Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs had a bit of a revolving door when it came to the crease this past season. Injuries to some key personnel made for some vertical movement for several of the goalies in the organization.

As the first installment of some “in-depth” looks at the Hawks AHL affiliate, let’s cast our gaze squarely between the pipes and the four players that patrolled that area for Rockford in 2017-18.

 

Collin Delia-28 Games (17-7-4), 2.72 GAA, .900 Save Percentage

Timing is everything in the development of a prospect. Case in point…the rookie campaign of Collin Delia.

Delia earned himself an entry contract with some strong showings in the Hawks past two prospect camps. He began the season as quite the rambling man, working out with the Hogs staff and trekking to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL for game action.

It was not a successful formula for Delia.

Yes, the same 23-year old who stood so tall in the first two rounds of Rockford’s playoff run was flat-out terrible in Indy. In ten starts, he was giving up over four goals a game and sported an .887 save percentage. In a spot start for the Hogs in Iowa on November 9, he gave up four goals on 16 shots and looked completely overwhelmed.

When he was pressed into action against the Wild on December 28, Delia had not played a game in Indy or Rockford in over a month. At that point, he was only playing because the cupboard was bare. J.F. Berube was injured and Jeff Glass was in Chicago. The IceHogs had to go with Delia and Matt Tomkins in net and try like hell to limit quality shot attempts.

Again, with a veteran at Jeremy Colliton’s disposal, I doubt Delia would have had many starts in the two months that Berube missed. Opportunity was rapping at Delia’s door…and you know what? The kid responded big-time and began getting his act together.

It took several games (with the Hogs D playing a big part in limiting high percentage shots), but Delia began to look a bit more comfortable in the crease. He put up a 5-0-1 stretch from January 6 to the 26th, then took his game up a notch from there.

In his last 15 starts, Delia was 11-3-3 and limited opponents to three goals or less in 12 of those contests. His eight starts against Chicago and Manitoba in the Calder Cup Playoffs proved to be the high-water mark. Delia took over in the first two rounds, led the Hogs to the conference final and completed an astounding turnaround to his first professional season.

Delia’s style has him winding up on his backside quite a bit. It’s something I think he needs to address in Rockford this fall. However, I believe that Delia has shown the potential the organization saw when they offered him an NHL contract.

 

Jean-Francios Berube-15 Games (7-8), 2.37 GAA, .920 Save Percentage

The former Islanders farmhand helped get Rockford off to a strong opening, winning his first five starts. Berube then dropped five straight decisions, though he was playing solid in the net when he was called up for a week of backup service in Chicago.

Returning to the IceHogs December 8, Berube stopped 18 shots in the first half of the next night’s start against Grand Rapids when he suffered a knee injury that kept him out of action for the next two months. He came back in February, lost two starts despite playing well, then was moved up to back up Anton Forsberg the rest of the season.

That December injury was pivotal for several reasons. A healthy Berube would likely have gone up to Chicago when Corey Crawford went down later that month. Rockford would then have ridden Jeff Glass for the majority of the last four months of the regular season. Glass and his feel-good run with the Hawks may not have come to fruition.

Flip Berube and Glass if it pleases you, though Berube was by far the better candidate for a recall prior to his injury. Either way, there is no way that Delia would have been able to work his way into the role he enjoyed (and certainly deserved) in the latter stages of the season.

 

Jeff Glass-28 Games (15-9-2), 2.82 GAA, .904 Save Percentage

Glass had his own success story in reaching the NHL this season. In Rockford, he served as half of a pretty successful veteran tandem in net until Berube got hurt.

Starting in the second period of the game Berube was injured to when he was recalled to the Blackhawks, Glass had a 2.39 GAA and a .935 save percentage in six games, during which Delia was planted firmly to the bench.

Glass surrendered eight goals against Manitoba when the Moose were an offensive juggernaut in November and ten more in his first two games back with Rockford in February. Aside from that, he was a steady presence in goal. Glass held opponents to three goals or less in 23 of his 28 appearances and to two goals or less in 14 games.

Glass was also a much-needed veteran voice in the locker room who came into the Western Conference Final after sitting for a month and was tremendous in his four starts. I’m not sure how much interest he’ll draw as a potential NHL backup heading into this summer, but he is a solid addition to an AHL roster.

 

Matt Tomkins-Eight Games (1-4-2), 4.04 GAA, .871 Save Percentage

Chicago’s seventh-round selection in the 2012 NHL Draft was on an AHL deal after completing his college career at Ohio State. Tomkins was injured for six weeks early in the season while in Indy but was playing well for the Fuel when he was recalled to Rockford to form a rookie goalie platoon with Delia in late December.

The Chicago Wolves put up six goals in to spoil his debut December 30. His best start came against Cleveland January 19, when he stopped 32 of 35 shots and helped the Hogs rally from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Monsters 4-3.

Tomkins dropped his last two starts for Rockford before Berube’s return sent him back to the ECHL February 8. He did see action late in the season, losing a 4-3 decision to Texas April 7 as the Stars rallied for three goals in the final period.

Tomkins’ Indy stat line (11-9-2, 3.47 GAA, .912 save percentage) was about par for a Fuel squad that gave up 3.41 goals a game this season. He didn’t show enough to merit an entry contract from the Hawks, in my opinion, but who’s to rule out another one-year AHL deal?

 

So…How Does The Goalie Situation Look Like For 2018-19?

The two goalies behind Corey Crawford, as was the case last year, are Forsberg and Berube…at least for the moment. Both are under contract for next season, as is Delia and recently signed Finnish goalie Kevin Lankinen.

Unless one of these players are moved in a trade, it’s difficult to see Glass remaining in the organization. I’m guessing that the Blackhawks have seen what his ceiling is. As I mentioned before, Glass is a solid veteran at the AHL level but a Delia-Lankinen pairing in Rockford would be best for developing potential NHL talent.

The Ivan Nailimov situation could be an x-factor in the goalie picture. It has been reported that Nailimov, a 2014 sixth-rounder, wishes to be traded. Even from Russia, the 23-year-old can see a crowded crease behind Crawford in terms of securing an NHL job in Chicago.

Could Delia, one of the Hogs postseason heroes, find himself with the Fuel again this fall? In the present configuration, someone is destined for Indy. It’s hard to see Chicago signing Lankinen to throw him to the ECHL. Delia has proved he’s capable of handling substantial AHL minutes, but I don’t believe he’s vaulted over Forsberg or Berube on the depth chart.

To assume that Chicago maintains their goal-tending collection with no changes may be a bit foolhardy. The Hawks appear to want an upgrade at the spot behind Crawford (Carter Hutton, anyone?), which could further muddy the waters. Expect a deal involving Forsberg, Berube or Delia sometime this summer, or possibly after the three get a hard look in training camp.

Depending on how much baseball I find myself watching in the next few days, I’ll take a gander at the defensive landscape Monday morning and the forwards sometime after that. Meanwhile, follow me @JonFromi on twitter for any thoughts I can belch out over the summer.

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs take to the ice at the HEB Center against the Texas Stars Monday night in Game 6 of the AHL’s Western Conference Final. The piglets stayed alive Friday with a 3-1 victory over Texas in Rockford to necessitate a trip back to the Lone Star State.

To advance to the Calder Cup Final against the waiting Toronto Marlies, the IceHogs require a road sweep of the final two games with the Stars. Game 7, if needed, will take place Tuesday night.

Rockford turned in a gritty effort to extend the series in Game 5. It was the first game that neither club’s power play was able to score. The Hogs had to get it done at even strength, which they did after a marvelous opening period.

