Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs are about to begin a three-game weekend with big-time playoff implications. Chicago’s AHL affiliate kicks things off with a home-and-home with Grand Rapids before paying a visit to Rosemont and the Chicago Wolves.

Here’s a quick look at what’s waiting for the IceHogs this weekend.

Both the Griffins and Wolves are ahead of Rockford in the Central Division standings. The Hogs have split the season series with Grand Rapids. Their rivals from Michigan have taken ten points out of the first eight games between the teams, compared to Rockford’s eight.

Both teams have won twice on the road in the season series, though in recent years the trend has favored the home team in the rivalry. Over the last five seasons, Rockford is 15-8 against the Griffins at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Grand Rapids owns a 15-4-2-2 mark against the Hogs at Van Andel Arena.

Things get started in Rockford Friday night. A split just isn’t going to be good enough with the Griffins. The piglets need points in regulation, especially against a team battling with them for the postseason.

Back on February 18, Grand Rapids beat the Hogs 2-1 in Rockford. Three of this season’s tilts have been decided by that score. The next two games should also be hotly contested.

Veteran Chris Terry is pacing the Griffins in scoring, with 20 goals and 30 assists on the season. Grand Rapids also gets offense from familiar faces like Matthew Ford (10 G, 16 A) and Matt Puempel (15 G, 22 A). Goalies Calvin Pickard and Pat Nagle have been excellent against Rockford, giving up just seven goals in five games between them.

Rockford enters the weekend with John Quenneville (13 G, 9 A) still out with a strained neck. Joseph Cramarossa’s phyiscal game would be a welcome addition to the Hogs lineup. However, he also may not be ready to play this weekend.

The big injury news comes with Rockford’s announcement Thursday that goalie Kevin Lankinen is finished for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Things may not have ended like Lankinen had hoped this year, but the net is still in the capable hands of Collin Delia and Matt Tomkins.

Could Delia play in three straight games this weekend? He’s been the primary man in goal since Lankinen left a February 13 game after the first period. It would probably make sense to use Tomkins on Saturday in Grand Rapids and give the net to Delia Friday and Sunday, when Rockford visits the Wolves.

Chicago has lost four straight, including Thursday’s 4-2 decision to Tucson. The Roadrunners are at Allstate Arena Saturday night before Rockford comes a calling on Sunday.

The Wolves have been a little undermanned of late. They did, however, knock off the Hogs 5-1 in Rosemont on February 23 and made the piglets look pretty bad in doing so. Rockford is 6-2 against Chicago this season. They can wrap up the vaunted Illinois Lottery Cup for the first time in three years with a win in any of the last four meetings with the Wolves.

What’s really important, of course, is overtaking Chicago in the standings. That means getting the job done Sunday afternoon.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs faced the best team in the AHL twice this weekend. They were soundly defeated in both tilts.

Following Saturday’s game, the league went on its All-Star break. Rockford’s equipment managers should take the impending free time to sew a patch onto the IceHogs sweaters.

One that reads “Property Of The Milwaukee Admirals”.

Milwaukee has been outstanding through 45 games this season. They sport a 31-8-4-2 mark and a .756 points percentage. They now sit atop the AHL with 68 standings points, nine more than any other team in the league.

The Ads boast the best goalie tandem in the league, with Connor Ingram and Troy Grosenick combining for a 2.16 GAA and a .924 save percentage. Combined with the AHL’s top power play (25.7%), the league’s sixth-best offensive output (3.36 goals per game) and a fast-paced, aggressive brand of hockey, Milwaukee is taking it to the opposition on a nightly basis.

Rockford has faced off with the Admirals seven times since the first meeting of the teams this season on December 7. In those games, the IceHogs have gone 1-6 and been outscored 26-12. The lone win came on December 10; all Kevin Lankinen had to do that night was make 55 saves to propel Rockford to a 2-1 overtime victory.

The last three confrontations with Milwaukee have resulted in three-goal losses, including both games this past weekend. Following a physical affair in Milwaukee Friday, Hogs coach Derek King was left without a full set of forwards. Even with rookie Tim Soderlund returning to the lineup, King iced ten healthy forwards, used defenseman Ben Youds as a forward and went with seven defensemen.

