Hockey

The entrance to the BMO Harris Bank Center is a revolving door for several of the Rockford IceHogs. I’ve nearly given up on following the transaction wire, which is bringing players up and down on what feels like a daily basis.

As of this morning, here is the status of several players.  With the Hogs idle until Tuesday now that Saturday’s game in Grand Rapids is postponed, there could well be additional movement as the organization navigates the taxi squad minimum.

Brandon Pirri: Taxi Squad. Was sent to Rockford long enough to post a hat trick Wednesday night and single-handedly got the Hogs their first win of the season against the Wolves.

Alec Regula: IceHogs. The Big Regu last took to the ice on March 16. I suspect he’s injured and is being used to fill the taxi squad quota as needed for Chicago. Otherwise, the back and forth makes no sense; why let a highly-touted prospect sit for three weeks?

MacKenzie Entwistle, Reese Johnson, Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin: Still in Rockford at the moment.

Lucas Carlsson: Taxi Squad. Well, Florida’s taxi squad. Carlsson was part of Thursday’s trade with the Panthers.

At this point in the season, most of these moves exist only on paper, with players “moving” to Rockford for game experience and “returning” to the taxi squad so that Chicago has the required numbers.

 

Meet The New Boss…Same As The Old Boss

On Wednesday, everyone got together at the BMO to announce that the Blackhawks had purchased the IceHogs franchise and will be making improvements to the 40-year-old barn. It was revealed that the arrangement will keep Chicago’s AHL franchise in Rockford for the next fifteen seasons.

What changes? Well, I imagine that the organization upgrades the training facilities and gives the building an overall spit-shine. The Blackhawks already dictate the hockey decisions, so it’s hard to see the on-ice product getting substantially better in terms of wins and losses.

Perhaps I am wrong. It is possible that an organization that has consistently placed development over winning will suddenly change its tune. However, I can recall the IceHogs basically having to tank a chance at a division title a few seasons ago so that the Blackhawks could play a half-dozen fresh acquisitions on the final weekend. Time, as always, will tell.

 

Catching Up On Recaps

Saturday, April 3-Chicago 4, Rockford 2

Rockford kept it close, but lost its sixth straight to the Wolves this season.

The Hogs were active defensively in the first period, breaking up Chicago rushes and limiting traffic in front of rookie goalie Cale Morris. Rockford went up 1-0 after Dylan McLaughlin picked off a pass attempt by the Wolves Max Lajoie in the high slot. McLaughlin went straight to the left circle and zipped home his fourth goal of the season past Chicago goalie Devin Cooley at the 7:33 mark.

The lead held until 13:38 of the first period, when Sean Malone centered to Dominik Bokk in the slot. The resulting one-timer got past Morris and off the crossbar before tying the game at one.

The Wolves took a 2-1 lead 4:27 into the middle frame when David Cotton struck on a shot from between the circles. Rockford came up with a response later in the second period when Chicago got caught changing lines. D.J. Busdeker led the rush, passing to Josiah Slavin at the left circle for the equalizer at the 13:44 mark.

Late in the period, Issak Phillips was called for holding trying to stop a breakaway chance by Malone. Morris was able to make a pad save on a long shot by David Warsofsky in the resulting power play. However, the rebound was scooped up by Tanner Jeannot, who flipped it past Morris for a 3-2 Chicago advantage with 43 seconds remaining in the second.

Rockford was unable to find a way to pull back even with the Wolves in the final twenty minutes. Cole Smith added an empty-net goal in the final minute to finish off the Hogs.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-Garrett Mitchell (C)

Josian Slavin-MacKenzie Entwistle-D.J. Busdeker

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Dylan McLaughlin-John Quenneville (A)

Matej Chalupa-Michal Teply

Lucas Carlsson-Ian Mitchell

Anton Lindholm-Nicolas Beaudin

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Michael Krutil

Cale Morris

Ivan Nalimov

 

Wednesday, April 9-Rockford 4, Chicago 3

Brandon Pirri posted a hat trick, leading the Hogs to their first win in seven tries this season against the Wolves. The IceHogs moved to 7-12-1 despite being outshot 33-17 by Chicago.

Rockford took a 2-0 lead in the first period with a pair of quick strikes. The first came seven minutes in, when Evan Barratt hit MacKenzie Entwistleas he came over the boards. Entwistle finished the breakaway opportunity with a nice deke past Wolves goalie Beck Warm.

Rockford’s public address announcer had scarcely finished the call of the first Hogs goal when Josiah Slavin corralled a high bouncing puck to keep it in the offensive zone. Pirri took a pass from Slavin at the right circle and sent a laser past Warm’s blocker at the 7:40 mark.

The Wolves closed the gap to 2-1 4:07 into the second period on a Phil Tomasino goal. Pirri restored the two-goal advantage minutes later with a one-timer from the right dot. Pirri’s second goal of the evening came at 7:58 with assists from Nicolas Beaudin and Slavin.

The hat trick was completed at the 14:50 mark. Andrei Altybarmakyan set the goal up by winning a board battle and sliding the puck into the high slot. Pirri skated over and slapped the biscuit past Warm for a 4-1 Rockford lead.

Chicago pushed hard in the third period, out-shooting the Hogs 12-3 in the final twenty minutes. Tanner Jeannot converted on a sweet pass by Tomasino at the 3:53 mark. The Wolves power play made it 4-3 at 8:07 on a Dominik Bokk tally. Warm was brought to the bench with two minutes remaining in regulation, but Tomkins (30 saves) and the IceHogs held on for the victory.

Pirri, to the surprise of no one, was voted the game’s First Star. He paced the IceHogs with six shots on the evening. The taxi squad has grounded Pirri for the bulk of the AHL season; Wednesday was just his third appearance for Rockford. In those games, he has posted five goals.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-D.J. Busdeker

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Dylan McLaughlin-John Quenneville (A)

Josiah Slavin-MacKenzie Entwistle-Brandon Pirri

Matej Chalupa-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Chad Yetman

Issak Phillips-Cody Franson (A)

Nicolas Beaudin-Ian Mitchell

Lucas Carlsson-Michael Krutil

Matt Tomkins

Ivan Nalimov

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs dropped a pair of games to the Chicago Wolves over the weekend. The piglets were blown out in the Wolves practice facility in Hoffman Estates Saturday night. The following afternoon, Rockford lost a back-and-forth affair to Chicago at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Here are some musings on the first two of what will be four straight games with the Wolves.

