Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs are not going to finish with a winning record in 2020-21. However, the piglets have made substantial progress toward respectability.

Rockford opened this season back in February with a woefully stocked roster of players. The talent gap between the Hogs and the rest of the AHL was vast. In previewing this year’s crop on the farm, I noted that this young and inexperienced team was going to take its lumps in the early going. And take them they did.

The IceHogs limped out to a 1-7-1 start, losing six straight games to begin the season. The nadir of the first month was a 9-4 shellacking by Grand Rapids on March 3.

Fortunately, the Hogs got their legs under them. It hasn’t been easy or pretty, but coach Derek King has the undermanned roster scrapping to be competitive. Rockford has gone 10-8 dating back on March 6.

The IceHogs are currently coming off of a pair of wins over the Griffins. Last Saturday, Rockford bested Grand Rapids 3-2 at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Monday, the Hogs prevailed 3-2 in a shootout at Van Andel Arena.

What has proven to be the difference in the IceHogs over their last 18 games? Let’s make a list:

  • Rockford has gotten some frequent influxes of talent via the taxi squad. Players like MacKenzie Entwistle and Reese Johnson have contributed at both ends of the ice.
  • Dylan McLaughlin has really stepped up his game in his sophomore season with Rockford. Dating back to March 13, McLaughlin has 16 points (7 G, 9 A) in his last 15 games.
  • The piglets have been able to hold their own in physical affairs with Grand Rapids and Iowa in the past few weeks.
  • The goal tending has been better. Ivan Nalimov has looked more comfortable in net. Cale Morris left after two periods in Grand Rapids with an injury April 28, but was keeping Rockford in games. Matt Tomkins had a great game in Monday’s win, stopping 24 shots in regulation and overtime. Since coming down from Chicago’s taxi squad March 11, Tomkins has a 2.71 GAA and a .919 save percentage in his last seven games.
  • Brandon Pirri, when he has been used, has been an offensive force for the IceHogs. The power play has teeth when Pirri is manning the wing. In five games, Pirri is second on the team with six goals. He has points in each of those five games; Rockford is 4-1 when Pirri is in the lineup.
  • As he has done throughout his short tenure at the helm, King has the IceHogs playing hard every night. They have managed to be competitive even when being badly overmatched.

This weekend, Rockford has its last two games of the season with the Iowa Wild. The Hogs are at Iowa on Friday night; the Wild come to the BMO on Sunday afternoon.

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

 

 

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 suffered through a disappointing, abbreviated weekend. Despite an influx of talent from the Blackhawks taxi squad, the piglets dropped the first of two scheduled games in Cleveland Saturday night.

Are you ready for the abbreviated part? ‘Cuz here comes the abbreviated part.

Sunday’s game with the Monsters was postponed less than an hour before puck drop “due to league COVID-19 protocols affecting the Cleveland Monsters”, per an AHL release.

Now, Cleveland had just skated with (and beaten) the Hogs with a depleted lineup the evening before. The Monsters played most of Saturday’s contest with nine forwards and five defensemen, after starting the game with ten forwards and six defensemen.

Columbus sent Zac Dalpe and Ryan MacInnis, the players they recalled on Friday, to Cleveland on Sunday. It was obvious that they were set on playing (and beating) Rockford again…until just before game time.

The Monsters organization enacted a policy before the season that they would provide no specifics pertaining to COVID-related happenings. You will have to read between the lines and assume there was a positive test result Sunday morning. The IceHogs skated with this team Saturday. There could be issues ahead for Rockford in the coming weeks.

 

Roster Moves

The Blackhawks shuffled the taxi squad on Friday. Chicago recalled forwards Mikael Hakkarainen and Brad Morrison and goalie Matt Tomkins. They sent forward Reese Johnson to Rockford, along with defensemen Wyatt Kalynuk and Nicolas Beaudin. Chicago also sent goalie Collin Delia to Rockford for a 14-day conditioning stint.

With Chad Krys out with and injury, the Hogs are a little thin at defense. Kalynuk and Beaudin slotted right into the Rockford lineup, as did Johnson…and Delia.

On paper, this was the most-talent laden group the IceHogs have iced this season. Cleveland was playing down two (and later, four) skaters, including two of their most experienced centers. The Monsters prevailed, in large part due to the performance of the Cucamonga Kid.

 

Delia’s Return

Delia looked like a goalie that hadn’t manned the crease in game conditions for over five weeks. He started slowly, giving up a pair of goals in the first five minutes. He settled down a bit, but still had problems covering loose pucks and was victimized by several shots he appeared to be in position to stop.

Delia has been prone to severe funks throughout his tenure with the organization. His rookie year was looking like a washout before bouncing back to lead the Hogs to the Western Conference Final. Last season, Delia was benched for a month after another poor stretch to open the season. Again, he was able to work out whatever issues that caused the slump.

