Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs have a couple of new faces in the fold. With the NHL trade deadline fast approaching, there could be a couple more before the day is out.

The Blackhawks made two trades this past week. They aren’t likely to have a big impact in Chicago, but they could boost the playoff chances of the Hogs, who beat Grand Rapids in overtime Wednesday before dropping games in Hershey and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton over the weekend.

Rockford (26-22-3-6) are currently fourth in the Central Division with a .537 points percentage. With Chicago, Grand Rapids and Iowa a bit above the rest of the division, the last postseason spot could turn into a dogfight between the IceHogs, Texas and Milwaukee.

On Monday night, the Hawks made a move to bolster the offense, which is still last in the AHL as the month of February nears an end. Chicago sent defenseman Darren Raddysh to the Rangers in exchange for center Peter Holland.

The 28-year-old Holland is a veteran of 266 NHL games with ANaheim, Toronto, Arizona and the Rangers. He is nearly a point-a-game player in his stints in the AHL. In 52 games this season with the Hartford Wolf Pack, Holland had 20 goals and 29 assists.

Obtaining one of the AHL’s top scorers was worth the price of losing Raddysh, who has shown steady improvement in two seasons in Rockford. With a young defenseman like Lucas Carlsson showing he can bring a similar game and a number of young defensemen poised to join the club next year, Raddysh was expendable.

Holland made an impact upon joining the Hogs; he had two assists in a 3-2 win over the Griffins Wednesday, then potted his first goal in a Rockford sweater Saturday in Hershey. I’ve frequently said this season that the IceHogs needed some top-end veteran scoring. Stick tap to Hawks GM Stan Bowman for going out and adding a piece for Rockford.

On Sunday, it was announced that a deal had been struck with the Kings to send Matheson Iacopelli to Los Angeles in exchange for forward Spencer Watson. This is not a move that figures heavily in the plans of the Blackhawks…or the IceHogs, for that matter.

Watson turned pro last season and played 11 games for the Kings AHL affiliate in Ontario. He’s amassed great point totals in the ECHL, including 47 points in 47 games with Manchester. So far this season, though, he hasn’t been able to break into an Ontario lineup that is last in the league. Watson has been up for two games with the Reign this season.

Iacopelli, despite possessing a beauty of a shot, couldn’t find steady work with the IceHogs. He has 27 games in Rockford and has been in Indy for most of the last two months. Watson, who was added to the Hogs roster Sunday, could see some action in lieu of AHL forwards Terry Broadhurst and William Pelletier being banged up.

For the time being, Watson gets a chance to win a regular spot and help keep Rockford afloat at forward. Worst case, he moves down to Indy and helps the Fuel in their hunt for the playoffs.

Could any of the current IceHogs be moved today before the deadline? Very possible. Aside from goalie Kevin Lankinen, not much would surprise me over the next few hours.

 

Roster Moves

Henri Jokiharju and Josh McArdle were men on the move this week. Both left and returned to the Hogs in the matter of a couple of days.

Jokiharju was an emergency call-up by the Blackhawks Friday. He was re-assigned to Rockford the next day and arrived in Hershey in time to dress for Saturday’s game. McArdle was sent to the Fuel last Sunday, then was recalled by the Hogs Saturday.

 

Recaps

Wednesday, February 20-Rockford 3, Grand Rapids 2 (OT)

Rockford stayed the course after a rough opening period to outlast the Central Divisions top team. They beat the Griffins in Gus Macker Time and at Van Andel Arena to boot.

Grand Rapids got goals from Wade Megan and Matt Peumpel in the first period. That 2-0 lead held until the fourteenth minute of the middle frame. Joni Tuulola sent a Peter Holland pass by Griffins goalie Harri Sateri to foil the shutout bid.

Jordan Schroeder knotted the game on the power play, aided by Holland’s second apple of the evening. The game remained a 2-2 affair through the remainder of regulation.

Both teams had chances in overtime. For most of the extra five minutes, Sateri and Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg made the required stops. In the closing seconds, Rockford was able to get into the Griffins zone.

Graham Knott sent a shot from the right circle that came off of Sateri’s pads and right onto the stick of Luke Johnson. Johnson sent the rebound into the open Grand Rapids net with less than a second remaining in the overtime period.

Forsberg sent away 37 shots on the evening to pick up the win, Rockford’s third in a row.

 

Saturday, February 23-Hershey 3, Rockford 2 (SO)

The Bears kept their recent win streak going, winning their eleventh straight. Rockford picked up a point to keep their point streak alive at four games.

Newcomer Peter Holland got the Hogs on the board first, via the power play. Holland one-timed a Henri Jokiharju pass into the Hershey net just 1:21 into the contest. The Bears tied the score at the 14:54 mark when Ryan Sproul’s shot from the goal line caught the blocker of Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg and tumbled into the cage.

