Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs opened the refurbished BMO Center (note the refurbished name) with a pair of disappointing losses. On Friday, the Chicago Wolves picked up an easy win over Rockford. The next afternoon, Manitoba moved to the top of the Central Division standings behind a half-dozen goals.

What went wrong over the weekend? Allow me to share some thoughts before this week’s recaps.

  • Offensively, Luke Philp and Brett Seney have been as good as advertised. Each has three goals and an assist in Rockford’s first four games. Lukas Reichel (2 G, 4 A) paces the piglets with six points, but looks to be pushing the action a bit, rather than slowing down and letting scoring opportunities develop.
  • Aside from David Gust’s goal in Manitoba October 15, the firm of Philp, Seney and Reichel have accounted for all of Rockford’s goal scoring. Some diversity is sorely needed.
  • The IceHogs were better Sunday in terms of creating legit scoring chances. They just didn’t convert. Passes connected but couldn’t be hauled in. Pucks were in the crease with no one to jump on them. In short, this Rockford offense is just a tad out of synch.
  • Players like Buddy Robinson and Dylan Sikura had some chances that weren’t fully realized. Hopefully Hogs coach Anders Sorensen can get three lines that click in practice this week, then get the occasional greasy goal from players like Josiah Slavin and Evan Barratt.
  • The goalie situation suffered with Arvid Soderblom being recalled to the Blackhawks Friday after a injury to Petr Mrazek. A tandem of Jaxson Stauber and Dylan Wells is not the tandem of a contending AHL team. It was on full display this weekend, particularly on Sunday. If Soderblom is to be with the Blackhawks for an extended period of time, a move needs to be made to obtain a veteran goalie to pick up some slack in Rockford.
  • Adam Clendening had a rough game on Saturday, taking three penalties and encountering trouble quarterbacking the power play. He was better on Sunday, with a secondary assist on Seney’s third-period goal. The first power play unit is four forwards and Clendening. On several occasions, opponents have been able to generate shorthanded opportunities by skating hard up the ice and forcing Clendening to defend.
  • Rockford was 1-8 on the man advantage this weekend, while giving up four power play goals on ten opponent chances. The lack of success on the penalty kill had a big effect on the Hogs fortunes; both Chicago and Manitoba swung the games in their favor with two power play strikes in the second period.
  • Morgan Adams-Moisan made his IceHogs debut on Sunday afternoon. He scrapped with Jeff Malott and Mikey Eyssimont in a ten-minute span of the third period and was given a game misconduct for doing so. He now leads Rockford with two fighting majors and 20 penalty minutes.
  • On Saturday morning, the IceHogs announced that rookie forward Cole Guttman was in concussion protocol, dating back to October 15 in Manitoba when he appeared to hit his head on the ice in a fall.
  • Alex Vlasic and Alec Regula added to the blueline depth in Rockford. Both Vlasic and Regula played in both games this weekend.

Recaps

Saturday, October 22-Chicago 4, Rockford 1

A rash of penalties in the first two periods was too much for the IceHogs to overcome despite several key scoring opportunities. The Wolves spoiled Rockford’s home opener, beating their Central Division rival in convincing fashion.

Chicago took a 1-0 lead at the 14:28 mark of the opening period, after the Hogs sent an early flurry of pucks toward Wolves goalie Zachary Sawchenko. William Lagesson struck from the left post to give Chicago a lead they would never relinquish.

Rockford had a chance to tie the score when Bobby Lynch was awarded a penalty shot at 16:37 of the first period. Lynch got Sawchenko down on the ice, but couldn’t get the backhand shot over the goalie’s pads.

The Wolves began the middle frame with a short power play held over from a slashing penalty by Hogs defenseman Adam Clendening. Chicago needed just 16 seconds to convert. Jack Drury knocked in a feed by Anttoni Honka for a 2-0 Wolves lead.

The IceHogs closed the gap to 2-1 with a one-timer off the stick of Lukas Reichel. Assists went to Brett Seney and former Wolves forward David Gust at the 14:08 mark.

Seney was called for tripping late in the second period, leading to Brenden Perlini‘s first goal of the season with 51 seconds remaining. Outshot by Chicago 26-16 through 40 minutes, the IceHogs trailed 3-1.

The pivotal point in the final period was near the midway point, when Griffin Mendel and Ryan Dzingel committed penalties 51 seconds apart, leading to a 5-on-3 advantage for Rockford. The Wolves hustled defensively and killed both infractions, ending the Hogs best chance to get back into the contest. Malte Stromwall closed out the scoring with an unassisted shorthanded goal with 1:25 to play, sealing Rockford’s fate.

Hogs goalie Jaxson Stauber made his pro debut Saturday following Arvid Soderblom‘s recall by the Blackhawks. Stauber stopped 19 of 22 Wolves shots. Sawchenko made 27 saves to pick up the win for Chicago.

Sunday, October 23-Manitoba 6, Rockford 3

The IceHogs got off to a solid start, attacking the Manitoba net and scoring the first goal of the game. It came off the stick of Brett Seney, who buried home Lukas Reichel’s feed 4:04 into the game. The Moose surged in the latter stages of the first period, tying the contest at the 18:03 mark. Jansen Harkins gathered in a rebound of Ville Heinola’s initial shot and beat Rockford goalie Dylan Wells to the twine.