It would have been great for Delia to get right back on the horse Sunday to begin the process of playing his way out of his current doldrums. For the record, the Hogs should have Delia in net as much as possible on his conditioning assignment.

There are four games scheduled for the remainder of the assignment. Delia should be allowed the chance to pick up some confidence and work out the kinks in his game. If the Blackhawks are serious about player development, Delia should be in net at every opportunity these next couple of weeks.

 

Recap

Saturday, February 27-Cleveland 6, Rockford 3

A short-handed Monsters team was still too much for Rockford at Rocket Mortgage Field House Saturday. Collin Delia did not impress in his first game with the IceHogs while on a conditioning assignment.

Cleveland lit the lamp at 3:04 of the first period on a Nick Lappin strike from the high slot. The score was the culmination of Hogs goalie Collin Delia being on the ice without a stick for nearly ninety seconds. The shot beat Delia to the glove side, giving the Monsters a 1-0 lead.

Lappin would leave the game soon after following a collision with the end boards. The Monsters, who were skating down two forwards already, iced just nine forwards for the bulk of the contest.

Four minutes later, Brett Gallant came off the bench and made a beeline for the slot. Taking a pass from Carson Meyer, who was along the half boards, the veteran forward struck cord for a two-goal Cleveland advantage at the 7:04 mark.

Rockford got on the board 6:25 into the second period. Cody Franson took in a pass along the blueline from Wyatt Kalynuk and tossed the puck toward the net. Monsters goalie Matiss Kivleniecks made the pad save, but the rebound found the stick of MacKenzie Entwistle at the right post. Rubber and twine united, cutting the Cleveland lead to 2-1.

The Hogs got the first man advantage of the evening after Zach Jordan was called for tripping midway through the second period. As the power play expired, Evan Polei hit Jordan with a stretch pass as he came out of the box. The attempt to Delia’s stick side found the back of the Rockford net for a 3-1 Cleveland lead 11:42 into the middle frame.

Late in the second, Delia failed to cover a loose puck at the right post on a Connor McDonald shot. Tyler Sikura was on hand to poke the biscuit across the goal line at the 18:17 mark. Heading into the second intermission, the Hogs trailed 4-1.

Rockford cut the lead to two goals early in the third period. Kalynuk got the scoring play started by hitting Dylan McLaughlin coming across the red line. McLaughlin took the puck hard to the Cleveland net. He lost the handle coming across the crease, but Matej Chalupa was at the right post to finish the play at the 3:20 mark.

Cleveland came right back with a power play goal by Trey Fix-Wolansky at 3:52 of the third. Rockford returned fire moments later when Alec Regula sent a backhand from the bottom of the right circle past Kivleniecks at 5:19 of the period.

That’s as close as things got. Fix-Wolansky got his second power play goal of the night, firing past Delia for a 6-3 Monsters lead with 5:09 remaining.

It wasn’t Delia’s night. He made 24 stops on 30 Cleveland shots and struggled most of the way in his first action in more than a month.

The Hogs power play was fruitless in two chances. The Monsters struck cord on two of their three opportunities.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mitchell Fossier-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Chris Wilkie

John Quenneville (A)-MacKenzie Entwistle-Reese Johnson

Andrai Altybarmakyan-Evan Barratt-Tim Soderlund

Matej Chalupa-Dylan McLaughlin-Gabriel Gagne

Nicolas Beaudin-Cody Franson (A)

Wyatt Kalynuk-Alec Regula

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Collin Delia

Cale Morris

 

This Week

The IceHogs come back to the BMO Harris Bank Center to begin a four-game home stand. Wednesday night, the Grand Rapids Griffins pay the piglets a call.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for game updates, and team news on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have a couple of home games this week as they continue to play for their first win of the 2020-21 campaign. The piglets collected a standings point Saturday but fell in overtime in Iowa.

Despite a 0-2-1 start, the beginning of the season has been good to a couple of players who seem to be intent on taking advantage of available minutes. One such player is forward Chad Yetman.

Yetman is Chicago’s sixth-round pick in this past summer’s draft. In normal circumstances, he probably would have finished out his junior career with the Erie Otters of the OHL. With that league currently on hiatus, Yetman signed an AHL deal with the IceHogs on January 11.

Yetman led Erie with 43 goals in 61 games last season. So far, taking the chance to jump up to the AHL and make a grab at playing time has paid off. Yetman has appeared in all three games with Rockford and posted his first pro goal in a February 9 loss to the Wolves.

Yetman racked up a pair of assists in the first period of what eventually became a 3-2 overtime loss to Iowa on Saturday. His three points are tied with Cody Franson for the team lead in the early stages of the season. Yetman has also found a spot on Rockford’s first power play unit.