  • The Hogs were never in Saturday’s 6-3 loss. Ivan Nalimov made his debut in net for Rockford and was not good at all. The Wolves were up two goals before the opening minute elapsed and led 3-0 after the first. Cody Franson, Evan Barratt, and Reese Johnson scored for the piglets.
  • Rockford had just one power play chance in Hoffman Estates. Sunday, the Hogs went three-for-five on the man advantage, which allowed then to be more competitive against the class of the Central Division.
  • In his pro debut, Josiah Slavin tied the score with a power play goal early in the third period on Sunday. 1:15 into the final frame, the score was tied 4-4. From that point on, the Hogs were out shot 11-1 over the rest of the contest, losing 5-4.
  • Barratt picked up another goal in Sunday’s loss, his fourth of the season. Barratt has eleven points in 18 games (4 G, 7 A) and is on a three-game point streak. Dylan McLaughlin and Wyatt Kalynuk also caught cord for Rockford.
  • Franson had a three-point weekend and has a four-game point streak going. He is atop the Hogs in points with 14 (4 G, 10 A).
  • Andrei Altybarmakyan sat out the weekend. Hopefully it’s nothing long-term, as he’s been a bright spot in terms of Hawks prospects.
  • Matt Tomkins didn’t fare much better than Nalimov in net in Sunday’s defeat. He was victimized by a couple of deflections, but misplayed a puck behind his net which led to the game-winner from the Wolves Jamieson Rees.
  • Tomkins is still deserving of the bulk of Rockford’s work load in net. That said, I would really like to see rookie Cale Morris (1.72 GAA, .956 save percentage in three appearances) get a chance to face down the Wolves in one of the IceHogs next two games.
  • Chad Yetman, who had a goal in Rockford’s first game of the season, was sent to the Indy Fuel on Friday. The IceHogs also sent D Dimitry Osipov to their ECHL affiliate. Cliff Watson returns to the Fuel after Rockford released him from his PTO. The Blackhawks also assigned Brad Morrison (3 G, 2 A in six games for the Hogs) to Indy Friday.
  • Mikael Hakkarainen is one of several Chicago prospects to yo-yo between Rockford and Chicago’s taxi squad. Hakkarainen has appeared in just six games for the IceHogs this season. Currently in his second season of his entry contract, Hakkarainen is pointless in 14 games for his pro career.
  • Brandon Pirri and Alec Regula also were recalled to the taxi squad, with forwards MacKenzie Entwistle and Reese Johnson and defensemen Wyatt Kalynuk, Lucas Carlsson, and Ian Mitchell coming down to Rockford for the weekend’s action.
  • John Quenneville has struggled to produce on the offensive end this season. In twelve games, he has just one goal and one assist. Quenneville has spent most of the campaign dealing with nagging injuries. He took a big hit against the Wolves on Saturday and was out of the lineup on Sunday.
  • Rockford finishes March with a 5-5 record and is 6-11-1 overall. They are currently 0-5 against the Wolves this season. The Hogs will attempt to pick up that elusive first win over Chicago on the road Saturday night.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for news and opinions on the IceHogs throughout the season.

Hockey

The I-90 Shuffle is alive and well. The road between Chicago and Rockford has been well worn by Blackhawks prospects in the past. The moves are a bit different, but the results are similar.

In normal seasons, young prospects move up and down from the NHL to the AHL. The usual culprit is to reward a player with a quick look or to solve a salary cap issue. The new twist in the shuffle lies in the taxi squad.

Each NHL team must have three goalies available and a taxi squad of at least four members. A lot of players who would be getting steady game experience in Rockford have been in a sort of limbo. They aren’t breaking into Chicago’s lineup on a regular basis, but aren’t eligible to play for the IceHogs.

To keep the youngsters in game shape, several prospects have been rotated back and forth to the taxi squad. With both Rockford and Chicago at home or close to home this week, expect movement between the two teams.

The Blackhawks are attempting to make the best of a bad situation. However, it’s still rough on a player like Brandon Pirri, who has played in just three games this season. He was in the lineup opening night in Chicago, then sat until being assigned to Rockford on March 2.

Pirri had two goals and an assist in two games, then was recalled March 7. He was sent to Rockford last Wednesday, assumedly to play in this past weekend’s games with Iowa. The games were postponed two days, from Friday and Saturday to Sunday and Monday. On Sunday, before that night’s game, Pirri and three other skaters, John Quenneville, Alec Regula, and Mikael Hakkarainen, were recalled to Chicago.

Down came five players-forward Reese Johnson and defensemen Wyatt Kalynuk, Nicolas Beaudin, Lucas Carlsson and Madison Bowey. All five played in Rockford’s 5-3 loss to Iowa Sunday night and in the 6-1 victory the following day.

In a normal season, Pirri would have spent most of this season in Rockford leading the offensive push, offering some veteran presence, and showcasing himself to other organizations. Instead, Pirri and other AHL vets are spending time in purgatory.

Case in point: Iowa’s Gerry Mayhew scored three goals for the Wild in the last two games. Mayhew played in just four games with Minnesota before being sent down. Sunday was his third game for for Iowa. Mayhew now has four goals and an assist for the Wild. Last year’s AHL MVP (39 G, 22 A in 49 games) has been a taxi squad casualty this season.

It’s frustrating to see a player like Pirri, who was signed largely to contribute to Rockford, sit on his hands for the bulk of the season. Imagine how frustrating it must be for the players.

 

Recaps

Sunday, March 21-Iowa 5, Rockford 3

Gerry Mayhew showed the offensive spark that earned him last season’s AHL MVP award Sunday night. Mayhew, who was recently assigned to the Wild from Minnesota, scored twice and added an assist as the Wild broke a five-game winless streak.

Rockford’s two-game win streak was snapped in the first of two home contests with Iowa. Cody Franson had a goal and an assist in the losing effort.

An interference penalty by Reese Johnson set up the first goal of the contest. Iowa quickly set up in the offensive zone. Mason Shaw sent a puck on net from the right dot. Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins stopped that shot as well as Gabriel Dumont’s put back attempt. Gerry Mayhew knocked in the loose puck at 9:30 of the first period to give the Wild a 1-0 advantage.

The IceHogs tied the game early in the second period following a faceoff win by Reese Johnson in the neutral zone. Cody Franson gathered in the puck and fired from just inside the red line. Iowa goalie Hunter Jones whiffed on the long-distance offering, resulting in a 1-1 game 3:47 into the middle frame.

Rockford took the lead on the man advantage later in the second. MacKenzie Entwistle redirected a Franson shot past Jones at the 12:44 mark. That 2-1 lead was short-lived, as Mayhew potted his second goal of the night with a wrap-around attempt. Tomkins made the initial pad save, but the puck was raked across the goal line by the goalie’s stick at 14:17 of the second.

Early in the final period, the IceHogs gained a 3-2 advantage when Rockford captain Garrett Mitchell received a pass from Mitchell Fossier at the left dot. Mitchell’s shot was low and to the far side of the net at the 1:37 mark.

The Wild responded quickly, getting the equalizer from Tyler Sheehy. The rookie potted his first AHL goal, tipping in Dumont’s feed at 3:07 of the third. Five minutes later, Dumont one-timed a Sheehy pass from the high slot past Tomkins for a 4-3 Iowa lead eight minutes into the period.

The Hogs were unable to pull even in the final twelve minutes of action. Tomkins was pulled in favor of an extra skater with 1:47 remaining to no avail. Shaw found the empty net with 15 seconds left to seal Rockford’s fate.