As they had in Game 4, the Hogs came out of the gate in attack mode. Friday night, it resulted in two goals in the first 8:15 of action. The first came on a clap shot by Cody Franson from the left point 3:01 into the game. Five minutes later, Rockford was able to double its advantage.

The scoring play took shape quickly, with Victor Ejdsell finding Luke Johnson unchecked just outside the Stars zone. Johnson bore in on Texas goalie Mike McKenna and united rubber and twine in matrimony at the 8:15 mark.

David Kampf got off a nice shot from the left dot that rang off the far post but stayed out of the net a few minutes later. Even so, it was a dominant first-period for the IceHogs.

Texas didn’t get this far in the tournament by laying down their sticks when behind. The push back came in the second period, where they began winning races to the puck. Midway through the period, Roope Hintz gathered in a rebound in front of Jeff Glass’s net and deposited it to cut the Hogs lead to 2-1.

The IceHogs were getting time in the Texas zone in the third period, but weren’t getting the type of looks that could result in the insurance goal they sorely needed. McKenna, who has been outstanding in the Stars playoff run, coughed up a softie at a most opportune time for Rockford.

Kampf crossed the blueline and tossed a shot on the Stars net. It was not much more than a dump-in, really. McKenna swatted it away with his blocker. However, the puck tumbled high over the head of McKenna and landed in the crease behind him, toddling across the goal line to put the Hogs up 3-1 at the 11:13 mark.

Glass and the IceHogs, buoyed by McKenna’s gift, kept Texas at bay for the rest of the contest. In his second-straight start, the veteran made 40 saves on 41 shots. Rockford was out shot 26-8 in the final 40 minutes but triumphed nonetheless.

Despite the Stars nearly doubling Rockford up on shots (41-21), the Hogs closed the Texas series lead to three games to two in a very heartening way. Here’s why:

  • Rockford was able to come out smoking and took charge of the game early.
  • The IceHogs were physical without spending a lot of needless time in the penalty box. The Stars had just two power play chances on the night.
  • If the Stars didn’t know much about Ejdsell before, they do now. Rockford’s x-factor in these playoffs, Ejdsell leads all AHL skaters with seven postseason goals. He has four game-winners in the playoffs, tied with Curtis McKenzie of Texas for the top spot in that category. Ejdsell followed up his two-goal, three point night in Game 4 with a key assist to Johnson in Game 5.
  • Glass had himself another good game, grabbing First Star honors. He stopped a couple of key breakaway chances to preserve the Rockford lead. He also stood pretty tall in the closing moments, when Texas pulled McKenna for a 6-on-4 power play.

Collin Delia earned his spot as the postseason goalie with some great play in the first two rounds. In turn, Glass has earned the right to man the pipes for the remainder of this series, in my opinion.

Could Texas be feeling a bit tight around the collar after the Hogs kicked out of two elimination games? Possibly, though they still need just one win in their barn and will get two shots to do that. McKenna is still going to be a tough man to score on.

Curtis McKenzie squared off with Franson late in the first period Friday in an attempt to fire up his club. The Stars looked a bit frustrated at the physical nature of the Hogs effort, but Texas is more than able to give as well as they get in that department.

Three of the games in this series have been decided by overtime. It won’t come as a surprise if Game 6 is a hard-fought affair that may require some extra effort. Can the IceHogs force a seventh game in Texas? We’ll find out soon enough.

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs were able to extend their season a bit longer into the spring Thursday with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Texas Stars. The asterisk can be removed from Game 5 of the Western Conference Final. It is indeed necessary and will be at the BMO Harris Bank Center Friday night.

Safe to say that this will be brief. The season could end at any time for the piglets. Maybe I’m here Monday morning  crowing about a possible comeback to be completed in Texas. Maybe I’m starting to dig a hole to plant the 2017-18 campaign before beginning a season-in-review post. The way the last three games have gone, it could be either angle.

Game 4, like the previous two games in this series with the Stars, came down to extra hockey. Unlike Game 3’s scoreboard orgasm, goals were hard to come by Thursday. Rockford had to rally from a goal down in the third period and needed a good portion of the frame to come up with the equalizer. For the first time in this series, the Hogs were able to manufacture some scoring when it really counted.

Victor Ejdsell gave Rockford the lead 6:24 into the game when his attempt from the slot slipped through the pads of Stars goalie Mike McKenna. Texas tied the game via a two-man advantage in the 16th minute on a bad angle shot by Travis Morin. A late power play tally by Matt Mangene put the IceHogs down 2-1 with 25 seconds left in the second period.

Things looked a bit bleak for Rockford until Luke Johnson was able to re-direct a Cody Franson shot past McKenna with just under seven minutes to go in regulation. In overtime, Ejdsell scored from the right circle after Matthew Highmore gathered in a rebound of his own shot and found the open Swede.

IceHogs win. Cue “Chelsea Dagger”, raise the sticks and get set to try this winning thing again. Here are some additional thoughts on Game 4:

  •  First off, the biggest change in the Hogs lineup came in net, where Collin Delia had a seat and Jeff Glass, who hadn’t had a start in over a month, manned the pipes. Glass limited rebounds and stopped 28 of 30 shots.
  • If Glass had given up six goals in any game down the stretch and Delia followed it up with a solid win, you can darn well bet that Delia would be getting the next start. That’s why I can’t imagine that Jeremy Colliton changes his goalie for Game 5.
  • If Rockford continues to be overly aggressive for the sake of drawing oohs and ahs from the BMO faithful, the Texas power play is plenty good enough to end this series Friday.
  • The IceHogs had a plethora of opportunities in the first ten minutes of action Thursday. It resulted in just one goal on the scoreboard. Texas turned the tables late in the period and went in even despite being outplayed for a large stretch of the opening 20. Credit Rockford for staying on task after the air got taken out of a nice first period effort.
  • I might be the only one thinking this, but I don’t feel like Gustav Forsling is defending very well in this series.
  • 3291 showed up to watch Game 4; the Hogs were well-supported in two weeknight contests. How many folks attend a Friday night elimination game at the BMO? How about you?
  • In the third period, Stars D Andrew Bondarchuk took a puck in the mouth and left the game for stitches. A few moments after Bondarchuk was taken to the locker room and before action resumed, the referee reached down and picked up what I assume was Bondarchuk’s tooth. My quandary; how much extra effort would it have taken for the official to skate over and hand off that tooth to the Stars so they could try and reunite it with Bondarchuk?

The puck drops on Game 5 at seven bells. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter to see what the tone of Monday’s post will be.

Everything Else

Once thought of as merely a depth signing, Jordan Oesterle went from playing a combined 25 games over three years for the corroded sewer piping that is Edmonton’s defense to taking first-pairing minutes with future Hall of Famer Duncan Keith. Like you, we often wondered how on Earth a team that relied so heavily on its defensemen to win games and Cups ended up throwing a guy who couldn’t hack it in Edmonton into meaningful minutes. At the end of the day, Oesterle wasn’t the underground landfill fire approaching a nuclear waste dump that we worried he could be, but that isn’t saying much. Let’s see what we have here.

Jordan Oesterle

55 GP, 5 Goals, 10 Assists, 15 Points, -11, 8 PIM

52.4 CF% (Evens), -0.6 CF% Rel (Evens), 53.15 SCF% (5v5), 49 xGF% (5v5), 0.44 xGF% Rel (5v5)

 56.5% oZ Start (Evens)

What We Said: If truck stops served oysters, they’d be called Oesterles . . . He’s billed as a no-frills blue liner, which essentially makes him the Tom Smykowski of the NHL. If he’s afforded any meaningful playing time, you’ll beg for someone to set the whole building on fire.