Rockford regained the upper hand a few minutes later after Viktor Ejdsell sent a clearing attempt ringing around the boards and out of the defensive zone. Anthony Louis eventually caught up with the puck coming into Bears territory, skated to the goal line, and dropped a pass to a waiting Jacob Nilsson. The shot beat Hershey goalie Ilya Samsonov to the upper right corner of the net for a 2-1 IceHogs advantage.

After a scoreless middle frame, Hershey tied the game after an early Rockford turnover in the final period. Henri Jokiharju sent a pass that Joni Tuulola couldn’t get under control. The Bears Beck Malenstyn scooped up the puck and dealt it to Garrett Pilon, who beat Forsberg to the cord at 1:28 of the third.

The remainder of regulation and overtime passed with nary a puck in a net. The shootout would decide this contest. With the tally 1-1 going into the third round, Hershey’s Nathan Walker beat Forsberg. Anthony Louis lost control of the puck on his third-round attempt. The biscuit rolled into the net under Samsonov but was ruled a no-goal by the officials, ending the game.

 

Sunday, February 24-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 4, Rockford 1

The Penguins scored first, getting a Ryan Scarfo goal at the 6:48 mark. Rockford evened things up late in the period. The Hogs were established in the offensive zone and benefited from some slick passing from defensemen Dennis Gilbert and Lucas Carlsson.

Gilbert sent the puck out to Luke Johnson at the point, who slid a pass to Carlsson along the blue line before skating to the high slot. Carlsson found Johnson on the return feed; Johnson’s shot beat the glove of Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry. The light came on at 18:07 of the first and the teams went into the intermission on equal ground.

Former Rockford skater Jimmy Hayes provide the offense in the second stanza, scoring twice to give Wilkes-Barre/Scranton a 3-1 advantage. Hayes banked a centering pass off of Carlsson 5:45 into the second, then beat Lankinen with a one-timer from the right circle at the 11: 21 mark.

The IceHogs pushed to get back in the game to no avail. Rockford put 12 shots on Jarry (the Hogs out shot the Penguins 34-27 on the afternoon) but couldn’t chip into the deficit. Adam Johnson added and empty-net goal for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 3:18 remaining.

 

Action This Week

Rockford continues its road trip Tuesday in Rosemont and an Illinois Lottery Cup tilt with the first-place Wolves. The Hogs are at the BMO Harris Bank Center on Friday night to host Grand Rapids.

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

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

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

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

 

Roster Activity

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

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

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

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

Recaps

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

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

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

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

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

 

Saturday, January 12-San Antonio 4, Rockford 3

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

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

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

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

 

Coming Up

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

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

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate to the Chicago Blackhawks, kicked off their home schedule with style, scoring 10 goals in two victories over Texas and Hershey.

The piglets were on full display this weekend, righting the ship after a 0-2 start in Cleveland to open the season. Here are some of my weekend observations:

  • The IceHogs have scored the first goal in each of the four games they’ve had so far. This weekend, they also showed the resolve to come out on top of a couple of back-and-forth affairs. Rockford outscored their opponents 5-0 in the third period these last two games. “
  • (It was) nice to see we found a way to close a couple of games out,” said head coach Jeremy Colliton during the post-game presser following a 5-2 win over the Bears on Sunday. “I think the third period in both games was reasonably solid. We got some pace and showed we have quick strike potential in the group.”
  • That offense was generated throughout the lineup; Rockford’s 13 goals have come from 11 different skaters. Eight IceHogs picked up their first goals of the 2018-19 campaign in front of the friendly folks at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
  • Tyler Sikura is poised for another strong season for the IceHogs. So far, he’s been in the middle of a slew of scoring chances for Rockford. He always seems to be around the puck or in front of the net. He tops the Hogs score sheet with two goals and four points through four games.
  • Dylan Sikura’s play-making was a factor in both games. He also has four points on the season (1 G, 3 A) and looks to be finding his stride in the AHL. The Brothers Sikura are teaming up on a power play unit that has shown flashes of extreme competence.
  • Schroeder isn’t as adept at the one-timer from the left circle as Cody Franson was last spring, but he’s shown a fondness for taking them on the second power play unit. His third attempt Sunday from that spot resulted in a goal; more could be on the way if he can find the range because the opportunities should come.
  • Matheson Iacopelli made his first two starts of the season, skating with Graham Knott and Nathan Noel. You can dub them the “Prove It” line because all three players are looking to make bigger impacts than they did in their rookie seasons. This weekend, they posted goals in both games. Iacopelli tied the score in the third period Saturday and started a Hogs rally. Knott followed up an Iacopelli shot Sunday that turned out to be the game-winner over Hershey.
  • Also seeing game action for the first time were defensemen Dennis Gilbert and Blake Hillman. Both recorded assists in Saturday’s 5-3 win over Texas.
  • Collin Delia started both games for the Hogs and looked very good doing so. I thought he was especially impressive Sunday when the Bears fired 38 shots his way, most of which came from close range. The second-year goalie showed a lot of poise, stopping 70 of 75 shots this weekend for a .933 save percentage.
  • Delia shouldn’t have had to work as hard as he has. I am not sold on this defense in the early stages of the season. Andrew Campbell and Luc Snuggerud sat out the action this weekend, leaving a very inexperienced group out on the ice. That inexperience definitely showed in the play on the back end. Despite five goals by the Hogs on Sunday, none of the six defensemen recorded so much as an assist on any of them.
  • The Rockford blueline lacks a dynamic offensive performer in the mold of Franson, Adam Clendening or even Ville Pokka. They also haven’t locked down opponents in their own end real well throughout the first two weeks of play. Delia’s play covered up the deficiencies; Colliton admitted as much after Sunday’s contest. If this team is going to compete in the Central Division this season, they will have to improve defensively.