Riley McKay dropped the gloves with Iowa’s Josh Maser early in the second period. McKay managed to dodge a good number of Maser’s punches in the all-rookie bout before being taken down to the ice. The fighting major is his third of the season, which leads the IceHogs.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-Tim Soderlund

Andrei Altybarmakyan-MacKenzie Entwistle-D.J. Busdeker

Matej Chalupa-Dylan McLaughlin-Michal Teply

Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Mitchell Fossier

Anton Lindholm-Madison Bowey

Wyatt Kalynuk-Cody Franson (A)

Lucas Carlsson-Nicolas Beaudin

Matt Tomkins

Cam Morris

 

Monday, March 22-Rockford 6, Iowa 1

For the first time this season, the IceHogs were able to build a cushion against an opponent. This was the first Rockford win of the season to come by more than one goal.

Rockford got two-goal performances from Reese Johnson, Chris Wilkie, and Nicolas Beaudin. The offensive outburst was more than enough for rookie goaltender Cale Morris, who stopped 38 shots to pick up the win.

The Hogs stormed out to a big lead in the opening minutes, scoring three goals on their first four shots of the game. The first strike came in transition after Issak Phillips sent a clearing pass to Wilkie. Leading a two-on-one rush, Wilkie hit Johnson for the one-timer from the left circle for a 1-0 lead just 2:24 into the contest.

Wilkie forced a turnover in the Iowa zone a few minutes later. Evan Barratt chased down the loose puck  and passed to Johnson, who brought it around the Wild net. Returning the favor to Wilkie, Johnson centered to set up the tap in, which came at 5:22 of the first.

Wilkie’s next goal came with Lucas Carlsson in the box for holding. Wyatt Kalynuk got the play started with a stretch pass to Wilkie coming out of the defensive zone. Wilkie worked a give-and-go with Dylan McLaughin, receiving the return pass and beating Iowa goalie Hunter Jones to the glove side at the 8:43 mark.

The Wild managed to cut the Rockford lead to 3-1 while on a two-man advantage. Gerry Mayhew snaked through the IceHogs defense and got a shot past Rockford goalie Cale Morris at 15:53 of the first period.

The IceHogs were able to restore a three-goal advantage late in the second period. The goal came on the power play after Wilkie drew a slash from Josh Atkinson. McLaughlin found MacKenzie Entwistle below the goal line. From there, Entwistle connected with Beaudin at the right dot. Beaudin brought the puck to his forehand and roofed it past Jones at 16:28 of the middle frame for a 4-1 Rockford lead.

The IceHogs prevented any pushback by Iowa by controlling the action in the third period. Late in the game, Tim Soderlund centered to Johnson, who potted his second goal of the night to make it 5-1 Rockford at 16:59 of the third. Moments later, Beaudin picked up his second of the evening with a long-distance shot past a screened Jones at the 17:29 mark to close out the scoring.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mitchell Fossier-Garrett Mitchell-D.J. Busdeker

Andrei Altybarmakyan-MacKenzie Entwistle-Michal Teply

Mataj Chalupa-Dylan McLaughlin-Tim Soderlund

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-Chris Wilkie

Anton Lindholm-Lucas Carlsson

Wyatt Kalynuk-Nicolas Beaudin

Issak Phillips-Madison Bowey

Cale Morris

Ivan Nailimov

 

This Weekend

Rockford now settles in for four games with the Chicago Wolves. The first home-and-away back-to-back starts Saturday night in Hoffman Estates.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs had a big weekend, sweeping the Iowa Wild at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The piglets won consecutive games for the first time this season. Several players stood out. Below are some thoughts.

 

Some Thoughts

  • It was a huge weekend for Collin Delia, who was lit up like a pinball machine (remember those?) in his first two conditioning starts for Rockford. Delia was much improved against Iowa, stopping 35 shots in Saturday’s 3-2 win and 27 more in Sunday’s 4-3 overtime thriller. I imagine he gets the start Thursday vs Grand Rapids, his last opportunity for work while on this 14-day stint.
  • It’s premature to tab rookie Andrei Altybarmakyan “Baby Hossa”, but I’m going to anyway. The Hawks third-round pick from 2017 has been surprisingly hardy with the puck. His effort on Sunday’s game-winner was impressive, taking the puck around the offensive zone with Iowa’s Connor Dewar draped all over him and finishing from the slot. Despite being only 5’11”, Altybarmakyan is one of a few IceHogs who can consistently drive hard to the net with the biscuit. He was rewarded with a three-point weekend and is tied for second on the team with six points (3 G, 3 A)
  • I’d like to see Nicolas Beaudin hang around the BMO for a while. He’s getting top-pairing minutes with Cody Franson and is heavily active on special teams. In just four games, he has six assists.
  • With WHL players returning to their teams, I’m wondering how much time D Issak Phillips has on his ATO. I assume he returns to his junior team if/when the OHL get back to action. The 19-year old Phillips has two goals and two helpers in nine games in Rockford and should be a big part of the IceHogs next season.
  • D Alec Regula has been out the last three games with an injury. D Chad Krys has been out since leaving the game against Cleveland February 22. Aside from veteran Cody Franson, it’s a youthful group on the blueline. With just six defensemen healthy at this point, I’m surprised the Hogs haven’t inked any PTOs at the position.

 

Roster News

On Friday, the IceHogs signed goalie Ivan Nalimov to a one-year AHL contract. Nalimov is a 2014 sixth-round pick who has bounced around the KHL for the past six seasons. He was released by Dinamo Riga last month, paving the way for the 26-year-old Nalimov to come to Rockford.

Just before game time on Saturday, the Blackhawks recalled D Wyatt Kalynuk and D Lucas Carlsson. On Sunday, F Brandon Pirri and F Tim Soderlund were recalled to Chicago’s taxi squad. Coming down to Rockford was F Brad Morrison and F Mikael Hakkarainen, both of who played that afternoon against Iowa.

 

Weekend Recaps

Saturday, March 6-Rockford 3, Iowa 2

Rockford was out shot 37-19 but broke a two-game losing skid with strong play from goalie Collin Delia and a two-goal performance by Cody Franson.

The Wild out shot Rockford 13-3 in the first period. However, it was the Hogs who took a 2-1 into the intermission. Iowa took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Iowa captain Gabriel Dumont. Dumont was in front of the Hogs crease, where he collected a feed from Mason Shaw. The pass came from behind Delia’s net; Dumont was able to knock the puck into the cage before the Rockford goalie could locate it. Dumont’s sixth goal of the season came at the 4:26 mark.

Rockford would respond with the game’s next two scores. Franson threw in his first goal of the season at 9:33 of the opening frame. The point shot was set up by Andrei Altybarmakyan, who sent a loose puck around the end boards to Nicolas Beaudin. Beaudin sent a pass along the blue line to Franson for the primary assist.

Shortly after tying the game, the IceHogs utilized some crisp passing to take the lead at 12:46 of the first. Franson got the lay of the land from behind his own net before firing to Beaudin at the Rockford blueline. Beaudin got to center ice and found Matej Chalupa coming into the Wild zone. The rookie forward skated to the left dot before slapping the biscuit past the blocker of Iowa goalie Hunter Jones.