Things went south for Rockford five minutes into the middle frame. Jeff Malott put Manitoba up 2-1 at 6:41 of the second period. Eight minutes later, Henri Nikkanen scored to put Rockford into a two-goal hole. The wheels came off for the IceHogs in the final five minutes of the second.

Two Rockford penalties gave the Moose a chance to put the game out of reach. They did just that, needing just seven seconds to convert on a Buddy Robinson interference penalty. Declan Chisholm sent a slap shot past the glove of Wells at 15:29 for a 4-1 Manitoba advantage.

Shortly thereafter, Reichel sent a puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. At 17:09, Kevin Stenlund scored his second goal of the season and put the IceHogs down 5-1 heading into the second intermission.

Rockford was able to mount a response in the third period, picking up a Luke Philp goal and Seney’s second of the game, sandwiched around a Mikey Eyssimont tally for Manitoba.

Seney’s two-goal night earned him First Star honors in a losing effort. Eyssimont had a goal and two assists in being named Second Star. Reichel was Third Star on the strength of two assists. Heinola also recorded two helpers in the contest.

Wells had a rough night, giving up five goals on 21 shots before being lifted for Jaxson Stauber to start the third period. At the other end of the ice, rookie Oskari Salminen went to 3-0 on the season with the win, with 28 saves on the afternoon.

 

This Weekend

Rockford continues what is to be a seven-game home stand this weekend. The Wolves come back to play another Illinois Lottery Cup game Friday night. The Belleville Senators come to the BMO Center on Saturday.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs will be opening their home schedule this weekend, hosting the Chicago Wolves Saturday night and the Manitoba Moose Sunday afternoon. They’ll be doing this at the BMO Center-formally known as the Rockford Metro Centre and the BMO Harris Bank Center.

It’s the same old BMO. Except that it isn’t.

There is much to marvel at as the new-look IceHogs roster settles into their home digs. Rockford’s sweaters now feature an updated logo, though not the new team logo that debuted back in the summer. Adorning the front of the sweater is Hamilton E. Hog, otherwise known as Hammy.

The folks in design have exorcised the “Rockford IceHogs” part of the logo and also taken the stick out of Hammy’s mouth. They did not, however, close Hammy’s stickless mouth.

Hammy has apparently been hitting the weights this summer, part of what will surely be a rebranding of sorts for the long-time Rockford mascot. Why is the face on the sweater the pre-health-conscious Hammy? Is the new scoreboard as awesome as has been foretold? Did they fix the towel dispensers in the restrooms? Will we ever see the vaunted Illinois Lottery Cup again, or did the Wolves lose it in Rosemont?

These questions get answered starting Saturday night.

Oh…and we get to see how the veteran-laden Hogs fare against the defending Calder Cup Champions. The Wolves roster has been depleted of many of the key names that helped hoist the cup, including David Gust, who had three points (1 G, 2 A) for Rockford last weekend.

Six of Chicago’s top-seven scorers last season are with other clubs. Jack Drury (20 G, 32 A) is the lone holdover. Newcomers include veteran forward and Wheaton native Ryan Dzingel, who has a couple of 20-goal seasons with Ottawa and will provide offense for Chicago. Former Blackhawks forward Brenden Perlini also signed a PTO with the Wolves.

Max Lajoie (4 G 29 A) is back as a key piece of the Chicago blueline. Vying for playing time are several Carolina Hurricanes prospects and 37 -year-old Jason Garrison, who is also signed to a PTO.

Goalie Pyotr Kochetkov was very impressive for the Wolves down the stretch when he wasn’t stopping pucks for Carolina. His play in net may cover some of the departures in the Chicago roster.

The Wolves tangle with Manitoba Friday night heading into their first meeting with the piglets, for what it is worth. Will Rockford take advantage of fresh legs, or will there be jitters as they hit the BMO ice for the first time this season?

Aside from a four-goal explosion in the third period of the season opener October 15, the IceHogs have failed to make an impact on offense through their first two games. I would expect that to change, as the skill-level on offense should keep scoring droughts to a minimum. I’m going to stick my neck out and look for Rockford to drop a big number on one or both of their weekend opposition.

Roster News

On Monday, the Blackhawks assigned D Alex Vlasic to Rockford. The Hogs also recalled D Andrew Perrott and G Dylan Wells from Indy for the week, then sent both down to the Fuel along with D Koletrane Wilson on Thursday.

F Cole Guttman left Saturday’s game in Manitoba in the third period after taking a fall and struggling to get the the Rockford bench. The IceHogs were pretty consistent with medical updates last season, but haven’t commented on Guttman’s status for this weekend.

 

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

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs ran hot and cold in splitting a pair of weekend tilts with the Manitoba Moose. On one hand, you could certainly see the scoring potential of a veteran-laden Hogs club. However, developing chemistry seems to be another matter at the moment.

The piglets triumphed in the season opener with a stunning comeback, but lost Sunday’s rematch via the shutout. Here are some quick thoughts on the opening weekend of the 2022-23 season.