 

Recaps

Saturday, October 13 – Rockford 5, Texas 3

The IceHogs rallied in the final period to pick up the season’s first win. A crowd of 4,773 was on hand to watch Rockford in the home opener.

As has been the case in each game this season, the Hogs got on the board first. The goal came four minutes into the contest and was the result of the man advantage. Dylan Sikura got a puck on net that was stopped by Stars goalie Colton Point but settled in front of the crease. Brother Tyler twisted around his defender and backhanded the loose biscuit into the basket for a 1-0 Rockford lead.

Texas responded with a couple of transition goals to go up 2-1. James Phelan got to the left post just before Hogs goalie Collin Delia to knock in a pass from Colton Hargrove at the 7:31 mark. In the last minute of the first, a Jacob Nilsson turnover led to a rush that ended with Denis Gurianov finishing from the left post.

Rockford knotted the game at two goals at 2:27 of the second period when Henrik Samuelsson put a rebound of Joni Tuulola’s shot over the shoulder of Point. Midway though the period, however, Justin Dowling got a stick on a drive by Gavin Bayreuther, changing the trajectory just enough to send it past Delia for a 3-2 Stars advantage.

After misfiring for much of the evening, Rockford began to connect on some passes. This led to a change in the IceHogs fortunes over the final 20 minutes.

Matheson Iacopelli, in his first action this season, tied the game from the left circle after taking a feed from Graham Knott on a 2-on-1 rush to the Texas cage. Iacopelli’s shot glanced off the left post and settled into Twine Town at 11:06 of the third period.

A few minutes later, the IceHogs regained the led on Dylan Sikura’s first AHL goal. It was set up by Nilsson, who gained possession of a rebounding Texas shot in the slot and brought the puck out of the zone and across the red line.

Nilsson hit Matthew Highmore coming into the Stars zone. Sikura handled Highmore’s offering at the top of the left circle, skated to the dot and sent a wrist shot past Point’s glove and into the far side of the net. Rockford now led 4-3 with just under six minutes to play.

Texas pressed hard and had some up close and personal scoring chances that were kept out of harm’s way by Delia, who totaled 34 saves on the night and won First Star honors. The Hogs locked things up in the final minute on a long-distance empty netter by Darren Raddysh.

Rounding out the three stars behind Delia was Iacopelli (Second Star) and Dylan Sikura (Third Star).

Lines (Starters in italics)

Matthew Highmore (A)-Jacob Nilsson-Dylan Sikura

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura-Anthony Louis

Viktor Ejdsell-Jordan Schroeder-Terry Broadhurst (A)

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Lucas Carlsson-Darren Raddysh

Blake Hillman-Carl Dahlstrom (A)

Dennis Gilbert-Joni Tuulola

Collin Delia 

Power Play (1-6)

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

Highmore-Ejdsell-Louis-Broadhurst-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Stars were 0-1)

Highmore-Nilsson-Dahlstrom-Hillman

Fortin-Knott-Gilbert-Tuulola

T. Sikura-Broadhurst-Carlsson-Raddysh

 

Sunday, October 14-Rockford 5 , Hershey 2 

The Bears peppered Collin Delia with shots, but the Hogs goalie was up to the task, making 36 saves to help Rockford win its second straight.

Anthony Louis got the Hogs on the scoreboard with his first goal of the season at the 3:30 mark. The play got started when Darren Raddysh took control of the puck at his blueline and hit Tyler Sikura entering the middle of the Hershey zone. Sikura passed to Henrik Samuelsson coming down the right side, who found Louis skating toward the left dot. Pass, shoot, score; Rockford led 1-0.