The Rockford man advantage unit propelled the Hogs to a 3-1 lead at 11:34 of the second period. Franson’s second of the game came from the left dot, set up by Brandon Pirri and Beaudin.

After a potential goal by Will Bitten was waved off with five minutes left in the middle frame, Iowa cut the lead to 3-2 with 3:59 remaining. Veteran Cody McLeod was in front of the net to collect the rebound of Josh Atkinson’s shot from the point to reduce the IceHogs lead to one goal through forty minutes.

Iowa pushed hard for the equalizer to no avail. The IceHogs come up with two penalty kills in the last five minutes of action, highlighted by some incredible play by Delia. The Rockford goalie somehow managed to make a stick save on a sure Connor Dewar goal from the seat of his pants.

Delia, on a conditioning assignment from the Blackhawks, made 35 stops on the night. His terrific performance comes after giving up 13 goals in his first two starts with Rockford.

Three Stars: Franson (First), Beaudin (Second), Delia (Third).

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville (A)-MacKenzie Entwistle-Brandon Pirri

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson

Matej Chalupa-Garrett Mitchell-D.J. Busdeker

Riley McKay-Chad Yetman-Chris Wilkie

Nicolas Beaudin-Cody Franson (A)

Michael Krutil-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Collin Delia

Cale Morris

 

Sunday, March 7-Rockford 4 , Iowa 3 (OT)

The IceHogs finally have a winning streak going after a tough start to the 2020-21 campaign. A two-goal performance by rookie Andrei Altybarmakyan was the difference in the IceHogs 4-3 overtime victory.

The see-saw contest at the BMO Harris Bank Center ended with the IceHogs sweeping Iowa in a two-game weekend set. Rockford, who trailed 3-2 after 40 minutes, wins consecutive games for the first time this season.

Rockford got on the board 8:19 into the game on the first of Altybarmakyan’s two goals. Taking a clearing pass from Dmitry Osipov, he motored up the left side and into the Iowa zone. Altybarmakyan drove the net and sent a backhand shot past Wild goalie Hunter Jones for a 1-0 IceHogs advantage.

The Wild took advantage of a cross checking infraction by Riley McKay late in the opening period. Up until that point, Rockford had limited Iowa to a single shot on goal. The Wild tilted the ice toward the Hogs net and teed off, tying the contest at the 18:57 mark. Connor Dewar played catch with Calen Addison before sending the equalizer past Hogs goalie Collin Delia from the top of the left circle.

Iowa controlled the action for much of the second period. The Wild out shot Rockford 15-5 in addition to gaining the upper hand on the scoreboard.

The two teams traded goals early in the second. IceHogs regained the lead at the 2:35 mark, following an unsuccessful power play for Rockford. Issak Phillips retrieved a clearing attempt, sliding the puck to Evan Barratt along the left half boards just shy of the Wild blueline. Barratt skated into the offensive zone and blasted home the shot from the top of the left circle.

Less than two minutes later, Michael Krutil suffered a blowout as he was about to skate the puck past the red line. Iowa capitalized, attacking Delia’s net until Dewar was able to poke a loose biscuit into an open cage at 4:21 of the second period.

Successive penalties by Rockford garnered a two-man advantage for the Wild in the seventh minute. With MacKenzie Entwistle and John Quenneville in the box, Iowa took a 3-2 lead on a back-door conversion by Damien Giroux. The goal was set up by Addison and Mason Shaw 6:34 into the middle frame.

The IceHogs drew even with Iowa midway through the third period. Cole Moberg got the scoring play started with a shot on goal that Jones stopped. The rebound was controlled by Entwistle, who backhanded the puck to a crashing D.J. Busdeker at the left post. Busdeker collected the feed and made a deposit into the net just ahead of a diving Jones at 8:11 of the third period.

The score remained all square at three goals through regulation. Altybarmakyan ended the contest in overtime with some strong skating with the puck. Fighting off Dewar around the end boards and back to the top of the Iowa zone, Altybarmakyan made his way to the slot. He fired past Jones for the game-winner 1:16 into the extra session.

Delia picked up the win for the Hogs in net, with 27 saves on the afternoon. Rockford survived a futile day on the power play, going 0-5 while the Wild scored twice in four chances on the man advantage.

The Hogs rally overshadowed a three-point night for Addison (three assists), as well as the pair of goals by Dewar. Jones ended the night with 21 saves on 25 shots.

Rockford is off until Thursday night, where they wrap up a four-game home stand at the BMO against Grand Rapids. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

Three Stars: Altybarmakyan (First), Dewar (Second), Busdeker (Third).

 

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anderei Altybarmakyan-MacKenzie Entwistle-John Quenneville (A)

Matej Chalupa-Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson

Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-D.J. Busdeker

Brad Morrison-Chad Yetman-Mikael Hakkarainen

Nicolas Beaudin-Cody Franson (A)

Michal Krutil-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Collin Delia

Cam Morris

 

This Week

The Hogs are off until Thursday, when they wrap up the current home stand against Grand Rapids. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs are the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. Unlike many NHL teams, the Hawks do not own their franchise in Rockford.

Yet.

The story being floated around is that the city of Rockford is looking to sell the IceHogs franchise. Some reports are implying that the Blackhawks will be the buyers.

The affiliation agreement between Rockford and Chicago is set to expire after the 2021-22 season. The fact that it hasn’t been renewed has been curious, though I would have figured that there would have been some movement towards the Hawks sticking with Rockford soon.

If you believe the hype, Chicago buys the IceHogs and renovates the BMO Harris Bank Center to better develop Blackhawks prospects. The Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority (RAVE), who operate the IceHogs, accepted a request for proposal to accept bids for the team.

It sounds like the RAVE is prepared to accept several bids. Reports imply that the buyers will be the Blackhawks. I haven’t seen any official word of such intent from the Hawks. Most of the talk is coming from Rockford’s side.

Is this a case of Chicago seeking ownership of their affiliate, or are the cash-strapped IceHogs making the primary overtures? I looked over the post on wifr.com and see an awful lot of the word “could”, as opposed to the word “will” concerning this potential change of ownership. This suggests to me that nothing is set in stone at the moment.

Is this a good or bad thing for the parties involved? It’s hard to say. The folks in Rockford seem to be trading autonomy for the promise of keeping the team safely at the BMO. Might the community be a little desperate to hang on to the Chicago connection, necessitating offering a sweet deal on a team?

From the Hawks perspective, operating in Rockford allows swing players and prospects to reside in the suburbs and still have a manageable drive either way. It’s also convenient for team brass to take a quick jaunt West to see the prospects in action. Reports cite the fact that the Blackhawks want to continue basing their prospect pipeline in Rockford. Might the team be looking elsewhere?

This is surely a story worth following. We should soon see if a purchase by the Blackhawks has legs or not.

 

Roster Moves

On Tuesday, Brandon Pirri and Lucas Carlsson were assigned to Rockford. Both played in Wednesday’s loss to Grand Rapids. Pirri had a pair of goals. Carlsson, coming off an injury, also potted a goal.

