Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs continue to struggle in their quest for the AHL postseason. This past weekend, Rockford allowed their interstate rivals to inch ever closer to the fifth and final playoff spot in the Central Division.

The Chicago Wolves closed the gap between them and the piglets to four points as the Hogs dropped two out of three games this weekend. It wasn’t pretty; Rockford was shut out by Laval on Friday and in Rosemont Saturday. In fact, the IceHogs took 22 minutes to register as much as a shot on Chicago.

Rockford stopped the bleeding by defeating Grand Rapids 5-1 Sunday afternoon. With six games left for the IceHogs, what looked to be a wrapped-up spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs is very much in doubt.

The regulation win over the Griffins was the first such victory at the BMO since December 31. It’s just the second regulation win for Rockford in its last 15 games, dating back to February 24. Brett Seney led the way with a pair of goals, setting a career-high for him with goals 21 and 22.

The IceHogs also got goals from Andrew Perrott, Jakub Galvas, and Luke Philp, who has been a consistent point producer for Rockford. His 24 goals and 46 points in 54 games are career-highs for Philp.

The Wolves, who have a game in hand on the IceHogs, are currently on a five-game point streak. They need only to tie for fifth; Chicago has 27 regulation wins to just 16 for Rockford. The Hogs need to finish the season with a flourish, but it won’t be an easy task.

This weekend, the piglets have a home-and-home with Milwaukee, who has won five of seven meetings with Rockford this season. The Wolves play Milwaukee, who they beat 5-2 on Sunday, again on Wednesday, then have a home-and-home with Iowa this weekend. Chicago has won its last four games against the Wild.

It isn’t difficult to forecast a scenario that sees the Hogs and Wolves in a dead heat by this time next week. If Chicago stays hot and Rockford continues to struggle, the IceHogs could be the team on the outside of the playoff picture.

What is the organization, who pledged that getting playoff games under the belt of its prospects was a priority, doing to reinforce the IceHogs? Surprisingly little.

This is the time of year where college and junior players are signed. The IceHogs signed Notre Dame forward Ryder Rolston to a PTO March 14 and Paul Ludwinski, the Hawks second-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, to an ATO on March 29. However, neither player has suited up for Rockford. The team announced that Ludwinski is out indefinitely with an ankle sprain sustained in his junior season with Kingston of the OHL.

Mike Hardman was reassigned to the IceHogs on Wednesday. Joey Anderson cleared waivers Sunday; it appears that he and Lukas Reichel will be assigned to Rockford at the conclusion of the NHL season. Three games will remain for the IceHogs at that point; will it be enough?

There seems to be enough talent on the roster to make the necessary push. However, even with the goal explosion on Sunday, Rockford has averaged 1.93 goals per contest in its last 15 games. That has to change, starting this weekend against the Admirals.

The Hogs are in Milwaukee on Friday night, then come back to the BMO Saturday. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates on the Hogs hunt for the playoffs.

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have gone 0-3 to open up their 2019-20 season. This is the first time a Rockford club has started its AHL season with three consecutive losses. What isn’t new, however, is the manner in which the piglets have been losing.

It starts with putting the puck in opposing nets. The Hogs just haven’t been doing enough of it.

Rockford dropped the home opener 4-2 to Grand Rapids on Saturday night. Two days later, in a matinee performance at the BMO Harris Bank Center, the IceHogs fell to Laval 3-1.

The Hogs have not converted any of their ten power plays so far this season. They’ve been out shot in every game; Laval, who was 0-3 entering Monday buried Rockford to the tune of 43-22. Philip Holm struck cord from the slot in the first period off a drop pass from the stick of Jacob Nilsson.

Unfortunately, that was the high-water mark of the day for Rockford. The Rocket scored twice in the second period and limited the IceHogs to five shots on goal in the third.

Rockford also drew first blood on Saturday, with Anton Wedin potting his first goal of the season. Wedin banged in a long rebound of a Nilsson shot 7:24 of the opening frame. The Griffins scored the next three goals to take control of the game.

Dylan Sikura sent a laser past Grand Rapids rookie goalie Filip Larsson to close the gap to one midway through the game, but the Griffins tallied late in the second for the final margin of victory. The Hogs went with six skaters for most of the final five minutes of action only to come up empty.

 

What’s Up With Dach

Rockford fans got an unexpected look at Chicago’s 2019 first-round selection in the NHL Draft. Kirby Dach is still too young to be a full-time AHL player, but a loophole in the AHL/CHL agreement allowed the Blackhawks to send the 18-year-old Dach to Rockford for a two-week conditioning assignment.

Dach skated both games this weekend. Aside from the opening minutes Saturday night, where I thought he looked a wee bit tentative, he was a pretty solid citizen out there. He skated really well, fore checked hard and wasn’t afraid to get to the front of the net.

Despite not recording a point Saturday or Monday, Dach looked like he was handling the pace of play just fine. Will he remain in Rockford long enough to record his first professional points? That remains to be seen.

The IceHogs have a home-and-home weekend with the Chicago Wolves coming up. The Hawks could leave Dach in the Rock up until October 25, when the Hogs visit Cleveland. If I interpret the rule book correctly, Dach could play five games in the AHL and still be eligible to skate up to nine games with Chicago before he would need to be sent back to juniors.

Perhaps management takes advantage of this to get him a few more pro games under his belt. We’ll keep an eye on the transaction wire to see what develops.

In another roster move on Saturday, Rockford recalled defenseman Jack Ramsey from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. This gives the IceHogs eight blueliners on the roster.

 

A Delia Kind Of Weekend

Collin Delia was in net for both games, with Matt Tomkins backing him up. Kevin Lankinen had the weekend off for whatever reason.

Delia was better Monday than he was on Saturday, but was solid in both of his first two appearances this season. Tomkins would be better served getting time in the Fuel net; unless Lankinen is injured, I would expect Tomkins to be sent to Indy by the end of the week.

 

Gazing At The Stat Sheet

Dylan Sikura leads the IceHogs with two goals. He shares the points lead in Rockford with Wedin (1 G, 1 A), Holm (1 G, 1 A) and Nilsson (2 A).

John Quenneville, who was sent to Rockford last week, skated both games the weekend for his first action of the season.

Tim Soderlund made his Hogs debut on Monday, though he did not dent the scoresheet. The same went for Nick Moutrey, who made his first appearance of the campaign on Saturday.

 

Wolves Preview

Here’s what you need to know about the Chicago Wolves:

  • They’re the defending Western Conference champions.
  • After splitting a weekend visit to San Antonio, the Wolves are 1-2 for the season.
  • There was a lot of turnover to the roster this summer, but Chicago returns veteran talent like center Curtis McKenzie. They added center Patrick Brown, who was a member of the Calder Cup-winners in Charlotte last season, and Tye McGinn, a long-time AHL veteran.
  • Gage Quinney and Keegan Kolesar both were potent scorers a season ago for the Wolves.
  • The defense is a little green, but the Wolves picked up a couple of veterans in Jaycob Megna and Brent Lernout. Dylan Coughlin (15 G, 25 A last season) is the standout of this group.
  • Oscar Dansk was called up to Vegas last week. Garret Sparks looks to get most of the workload in net for the Wolves until Dansk returns.
  • Friday’s affair is at the BMO, with the action moving to Allstate Arena Saturday. These are the first of twelve meetings between the two interstate rivals. Rockford will attempt to wrest a talisman known as the MIGHTY ILLINOIS LOTTERY CUP from the Wolves after three seasons.

I’ll be back next Monday to recap Wolves weekend and all the fun it should entail. Until then, follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.