The Bears tied the game midway through the period on a point shot by Tyler Lewington. Despite being out shot 16-7 in the opening 20 minutes, the IceHogs were all square going into the locker room.

A high-sticking infraction by Hershey’s Mike Sgarbossa led to Jordan Schroeder’s first goal of the season. Schroeder’s one-timer from the left circle found the far side of Ilya Samsonov’s net for a 2-1 advantage for the Hogs at 3:13 of the second stanza. Credit Dylan Sikura with an excellent cross-ice feed to Schroeder.

At 6:56 of the second, Liam O’Brien sent a wrister over the glove of Delia. The game wouldn’t stay tied for long, however.

Rockford regained the lead after Matheson Iacopelli gathered in a loose puck in the slot and skated it back out past the top of the left circle before throwing a shot toward the Hershey net. Samsonov made the stop but failed to gather in the loose puck. Graham Knott was skating across the crease when the puck struck his foot and slid under the Bears goalie at 8:17 of the second.

The 3-2 lead held up until the middle of the third period, when Schroeder teamed up with Terry Broadhurst for some much-needed insurance. Viktor Ejdsell brought the puck into Hershey territory and found Schroeder skating up the middle of the ice.

Schroeder bore down on Samsonov, waiting until he was nearly on top of the crease before sliding a pass to a streaking Broadhurst at the left post. The resulting one-timer made it 4-2 Rockford at 10:21 of the third. Matthew Highmore added an empty-net goal with 1:40 remaining to close out the scoring.

Schroeder was named the game’s first star for his efforts on the afternoon, followed by Delia and Tyler Sikura, who had a pair of assists.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Matthew Highmore (A)-Jacob Nilsson-Dylan Sikura

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura-Anthony Louis

Viktor Ejdsell-Jordan Schroeder-Terry Broadhurst (A)

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Blake Hillman-Carl Dahlstrom (A)

Lucas Carlsson-Darren Raddysh

Dennis Gilbert-Joni Tuulola

Collin Delia 

Power Play (1-4)

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

Highmore-Ejdsell-Louis-Broadhurst-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Bears were 0-3)

Highmore-Nilsson-Dahlstrom-Hillman

Fortin-Knott-Gilbert-Tuulola

T. Sikura-Broadhurst-Carlsson-Raddysh

 

Go West, Young Hogs

Rockford hits the road for a pair of games with Tuscon this weekend. The Hogs will be in action on Friday and Saturday nights. I’ll have a look at that Roadrunners club on Friday along with other Rockford happenings. Until then, follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the Hogs all season long.

 

Everything Else

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jordan Maletta Retiring

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

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

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

Mind Made Up On Iacopelli?

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

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

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

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

 

Roster Moves

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

 

Recaps

Friday, October 5-Cleveland 4, Rockford 1 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lines (Starters in italics)

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura (A)-Terry Broadhurst

Anthony Louis-Jordan Schroeder (A)-Viktor Ejdsell

Matthew Highmore-Jacob Nilsson-Dylan Sikura

Henrik Samuelsson-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Andrew Campbell (A)-Carl Dahlstrom

Joni Tuulola-Darren Raddysh

Luc Snuggerud-Lucas Carlsson

Kevin Lankinen

Power Play (0-1)

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

Highmore-Ejdsell-Louis-Broadhurst-Dahlstrom

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

Highmore-Nilsson-Dahlstrom-Campbell

Fortin-Knott-Carlsson-Tuulola

T. Sikura-Broadhurst-Snuggerud-Raddysh

 

Saturday, October 6-Cleveland 5, Rockford 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lines (Starters in italics)

Matthew Highmore-Jacob Nilsson-Dylan Sikura

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura (A)-Terry Broadhurst

Anthony Louis-Jordan Schroeder (A)-Viktor Ejdsell

Henrik Samuelsson-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Joni Tuulola-Darren Raddysh

Andrew Campbell (A)-Carl Dahlstrom

Luc Snuggerud-Lucas Carlsson

Collin Delia

Power Play (1-4)

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

Highmore-Ejdsell-Louis-Broadhurst-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Monsters were 1-4)

Highmore-Nilsson-Dahlstrom-Campbell

Fortin-Knott-Carlsson-Tuulola

T. Sikura-Broadhurst-Snuggerud-Raddysh

 

What’s Next?

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

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

 

Everything Else

There were many new faces at forward for the Rockford IceHogs in the 2017-18 season. On a roster that went through some changes in the latter half of the campaign, there was a lot to cover in this area.

I’ve previously cast a magnifying glass on the goalies and defensemen in recent posts. For now, let’s move forward with the forwards from Rockford’s big season.

