Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs dropped the first two games of what will be a three-game road trip in Texas. The IceHogs picked up a standings point Friday against the Texas Stars, but lost that game in Gus Macker Time before losing the following night in San Antonio.

In losing 4-3 to the Rampage, San Antonio leapfrogged the Hogs in the Central Division standings. Rockford (16-16-3-5) is now in seventh place in the division.

 

Roster Activity

Defenseman Neil Manning was brought back from the Indy Fuel of the ECHL on Wednesday. Going to Indy (on paper at least) was defenseman Luc Snuggerud, who returned to the Hogs the following day.

Snuggerud has been inactive since a concussion suffered on November 3. Perhaps this is a sign that he is ready to begin skating in Indy or Rockford soon.

Also being assigned to the Fuel was forward Matheson Iacopelli. Like last season, Iacopelli has found it difficult to secure steady ice time in Rockford. He’s appeared in 25 games with the IceHogs this season with two goals and two assists.

On Sunday, defenseman Brandon Davidson was loaned to Rockford by the Blackhawks after he cleared waivers earlier this week. Jan Rutta, who Chicago had sent to the Hogs a month ago, was traded Friday to Tampa Bay.

Recaps

Friday, January 11-Texas 4, Rockford 3 (SO)

This back and forth contest was settled in penalty shots, where veteran Stars forward Travis Morin got the only puck into a net to limit the Hogs to a point in the standings.

Texas took a 1-0 lead with a power play goal by Joel L’Esperance, who put a rebound past Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen at 12:41 of the first period. The IceHogs drew even late in the period while on the man advantage. Lankinen had just stopped a shorthanded attempt by the Stars James Phelan. Rockford came down the ice, scoring with 44 seconds left when Dylan Sikura knocked in a pass from Andreas Martinsen.

Denis Gurianov put Texas up 2-1 midway through the second period. Late in the period, Nathan Noel tied the game with an outstanding individual effort for a shorthanded goal. An Anthony Louis power play goal 4:38 into the third period gave Rockford a 3-2 advantage. Texas, however, tied it up at 15:42 with Gurianov’s second goal of the night.

It was a scoreless overtime before Morin beat Lankinen in the shootout. Viktor Edjsell, Sikura and Louis all came up empty on their attempts.

 

Saturday, January 12-San Antonio 4, Rockford 3

Jordan Schroeder had a two-goal evening…but so did the Rampage’s Jordan Nolan. The veteran’s three-point night proved to be too much for the Hogs.

Trevor Smith hit a one-timer from the slot that zipped past Rockford goalie Anton Forsberg and into the net 7:43 into the opening period. The IceHogs tied the score early in the second. Luke Johnson dropped a pass to Dylan Sikura above the right circle. His attempt found its way past San Antonio goalie Jared Coreau at the 1:29 mark.

The Rampage built a 3-1 lead in the second period on strikes by Tanner Kaspick and Nolan. The IceHogs closed the gap to 3-2 4:23 into the third after a faceoff win by Johnson. Schroeder gathered in the puck in front of the San Antonio crease and lifted home the goal past Coreau’s blocker.

San Antonio caught the Hogs napping midway through the third. Nolan took a stretch pass from Joey LaLeggia, skated to the high slot and beat Forsberg to the cord for a 4-2 Rampage lead at the 11:05 mark. Schroeder got his second goal with ten seconds to play with Forsberg on the bench, assisted by Darren Raddysh and Viktor Ejdsell. Unfortunately for Rockford, time ran out on the comeback bid.

 

Coming Up

The IceHogs finish the road trip with a rematch with the Rampage on Tuesday night. Rockford then comes back to the BMO Harris Bank Center for a Friday tilt with Grand Rapids. Saturday night, the Hogs visit Rosemont for a game with the Wolves.

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

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs came out of their first three-game weekend with a pair of victories and five of six possible points. However, that success was tempered a bit with two more injuries that are keeping a lot of Rockford skaters in street clothes.

The piglets sit in fourth place in the Central Division standings. Rockford defeated first-place Milwaukee on Friday before splitting a home-and-home with second place Iowa.

 

Add Snuggerud To The List Of Injured Hogs

Defenseman Luc Snuggerud hasn’t seen a lot of ice time this season. Saturday night, the second-year pro made his first appearance since October 20 in Tucson. Early in the second period, former Rockford forward Mike Liambas delivered a bit hit in the corner of the Hogs zone that sent Snuggerud to the ice unconscious.