What We Got: If not for Jeff G.L. Ass, Jordan Oesterle would have taken the “WHAT A GREAT STORY” mantle. He scored his first goal ever this year, played in more than half of his team’s games for the first time ever this year, and—per Scott Powers—averaged 21 minutes per game in the Hawks’s final 53 games, trailing only Duncan Keith.

Like everyone’s favorite Irishman, Oesterle found most of his success playing on his off side. Of his 986 minutes, he played 553 of them as the right-side D-man next to Keith. In doing so, he finished with a 52.99 CF% and six points (1 G 5 A) next to Keith (5v5). That’s not bad for a guy with 25 games of experience to his name prior to this year. I’m being entirely sincere when I say that’s really great for him.

What isn’t great is that when you start digging into the numbers, you can quantify what your eyes saw game in and game out: Jordan Oesterle probably sucks, and was at the very least in way over his head.

When you consider the fact that Oesterle started in the offensive zone more than 56% of the time, his overall 52.4 CF% loses some of its sheen. And it only gets worse from there. Despite the plush zone starts, Oesterle posted a team-worst 43.86 High Danger Chances For Percentage (Hillman doesn’t count because he only played four games). This means that even though Oesterle started in the offensive zone much more often than not, he still managed to give up more high-danger scoring chances than he and his linemates took, and by a wide margin.

Oesterle also contributed an abysmal 43.02 Goals For Percentage (GF%), second worst behind Duncan Keith; a -3.55 Relative Goals For Percentage (Rel GF%), third worst behind Keith and Gustav Forsling; and a 49 Expected Goals For Percentage (xGF%). This means that in both practice and theory, when Oesterle was on the ice—especially with Keith—the Hawks scored much, much less often than when he wasn’t. Again, this is while starting in the offensive zone 56% of the time.

This isn’t to say that Oesterle can’t be useful. But as a first-pairing defenseman, Oesterle was overwhelmed more often than not. Granted, he was placed on his off side for most of the year, next to a cowboy with increasingly dull spurs, and was asked to take on the best his opponents had to offer on a nightly basis. That’s probably not the wisest use of a guy who, again, couldn’t hack it on a team that thought Adam Larsson was a comparable player to Taylor Hall.

But that’s also not Oesterle’s fault, as Q’s THROBBING GENIOUS BRAIN simply couldn’t contain the temptation to breathe life into a player who is the hockey equivalent of a lump of clay and call him man.

Where We Go From Here: Realistically and unfortunately, Oesterle will probably saddle up next to Keith to start the season again, as Q embarks on another campaign to prove what a smart and forward-thinking coach he is with one of HIS GUYS. But if we’re looking at this as a “maximizing potential” proposition, Oesterle would be the 7th D-man, spelling guys like Rutta and Forsling (God willing) when necessary.

The problem with this is twofold. One, we still don’t know whether the organ-I-zation is going to go out and get a legitimate top-pairing guy. If they do, that’s going to push Oesterle out, as you figure to see combinations of Keith–New Guy, Gustafsson–Seabrook (because fuck you), and Murphy–Rutta (kill me).

Two, though it’s clear to everyone outside the organ-I-zation that Brent Seabrook is now a third-pairing guy, there’s no guarantee that he’ll slot there. If he does, and Seabrook has a crystal-clear understanding that he is to play centerfield and nothing else, you can see Oesterle fitting in there, maybe. But given that Quenneville tended to lean on Seabrook when he was out of answers, it’s unlikely that we’ll see Seabrook as a designated third-pairing guy anywhere but in our dreams.

The important thing to keep in mind is that Oesterle is a complete trainwreck in his own zone—hell, he couldn’t take advantage of a 56% oZ start ratio—so pairing him with guys like Keith, Forsling, or Gustafsson needs to be completely off the table. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for him, and that’s probably for the better.

Oesterle can be a serviceable third-pairing D-man in spot situations. He’s proven that he can play his off side without completely filling his diaper, and if you want to be outrageously generous, you can maybe see him as a second-unit power play QB, if the Hawks stand pat with the blue line in the offseason. But like we said at the beginning of this year, if the Hawks are relying on Jordan Oesterle to play meaningful minutes next year, it might be time to start making and filling some upper-level-management vacancies.

Everything Else

Because we have to, we’ll go through the rest of the goalies who suited up for the Hawks, but altogether because they really were a mishmash of goo that is indiscernible from the next. I’m not sure any of these guys are going to matter ever. Maybe one might. Let’s just get through this and go about our day as if none of this ever happened. It’s pretty much what the Hawks are doing.

Jeff G.L. Ass

15 apperances, .898 SV%, 3.36 GAA, .909 at even-strength, .870 on the PK

We get why Q went to Glass when he did. At the time, his team couldn’t play defense to save their lives (and that never really did change). Anton Forsberg hadn’t grabbed the job with either hand. It was a nice story, and maybe the team would somehow try a little harder or be more aware in their own end with this journeyman punter in the net. Otherwise they’d get embarrassed.

And the thing was, it kind of worked for a game or two. Glass’s rebound control was awful, his positioning not much better, but the team did sorta kinda fight to clear all those rebounds away (so many rebounds…). His first three starts saw a win in Edmonton, an OT loss in Calgary, and a win in New York (Rangers version). Of course, looking over the list of opponents there and things get a little clearer, don’t they? After beating the Jets two starts later (seriously, Jeff Glass got a win over the Jets), he wouldn’t get another win and the team wouldn’t locate a fuck to give again. And that was that.

Glass isn’t an NHL goalie, and isn’t going to become one at 32-33. No, he’s not Tim Thomas, and that might never happen again. I suppose it was worth a shot, and now back to whatever smoke filled backroom he came from.

JF Berube

13 appearances, .894 SV%, 3.78 GAA, .905 at evens, .846 on the kill

I think I’m gonna car-ralph reading more of these numbers. Anyway, Berube was brought in for training camp, which means the Hawks thought they might have something to at least look at here. And if you squinted, you could see something of an NHL goalie in Berube. He ended up more square to the shooter than Forsberg or Glass. His rebound control was better. The problem was it took him roughly the same amount of time to move side-to-side as you would age a prime cut of beef. So it doesn’t really matter if you’re square if the puck is already behind you. Berube is 26 so I suppose there’s time for him to establish a career as a backup, but he’s going to have to get way quicker if that’s ever going to happen. We’re almost done I swear.

Collin Delia

I’m only throwing him on here because it’s been a while since the Hawks had a goalie in their system a while and brought them through. You’ll recall Niemi was only in Rockford a year. Raanta was straight into the Hawks team. Darling only spent half of a season in Rockford, and not even that. Delia is only 23, will be 24 at the start of next year, and I have this feeling the Hawks are going to give him a lot of time and a lot of chances. Delia’s numbers in Rockford aren’t all the impressive, but then again Rockford isn’t all the impressive (take that in whatever context you want and it’ll still be correct). But he closed the season well, and if he has a strong playoff series or two (assuming he gets the starts) then he could come into camp with a shot at surprising or at least getting the starting job in RockVegas next year all to himself.

 

Everything Else

vs.

RECORDS: Jets 51-20-10   Hawks 33-38-10

PUCK DROP: 6:00 p.m.

TV: NBCSCH

SOLID WALLS OF SOUND: JetsNation.ca

We’ve reached the end of the line. Tonight’s matchup between the second-seed Jets and the Chicago Post-Acid Emil Antonowskys will have all the vim and vigor of a midsummer Pony league game between two teams whose best players all went on a family vacation without telling the rest of the parents. There’s hardly been a game more useless than this, but she’s there, you’re there, and everybody’s there, and we’re in turmoil, as puzzled as can be. So let’s cut this vestigial tail one last time before the Hawks gather their clubs.