  • First off, this was a solid Manitoba club opposing the IceHogs. The bulk of the Moose return from a very good team the previous season. For the bulk of Saturday’s game, they controlled the action and looked to win going away.
  • Rockford stormed back in the first eight minutes of the third period, getting goals from Luke Philp, Dave Gust and Lukas Reichel to erase a three-goal deficit. The Moose regained a 4-3 advantage, but a second Philp tally with just over two minutes to play forced Gus Macker Time. From there, Brett Seney hit the top corner of the net to secure a 5-4 victory.
  • On Sunday, the IceHogs were the aggressor, moving the puck with aplomb in the Manitoba zone. However, it was the Moose who were able to get the puck into the Rockford crease and generate some strong chances.
  • The key play Sunday was with Rockford on a late power play in the second period. Reichel attempted a backhand pass to the blueline that was picked off. Adam Clendening wasn’t able to get into position to defend a shorthanded breakaway chance by Jansen Harkins and Manitoba took a 1-0 lead that they would not surrender, beating the IceHogs 4-0. Rookie goalie Oskari Salminen took it from there, blanking the Hogs by stopping 32 shots.
  • Rockford captain Garrett Mitchell was out of the lineup this weekend. He was suffering from an illness and did not make the trip up north.
  • Rookie Cole Guttman left the ice in the third period Saturday after being knocked to the ice in a multi-player collision. He appeared to hit his head on the ice and lost his helmet in the process. Guttman struggled to get to the Hogs bench and was helped to the locker room soon after.
  • With the influx of veteran talent on the roster this year, playing time could be at a premium for forward prospect Evan Barratt. He’s in the final year of his entry deal and is probably getting his last look from the organization. Barratt was a scratch Saturday, engaging in a scrap with Manitoba’s Leon Gawanke in the second period of Sunday’s game.
  • The IceHogs get a week to practice and make some adjustments before opening the home schedule against the Chicago Wolves Saturday night. On Sunday, Rockford gets another crack at Manitoba, who visits the BMO Harris Bank Center for a 4:00 p.m. puck drop.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have a new look entering the 2022-23 AHL season. It’s a real paradigm shift for the organization, and I’m pretty excited about heading into another season of keeping you informed on the action out west of I-39.

Back in the spring, Hawks GM Kyle Davidson announced that bringing in veterans to raise the talent pool in Rockford was a priority. This was an easy statement to take with a grain of salt, since the IceHogs roster has been comprised mostly of prospects since Rockford became Chicago’s AHL affiliate in 2007.

Turns out, the organization followed through.

Over the summer, the Blackhawks, who enter their second full season of ownership of the ‘Bago County Flyin’ Piglets, made good on reshaping the roster. Veterans with serious AHL upside were brought in to fortify last year’s bunch of overachieving prospects.

The 2021-22 crop scrapped their way to fourth place in the AHL’s Central Division and won a play-in series with Texas before falling to the Calder Cup Champions, the Chicago Wolves. Leading the way was rookie Lukas Reichel, who is back for another season at the BMO after a strong debut of 21 goals and 36 helpers.

In addition to Reichel, the current IceHogs roster now has three players that paced their clubs in scoring last season. Many of the solid defensive pieces are back and are enhanced by a familiar face.

Let’s dig into the roster!

Forward

NHL Prospects: Lukas Reichel, Mike Hardman, Josiah Slavin, Michal Teply, Evan Barratt, Cole Guttman.

AHL Contracts: Garrett Mitchell, David Gust, Bobby Lynch, D.J. Busdeker, Carson Gicewicz, Morgan Adams-Moisan.

Veteran Oomph: Dylan Sikura, Brett Seney, Luke Philp.

Guttman is the only rookie in this group. The returning prospects all were big contributors to Rockford’s success, as were Busdeker and Gicewicz. Mitchell enters his third season as the Hogs captain.

Gust (16 G, 20 A for the Wolves last season) is a player who’s been on my wish list for several years, though he’s exactly what the organization has avoided in past campaigns. The Orland Park native is a strong AHL player with a winning pedigree, having skated with the last two Calder Cup winners.

Lynch will chip in on the bottom six; he totaled eight goals and 13 assists in 46 games with Manitoba. Adams-Moisan is a big, physical forward that may wind up splitting time between Rockford and the Indy Fuel of the ECHL.

The addition of Sikura (73 points with the Colorado Eagles last season), Seney (59 points to lead the Toronto Marlies), and Philp (44 points with a strong Stockton Heat club) figures to give Rockford the kind of potency on offense that’s been missing in past seasons. If this forward group can consistently light lamps from the raising of the curtain, this could be a formidable group.

As the Hawks roster fluctuates, Buddy Robinson, who has cleared waivers, will probably wind up with the IceHogs at some point. The same goes for rookie Jaren Luypen, currently on injured reserve with the Blackhawks.

(UPDATE-The Blackhawks assigned Robinson to Rockford on Friday morning.)

Defense

NHL Prospects: Jakub Galvas, Issak Phillips, Nicolas Beaudin, Louis Crevier.

AHL Contracts: Adam Clendening, Cliff Watson, Koletrane Wilson.

The major addition is the return of Clendening for his third tour of duty with Rockford. The 29-year-old defenseman is coming off a five-goal, 37-assist season with Lehigh Valley, his best point output since his 59-point season with the Hogs back in 2013-14.

The signing of Clendening to a one-year AHL contract was the opening salvo of the new development philosophy. He’ll be a mainstay on the Rockford power play and provides yet another upgrade to the talent pool.

Galvas and Phillips may see time in Chicago, rotating with other prospects like Alec Regula (currently with the Hawks) and Ian Mitchell (injured). Beaudin is back for his fourth season in Rockford. It’s likely his final chance to realize his potential as a former first-round draft pick.