First off, it was a completely legal hit. Liambas, who was not penalized on the play, doesn’t shy away from finishing checks. That said, both players were chasing a puck in the corner and Liambas planted his shoulder squarely into the chest of Snuggerud. Snuggerud’s head slammed into the glass and the young man was taken off the ice on a stretcher.

Snuggerud missed time last season after suffering a concussion, so it is very concerning to see him leave the ice like that. He was hospitalized for observation and sent home Sunday, though it’s hard to say when he’ll be back in action.

There are several players missing from the IceHogs lineup. The defense, in particular, has been hit hard, with four players out of commission in the wake of Snuggerud’s injury. Veteran Andrew Campbell left Saturday’s game with a leg issue when Snuggerud was taken off. He didn’t return and did not skate on Sunday.

Already among the injured were defensemen Carl Dahlstrom and Gustav Forsling. Both players are suffering from groin injuries. Forwards Matthew Highmore and Jordan Schroeder were also unavailable this weekend.

To bolster the blueline corps, Rockford recalled AHL signees Josh McArdle and Neil Manning from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. Both played on Sunday in Iowa as Colliton used all seven of his defensemen in the contest.

 

No Response

Tim Mattila, who was providing commentary with Joseph Zakrzewski on the Hogs broadcast, had this to say on the play that knocked out Snuggerud:

“I thought it was a clean hit, A, but, B, old school, somebody takes that guy out and does their thing, in my opinion,” he said. “That’s old school; that’s not the way it is anymore, but somebody would have challenged that guy, whoever it was that hit him, to a fight. Immediately. But that’s not the way it is nowadays.”

Moments later, Mattila again voiced his opinion on the hit, adding, “I don’t want to reiterate the fact…typically, someone would have taken care of somebody’s business there.”

Mattila’s comments were spot on; there was a time when it would not have come as a shock to see an IceHogs player come off the bench to dance, suspension be damned. I have no doubt Liambas would have obliged anyone who wished to discuss business with him.

In defense of the piglets, there seemed to be more concern for how Snuggerud was than getting in the face of Liambas, a longtime veteran with 87 AHL scraps under his belt.

It should also be pointed out that fighting is not Rockford’s thing; none of the current crop of IceHogs possess the skills to routinely drop gloves with any opponent. You may consider this a good thing or a bad thing; it is simply a fact.

Later in this contest, Henrik Samuelsson laid a check on Iowa’s Colton Beck and was immediately engaged by Wild defenseman Louis Belpedio. It was Belpedio’s first pro fight, though the two mostly jostled for position before being separated.

Snuggerud’s injury was not caused by Rockford’s lack of pugilistic fortitude. The IceHogs are not built to fight. They’re built to skate, so that’s what they do.

 

Spotlight On The Stat Sheet

One player who stepped up to lead the depleted back end was Darren Raddysh, who is now second on the team in points with nine. He got on the score sheet in both Rockford wins this weekend. Friday saw the second-year pro contribute a pair of goals. He tied the game in the third period in Milwaukee, then tossed in the game-winner against the Ads.

Also logging a three-point weekend was Dylan Sikura, who paces the Hogs with ten points (4 G, 6 A). Sikura the Younger has points in seven of Rockford’s first twelve games.

The team leader in goals, with six, is Anthony Louis, who had three in the two games with Iowa Saturday and Sunday. His goal at the BMO Saturday tied the game and earned the Hogs a point despite coming up short in the shootout.

 

Recaps

Work commitments kept me out of the basement most of the weekend. Maybe not the worst thing for me, but no lines this week.

 

Friday, November 2-Rockford 3, Milwaukee 2 (OT)

The Hogs earned two points at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, thanks in part to a pair of goals from Darren Raddysh.

Milwaukee took a 1-0 lead 14:o2 into the game on Zach Magwood’s first pro goal, a snipe from the right dot that got by the glove of Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg. Rockford was quick to tie the score after killing off an Ads power play.

Jacob Nilsson, in the bin of sin for a hook, came back onto the ice as the penalty expired and was greeted by a loose puck skidding into the neutral zone. He skated hard to the Milwaukee net only to have his backhand attempt broken up. A persistent Nilsson chased down the puck behind the net, skated to the corner and hit Dylan Sikura at the bottom of the right circle. Sikura buried the puck past Admirals goalie Tom McCullom for the equalizer at 16:59 of the first.