The Jets have won 10 of their last 11 (that’s allowed??) and are on a four-game winning streak. Their one loss in that time came via the 6-2 drubbing the Hawks doled out just one week ago. You might remember that as the Scott Foster game, one of the last beacons of fun we’ve had this year. With absolutely nothing to play for, being entrenched in the #2 spot and drawing the Wild in the playoffs, it’ll be a small miracle if we see anything resembling the A-team for the Jets. We’ll probably end up seeing Steve Mason—who last posted a 36-save, 90 SV% win over Montreal—or worse, because again, this game is absolutely meaningless to the Jets. The only thing they might do of note is continue giving Trouba his shifts as he shakes the rust off of his brown brain. Then again, this could be a nice little tune-up game for Hellebuyck, so who knows?

As for your Men of Four Feathers, the big story is that this may be will be Patrick Sharp’s final game as a Blackhawk, and perhaps final game full stop. There wasn’t much to expect out of him this year, but we’d all be remiss to forget the contributions he made to this team throughout his career. It won’t be a shock to see him play extra minutes tonight as one last sayonara, similar to last night. Given what an important cog he’s been in his Hawks career, I certainly wouldn’t begrudge the decision, especially since the only guys who came to play yesterday were Sikura and DeBrincat, anyway.

Tonight will also give Alex DeBrincat another chance to tighten his grip on his team lead in goals, which is about all there is to play for at this point. He’s been one consistent bright spot on this blighted potato of a team this year, and if I had my druthers, I’d want to see him, Eggshell, and Sikura as the top line, just for fun. But again, it hardly matters with a game as meaningless as this. After J-F Berube had another J-F Berube game, it’s likely we’ll see Jeff GL Ass out there once more to bolster his Masterton chase, which should be hilarious and fitting given that Keith has decided that he’s done playing for the year and Connor Murphy has been trying his hardest to make us look like big(ger), stupid(er) assholes for believing in him over the last two games.

The nightmare officially ends tonight, and no one will judge you for consciously missing this one. For the first time in, well, ever, we at FFUD leave you with our final Hawks preview during the regular season. It’s a strange feeling I don’t want to feel again next year, so savor the strangeness of it.

Thanks for reading this year, and stay tuned for the playoff coverage we’ll have and the postmortems we’ll do. I’ll never be able to bring myself to jump on the tank wagon, so one last time for the year:

Let’s go Hawks.

Game #82 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

When the 2017-18 season got underway, the Rockford IceHogs were fresh-faced piglets with very little veteran presence. The need for experience, especially up front, was painfully evident despite the talent Rockford sported in the early part of the AHL season.

Over the course of the past few months, the Hawks organization has infused key veterans into the lineup that have the Hogs poised for a return to the postseason after last year’s last-place finish. Here are a few players who have made a big impact on Rockford’s fortunes since coming aboard in the last few months.

 

Cody Franson

Since being sent down to Rockford by the Blackhawks, Franson has six goals and 14 assists in 32 games. He has been a standout on the power play (5 G, 7 A) and has been a key veteran mentor for coach Jeremy Colliton. Over his last 14 games, Franson has 12 points (4 G, 8 A) to go with a plus-eight skater rating.

Franson has been a catalyst on the man advantage, with five goals and seven helpers. His right-handed blasts from the left dot have consistently found twine. In the last seven games, the IceHogs are 8-32 when up a man. Rockford is finally making opponents pay for taking penalties.

 

Adam Clendening

In Rockford’s six-point week of action, Clendening had seven points (2 G, 5 A). On Monday, Clendening was named the CCM/AHL Player Of The Week for his efforts. To say the move back to the IceHogs was symbiotic for both parties is an understatement.

Before the trade that brought Clendening to the organization, he had a goal and four assists in 21 games with Tuscon. In 32 games with Rockford, he has 28 points (4 G, 24 A).

The acquisition of Clendening and Franson are a major factor in this late-season success. The defense has two veterans who have teamed up on a lethal power play of late. The blue line runs pretty deep for Rockford heading into any potential postseason action.

 

Chris DiDomenico

Currently on an eight-game point streak, DiDomenico has brought an offensive jolt to the club. In his last ten games, during which Rockford has gone 8-1-1, the 29-year-old forward has five goals and eight apples.

In just 16 games with the Hogs, DiDomenico has 19 points (6 G, 13 A). Seven of those points have come on the power play.

 

Lance Bouma

After clearing waivers, the Blackhawks assigned Bouma to Rockford February 26. In 14 games with the IceHogs, the 27-year-old forward has five goals and six assists. His rugged style has helped bring a little more snarl to Rockford’s game.

 

Roster Moves

Goalie Matt Tomkins was brought from Indy up to back up Jeff Glass while Collin Delia and J.F. Berube finish up the season in Chicago. On Monday, forward Nathan Noel was loaned to the Fuel. In 17 games with the IceHogs, Noel had a goal and was a minus-two.

UPDATE-Monday afternoon, the Hawks recalled Glass and re-assigned Delia to Rockford.

 

Recaps

Rockford, now 37-25-4-4 piled up six points in the standings with three wins this week. As of Monday, the Hogs have gone 8-1-1 in their last ten games and sit in fourth place in the Central Division with a .586 points percentage. They have a bit of breathing room over Milwaukee and Iowa below them, while Grand Rapids and Manitoba (both at .606) are definitely within striking distance if the piglets remain hot.

 

Monday, March 26-Rockford 4, Manitoba 2

A pair of power play goals provided the winning margin for Rockford. In the first of two games north of the border, Collin Delia and the Hogs were able to subdue the Moose.

The first IceHogs goal came via the man advantage, sparked by a sweet dot-to-dot pass by Chris DiDomenico. Working a give and go with Adam Clendening, DiDomenico skated into the right circle and threaded the puck to Cody Franson at the left dot. Franson’s one-timer zipped past Manitoba goalie Jamie Phillips and snuggled into the ropes at 9:10 of the first period.

Less than two minutes later, Tyler Sikura won an offensive draw and Clendening took possession. Tossing a shot toward goal from the right point, the puck snuck past Phillips and was escorted across the goal line by Henrik Samuelsson for a 2-0 Rockford advantage.

Mason Appleton drew the Moose to within a goal midway through the second, but late in the period the Hogs power play struck again. Clendening took a drop pass from DiDomenico and sent a slap shot to net that Phillips was able to block. The rebound was collected by Sikura, who hooked up rubber and twine to put the Hogs up 3-1 at the 16:59 mark.

Delia preserved that two-goal lead with some fine work in the crease in the last three minutes of the middle frame. William Pelletier provided some insurance midway through the third, capping off a odd-man rush by Darren Raddysh and Luc Snuggerud. Snuggerud’s attempt bounced off the speedy forward and tumbled into the Manitoba net to make it 4-1 Rockford.

The Moose would score at 16:54 but would get no closer as the IceHogs claimed their first victory over Manitoba this season. Delia, who stopped 32 shots, was named the game’s first star, with Clendening nabbing second star honors for his three-apple evening.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Lance Bouma-Chris DiDomenico-Anthony Louis

William Pelletier-Luke Johnson (A)-Tanner Kero (A)

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura-Matheson Iacopelli

Robin Norell-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Viktor Svedberg-Cody Franson

Carl Dahlstrom-Adam Clendening (A)

Darren Raddysh-Luc Snuggerud

Collin Delia

Power Play (2-4)

Sikura-Johnson-DiDonenico-Clendening-Franson

Kero-Samuelsson-Louis-Iacopelli-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Manitoba was 0-5)

Johnson-Kero-Dahlstrom-Norell

Sikura-Pelletier-Svedberg-Franson

Knott-DiDomenico-Snuggerud-Raddysh

 

Wednesday, March 28-Rockford 4, Manitoba 3

For the second time in three days, the Hogs were victorious in Winnipeg, posting four unanswered goals after falling behind 1-0. The win knocked Manitoba out of first place in the Central Division for the first time in several months.

