The Rockford IceHogs had a pleasant weekend away from the BMO. New head man Derek King put some new faces in the lineup; it paid off with a pair of victories for Chicago’s AHL affiliate.
The Hogs got some excellent play in net from both Anton Forsberg and Collin Delia to knock off two of the Central Division’s better clubs. Friday saw Rockford beat Milwaukee 2-1 before King and company went into Rosemont and bested the Chicago Wolves. The IceHogs won the first meeting of the Illinois rivals this season 4-3 on Saturday night.
King has a lot of skaters nursing injuries and wasn’t afraid to get some recently acquired players into action. One that made an immediate impact was forward Justin Auger, who opened the scoring in both contests this weekend.
The 6’6″ Auger was on a power play unit this weekend, as was Hunter Fejes, another player who was signed to a PTO by the Hogs. AHL signing Connor Moynihan appeared in both games for Rockford. Saturday, with Tyler Sikura feeling ill and being a late scratch, Brett Welychka was back in the lineup.
Rockford has added several players to the roster, which should promote a sense of competition among a team of prospects. With Terry Broadhurst inactive for the weekend set and Sikura sitting on Sunday to go with injuries to Jordan Schroeder and Matthew Highmore, it was great to see players stepping up to beat a couple of quality division foes.
On Sunday, goalie Kevin Lankinen was recalled to Rockford. I can only speculate as to why this is, but here goes:
- The Blackhawks want Lankinen to spend a few days under the watchful eye of their coaching staff. It is possible that he could start the Hogs Wednesday morning game in Grand Rapids.
- Collin Delia took a lot of contact in Saturday’s win in Chicago. He did not seem to have suffered ill effects, but an issue may have been revealed post-game. Delia (5-2-2, 2.41, .931) was terrific at Allstate Arena, stopping 37 of 40 shots in what turned out to be a very physical game around the net.
- Forsberg tweaked something in his appearance Friday night in Milwaukee. Forsberg was outstanding for the Hogs, especially early when Rockford was out of sorts. In four games with the IceHogs, Forsberg sports a 3-1 record, a 1.75 goals against average and a .933 save percentage. Both Forsberg and Delia are among the top-performing goalies in the AHL at the present time.
- Someone’s getting dealt. Who that could be is anyone’s guess.
With fifteen games in the books for the 2018-19 season, Rockford is 8-4-1-2. With a .633 point percentage, the piglets are in third place in the Central Division. Milwaukee and Iowa are the two teams ahead of the Hogs.
Rockford has points in their last six road games (5-0-1). They have three games in opposing barns this week, starting with a morning game in Grand Rapids on Wendesday. The IceHogs will fly to Texas for a Friday date the Stars. Games in San Antonio await the Hogs Saturday and the following Tuesday.
Dylan Sikura (5 G, 7 A) and Darren Raddysh (4 G, 8 A) pace Rockford with 12 points. Sikura has fired 56 shots on goal, by far the most active on the team through 15 games.
Friday, November 9-Rockford 2 , Milwaukee 1
Rockford started very slowly, picked up the play as the game progressed and found a way to knock off the Admirals for the second time in a week. Interim head coach Derek King got his first win behind the bench.
The IceHogs got some outstanding play in net from Anton Forsberg, allowing them to stay in the game throughout an uneven first period. The teams went into the first intermission in a scoreless tie.
Rockford built momentum as the second period wore on, taking a 1-0 lead at the 14:42 mark. Darren Raddysh got the play started by forcing a turnover in neutral ice. Lucas Carlsson chased down a loose puck in his own zone and skated along the left half boards across the Admirals blue line.
Carlsson slid the puck over to Justin Auger, in his first appearance for the IceHogs. Auger settled the puck in the high slot before shooting low on Milwaukee goalie Tom McCullom. The shot reached nirvana to end a four-period scoring drought for Rockford.
The Hogs lead was short-lived. Colin Blackwell collected a loose puck in neutral ice, skated to the bottom of the right circle and sent a shot past Forsberg that caught the crossbar and entered the net. The game was tied at one at 15:28 of the second and stayed that way when the teams went to the locker rooms.
After coming up empty on a couple of strong power plays, the IceHogs got the go-ahead goal 15:59 into the third period. The play got started with a Darren Raddysh point shot that was wide of the mark. The puck nearly came out of the Ads zone but was held in by Graham Knott just inside the blue line.
Joni Tuulola took in a pass from Knott, skated to the top of the left circle and fired to McCullom’s stick side. Rubber and twine united as one, with the IceHogs taking a 2-1 lead. Milwaukee pulled McCullom in the final minutes but Forsberg made the required stops to preserve a hard-fought victory.
Raddysh, Blackwell and Tuulola were the games Three Stars. However, the only reason Rockford was in a position to win this game was Forsberg, who made 19 saves and prevented an early Admirals lead with several high-quality saves in the first two periods.