Crevier, a seventh-round pick from the 2020 NHL Draft, is a big (6’8″) rookie who should see the ice on a regular basis. He will need to adjust to AHL forwards and contribute in the offensive zone.

Watson saw action in 20 games with Rockford and spent the rest of his season with the Fuel. Wilson has spent his first two years of pro hockey in the ECHL with the Kansas City Mavericks.

 

Goalie

NHL Prospects: Arvid Soderblom, Jaxson Stauber.

Anchoring an experienced team in net are two youngsters. Primary starts are likely to go to Soderblom, who was very impressive in stretches of his rookie season. In 38 appearances, Soderblom was 21-15-2 with a 2.76 goals against average and a .919 save percentage.

Stauber was signed to a two-year entry contract by the Hawks after two seasons at Providence College. Last season, he posted a 2.10 GAA and a .921 save percentage in 37 games.

 

Coaching Staff

Anders Sorensen, who really had his young bunch playing well despite being outmanned most nights, took over early in the season as the interim coach when Derek King was promoted to Chicago. Sorensen was retained to helm the Hogs in 2022-23.

Assisting him will be a pair of former IceHogs. Jared Nightingale was brought in mid-season and did a great job with the blueline and penalty kill. He’s back as well, and rightfully so.

Joining Sorensen, Nightingale, and goalie coach Peter Aubrey is Rob Klinkhammer, a former IceHogs favorite who is making his debut in the coaching ranks after wrapping up his well-traveled pro career with six seasons in the KHL.

 

Outlook

The Central Division is no cakewalk, starting with the defending champs over in Rosemont. The Wolves lost a lot of pieces from last year’s juggernaut but are always built to compete. Manitoba returns most of last season’s second-place squad, and Milwaukee and Grand Rapids will also be tough opponents.

The IceHogs, on paper, look to be as experienced and as talented as any of their division rivals. Slow starts have always been an issue in Rockford. That’s been especially true in the last two seasons, which featured the greenest roster in the AHL by a wide margin. That shouldn’t be the case this fall.

The AHL season is full of ups and downs as roster moves by the parent clubs can have a huge effect on their affiliates. For the time being, it appears that Rockford is stocked with a veteran cast that should spend most of their seasons with the IceHogs. Davidson wants his prospects to play meaningful games well into the spring. Rockford is set up to do that; now it is time to see what the next seven months hold for this team.

 

Jerkin’ The Curtain In Manitoba

Rockford gets to work this weekend, opening the 2022-23 season with a pair of weekend matinees with the Manitoba Moose.

The action begins at the BellMTS Iceplex in Winnipeg Saturday, October 15 with a 2:00 p.m. CDT puck drop with the Moose. Rockford and Manitoba are at it again on Sunday, October 16 at 2:00 p.m. CDT

The IceHogs were 5-3 last season against the Moose but did not fare well on the road, managing just one win in four attempts in Manitoba.

The Moose had nine players that finished 2021-22 with at least 30 points. Seven of those players return to the team this season, including leading point producers Mikey Eyssimont (18 G, 24 A) and Jeff Malott (23 G, 18 A).

Manitoba’s projected starting goalie, Arvid Holm, was 0-3 vs Rockford last season with a 3.80 goals-against average and an .823 save percentage. Soderblom, who will start at least one of this weekend’s games for the IceHogs, was 3-2-0 with a 3.04 goals against average and a .919 save percentage against the Moose.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for in-game thoughts this weekend as well as throughout the season.

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs clinched a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs this weekend, capping off a 2-2 week of action. The piglets knocked off the top two teams in the Central Division (Chicago and Manitoba), and also dropped decisions to the worst two teams (Grand Rapids and Iowa).

Rockford is in fourth place in the division standings, with an outside shot at overtaking Milwaukee for third place. The Hogs will need to win their last three games-at Iowa and Milwaukee on Wednesday and Friday, then the Wolves at the BMO Harris Bank Center Saturday night.

A fourth-place finish will result in a play-in series with the division’s fifth seed; that looks like the Texas Stars at this point. Winning the play-in sets up a best-of-five series with Chicago. Gaining third-place puts Rockford in an opening round series with the Moose.

The IceHogs have defeated the Wolves eight times in eleven meetings this season, including Tuesday’s 4-3 win in Rosemont. The season series with Manitoba is 5-3 in favor of Rockford, who beat the Moose 5-3 to punch its ticket to the postseason Saturday.

In this last week of regular-season action, the piglets will look to stay healthy and finish strong. It’s been a pretty successful campaign for Rockford. With some good fortune, this club could get some extended development time in May.

 

Roster News

The key development for Rockford is the loss of veteran forward Brett Connolly with a left knee injury. The team announced Saturday that Connolly will be out four to six weeks. It’s unlikely we see him in action with the Hogs again this season.

D.J. Busdeker is nursing a sore shoulder but could possibly return for the playoffs. However, it’s Connolly’s leadership and offensive punch (17 G, 18 A) that is going to be tough to replace.

With his last appearance being in Manitoba April 16, Rockford is 3-2 without Connolly. The IceHogs have managed to score without his presence, which will have to continue over the next couple of weeks.

