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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs have been in the position of having played more games than most of their Central Division rivals for most of the last couple of months. Soon, the IceHogs are going to get a taste of having games in hand when looking at the division standings.

As of today, Rockford has played 59 games. Heading into this past weekend, this was the most games played in the division. Because the IceHogs had just one game this weekend, an exciting win over Grand Rapids, couple with Rockford being off until this Saturday, the rest of the division will catch up to, and even surpass the Hogs.

Rockford and Texas each have 63 points and are nip and tuck for the fourth and final postseason berth in the Central. The Stars currently have the spot via points percentage, having a game in hand on the IceHogs.

However, both the Stars and Milwaukee, who is two points back of Rockford, play this week. The Admirals have a three-game weekend. Texas and the IceHogs each have two games. By the time the smoke clears next Monday morning, Rockford will have played 61 games, Texas will have played 62 and Milwaukee will have played 63.

At that point, only the Moose will have played fewer games than Rockford. Having the benefit of games in hand brings a bit more clarity to what the Hogs have to do to earn a trip to the Calder Cup Playoffs. Breaking a three-game losing streak was a good start. Getting some players back should be even better news.

AHL signees Terry Broadhurst and William Pelletier both returned to action against the Griffins Friday night. Broadhust may have reinjured himself in the overtime win, but some other players may be nearing a return.

Hogs coach Derek King mentioned to Rockford broadcaster Joseph Zakrzewski that Tyler Sikura, who has missed most of the last two months with a broken thumb, will be going on the road trip to Manitoba this weekend. He also announced that Matthew Highmore could be back in the lineup by the end of the month.

Could getting last season’s top two goal scorers back have an impact? Maybe just a bit.

 

The Lone Recap

Friday, March 1-Rockford 5, Grand Rapids 4 (OT)

In what was a wild affair at the BMO Harris Bank Center, the Hogs earned two points from the Griffins to snap a three-game skid.

Rockford came flying out of the gate, out-shooting Grand Rapids 15-7 and taking a 3-0 lead. Jordan Schroeder got the scoring started midway through the period, taking a pass from Henri Jokiharju at the top of the right circle and flinging the puck off the far post and in past Griffins starter Harri Sateri at 9:07 of the first period.

At the 13:30 mark, Spencer Watson go his first goal since joining the IceHogs, redirecting Lucas Carlsson’s blast. In the waning seconds of first-period action, Dennis Gilbert sprawled out on the ice to knock in a rebound of Luke Johnson’s attempt.

After one of Rockford’s most inspired efforts, the Griffins pushed back hard in the middle frame. Turner Elson and Wade Megan each got rubber past Hogs goalie Collin Delia to close to within a goal of the lead. Early in the third period, Matt Puempel tied the game with a power play goal. All of a sudden, it appeared that this game could slip away from Rockford.

The IceHogs rallied to take a 4-3 lead at 13:40 of the third period. Anthony Louis led an odd-man rush with Schroeder on his left. Schroeder one-timed the subsequent Louis pass into the cage.

Grand Rapids was not finished, however. Puempel second of the night with just over two minutes remaining knotted the contest again, and the teams entered Gus Macker Time even at four. The IceHogs nearly scored several times in the extra session, finally ending the game with a Peter Holland lamp-lighter from the slot.

 

Two With The Moose

Both Rockford and Manitoba will be well-rested coming into the back-to-back in Winnipeg. The Moose split a pair in Belleville this past weekend. Manitoba was shut out in its loss to the Senators Saturday night.

Manitoba, like the Hogs, don’t score with the regularity of some of the top teams in the division. At 2.52 goals per game, they sit just above Rockford at the bottom of the AHL in offense.

Both of the team’s meetings this season were decided in shootouts. The Moose won 2-1 in Rockford back on October 28. On January 25, the piglets triumphed 4-3 to start a six-game winning streak.

Logan Shaw leads the Moose with 21 goals since coming from San Diego early this season. Seth Griffin (12 G, 31 A) paces the club with 43 points.

Goalie Eric Comrie, who was just reassigned by the Jets, could be in net for at least one of the games this weekend. He has a 2.73 GAA and a .917 save percentage in 40 games with Manitoba this season. Rookie Mikhail Berdin does boast that win against the Hogs this season and probably gets a start as well.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates on the Manitoba games this weekend, as well as thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

 

Everything Else

Like many of you, weather and work kept me away from the BMO this weekend. I pledged to pack in an hour of Hogs-related musings. The clock starts…now.

First off, the kids down in Rockford put together a gritty weekend at home and came out with a pair of victories. Friday night, the IceHogs tied the game with a Jordan Schroeder goal with three seconds in regulation, completing a comeback from two goals down in the final two minutes with a 4-3 shootout win over Manitoba.

On Saturday, Rockford hosted Iowa. The Hogs got enough rubber past Kaapo Kahkonen knock off the Wild 3-1. The game-winner came off the stick of Terry Broadhurst early in the third period. First star of that game was Anton Forsberg, who stopped 33 of 34 Iowa shots.

So…for the sixth time this season, the IceHogs have a two-game win streak. Plus, Rockford joined the rest of the AHL on the 100-goal plateau this season, though those 105 goals are still last in the league.

Just once in the 2018-19 campaign has Rockford stretched a streak to three games. Conversely, the piglets have compiled losing streaks of six (twice) and four games. Rockford (19-19-3-5) shares the Central Division basement with the Moose. Both teams sport a .500 points percentage.

Can the IceHogs parlay a pair of home wins into some sort of climb up the division ladder? I just don’t know. As was the case at this point last year, the piglets were not a playoff-level squad. A lot of things had to change on the personnel side in February of 2018 to transform the roster into the juggernaut that reached the conference final.

As of this morning, this is not a roster that’s going to be competing for a postseason berth. Prove me wrong, boys.

Are there additions from the Hawks roster that could make a difference in the next couple of months? Not unless you think Gustav Forsling can come down and have the impact Cody Franson had in Rockford the last three months of last season. Which I don’t.

Even with some tinkering from above, the hole may be just a bit too deep for the Hogs to vacate. Like last year, the prospect talent alone isn’t close to being able to go on an extended tear through the league. Now, Rockford is two games into a stretch of nine home dates in a span of ten games. If this team has anything resembling a hot patch in it, now would be a great time to display that fire.

Broken record, but the goalies have really been good. Kevin Lankinen and Anton Forsberg have been splitting the work in net and the Swedish Connection continue to stand out despite some less than optimal goal support.

A quick look at this weekend’s AHL All-Star Classic puts things into perspective. With goalie Collin Delia in Chicago, the only representative is Western Conference captain Andrew Campbell.  The veteran defenseman was not selected for his play on the ice.

Anthony Louis is the team’s leading scorer with 27 points (10 G, 17 A). He’s on his way to a similar showing to last season’s 44-point effort. Dylan Sikura leads the team with 12 goals to go with a dozen assists. Jacob Nilsson picked up his 11th goal this weekend, while Louis and Jordan Schroeder each have ten.

Rookie defenseman Lucas Carlsson has been a bright spot, with seven goals and 15 helpers. Darren Raddysh has identical numbers, though he had just a single point in his last 12 games.

Alexandre Fortin assisted on Broadhurst’s game-winner Saturday. The trouble is that was his first point in a month. As was the case last year, Fortin hasn’t made an impact on the scoreboard, with just six points (2 G, 4 A) in 21 games.

Well…the sands are running out on me this week. Rockford hosts the Wolves this Friday, then visit Milwaukee Saturday. With two wins to close out the month, perhaps February is more hospitable to the IceHogs.

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

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs suffered through a frustrating weekend at the BMO Harris Bank Center. They also may have lost more than a couple of hockey games.