Rookies

Matthew Highmore-64 games, 24 G, 19 A, minus-six

Rockford’s rookie of the year was the big story throughout the first half of the season. Highmore epitomized the fast-paced style Colliton emphasized, with 15 points (9 G, 6 A) in his first 21 games. His nose for the net resulted in Highmore pacing the team in goals.

An appearance at the AHL All-Star Classic, coupled with a spring call-up to the Hawks made for a memorable first-year of pro hockey for the free-agent signing. Highmore is definitely in the mix of prospects who could find themselves in Chicago in the coming years.

Like a lot of the prospects, Highmore’s numbers dipped just a bit with the veteran influx in February. By the playoffs, he was skating on one of the lower lines while still playing solid hockey. In 13 postseason games, he was a plus-eight to go with a pair of goals and seven helpers.

 

Anthony Louis-70 games, 14 G, 30 A, plus-six

Louis was Rockford’s point leader (44) in the regular season, though the addition of the veterans had a big effect on his game down the stretch. To say his role was diminished is probably an understatement.

Skating a little lower in the Hogs lineup, Louis still managed 14 points (5 G, 9 A) in the last two months of action. However, the physical nature of the playoffs seemed to take a toll on his effectiveness. After five assists in 9 games, Colliton sat Louis in favor of Samuelsson three games into the conference final.

Louis is a strong passer and can flourish with linemates who can finish the chances he creates. I think he’ll be a player to watch as he makes the adjustments to raise his game in his sophomore campaign.

 

Alexandre Fortin-53 games, 4 G, 17 A, minus-one

Based on the expectations of a player who had such a strong training camp in 2016 before being sent back to juniors, Fortin was an under-performer in his first season with the IceHogs.

To be fair, he missed a couple weeks in January and three more in March due to injury. His speed was often on display, though there were many instances of Fortin streaking out of control and committing turnovers. A shooting percentage of 4.3 did him no favors; finishing scoring plays and playing under control should be at the top of Fortin’s list of improvements heading into next season.

 

Matheson Iacopelli-50 games, 11 G, 7 A, plus-seven

The real head-scratcher among the piglets. Iacopelli brought offense, scoring 20 goals between Rockford and Indy, where he had nine in ten games for the Fuel. He is arguably the best sniper the IceHogs had this season. So…why couldn’t he find a place in the lineup?

With someone to get him the puck, coupled with a net hound who can convert on rebound opportunities, Iacopelli could be a dangerous AHL forward. He is going to have to improve on his skating as well as find a way to create space for his shot. The question will be if he can do that at age 24.

Iacopelli often found himself on the bottom line with players more suited for checking roles. He’s not that type of player right now. Hopefully he got a list of things to work on this summer. If he can carve out a steady spot on a scoring line, we could see big numbers out of Iacopelli.

 

Graham Knott-70 games, 4 G, 5 A, minus-one

There isn’t much offense to Knott’s game. He had three separate 11-game pointless streaks while skating fourth line minutes and killing penalties. In his final 38 games this past season, he had three goals and no apples.

Knott held down the fourth line through the regular season; he did not appear in the playoffs for Rockford. On the other hand, he was a frequent winner of the Schnucks Grand Prix over speedier teammates Alexandre Fortin and William Pelletier.

Knott is still just 21 and has two more years on his entry deal to develop at both ends of the ice. With most of the new faces coming in on defense, he may still have the spot in the lineup to do so next fall.

Nathan Noel-17 games, 1 G, minus two

Noel really deserves a redo button; his season never really got on track after being injured in training camp.

By the time he was set to return, there was no spot in Rockford to be had. Noel went to Indy, where he played 17 games before getting hurt and missing a couple of months. He was brought up to Rockford in mid-February and had limited chances to develop into the IceHogs agitator.

Until Chris DiDomenico arrived, that job was up for grabs. A healthy Noel might have run with that role. My interest was peaked in the short stint Noel was with the IceHogs.

Finishing the regular season with the Fuel, Noel played well in Indy’s short playoff appearance. If Noel is in game shape to start 2018-19, he may be able to find his niche.

 

Call Ups

Vinnie Hinostroza-23 games, 9 G, 13 A, plus-seven

Tomas Jurco-36 games, 13 G, 12 A, plus-four

David Kampf-33 games, 7 G, 11 A, plus-one

Laurent Dauphin-33 games, 4 G, 10 A, minus-six

These players, Hinostroza in particular, carried Rockford in the first couple of months. Hinostroza was recalled by the Hawks December 8, Kampf on December 27 and Jurco on January 8.

Kampf returned in April to finish up the season and playoffs for the Hogs. In 16 games, he managed just a goal (Game Five vs Texas) and two assists (in Chicago in the last game of the regular season).