The Moose drew first cord at the 8:51 mark. Former Hogs defenseman Kirill Gotovets sent a puck to net that was redirected by Chase DeLeo and past Hogs starting goalie Jeff Glass. The next half-hour of action was dominated by the IceHogs.

Rockford’s power play had an answer just minutes later. Adam Clendening struck the crossbar with his shot from the right point. Tyler Sikura pounced on the loose puck and put it firmly into the back of the Manitoba net, tying the game at a goal apiece 10:38 into the game.

The IceHogs closed out the opening period with a couple of scores to take command of the contest. After William Pelletier won a battle for the puck in the Moose zone, he sent a pass to Luke Johnson in the corner. Johnson was able to hit the stick of a falling Tanner Kero in front of the net. The puck glanced off of the back of Manitoba goalie Michael Hutchinson and into the cage at 17:14 of the first period.

Up 2-1, Rockford broke out of their own zone a minute later and took a two-goal lead with a nice bit of transition work. Newly returned Matthew Highmore started the play, sliding the puck along the half boards to Sikura. Taking the puck into neutral ice, Sikura hit Clendening crossing the red line. Clendening carried the puck into Manitoba territory, wound up at the top of the right circle and blasted it past Hutchinson at 18:20 for a 3-1 Hogs lead.

Rockford extended the advantage to 4-1 on a Chris DiDomenico wrister from the slot 4:31 into the second. The play was set up by Anthony Louis, who took pass from linemate Lance Bouma and dropped the puck back to the streaking DiDomenico.

Manitoba would creep back into contention with goals by Cameron Schilling late in the middle frame and Brody Sutter with 3:05 left in the game. Glass and the Hogs held on to post Rockford’s third-straight win. DiDomenico and Clendening were the game’s first two stars.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura-Matthew Highmore

Lance Bouma-Chris DiDomenico-Anthony Louis

Tanner Kero (A)-Luke Johnson (A)-William Pelletier

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Carl Dahlstrom-Adam Clendening (A)

Viktor Svedberg-Cody Franson

Darren Raddysh-Luc Snuggerud

Jeff Glass

Power Play (1-6)

Sikura-Johnson-DiDonenico-Clendening-Franson

Kero-Samuelsson-Louis-Iacopelli-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Manitoba was 0-2)

Johnson-Kero-Dahlstrom-Clendening

Sikura-Pelletier-Svedberg-Franson

Knott-DiDomenico-Snuggerud-Raddysh

 

Saturday, March 31-Rockford 5, San Jose 3

It was a wild kind of luau at the BMO. The Hogs celebrated Hawaiian Night with a huge comeback victory over the Barracuda.

Sloppy play in their own zone cost the IceHogs midway through the first period. Darren Raddysh had a pass attempt broken up as he was trying to enter neutral ice. The puck was collected by San Jose’s Sam Warning, who skated to the net and backhanded a shot past Hogs goalie Jeff Glass.

Rockford evened the score on a power play goal by Adam Clendening. Taking control of Luke Johnson’s faceoff win, Clendening moved to the high slot area and fired past Barracuda goalie Stephon Williams. At 15:38, the Hogs and San Jose were tied at one.

The Barracuda dominated the second period, getting goals from former Hog Brandon Mashinter and Caleb Herbert. Rockford was down 3-1 and in need of some quick offense in the third period. They got it.

Things got rolling in the opening minute of the final frame. Another Clendening blast from the right point was tipped in by Lance Bouma to cut the San Jose lead to 3-2 just 41 seconds in. Ninety seconds later, Henrik Samuelsson was waiting at the right post for Luc Snuggerud to find him coming around the San Jose net. His goal tied the game 3-3 at the 2:11 mark.

Two minutes later, Snuggerud would send a shot toward net that caught the skate of Barracuda defenseman Radim Simek and wound up in the back of the cage. With Rockford now up 4-3, a shell-shocked San Jose club called its timeout.

Upon returning to the ice, the Hogs scored for the forth time in four minutes. This one was an unassisted goal by Matthew Highmore, who picked up a loose puck along the boards, skated to the right dot and stuck one past Williams for a 5-3 Rockford advantage just 4:25 into the third.

That ended the scoring for both teams. The IceHogs rode the momentum of their offensive outburst to a fourth-straight victory. Highmore (first), Clendening (second) and Snuggerud (third) were voted the games three stars.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura-Matthew Highmore

Lance Bouma-Chris DiDomenico-Anthony Louis

Tanner Kero-Luke Johnson (A)-William Pelletier

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Robin Norell

Viktor Svedberg (A)-Cody Franson (A)

Carl Dahlstrom-Adam Clendening

Darren Raddysh-Luc Snuggerud

Jeff Glass

Power Play (1-7)

Sikura-Johnson-DiDonenico-Clendening-Franson

Kero-Samuelsson-Louis-Iacopelli-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (San Jose was 1-6)

Johnson-Kero-Dahlstrom-Clendening

Sikura-Pelletier-Svedberg-Franson

Knott-DiDomenico-Snuggerud-Raddysh

 

This Week

The Hogs are Lone Star bound this week, with a game Wednesday night in San Antonio followed by back-to-back skates with the Texas Stars Friday and Saturday.

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

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs have battled their way into a spot in the AHL’s postseason party…for now.

With nine games left heading into action Monday, the Hogs are a point ahead of Iowa for the final playoff spot in the Central Division. Rockford overtook the Wild with two regulation wins in three games this week, including a 5-2 win in DesMoines last Monday.

This season is far from over. Just two of Rockford’s final nine games is at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Iowa and Milwaukee, who beat the IceHogs in Rockford Friday night, are still within striking distance. The Admirals sit just three points back of Rockford, who like Iowa and Milwaukee have played 67 games this season.

The Hogs draw a tough assignment to start this week’s action. Rockford is in Winnipeg for two games with the division-leading Moose on Monday and Wednesday.

Manitoba is not the same red-hot squad of earlier this season and they have been much better on the road than in its own building. However, the Moose have won both contests with Rockford this season. Manitoba is second in the AHL in scoring with 3.39 goals per contest. They have a lethal power play (21.6 efficiency) and are fast and physical on the ice.

The Moose have five 40-plus point scorers on the active roster. By contrast, Rockford’s top point producer, Anthony Louis, has 38 points on the season. The Hogs have been grinding out a lot of wins lately, though Rockford is putting up an average of 3.03 goals a game.

I figure that the IceHogs are going to have to win six of these last nine games to make the postseason. A split up north is vital to making that happen. Following Wednesday’s tilt with the Moose, Rockford hosts San Jose on Saturday night.

 

Viktor S Scores A Viktor-E

It is very apparent that the IceHogs will set a franchise record for courtesy this season. This weekend, a Rockford skater earned a fighting major for just the tenth time this season. The Hogs will obliterate the previous low of 39.

That tenth scrap came in the third period of a tight game with the Chicago Wolves, when Viktor Svedberg got tired of the antics of Wolves forward Keegan Kolesar. What made this fight memorable is the fact that for the first time this season, a Rockford skater scored anything resembling a clear win over an opponent.

