Davidson, are ready to skate this weekend. Otherwise, Rockford just has six defensemen available. Dennis Gilbert left the ice after a big hit Wednesday but returned to action shortly thereafter.

Forwards Terry Broadhust and Matthew Highmore are nearing returns but probably won’t be on the ice this weekend. Luke Johnson did not skate on Wednesday, missing his second straight game after an injury last Friday in Milwaukee.

Follow me @JonFromi for updates on this weekend’s action as well as thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the rest of the 2018-19 campaign.

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

Some Hogs thoughts on the abbreviated tip this week, as work commitments have me out of the loop for most of the next few days…

  • Rockford dropped a pair in Manitoba this weekend, losing 3-1 Saturday night and 2-1 in Gus Macker Time the following afternoon. Dennis Gilbert had the lone IceHogs goal in the former, while Peter Holland drew cord for Rockford in the latter.
  • Though 61 games, the Hogs have 63 points and a .525 points percentage. The Moose share that percentage and have a game in hand on Rockford. In turn, the piglets have a game in hand on fourth-place Texas, trailing by four standings points.
  • Tyler Sikura made his return to the lineup from a broken thumb. He skated both games in Manitoba but didn’t post any points on the weekend.
  • Jacob Nilsson continues to be out of the lineup. He’s been out since February 23.
  • No roster moves were made last week.
  • Rockford has a huge three-in-three weekend coming up. The Hogs visit Grand Rapids on Friday night, then host Cleveland and the Stars at the BMO Harris Bank Center Saturday and Sunday. Beating Texas in regulation is a must. The fourth playoff spot in the Central Division is still attainable for any of the last five teams in the standings. If that team is to be the IceHogs, the boys need to start knocking off division opponents.
  • I may squeeze out a few tweets this week if time allows. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for some Hogs nuggets.
Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, have been at home for most of the last three weeks. They made the most of the extended time in their own barn.

The Hogs had nine of their last ten games at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Their record at home during that stretch was 7-2. That includes a thrilling finish to the home stand this weekend.

Rockford had dropped two games in a row heading into the weekend and found themselves down 4-0 Saturday night against visiting Iowa. The piglets roared back into contention to force a shootout and bested the Wild, then finished the weekend with a win over San Antonio.

The IceHogs are now 25-21-3-5 on the season. The pendulum swings the other way for Rockford, who are on the road for seven of its next eight games. The current jaunt begins in Grand Rapids, where the Central Division leaders are 20-5-1-3 this season. The Griffins have won eight of the last tilts at Van Andel Arena; Rockford is 1-2 in Grand Rapids this season.

From there, the Hogs go East to take on Hershey on Saturday and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Sunday. Rockford has home victories in prior meetings with the Bears and Penguins.

 

Musings

  • Kevin Lankinen was in net for all three of Rockford’s games this week, including work on back-to-back nights. The rookie has proved himself this season, sporting a 2.47 GAA and a .911 save percentage despite a 7-6-3 record. If Lankinen needed to carry the load in net for Rockford, it appears that he would be up to the task.
  • On the other hand, why has Anton Forsberg been glued to the bench? There’s the possibility that Collin Delia could be back in Rockford sometime soon and would likely get a bigger share of the starts. Could Forsberg be sitting while a deal to send him out of town is made?
  • Luke Johnson has stepped up his play the last few weeks, with two-point efforts in both weekend games. Johnson’s shooting percentage is 17.5, the highest of the active IceHogs skaters. Right behind him is Jacob Nilsson, who hits nets at a 17.1 percent rate.
  • In contrast to Johnson and Nilsson, two guys who have difficulty converting on their opportunities are Alexandre Fortin and Graham Knott. Both create some decent scoring chances with speed (Fortin) and hustle (Knott). The problem is that those chances don’t cue many horns.
  • Saturday night, Fortin was sprung for a breakaway chance early in the contest. As happens with frequency, he was not able to put an effective shot on net. This has been a consistent problem with the speedy forward. Fortin has 29 games in Rockford and has nine points (4 G, 5 A) to show for it. In 33 games, Johnson has collected 22 points (11 G, 11 A).
  • In fairness to Fortin, his 8.2 shooting percentage is nearly double last year’s effort. He is a plus-seven this season, highest on the squad. You can still see plenty of potential in his game. Sooner or later, however, the kid’s got to knock the cover off of the net.
  • Knott, who like Fortin has another year on his entry deal, is going to better his rookie numbers. His passing has been more noticeable in the offensive end and two of his three goals are game-winners. Aside from the penalty kill, Knott has yet to really stand out in any area of the game. How much higher is the ceiling on Chicago’s second-round pick from 2015?
  • Henri Jokiharju is not long for Rockford; I would imagine he’ll be back in Chicago by the beginning of next month. In eight games with the Hogs, he has seven points (1 G, 6 A). He is also creating a slew of scoring opportunities from the point. Jokiharju is averaging nearly four shots a game and is making an impact since being assigned to Rockford.
  • Jordan Schroeder is emerging as the team MVP. The 28-year-old forward leads the IceHogs in goals (14), assists (19) and points (33). Schroeder’s five-game point streak came to a close on Tuesday in a 3-2 loss to Texas. However, he had a pair of goals in Saturday’s comeback win on the way to a four-point weekend.
  • Rockford’s power play had scored in five straight games before coming up empty Sunday against San Antonio. However, the Hogs (15.3 percent) are still 30th out of 31 teams on the man advantage. The penalty kill has slipped a bit, to 80.8 percent. That’s good for 17th in the AHL.
  • The Rockford offense is still the worst in the league, with an average of 2.46 goals per game. However, over this last ten-game stretch, the Hogs have scored 3.50 goals per game.
  • Simply put, if Rockford can get three goals, they have an excellent chance of winning. There’s still a lot of battle in these kids and the defense and goalie play are going to keep them in games.