Dauphin, who played with a full face shield following a altercation in San Antonio December 15, was traded back to Arizona in the Anthony Duclair deal. Adam Clendening came to Rockford was a key part of the spring resurgence; Dauphin played 17 games for Tuscon (5 G, 10 A) before being recalled to the Coyotes. He was injured blocking a shot March 11 and missed the rest of the season.

 

Reinforcements

Chris DiDomenico-22 games, 8 G, 15 A, plus-three

All this guy did was spark Rockford into its late-season push to the Calder Cup Playoffs. Once there, he was the league’s top point producer (7 G, 11 A in 13 games) until the final games of the Calder Cup Final. If anybody saw this coming, step forward and be called Fibber McGee.

Returning to AHL rinks after several seasons abroad, DiDomenico was obtained for Ville Pokka in a trade with Ottawa in mid-February. Along with a heavy dose of veteran leadership that was injected into the piglets, DiDomenico brought a chippy element to a club that had practically none before he arrived.

By the time the playoffs started, you had skaters of all shapes and sizes finishing checks all over the ice. The motor was still firing, but the Hogs picked up a definite snarl that was a major part of the playoff success.

DiDomenico rides off into the sunset, having signed to play in the Swiss League for two seasons soon after cleaning out his locker at the BMO. One richly deserved stick tap, coming right up.

 

Lance Bouma-20 games, 7 G, 7 A, plus-seven

Chicago sending the physical forward to Rockford in February proved to be good for the IceHogs. Like DiDomenico, Bouma added veteran grit that was in short supply at that point of the campaign. Like DiDomenico, I would not expect to see Bouma in a Hogs sweater next season.

 

Tanner Kero-36 games, 8 G, 12 A, minus-ten

I’m finding out about the Hawks trade with Vancouver just as I was set to ponder Kero’s season for this post. Basically, Kero’s 2017-18 season has produced Michael Chaput.

Kero came to Rockford in December. He was out for about a month after an injury against San Antonio on February 18 and also missed a few games at the close of the regular season.

 

John Hayden-24 games, 5 G, 12 A, even

Arrived January 10 when he was assigned to the Hogs by Chicago, playing through the beginning of March before being recalled. Hayden was also with Rockford once the Blackhawks season ended.

Hayden was physical for sure…but he just didn’t seem to make the impact I imagined when he was sent to Rockford. That goes double in the playoffs; he delivered his share of hits but accounted for just three goals in 13 postseason games.

 

Henrik Samuelsson-25 games, 9 G, 3 A, minus-one

The former first-round selection of the Coyotes was skating in the ECHL for Idaho when Rockford inked him to a PTO in February. The move became a permanent arrangement when the IceHogs signed him through the 2018-19 season.

Samuelsson found the net in each of his first three games with Rockford, including a game-winner against San Antonio February 18. He worked his way onto a power play unit and was a steady presence through the rest of the regular season.

Samuelsson showcased some offensive know-how to go with a strong presence in the corners in his stint with the Hogs. After sitting out the first two rounds of the postseason, he was inserted for the last four games of the conference final with Texas.

 

Viktor Ejdsell-five games, 1 A, minus-three

Ejdsell, of course, made his mark in the postseason, where he totaled 12 points (7 G, 5 A) in 13 games. The lanky forward displayed a nice shot and enough skating ability to keep up with his linemates. He certainly didn’t look out of place in the smaller North American rinks.

The 23-year old Swede had a good sense of timing. Four of his postseason goals were game-winners, the most notable being the one that ended the Game 3 triple-overtime affair with the Wolves. Another came in an elimination game with Texas, where he had a three-point Game 4.

A full season in Rockford could prove to be very interesting, as Ejdsell could probably use a year to hone his skating before hitting NHL ice. Depending on the makeup of the Hawks roster, he could see himself riding the I-90 shuttle for parts of next season.

 

The Vet

Andreas Martinsen-64 games, 12 G, 16 A, plus-seven

So far as early season veteran presence, Martinsen was about it through the first months, save for Jurco and Dauphin. The big Norwegian was key to any physical element to the piglet’s game until the latter part of February when guys like DiDomenico and Bouma showed up.

Obtained for Kyle Baun just before the start of the season, this trade was a definite win for the Blackhawks. Baun wasn’t terrible this season, with 22 points (5 G, 17 A) in Laval and the Toronto Marlies (with whom he won a Calder Cup despite not playing in the playoffs). For the IceHogs, however, Martinsen brought more to the table and was a good fit.

Aside from a spell in Chicago this spring, Martinsen was a mainstay in the lineup, often teaming with Sikura and Alexandre Fortin on what proved to be a very effective group. The 6’4″, 230-pounder re-upped with the Blackhawks for 2018-19. He should be able to skate fourth-line minutes in Chicago if needed and is a nice piece for Colliton to have in Rockford.