Magwood’s one-timer from between the circles gave Milwaukee a 2-1 advantage 4:20 into the second period. Rockford, who spent a lot of time killing penalties on the evening, went to the locker room down a goal.

The IceHogs killed off three more penalties in the third, stopping all seven Milwaukee power plays on the evening. Rockford tied the game on a Darren Raddysh blast from the right point at 12:08 after Nilsson brought the puck into the Milwaukee zone and dropped a pass to the second-year defenseman.

Gus Macker Time was pretty eventful after neither team could settle things in regulation. Terry Broadhust was defending Admirals forward Anthony Richard two minutes into extra hockey when Richard stumbled head first into the half boards. It appeared that Richard had either caught a rut in the ice or taken a stick to the shins. No penalty was called on the play; Richard skated off to the locker room  and the game continued.

Lucas Carlsson broke up a Milwaukee 2-on-1 to set up the game winner. The Hogs brought the puck back into the Ads zone, where Raddysh was hooked by Colin Blackwell. Rockford sent an extra skater into the fray on the delayed penalty.

Fittingly, Raddysh one-timed a shot from the left dot moments later to end the game in favor of the IceHogs. The goal came at 3:33 of overtime.

Forsberg stopped 22 of 24 Milwaukee shots to pick up the win. Magwood earned First Star honors from the home press box, followed by Raddysh and Anthony Louis. The IceHogs went 0-5 on the power play, but stopped all seven Milwaukee power play chances.

 

Saturday, November 3-Iowa 2, Rockford 1 (SO)

Rockford skated with an abbreviated blueline for the bulk of the night but still managed to come out of the game with a point. Collin Delia stopped all but one of the 42 shots the Wild heaped on him.

The Wild’s only goal in regulation came just 1:51 into the game when a Brennan Menell offering slipped through traffic to the back of the IceHogs net. Rockford trailed 1-0 after the first twenty minutes.

Early in the second period, Luc Snuggerud took a hit in the corner of the Wild zone from Iowa’s Mike Liambas. His head slammed into the glass as he went down and the second-year defenseman was stretchered off the ice. As that was taking place, Andrew Campbell also skated to the locker room.

Despite having just four defensemen available the rest of the way, the IceHogs stayed in the contest. Rockford tied the game late in the second after Tyler Sikura won a battle for the puck along the half boards in neutral ice.

Sikura passed to Henrik Samuelsson as he entered the Iowa zone. Samuelsson skated to the doorstep before backhanding a pass to Anthony Louis as he came down the right side. Louis back-doored Wild goalie Kaapo Kahkonen at 17:01 of the second.

The score remained 1-1 through regulation and overtime; Delia stopped 19 Iowa shots in that span. The Wild fared better in the shootout, as Sam Anas and Gerry Fitzgerald converted in the first two rounds. Kahkonen stopped Viktor Ejdsell and Louis to close out the contest.

Both teams had four power plays on the night. Neither team could cash in on any of them.

 

Sunday, November 4-Rockford 4, Iowa 2

Rockford got a pair of goals in a 1:05 span in the opening period. The first was set up by Dennis Gilbert, who broke up an entry pass attempt by the Wild. Darren Raddysh collected the puck and made a stretch pass to Viktor Ejdsell. In the resulting 2-on-1, Ejdsell fed Dylan Sikura for the lamp lighter at 7:29 of the first.

Shortly thereafter, Anthony Louis pounced on an Iowa turnover along the half boards near the red line and skated the puck into the Wild zone. He fired from the left dot past the glove of Iowa goalie Andrew Hammond for a 2-0 Hogs advantage at the 8:34 mark.

The Wild got the next two goals of the game. Matt Bartkowski finished a 3-on-1 rush at 11:54 of the first. Later, on a Wild man advantage, Ryan Kloos sent a wrister from the slot than sneaked under the pads of Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg 3:52 into the second period.

Rockford regained the lead on a power play goal. Jacob Nilsson potted his first of the season, putting back a rebound of a Lucas Carlsson point shot. The goal came at 16:44 of the period and made it 3-2 Hogs going into the second intermission.

The Hogs failed to build on the lead despite a couple of power play chances in the third period, but Forsberg kept Iowa at bay for the remainder of the game. The Wild pulled Hammond in the final minutes, leading to Louis denting the empty net for his second goal of the night.