 

Roster News

There hasn’t really been any roster activity this week. Brandon Davidson returned from injury Sunday. He scored the game-winner against the Rampage after being out for nine games. Blake Hillman also rejoined the lineup Saturday after missing five games.

Nathan Noel’s last game was back on January 12. Tyler Sikura’s thumb has kept him out of the lineup since January 6. Terry Broadhust was a late scratch on Sunday; no word as to his status for this week.

Matthew Highmore, who had shoulder surgery back in November, is practicing with the team. A return from the second-year forward could provide a big boost to the Hogs playoff hopes.

 

Recaps

Tuesday, February 12-Texas 3, Rockford 2

The Hogs dropped their second straight game as the Stars inched closer to Rockford in the Central Division standings.

Texas drew first cord late in the opening period. The goal came from Park Ridge native Michael Mersch, who sent a deflection past Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen at the 17:10 mark.

The IceHogs narrowly avoided a shorthanded goal against them early in the second period, then came down the ice to tie the contest. Luke Johnson brought the puck out of the Hogs zone after Lankinen stopped a Justin Dowling attempt. Making his way to the opposite coast, Johnson maneuvered between the circles and passed to Henri Jokiharu.

Jokiharu’s shot rebounded off the pads of Texas goalie Phillipe Derosiers, where Johnson had first dibs. The putback was denied, but Jacob Nilsson finished off the scoring play by knocking the puck across the border and into the city. The game was tied at one 2:37 into the second.

The Stars responded with a pair of power play goals of their own to build a 3-1 advantage. Travis Morin added to his hefty scoring totals against Rockford at 6:51 of the second, while rookie Joel L’Esperance put in his league-leading 27th goal of the season 3:31 into the third period.

The IceHogs rallied for a Viktor Ejdsell strike with Lankinen on the bench at the 16:51 mark, but Rockford ran out of clock before they could finish the comeback.

 

Saturday, February 16-Rockford 5, Iowa 4 (SO)

In what just may have been the game to see at the BMO this season, Rockford erased a four-goal deficit in the last 21:32 of action. The Hogs triumphed over the Wild to break a two-game skid in exciting fashion.

The Wild skated into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead courtesy of Brennan Menell’s deflection of Cal O’Reilly’s shot 18:36 into the first period. Goals by J.T. Brown and Sam Anas in the first two minutes of the middle frame had the IceHogs reeling and down three. A Gerald Mayhew tally 16:34 into the second had Iowa leading 4-0 and the outcome seemed academic.

The rally started on a late power play chance, after William Pelletier was cross-checked by Iowa’s Michael Kapla. Luke Johnson won the subsequent draw, with Jacob Nilsson sliding the disc to Jordan Schroeder in the high slot. The offering beat Wild rookie Kaapo Kahkonen’s glove and caught the upper right corner of the net at 18:28 of the second period.

Down 4-1 to start the third period, the piglets came out with some urgency for the first time all evening. Johnson got to the left post to redirect a Henri Jokiharu blast into the Iowa cage 4:38 into the third period. The secondary assist was given to Andrew Campbell, who made a nice play to keep a Wild clearing attempt in the offensive zone.