Thursday, the Hawks recalled forward Michal Teply to the taxi squad. Teply has been injured; his only appearance for the IceHogs was on February 6 against the Chicago Wolves.

NOTE-Teply was returned to the Hogs following Chicago’s game with the Lightning, according to the AHL transaction page. Expect similar paper moves over the weekend to keep the taxi squad at the minimum of four players.

 

Recap…Blowout Edition

Wednesday, March 2-Grand Rapids 9, Rockford 4

Despite several players coming down from Chicago to deepen the talent pool, the piglets got a spanking from the Griffins, who won their fifth of their last six games in a rout at the BMO.

Brandon Pirri needed less than five minutes to pick up his first goal of the season after being assigned to the IceHogs Tuesday. The goal came from the right dot on a power play set up by a Dylan MacIlrath tripping infraction. Cody Franson got the play started by digging a puck out of a scrum at the left half boards. Pirri struck with a one-timer of Wyatt Kalynuk’s pass at 4:37 of the first period.

Grand Rapids exploded for the next three goals of the contest. The Griffins fired 21 shots on net in the opening twenty. Dominik Shine tied the game at the 8:15 mark, getting to the front of the net and redirecting Max Humitz’s blast from the high slot past Hogs goalie Collin Delia.

On the same shift, Humitz was on hand to collect a blocked attempt by Joe Hicketts betwen the circles. Delia was in position but the puck beat him to the stick side at 8:53 of the first for a 2-1 Grand Rapids advantage.

Delia continued to be deluged with vulcanized rubber. The Hogs fell behind 3-1 at the 16:04 mark on a power play goal by Patrick Curry. The shot came after Troy Loggins snuck a pass through the Rockford defense to Curry, who gathered in the puck at the bottom of the right circle and sent it into the far corner of the cage.

The Griffins would extend their advantage to 5-1 with goals by Humitz and Tyler Spezia in the first two minutes of the second period. Pirri potted his second goal of the evening, getting a pass from John Quenneville in the slot and five-holing Grand Rapids goalie Kevin Boyle at 3:39 of the second.

After Pirri’s goal cut the lead to 5-2, it was all Grand Rapids for the rest of the middle frame. The Griffins out shot Rockford 21-4 in the second,  picking up goals from Riley Barber and Turner Elson to send Delia to the bench in favor of rookie Tom Aubrun.

Grand Rapids welcomed Aubrun to the AHL with goals from Barber and Spezia. Rockford went into the second intermission down 9-2. The Hogs did pick up a power play goal from Lucas Carlsson 19 seconds into the third period. Chris Wilkie added his fourth goal of the season at the 7:07 mark, but that’s as close as the Hogs got to making this one respectable.

Delia, on a conditioning assignment from the Chicago Blackhawks, surrendered seven goals on 30 shots. Aubrun made stops on 15 of the 17 shots he faced. Meanwhile, Boyle saw just 21 shots come his way, making 17 saves to pick up the win.

Three Stars: Humitz (two goals and an assist), Spezia (two goals), Barber (two goals).

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville-MacKenzie Entwistle-Brandon Pirri

Mitchell Fossier-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Reese Johnson

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Evan Barratt-Tim Soderlund

Matej Chalupa-Dylan McLaughlin-Chris Wilkie

Wyatt Kalynuk-Cody Franson (A)

Nicolas Beaudin-Lucas Carlsson

Issak Phillips-Michael Krutil

Collin Delia

Tom Aubrun

 

This Weekend

The Iowa Wild visit Rockford for a two-game weekend set. Saturday night’s tilt gets underway at 6:00 p.m. The two teams finish up with a 4:00 p.m. start on Sunday.

Since an overtime win over the IceHogs in DesMoines February 13, Iowa has lost three of their four games. Gabriel Dumont (5 G, 5 A) leads the Wild in scoring.

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

 

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 31-30-8   SHA-ARKS 29-35-5

PUCK DROP: 7:00 p.m.

TV: NBCSN (WHAT A TREAT FOR THE NATION)

FLOTSAM, JETSAM, AND CHUM: Just follow @ItWasThreeZero

We’ll have our thoughts on The Maven’s well-deserved departure from this thing he created early next week. For now, the show must go on.

For all of our thrashing, wailing, and gnashing of teeth about this year, it’s nothing compared to what’s happened in the Armpit of Silicon Valley. Whereas some of us dummies unironically picked the Sharks to not only make the playoffs but also represent the Western Conference in the Finals, the Sharks may end up finishing with the worst possible outcome of all.

The Sharks currently sit in the bottom five in points, among other luminaries like the Red Wings, Senators, Kings, and Ducks. Though they’ve been a decent-to-good possession team all year (50+ CF% as a team), they simply can’t score. They’re bottom five in goals for. Their GF% is only better than Detroit’s. Shit, the Sharks are one of only about five teams to not have a single 50-point scorer thus far. Even Detroit has one of those.

Injuries have played a role. Erik Karlsson’s skeleton made of boogers Danse Macabre’d his season, as he’s been out since middle February with a broken thumb and won’t return this year. Tomas Hertl’s been out since January with an ACL tear. Logan Couture missed more than a month with a fractured ankle and might have a case of the dizzies tonight. The Sharks are seriously icing guys named Nikolai Knyzhov and former Blackhawk Brandon Davidson. Not great.

And the Sharks you do know have sucked. Brent “Glorified Erik Gustafsson” Burns is tied for second-most points on the Sharks with 45, which isn’t enough to cover for his disgraceful efforts in his own zone. Timo Meier is having a down year following his My First Real Contract signing last off-season, though he leads them in points. And though he’s been somewhat better recently, goaltender Martin Jones still has a sub-.900 SV% in the Year of Our Lord 2020, with a simply horrifying .863 SV% at evens.

And to top it all off, the Sharks were, in hindsight, pantsed and ass-slapped raw by Pierre Dorian in the Erik Karlsson trade. Despite likely finishing in a place that would give them lottery hopes, the Sharks will not have a chance at the lottery, having traded their 2020 first-round pick to the Senators as part of the Karlsson package. Though it’s hard to blame them for doing it then, it’s super easy to laugh at them for doing it now.

For the Hawks, the playoff run that never really was drags on. Though this is a Sharks team they should beat—based on the better top-end talent and real goaltending they have—we’ve often seen that, to quote Coach Cleft Asshole, the effort isn’t there against teams like this. Which, ironically of course, falls squarely on Colliton’s narrow and increasingly slouched shoulders.

Adam Boqvist will likely be out with a concussion after “Hacksaw” Oskar Sundqvist’s forearm shiver on Sunday, as will Lucas Carlsson. So, you’ll likely spend a third of the game peeking from behind your couch, as Nick Seeler, Olli Maatta, and Slater Koekkoek continue to be justifiably in a situation they’d rather not be in. On the plus side (?), we may get our first look at Brandon Hagel, thanks to Drake Caggiula hurting his hand in a fight. Here’s what Coach Gemstone said about him in January, according to Ben Pope:

“He brings something similar to [Matthew] Highmore in just his work ethic,” Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton said in January. “He’s a great skater, he wins races, he plays with a little edge. He’s got a little bit of rat in him, and we like that.”