 

AHL Standouts

Tyler Sikura-74 games, 23 G, 16 A, plus-24

Sikura failed to stick in three AHL cities following his college career at Dartmouth. Before signing with Rockford, he was still looking for his first AHL point. This season, he earned the team MVP award and an NHL entry contract to boot.

Sikura was a hard worker in the first two months of the season, but it wasn’t showing up on the scoreboard. Through November, he had three goals in 19 contests. In fact, it wasn’t until the post-Christmas part of the schedule that Sikura started seeing the fruits of his efforts.

Starting on December 28 until signing his NHL contract for next season March 6, Sikura put up 13 goals and six helpers in 29 games. To celebrate his new ink, he had 14 points (7 G, 7 A) to close out the last 17 games of the regular season.

Sikura proved to be quite the redirection artist throughout the season. By the spring, not only was he killing penalties but was on the red-hot first power play unit. Sikura also showed that he can create scoring chances on occasion when away from the net.

This was by far the most productive season by a Hogs AHL-signing in the history of the franchise, eclipsing P.C. Labrie’s 2015-16 34-point explosion. Labrie, however, was between NHL deals at the time. Sikura truly announced his presence with authority in his rookie season.

What lies ahead for the elder Sikura brother? I don’t know if he can match last season’s 18.3 shooting percentage, but he’s welcome to try. It will be interesting to see how he follows up such a remarkable performance.

 

William Pelletier-69 games, 14 G, 15 A, plus-13

Another AHL rookie that kept several Hawks prospects out of the lineup was Pelletier, who came out of Division III Norwich looking to prove he could skate at this level. He did.

Pelletier’s wheels allowed the Hogs to send pucks way down the ice, knowing the 5’7″ forward could negate icing and chase down the biscuit. His fore check was tenacious all season and as the playoffs got underway, he started bringing the action to his opponents along the boards.

This was good to see, because Pelletier was a guy opposing teams loved to target on the ice with big hits. Dishing back a little physical business didn’t hurt his effectiveness. Pelletier earned an extension of his AHL deal with Rockford for his efforts and should yet again be a fun player to watch zooming up and down the ice.

 

Luke Johnson

Luke Johnson-73 games, 13 G, 17 A, minus-four

I’m giving Johnson his own category in this review. On a roster of first-year prospects and veteran additions, Johnson perhaps had the most to prove out of any of the returning players.

In last year’s season recap, I suggested that Johnson needed to step up his game from a 17-point rookie campaign in 2016-17 to avoid being pushed to the bench by all the new faces in Rockford. I’d say that Johnson took that step and then some.

Johnson was a steady producer at both ends of the ice for Rockford. He also was a player who took on some big dance partners when circumstances dictated. Four of the IceHogs league-low 11 fighting majors were attributed to Johnson.

In a very quiet manner, Johnson raised his position within the organization. He drew praise from NHL veteran Cody Franson as well as with coach Jeremy Colliton. John Dietz of the Daily Herald got both men to open up about Johnson’s game during the playoffs.

If Colliton names a captain for the 2018-19 IceHogs (after not doing so this past season), don’t be surprised if the C is slapped on Johnson’s sweater.

 

Coffee Cups

Alex Wideman

Tommy Olczyk

Kyle Maksimovich

These three players produced a grand total of zero points for the IceHogs this season. Wideman (13 games in Rockford) did have another good season with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel, with 16 goals and 32 assists. Most of his time in town came in January and February.

Olczyk saw action once for the Hogs, skating in Grand Rapids January 20. Maksimovich was signed to an ATO in March after scoring 31 goals in the OHL for Erie. He got into four games late in the season and was inactive once the playoffs got underway.

 

Unlike a year ago, there should be lots of returning faces up front for the Hogs. Depending on what kind of veteran skaters Rockford is afforded, there could be several players who could make big strides in their games. Like last season, it should be exciting to watch.

I’m sure there will be some activity worth shouting about in the coming weeks. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter just in case I think of something. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks to sort through the summer.

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs found success in the first half of a six-game road trip, taking five of six points on their California jaunt this past week. With some new faces in the mix, Rockford remained in the playoff hunt in the AHL’s Central Division.

The Hogs sit third in the division standings as of this past weekend’s action, thanks in part to improved play in the crease and a red-hot Tyler Sikura.

Sikura, who has been a solid bottom-six contributor for Rockford all season, has exploded for eight goals and an asssist in his last ten contests. In California, Sikura stretched his current goal streak to five games.

Sikura is in his third season of pro hockey after a college career at Dartmouth. Before joining the IceHogs this summer, he had shown to be a good point producer at the ECHL level. However, Sikura had yet to register a point in 22 AHL games with three different clubs.