Forsberg made 31 stops on the evening to pick up his second win of the season. Nilsson was the game’s first star, followed by Cal O’Reilly of the Wild and Louis.

The power play was one-for-six on the night, while the Wild was one-for-five.

 

Good Morning, Sunshine

Rockford faces off with the Wild for the third game in a row when they host Iowa Wednesday morning at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Then, the Hogs are off on their longest road trek of the 2017-18 campaign. The six-game jaunt gets underway Friday and Saturday with visits to Milwaukee and Chicago.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates, news and thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, elected to forgo preseason exhibition games heading into the 2018-19 season. Ergo, this past weekend’s action in Cleveland was the first in which the piglets faced off against another team.

The results were a bit underwhelming. Rockford dropped two games to the Monsters to open the season.

According to a tweet by IceHogs broadcaster Joseph Zakrzewski, the Hogs coaching staff felt that the NHL exhibitions were enough, citing a large number of players in Hawks training camp this fall. It’s not like the Hogs have a rigorous preseason schedule most seasons; usually Rockford has a game or two against their AHL neighbors in Chicago and Milwaukee.

IceHogs head coach Jeremy Colliton had a full week of workouts with the bulk of his opening-night roster, so the lack of preseason games is hardly a smoking gun. Rockford, despite what the franchise accomplished last spring, is still a very young group of players. There are quite a few new faces, especially on defense, to work into the lineup.

With a few notable exceptions this weekend, the passing wasn’t particularly sharp in Cleveland. Friday’s 4-1 loss was closer than the score indicated. Saturday, the 5-2 result spoke for itself. The Monsters really got the best of Rockford in the transition game. The Hogs effort wasn’t terrible, but Cleveland was the better team on the ice both games.

While it is fair to question the decision to skip a preseason game or two, it isn’t as if this is a move that will sink the 2018-19 campaign. If the Hogs are to enjoy success rivaling that of a year ago, they will have to develop some chemistry. That’s going to take some time. How much time will be a big factor in how the season progresses for Rockford.

 

Jordan Maletta Retiring

One recent acquisition who had been missing from the Blackhawks and IceHogs training camps was recently acquired forward Jordan Maletta. Picked up from Arizona in trade this past summer, Maletta was not medically cleared to play this fall after an injury-filled season with Cleveland and Tuscon. Chicago put the 23-year-old Maletta through waivers and the two parties mutually terminated his contract.

Maletta battled a hand injury last year; apparently the issue is is of a career-ending nature. It’s too bad, firstly because it stinks for a young player to have to shut it down at this stage of his development. Secondly, I think Maletta could have potentially added a dimension to the IceHogs that they could have used.

Maletta showed in his rookie season with Cleveland that he could contribute offensively and play a power game. It would have been interesting to see how he would have fit in with Rockford and how he might have contributed.

Mind Made Up On Iacopelli?

The lineup in the two games in Cleveland was identical, save for the net, where Kevin Lankinen made his AHL debut Friday, followed by Collin Delia getting the start Saturday. The scratches both games included defensemen Blake Hillman and Dennis Gilbert, injured forward William Pelletier…and second-year pro Matheson Iacopelli.

The former Western Michigan skater seems to be approaching a crossroads in the Blackhawks organization. He found ice time hard to come by in his rookie year despite possessing an above average shot. Iacopelli is an offensive player who does not seem to have a place on a scoring line.

I’m not casting any proclamations on the kid’s work ethic or attitude. Perhaps Colliton is going to work Iacopelli into a line that can utilize his strengths. The fact is that two of Rockford’s AHL signings, Terry Broadhust and Henrik Samuelsson, are in the lineup ahead of Iacopelli. When Pelletier is healthy, he’s definitely in the lineup ahead of Iacopelli.

The 24-year-old right wing has shown he can fill a net. He had 11 goals in 50 games in Rockford to go with the nine he put up in ten games with the Indy Fuel. Iacopelli needs to show he can play at both ends and at the pace Colliton likes. He just may running out of time and opportunity to do that.

 

Roster Moves

After backing up Cam Ward in Chicago’s Thursday night’s game in Ottawa, Delia was re-assigned to Rockford Friday following the Hogs loss to Cleveland. Matt Tomkins was assigned to the Indy Fuel in the corresponding move.