Well, fuck.

We’ve said it all year: The only way this team has any hope is by Air Raiding and hoping their goaltending can be otherworldly. But too often, this team turtles at the first whiff of trouble. Or when they have the lead. Or when it’s tied. It doesn’t seem to matter. But this is a Sharks team whose defense might be as soft, if not softer, than the Hawks’s. If they come out with a KEEP FIRING, ASSHOLES game plan, they can continue ruining any shot they have at a lottery pick in a vain attempt to save everyone in the front office’s job. Because that’s the One Goal they have now. But if we’re looking for a reason, do it for Crawford. He deserves better than this.

Let’s go Hawks.

Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 27-27-8   Blues 36-17-10

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN 

VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED: St. Louis Gametime

So, what could be the worst thing you would have to sit through after an underwhelming though probably explainable trade deadline where you hoped the Hawks would begin to outline their future but didn’t really? And you’re feeling the deepest malaise about team and organization that maybe you ever have? And it feels like it genuinely might not ever get better due to the front office’s incompetence and blindness? Why a game in St. Louis of course! Where the once red-headed stepchild has thrown off its labels and shackles and is the defending champ and sitting on top of the West and didn’t even feel the need to do much at the deadline because hey, they’re got pretty much everything they need! Oh, and they’re on a hot streak!

Kill us.

Blues fans will tell you it’s been a rocky season for them, and they’re a bit worried about what’s to come, which makes you realize what we sounded like when we were complaining about the #2 or #4 center on a 100+ point team and the Blues couldn’t find reverse on a Soviet tank (not Tarasenko). And the Blues have missed their best player basically all season, but he’s practicing again so that’s just fucking great. The Note did lose five in a row earlier in the month, which let the Avalanche and the Stars into the discussion over the division and conference. But they’ve since won four in a row by the combined score of 13-2 and have a small cushion at the top of things again.

For the Blues it starts in net, but it’s not just Jordan Binnington anymore. He did recover from a two-month-long sneeze and has been fine in February. But with the pressure off as a backup Jake Allen has been great in his starts, so the Blues get a minimum of plus-goaltending pretty much every night.

It would be inaccurate and unfair to say that’s all they are. They’re in the top ten in possession stats or close to it, so they do most things well. They don’t score a ton but they score enough, and they get that scoring from pretty much all four lines. And all four lines are packed with speed to maintain that hellacious forecheck they have. This is the misnomer about the Blues, and one the Hawks among others bought into. Because it’s THE BLUES, people assumed they forechecked hard because they’re just so tough and hairy and drooling and whatever else. But that’s not it. They’re really fast, so they can get on you quicker than just about any team. Yes, they’re not afraid to hit you when they’re there, but you can’t do that unless you can get there. The Blues can and well in time.

The Blues don’t generate a ton, there’s not much inspiration in this lineup, but they give up almost nothing because they make it so hard to get through them to even get to their zone, much less create chances. You’re basically coughing up the puck before their zone most of the time, which is what the Hawks have struggled with twice this season in their two losses to this outfit.

Are the Blues primed for another run? You might have to prepare for that. Colorado has enough speed to weave in and out of their tie fighters, but enough on the back end? The Stars don’t score enough, even if they almost pulled it off last year. The thought that only Vegas might be able to navigate this is enough to make you puke for a day.

As for the Hawks, they’ll begin the post-Lehner and Gustafsson-era with hardly a tear in their eye. The impression you get is that the dressing room and front office was sick of Lehner’s shit, and his pouty-face the past couple weeks didn’t help. This becomes a Crawford contract-drive, though the Hawks should be lining up getting him signed tomorrow. Assuming he wants to, which isn’t a given.

What to watch? Well, this will be the hardest path Lucas Carlsson has ever had to navigate, so how he does is worth assessing. It also might be nice to see Adam Boqvist move his feet once through it. Other than that, I can’t help you.

(Oh it looks like they won’t even let Carlsson try, because Nick Seeler’s brain and feet are certainly equipped to deal with this. How many times can one defenestrate himself?)

This is our lot in life now. Providing the fodder for Blues fans to marvel at just how far they’ve come and how much has changed. And to laugh and chortle. It should be a lesson in how quickly things can change, and they could always change back. But for now we just have to eat it. Because it doesn’t matter if the Hawks win tonight. It won’t change their playoff chase, and the Blues have eyes on bigger things. Just like we used to. Perhaps that’s what hurts most. Other than the history and proximity, is this even a rival right now for the Blues? They’ll play like it, and their fans will act like it, but pretty soon they won’t even think about the Hawks.

I guess you hold onto this, because if things turn around anytime soon it’s this kind of thing that makes it sweeter. Even if you can’t picture it now.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

This was always going to be a tough one for the Hawks, especially the way the Stars are playing right now. While the Hawks do struggle with teams that are open and play fast, there’s a better chance they’ll leave the spaces the Hawks need to create and score. Teams like the Stars, which basically turn the whole surface into a mudpit (and the ice didn’t help), are less likely to leave gaps. That’s what you saw today. That game could have been four hours long and the Hawks probably don’t get more than that one goal.

Let’s to it.

The Two Obs

-The Hawks had one high-danger chance in the game. One. So while the shot totals might look even, the Hawks weren’t really close. And the reason for that is it’s hard to find a team that fights harder at each blue line than the Stars. They keep that third forward high and their d-men up, and they can double at the points to keep you hemmed in. When they can’t do that, they still stand up at their line with three, and they can do that because not only is their defense big, but it’s mobile. Only Oleksiak in today’s lineup would approach “plodder” status, and he’s actually mobile for his size. They don’t have to win the race to dump-ins that they force, they just have to be close enough to lean on you when you do. And that’s what they do. The Hawks don’t have a lot of puck winners, and aren’t built to grind out chances…which is how you end up with one.

And if you get through all that, you have to weave shots, passes, and bodies through an enchanted forest in the middle of their zone. The Hawks have one d-man who can fit a shot through in Boqvist, and they’ve robbed him of any confidence. They’re not going to bull their way through much either.

Now you may ask where the Hawks would be if they opted to collapse like that instead of whatever it is Colliton asks them to do. The Stars have two really good goalies and play to that. The Hawks have those, too. They wouldn’t be the Stars, they don’t have the mobility or size on their defense. But they would be better off than they are now.

It’s hardly galvanizing to watch, but it’s effective and the Stars stick to the system. Compare that with the Hawks running all over like kindergartners nearing the end of the school year and you begin to understand why there’s some 15 points between them in the standings.

-You don’t want to base much of anything on one game, but we can say we’d like to see Lucas Carlsson more on this trip. And it’s frustrating to see a team that lacks movement and skill on its blue line so badly wait this long to give someone like Carlsson a look instead of Dennis Gilbert Elmer Fudd his way around the ice. It’s unlikely Carlsson can prove that the Hawks don’t need additions beyond Ian Mitchell next season in these last 20 games (if Mitchell even signs), but he can at least take a shot at it or showcase himself. He’s got hands, he’s got feet. The Hawks sport three other d-men with both right now. One’s 36. One’s 19. Give us more and let’s see, because there’s nothing to lose.