The Admirals had no issues using their depth advantage this weekend. Milwaukee camped out in high-danger scoring areas and whaled away at Rockford goalies Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen. Both saw their goals against average rise thanks to Milwaukee.

I’ll attempt resembling a broken record, but the All-Star break comes at a good time for the Hogs. Somehow, they have to get healthier and in a new mindset following a span in which they have lost 14 of their last 17 games.

Rockford gets back at it with two games at home this coming weekend. The piglets host Manitoba on Friday night, followed by a Saturday contest with…you guessed it…the Admirals Juggernaut.

 

Roster Happenings

On Saturday, Rockford sent goalie Chase Marchand, who they have on an AHL deal, back to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL.

Phillipp Kurashev, Mikael Hakkarainen, Anton Wedin and Matthew Thompson continue to be unavailable due to injury. John Quenneville sat out the weekend as well.

Alexandre Fortin, Dylan McLaughlin and Peter Quenneville were all scratches on Saturday.

 

Recaps

Friday, January 24-Milwaukee 7, Rockford 4

Rockford picked up the scoring but couldn’t keep the Ads out of the net, opening the weekend home-and-home series with a loss.

The IceHogs snapped a seven-game scoreless streak early in the game. Dylan Sikura took a shot at goal nine seconds into a Rockford power play. His offering glanced off the stick of Milwaukee’s Jared Tinordi and sailed by Ads goalie Troy Grosenick 3:39 into the game for a 1-0 Hogs lead.

Milwaukee answered on their first man advantage a few minutes later. Alexadre Carrier set up Frederick Gaudreau at the left circle for a one-timer that beat Rockford goalie Collin Delia to the cord. The goal tied the game 1-1 6:15 into the first.

The Ads took a 3-1 advantage after Mathieu Olivier and Mikka Salomakki got pucks past Delia at 10:59 and 14:54, respectively. Rockford would close the gap to 3-2 late in the period on MacKenzie Entwistle’s power play goal. The breakaway attempt was set up by a finely-threaded pass from Nicolas Beaudin. Entwistle skated across the crease and backhanded the puck over Grosenick.

Milwaukee ran out to a 5-2 lead after Gaudreau and Eeli Tolvanen hit on power play markers 20 seconds apart in the opening 67 seconds of the middle frame. The Hogs climbed back into the contest with a pair of their own.

Chad Krys found the back of the net from the blueline at the 4:56 mark to close to within two goals. Three minutes later, the power play came up big for the third time in the game. This time, Brandon Hagel put back a rebound of Gabriel Gagne’s shot 8:34 into the period to cut the Milwaukee lead to 5-4.

The Admirals went up 6-4 following some nifty passing that ended with Rem Pitlick knocked in Tolvanen’s pass at the right post at the 14:50 mark. Milwaukee stretched the lead to 7-4 on Daniel Carr’s goal 4:33 into the third period.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Joseph Cramarossa

Brandon Hagel-Jacob Nilsson-MacKenzie Entwistle

Dylan Sikura-Tyler Sikura (C)-Gabriel Gagne

Alexandre Fortin-Peter Quenneville-Dylan McLaughlin

Chad Krys-Dennis Gilbert

Joni Tuulola-Lucas Carlsson

Nicolas Beaudin-Ian McCoshen (A)

Collin Delia

Kevin Lankinen

Power Play (3-8)

Carlsson-Hagel-D. Sikura-Gagne-Nilsson

Beaudin-McLaughlin-Entwistle-T. Sikura-Fortin

Penalty Kill (Milwaukee was 3-7)

Forwards: Nilsson-Johnson-Moutrey-Fortin-T. Sikura

Defense: Tuulola-Gilbert-Krys-McCoshen

 

Saturday, January 25-Milwaukee 5, Rockford 2

The IceHogs dropped the back half of the home-and-home, losing to the Admirals at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Rockford opened the scoring as they had the previous evening, on the power play. MacKenzie Entwistle got inside position on his defender and was on hand to send the rebound of Ben Youds shot attempt past Admirals goalie Connor Ingram. At 10:09, the piglets owned a 1-0 lead.