 

Recaps

Friday, October 5-Cleveland 4, Rockford 1 

Rockford drew first cord but the Monsters broke open a tie game in the third period and bested the IceHogs in the season opener for both teams.

Shortly after holding off a two-man Monsters advantage in the latter half of the first period, Rockford found itself up a skater on a delayed penalty. Cleveland’s Calvin Thurkauf got tangled up with Viktor Ejdsell. Thurkauf dropped his gloves but Ejdsell didn’t bite, choosing to skate with his teammates into the offensive zone.

Luc Snuggerud found Ejdsell at the right dot. In turn, Ejdsell sent a frozen rope to the blade of Matthew Highmore at the left post. The back door was wide open; Highmore united rubber and twine at 17:11 of the opening frame to give the IceHogs a 1-0 lead.

Cleveland knotted the score early in the second period. Zac Dalpe out muscled Snuggerud and Lucas Carlsson for the puck along the end boards behind the Hogs net. Dalpe threw the puck out to an open Eric Robinson, who beat Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen. Through two periods, the teams were tied at a goal apiece.

The Monsters took a 2-1 lead at the 3:26 mark of the third with a bullet of a snap shot by Kevin Stenlund, who took a neutral zone pass from Nathan Gerbe, skated into the Rockford zone and fired past Lankinen from the high slot. Cleveland got a key insurance goal later in the period when Vitaly Abramov brought the puck into the offensive zone.

Rockford’s defenders gave the swift forward some extra space, which proved problematic when Abramov skated to the right dot and worked a give and go with Michael Prepavessis. Taking the return pass, Abramov sent a high shot to the right corner of the Hogs net, making it 3-1 Monsters at 15:14 of the final frame. Cleveland added an empty-net goal from the stick of Justin Scott a few minutes later to close out the scoring.

Former Hogs goalie Jean-Francois Berube greeted his old teammates with a 24-save performance to pick up the win. Kevin Lankinen made his AHL debut in net for Rockford and stopped 18 of the 21 shots he faced.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura (A)-Terry Broadhurst

Anthony Louis-Jordan Schroeder (A)-Viktor Ejdsell

Matthew Highmore-Jacob Nilsson-Dylan Sikura

Henrik Samuelsson-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Andrew Campbell (A)-Carl Dahlstrom

Joni Tuulola-Darren Raddysh

Luc Snuggerud-Lucas Carlsson

Kevin Lankinen

Power Play (0-1)

D. Sikura-Schroeder-T. Sikura-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Highmore-Ejdsell-Louis-Broadhurst-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Monsters were 0-3, including 56 seconds of 5-on-3 time)

Highmore-Nilsson-Dahlstrom-Campbell

Fortin-Knott-Carlsson-Tuulola

T. Sikura-Broadhurst-Snuggerud-Raddysh

 

Saturday, October 6-Cleveland 5, Rockford 2

Five unanswered Cleveland goals erased an early Hogs lead and then some, sending the piglets back to Rockford on a two-game losing streak.

The IceHogs had a pair of power play opportunities in the first period. On the second, the Sikura brothers gave Rockford a 1-0 lead at the 13:53 mark. Dylan and Tyler went back-and-forth with the puck, culminating on Dylan centering to Tyler in front of the Monsters net. The redirect got past Cleveland goalie Brad Theissen and into the cage to put the IceHogs ahead.

Circumstances turned following the power play goal. Less than 30 seconds later, Eric Robinson sent a shot toward the Rockford goal. The puck glanced off the stick of Carl Dahlstrom and got the best of Hogs goalie Collin Delia to tie the score.

Less than a minute after Robinson’s goal, a turnover behind the Rockford net wound up in the Rockford net. Alex Broadhurst collected the loose puck and hit Zac Dalpe skating to the left post. The shot beat Delia under his glove to make it 2-1 Cleveland at 15:31 of the first.

Late in the frame, Matthew Highmore was sent off for a slashing penalty. It took just a moment for the Monsters to build on their advantage. Robinson got the puck in the high slot and went high on Delia. The resulting goal gave Cleveland a 3-1 advantage with nine seconds remaining in the period.

Rockford was the victim of some good luck/bad luck early in the second period after a Justin Scott wrister from the slot made it over Delia’s shoulder. The shot clanged off the crossbar but bounced off of Cleveland’s Kole Sherwood and into the net. Just 2:48 into the period, the Monsters lead was 4-1.