In his second dropping of the gloves this month, Svedberg landed several blows and bloodied the nose of his adversary. The 6’9” defenseman spent the next five minutes icing his right hand, so hopefully he’s none the worse for wear.

Svedberg has been a healthy and effective part of the lineup in 2017-18. In 64 games this season, he has set career highs in goals (six) and points (21).  His skater rating of plus-16 is tied for the team lead.

 

Roster Moves

The IceHogs saw the arrival of forward Victor Ejdsell this past week, as well as his departure. Ejdsell played two games with Rockford before be recalled by the Hawks. The 6’5″ Swede impressed me with his skating and positioning in his appearances at the BMO this weekend. He had an assist against Milwaukee Friday.

Rockford also signed D Joni Tuulola to a PTO on Friday. Tuulola had been playing in his native Finland this season.

 

Recaps

Rockford won two of three games this week, good enough to move into fourth place in the Central Division. The Hogs are 34-25-4-4 in 2017-18.

Monday, March 19-Rockford 5, Iowa 2

The Hogs posted a key road win over the Wild, paced by a pair of goals by Chris DiDomenico.

Rockford got on the board in the sixth minute when Graham Knott got a piece of a Luc Snuggerud shot on its way to the net. At the 12:23 mark, Luke Johnson made it a 2-0 game after taking a pass from Cody Franson and skaking to the right dot.

Iowa pulled back to 2-1 on a Mitch McLain goal, but DiDomenico won control of a loose puck in the Rockford zone and brought it all the way back into Wild territory. Shooting from the left circle, the puck glanced off the crossbar, off defenseman Alex Grant and into the cage for a 3-1 Hogs lead 17:19 into the first period.

DiDomenico made it a 4-1 Rockford advantage with a power play strike 3:18 into the second period. The goal was set up by Adam Clendening, who found DiDomenico at the top of the right circle for the slap shot.

Kyle Rau scored midway through the second period to close the gap to 4-2, but that was as close as things got in DesMoine on this night. Viktor Svedberg banked a clearing attempt off the glass and into an empty net in the closing minutes to seal the win.

No lines tonight; Robin Norell skated as a forward. The Hogs were two of five on the power play. Jeff Glass stopped 31 of 33 shots to pick up his 13th win of the season. DiDomenico and Franson (two assists) were named the first and third stars of the game.

 

Friday, March 23-Milwaukee 5, Rockford 2

Things got away from the IceHogs in the final period. The desperate Admirals dropped four goals on Rockford to end an eight-game Hogs points streak.

Tyler Sikura got a shot past the pads of Anders Lindback 5:01 into the game. The puck slowly slid toward the goal line until Henrik Samuelsson gave it a last push to the net to give the IceHogs the lead.

The score would remain 1-0 through the majority of the first two periods. Milwaukee tied the game with 25 seconds left in the middle frame on an Anthony Richard goal.

The third period was a wild affair that did not end well for Rockford. Former Hog Mark McNeill gave the Ads a 2-1 lead after Adam Clendening whiffed on a pass attempt from deep in his own zone. Midway through the third, Lance Bouma slipped a shot between Lindback and the left post to tie the game. From there, it was all Milwaukee.

Bobby Butler hit on the game-winner with a backdoor goal 10:09 into the final period. McNeill and Richard both added empty net scores in the last minute to finish off the Hogs.

Lines (starters in italics)

Tanner Kero (A)-Graham Knott-Kyle Maksimovich

Lance Bouma-Chris DiDomenico-Anthony Louis

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura-Victor Ejdsell

Alex Wideman-Luke Johnson (A)-Matheson Iacopelli

Adam Clendening (A)-Carl Dahlstrom

Cody Franson-Viktor Svedberg

Darren Raddysh-Robin Norell

Jeff Glass

Power Play (0-1)

Johnson-Sikura-DiDomenico-Clendening-Franson

Louis-Ejdsell-Iacopelli-Samuelsson-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Ads were 1-4, though that goal came with the Hogs net empty.)

Bouma-Sikura-Svedberg-Franson

Knott-Kero-Norell-Dahlstrom

Johnson-Samuelsson-Clendening-Raddysh

 

Saturday, March 24-Rockford 5, Chicago 3

The IceHogs rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit to post the win over the Wolves.

Chicago got goals from Brandon Pirri and Teemu Pulkkinen in the first 20 minutes to put the Hogs in a hole. Rockford came out digging in the second period.

In the opening minute of the middle frame, William Pelletier had a shot deflect off of Wolves defenseman Griffin Reinhardt. The puck was gathered in by Lance Bouma at the left circle. His shot got the best of Chicago goalie Max Legace and made it a 2-1 game 49 seconds into the second.

Rockford tied the game at the 8:37 mark when Matheson Iacopelli zipped a wrist shot from the left point that caught the far side corner past Legace. A few minutes later, the Hogs took the lead.

Tyler Sikura went behind the Chicago net to chase down Luc Snuggerud’s shot attempt. Finding Henrik Samuelsson open at the right dot, Sikura’s pass was rifled into the back of the Wolves net at the 15:28 mark.

Less than a minute later, Darren Raddysh broke up a entry pass by Wade Megan and got the puck to Chris DiDomenico skating the other way. DiDomenico hit Bouma coming into the Wolves zone and Bouma handled the rest, twining his attempt past Legace for a 4-2 Rockford advantage at 16:17 of the second period.

Pulkkinen answered for Chicago late in the second to cut the Hogs advantage to 4-3. However, that was it for the Wolves offense. Collin Delia made several outstanding saves on point blank Wolves attempts late in the second to preserve the one-goal lead. Rockford added an empty-netter from DiDomenico with 1:50 remaining to put a ribbon on a fine comeback effort.

Bouma and DiDomenico were the game’s first two stars. Delia wound up with the victory, with 33 saves on the evening.

Lines (Starters in italics)

William Pelletier-Tanner Kero-Luke Johnson

Lance Bouma-Chris DiDomenico-Anthony Louis

Henrik Samuelsson-Victor Ejdsell-Tyler Sikura

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Cody Franson (A)-Viktor Svedberg (A)

Adam Clendening-Carl Dahlstrom

Darren Raddysh-Luc Snuggerud

Colin Delia

Power Play (1-4)

Sikura-Johnson-DiDomenico-Clendening-Franson

Samuelsson-Iacopelli-Louis-Ejdsell-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Chicago was 1-4)

Bouma-Sikura-Svedberg-Franson

Knott-Kero-Raddysh-Dahlstrom

Johnson-Samuelsson-Clendening-Snuggerud

 

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates of the IceHogs push to the Calder Cup Playoffs.

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, managed just two regulation goals in their weekend road jaunt against their two most familiar division rivals. They still managed to collect three of four possible points as they kept pace in the Central Division standings.

The IceHogs still are on the outside looking in as far as the postseason is concerned. However, they kept the gap between them and the two teams above them in the standings a manageable one.

Collin Delia and Jeff Glass each played well enough for Rockford to take both games into overtime. The Hogs dropped a shootout with Milwaukee Saturday before going into Allstate Arena Sunday and getting an overtime win over Chicago.

Rockford has had to hustle for goals, with just eight in its last five games. The Hogs have won three of those contest and picked up a point in another. This may be the case for this bunch as the season winds down.

Matthew Highmore, Rockford’s leading scorer, has been with the Blackhawks for a few games now. John Hayden was recalled on Saturday by Chicago. Other leading scorers like Vinnie Hinostroza, Tomas Jurco and Erik Gustafsson have been with the Hawks for a while. The IceHogs don’t have the same explosive offensive punch they had earlier this season.