The Blackhawks AHL affiliate competed hard with Cleveland and Manitoba, only to come out on the short end of back-to-back games. The IceHogs could manage just two goals in the two games, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Monsters, then falling in a shootout by that same 2-1 score to the Moose.

It’s safe to say that Rockford finished play this weekend a little banged up. There could be some roster moves necessary after two key skaters left Sunday’s games with injuries.

Defenseman Carl Dahlstrom suffered a groin injury early in Sunday’s game. He left the ice after skating his last shift in the sixth minute and did not return to action.

Late in the second period, Matthew Highmore took a spill after circling the puck around the Manitoba zone. He landed awkwardly and appeared to injure his right shoulder. After a visit from the trainer, he was led to the locker room. Highmore also did not return to the game.

The IceHogs skated with 11 forwards in both games this weekend, due to an injury to Jordan Schroeder. The nature of his injury was not disclosed, though it was thought to be minor enough that Schroeder would be ready to play moving forward.

Hogs coach Jeremy Colliton commented on Schroeder’s absence from the power play, which went 1-8 on the weekend, struggling at times to get set up in the offensive zone.

“He (Schroeder)’s a very good power play guy. Right shot, very comfortable on the puck, very comfortable entering the zone under control,” Colliton said. “That was a little bit of our issue; we had trouble entering clean and we didn’t break pressure.”

There are currently 13 forwards on Rockford’s roster. William Pelletier has not played yet this season after a very productive rookie campaign. Colliton did not seem to have a definite answer for when Pelletier would be ready to join the lineup.

“He’s out,” Colliton said. “I’m not sure, like, down to the week but it’s definitely weeks. We’re in the months situation.”

It could be a while before Pelletier is skating again. If Highmore is going to miss substantial time, there should be a call-up sometime this week. With four days between the Manitoba game and Friday’s match up in Milwaukee, we’ll have to see as to the extent of the Hogs injury woes.

UPDATE: OCT. 29-This morning, the IceHogs recalled Brett Welychka from Indy and sent down G Kevin Lankinen.

 

Weekend Musings

  • Cleveland is going to be a tough team to beat if they can retain its current mix. There are a lot of speedy young prospects that are bolstered by experienced NHL veterans like Mark Letestu and Nathan Gerbe.
  • Colliton had the following take on Cleveland: “I think they’re big and they skate pretty well. They’ve got a lot of depth up front. They put pressure all over the ice and we had trouble making clean plays.”
  • Colliton also remained pretty optimistic about the Hogs play in the two losses. Rockford was down to ten forwards and missing one of its better defenders in Dahlstrom but still hung tough down the stretch against the Moose. “Their goaltender played pretty well. Our goaltender played pretty well. It was a good hockey game,” he remarked on Sunday. “It’s never fun to come out on the losing end. Based on the weekend, how we played, we probably deserved better than one point. Overall, we’ll just continue to get better and the points will come.”
  • Dennis Gilbert got tangled up with J.C. Lipon of the Moose. The two dropped the gloves coming out of the corner of the Manitoba zone 6:26 into the game. It was over before it really got started, with both players falling to the ice and being separated by the officials.
  • That is Rockford’s second fighting major in nine games so far. At that rate, the IceHogs would draw 17 FMs in 2018-19. To be honest, they probably don’t reach that total, having draw just 12 last season. Rockford is not employing the type of player who is capable of delivering big hits and backing it up with his fists. Manitoba turned the physical play up a notch Sunday. I can’t say the Hogs held their own in this aspect of the game, but they didn’t seem to be thrown off too much by the rugged style of the Moose.
  • An Anton Forsberg-Collin Delia goalie tandem could prove to be quite formidable if both players remain in Rockford. Kevin Lankinen should probably be getting starts in Indy. It might not be fair to the rookie from Finland, but he needs time in a net. (UPDATE-Lankinen was assigned to the Fuel October 29.)
  • Delia’s save percentage is .925; he’s handling the crease well in the face of increased rubber flying his way. He is carrying a 2.64 goals against average.
  • Curious as to how long Gustav Forsling is going to be in Rockford in the face of the current defensive landscape in Chicago. He sent a couple of bullets to the net and was on a power play unit in his first week of action in Rockford. This did not result in any points for Forsling in three games, but he seems to have no ill effects from this summer’s wrist surgery.
  • Tyler and Dylan Sikura and Highmore pace the club with seven points each. Tyler’s four goals is still tops among the IceHogs. He also has the highest skater rating (plus-five).
  • Colliton iced the same lineup, save for his goalies, in both weekend contests. With Schroeder out, he dressed seven defensemen and just 11 forwards. Defensemen Luc Snuggerud and Joni Tuulola were the healthy scratches.
  • Dylan Sikura (2 G, 7 A) is 13th among rookies in scoring. Blake Hillman has a lone assist on the season but he is also a plus-four. Viktor Ejdsell leads Rockford rookies with three goals.

Recaps

Saturday, October 27-Cleveland 2, Rockford 1

The IceHogs were in this game until the end. Cleveland, however, won for the third time in as many tries against Rockford.

The pace was certainly rapid to begin the contest. Rockford had several quality scoring chances turned away by Monsters goalie Matises Kivlenieks. Cleveland gained a 1-0 advantage late in the first period. A holding penalty by Dennis Gilbert led to a Zac Dalpe put back of a rebound at the 19:08 mark. Dalpe was on the spot to gather in the initial shot by Mark Letestu.

The score held through the second, which saw Rockford go 0-3 on the man advantage. The Hogs also killed off nearly two minutes of 5-on-3 time to keep the deficit to a single goal.

The Rockford power play managed to tie the game in the third after Blake Siebenhaler slashed Terry Broadhurst behind the Monsters net. Viktor Ejdsell took a pass from Carl Dahlstrom at the left point. His drive found its way past Kivlenieks to tie the score 6:58 into the period.

Both teams had chances to break the tie. That didn’t happen until Paul Bittner gathered up a Gabriel Carlsson shot that had come off the right post. Bittner scored at the 15:27 mark to make it 2-1 Monsters.

The Hogs pulled starting goalie Anton Forsberg, who stopped 25 of 27 Cleveland shots, in favor of a sixth attacker in the closing minutes. This created some excitement around the Monsters net as the final seconds ticked away. Ultimately, the sands of time ran out on the piglets.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Viktor Ejdsell-Matthew Highmore (A)-Terry Broadhurst (A)

Dylan Sikura-Jacob Nilsson

Anthony Louis-Tyler Sikura-Henrik Samuelsson

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Andrew Campbell-Gustav Forsling

Blake Hillman-Carl Dahlstrom (A)

Dennis Gilbert-Darren Raddysh

Lucas Carlsson

Anton Forsberg

Power Play (1-6)

Ejdsell-Highmore-Nilsson-Dahlstrom-Louis

Sikura-Sikura-Broadhurst-Raddysh-Forsling

Penalty Kill (Cleveland was 1-5)

Highmore-T. Sikura-Dahlstrom-Hillman

Nilsson-Knott-Raddysh-Forsling

Broadhurst-Noel-Campbell-Carlsson

 

Sunday, October 28-Manitoba 2, Rockford 1 (SO)

Rockford forced extra skating to earn a standings point but came up short on penalty shots, losing its second game in a row.

After a scoreless first period, both teams found their way to the twine in the middle frame. The Moose took a 1-0 lead after a dump-in knuckled over the head of Hogs goalie Collin Delia. The puck settled behind the net, where Felix Girard won control. Girard slid a pass to Tye McGinn in the slot; the ensuing shot was sent over Delia’s glove at the 10:18 mark.

The Hogs evened things up late in the period after Manitoba’s Sami Niku caught the left post on a shot attempt that would have given his team a two-goal advantage. The puck was sent around the end boards, where Lucas Carlsson took possession long enough to hit Tyler Sikura about to skate out of the Rockford zone.