Late in the second, Broadhurst and Dalpe struck again. The two got an odd man rush started after Viktor Ejdsell lost his footing while attempting to hold in a clearing attempt. Luc Snuggerud was the lonely defender; he forced Broadhurst to pass but Dalpe let fly from the slot and sent it past Delia’s glove for a 5-1 advantage at 18:37 of the second.

It was largely academic in the final 20 minutes, though the Hogs put up 14 shots on goal and found the net in the eighth minute. The score was set up by Jordan Schroeder, who chased down a high clearing pass in the neutral zone and made a beeline for the Monsters zone.

Schroeder skated down the left half boards, behind the Cleveland net, and back up the right boards before backhanding a pass to Lucas Carlsson near the top of the left circle. The rookie defenseman wound up and slapped home his first AHL goal over Theissen’s blocker at 7:50 to close out the scoring.

Delia, who arrived in town the night before after being re-assigned to the IceHogs, gave up five goals on 31 Cleveland shots.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Matthew Highmore-Jacob Nilsson-Dylan Sikura

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura (A)-Terry Broadhurst

Anthony Louis-Jordan Schroeder (A)-Viktor Ejdsell

Henrik Samuelsson-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Joni Tuulola-Darren Raddysh

Andrew Campbell (A)-Carl Dahlstrom

Luc Snuggerud-Lucas Carlsson

Collin Delia

Power Play (1-4)

D. Sikura-Schroeder-T. Sikura-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Highmore-Ejdsell-Louis-Broadhurst-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Monsters were 1-4)

Highmore-Nilsson-Dahlstrom-Campbell

Fortin-Knott-Carlsson-Tuulola

T. Sikura-Broadhurst-Snuggerud-Raddysh

 

What’s Next?

Colliton has all week to prepare the IceHogs for opening play at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The home part of Rockford’s schedule commences on Saturday night when the defending Western Conference champs, the Texas Stars, come to town. On Sunday, the IceHogs host the Hershey Bears.

I’ll have a preview of this weekend’s action coming up in what I hope will be a regular Friday post, circumstances allowing. Until then, follow me @JonFromi for thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

 

Everything Else

Box Score

Hockey Stats (SKY POINT)

Natural Stat Trick

The Hawks logged their first preseason win against a team that’s an anthropomorphic therapy session. I watched the game so you didn’t have to. Let’s kick it quick, because I have a couple double Cheesy Gordita Crunches I want inside me, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER.

Collin “Cucamonga” Delia and his superfluous L was one of the more surprising bright spots on the night. While he allowed both goals, neither were really his fault. The first came after Jokiharju (whom McClure tells me we are calling HJ from here on in, so remember that) and Dahlstrom decided to compare whose shit erupted out of the toilet bowl higher at the offensive blue line, leaving Alex Formenton alone on a breakaway. The second goal came after Delia made a strong save on Duchene during a penalty kill, only to have Duchene stuff the rebound past him. After that he was nails, shutting an admittedly shitty Senators team down, including a highlight-reel split save on Duchene in the second. He’s nowhere near ready for any meaningful time, but he’s nice to have in the back pocket.

– HJ looked abysmal in the first. He had a 33.33 CF% in the first while pairing with Carl Dahlstrom, whose only real skill appears to be winning second place in any Jared Dunn lookalike contests he enters. Away from Dahlstrom he was infinitely better, posting a 100 CF% (7 CF, 0 CA) primarily with Brandon Davidson for a grand total 54.55 CF%.

– Foley floated the idea of a Kruger–Johnson–Martinsen line out there, and after tonight, that might make sense at some point. Each had a goal and an assist. Again, this is against the Ottawa Senators, a team that traded Erik Karlsson for a pile of recycled toilet paper, but there was some cohesiveness out there. Kruger should be a lock to make the team, but Johnson and Martinsen might be OK in spots, too.

– It’s good to see Dominik “Screw You Guys, I’m Going Home” Kahun contribute as well. His third-period pass from behind the goal line to John Hayden for a goal was legitimately nice. It’s hard to figure where he’d fit on the roster, but it’s nice to know he’s not a complete schlub.

– Luc Snuggerud also looked decent tonight. He’s a lot bigger looking than I expected, and he came through with a solid 56 CF% at 5v5 in just under 15 minutes. He made a great sliding block on a 2-on-1 about midway through the second period. He also took the point shot that led to Kahun’s goal in the second. He’s another nice “if you need him” option back there, and with a little more seasoning, might become a nice third-pairing guy in the near future.