Fortunately, Rockford has some things going for it. The play in goal has made it possible for the Hogs to stay in games of late. They also have some veterans on board who could make a difference in the final month of action.

Cody Franson, assuming he isn’t recalled, adds leadership and a potent shot from the back end. He and Adam Clendening are both contributing to the scoring column. Franson has five goals in 23 games with Rockford; he’s tied for the team lead for defenseman goals with Darren Raddysh.

Chris DiDomenico has seven points (2 G, 5 A) in seven games since coming to Rockford. DiDomenico and Franson hooked up for the game-winner against the Wolves Sunday. The play was pretty on both ends; Franson chased down a clearing attempt in Gus Macker Time and slid the puck cross-ice to a waiting DiDomenico, who showed some stick-handling skill before catching cord and ending the game in Rockford’s favor.

It’s possible that several players could come down to Rockford late in the season and give the team a boost in talent should a playoff spot be within the team’s grasp. Until then, the Hogs will have to make every goal count.

 

Roster Moves

The IceHogs were active this week. Back on Wednesday, Rockford inked former Hogs defenseman Nolan Valleau to a PTO. Valleau played in both games over the weekend, as did Carl Dahlstrom, who was assigned to Rockford on Friday.

With Hayden being recalled to Chicago Saturday, the IceHogs recalled Matheson Iacopelli from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel that evening. The young forward played nine games for the Fuel and scored nine goals in his stint in Indy. Iacopelli took the ice for the Hogs for the first time in a month against Chicago Sunday afternoon.

 

Recaps

As of Monday morning, Rockford (30-24-3-4) sits in fifth place in the Central Division, despite sharing a .549 points percentage with sixth-place Milwaukee.

Saturday, March 10-Milwaukee 2, Rockford 1 (SO)

Rockford picked up a point, but found Admirals goalie Anders Lindback hard to solve and dropped this one in the shootout.

The Ads got the scoring started in the middle frame, taking a 1-0 lead on a Trevor Smith goal 4:15 into the period. Rockford out shot their opponents 19-5 through the first 40 minutes but had nothing to show for it.

William Pelletier got the Hogs even on the scoreboard midway through the third period after gaining possession of a loose puck in neutral ice. The speedy forward made a beeline for the right dot, flinging the puck past the glove side of Lindback at the 12:08 mark.

The score remained 1-1 through regulation and an exciting overtime period which saw both teams foiled on several scoring chances. The third point was decided by penalty shots, specifically Justin Kirkland’s. His attempt beat Delia in the first round; Anthony Louis, Adam Clendening and Chris DiDomenico came up empty and Milwaukee picked up the win.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Henrik Samuelsson-Luke Johnson (A)-William Pelletier

Anthony Louis-Chris DiDomenico-Lance Bouma

Robin Norell-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen

Alexandre Fortin-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Viktor Svedberg-Cody Franson

Luc Snuggerud-Adam Clendening (A)

Nolan Valleau-Carl Dahlstrom

Collin Delia

Power Play (0-3)

DiDomenico-Sikura-Johnson-Clendening-Franson

Pelletier-Louis-Samuelsson-Snuggerud-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Milwaukee was 0-5)

Bouma-Johnson-Franson-Svedberg

Sikura-Martinsen-Norell-Dahlstrom

DiDomenico-Pelletier-Snuggerud-Valleau

 

Sunday, March 11-Rockford 2, Chicago 1 (OT)

Allstate Arena has been a tough place for any AHL team to get a win the last couple of months. The Hogs needed Gus Macker Time to do so but posted two huge points against the surging Wolves.

As was the case the night before, it was a goalie duel. Sunday, the combatants were Oscar Dansk for Chicago and Jeff Glass for Rockford. Neither team found the net in the first period. Dansk stopped 14 IceHogs shots in the first 20 minutes, then foiled William Pelletier on a penalty shot early in the second.

Rockford opened the scoring when Cody Franson pinched to the right dot, one-timing a feed from Andreas Martinsen coming around from behind the Wolves net. The goal came at the 6:29 mark; the IceHogs held onto that lead until midway through the third period.

Rockford appeared to take a two-goal lead when Adam Clendening centered to Henrik Samuelsson 7:31 into the final frame. However, the replay showed that Samuelsson had kicked the puck past Dansk.

Chicago’s Teemu Pulkkinen knotted the score at a goal apiece with a power-play re-direct at 12:52 of the third. For the fourth time in the season series, the Hogs and Wolves could not settle the matter in regulation.

Brandon Pirri hooked Martinsen in the second minute of overtime, giving Rockford a 4-on-3 advantage. Chris DiDomenico would capitalize for the IceHogs, benefiting from an outstanding play by Franson.

Chicago’s T.J. Tynan had pushed the puck toward neutral ice. Before he could complete the clearing attempt, Franson beat him to the puck and slid a pass all the way to DiDomenico at the left post. The shot beat Dansk to the twine and seal a huge win for Rockford.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anthony Louis-Chris DiDomenico-Lance Bouma

Henrik Samuelsson-Luke Johnson (A)-William Pelletier

Robin Norell-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Nolan Valleau-Carl Dahlstrom

Viktor Svedberg-Cody Franson

Luc Snuggerud-Adam Clendening (A)

Jeff Glass

Power Play (1-5)

DiDomenico-Sikura-Johnson-Clendening-Franson

Pelletier-Louis-Samuelsson-Snuggerud-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Wolves were 1-5)

Bouma-Johnson-Franson-Svedberg

Sikura-Martinsen-Norell-Dahlstrom

DiDomenico-Pelletier-Snuggerud-Valleau

 

Preview

Tuesday’s game at the BMO against Iowa is a must-win. The Wild sit in third place in the Central but are within reach of the Hogs. Reeling them in begins with a regulation victory. Rockford has three games remaining with the Wild; the remaining two meetings are in DesMoines.

The Hogs last shot at Grand Rapids comes Friday when Rockford visits Van Andel Arena. After winning the first six meetings between the teams, the IceHogs have dropped three straight to the Griffins, who lead Rockford by four points in the standings as of Monday.

Saturday night, it’s another tough go with the Wolves in their building. Each team has won four games in the season series. All four of Chicago’s wins have come in regulation. All four of Rockford’s victories have come in extra skating or a shootout.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my thoughts on the scene in Rockford all season long.

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, much like their NHL parent club in Chicago, have been slumping hard in February. As a result, they’ve created some separation between themselves and the teams looking to secure a playoff spot in the AHL’s Central Division.

It’s the bad type of separation. The ‘Bago County Piglets may be hitting a wall in the AHL schedule. It’s coming at a rather inopportune time.

Rockford managed to snap a four-game losing streak Sunday with a win over San Antonio. The win took some of the stink off of two home losses to a weak Cleveland squad earlier in the week. The Hogs problems with the last-place Monsters goes a long way in part to explain why Rockford has plummeted to sixth-place.

The formula for success in the divisional standings is simple-beat the teams in your division. Unfortunately, this has been much easier to say than for the IceHogs to do this season.

Rockford is in its current position in the Central Division table precisely because of a poor showing among their regular opponents. Here’s how the teams stack up in inter-divisional play after this weekend’s action:

Team                 Record       Point Percentage

Manitoba          17-8-3-2     .650

Grand Rapids  23-13-1-4   .621

Chicago             20-11-3-2   .625

Iowa                   20-11-2-3   .625

Milwaukee        21-16-3-0   .562

Rockford       18-20-2-2 .476

Cleveland          14-23-1-3    .390

The Hogs are 6-3 against the Griffins this season. However, they have dropped the last three meetings with Grand Rapids, who currently are on a 9-0-0-2 run that has them in that second-place spot in the Central.