With several Blackhawks prospects up getting NHL minutes or sitting on the taxi squad, there are opportunities for a player like Yetman to impress the team brass and earn an entry contract. That’s a path current Hawks forward Andrew Shaw navigated back in 2011 when he signed an AHL deal with Rockford.

Yetman’s a different type of player from Shaw, but he’s off to a nice start to the season.

 

Roster Moves

Chicago made a couple of paper moves in order to keep the required four players on their taxi squad. Evan Barratt was recalled to the taxi squad Thursday and returned to Rockford Friday.

Barratt, who took a high hit from Wolves defenseman Max Lajoie last Tuesday, finished that game and skated in Iowa Saturday night.

Forward Mikael Hakkarainen made the phantom trip to the taxi squad on Saturday and was reassigned to the Hogs on Sunday. Also coming down to Rockford was forward MacKenzie Entwistle, who had 26 points (11 G, 15 A) for the IceHogs in his rookie season.

With several players, like Shaw, on the injured list at the moment, it should not be a surprise to see other Hawks prospects getting similar treatment in regard to short-term call-ups.

 

Disappointment In DesMoines

Saturday, February 13-Iowa 3, Rockford 2 (OT)

The IceHogs picked up their first point of the season. However, Rockford let a two-goal lead slip away to end the night on a disappointing note.

Rockford drew first cord 3:39 into the game. The goal came from the stick of Brad Morrison, playing in his first game for the Hogs this season. Morrison was able to toss the puck into the Wild zone and head to the net while Chad Yetman chased it down. Yetman’s centering pass was on the mark; Morrison flipped the dish over Iowa goalie Dereck Baribeau to light the lamp.

Morrison got his second goal of the season a bit later in the opening frame. Yetman brought the puck out of the defensive zone and found Mitchell Fossier down the left side of the ice with the entry pass. Fossier took a shot from the left dot that glanced off of the skate of Iowa defenseman Fedov Gordeev. The puck bounced off Baribeau’s mask and into the crease, where Morrison scooted it to the back of the net. The IceHogs led 2-0 at the 13:37 mark and took that advantage into the intermission.

A couple of miscues allowed the Wild to draw even in the second period. Gabriel Dumont finished an odd-man rush at the 5:58 mark following a loss of a board battle in neutral ice. Later in the period, a Cole Moberg pass was picked off in the high slot during four-on-four action. Damien Giroux crashed the net, knocking in the rebound of Adam Beckman’s shot past IceHogs goalie Matt Tomkins to make it a 2-2 game at 9:52 of the second.

The action slowed in the final twenty minutes, with neither team finding the net. Rockford ended the last 1:10 of regulation and the first 50 seconds of overtime with a man advantage, but couldn’t cash in. Tomkins denied Will Bitten on a penalty shot after John Quenneville was forced to take him down on a breakaway chance.

The Wild won the resulting faceoff in the Rockford zone, and the IceHogs never touched the puck again. Beckman wound up with a shot from the top of the left circle that got under the glove of Tomkins, ending the contest.

Tomkins stopped 33 of 36 shots for Rockford and was a big reason the Hogs were able to come away with a standings point. Garrett Mitchell squared off with Dumont in an even bout midway through the third period after a big hit on the Wild forward.

Three Stars-Beckman, Morrison, Giroux.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mitchell Fossier-Chad Yetman-Brad Morrison

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Dylan McLaughlin-John Quenneville (A)

Evan Barrett-Matej Chalupa-Chris Wilkie

Gabriel Gagne-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Tim Soderlund

Chad Krys-Cody Franson (A)

Alec Regula-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Matt Tomkins

Cale Morris

Power Play (0-2)

Barratt-Quenneville-Yetman-Regula-Franson

Penalty Kill (Iowa was 0-4)

Forwards-Mitchell-Quenneville-McLaughlin-Wilkie-Chalupa

Defensemen-Phillips-Moberg-Osipov-Regula

 

This Week

Rockford has two weeknight home dates coming up. Tuesday, the Hogs face the undefeated Chicago Wolves. On Thursday, the Grand Rapids Griffins come to the BMO Harris Bank Center. Both games are set to start at 6:00 p.m.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for game updates, news, and thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the sesaon.

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

Lack of offense plagued the Rockford IceHogs a season ago. This year’s crop of prospects fell victim to a similar fate when they lost their 2019-20 season debut Friday night in Iowa 3-2. The IceHogs did lead twice in this game before the Wild scored three times in the final 20 minutes.

One game does not a season make, mind you. There were signs that the piglets could improve upon last year’s paltry offensive numbers. However, we’ll have to wait for this weekend’s  home stand at the BMO Harris Bank Center for signs of life.