Sikura skated the puck to the Moose end of the ice, sending a shot that was stopped by Manitoba rookie Mikhail Berdin. The rebound came back out to defenseman Andrew Campbell, who had joined the rush, and the put back at 17:50 made it a 1-1 game entering the second intermission.

Neither Delia or Berdin yielded a goal for the remainder of regulation. Rockford held firm in Gus Macker Time, killing off a 4-on-3 Moose advantage for the last 1:23. Unfortunately, Berdin was one stop better in the shootout. Seth Griffin’s second round goal was the difference.

Rockford shooters Viktor Ejdsell, Anthony Louis and Dylan Sikura were all denied by Berdin, who nabbed First Star honors with a 35-save performance in his first AHL game. Delia (36 saves on 37 shots) and Campbell rounded out the three stars.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Viktor Ejdsell-Matthew Highmore (A)-Terry Broadhurst (A)

Dylan Sikura-Jacob Nilsson

Anthony Louis-Tyler Sikura-Henrik Samuelsson

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Blake Hillman-Gustav Forsling

Andrew Campbell-Carl Dahlstrom (A)

Dennis Gilbert-Darren Raddysh

Lucas Carlsson

Anton Forsberg

Power Play (0-2)

Ejdsell-Highmore-Nilsson-Dahlstrom-Louis

Sikura-Sikura-Broadhurst-Raddysh-Forsling

Penalty Kill (Manitoba was 0-3)

Highmore-T. Sikura-Dahlstrom-Hillman

Nilsson-Knott-Raddysh-Forsling

Broadhurst-Noel-Campbell-Carlsson

 

Coming Up

The piglets have their first three-in-three of the season this weekend. On Friday, the Hogs visit Milwaukee for their first meeting of the season with the Admirals. Saturday, Rockford hosts the Iowa Wild before traveling to DesMoines for a Sunday afternoon tilt.

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

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, are hitting the weekend on a two-game win streak. Coach Jeremy Colliton will hope to extend the winning ways as the IceHogs host Cleveland and Manitoba.

Rockford bested a scuffling San Antonio Rampage club at the BMO Wednesday night, but looked a little sloppy doing so. The IceHogs put together 15 minutes of real good hockey Wednesday; that got them by a struggling opponent who now have lost seven straight. Beating Cleveland will require a more complete performance.

With a record of 4-2-1 heading into this weekend, Rockford sits in fourth place in the AHLs Central Division standings. Two wins would keep the Hogs within reach of the Milwaukee Admirals, Chicago Wolves and Texas Stars, the teams ahead of Rockford.

 

Roster Moves

Defenseman Gustav Forsling was sent to Rockford on Monday, having recovered from wrist surgery over the summer. He went right into the lineup Wednesday night.

Tuesday, goalie Anton Forsberg cleared waivers and was assigned to the IceHogs. For the moment, Rockford is carrying three goalies. How long will this remain the case?

Both Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have played well for Colliton in the early going. Both may figure into the future for the Blackhawks. It doesn’t appear that Forsberg fits into those plans. On the other hand, he does have experience in an NHL net in case of an injury.

Forsberg is a very good goalie at the AHL level and will need to showcase those skills if the Hawks have designs on moving his contract. Colliton hinted that Forsberg could get a start for Rockford this weekend. From there, we may see a move made to thin the herd in the crease.

Also on Tuesday, Luke Johnson was recalled to the Blackhawks. This comes after a solid weekend of action with the Hogs in Tucson this past weekend.

 

Tomkins Shines In Indy

Matt Tomkins, who is on an AHL contract with Rockford, is playing well to open the season for the Indy Fuel. Tomkins was named the CCM/ECHL Goaltender of the Week for the week of Oct. 15-21. Tomkins earned the honor for the second time in his career, previously winning the award the week of Dec. 4-10, 2017.

The former Ohio State goalie turned away 72 of the 76 shots he faced last weekend, winning both games he started for the Fuel. Overall, Tomkins is 3-1 with a 2.76 goals against average and a .926 save percentage.

 

Recap

Wednesday, October 24-Rockford 5, San Antonio 2

Rockford broke out with four second-period goals, overcoming some uninspired play in the first and third frames to pick up the win over the Rampage.

There wasn’t much action in the opening period. Rockford had three shots at the power play but couldn’t put much together in the way of scoring chances. The same was true when the Hogs were at even strength. It was a different story, however, when the teams hit the BMO Harris Bank Center ice for the second stanza.

The first of three IceHogs goals in the opening minutes of the period came at the 1:17 mark. Darren Raddysh and Matthew Highmore moved the puck along the right half boards and into neutral ice. Viktor Ejdsell collected the puck and skated it all the way to the right dot. His shot made it past Rampage goalie Ville Husso for a 1-0 Rockford advantage.

Less than a minute later, Raddysh lifted a puck out of his zone. It was gathered in by Anthony Louis, who skated into the San Antonio zone with teammates in tow. Louis sent a nice saucer pass to Henrik Samuelsson skating toward the right post. The glove-side shot kissed cord at 1:58 of the second and made it 2-0 Hogs.

Rockford went up 3-0 a few minutes later after Terry Broadhurst sprung Highmore on a breakaway chance. Highmore lost the handle on the puck as he prepared to fire on goal. Fortunately, Ejdsell was following the play and knocked the loose biscuit into Husso’s basket at 4:11 of the second.

Dylan Sikura got a chance to showcase his speed after swiping a pass from Robby Fabbri just inside the Hogs blue line. Sikura the Younger zipped across the neutral zone and made a beeline for the San Antonio net. The shot slid between Husso’s pads at 14:26 and it was 4-0 Rockford.

A broken Plexiglas panel forced an early second intermission. The last 3:28 of the second period was played, followed quickly by the third period. This delay marked a shift in momentum as the visiting team was allowed to get back in the game.

Just 1:43 into the final frame, Trevor Smith took a rebound off the end boards and found the back of a wide open net from the left post to get the Rampage on the board. The Rampage closed the gap to 4-2 on a shorthanded goal by Fabbri at the 9:56 mark.

That’s as close as it got, however. Hussa was pulled to attempt a two-man advantage with Louis in the box for sending a puck over the glass. Tyler Sikura forced a turnover that Highmore deposited into the Bank of Empty Net at 18:40 of the third period, earning frozen custard for all at the BMO.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mattheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Terry Broadhurst (A)-Matthew Highmore-Viktor Ejdsell

Dylan Sikura-Jacob Nilsson-Jordan Schroeder

Anthony Louis-Tyler Sikura (A)-Henrik Samuelsson

Blake Hillman-Carl Dahlstrom (A)

Gustav Forsling-Darren Raddysh

Andrew Campbell-Lucas Carlsson

Collin Delia

Power Play (0-7)

Sikura-Sikura-Schroeder-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Louis-Highmore-Broadhurst-Nilsson-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Rampage was 0-5)

Nilsson-T. Sikura-Dahlstrom-Hillman

Highmore-Knott-Forsling-Raddysh

Broadhurst-Samuelsson-Campbell-Carlsson

 

Previewing The Weekend

Cleveland-Saturday, October 27

The Monsters are 5-3 on the season and in second place in the AHLs North Division. Like San Antonio, Cleveland will be coming off a game in Milwaukee Friday before taking on the Hogs Saturday at 6:00 p.m.

Zac Dalpe paces the Monsters with nine points (6 G, 3 A). Rookie Eric Robinson has gotten off to a strong start as well, with four goals and three helpers. Both were instrumental in handing Rockford a pair of defeats in Cleveland to open the season.