The IceHogs do not own a winning record against any of the other teams in the division. To make matters worse, the two games they lost at home to Cleveland this week leaves Rockford with a 3-4-0-1 mark in the season series with the Monsters. Not terrible, you say? Here’s how the rest of the loop is faring with the division cellar-dwellers:

Manitoba: 4-1-1

Grand Rapids: 5-1-0-1

Chicago: 4-1

Iowa: 6-0-1

Milwaukee: 4-3

Rockford is 3-6-1 over its last ten contests. All three wins are against teams from the Pacific Division (Ontario, San Antonio). Meanwhile, Grand Rapids is 8-0-0-2, the Wolves are 7-2-1 and Iowa is 7-3 in that same span.

 

Road Hogs

Rockford can certainly work its way out of this tailspin. However, they will have to do most of the heavy lifting on the road.

Of the IceHogs 22 remaining games, just seven will be in the confines of the BMO Harris Bank Center. Rockford has consecutive games just once for the rest of the campaign when they host Milwaukee and Chicago March 23-24.

The Hogs have 14 division games left. Ten of those contests are on the road. For a team that has to rack up regulation wins against the teams above them in the standings, that’s a tall order.

 

The New Guys

There were a number of moves made last week on the roster front. Last Sunday, the IceHogs inked forward Henrik Samuelsson to a PTO. A former first-round pick of Arizona and the son of Hawks assistant Ulf Samuelsson, the big wing paid early dividends for Rockford.

Samuelsson, who had 43 points (16 G, 27 A) with Idaho of the ECHL this season, posted a goal in each of his first three games with the IceHogs. He has already worked his way into the Rockford power play mix and skated with Matthew Highmore and Luke Johnson over the weekend.

Thursday was rife with moves. Goalie Jeff Glass came down to Rockford, with J.F. Berube being recalled to the Blackhawks. Chicago also pulled the trigger on a deal with Ottawa that saw defenseman Ville Pokka depart after nearly four seasons with the Hogs.

The organization reacquired forward Chris DiDomenico from the Senators in exchange for Pokka. DiDomenico skated in Rockford from 2010 to 2012. He’s spent this season between Ottawa 6 G, 4 A in 24 games) and AHL Belleville (5 G, 9 A in 25 games). DiDomenico did not skate in either IceHogs game since the trade.

A player who did get his first on-ice action with Rockford was rookie forward Nathan Noel, who made his debut Tuesday and got his first AHL goal Sunday afternoon. Noel made it clear what style of play we should expect from the fourth-round selection of the Hawks in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Noel stood out in that he is a pesky instigating-type that is in short supply on the Hogs roster. The 5’11”, 175-pound forward didn’t seem to have any problems finishing checks or adding an extra shove around the net.

Noel was injured to start the season. He was sent to Indy when he recovered and is coming off another injured stint while with the Fuel. In 17 games in Indy, Noel had four goals and five assists. It should be interesting to see if he can stay healthy and what Noel can contribute to this team.

 

Recaps (Readers Digest Version)

It wasn’t the best of weeks for Rockford. The Hogs managed to avoid being swept at the BMO, but lost two games to Cleveland before beating San Antonio. Here’s the long and the (mostly) short of it:

Tuesday, February 13-Cleveland 3, Rockford 1

Terry Broadhurst potted a shorthanded goal to open the scoring for Cleveland, taking advantage of a Gustav Forsling turnover. Rockford had five power play chances on the night; the only one that ended up on the scoreboard was the one from Broadhurst’s stick.

The Hogs evened the score with Henrik Samuelsson’s first goal with the team. The new guy was camped out in the slot, took a pass from Matthew Highmore and sent it to Twineville at 16:42.

The Monsters took the lead late in the second on a Carter Camper goal, then held off the Hogs the rest of the way. Alex Broadhurst hit an empty net to lock the game up in the final minute as the brothers continued to pile up offense against their former team.

J.F. Berube was solid in his second game back from injury, stopping 27 of 29 shots thrown his way. I wasn’t enough as the Hogs dropped their third-straight.

 

Saturday, February 17-Cleveland 5, Rockford 2

It was another exercise in futility on the special teams. Rockford went scoreless in five attempts, including a five-minute major. They surrendered another shorthanded goal and gave up a Monsters goal on the man advantage.

After a scoreless first, Cleveland came out and scored three goals in the first 8:29 of the middle frame. The offensive outburst was capped by Zach Dalpe’s shorty past Jeff Glass, who had little in the way of help in the second period.

Back came the Hogs with a pair of goals. Graham Knott’s shot bounced off sliding defenseman Cameron Gaunce and through the wickets of Monsters goalie Matiss Kivlenieks and into the net at 12:50 of the second. Henrik Samuelsson caught Matthew Highmore’s bank shot off the end boards and scored from the goal line at the 18:38 mark.

Rockford entered the third period down 3-2. That’s as close as this one got. Cleveland scored 1:35 into the third and added an empty-netter from Terry Broadhurst with 1:02 remaining.

 

Sunday, February 18-Rockford 4, San Antonio 3

The IceHogs got things turned around on the power play, with a pair of first-period conversions after falling behind 1-0.

Luke Johnson drew cord after putting in a long rebound of an Adam Clendening shot, tying the game 1-1 at the 14:20 mark. Less then two minutes later, Henrik Samuelsson had the space in the slot to sling home a Cody Franson pass for a 2-1 Hogs advantage.

Tanner Kero scored from the right post to give Rockford a 3-1 lead early in the second. Less than a minute later, Alexandre Fortin forced a turnover that wound up in front of the Rampage net. Nathan Noel was on the scene to get his first goal of the season at 2:33 of the second.

That chased San Antonio starter Spencer Martin from the crease. Ville Husso came into the game and held Rockford scoreless the rest of the way.

The Rampage added power play goals midway through the second and early in the final frame. However, Collin Delia made enough stops (25 of 28) to give the IceHogs a much-needed victory.

 

Save My Life, I’m Going Down For The Last Time-The Hogs Head East

Rockford is on the road this weekend, taking on a pair of Eastern Conference clubs.

Friday, the IceHogs tangle with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the first time since ever. The Penguins, who will visit the BMO in a couple of weeks, are 30-15-4-1 heading into this week’s play. They are led by Daniel Sprong, who is third among AHL rookies with 40 points (20 G, 20 A). Behind him is former IceHogs forward Ryan Haggerty, who has 16 goals and 15 helpers in addition to leading the team with a plus-21 skater rating.

In net, the Hogs will likely face Casey DeSmith, who has a 2.74 GAA and a .911 save percentage. DeSmith has lost four of his last five starts, though. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has dropped its last three games heading into the match-up.

Saturday, Rockford plays in Hershey, who are in seventh-place in the eight-team Atlantic Division. The Bears have won three straight games, however.

The IceHogs came out on top in the team’s first-ever meeting at the BMO, a 5-0 win. Three of Rockford’s goal scorers on that night, Vinnie Hinostroza, Tomas Jurco and Erik Gustafsson, are not on the current roster.

The Bears have a lot of experienced skaters, including forward Joe Whitney (24 points). Hershey is led in scoring by Travis Boyd (14 G 26 A) and Riley Barber (17 G, 16 A). Former Rockford forward Jeremy Langlois is skating for the Bears this season.

Hershey has used a tandem of Vitek Vanacek (2.79, .892) and former Chicago Wolves goalie Phoenix Copley (3.02, .892) in net.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my occasional musings on the Rockford scene.