Midway through the third, Nilsson dropped the puck off to Jokiharju, who skated to the right corner of the Iowa zone and center to Schroeder for his second goal of the night. With 9:10 left in regulation, the Hogs had cut the lead to 4-3.

The much-anticipated equalizer came after Rockford had come up short on a power play. After the Wild’s Mason Shaw came out of the box. Viktor Ejdsell withstood a hard check along the half boards to keep possession. Andreas Martinsen got clear with the puck and sent a pass across the ice to Joni Tuulola at the left dot. Tuulola’s shot cleared the blocker of Kahkonen and rattled into the net at the 15:59 mark.

Neither team could breach the opposing goal in the remainder of regulation or overtime. This comeback would have to be completed via the shootout. Jokiharu and Schroeder were stopped by Kahkonen. Sam Anas and Dimitri Sokolov were denied by Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen.

Ejdsell’s third-round attempt would be the pivotal moment. The shot met Kahkonen’s pads but still retained the giddy-up to slide across the goal line. Mayhew’s attempt was snuffed out by Lankinen and the BMO erupted in celebration.

 

Sunday, February 17-Rockford 5, San Antonio 2

The IceHogs won their second straight game, closing out a six-game home stand with a 4-2 mark.

Rockford got the first goal of the game late in the opening period. Nifty backhand passing by William Pelletier and Andreas Martinsen set up Luke Johnson coming across the Rampage crease. Johnson was able to wait out San Antonio goalie Jared Coreau and slide in his eleventh goal of the season at the 16:33 mark.

The Hogs doubled the lead early in the second period when Dennis Gilbert got off a long pass to Jordan Schroeder coming into the Rampage zone. Schroeder skated to the right circle and let fly with a lamp-lighter for a 2-0 advantage at the 1:02 mark.

San Antonio got a goal back at 3:54 of the period when Adam Musil sent a shot past Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen. A couple of minutes later, Mitch Reinke sent a shot off of Lankinen. Joey LaLeggia got a hold of the rebound and banked in the equalizer off of the Hogs rookie.

The score remained knotted at two through the second intermission, until the IceHogs got a goal from returning defenseman Brandon Davidson. Davidson crashed the Rampage net to follow up on a Nilsson attempt. Collecting the rebound, Davidson stuffed the puck past Coreau at 4:51 of the third period to put Rockford up 3-2.

San Antonio went with an empty net for most of the final minutes, allowing William Pelletier and Nick Moutrey the chance to send the BMO faithful home with free Culvers and wrap up a weekend sweep.

If the feeling moves you, follow me @JonFromi on twitter for news, updates and thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Roster Bits

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

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

 

Recaps

No lines this week.

Wednesday, December 26-Iowa 4, Rockford 0

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, December 28-Chicago 4, Rockford 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

This Week

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

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs are sitting in San Antonio with plenty to think about. Chicago’s AHL affiliate has its second game in four days against the Rampage coming up Tuesday night. Rockford will be attempting to snap a three-game skid, its longest of the young season.

It wasn’t a particularly memorable weekend for the piglets. After dropping a 3-1 decision to Grand Rapids Wednesday morning, Rockford flew down to Texas and were dominated in a 5-1 loss to the Stars. The following evening, the offensively-challenged Rampage beat the Hogs 2-1.

With the recent setbacks, Rockford is now 8-7-1-2 on the season. That .528 points percentage is good for sixth place in the Central Division.

In three games, the IceHogs scored three goals. They were 1-14 on the power play. The weekend did not produce a lot of offense in the way of shots, either. Rockford recorded just 16 shots on goal against Texas, then followed that up with a 15-shot performance in San Antonio.

To be fair, the IceHogs were missing some players. However, Rockford got solid goal-tending that had them even with its Lone Star opponents through 40 minutes on both Friday and Saturday. Texas out shot the Hogs 14-2 in the third period to pull away; Rockford mustered six third-period shots against the Rampage.

Jordan Schroeder got back into the lineup after missing nine games, finding the twine in his return Friday night. Tyler Sikura missed his third and fourth games with an illness. Anton Forsberg stayed home to recover from a similar illness.

 

Highmore Grounded

The organization got some bad news this week. Matthew Highmore, who injured his shoulder October 28 in a fall at the BMO Harris Bank Center against Manitoba, will be out for the next four to six months following surgery last Wednesday.

Highmore had seven points (3 G, 4 A) in eight games before leaving that game in the second period. He is one of the Hogs young prospects who can make things happen around the net, so his game is going to be missed.

 

King Quotes

Derek King is hoping to get the ship righted starting Tuesday in San Antonio. Here are some of his observations during the losing streak.