Lines (Starters in italics)
Dylan Sikura-Jacob Nilsson-Viktor Ejdsell
Tyler Sikura (A)-Anthony Louis-Justin Auger
Hunter Fejes-Graham Knott-Henrik Samuelsson
Matheson Iacopelli-Nathan Noel-Connor Moynihan
Lucas Carlsson-Carl Dahlstrom (A)
Darren Raddysh-Joni Tuulola
Blake Hillman-Gustav Forsling
Power Play (0-3)
Penalty Kill (Admirals were 0-2)
Saturday, November 10-Rockford 4, Chicago 3
A big second period and 37 Collin Delia saves propelled the Hogs to the win in the first meeting of the season between two Central Division rivals.
Rockford withstood several early chances by the Wolves before Justin Auger won control of a puck in the corner of the IceHogs zone. He guided the biscuit to Anthony Louis, who sent it along the left half boards and across the Chicago blue line.
Graham Knott won a race to the puck and drove to the front of the net. The play was broken up, but Auger was on hand to pressure the Wolves and found the loose puck on his stick. Auger slid it behind Chicago goalie Oscar Dansk at 15:15 of the opening period for a 1-0 Rockford advantage.
The Wolves countered in the waning seconds of the first with a power play goal by Brooks Macek, who slammed home a Daniel Carr rebound with 3.9 seconds remaining. The teams went to the locker room even at one goal apiece.
The key stretch of the game came early in the middle frame. With the teams skating four to a side, Lucas Carlsson uncorked a one-timer off of Viktor Ejdsell’s faceoff win from the right point. Dansk was unable to detain the puck and Rockford was back on top 2-1 at the 1:35 mark.
The Wolves were down two players due to penalties soon after, setting up another long-range bomb. This one came from the stick of Darren Raddysh, who one-timed a pass from Gustav Forsling at the top of the left circle past the blocker of Dansk. The Hogs led 3-1 at 2:58 of the second.
Halfway into the second period, the Rockford power play struck again. Forsling sent a slap shot toward the Chicago goal that rebounded off Dansk and into the slot. Ejdsell was on hand to collect the puck and pass to Dylan Sikura at the bottom of the right circle. The resulting shot caught twine at 10:55 to make it 4-1 Rockford.
The Hogs needed each of those tallies to outlast the Wolves, who had their offensive prowess on display. Keegan Kolesar batted in a rebound of a Brandon Pirri shot on a delayed penalty call to cut the lead to 4-2 at 13:31 of the second. Chicago then turned up the heat in the final 20 minutes.
Delia found himself fending off an onslaught of rubber throughout the third period. The IceHogs penalty kill stopped two Wolves chances; after Raddysh was called for interference with 7:40 remaining, Chicago brought Dansk to the bench for a two-man advantage that Rockford stopped. Dansk spent most of the remainder of the contest behind the boards as the Wolves slammed away at the Rockford goalie.
Macek eventually got his second goal of the game to make it 4-3, but that came with just 22 seconds to go in regulation. The piglets held on despite 20 Chicago shots on goal in the third to post their second win in as many days.
Sikura, Macek and Ejdsell were voted the game’s three stars, though Delia certainly deserves a mention for stopping 37 of 40 shots. Most of those shots came with heavy traffic in front of his net.
Lines (Starters in italics)
Hunter Fejes-Nathan Noel-Henrik Samuelsson
Anthony Louis-Graham Knott-Justin Auger
Dylan Sikura-Jacob Nilsson-Viktor Ejdsell
Connor Moynihan-Brett Welychka-Matheson Iacopelli
Gustav Forsling (A)-Dennis Gilbert
Carl Dahlstrom (A)-Lucas Carlsson
Darren Raddysh-Joni Tuulola
Power Play (2-7)
Penalty Kill (Wolves were 1-6)
Waking Up With The Griffins
Grand Rapids, who hosts the IceHogs Wednesday morning, are 6-6-0-1 on the season. They have, however, played well at Van Andel Arena (3-1-0-1).
The Griffins are led in scoring by a pair of long-time AHL veterans, Chris Terry (8 G, 3 A) and Camper Carter (2 G, 9 A). Matt Peumpel, who notched 22 goals for Grand Rapids last season, has five goals and five helpers this season.
There’s a lot of veteran presence on the Griffins. Returning faces include forwards Martin Ford (3 G, 4 A) and Turner Elson (3 G, 5 A). Defenseman Dylan McIlrath is a nine-year AHL vet. Fellow blueliner Brian Lashoff is starting his tenth year with Grand Rapids. Both are big, physical players who have been dishing it out against Rockford for years.
Former Sharks prospect Harri Sateri spent several seasons in the KHL and now patrols the net for the Griffins. In nine games, he’s 4-5 with a 3.71 goals against average and an .867 save percentage. Patrik Rybar (2-1-1, 2.21, .905) comes from several seasons playing in his native Slovakia. He had a rough debut against the Wolves but has played well in three other starts for the Griffins.
Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.