More than anything, I think we learned that even when they dress most of their good players—including Matt Duchene—the Ottawa Senators are an affront to not only the game of hockey but also theology and geometry. There were a lot of retreads and babies out there for the Hawks, but no one who matters looks utterly putrid, which is all you can ask for a game like this.

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs were deep on the defensive side in 2018-19. It was in this area where the club had an abundance of experience to start the season. It only got better in the spring as some key pickups further strengthened Rockford on the way to a long playoff run.

Back with a look at the back end of the roster, here are my thoughts on the defense.

The Sparkplugs

Cody Franson (37 games, 9 G, 19 A, plus-nine)

Adam Clendening (38 games, 4 G, 26 A, plus-two)

The addition of these two veteran blueliners completely changed the course of the IceHogs fortunes. The power play went from being a laughing stock to the most dangerous in the AHL.

Franson performed like you would expect a NHL-level talent to upon arriving in Rockford. The 30-year-old Franson immediately became a locker room sage and offensive catalyst, with six power play goals in the regular season, then four more in the playoffs. A point a game player in the postseason (6 G, 7 A), Franson totaled 15 goals and 41 points in 50 games in an IceHogs sweater.

Clendening, who was returning to Rockford after stints in several other organizations, saw his scoring touch return in a big way. After five points in 21 games for Tuscon to begin the season, Clendening went on a tear and wound up leading all Hogs defensemen in scoring despite joining Rockford well into the season.

So far as a return engagement from this exciting duo…

Franson was quite open about his future (or non-future to be more accurate) in the organization past this season. His steamrolling through the AHL might open a few doors as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

On the other hand, Clendening is an RFA and could be re-signed at low cost to the Blackhawks. The question is, will Chicago tender an offer to a player who couldn’t secure an NHL spot in the organization in his first go-round? Clendening would be a nice piece to start building next fall’s Hogs roster; we’ll see what transpires in the next couple weeks.

 

The Big Guy

Viktor Svedberg (73 games, 6 G, 18 A, plus-18)

The 6-9 Swede began his time in the organization as a project; Svedberg is now a UFA following his fifth season, most of which was spent with the IceHogs.

I’ll come right out and say it. Svedberg brought an awful lot to the table in 2017-18. Here’s why:

This was easily his best season from an offensive standpoint. He also potted a couple of big shootout goals when called upon.

Svedberg began the season healthy and stayed that way, playing a career-high 73 games. For a guy who had trouble staying on the ice in past years, it was satisfying to see him showcase his game.

Svedberg still gets a bad rap from some Rockford fans for his defensive liabilities, which were on full display for most of his first three seasons. That’s too bad, because he was arguably the IceHogs best defender this year.

I could count on one hand the number of times that Svedberg was caught out of position in his own zone, leading to an open shot attempt. He is never going to be a player who can use his skating ability to get him out of trouble. However, he has learned to take advantage of his reach and positioning to be effective.

Svedberg was often an alternate captain (coach Jeremy Colliton never named a captain this season) and was one of the few skaters (before DiDomenico and Lance Bouma showed up) willing to stick his nose into a scrum. When Franson arrived, Svedberg completed a very solid (and physically imposing) top pairing.

Svedberg has come a long way in five years and certainly could provide some organizational depth and leadership in Rockford. It will be interesting to see what offers he fields in free agency.

 

The All-Star

Carl Dahlstrom (64 games, 3 G, 28 A, plus-14)

Dahlstrom was a substitute for Erik Gustafsson in the AHL’s All-Star Classic and took his game up a notch in his second full season in Rockford.

Dahlstrom was a steady defender and took a bigger role at the other end of the ice in 2017-18. He looked a lot more confident bringing the puck out of his zone this season and earned a stint in Chicago late in the spring. It seems likely that he is in line to earn a spot on the Hawks roster in training camp the way things look right now.

Franson and Clendening altered the pecking order among the defensemen; Dahlstrom definitely had a reduced role on the power play. His shot attempts at even strength took a hit as well, with a drop in frequency of about 23 percent after he came back from Chicago in March.

Dahlstrom last drew cord for the Hogs on January 13. In his last 26 regular season games with the Hogs, he managed just nine assists. Dahlstrom rebounded in the playoffs with three goals and six helpers.

