Hockey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs continue to maneuver through the COVID minefield that is the 2020-21 season. The IceHogs have had to adjust to several postponements throughout the campaign. This weekend may see more of that trend.

Rockford’s game last Saturday in Grand Rapids was postponed due to issues within the Griffins organization. After losing in Iowa Tuesday night, the Hogs are due to host the Chicago Wolves this Saturday before traveling to Hoffman Estates for a game with the Wolves Wednesday.

However, COVID issues affecting the Wolves forced Chicago to postpone Thursday’s game with the Griffins. This may put Saturday’s affair on hold, though the AHL has not yet postponed the contest.

All four of the Central Division teams on Rockford’s schedule have had to postpone games with the IceHogs due to COVID issues during the season. The game Rockford missed last Saturday is supposed to be played on May 3. A February 28 date in Cleveland has not yet been rescheduled.

The IceHogs have played 21 games heading into the weekend. They are 7-13-1 and in the basement of the Central Division standings.

 

Roster Moves

Goalie Matt Tomkins is currently on the Blackhaws taxi squad. Tom Aubrun is on loan to the Indy Fuel.  This leaves Rockford with just two goalies on the roster, Cale Morris and Ivan Nalimov.

Wednesday, defensemen Ian Mitchell and Nicolas Beaudin were brought up to the Hawks taxi squad, with forward Brandon Pirri being assigned yet again to Rockford. Despite playing in just three games for the Hogs this season, Pirri is second on the team with five goals.

On Thursday, the IceHogs announced that they had signed UMass forward Carson Gicewicz to an AHL contract through the 2022-23 season. Gicewicz had 17 goals and seven assists for the Minutemen, who recently were crowned NCAA Champs.

I can’t recall Rockford inking a player to a three-year deal in the past. Expect the 24-year old Gicewicz to get into some action, provided the Hogs have an opponent to play in the coming weeks.

 

Tuesday, April 13-Iowa 4, Rockford 1

The Hogs win streak ends at one game. Iowa put up four unanswered goals to beat Rockford.

With Cody Franson in the box for hooking, Rockford took the lead on a fine individual effort by Josiah Slavin. Winning a board battle in neutral ice, Slavin skated the puck into Wild territory and let fly from the right circle. The shot beat Iowa goalie Dereck Baribeau to the stick side for a 1-0 Hogs lead just 3:26 into the game.

The Wild tied the game with a transition goal that caught the Rockford defense on its heels. Damien Giroux got things started in the neutral zone and cleaned up a rebound of Connor Dewar’s initial attempt. Cale Morris was unable to make a second stop on the rush and the game was even at a goal apiece 9:03 into the first period.

Iowa built a 3-1 lead in the middle frame on goals by Will Bitten and Mason Shaw. The Hogs were unable to generate any offensive pressure in the third period, as Iowa would out-shoot Rockford 13-6 in the final twenty. Gerry Mayhew added an empty-net goal for the Wild in the final minutes to wrap things up.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Andrei Altybarmakian-Dylan McLaughlin-John Quenneville (A)

Josiah Slavin-MacKenzie Entwistle-Michal Teply

Evan Barratt-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Chris Wilkie

Mitchell Fossier-D.J. Busdeker-Tim Soderlund

Nicolas Beaudin-Cody Franson (A)

Issak Phillips-Ian Mitchell

Cole Moberg-Micheal Krutil

Cale Morris

Ivan Nalimov

 

Fingers Crossed

If all goes as planned, Rockford hosts the Wolves at the BMO Saturday night. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

Hockey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Meet The New Boss…Same As The Old Boss

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

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

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

 

Catching Up On Recaps

Saturday, April 3-Chicago 4, Rockford 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lines (Starters in italics)

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-Garrett Mitchell (C)

Josian Slavin-MacKenzie Entwistle-D.J. Busdeker

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Dylan McLaughlin-John Quenneville (A)

Matej Chalupa-Michal Teply

Lucas Carlsson-Ian Mitchell

Anton Lindholm-Nicolas Beaudin

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Michael Krutil

Cale Morris

Ivan Nalimov

 

Wednesday, April 9-Rockford 4, Chicago 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lines (Starters in italics)

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-D.J. Busdeker

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Dylan McLaughlin-John Quenneville (A)

Josiah Slavin-MacKenzie Entwistle-Brandon Pirri

Matej Chalupa-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Chad Yetman

Issak Phillips-Cody Franson (A)

Nicolas Beaudin-Ian Mitchell

Lucas Carlsson-Michael Krutil

Matt Tomkins

Ivan Nalimov

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

Hockey

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

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

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

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs had weekend plans with the Iowa Wild. They still do…kinda.