Sikura’s success follows a pretty simple formula; hustle to loose pucks and get to the front of the net. He’s shown a real knack for the redirect the last few weeks and has gotten his shot through in leading odd-man rushes up the ice.

Sikura leads the IceHogs with a 19.6 shot percentage. Its hard to see him hitting at that rate throughout the season, but I’m guessing the hard work Sikura displays on a nightly basis will continue.

Hogs rookie goalie Colin Delia is a California native and gave the hometown fans reason to cheer. His 33-save Wednesday night in Ontario was easily his finest performance to date in a Rockford sweater. Delia followed up that 5-2 victory over the Reign with a 4-2 win in San Jose Friday night.

Matt Tomkins suffered an overtime loss to Bakersfield on Saturday, but turned in a 32-save effort in a 3-2 defeat. With no change on the organization’s goalie situation, it is great to see the youngsters stepping up.

 

Iacopelli Shoots, He Scores…And Sometimes Sits

Another Hogs skater hitting twine with frequency is rookie Matheson Iacopelli. The former Western Michigan forward is showcasing his lethal shot to the tune of nine goals and seven assists for Rockford. Iacopelli just doesn’t get to showcase that shot as often as other piglets.

Chicago’s third-round selection in the 2014 NHL Draft has been a frequent healthy scratch for the Hogs this season. Iacopelli is definitely the low man on the totem pole despite his offensive acumen; he’s dressed in 30 of Rockford’s 40 games.

This is not to be unexpected; this year’s roster is loaded with prospects and someone has to sit most nights. On a team built around speed, Iacopelli’s skating ability is in need of improvement. He does have a bit of trouble creating space for himself in AHL action. On the other hand, he has a shot that generates scoring chances and is a plus-seven on the campaign so far.

Iacopelli has sat for an extra defenseman a couple of times this season. On Saturday, Hogs coach Jeremy Colliton elected to skate D Robin Norell as a forward in lieu of Iacopelli. This, after he had swiped a puck and scored in the win over San Jose the previous evening.

On a team with fewer prospects in the lineup, Iacopelli might be getting a ton of power play minutes and a spot on a scoring line. Right now, he’ll have to continue to make do with the ice time he’s getting.

 

Roster Movement

The week started with Tomas Jurco and John Hayden flipping places in the organization; Hayden was sent to Rockford, with Jurco moving up to the Blackhawks. Rockford sent D Robin Press to the Indy Fuel and recalled AHL contract F Alex Wideman.

After clearing waivers, D Cody Franson was assigned to the IceHogs Tuesday, with Erik Gustafsson moving up the ladder to the Hawks. The next day, Chicago’s trade with Arizona resulted in Laurent Dauphin returning to the Coyotes organization and D Adam Clendening rejoining the team he skated for from 2012 to 2015.

Clendening’s best Rockford season was 2013-14, when he notched a 59-point (12 G, 47 A) campaign. He has spent parts of four seasons with NHL clubs, including 31 games with the Rangers last year. He was with the Coyotes for five games this fall but had spent most of 2017-18 in AHL Tuscon, where Clendening had a goal and four assists.

 

California Recaps

Gonna be a bit sparse, as time and other commitments results in a line-less look this week:

  • William Pelletier highlighted Rockford’s 5-2 win in Ontario Wednesday with his first pro hat-trick. Delia was awesome (33 saves) and Viktor Svedberg potted the game-winner. Tyler Sikura won a race for a loose puck and got himself a shorty for the effort.
  • The Hogs fired 42 shots at the San Jose Barracuda, winning 4-2. Rockford was paced by two goals by Tanner Kero, including a power play strike late in the contest assisted by recent acquisition Adam Clendening. Sikura and Matheson Iacopelli also scored for the Hogs.
  • Second period goals by Sikura and Carl Dahlstrom had Rockford in position to sweep the week. Bakersfield’s Ty Rattie, a former Chicago Wolves thorn in the Hogs side, tied the game midway through the third. Rattie then won it for the Condors in the closing minute of Gus Macker Time after Rockford just missed on several attempts.

Three games, two wins, five points. Couldn’t ask for much more than that. If Rockford can wind up in the postseason this spring, you can point to this week’s performance as a reason.

 

This Week

The IceHogs are camping out in Cleveland this week, with games at Quicken Loans Arena on Wednesday and Friday night. Saturday, Rockford closes out the road trip in Grand Rapids.

The Monsters and Rockford have split four meetings this season, including a pair in Rockford two weeks ago. Former IceHogs Alex and Terry Broadhurst each have a pair of goals against Rockford in the prior match ups.

Rockford is 6-1 vs the Griffins in 2017-18, though the Hogs dropped the last meeting between the two teams January 5 at Van Andel Arena.

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