 

Notes

  • Lukas Reichel added four assists to his team leading point total. He now owns the IceHogs rookie scoring mark with 53 points, besting Vinnie Hinostroza’s 51-point effort in the 2016-17 season.
  • Andrei Altybarmakian extended his goal streak to five games in Sunday’s 5-3 loss to Iowa. He now has 10 goals and 30 points in 63 games this season.
  • Mike Hardman had four goals this week; one of his two goals against the Wolves was the game-winner in the final minute of regulation. Hardman 19 goals is second on the team behind Reichel’s 21. He will be counted on to provide offense in lieu of Connolly.
  • Arvid Soderblom continues to be the team’s workhorse in goal, having started ten of Rockford’s last twelve games. Cale Morris turned in a solid performance in the win over Chicago Wednesday, but it would appear that Soderblom will anchor the Hogs in the postseason.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for more thoughts on the IceHogs playoff prospects as the regular season winds down.

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs continued to play winning hockey this week, earning five of a possible six points against Central Division opponents. Rockford sits in fourth place in the division standings, thanks to several hot players.

At the top of that list is Brett Connolly, who is riding a six-game point streak. Connolly posted four goals and a pair of assists in three games. This included two-goal efforts in consecutive games; Wednesday’s 5-4 win over Manitoba and Friday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Iowa.

Dylan McLaughlin returned after missing the last month with a concussion, notching four points over the weekend. After helping send Friday’s game into Gus Macker Time with assists on both of Rockford’s third period goals, the forward added a goal and a helper in Saturday’s 4-0 win over the Moose at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

The story of Saturday’s victory was a 38-save performance by goalie Mitch Gillam, signed to a PTO by the IceHogs on Thursday. Gillam, who has spent this season with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel, blanked Manitoba in his first career AHL start. Cale Morris is nursing a sore hip at the moment. Tom Aubrun was loaned to the Fuel Thursday.

Rookie Lukas Reichel had his five-game point streak snapped on Saturday. With four goals and four assists in that span, Reichel remains on top of Rockford’s goals (20) and points (46) list.

With 16 games left in the regular season, the Blackhawks top prospect is approaching two rookie marks. Namely, Vinnie Hinostroza’s 51 points, set in 2015-16, and Matthew Highmore’s 24 goals, accomplished in the 2017-28 campaign.

 

Roster News

With the Hawks trade of Marc-Andre Fleury on Monday, Collin Delia was recalled by Chicago, along with forward Reese Johnson. Morris was recalled by the IceHogs as well. Defenseman Alex Vlasic was assigned to Rockford long enough for him to be eligible for the AHL playoffs before returning to Chicago.

On Saturday, forwards Riley McKay and Chad Yetman were recalled to Rockford. Yetman skated in that night’s game for the IceHogs.

On the injury front, Michal Teply suffered a shoulder injury Wednesday night after being boarded by Manitoba captain Jimmy Oligny late in the third period. Hogs captain Garrett Mitchell jumped in for a bout with Oligny and is now day-to-day with a lower back injury.

 

Busy Piglets

Rockford will now enter a stretch of five games over the next eight days. This starts with a big home date with Milwaukee Tuesday. The Hogs will then head West for two games each with Tucson and Henderson. Rockford takes on the Roadrunners on Friday and Saturday, then tangles with the Silver Knights on April 4 and 5.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs traveled to Manitoba for the first two games of a five-game road trip last week. For the piglets, March came in like a Moose.

A Moose that outscored Rockford 12-5 in two games.

Manitoba won both games, a 7-2 shellacking Thursday night and a 5-3 come-from-behind triumph on Saturday afternoon. The IceHogs fell to sixth place in the AHL’s Central Division, having lost their last three games.

The IceHogs were able to skate with Manitoba early in both contests. However, Rockford had no answer for the Moose as the games progressed. Manitoba broke open a 2-2 game on Thursday with five unanswered goals. On Saturday, the Moose rallied from a two-goal deficit late in the second period before pulling away with a pair of third-period strikes.

Rockford’s penalty kill has been top-notch of late but surrendered key goals in both defeats. Manitoba potted three goals in five chances on the man advantage.

Two power-play goals in the space of five minutes in the first and second periods paved the way for the Moose on Thursday. Saturday afternoon saw Manitoba capitalizing on Hogs goalie Arvid Soderblom losing his stick in a collision with teammate Ryan Stanton. David Gustafsson sent a shot over Soderblom’s blocker, starting a sequence of four Moose goals over the next five minutes of game action.

 

Weekend Thoughts

  • Rockford was outshot in both games. Collin Delia faced 46 shots on Thursday; Manitoba outshot the Hogs 17-5 in the third period. Rockford was outshot 23-11 in the first two periods with Soderblom in net on Saturday.
  • The IceHogs sent 17 shots toward Moose goalie Mikhail Berdin, who stopped them all to pick up the win. Berdin was in net for Manitoba in both games.
  • Manitoba’s Greg Meireles had a four-point weekend, with a goal and three helpers.
  • Saturday’s defeat was tougher to stomach, in that the IceHogs led 2-0 and then 3-1 in the first two periods of the game. Rockford was really prone to giving up goals in bunches over the weekend.
  • The IceHogs placed forward Chad Yetman into the concussion protocol Friday. He joins Dylan McLaughlin, who has been out of the lineup since suffering a concussion on February 20.
  • Rockford forward Mike Hardman picked up his twelfth goal of the season on Thursday. An assist in Saturday’s loss has Hardman on a four-game point streak.
  • Defenseman Alec Regula was reassigned to Rockford by the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday. Regula skated in both games in Manitoba.