The AHL, in response to COVID-related issues in the Wild organization, pushed back what would have been Friday and Saturday games at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Instead, the two games are now scheduled for Sunday, March 21, and Tuesday, March 23.

Rockford’s schedule has been altered several times this season. Each time, the issues have been in the opponent’s camp. Right now, it still appears that the IceHogs, who have won two straight games, will have a chance to extend that streak against a struggling Iowa team that has dropped its last five contests.

 

McLaughlin Strikes Twice

Forward Dylan McLaughin is one of many AHL contracts signed by the Hogs that has capitalized on an increased role on the team this season. McLaughlin split his rookie season between Rockford and Indy; he had two goals and five helpers in 28 games with the IceHogs and 13 goals and 11 assists in 20 games with the Fuel.

McLaughlin spent most of 2019-20 as a fourth-line skater and penalty killer. Lately, he has seen a lot of top-six minutes and also has a spot on a power-play unit. As a result, McLaughlin is having his most noticeable stretch in his short IceHogs career.

Rockford got game-winning overtime goals from McLaughlin in consecutive victories over Grand Rapids on Saturday and Tuesday. He also assisted on the two goals that tied each game for the IceHogs.

McLaughlin, who spent four seasons at Canisius College before starting his pro career, is now second on the team in scoring with seven points (2 G, 5 A) in ten games for Rockford. So far this season, he’s made the most of the chances afforded to him.

 

Roster News

On Tuesday, it was announced that the Blackhawks had signed forward Josiah Slavin to a two-year entry contract that begins this fall. The IceHogs inked Slavin, whose season at Colorado College ended recently, to an amateur tryout, which should run through the rest of the AHL season.

Wednesday, Rockford assigned G Tom Aubrun to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. The Blackhawks sent F Brandon Pirri from the taxi squad to the IceHogs. Pirri had two goals and an assist in two games with Rockford earlier this month.

D Anton Lindholm got into his first game action of the season for Rockford Tuesday after suffering a broken thumb in training camp. Also returning to action Tuesday was forward Michal Teply.

 

Tuesday, March 16-Rockford 2, Grand Rapids 1 (OT)

Rockford won its second-straight game in Grand Rapids, prevailing in nearly the exact manner of Saturday’s overtime victory. This time, Matt Tomkins made 46 saves, allowing Dylan McLaughlin to pot another game-winner for the Hogs.

The Griffins took advantage of an ill-advised pass attempt by Hogs rookie defenseman Alec Regula to take a 1-0 advantage midway through the first period. Regula was in the corner of his own zone and tried to send a no-look backhand pass to Dylan McLaughlin.

The pass did not connect; instead, the puck found the stick of Givani Smith. A quick pass to Chase Pearson at the left post was knocked past Tomkins at the 10:26 mark. The Hogs were out shot 16-9 in the opening twenty and went to the locker room down a goal.

Rockford capitalized on a Griffins turnover to tie the game early in the second stanza. Grand Rapids captain Brian Lashoff was unable to gather in a bouncing puck in the corner of the Griffins zone. McLauglin swooped in to take control and sent the puck out to Cody Franson at the right point.

Franson’s shot was stopped by Grand Rapids goalie Calvin Pickard, but McLaughlin gathered in the rebound and sent it to the blue paint. Gabriel Gagne slid the biscuit across the goal line 1:15 into the second to make it a 1-1 game.

The Griffins kept Rockford on its heels for most of the remainder of the second period. Tomkins, as he had in Saturday’s Hogs victory, kept his team in the game with many point-blank stops. Grand Rapids out shot the piglets 16-3 in the third period. Tomkins sent them away time and again, including two power plays in the final twenty minutes.

The ending was short, sweet, and nearly a carbon copy of Saturday’s triumph. The Griffins won the opening faceoff in Gus Macker Time and got set to bring it up the ice. A long stretch pass knocked the stick out of Tim Soderlund’s hands, effectively making it a 3-on-2 Grand Rapids advantage. No matter.

Issak Phillips retrieved the loose puck and skated into the offensive zone. With all three Griffins defenders surrounding him at the right dot, Phillips dropped a pass to McLaughlin. The resulting shot to the far corner caught twine and earned Rockford the win 19 seconds into the extra session.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Andrei Altybarmakyan-MacKenzie Entwistle-D.J. Busdeker

Matej Chalupa-Evan Barratt-Michal Teply

Tim Soderlund-Dylan McLaughlin-Gabriel Gagne

Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Mitchell Fossier

Alec Regula-Cody Franson (A)

Anton Lindholm-Michael Krutil

Issak Phillips-Dimitry Osipov

Matt Tomkins

Cale Morris

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

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs currently have four goalies on the roster. Matt Tomkins was tabbed the primary starter before the start of the 2020-21 season. Fresh off of a stint on the Blackhawks taxi squad, Tomkins has shown why he earned that role.