The IceHogs will need to stop Dalpe and Robinson this time around, as well as captain Nathan Gerbe (1 G, 5 A) and speedy rookie Vitaly Abramov (2 G, 2 A). Forward Alex Broadhurst (1 G, 4 A) has also been tough on his former team in recent years.

One player that Rockford will see for the first time is defenseman Gabriel Carlsson, who leads the Monsters back end with a goal and three assists. J.F. Berube, who beat the Hogs in the season opener, has taken most of the turns in net. In his last start Wednesday morning, he gave up five goals in Chicago in a loss to the Wolves.

 

Manitoba-Sunday, October 28

The Moose make their first visit to the BMO Harris Bank Center Sunday afternoon for a 4:00 p.m. start. Manitoba is 3-3 heading into their game Saturday night in…you guessed it…Milwaukee.

Last weekend, the Moose took a pair of games at home from San Antonio. After scoring just five goals in their first four contests, Manitoba exploded for ten goals against the Rampage.

Manitoba is led in scoring by last year’s AHL Outstanding Rookie, Mason Appleton. The big winger is off to a solid start, with eight points (4 G, 4 A). He’s coming off a hat trick on October 21, when he had a five-point game against San Antonio.

Rookie C.J. Suess tops the Moose with five goals. He has found the back of the net in four of Manitoba’s first six games. There hasn’t been much scoring throughout the rest of the lineup, save for veteran Seth Griffin, who has chipped in a pair of goals and two apples. Griffin played with Rochester, where he posted 41 points (15 G, 26 A) a season ago.

Sami Niku is a dangerous scoring presence on the blue line, though he’s yet to light a lamp this season. Former IceHogs defenseman Cameron Schilling had a career-year for Manitoba last season (6 G, 26 A) and is back for the Moose.

Other familiar faces include J.C. Lipon, who’s starting his fourth season with Manitoba, and former Milwaukee and San Antonio forward Felix Girard. Girard has two goals for his new team so far.

The tandem in goal is led by Eric Comrie, who has three seasons under his belt with the Moose. In five starts, Comrie is 3-2 with a 2.80 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. His backup is former Devil’s farmhand Ken Appleby, who gave up six goals to Iowa in his last start on October 13.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for game updates and commentary on the IceHogs all season long.

 

 

Everything Else

For fans of the Chicago Blackhawks, the only postseason game in town is out of town. West on I-90, to be exact.

The Rockford IceHogs are a single victory from advancing to the next round of the Calder Cup Playoffs following a 4-1 win over the Manitoba Moose in Game 3 of their Central Division Final. The piglets are flying and Hogs Nation is starting to get excited about treading into unknown territory.

For a franchise that has not made it out of the second round in the eleven years Rockford has been the Blackhawks AHL affiliate, these are heady times. There’s a good chance the Hogs secure a spot in the Western Conference Final Friday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center. If Wednesday’s tilt was any indication, there could be a lot of folks watching Rockford go for the series sweep.

I said that I would be stunned if the Hogs got more than 3,000 fans for Wednesday’s Game 3. Summarily, 3,184 watched Rockford fall behind for the third straight game before scoring the next four goals. Among those fans were Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz, president John McDonough and a bus load of team personnel. They had to have enjoyed what they saw. I know I did.

The blueprint for Wednesday’s rally was similar to the first two games of the series. Rockford tied the game with a power play goal, kept up the pressure on the fore check and wore down the Moose the last two periods.

For a team buoyed by veteran presence, it was the rookies that came up big in Game 3. Tyler Sikura notched his third goal of the series after gaining possession of a rebound of an Adam Clendening shot. The power play goal tied the game at 1-1 6:26 into the second period.

Just over a minute later, Victor Ejdsell found himself in the slot with an open look and fired past Manitoba goalie Eric Comrie for what would be the game-winner. Collin Delia kept the puck out of his net the rest of the way, stopping 36 shots on the evening. His skaters did an excellent job preventing prime scoring opportunities and clearing away pucks around the net.

Rockford picked up an insurance goal 13:52 into the third period. Anthony Louis found himself with the puck behind the Manitoba net and made a nifty pass to William Pelletier. Pelletier knocked the offering into the cage from the left post. Matthew Highmore added an empty-netter to complete the all-rookie goal parade.

The Hogs have had an answer for everything Manitoba has thrown at them this series. At the mid-point of Game 3, a Tanner Kero high stick had Manitoba up a man and with a faceoff in the Rockford zone. Lance Bouma spent the time before the draw chirping with Moose defenseman Mike Sgarbossa.

Once the puck dropped, Bouma skated over to Sgarbossa, a veteran AHL player,  and immediately drew a slashing penalty, ending the power play. Safe to say that Rockford is firmly ensconced in the heads of its opposition.

It appears that fans are beginning to recognize what I’ve been preaching all season; the IceHogs are an exciting young team that play fast paced hockey for 60 minutes a night. Bolstered by some key veterans and anchored by a hot goalie, Rockford’s journey in the playoffs may just be getting started.

Could I be back on Monday with a look at this weekend’s action? All signs point to yes.

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate to the Chicago Blackhawks, are halfway to a Central Division Final victory over Manitoba. The Hogs have surged to a 2-0 series advantage of the strength of two wins on the road this past weekend.

Rockford took Game 1 Friday by a score of 4-2, then came back the next afternoon and beat the Moose 4-1. The IceHogs are 5-0 so far in the postseason. They can build upon that streak in the confines of the BMO Harris Bank Center with Wednesday night’s Game 3.

The Hogs special teams continued to be a difference-maker in the playoffs. Rockford was 3-10 in power play opportunities, while holding the Moose scoreless in five chances. The IceHogs controlled large stretches of action in Manitoba and were more effective physically to boot.

Here are a few thoughts to chew on as the action returns to Winnebago County in a couple of days.

 

A Team Transformed On The Fly

A lot has been made about the six players the Blackhawks sent to Rockford following the conclusion of their season. The broadcasters in Manitoba brought it up several times this weekend, as did the Chicago Wolves crew in the first round.

To suggest the Hogs are being led by mercenaries who arrived just to buoy a Rockford playoff run is not giving enough credit to the players who were around for the late-season push to the postseason. Yes, Victor Ejdsell has certainly been an x-factor so far. John Hayden and David Kampf have deepened the lineup for sure.

However, Andreas Martinsen spent most of his season toiling in Rockford. Jeff Glass, due to the strong play of Collin Delia, hasn’t seen the ice in the playoffs. The other goalie that came down, J.F. Berube, didn’t even report to Rockford after being re-assigned.

When the 2017-18 season began, the IceHogs were well-stocked with prospects but lacking in veteran leadership and physical know-how. At some point in the schedule, this glaring need was recognized and addressed in a host of moves.

This includes Cody Franson’s January assignment to Rockford, the acquiring of Chris DiDomenico in mid-February and Lance Bouma being assigned to the Hogs  to Rockford late in that month. Over the last half of the AHL season, the piglets got a year of experience under their belts. They also were reinforced in a way that added a physical, veteran element that is tailor-made for postseason staying power.

 

Short Handed Moose

Manitoba went into this series without its leading scorer. Mason Appleton, the league’s top rookie, has been out with an injury suffered in the previous round of playoff action.

Saturday, Bouma crunched AHL Defenseman Of The Year Sami Niku against the boards in the corner of the Manitoba zone in the second period. Niku was able to finish his shift but left the game. He did not return. Appleton and Niku were arguably the two best rookies in the league this season. Having them both out against Rockford is going to leave a lot of scoring slack for the Moose to pick up.

 

Hogs Of Note

Tyler Sikura potted goals in both games and played strong hockey in his own end as well. The IceHogs MVP of the regular season has continued to do the dirty work needed to get pucks in the net. For the postseason, he’s tied for the team lead (with DiDomenico and Ejdsell) with three goals.