Next Up

The IceHogs have a couple of days to stew about their three-game losing streak. Rockford is next in action Friday night when the Hogs visit Milwaukee. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CST.

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

Hockey

Lukas Reichel has had eight games with the Rockford IceHogs. The Chicago Blackhawks first-rounder from the 2020 NHL Draft is getting his first taste of North American hockey. It’s safe to say that he’s becoming comfortable with AHL competition.

Reichel now has a team-high eight points (6 G, 2 A) with the piglets, following a Sunday afternoon hat trick against Manitoba. The IceHogs beat the Moose 4-3 to split the weekend’s action at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

For the moment, the rookie forward is showcasing his play-making ability for the fans in Rockford. How long before he’s asked to make his debut with Chicago?

 

Musings

  • Rockford opened the home schedule with a 2-1 loss to Grand Rapids Saturday night. The lone Hogs goal came from Brett Connolly (2 G, 4 A), who has a three game point streak going. He has provided much-needed veteran help up front.
  • The vets were all involved in the scoring in Sunday’s win; captain Garrett Mitchell potted his first goal of the season in the first period, assisted by defenseman Ryan Stanton.
  • Stanton picked up his first apple of the season on Mitchell’s goal. He is still seeking his first goal. In fact, every Hogs blueliner is looking for their first goal.
  • After then-coach Derek King admitted that Collin Delia and Malcom Subban were essentially splitting the starts not made by Arvid Soderblom, Delia did not play (or even dress) for either game this weekend. No word on whether Delia is injured or ill. Maybe he gets a start Wednesday against Iowa.
  • F Evan Barratt and D Chad Krys both returned to the lineup, playing in both games.
  • Nicolas Beaudin is becoming more accustomed to top-pairing minutes. No need to recall him for now; just let him pile up experience and build confidence for the time being.
  • Rockford’s home stand continues this week, the Iowa Wild visit on Wednesday, with the Chicago Wolves arriving Friday night.

Weekend Recaps

Saturday, November 6-Grand Rapids 2, Rockford 1

The Griffins spoiled Rockford’s home opener and Andres Sorensen’s debut as IceHogs interim head coach. The loss put Rockford in the Central Division cellar.

The Hogs were the aggressors early, but a pair of quick strikes by Grand Rapids put Rockford in a 2-0 hole midway through the first period. As an IceHogs power play wound down, Tyler Spezia and Dominic Shine came down the ice on an odd-man rush. Spezia got a one-timer past Rockford goalie Arvid Soderblom at 9:07 of the first period for the shorthanded goal. Just seconds after the subsequent faceoff, Taro Hirose redirected a pass from Jonatan Berggren to put the Griffins up two goals.

Grand Rapids controlled much of the action in the middle frame, out-shooting the IceHogs 14-5. However, it was Rockford that was able to close the gap on the scoreboard.

The goal came on a power play, set up by a Wyatt Newpower tripping infraction late in the second period. The IceHogs had just been denied entry into the Griffins zone when Ian Mitchell chased down the clearing pass. Rockford gave it another go, with Alexander Nylander threading a pass across the ice for Evan Barratt at the top of the left circle. His feed to Brett Connolly was spot on and the veteran forward guided the puck past Grand Rapids goalie Calvin Pickard 19:19 into the second.

Down 2-1, the IceHogs pinned their ears back and pushed hard for the equalizer in the third period. Pickard was up to the task, sending away all ten shots Rockford got to the net. Interim coach Anders Sorensen pulled Soderblom in the final minutes, but the Griffins came up with several key blocked shots to prevent the Hogs from tying the contest.

Hirose, with a goal and a big blocked shot in the final seconds, was named the game’s First Star. Second and Third Stars were Connolly and Spezia, respectively.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Josiah Slavin-Lukas Reichel-Brett Connolly

Alexander Nylander-Dylan McLaughlin-Andrei Altybarmakian

Jakub Pour-Reese Johnson (A)-Michal Teply

Evan Barratt-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dmitri Osipov

Nicolas Beaudin-Ian Mitchell

Jakub Galvas-Michael Krutil

Ryan Stanton (A)-Chad Krys

Arvid Soderblom

Malcom Subban

Sunday, November 7-Rockford 4, Manitoba 3

Lukas Reichel’s hat trick was the lead story Sunday, propelling the Hogs to the win in their first tilt with the Moose this season.

Despite being outplayed for the bulk of the first period, Rockford took a 2-0 lead into the intermission. The Hogs got a great individual effort from rookie Lukas Reichel to get on the scoreboard.

Reichel took a clearing pass out of the Rockford zone from Josiah Slavin and headed down the right side. He was separated from the puck in the corner, but regained possession after Brett Connolly knocked it behind the Manitoba net. Reichel calmly banked a shot off of Moose goalie Arvid Holm and into the net at the 11:08 mark for a 1-0 Hogs advantage.

Four minutes later, Holm left a rebound of Ryan Stanton’s shot in front of the crease. Rockford captain Garrett Mitchell pounced on the loose puck, skated to the right post and flipped it over Holm for a two-goal IceHogs lead at 15:10 of the first.

The action was back and forth in the second, with both teams getting some chances. The Moose killed off 53 seconds of 5-on-3 time early in the period; Hogs goalie Malcom Subban stopped a lot of shots at close quarters.