From that point on, Milwaukee took over. Eeli Tolvanen tied the game at the 11:42 mark with a put back in front of Hogs goalie Kevin Lankinen. Michael McCarron’s presence in the crease yielded a pair of goals in the second period to stake the Admirals to a 3-1 lead through 40 minutes.

Milwaukee pressed its advantage in the final frame, with Tanner Jeannot and Daniel Carr finding the back of the net midway through the third. Rockford picked up a late goal at the 18:30 mark when Tyler Sikura redirected a Chad Krys blast from the point.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Rockford employed seven defensemen tonight and skated an eighth (Ben Youds) as a forward.

Dylan Sikura-Tyler Sikura (C)-Gabriel Gagne

Brandon Hagel-Jacob Nilsson-MacKenzie Entwistle

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Joseph Cramarossa

Tim Soderlund-Ben Youds

Dennis Gilbert-Ian McCoshen (A)

Joni Tuulola-Lucas Carlsson

Dmitri Osipov-Nicolas Beaudin-Chad Krys

Kevin Lankinen

Matt Tomkins

Power Play (1-4)

Carlsson-Hagel-D. Sikura-Gagne-Nilsson

Beaudin-Soderlund-Entwistle-T. Sikura-Youds

Penalty Kill (Milwaukee was 1-4)

Forwards: Nilsson-Johnson-Moutrey-Cramarossa-Soderlund-T. Sikura

Defense: Tuulola-Gilbert-Krys-McCoshen

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs continued their winning ways this past week, coming out on top in two of their three games. The piglets followed up a big win over Milwaukee at the BMO with a weekend split in the first two games of a Canadian road jaunt.

I have a lot of thoughts to share on how the season is going for the Hawks prospects, including the crowded Hogs net and some youngsters who are going to have to step things up in the coming weeks. Those thoughts will remain in my head until Friday, or on twitter @JonFromi throughout this week.

For now, let’s get caught up on the latest from the farm:

  • The Hogs are 15-10-0-1, having won seven of their last ten. Rockford is in second place behind Milwaukee in the Central Division with 31 points.
  • Anton Wedin is back in Rockford, having been reassigned by Chicago. Dylan McLaughlin, Dmitri Osipov, Matthew Thompson and Mikael Hakkarainen were recalled from Indy.
  • Dylan Sikura and Matthew Highmore, along with Adam Boqvist, were recalled by the Blackhawks.
  • F Alex Krushelnyski was released from his PTO and is back with the Fuel. The Hogs signed D Ben Youds, who spend two seasons in Rockford from 2011-2013, to a PTO.

 

Recaps

Tuesday, December 10-Rockford 2, Milwaukee 1 (OT)

The Admirals out shot Rockford 56-14 in this game. The out shot the Hogs 25-2 in the third period. It took a record-setting effort by Kevin Lankinen, but he and the piglets avenged Saturday’s loss at the BMO with a win over the Central Division leaders.

Rockford could muster just two shots on goal in the first period. However, Lankinen fended off 19 Milwaukee shots to keep things scoreless through the first intermission. The Hogs converted nine seconds into their first power play chance of the night in the middle frame. Brandon Hagel hauled in a rebound of a Phillipp Kurashev shot and threw a backhand past Ads goalie Connor Ingram. Rockford led 1-0 at the 6:41 mark.

Milwaukee got one puck by Lankinen on this night, but it took a wild scrum in front of the Rockford net and a video review by the officials for the Admirals to officially tie the score 12:46 into the third. Lankinen made save after save to keep the Hogs even through regulation.

The Gus Macker Hero turned out to be Anton Wedin, who took the puck from Ben Youds, skated to the left dot and fired past Ingram for the game-winner 1:02 into extra hockey.

Lankinen’s 55-save evening set a new IceHogs record. Rockford gave up six power plays to the Admirals, but Milwaukee was turned away each time.

 

Friday, December 13-Belleville 5, Rockford 2

The IceHogs battled but couldn’t complete a third-period comeback, dropping the team’s first-ever meeting with the Senators to kick off a three-game road trip.