Rockford’s rookie goalie has been Deliariffic, stopping 57 of the 60 pucks sent to his net. He was instrumental in the Game 1 win, negating several Rockford turnovers that could have had the Hogs in a hole over the first 40 minutes. Delia owns a 1.52 GAA and a .949 save percentage in addition to a 5-0 postseason mark.

 

Packing The BMO…Or Not?

I am definitely interested in how the piglets will draw as the games take on more importance. The Moose, on a weekend, drew 3,816 and 3,955 fans to the Bell MTS Place for the opening pair of contests. That is more than a bit off their season average of 5,277; to be fair, Winnipeg does have an NHL team in the same building in action this spring.

In 2017-18, Rockford saw an average of 3,915 enter the BMO Harris Bank Center each game. This is the lowest season attendance for the IceHogs since the 2008-09 campaign and an 1,100-fan per game drop-off from two seasons ago, when Rockford drew over 5,000 a night.

Game 3 is Wednesday, which isn’t typically a big attendance night at the BMO. Back in the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs, Rockford hosted three games against Grand Rapids in the second round. The IceHogs averaged 4,834 that season but had the following gates attend the playoff match-up:

Wednesday, May 13-1,780

Thursday, May 14-1,620

Sunday, May 17-1,624

Over 5,400 fans turned out for the Hogs win over Chicago in Game 2 of the first round. I believe that that is a franchise high for playoff attendance by a couple of thousand people. The previous high was May 11, 2008, when 3,306 showed up for Game 6 of Rockford’s second-round series with the Wolves.

Is the playoff buzz sufficient around this part of Northern Illinois to pull people away from local high school sports action? The IceHogs have an enthusiastic fan base who will be making the trek to the BMO Wednesday night. If that total tops 2,500 fans, I will be pleasantly surprised. If the game draws over 3,000 fans, I’ll be stunned (but in a good way).

It would be great if the IceHogs playoff run could pick up fan momentum; a telling indicator may well come on Friday, when Rockford hosts Game 4.

 

Central Division Final-Game 1

Friday, May 4-Rockford 4, Manitoba 2

The IceHogs opened the Central Division Final in impressive fashion, taking Game 1 at the Bell MTS Place.

The Moose opened the scoring late in the opening period after Julian Melchiori lobbed the puck out of his zone and into Hogs territory. Viktor Svedberg and Cody Franson were both safely back, but Svedberg was unable to get control of the bouncing biscuit. Buddy Robinson got the handle on the loose puck and beat Hogs goalie Collin Delia at the right post for a 1-0 Manitoba advantage at the 16:56 mark.

Rockford got an equalizer midway through the game on a slick transition play that started with Carl Dahlstrom getting possession of the puck in the corner of his own zone. In short order, the puck made its way to Matthew Highmore in neutral ice. Highmore sent it across the ice to Victor Ejdsell entering the Moose zone. The big forward zipped around Melchiori to gain a path to the right post, where his backhanded attempt got by Manitoba goalie Eric Comrie at 11:53 of the second.

The IceHogs used the power play to take the lead 3:29 into the final frame after a delay of game penalty on Manitoba. Tyler Sikura got a stick on a Chris DiDomenico offering to redirect the puck past Comrie for a 2-1 Rockford advantage.

Just 45 seconds later, John Hayden one-timed a pass from Andreas Martinsen. The shot from the slot kissed cord and put Rockford ahead 3-1.

The Hogs added an empty net goal from Cody Franson when a shorthanded Moose club yanked Comrie from the crease with less than a minute to go. Manitoba got a tip-in from Jan Kostelek, but the clock ran out with Rockford on top.

Delia, who kept his team close in the first two periods on several point-blank chances off of Rockford turnovers, made 24 saves to pick up the win along with first star honors.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Hayden-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Chris DiDomenico-David Kampf-Lance Bouma

William Pelletier-Tanner Kero-Anthony Louis

Matthew Highmore-Victor Ejdsell-Luke Johnson

Cody Franson (A)-Viktor Svedberg (A)

Adam Clendening-Carl Dahlstrom

Gustav Forsling-Darren Raddysh

Collin Delia

Power Play (2-6)

DiDomenico-Johnson-Sikura-Franson-Clendening

Highmore-Ejdsell-Louis-Bouma-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Manitoba was 0-2)

Kampf-Bouma-Franson-Svedberg

Kero-Pelletier-Raddysh-Forsling

Johnson-Martinsen-Clendening-Dahlstrom

 

Central Division Final-Game 2

Saturday, May 5-Rockford 4, Manitoba 1 

Game 2 was another strong effort, as the IceHogs controlled the pace of the game on the way to a weekend sweep of Manitoba.

For the second straight game, the Moose scored first, getting the best of Hogs goalie Collin Delia when Brenden Lemiuex redirected a shot by Nic Petan 16:03 into the game. As was the case Friday night, Rockford responded with the next three goals.

The Hogs answered Lemiuex’s goal 2:35 later when Viktor Svedberg intercepted Petan’s clearing attempt in the high slot. Manitoba goalie Eric Comrie made the stop but left a juicy rebound in the front of the net. Tyler Sikura was on hand to knock it into the cage to tie the score.

The Hogs man advantage unit gave Rockford a 2-1 lead 4:45 into the second. Chris DiDomenico gained possession of a puck along the left half boards, skated across the ice into the slot and fired past Comrie’s stick side for the lamp-lighter.

Assists on the goal came from Sikura and Luke Johnson. However, a big part of the scoring play came when Cody Franson lifted the stick of Buddy Robinson of the Moose, allowing Sikura’s ring-around pass to get to DiDomenico.

The IceHogs moved out to a two-goal lead late in the middle frame. Some nice puck work in the corner of the Manitoba zone by Ejdsell and Tanner Kero resulted in Gustav Forsling sliding a cross-ice pass to a waiting Carl Dahlstrom. The one-timer sailed past Comrie for a 3-1 Rockford advantage 16:03 into the second period.

From there, Rockford kept its collective thumb on the Moose offense, killing a couple of Manitoba power plays and limiting scoring opportunities. Andreas Martinsen added an empty net goal in the closing seconds after the Moose went with six skaters most of the last three minutes.

Delia’s effort nabbed him First Star honors for the second consecutive night. Lemieux and Sikura were voted second and third stars. Luke Johnson left after a rough collision with the end boards in the second period, but returned for the start of the third.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Hayden-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Chris DiDomenico-David Kampf-Lance Bouma

William Pelletier-Tanner Kero-Anthony Louis

Matthew Highmore-Victor Ejdsell-Luke Johnson

Gustav Forsling-Carl Dahlstrom

Cody Franson (A)-Viktor Svedberg (A)

Adam Clendening-Darren Raddysh

Collin Delia

Power Play (1-4)

DiDomenico-Johnson-Sikura-Franson-Clendening

Highmore-Ejdsell-Louis-Bouma-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Manitoba was 0-3)

Kampf-Bouma-Franson-Svedberg

Kero-Pelletier-Raddysh-Forsling

Johnson-Martinsen-Clendening-Dahlstrom

 

Coming Up

Following Game 3 Wednesday, Rockford hosts the Moose for Game 4 Friday night. Game 5 will happen on Sunday afternoon, should it be deemed necessary.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for tidbits of lucid thought throughout the AHL playoffs.

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs get the Central Division Final underway tonight when they take on the Manitoba Moose at Bell MTS Place. Game 2 follows in short order on Saturday. From there, the action comes to the BMO Harris Bank Center for the next three games in the series.

The piglets are well-rested, having played last in Chicago eight days ago. Manitoba finished off Grand Rapids back on Monday in Game 5 of their first-round tilt.