The IceHogs broke through late in the period when Slavin cleared the puck into neutral zone. Reichel won a race to the puck as it approached the Manitoba blueline, turned on the after boosters, and went high on Holm to unite rubber and twine. The goal came 19:02 of the second period and Rockford skated to the locker room up 3-0.

Manitoba broke up Subban’s shutout bid early in the final frame. Jeff Melott got position in front of the net and sent a feed from Cole Perfetti into the cage 3:28 into the third. Moments later, Reichel completed the hat trick with his prettiest goal of the night.

Nicolas Beaudin got things started, breaking up a Manitoba entry attempt at the Hogs blueline. Reichel retrieved the loose puck, stickhandled between the legs of Moose defenseman Declan Chisholm, and drove to the net. The backhand attempt was over the glove of Holm, giving Rockford a 4-1 cushion at 4:46 of the third period.

Despite winding down their third game in as many nights, there was no quit in the Moose. Manitoba countered with a Ville Heinola goal at the 6:04 mark to cut the lead to 4-2. They pulled Holm late and scored with 20 seconds remaining on Evan Polei’s first of the season. However, Beaudin snuffed out the comeback by clearing a rebound in front of Subban with seconds to play.

To the surprise of no one, Reichel nabbed First Star honors for his play on the evening. Slavin (two assists) and Mitchell rounded out the Three Stars. Subban posted 34 saves to pick up his first win of the season.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Josiah Slavin-Lukas Reichel-Brett Connolly

Alexander Nylander-Dylan McLaughlin-Andrei Altybarmakian

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson (A)-Carson Gicewixz

Cameron Morrison-Garrett Mitchell (C)-D.J. Busdeker

Nicolas Beaudin-Ian Mitchell

Ryan Stanton (A)-Jakub Galvas

Cliff Watson-Chad Krys

Malcom Subban

Arvid Soderblom

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have two solid goalie prospects under NHL contracts. So why do they have three goalies on the roster?

Beats the heck out of me.

Rockford, 7-6 and in fourth-place in the Central Division with a .538 points percentage, split the weekend slate. They beat Chicago on Sunday following a shutout loss to Manitoba on Friday. In the last three games, the piglets have had a different man between the pipes. So goes the goalie situation in Winnebago County.

Sunday, Matt Tomkins anchored Rockford’s 4-1 win over the Wolves in Rosemont. Friday, Collin Delia was victimized for four goals as his team was blanked by the Moose. Back on Wednesday, Kevin Lankinen picked up the win over Toronto.

Tomkins spent the bulk of last season toiling in Indianapolis. Lankinen also spent a good portion of his season with the Fuel. The IceHogs began the season with Tomkins, Lankinen and Delia with the team. I figured that with the Hawks tandem healthy entering October, Tomkins would return to the ECHL and build on the solid numbers of 2018-19.

Hasn’t happened. Lankinen was injured opening night, so Tomkins stuck around. He’s continued to stick around despite Lankinen returning to action. According to Hogs coach Derek King, Lankinen was set to start Sunday’s matinee but fell ill, necessitating Tomkins in the crease.

Why not just give Delia another start? Well…he hasn’t been real sharp in the first six weeks of action. In six starts, he’s carrying a 4.09 goals against average and an .867 save percentage. Delia has had to contend with a lot of high-percentage scoring opportunities, but he still hasn’t resembled the netminder he was for most of the last two seasons.

Tomkins has served in the capacity of backup most nights but has two very solid performances in a pair of Rockford victories over the Wolves. He stopped 31 shots against Chicago in an overtime win October 19 before a 19-save effort Sunday.

Lankinen? Well, when he isn’t sick or hurt, he’s been great. Sporting a 1.99 GAA and a .930 save percentage, Lankinen is the Hogs top option in net right now.

I keep waiting for Rockford to send Tomkins, who is on an AHL deal with the IceHogs, back to Indy where he’ll get steady work. Delia and Lankinen can then get in a groove as a tandem; maybe the former can work his way out of his current funk.

Perhaps the organization likes having Tomkins, who was a Hawks seventh-round draft selection in 2012, in Rockford to work with the team’s goalie coaches. For whatever reason, Tomkins is part of a three-pronged goalie attack for the IceHogs.

 

Recaps

Friday, November 8-Manitoba 4, Rockford 0

Rockford was the aggressor early but failed to convert scoring chances all evening. The Moose prevailed behind a 41-save Mikhail Berdin shutout. Crisp Manitoba passing resulted in plenty of offense against the Hogs, who saw their four-game winning streak go by the wayside.

Berdin weathered a storm of IceHogs attempts in the opening minutes. Conversely, one of Manitoba’s first chances was driven to the back of Collin Delia’s net. It came at 8:33 of the first period, when Michael Spacek gathered in a loose puck in the slot and sent it through the Rockford goalie’s wickets for a 1-0 Moose advantage.

Manitoba built a three-goal lead in the second stanza via the power play. With Reese Johnson in the bin of sin for high sticking, the Moose scored after former Rockford defenseman Cameron Schilling sent a point shot off Delia’s pads. With Delia on the deck after getting tied up with Philip Holm, Jansen Harkins sent the long rebound to Luke Green, who one-timed the puck into the cage at the 5:51 mark.