On the Hogs problems getting started in Wednesday morning’s 3-1 loss in Grand Rapids:

“We were walking through the game there for a while. We were standing still, they were setting the pace.”

On Jacob Nilsson, who scored the only goal in the loss to the Griffins:

“(Nilsson)’s a pretty solid player. He’s not going to toe-drag and be super flashy out there, but he’ll get the points when he gets the chance to. He kills penalties, he’s a good guy on the power play, he’s a good faceoff guy. He’s an all-around complete player and I’m going to look to him to lead this team, here.”

On Texas dominating play throughout a 5-1 loss Friday night:

“We were standing still watching them. It was kind of like watching Gretzky or Lemieux out there. When you watch them play you just kind of stand still in awe and watch them play. We gave them (Texas) a lot of respect. We should have been clogging them up like we wanted to and we were just standing there watching.”

On trying to break the current losing streak in Tuesday’s rematch with San Antonio:

“Like I say to the guys, I’ll put up reminders and these are the instructions for tonight. So, you’ve got to read the instructions. If you’re trying to build a drawer from IKEA and you’re not reading the instructions, good luck getting that put together. We put a game plan together; let’s follow it. Sometimes we stray from it and that’s (Saturday’s 2-1 loss) what happens.”

 

Recaps

Friday, November 16-Texas 5, Rockford 1

The Stars, who pressured Collin Delia all evening, broke open a tie game in the third period with four goals. The Hogs goalie kept out 26 of 27 shots in the first 40 minutes before the dam broke.

Texas opened the scoring 6:25 into the contest while the teams were skating four to a side. Denis Gurianov swiped the puck from Rockford defenseman Darren Raddysh just inside the Stars blue line. Gurianov led an odd man rush the other way, setting up Roope Hintz for the score.

Despite being out shot 27-14 in the first 40 minutes, the IceHogs pulled even late in the second period. Viktor Ejdsell had thrown a shot attempt wide of the Texas net. Dylan Sikura chased it down behind the cage, passing to Jordan Schroeder as Sikura came around the end boards. Schroeder, making his return to action after missing nine games, tied the game from the right post at 18:44 of the middle frame.

If the Stars had dominated the game everywhere but on the scoreboard in the first two periods, they remedied that expeditiously in the final twenty minutes. While Texas captain Travis Morin screened Joni Tuulola, Tyler Fedun drew twine on a long-distance wrist shot fifteen seconds into the third period for a 2-1 advantage.

Rockford mustered just two shots to the Stars 14 in the third period. Texas got a goal from Morin at the midway point of the frame, then another from Samuel Lebarge 37 seconds later. Colton Hargrove’s exclamation point on the rout came 15:25 into the period.

For the game, the IceHogs were out shot 41-16. The relentless offensive pressure was too much for Delia in the final period but he still made 36 saves in the contest.

 

Saturday, November 17-San Antonio 2, Rockford 1 

The IceHogs were out of sorts against the AHL’s worst team, dropping their third straight game despite a solid effort by Kevin Lankinen in goal. The rookie, returning from a spell with the Indy Fuel, stopped 19 of 21 shots but didn’t get the support he needed at the other end of the ice.

Rockford experienced a bevy of issues in getting pucks to Rampage goalie Jordan Binnington. Two early power plays yielded nothing in the way of shots, and the two teams spent most of the opening period throwing the puck to each other or chasing it around the ice.

San Antonio took a 1-0 lead at the 14:35 mark of the second period after Graham Knott was called for holding. Austin Poganski knocked a loose puck under the pads of Lankinen to put the Rampage on top.

The Hogs came up with an answer a few minutes later, also while on the man advantage. Carl Dahlstom fielded a pass from Anthony Louis and sent a shot from the point that snaked past Binnington. Justin Auger provided cover from the front of the crease and Rockford tied the game at 18:05.

The Rampage took advantage of a neutral ice turnover midway through the third period to regain the lead. Adam Musil beat Lankinen from the slot at 9:07, assisted by Tanner Kaspick and Joey LaLeggia.

Musil’s goal held up; the IceHogs could muster only 15 goals on the evening. Lankinen was brought to the bench for a sixth skater, but Rockford was unable to utilize the additional manpower and the clock ran out on the Hogs.

 

This Week

Rockford gets a second shot at the Rampage Tuesday night before a brief return to the BMO Friday. The Hogs host the Chicago Wolves on Hockey Fights Cancer Night in the first tilt of a three-game weekend. Rockford visits Milwaukee Saturday night and Chicago Sunday afternoon.

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