As mentioned earlier this week, Rockford has never advanced to the third-round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. This is a series the IceHogs is quite capable of winning, though. Here are some thoughts on the Moose and how this match-up figures to play out.

Manitoba was the juggernaut of the AHL in the 2017 portion of the schedule. The Moose were 24-6-1-2 in the first three months of the season, building a double-digit point lead in the Central Division. That cushion would evaporate in the final three months. Chicago and Grand Rapids caught Manitoba in the final two weeks as the Moose staggered home.

I was pretty bold in my belief that Grand Rapids would come out of the first-round clash. However, Manitoba was able to take advantage of some missing pieces to the Griffins lineup and played well on the road. They won two of three games at Van Andel Arena, including a 5-1 Game 5 triumph.

Manitoba can boast the AHL Coach Of The Year (Pascal Vincent), the AHL Defenseman Of The Year (Sami Niku) and the AHL Rookie Of The Year (Mason Appleton). The Moose proved their playoff mettle; this is physical team that can fill the net.

The Manitoba roster is also dotted with AHL veteran talent enjoying career years. Specifically, captain Patrice Cormier (22 G, 21 A), 6’6″ wing Buddy Robinson (25 G, 28 A) and former Hogs defenseman Cameron Schilling (6 G, 26 A). Forward J.C. Lipon is a familiar face who had a hat trick in Rockford November 28 on the way to a career-high of 17 goals.

Niku, who totaled 54 points (16 G, 38 A) on the season, would have likely taken home rookie of the year hardware if not for Appleton, who led the Moose with 66 points (22 G, 44 A). Manitoba is a talented squad despite the fact that their best hockey was played in the first three months.

The Moose visited Rockford November 28. at the peak of their tear through the league, blowing out the Hogs 8-1. In a return visit February 2, Rockford took Manitoba to overtime before losing 4-3.

Late in the season, the IceHogs traveled north for a pair of games in Winnipeg, besting the Moose 4-2 and 4-3 in the span of three days.

Anchoring the Manitoba attack in the first half was goalie Michael Hutchinson, who finished season with a 17-5-4 record to go with a 2.08 GAA and a .935 save percentage. Hutchinson spent most of the second half of the season with Winnipeg, though he was in net March 28 when the Hogs dropped four goals on Manitoba.

The man Rockford will be facing in net in this series is Eric Comrie. While he is a bit of a drop-off from Hutchinson, Comrie still enjoyed his best full season in the AHL with a 2.58 GAA and a .916 save percentage. He was in the cage in Rockford February 2 for the 4-3 overtime win.

Adam Clendening (1 G, 5 A) and Chris DiDomenico (1 G, 5 A) each had six points against Manitoba this season, though two of DiDomenico’s helpers came while he was with Belleville. Tyler Sikura had three goals against the Moose and had two-point efforts in both of Rockford’s victories.

Brenden Lemieux paced Manitoba in head-to-head competition with the IceHogs; in three games, Lemieux wound up with six points (2 G, 4 A). Along with Lipon, Cormier, Appleton, C Nic Petan and D Jan Kostelnek were all mutli-goal scorers against Rockford.

Any special teams comparisons from the regular season can be thrown out the window. Here’s all you need to know in regards to the Hogs; their first-round power play was the best of the 16 playoff teams at 38.9 percent efficiency. The penalty kill (85.7) was fifth.

When it comes to the man advantage (and even strengh, to be honest), the Rockford offense is going to be facilitated by the passing and shooting of defensemen Clendening (16 shots in the three-game set with Chicago) and Cody Franson (12 shots).

Can the depth boasted by the Hogs NHL-enhanced roster wear down Manitoba over 60 minutes? Will Collin Delia, who was rock-solid in round one, continue to stand tall in net? If the Moose shut down Rockford’s veterans, can the kids pick up the slack?

The answers will begin to take shape this weekend. Follow me @JonFromi for thoughts and updates of Games 1 and 2.

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

When the 2017-18 season got underway, the Rockford IceHogs were fresh-faced piglets with very little veteran presence. The need for experience, especially up front, was painfully evident despite the talent Rockford sported in the early part of the AHL season.

Over the course of the past few months, the Hawks organization has infused key veterans into the lineup that have the Hogs poised for a return to the postseason after last year’s last-place finish. Here are a few players who have made a big impact on Rockford’s fortunes since coming aboard in the last few months.

 

Cody Franson

Since being sent down to Rockford by the Blackhawks, Franson has six goals and 14 assists in 32 games. He has been a standout on the power play (5 G, 7 A) and has been a key veteran mentor for coach Jeremy Colliton. Over his last 14 games, Franson has 12 points (4 G, 8 A) to go with a plus-eight skater rating.

Franson has been a catalyst on the man advantage, with five goals and seven helpers. His right-handed blasts from the left dot have consistently found twine. In the last seven games, the IceHogs are 8-32 when up a man. Rockford is finally making opponents pay for taking penalties.

 

Adam Clendening

In Rockford’s six-point week of action, Clendening had seven points (2 G, 5 A). On Monday, Clendening was named the CCM/AHL Player Of The Week for his efforts. To say the move back to the IceHogs was symbiotic for both parties is an understatement.

Before the trade that brought Clendening to the organization, he had a goal and four assists in 21 games with Tuscon. In 32 games with Rockford, he has 28 points (4 G, 24 A).

The acquisition of Clendening and Franson are a major factor in this late-season success. The defense has two veterans who have teamed up on a lethal power play of late. The blue line runs pretty deep for Rockford heading into any potential postseason action.

 

Chris DiDomenico

Currently on an eight-game point streak, DiDomenico has brought an offensive jolt to the club. In his last ten games, during which Rockford has gone 8-1-1, the 29-year-old forward has five goals and eight apples.

In just 16 games with the Hogs, DiDomenico has 19 points (6 G, 13 A). Seven of those points have come on the power play.

 

Lance Bouma

After clearing waivers, the Blackhawks assigned Bouma to Rockford February 26. In 14 games with the IceHogs, the 27-year-old forward has five goals and six assists. His rugged style has helped bring a little more snarl to Rockford’s game.

 

Roster Moves

Goalie Matt Tomkins was brought from Indy up to back up Jeff Glass while Collin Delia and J.F. Berube finish up the season in Chicago. On Monday, forward Nathan Noel was loaned to the Fuel. In 17 games with the IceHogs, Noel had a goal and was a minus-two.

UPDATE-Monday afternoon, the Hawks recalled Glass and re-assigned Delia to Rockford.

 

Recaps

Rockford, now 37-25-4-4 piled up six points in the standings with three wins this week. As of Monday, the Hogs have gone 8-1-1 in their last ten games and sit in fourth place in the Central Division with a .586 points percentage. They have a bit of breathing room over Milwaukee and Iowa below them, while Grand Rapids and Manitoba (both at .606) are definitely within striking distance if the piglets remain hot.

 

Monday, March 26-Rockford 4, Manitoba 2

A pair of power play goals provided the winning margin for Rockford. In the first of two games north of the border, Collin Delia and the Hogs were able to subdue the Moose.

The first IceHogs goal came via the man advantage, sparked by a sweet dot-to-dot pass by Chris DiDomenico. Working a give and go with Adam Clendening, DiDomenico skated into the right circle and threaded the puck to Cody Franson at the left dot. Franson’s one-timer zipped past Manitoba goalie Jamie Phillips and snuggled into the ropes at 9:10 of the first period.

Less than two minutes later, Tyler Sikura won an offensive draw and Clendening took possession. Tossing a shot toward goal from the right point, the puck snuck past Phillips and was escorted across the goal line by Henrik Samuelsson for a 2-0 Rockford advantage.