Specek set up C.J. Suess at Delia’s backdoor eleven minutes later for a 3-0 Manitoba lead. The Moose were 2-3 on the man advantage. Rockford, with three power plays in the second to try and climb back into the game, came up empty on the way to an 0-5 night. Seth Griffith closed out the scoring for Manitoba with a third-period goal.

Delia didn’t have his best night, falling victim to several real open looks offered by the Hogs defense. He stopped 22 of 26 shots on the evening. Berdin, incidentally, went into Chicago the following night and blanked the Wolves on 26 shots.

 

Sunday, November 10-Rockford 4, Chicago 1

The IceHogs made it four-for-four this season against the Wolves despite giving up the first goal of the contest. Matt Tomkins picked up the win in net for Rockford with 19 saves.

Each team had a turn on the power play in the opening frame. The IceHogs whiffed. Chicago converted, with Dylan Coghlin blasting the puck past Tomkins 18:21 into the game.

Rockford finally managed to get a puck past a goalie late in the second period. The play was set up when Tim Soderlund held a puck in at the top of the offensive zone before passing to Philip Holm. Holm sent a centering pass to Anton Wedin, who redirected the biscuit past Wolves goalie Garret Sparks. The goal tied the contest at a goal apiece at 14:28 of the second period.

The Hogs took a 2-1 lead on a wonderful individual effort by Lucas Carlsson. The scoring play got started when Holm won possession of the puck in the Hogs zone. Sliding the puck along the boards, Holm cleared it to Brandon Hagel. Hagel, in turn, found Carlsson coming across the red line. Carlsson entered the Chicago zone, juked his way past the Wolves Brett Lernout and sent a shot past the blocker of Sparks 8:31 into the third.

Tomkins made Carlsson’s tally the game-winner with some big stops in the last ten minutes, including a big penalty kill after Reese Johnson was sent to the box for roughing. Matthew Highmore and Tyler Sikura tossed in empty-netters in the final two minutes to seal the fate of the Wolves.

 

Weekend Preview

The IceHogs have a home-and-home coming up with the Grand Rapids Griffins, currently right behind Rockford in the Central Division standings. The Griffins are paced by Chris Terry, who leads the AHL in scoring with 21 points (8 G, 13 A). Matt Puempel (7 G, 9 A) is fourth in the league in points entering this week’s action.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have a chance to run the table on the current home stand Friday night. The Blackhawks AHL affiliate play Manitoba for the first time this season. The piglets have won four straight home games heading into the game with the Moose, most recently a 3-1 win over Toronto Wednesday morning.

Rockford trailed briefly in the second period after Matt Read goal eight seconds in. However, Reese Johnson tied the score 24 seconds later, assisted by Nick Moutrey and MacKenzie Entwistle. Phillipp Kurashev drew cord on the power play at the 8:06 mark for a 2-1 Hogs advantage.

That was all Kevin Lankinen needed, making 19 saves to post the win over the Marlies. Brandon Hagel got an empty-netter in the final minute of action to seal the deal for Rockford, who improved to 6-5 this season. The IceHogs are now in fifth place in the Central Division with a .545 points percentage.

 

Friday vs Manitoba

Manitoba is at the bottom of the division standings heading into Friday’s action. The Moose are led by Griffin Shaw, who has a team-high six goals on the season. Griffin and Jansen Harkins (3 G, 9 A) pace Manitoba with 12 points each.

Former IceHogs defenseman Cameron Schilling (4 G, 3 A) is coming off two strong seasons for the Moose. Sami Niku (3 G, 3 A) is an offensive spark plug from the blueline. In net, expect Rockford to be staring down Mikail Berdin, who has started nine of Manitoba’s eleven games. After a strong rookie year, Berdin (3.62 GAA, .885 save percentage) has struggled out of the gate for the Moose.

 

Sunday at Chicago

Rockford is 3-0 against the Wolves this season. Chicago, who just beat Iowa 3-0 Thursday morning, is in fourth place in the Central Division. Back on Sunday, the Hogs rallied from three goals down to beat the Wolves 7-4 at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Rookie Lucas Elvenes (5 G, 14 A) has two goals and three helpers against Rockford this season. He is currently tied with Grand Rapids Chris Terry for the AHL scoring lead. Gage Quinney (6 G, 6 A) is also a potent scorer for Chicago. Veterans Tye McGinn (4 G, 5 A) and Curtis McKenzie (3 G, 5 A) are also chipping into the Wolves offensive effort.

Garret Sparks (1.55, .954) shut out the Wild Thursday. The IceHogs lit up Oscar Dansk (4.08, .847) Sunday, including five third-period goals.

 

Roster News

The Blackhawks re-assigned D Dennis Gilbert to Rockford Wednesday. To keep the roster at seven defensemen, the IceHogs sent D Jack Ramsey to the Indy Fuel Thursday.

Rockford is still awaiting the return of captain Kris Versteeg, John Quenneville and Mikael Hakkarainen to the lineup.

 

Random Thoughts

  • Reese Johnson has goals in his last two games. Philip Holm is on a four-game point streak.
  • The offense has picked it up during the win streak. Rockford is now averaging 2.82 goals a game, tied with Manitoba for 21st in the AHL.
  • The IceHogs lead the league in shorthanded goals with three. The power play is still at an anemic 8.8 percent for the season, but Rockford has four goals in their last 20 man advantages.

Follow me @JonFromi for intermission updates on Friday night and thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.