Rockford coach Derek King was optimistic about his team’s performance. Despite the result, he praised a strong performance by goalie Kevin Lankinen and a strong compete level by his young squad.

“I think we’ve got lots to learn,” King said to Hogs broadcaster Joseph Zakrzewski following the contest. “We’ve got some work to do.”

It can hardly be considered a surprise to hear that the Hogs were particularly sharp in their curtain-jerker. There was a definite feeling-out period in the first. Neither team seemed to have a lot of rhythm and the action was back and forth. Iowa and Rockford went to the first intermission barren of goals.

The first goal of the season came early in the middle frame on the penalty kill, with Nicolas Beaudin sitting two minutes for slashing. The play got started with Chad Krys digging a puck away from Iowa’s Nico Sturm, then sending a clearing pass out to MacKenzie Entwistle.

The rookie was held coming across the Wild blueline by Louis Belpedio; seconds after the delayed call, Entwistle slid the puck on net. Kappo Kahkonen got his left pad on the shot, but Matthew Highmore was at the right post to knock in the loose rubber at 3:28 of the second period.

The Wild tied the game 24 seconds into the third when Gabriel Dumont backhanded a shot off of Lankinen’s pad. The IceHogs response was swift. Phillip Kurashev dished to Dylan Sikura from the left halfboards. The subsequent laser from the slot beat Kahkonen for a 2-1 Rockford advantage at the 1:20 mark.

Back came Iowa with a Mayhew tally at 2:30 of the third. The goal came right off of a faceoff win in the Hogs zone, with Mayhew collecting the rebound of Delpedio’s blast from the point.

The score remained even until the final minute of action. With Jacob Nilsson in the box for a faceoff infraction, Sturm sent a shot toward the Rockford crease. The puck glanced off the elbow of J.T. Brown and tumbled past Lankinen for the game-winner with 15 seconds left.

Lankinen turned away a lot of Iowa scoring chances in the last 40 minutes. He made several outstanding plays, most notably on a puck that caromed off the shin pad of rookie defenseman Nicolas Beaudin and was inches away from crossing the goal line.

At the other end, Kahkonen was good, though Rockford didn’t keep him as busy as they needed to. The passing was not up to snuff. Real legit scoring opportunities were hard to come by. The power play yielded five shots in four chances. Several potential open looks were negated by off target passing.

“The biggest thing, and we brought it up earlier,” King pointed out, “was just managing the puck, not forcing plays.”

 

Line Combos

Here’s a look at King’s opening night lines. The starters are in italics.

Matthew Highmore (A)-Tyler Sikura (A)-MacKenzie Entwistle

Kris Versteeg (C)-Jacob Nilsson-Brandon Hagel

Aleksi Saarela-Phillipp Kurashev-Dylan Sikura

Mikeal Hakkarainen-Reese Johnson-Alexandre Fortin

Lucas Carlsson-Joni Tuulola

Philip Holm-Adam Boqvist

Chad Krys-Nicolas Beaudin

Kevin Lankinen

Power Play (0-4)

Versteeg-D. Sikura-Nilsson-Boqvist-Carlsson

Highmore-Saarela-Hagel-Beaudin-Holm

Penalty Kill (Iowa was 1-5)

Forwards: T. Sikura-Fortin-Highmore-Entwistle-Nilsson-Hagel

Defense: Holm-Tuulola-Carlsson-Beaudin

 

Roster Happenings

Rookie Mikael Hakkarainen left Friday’s game in the second period and did not return.

On Saturday, Chicago re-assigned defenseman Dennis Gilbert to the IceHogs, along with forward John Quenneville.

 

A Musing Or Two For You

One line that was dripping with scoring potential was the Saarela-Kurashev-Sikura combo, who delivered the second Rockford goal. Together, that line generated nine of the Hogs 26 shots in the contest. Both Saarela and Sikura are big-time scorers at the AHL level and should give Kurashev lots of options with distributing the puck.

Saarela, Adam Boqvist and Kris Versteeg paced Rockford with four shots apiece. Despite the last-second deflection, the penalty kill was pretty effective.

Tyler Sikura was sporting a new number after wearing #28 the last two seasons. Sikura the Elder requested #16 when it became available this season. Saarela was clad in the #28 sweater.

Versteeg is sporting the #10 he wore back in his first stint with Rockford in 2007-08. Of course, he now has a “C” on the front of his current sweater.

Former Hogs forward Luke Johnson was not in action against his old team due to an injury suffered last week at practice.

 

Coming Up

Rockford has a week of practice to prepare for Grand Rapids. The Griffins, who pounded the Chicago Wolves 8-5 Saturday night, come a-calling this Saturday at the BMO. I’ll be back Friday to preview that match up. Follow me on twitter @JonFromi for more thoughts on the Hogs this week.