Tomkins has a tough job as the last line of defense for a Rockford squad that is short on experience and lacks the talent depth of other teams in the AHL. That said, the 26-year-old goalie put together solid performances in his last two starts against the Grand Rapids Griffins.

The highlight was a 42-save outing in Rockford’s 2-1 overtime victory Saturday night. The IceHogs were dominated everywhere but on the scoreboard at Van Andel Arena by a Griffins club that had stifled the piglets in three previous meetings.

Tomkins made point-blank stops on several crucial power play opportunities for Grand Rapids and kept the Hogs in contention all evening. All this in just his second game back since being called up to the taxi squad on February 26.

Before starting Thurday’s game with the Griffins, Tomkins had last seen game action February 22. In that game, he was blitzed for six goals by Cleveland, giving way to backup Cale Morris.

Tomkins was recalled in order to provide a conditioning assignment for Collin Delia. He did his best to use the time in Chicago to kick his game up a notch.

“It was a good change of pace, a good experience,  Tomkins said while in a media availability March 9, the day after he was returned to the IceHogs. “It was good to be around those guys, good to be around the group, coaches. Get different feedback, different eyes. It was a positive experience.
I tried to take as much out of it as I could, and it went really well.”

Delia was down with Rockford to get some game action and to build some confidence. Tomkins, in turn, got a chance to work with Jimmy Waite, Chicago’s goal tending coach. The added mentoring fit in quite well with developmental goalie coach Peter Aubry, according to Tomkins.

“There was nothing really glaring, in my opinion, coming in there that I wanted to work on,” Tomkins explained. “It’s good to just kind of see the things that he (Waite) thinks are important. I think there’s a lot of overlap with what Pete teaches here as well. It’s good to see his (Waite’s) perspective on specific scenarios, how he likes his guys to play them.”

“Just a lot of communication,” Tomkins continued, “that was the biggest thing, just talking through scenarios, talking through how to play different situations and, yeah, just a lot of goalie talk, which was good.”

When the 16-day gap between game action was pointed out to Tomkins, he was unfazed. “I’ve gone through this experience a lot before, especially last year. I had long stretches between games. Nothing I haven’t seen before.”

Tomkins was the third goalie behind Delia and Kevin Lankinen last season. With the former playing below expectations and the latter battling injury, Tomkins played well in nine starts throughout the first four months. He earned his first NHL contract January 23, a two-year deal that is up following this season.

After signing, Tomkins was used sparingly. The organization chose to give most of the workload to Delia after Lankinen underwent shoulder surgery. From his signing until the season was halted, Tomkins got just four starts. He was in net for Rockford’s final game last spring, a 3-2 overtime loss to Chicago March 8.

The Blackhawks drafted Tomkins in the seventh round of the 2012 NHL Draft. After a final year in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, he spent four seasons at Ohio State. After a 12-5-3 record with the Buckeyes in his senior season to go along with a 2.48 GAA and a .909 save percentage, he signed an AHL contract with Rockford.

Tomkins appeared in eight games with the IceHogs in his rookie season of 2017-18, but spent most of those first two years with the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. In 2018-19, he made 54 appearances for the Fuel, nabbing an ECHL Player Of The Week Award on three different occasions.

Tomkins spent all of last season with the IceHogs, save for the time he spent on Team Canada’s winning Spengler Cup squad. He picked up a win for Team Canada against HC Davos, making 22 saves in a 5-1 victory.

For the first time in his four-year professional career, Tomkins is getting starters minutes for the IceHogs. As the only NHL contract in Rockford at the moment, it makes sense to give him the opportunity to show off his game. He has certainly earned it.

Cale Morris had solid night in his first AHL start back on February 23. The Hogs also have Tom Aubrun on the roster. While Tomkins was with Chicago, Rockford signed KHL goaltender Ivan Nalimov to an AHL contract for this season. How does having three goalies behind him looking for playing time affect his mindset?

“I’ve certainly learned something over my career that giving that stuff attention and thinking about these things doesn’t serve you any good,” Tomkins said. “I just try to focus on myself. It certainly is something that’s very much out of my control.”

