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

Even under normal circumstances, this stretch of the year can feel arduous and get to be a slog, and that’s without the now constant looming specter of random roster configurations and potential postponements at every turn. Furthermore, the style of hockey the Hawks are now trying to win with is anything but scintillating, but at least it netted results on this 3 game, 3 time zone trip, with the Hawks taking 2 of 3, and two in regulation, though not necessarily the games one would have guessed going into it.

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs split a weekend in Texas, running their December record to 5-3 and maintaining third place in the AHL’s Central Division. Rockford (11-10-1-1) has used improved defense to go 6-3-1 over its last ten games.

The piglets are giving up 3.26 goals per contest. That’s about a half goal less than a month ago. In seven December contests, Rockford is holding opponents to 2.85 goals. The tightened defense has definitely been a catalyst to a more competitive IceHogs squad.

The Chicago Wolves has separated them from the other division clubs, having lost just five games this season. Three of those five losses have come at the hands of the Hogs. Rockford’s 3-2 shootout triumph on November 20 was the last defeat of Chicago by anyone in a month; the Wolves (20-4-1) have won twelve straight since then.

 

Roster News

Defenseman Ian Mitchell was recalled by the Blackhawks after skating for Rockford in Friday’s win in Cedar Park. Mitchell and forward Josiah Slavin were assigned to the Hogs Sunday.

A host of Rockford skaters returned to action over the weekend, including Lukas Reichel (concussion) Dylan McLaughlin (COVID protocol), and Jakub Galvas (concussion). Goalie Arvid Soderblom came out of the concussion protocol to play Saturday night.

 

Weekend Recaps

Friday, December 17-Rockford 3, Texas 1

Rockford slowed the Stars in impressive fashion, making a first-period lead stick in Cedar Park Friday.

The IceHogs struck twice in 30 seconds in the opening period. Dylan McLaughlin hauled in a long stretch pass from Nicolas Beaudin at the Texas blueline. McLaughlin, back in action for Rockford after missing four games, skated to the front of the net and five-holed Stars goalie Anton Khodobin at the seven minute-mark for a 1-0 Hogs lead.

Alex Nylander, assisted by Issak Phillips on an odd-man rush, extended the Rockford advantage with a wrister past Khodobin at 7:30 of the first. Texas cut the lead to 2-1 at 8:55 on a Ben Gleason goal.

Rockford out-shot the Stars 13-7 in the second period, garnering several up-close scoring opportunities. Khudobin kept Texas in the game in the second period, then stifled the Hogs throughout the third. His paddle save of McLaughlin’s shot at an open net midway through the period was one of many outstanding stops.

The IceHogs were only able to pick up an insurance goal when the Texas netminder was called to the bench in the closing minutes. Ironically, the goal was credited to Rockford goalie Collin Delia, who made a pad save for his 24th stop of the evening. An errant centering pass wound up in the Stars net; as the last Rockford player to touch the puck, the Cucamonga Kid picked up his first AHL goal at the 19:57 mark.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mike Hardman-Lukas Reichel-Alexander Nylander

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

Cameron Morrison-Evan Barratt-Carson Gicewicz

Andrei Altybarmakian-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dimitri Osipov

Issak Phillips-Ian Mitchell

Wyatt Kalynuk-Alec Regula

Ryan Stanton (A)-Nicolas Beaudin

Collin Delia

Arvid Soderblom

 

Saturday, December 18-Texas 3, Rockford 2

Rockford staged a late rally that came up short, as the Stars rode another solid performance by Anton Khudobin in Saturday’s rematch.

After a scoreless first period, Texas took a 1-0 lead on a Curtis McKenzie goal 2:28 into the second. The goal was set up off a Josh Melnick shot attempt that was blocked by Hogs defenseman Nicolas Beaudin. McKenzie got the puck on his stick at the right post and slipped it past Hogs starter Arvid Soderblom.

The Stars captain picked up his second of the night late in the second. Joel L’Esperance sent a cross-ice pass over the stick of Hogs defenseman Issak Phillips to McKenzie at the right dot. The goal came with 1:05 remaining, sending Rockford to the intermission down 2-0.

Texas went up 3-0 midway through the third period on Tye Felhaber’s first goal of the season. The Hogs broke up Anton Khudobin’s shutout bid with a Mike Hardman goal from the right post at the 14:04 mark.

A high-sticking penalty by the Stars Riley Damiani prompted Rockford to pull Soderblom for an extra skater. Lukas Reichel found the mark from the top of the right circle with 2:35 left to pull the Hogs within a goal. Unfortunately, that’s as close as the game got.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mike Hardman-Lukas Reichel-Alexander Nylander

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

Cameron Morrison-Evan Barratt-Carson Gicewicz

Andrei Altybarmakian-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dimitri Osipov

Issak Phillips-Jakub Galvas

Wyatt Kalynuk-Alec Regula

Ryan Stanton (A)-Nicolas Beaudin

Arvid Soderblom

Collin Delia

 

This Week

The IceHogs host Milwaukee Tuesday night in their only action this week.

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

 

Hockey

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

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

There were some more subtractions to the lineup, though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Coming Up

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

 

Weekend Recaps

Friday, December 3-Rockford 4, Grand Rapids 1

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

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

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

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

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

Lines (Starters in italics)

Andrei Altybarmakian-Philipp Kurashev-Alexander Nylander

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

Cameron Morrison-Evan Barratt-Carson Gicewicz

Jakub Pour-Garrett Mitchell (A)-Dimitri Osipov

Jakub Galvas-Nicolas Beaudin

Ryan Stanton (A)-Alec Regula

Issak Phillips-Ian Mitchell

Collin Delia

Cale Morris

 

Saturday, December 4-Grand Rapids 6, Rockford 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lines (Starters in italics)

Andrei Altybarmakian-Philipp Kurashev-Alexander Nylander

D.J. Buskdeker-Chad Yetman-Michal Teply

Cameron Morrison-Evan Barratt-Carson Gicewicz

Jakub Pour-Garrett Mitchell (A)-Dimitri Osipov

Jakub Galvas-Nicolas Beaudin

Ryan Stanton (A)-Chad Krys

Issak Phillips-Alec Regula

Collin Delia

Cale Morris

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

Hockey

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.