Mason Appleton drew the Moose to within a goal midway through the second, but late in the period the Hogs power play struck again. Clendening took a drop pass from DiDomenico and sent a slap shot to net that Phillips was able to block. The rebound was collected by Sikura, who hooked up rubber and twine to put the Hogs up 3-1 at the 16:59 mark.

Delia preserved that two-goal lead with some fine work in the crease in the last three minutes of the middle frame. William Pelletier provided some insurance midway through the third, capping off a odd-man rush by Darren Raddysh and Luc Snuggerud. Snuggerud’s attempt bounced off the speedy forward and tumbled into the Manitoba net to make it 4-1 Rockford.

The Moose would score at 16:54 but would get no closer as the IceHogs claimed their first victory over Manitoba this season. Delia, who stopped 32 shots, was named the game’s first star, with Clendening nabbing second star honors for his three-apple evening.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Lance Bouma-Chris DiDomenico-Anthony Louis

William Pelletier-Luke Johnson (A)-Tanner Kero (A)

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura-Matheson Iacopelli

Robin Norell-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Viktor Svedberg-Cody Franson

Carl Dahlstrom-Adam Clendening (A)

Darren Raddysh-Luc Snuggerud

Collin Delia

Power Play (2-4)

Sikura-Johnson-DiDonenico-Clendening-Franson

Kero-Samuelsson-Louis-Iacopelli-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Manitoba was 0-5)

Johnson-Kero-Dahlstrom-Norell

Sikura-Pelletier-Svedberg-Franson

Knott-DiDomenico-Snuggerud-Raddysh

 

Wednesday, March 28-Rockford 4, Manitoba 3

For the second time in three days, the Hogs were victorious in Winnipeg, posting four unanswered goals after falling behind 1-0. The win knocked Manitoba out of first place in the Central Division for the first time in several months.

The Moose drew first cord at the 8:51 mark. Former Hogs defenseman Kirill Gotovets sent a puck to net that was redirected by Chase DeLeo and past Hogs starting goalie Jeff Glass. The next half-hour of action was dominated by the IceHogs.

Rockford’s power play had an answer just minutes later. Adam Clendening struck the crossbar with his shot from the right point. Tyler Sikura pounced on the loose puck and put it firmly into the back of the Manitoba net, tying the game at a goal apiece 10:38 into the game.

The IceHogs closed out the opening period with a couple of scores to take command of the contest. After William Pelletier won a battle for the puck in the Moose zone, he sent a pass to Luke Johnson in the corner. Johnson was able to hit the stick of a falling Tanner Kero in front of the net. The puck glanced off of the back of Manitoba goalie Michael Hutchinson and into the cage at 17:14 of the first period.

Up 2-1, Rockford broke out of their own zone a minute later and took a two-goal lead with a nice bit of transition work. Newly returned Matthew Highmore started the play, sliding the puck along the half boards to Sikura. Taking the puck into neutral ice, Sikura hit Clendening crossing the red line. Clendening carried the puck into Manitoba territory, wound up at the top of the right circle and blasted it past Hutchinson at 18:20 for a 3-1 Hogs lead.

Rockford extended the advantage to 4-1 on a Chris DiDomenico wrister from the slot 4:31 into the second. The play was set up by Anthony Louis, who took pass from linemate Lance Bouma and dropped the puck back to the streaking DiDomenico.

Manitoba would creep back into contention with goals by Cameron Schilling late in the middle frame and Brody Sutter with 3:05 left in the game. Glass and the Hogs held on to post Rockford’s third-straight win. DiDomenico and Clendening were the game’s first two stars.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura-Matthew Highmore

Lance Bouma-Chris DiDomenico-Anthony Louis

Tanner Kero (A)-Luke Johnson (A)-William Pelletier

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Carl Dahlstrom-Adam Clendening (A)

Viktor Svedberg-Cody Franson

Darren Raddysh-Luc Snuggerud

Jeff Glass

Power Play (1-6)

Sikura-Johnson-DiDonenico-Clendening-Franson

Kero-Samuelsson-Louis-Iacopelli-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Manitoba was 0-2)

Johnson-Kero-Dahlstrom-Clendening

Sikura-Pelletier-Svedberg-Franson

Knott-DiDomenico-Snuggerud-Raddysh

 

Saturday, March 31-Rockford 5, San Jose 3

It was a wild kind of luau at the BMO. The Hogs celebrated Hawaiian Night with a huge comeback victory over the Barracuda.

Sloppy play in their own zone cost the IceHogs midway through the first period. Darren Raddysh had a pass attempt broken up as he was trying to enter neutral ice. The puck was collected by San Jose’s Sam Warning, who skated to the net and backhanded a shot past Hogs goalie Jeff Glass.

Rockford evened the score on a power play goal by Adam Clendening. Taking control of Luke Johnson’s faceoff win, Clendening moved to the high slot area and fired past Barracuda goalie Stephon Williams. At 15:38, the Hogs and San Jose were tied at one.

The Barracuda dominated the second period, getting goals from former Hog Brandon Mashinter and Caleb Herbert. Rockford was down 3-1 and in need of some quick offense in the third period. They got it.

Things got rolling in the opening minute of the final frame. Another Clendening blast from the right point was tipped in by Lance Bouma to cut the San Jose lead to 3-2 just 41 seconds in. Ninety seconds later, Henrik Samuelsson was waiting at the right post for Luc Snuggerud to find him coming around the San Jose net. His goal tied the game 3-3 at the 2:11 mark.

Two minutes later, Snuggerud would send a shot toward net that caught the skate of Barracuda defenseman Radim Simek and wound up in the back of the cage. With Rockford now up 4-3, a shell-shocked San Jose club called its timeout.

Upon returning to the ice, the Hogs scored for the forth time in four minutes. This one was an unassisted goal by Matthew Highmore, who picked up a loose puck along the boards, skated to the right dot and stuck one past Williams for a 5-3 Rockford advantage just 4:25 into the third.

That ended the scoring for both teams. The IceHogs rode the momentum of their offensive outburst to a fourth-straight victory. Highmore (first), Clendening (second) and Snuggerud (third) were voted the games three stars.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura-Matthew Highmore

Lance Bouma-Chris DiDomenico-Anthony Louis

Tanner Kero-Luke Johnson (A)-William Pelletier

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Robin Norell

Viktor Svedberg (A)-Cody Franson (A)

Carl Dahlstrom-Adam Clendening

Darren Raddysh-Luc Snuggerud

Jeff Glass

Power Play (1-7)

Sikura-Johnson-DiDonenico-Clendening-Franson

Kero-Samuelsson-Louis-Iacopelli-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (San Jose was 1-6)

Johnson-Kero-Dahlstrom-Clendening

Sikura-Pelletier-Svedberg-Franson

Knott-DiDomenico-Snuggerud-Raddysh

 

This Week

The Hogs are Lone Star bound this week, with a game Wednesday night in San Antonio followed by back-to-back skates with the Texas Stars Friday and Saturday.

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

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs have battled their way into a spot in the AHL’s postseason party…for now.

With nine games left heading into action Monday, the Hogs are a point ahead of Iowa for the final playoff spot in the Central Division. Rockford overtook the Wild with two regulation wins in three games this week, including a 5-2 win in DesMoines last Monday.

This season is far from over. Just two of Rockford’s final nine games is at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Iowa and Milwaukee, who beat the IceHogs in Rockford Friday night, are still within striking distance. The Admirals sit just three points back of Rockford, who like Iowa and Milwaukee have played 67 games this season.

The Hogs draw a tough assignment to start this week’s action. Rockford is in Winnipeg for two games with the division-leading Moose on Monday and Wednesday.