 

The Talent Gap Is Wide

I’ve been crowing about how much more experience and physical play Grand Rapids brings to these match-ups with the piglets. Maybe I’m overstating the fact.

Then again, maybe I’m not.

Grand Rapids AHL experience on its roster: 3442 games.

Rockford AHL experience on its roster: 1993 games. (Much of those by Garrett Mitchell and Cody Franson)

NHL contracts in the Griffins lineup Saturday: 14

NHL contracts in the IceHogs lineup Saturday: 5

The IceHogs are by far the least experienced team in the Central Division. Every other team Rockford will play the rest of this season will be have these advantages over the Hogs.

 

Saturday, March 13-Rockford 2, Grand Rapids 1 (OT)

Matt Tomkins stood on his head to pick up a big road win for the piglets. Tomkins was the game’s First Star with a 42-save performance.

The Griffins took control of the action from the opening drop of the puck, camping out in the Rockford zone and heaping vulcanized rubber upon Tomkins. Through 40 minutes, he was up to the challenge. Tomkins had 30 saves in the first and second periods. Rockford, on the other hand, found the going rough in the offensive end, getting just ten shots to Griffins goalie Kevin Boyle.

Grand Rapids broke the scoreless tie early in the third. Taro Hirose picked off a clearing attempt along the left half boards and sent a puck toward the crease. Kyle Criscuolo was on hand to redirect past the blocker of Tomkins at 2:27 of the final period.

The Hogs responded with a power play goal by Matej Chalupa at the 7:25 mark. The Hogs capitalized on an abbreviated man advantage when Chalupa converted on a long rebound of an Evan Barratt shot that came all the way out to the right circle.

From there, Tomkins hung on like grim death, ending regulation with 39 stops. He made three more in Gus Macker Time, the last of which set up the game winner.

Tomkins made a shoulder save of a Givani Smith attempt. The rebound went out to Dylan McLaughlin at the top of the Hogs zone. McLaughlin headed up an odd-man rush into Griffins territory, ending the game with a snap shot from the left dot 2:14 into overtime.

McLaughin’s first goal of the season earned him Second Star honors. Criscuolo was named the game’s Third Star.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Dylan McLaughlin-MacKenzie Entwistle-D.J. Busdeker

Matej Chalupa-Evan Barratt-Chris Wilkie

Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Tim Soderlund

Mitchell Fossier-Chad Yetman-Gabriel Gagne

Alec Regula-Cody Franson (A)

Issak Phillips-Michael Krutil

Cliff Watson-Dimitry Osipov

Matt Tomkins

Cale Morris

 

Coming Up

Rockford heads back to Grand Rapids for a Tuesday night affair. The IceHogs then host Iowa Friday and Saturday.

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

 

 

Hockey

In two games separated by eight days, the Rockford IceHogs were out scored 12-5 by the visiting Grand Rapids Griffins. Rockford (3-8-1 on the season) and Grand Rapids (6-3) now move to Van Andel Arena for their next two games. Can the IceHogs turn the tables on Grand Rapids on Saturday and Tuesday?

That will be a tall order for the piglets.

Thursday night, the Blackhawks AHL affiliate got solid goal tending from Matt Tomkins and kept the Griffins in check for most of the first two periods. The IceHogs didn’t get blown out on the scoreboard, as was the case in last week’s 9-4 loss. However, Rockford still wound up on the short end of a 3-1 decision at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Rockford just doesn’t have the skill in the offensive zone to compete with most AHL teams. The Hogs are dependent on getting to the net and capitalizing on rebounds and loose pucks. Rockford just doesn’t generate open looks at close range. The Griffins have excelled at this in both of their last two games at the BMO.

Thursday night, Rockford was credited with a single shot originating from the front of the Griffins net. That shot was an attempt from the point that struck the skate of D.J. Busdeker and found the net late in the contest. By comparison, 16 of 32 Grand Rapids shots came from right in front of the crease.

If your opponent bangs away from the porch and you can’t manage to penetrate even to the faceoff dots, chances are you aren’t going to win a lot of games. In both quality and quantity of shots, the IceHogs have been overwhelmed on a regular basis.

The recipe for success in Grand Rapids? Try like the devil to keep the Griffins away from the slot with the puck. Get monster performances from your goalie and make your offensive chances count. Like I said, grinding out a win at Van Andel is going to be tough for the young, inexperienced group currently toiling in ‘Bago County.

Roster News

The IceHogs announced that defenseman Chad Krys underwent shoulder surgery this week. He is expected to miss the next five to seven months. Rockford signed defenseman Cliff Watson to a PTO on Monday to compensate. Watson has spent this season as the captain of the Indy Fuel of the ECHL.