-Meanwhile, it’s quite the message I can’t decode that Slater Koekkoek can take three penalties in a game and not get demoted in the lineup, whereas Adam Boqvist was benched for the third on Friday for…well I don’t fucking know.

Koekkoek was at fault for the first goal, as Keith stepped up to block a shot and Fetch decided the guy at the side of the net was more dangerous than Joe Pavelski loitering right in front of Crawford. That’s Joe Pavelski of the 368 career goals, 200 of which at least have come within five feet of the net.

Koekkoek has been fine most games as a third pairing guy because the Hawks didn’t have anyone else. But he’s not an answer for any team that means to be taken seriously. He’ll get to finish the season in the lineup thanks to the Hawks trade of Gustafsson to follow and Nick Seeler being a clod, but it shouldn’t be ahead of Carlsson.

-Putting DeBrincat in front of the net on the power play is one of the dumber ideas Colliton has had, and I realize the enormity of that statement. He’s 5-7. His main skill is as a sniper, which you can’t do with your back to the net from two feet away. And the guy in front also has to be able to get below the goal line to retrieve the puck in traffic. Again, he’s 5-7. It’s not a use of the things he does well. Just as it probably isn’t when Dach is stationed there. I’ve had quite enough of this. I’ve had quite enough of all of Colliton’s ideas.

Ok, that’s enough of this. We’ll talk again post deadline, when the Hawks will hopefully have a direction for the first time in three years.

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs finished the month of November with an 8-3-0-1 record. The ‘Bago County Flying Piglets have picked it up on the offensive end, rising from the league basement to a more-than respectable three goals per contest. Not bad for a team that is as green as the IceHogs.

Rockford’s average age on its current roster is 23.12 years. That is the second youngest in the AHL behind only San Jose. The piglets are the least experienced club in the league by a fair sight. Rockford skaters have played just 2, 359 AHL games combined, nearly five hundred less than the Barracuda.

As in past years, it’s been offense by committee in Rockford. The Hogs have no veteran scorers squirreled away to bolster the organization, so the kids will be shouldering the load for better or worse. Recently, it’s been the former.

Here are some of the contributors to the recent surge:

The Brothers Sikura

Whether they are teamed on a line or on separate units, Dylan and Tyler have been Rockford’s biggest point producers. The two brothers each have eight goals and five assists to pace the Hogs offense.

Sikura The Younger kicked off November with a hat trick on the third of the month. Two of his five goals last month were of the game-winning variety. A four-game point streak was snapped Saturday, but Dylan is getting pucks on net at a steady rate. His 83 shots on goal is by far the team lead in that category.

Sikura The Elder was just named captain of the IceHogs Friday night. Tyler had eight points in November (4 G, 4 A) and is instrumental at evens and on both special teams.

 

Brandon Hagel, Forward

Hagel put up five goals and three assists in twelve games last month. He leads the IceHogs rookies in scoring with ten points (5 G, 5 A) this season. Hagel, who was also a plus-six in November, has shown a knack for driving hard to the net with the puck. It’s paid off for him this past month.

 

MacKenzie Entwistle, Forward

Entwistle’s defensive play has shown up on the scoreboard. He has been solid at both ends and had three goals and three helpers in eleven November appearances. His skater rating of plus-six is tied for the team lead among forwards. Along with Dylan Sikura, he shares the team lead with two game-winning goals.

 

Lucas Carlsson, Defense

Carlsson took advantage of some increased opportunities during Adam Boqvist’s stint in Chicago and showed off his own offensive prowess in November to the tune of two goals and six assists. His nifty moves produced a highlight-reel goal in a win over the Wolves November 10.

 

Matt Tomkins, Goalie

Tomkins was in net for that November 10 win over Chicago. It was one of two victories he had over the Wolves and one of three wins the former Ohio State goalie posted this past month. Tomkins gave up just five goals in those three games.

With a 4-1 record in 2019-20, Tomkins leads the Hogs goalies with a 2.38 goals against average. He also sports a .921 save percentage and has worked his way into a tandem with Kevin Lankinen the past couple of weeks.

 

Roster Moves

Just before Friday’s game, the Blackhawks recalled defenseman Ian McCoshen and assigned forward Matthew Highmore back to Rockford. Highmore skated for the Hogs on Saturday night.

I would have figured that Philip Holm would have been in line for the call up to Chicago. Unfortunately, Holm did not play over the weekend. The most productive of Rockford’s defensemen must be a little banged up at the moment, paving the way for McCoshen’s promotion.

Alexandre Fortin sat out Saturday’s game with some bumps and bruises, according to Hogs coach Derek King. Mikael Hakkarainen continues to be on the shelf after being injured in Rockford’s first game October 4.

 

Recaps

With a pair of home wins this weekend, the IceHogs improved to 11-8-0-1 this season. Their 8-3 home record would be the best in the Central Division, save for the juggernaut that is the Milwaukee Admirals. Milwaukee, who visits Rockford for the first time this season on December 7th and 10th, are 8-1-1-1. By the way, the Ads have won 13 straight games heading into play this week.

The Hogs inhabit fifth place in the division standing with 23 points, though they have at least two games in hand on the rest of the Central. Rockford’s .575 points percentage is third-best in the division.

 

Friday, November 29-Rockford 4, Chicago 2

Rockford won over its Interstate 90 rivals for the fifth time in five meetings, scoring three times in the second period to pick up two points.

John Quenneville gave the Hogs a 1-0 advantage late in the first, taking the puck from Alexandre Fortin and looping into the slot. His snipe zipped past Wolves goalie Oscar Dansk at the 15: 25 mark.

Fortin would put Rockford up 2-0 3:50 into the second period when his putback of a Dennis Gilbert shot beat Dansk from the left post. Dylan Sikura converted on Phillipp Kurashev’s pass on the rush for a 3-0 IceHogs lead 6:01 into the second.

Chicago got a goal from Ben Jones midway through the second to cut the lead to two goals, but Brandon Hagel came up with a great individual effort from neutral ice, swiping a puck and beating Dansk on the breakaway at the 11:27 mark.

Brandon Pirri snuck in a power play goal 15:42 of the middle frame, but that’s as close as things got. Hogs starter Matt Tomkins picked up his third straight win with 31 saves. Quenneville, Tomkins and Sikura were voted the game’s Three Stars.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville-Tyler Sikura (C)-Alexandre Fortin

Dylan Sikura-Phillipp Kurashev-Brandon Hagel

Tim Soderlund-Jacob Nilsson (A)-Joseph Cramarossa

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-MacKenzie Entwistle

Lucas Carlsson-Dennis Gilbert (A)

Joni Tuulola-Adam Boqvist

Nicolas Beaudin-Chad Krys

Matt Tomkins

Kevin Lankinen

 

Saturday, November 30-Rockford 3, Grand Rapids 1

Despite falling behind in the opening frame, the Hogs prevailed behind two first-time scorers and 29 saves by Kevin Lankinen.