Manitoba is not the same red-hot squad of earlier this season and they have been much better on the road than in its own building. However, the Moose have won both contests with Rockford this season. Manitoba is second in the AHL in scoring with 3.39 goals per contest. They have a lethal power play (21.6 efficiency) and are fast and physical on the ice.

The Moose have five 40-plus point scorers on the active roster. By contrast, Rockford’s top point producer, Anthony Louis, has 38 points on the season. The Hogs have been grinding out a lot of wins lately, though Rockford is putting up an average of 3.03 goals a game.

I figure that the IceHogs are going to have to win six of these last nine games to make the postseason. A split up north is vital to making that happen. Following Wednesday’s tilt with the Moose, Rockford hosts San Jose on Saturday night.

 

Viktor S Scores A Viktor-E

It is very apparent that the IceHogs will set a franchise record for courtesy this season. This weekend, a Rockford skater earned a fighting major for just the tenth time this season. The Hogs will obliterate the previous low of 39.

That tenth scrap came in the third period of a tight game with the Chicago Wolves, when Viktor Svedberg got tired of the antics of Wolves forward Keegan Kolesar. What made this fight memorable is the fact that for the first time this season, a Rockford skater scored anything resembling a clear win over an opponent.

In his second dropping of the gloves this month, Svedberg landed several blows and bloodied the nose of his adversary. The 6’9” defenseman spent the next five minutes icing his right hand, so hopefully he’s none the worse for wear.

Svedberg has been a healthy and effective part of the lineup in 2017-18. In 64 games this season, he has set career highs in goals (six) and points (21).  His skater rating of plus-16 is tied for the team lead.

 

Roster Moves

The IceHogs saw the arrival of forward Victor Ejdsell this past week, as well as his departure. Ejdsell played two games with Rockford before be recalled by the Hawks. The 6’5″ Swede impressed me with his skating and positioning in his appearances at the BMO this weekend. He had an assist against Milwaukee Friday.

Rockford also signed D Joni Tuulola to a PTO on Friday. Tuulola had been playing in his native Finland this season.

 

Recaps

Rockford won two of three games this week, good enough to move into fourth place in the Central Division. The Hogs are 34-25-4-4 in 2017-18.

Monday, March 19-Rockford 5, Iowa 2

The Hogs posted a key road win over the Wild, paced by a pair of goals by Chris DiDomenico.

Rockford got on the board in the sixth minute when Graham Knott got a piece of a Luc Snuggerud shot on its way to the net. At the 12:23 mark, Luke Johnson made it a 2-0 game after taking a pass from Cody Franson and skaking to the right dot.

Iowa pulled back to 2-1 on a Mitch McLain goal, but DiDomenico won control of a loose puck in the Rockford zone and brought it all the way back into Wild territory. Shooting from the left circle, the puck glanced off the crossbar, off defenseman Alex Grant and into the cage for a 3-1 Hogs lead 17:19 into the first period.

DiDomenico made it a 4-1 Rockford advantage with a power play strike 3:18 into the second period. The goal was set up by Adam Clendening, who found DiDomenico at the top of the right circle for the slap shot.

Kyle Rau scored midway through the second period to close the gap to 4-2, but that was as close as things got in DesMoine on this night. Viktor Svedberg banked a clearing attempt off the glass and into an empty net in the closing minutes to seal the win.

No lines tonight; Robin Norell skated as a forward. The Hogs were two of five on the power play. Jeff Glass stopped 31 of 33 shots to pick up his 13th win of the season. DiDomenico and Franson (two assists) were named the first and third stars of the game.

 

Friday, March 23-Milwaukee 5, Rockford 2

Things got away from the IceHogs in the final period. The desperate Admirals dropped four goals on Rockford to end an eight-game Hogs points streak.

Tyler Sikura got a shot past the pads of Anders Lindback 5:01 into the game. The puck slowly slid toward the goal line until Henrik Samuelsson gave it a last push to the net to give the IceHogs the lead.

The score would remain 1-0 through the majority of the first two periods. Milwaukee tied the game with 25 seconds left in the middle frame on an Anthony Richard goal.

The third period was a wild affair that did not end well for Rockford. Former Hog Mark McNeill gave the Ads a 2-1 lead after Adam Clendening whiffed on a pass attempt from deep in his own zone. Midway through the third, Lance Bouma slipped a shot between Lindback and the left post to tie the game. From there, it was all Milwaukee.

Bobby Butler hit on the game-winner with a backdoor goal 10:09 into the final period. McNeill and Richard both added empty net scores in the last minute to finish off the Hogs.

Lines (starters in italics)

Tanner Kero (A)-Graham Knott-Kyle Maksimovich

Lance Bouma-Chris DiDomenico-Anthony Louis

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura-Victor Ejdsell

Alex Wideman-Luke Johnson (A)-Matheson Iacopelli

Adam Clendening (A)-Carl Dahlstrom

Cody Franson-Viktor Svedberg

Darren Raddysh-Robin Norell

Jeff Glass

Power Play (0-1)

Johnson-Sikura-DiDomenico-Clendening-Franson

Louis-Ejdsell-Iacopelli-Samuelsson-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Ads were 1-4, though that goal came with the Hogs net empty.)

Bouma-Sikura-Svedberg-Franson

Knott-Kero-Norell-Dahlstrom

Johnson-Samuelsson-Clendening-Raddysh

 

Saturday, March 24-Rockford 5, Chicago 3

The IceHogs rallied from a 2-0 first-period deficit to post the win over the Wolves.

Chicago got goals from Brandon Pirri and Teemu Pulkkinen in the first 20 minutes to put the Hogs in a hole. Rockford came out digging in the second period.

In the opening minute of the middle frame, William Pelletier had a shot deflect off of Wolves defenseman Griffin Reinhardt. The puck was gathered in by Lance Bouma at the left circle. His shot got the best of Chicago goalie Max Legace and made it a 2-1 game 49 seconds into the second.

Rockford tied the game at the 8:37 mark when Matheson Iacopelli zipped a wrist shot from the left point that caught the far side corner past Legace. A few minutes later, the Hogs took the lead.

Tyler Sikura went behind the Chicago net to chase down Luc Snuggerud’s shot attempt. Finding Henrik Samuelsson open at the right dot, Sikura’s pass was rifled into the back of the Wolves net at the 15:28 mark.

Less than a minute later, Darren Raddysh broke up a entry pass by Wade Megan and got the puck to Chris DiDomenico skating the other way. DiDomenico hit Bouma coming into the Wolves zone and Bouma handled the rest, twining his attempt past Legace for a 4-2 Rockford advantage at 16:17 of the second period.

Pulkkinen answered for Chicago late in the second to cut the Hogs advantage to 4-3. However, that was it for the Wolves offense. Collin Delia made several outstanding saves on point blank Wolves attempts late in the second to preserve the one-goal lead. Rockford added an empty-netter from DiDomenico with 1:50 remaining to put a ribbon on a fine comeback effort.

Bouma and DiDomenico were the game’s first two stars. Delia wound up with the victory, with 33 saves on the evening.

Lines (Starters in italics)

William Pelletier-Tanner Kero-Luke Johnson

Lance Bouma-Chris DiDomenico-Anthony Louis

Henrik Samuelsson-Victor Ejdsell-Tyler Sikura

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Cody Franson (A)-Viktor Svedberg (A)

Adam Clendening-Carl Dahlstrom

Darren Raddysh-Luc Snuggerud

Colin Delia

Power Play (1-4)

Sikura-Johnson-DiDomenico-Clendening-Franson

Samuelsson-Iacopelli-Louis-Ejdsell-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Chicago was 1-4)

Bouma-Sikura-Svedberg-Franson

Knott-Kero-Raddysh-Dahlstrom

Johnson-Samuelsson-Clendening-Snuggerud

 

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates of the IceHogs push to the Calder Cup Playoffs.