 

The Passed Over

Gustav Forsling (18 games, 2 G, 3 A, minus-four)

The other player most affected by Franson and Clendening’s presence was Forsling. When he was sent to Rockford in January, he scored in his season debut with the Hogs, then went dormant offensively. Once the vets joined the team the next month, there wasn’t much of an offensive role for the 21-year-old.

Forsling got some time quarterbacking the second power play unit. He had one assist on the man advantage in the regular season and another one in the playoffs. He was a bit more noticeable in the postseason, with a goal and five helpers. However, most of his time was spent on the bottom pairing.

Forsling did not distinguish himself on the scoreboard in his time in Rockford. At the same time, he didn’t defend very well either, at least in my opinion. Had Forsling had a more prominent spot in the lineup, he might have picked up his play in the latter part of the season. That didn’t happen.

 

The Prospects

Darren Raddysh (66 games, 5 G, 17 A, plus-ten)

Luc Snuggerud (40 games, 5 G, 12 A, minus-three)

Robin Norell (63 games, 2 G, 5 A, plus-two)

Raddysh had the biggest impact of these three players, earning himself an NHL entry deal from Chicago last month. He found himself in the lineup over several players with NHL contracts this past season, something that also held true nine times in the playoffs.

Snuggerud’s rookie season was interrupted for two months after suffering an upper body injury December 8. He had a pair of goals and eight assists after returning in February, but did not suit up in the postseason.

Norell’s campaign began with a savage beat-down at the hands of Brett Gallant in Cleveland opening night. It ended in the press box in the postseason.

After a four-game point streak in December, Norell went 43 games without a goal or an assist until getting a goal in the regular season finale in Chicago. This, despite playing as a forward for much of that time with line mates who regularly found the net.

His defensive play at forward was often praised by Colliton, though apparently not enough to get him on the ice at any position in the playoffs.

Norell skates hard, but isn’t a real physical player and isn’t gifted with a great shot. It may be hard for him to find time on the blueline this fall.

 

The Other Guys

Ville Pokka (4 G, 18 A) played 46 games in Rockford before being traded to Ottawa for Chris DiDomenico. Pokka was perfectly serviceable for the Hogs but was spinning his tires in the organization. The return on the exchange was a vital part of Rockford’s late season success.

Gustafsson (3 G, 14 A) was with the Hogs for 25 games before spending the remainder of the season in Chicago. Joni Tuulola was scoreless in two regular season games and four postseason appearances.

Also putting up goose eggs in limited action in 2017-18 were AHL contracts Brandon Anselmini and Robin Press, who each got into seven games.  Former Hog Nolan Valleau was brought in on a PTO for three games and then released.

 

Where Does The D Go From Here?

Chicago has added Dennis Gilbert, Lucas Carlsson and Henri Jokiharju to the list of prospects on defense. With Tuulola set to begin his rookie season and five holdovers, the position is crowded even without a veteran signing like Clendening or Svedberg.

As is the case at every position, the next month will surely see some turnover. The blueline will certainly be a lot younger in 2018-19.

This week, I hope to start sifting through the forwards in one additional installment of my year-end look at the IceHogs. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the Hogs throughout the summer.

 

Everything Else

There’s a lot of anxiety about the D-corps this year because for the first time in this era, there seem to be more questions than answers. Nowhere is this more evident than the 3rd pairing. Maybe it’s just that we’ve been spoiled with both a deep and overperforming D-corps throughout most of this Hawks era. But looking at these options is a bit like rummaging through the fridge after a bender. One of these guys is going to pair with Forsling, so let’s see if we can conjure who would be the best fit. (All of this assumes Franson doesn’t make the team. If he does, I’d be shocked if he weren’t the 6th D-man.)

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs continue to limp toward the end of the 2016-17 campaign. The Blackhawks AHL affiliate dropped a weekend set with Grand Rapids, losing in Michigan Friday before being shutout at the BMO Harris Bank Center the following evening.

Since losing several top scorers at the NHL trade deadline, the Hogs have not fared well. They’ve lost ten of their last eleven; Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the Griffins put an exclamation point on what has been a franchise-low showing this season.

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs got an influx of new talent last week, with some of the new kids making an immediate impact. The Hogs managed three of a possible six points in three contests this past week.

The two newest faces belonged to defenseman Luc Snuggerud and forward Anthony Louis, who both signed amateur tryout contracts following their signing with Chicago. Both players got into action beginning this past weekend.