Belleville took advantage of sloppy play by the Rockford power play unit, scoring shorthanded via Jean-Christophe Beaudin’s breakaway goal 13:54 into the opening period. Just 28 seconds into the second, Eric Brannstrom sent a shot off of the pads of Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins. The rebound came right out to Jordan Szwarz at the bottom of the right circle. Szwarz knocked the puck past Tomkins for a 2-0 Belleville advantage.

Rockford got on the board at the 15:40 mark, just after the Hogs came up empty on their fourth power play chance of the night. Ben Youds hauled in a cleared puck in the Rockford zone and sent a long pass to Reese Johnson. Johnson took the puck off the half boards and slid it to Nicolas Beaudin. The rookie defenseman did the rest, skating to the slot and firing past Belleville goalie Filip Gustavsson. Beaudin’s first pro goal cut the IceHogs deficit to 2-1, which was the score at the second intermission.

The Hogs knotted the game at two goals early in the third period. Joseph Cramarossa forced a turnover in the Senators end of the ice. Tyler Sikura pounced on the loose puck at the bottom of the left circle and hit John Quenneville skating into the slot. Quenneville’s one-timer got over Gustavsson’s glove at the 28 second mark to square the match.

Belleville regained the lead when the Hogs got caught in a line change a few minutes later. Tomkins had just made an incredible stop to keep things even in the fifth minute. Brannstrom got possession of a clearing attempt puck in the neutral zone and quickly sent it the other way. Josh Norris wound up with lots of room to maneuver in front of Tomkins; his goal at 4:35 made it 3-2 Senators.

Senators forwards found their way past the IceHogs defense several times as the time wound down in regulation. The back-breaker came with 2:11 left, when Szwarz got to the front of the net to redirect a Jack Dougherty shot. Tomkins made a pad save on the redirect, but Szwarz tapped in the rebound to make it 4-2. An empty netter in the final seconds closed out the scoring.

 

Sunday, December 15-Rockford 4, Toronto 2

The Hogs took a 1-0 lead 5:41 into the game on a play that got started when John Quenneville freed up a puck in the corner of the defensive zone. Phillipp Kurashev skated it out along the half boards and pulled up near to the top of the left circle. Kurashev backhanded a pass to Philip Holm at the point; Holm, in turn, sent a backhand to Quenneville at the bottom of the right circle. The one-time blast made its way past Kasimir Kaskisuo and into Net Land.

The net front presence of Rich Clune resulted in the Marlies tying the game when the veteran converted on a rebound of Jordan Schmaltz’s shot. Clue drew Hogs goalie Kevin Lankinen out of position and netted the equalizer at 14:14 of the first.

Kurashev was the beneficiary of a fortunate bounce a few minutes later. A long stretch pass attempt by Nicolas Beaudin glanced off of the skate of MacKenzie Entwistle and on to Kurashev’s blade. Unencumbered by the Toronto defense, the Swiss rookie converted the breakaway rush at the 16:30 mark.

The Marlies tied the game again 1:13 into the second period when Adam Brooks slipped away from the defense. Brooks hung out at the front of the Hogs net; Matt Read connected with the feed and Lankinen was unable to bail out his teammates.

Quenneville would put Rockford up for good 7:56 into the second stanza, capping off a nice bit of passing by the IceHogs. Ben Youds sent the puck to Anton Wedin at the top of the left circle. Wedin threaded a pass to Quenneville, who had collected another loose puck in the corner to spark another scoring play. Quenneville settled the puck and fired past the glove of Kaskisuo for a 3-2 Rockford advantage.

Entwistle was awarded a penalty shot late in the period, but was stopped by Kaskisuo and the Hogs lead remained a single goal through forty minutes. The Marlies could muster just five third period shots, all stopped by Lankinen. Nick Moutrey sealed the deal with an empty net goal with 45 seconds remaining.

 

This Week

The IceHogs complete the road trip Tuesday night in Laval, then return to the BMO Harris Bank Center for tilts with a hot Texas club on Friday, followed by a game with Cleveland on Saturday.