The Griffins got on the board 6:17 into the game, just after a Nicolas Beaudin slashing penalty came off the board. Brian Lashoff faked a shot from the point, drove to the left circle and sent a shot to the Hogs net. Lankinen got his pads on the shot but not enough to prevent it from trickling into the cage.

It took a while, but the IceHogs evened things up late in the second period. The scoring play capped a very productive shift in which Rockford kept the pressure on Griffins goalie Pat Nagle. Tim Soderlund, brought the puck around the Grand Rapids net and out to Dennis Gilbert at the left point. GIlbert slid a pass to fellow defenseman Lucas Carlsson, who sent a shot off the end boards.

The carom came out to Soderlund, who was salivating near the bottom of the left circle. His attempt caught twine at 17:38 for Soderlund’s first professional goal. The teams went into the second intermission tied at one.

The Hogs took a 2-1 lead 8:49 into the third when Joni Tuulola guided Phillipp Kurashev’s pass past Nagle. Tuulola had missed on a slap shot on net seconds earlier but looped back into position at the left circle to get his stick on Kurashev’s feed for his first goal of the season.

Rockford potted some insurance seconds after Nagel skated to the bench with just over two minutes left in regulation. MacKenzie Entwistle picked up a loose puck, skated to center ice and sent the biscuit into the empty basket to make it a 3-1 final.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville-Tyler Sikura (C) Dylan Sikura

Matthew Highmore-Phillipp Kurashev-MacKenzie Entwistle

Joeseph Cramarossa-Jacob Nilsson (A)-Brandon Hagel

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Tim Soderlund

Lucas Carlsson-Dennis Gilbert (A)

Joni Tuulola-Adam Boqvist

Nicolas Beaudin-Chad Krys

Kevin Lankinen

Collin Delia

 

This Week

The Manitoba Moose pay a visit to the BMO Harris Bank Center on Tuesday night before Rockford goes to Grand Rapids Friday. The Hogs get their first look at white-hot Milwaukee on Saturday.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for tidbits on the Hogs throughout the season.

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs showed off a can-do attitude over the weekend, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in back-to-back games. The resilient piglets continued their winning ways at the BMO Harris Bank Center, beating the Iowa Wild Saturday and the Chicago Wolves the following afternoon.

The Hogs (5-5) are still in the bottom half of the Central Division standings. However, Rockford has won three in a row, potted 16 goals in that span, and leapfrogged over Texas to claim the sixth spot with a .500 points percentage.

 

Hot Hogs

Dylan Sikura is now leading the team in scoring after a four-point night Saturday. Sikura the Younger, who posted a hat-trick in a furious comeback against the Wolves Sunday, has six goals and three assists on the season.

Right behind Sikura on the leaderboard is Sikura the Elder. Tyler’s fifth goal of the season tied the Wild Saturday, allowing Matthew Highmore (2 G, 5 A) to win it in overtime. Both Tyler Sikura and Highmore  have seven points for Rockford and are on three-game point streaks.

Jacob Nilsson (2 G, 4 A) also has points in each of the last three games, as does D Philip Holm. Forward Anton Wedin (2 G, 4 A) collected three apples in Sunday’s wild victory over Chicago.

 

Hurt Hogs

Forwards Kris Versteeg, John Quenneville and Mikael Hakkarainen all sat out another weekend of action. For Versteeg, it has been six games out of the lineup. Quenneville has been out since taking a hard hit along the boards on October 19. Hakkarainen has been out since October 4.

Kevin Lankinen made a second consecutive start Saturday, with Collin Delia between the pipes Sunday. Matt Tomkins is still up with the Hogs, though I would think he’ll be sent down to Indy to start getting some steady work in net.

 

Recaps

Saturday, November 2-Rockford 3, Iowa 2 (OT)

It was a case of late being better than never for the Hogs, who came back from a two-goal deficit in the waning moments of regulation and swiped two points from the Central Division-leading Wild.

Iowa took a 1-0 lead midway through the first period on a Kyle Rau goal. Colton Beck went coast-to-coast for a power play goal late in the second period.

As the third period ticked away, there was little to suggest that Rockford would be getting back into the contest. However, Hogs goalie Kevin Lankinen was called to the bench and the gambit paid off, big time.

Lucas Carlsson sent a one-timer from the right circle past Mat Robson with 2:30 remaining. After Iowa iced the puck on a long-distance attempt at the empty net, Rockford won the resulting faceoff in the Wild zone. Carlsson was in nearly the same spot on the ice when Philip Holm’s pass found his stick. The shot was redirected by Tyler Sikura and into the Iowa net to tie the game with 2:02 left, sending the game into Gus Macker Time.

Lankinen stopped three Iowa shots in the extra session, keeping the IceHogs in contention until Matthew Highmore nabbed a Wild shot attempt that was blocked by Nicolas Beaudin and came off the end boards. Highmore started a two-on-one rush with Beaudin and sent a laser under Robson’s glove from the top of the right circle. The game-winner came 3:45 into overtime.

Lankinen made 30 saves to post his second win in a row. The game’s three stars were Highmore, Tyler Sikura and Carlsson.

 

Sunday, November 3-Rockford 7, Chicago 4

Dylan Sikura posted a hat trick with all three goals coming in a furious IceHogs rally. In all, Rockford put up five goals in the final ten minutes of action for a third-straight victory.

The Wolves built a 3-0 lead on goals by Zach Whitecloud, Lucas Elvenes and Jimmy Schuldt. The IceHogs countered with a Jacob Nilsson tally on the man advantage at 8:27 of the second period. Reid Duke made it 4-1 a few minutes later before MacKenzie Entwistle scored at the 10:51 mark.

Rockford was still down 4-2 midway through the final frame when all hell broke loose. Things got started on the power play, with Sikura the Younger zipped a Lucas Carlsson pass past Chicago goalie Oscar Dansk. The goal cut the Wolves lead to 4-3 10:41 into the third.

Just 1:25 later, Brandon Hagel tied the game with his first goal of the season. Ninety seconds later, Sikura gathered in a Matthew Highmore pass at the right dot and flung it over the glove of Dansk to put the Hogs up 5-4 at 13:37 of the third.

Rockford did not take its foot off the gas. Tyler Sikura won control of a loose puck behind the Wolves net, skated to the right post and found Dylan in the slot to cue the caps. Reese Johnson added an empty-netter in the final minute for the coup de gras.

Collin Delia stopped 21 of 25 Chicago shots, though he kept the Wolves at bay for the final 30 minutes of action to allow his teammates the chance to storm back in the third. To the surprise of no one, Dylan Sikura was voted the game’s first star, followed by Anton Wedin and Nilsson.

 

School Days

The IceHogs drop the puck on an 10:30 a.m. tilt with the Toronto Marlies Wednesday. The piglets don’t usually fare well in these affairs, but they will be trying to extend the win streak to four games. Rockford will close out their home stand on Friday night, when the Manitoba Moose come to the BMO.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates and opinions on all things Rockford IceHogs throughout the season.