Monday afternoon, G Collin Delia, D Nicolas Beaudin, and F Reese Johnson were recalled to the Blackhawks. G Matt Tomkins and F Tim Soderlund were returned to the IceHogs. After being sent to Indy on Monday, Tom Aubrun was recalled to Rockford on Thursday after playing Tuesday night in the Fuel’s 6-0 loss to Wheeling.

Alec Regula returned to action for the first time since February 27 on Thursday. The Big Regu is currently the only NHL contract playing on Rockford’s blueline.

Cody Franson, Dmitry Osipov, and Michael Krutil are on AHL contracts. Watson and Cole Moberg are on PTOs, while Issak Phillips is on an amateur tryout until the OHL starts back up.

 

Thursday, March 11-Grand Rapids 3, Rockford 1

The IceHogs kept things close before Grand Rapids pulled ahead in the final period. However, Rockford just didn’t have enough going on in the offensive zone to keep up with the Griffins. Grand Rapids was more aggressive and moved the puck around the Hogs zone with ease.

After a scoreless first, the Griffins took advantage of a turnover in the Hogs zone by Dimitry Osipov early in the middle frame. Chase Pearson skated the puck into the high slot, dropping a pass to Riley Barber. Barber sent a high shot over the glove of Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins for a 1-0 Grand Rapids lead 2:04 into the second.

Tomkins was able to keep the IceHogs in the contest despite facing a slew of Griffins shots from close range through the first forty minutes of action. Rockford was outshot 22-11 in periods one and two; the Hogs had no shot on the Grand Rapids net as close as the faceoff dots in that time.

The dam broke in the third period. Grand Rapids put up a pair of goals in a three-minute span to take full control of the contest. The first came 6:04 into the third, when Osipov blocked an attempt by Gustav Lindstrom that bounced to the left post. Kyle Criscuola was on hand to knock the puck into the cage for a 2-0 Griffins lead.

Grand Rapids captain Brian Lashoff finished off a pretty bit of passing from Tyler Spezia. Lashoff sent his shot to the stick side of Tomkins at the 9:09 mark, making it 3-0 Griffins.

Rockford broke up Pat Nagle’s shutout bid with a goal late in the game. Michael Krutil’s long-distance offering caromed off the skate of D.J. Busdeker at 16:19 of the third, cutting the lead to 3-1. Despite pulling Tomkins (29 saves on 32 shots) for most of the final three minutes, the IceHogs could not close the gap.

Nagle had a relatively easy night in net for Grand Rapids, stopping 17 of the 18 shots the IceHogs could muster. Each team had just one attempt with a man advantage. Neither the Hogs or Griffins converted.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Rockford went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen due to the late scratch of John Quenneville.

Matej Chalupa-Evan Barratt-Andrei Altybarmakyan

Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Tim Soderlund

Brad Morrison-Chad Yetman-Chris Wilkie

MacKenzie Entwistle-D.J. Busdeker

Alec Regula-Cody Franson (A)

Michael Krutil-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Cliff Watson

Matt Tomkins

Cale Morris

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

Everything Else Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have set a franchise record for futility to open a season, dropping two games this past week to fall to 0-4-1 on the 2020-21 campaign.

The piglets have been in most of these games. However, the discrepancy in talent is pretty evident.

The IceHogs began a four-game home stand by losing to the Wolves on Tuesday. Thursday night, Grand Rapids came to the BMO and stifled Rockford.

As expected, the IceHogs are struggling to put pucks in the net. The passing and puck skill aren’t up to AHL speed as of yet. For the time being, Rockford is going to have to work hard, put back rebounds, and create traffic in front of nets to create offense.

 

Roster Activity

Rockford jettisoned goalie Scott Darling on Wednesday, releasing the veteran from his PTO. Darling played in one game for the Hogs, giving up five goals in Rockford’s 5-2 loss to the Wolves on February 9.

Defenseman Michael Krutil, who was on an amateur tryout, was released from his ATO, then signed to an AHL contract. Krutil, 18, has appeared in three games for Rockford this season.

The IceHogs also announced on Wednesday that defenseman Anton Lindholm, recently sent to Rockford from the Hawks taxi squad, would be out for four to six weeks with a broken thumb. The IceHogs currently have just seven healthy defenseman on the roster; there may be a real need to sign a couple of players in the coming weeks.

Back on Tuesday, Rockford skated without captain Garrett Mitchell. Mitchell was serving a one-game suspension for a cross-check to the head of Iowa’s Ryan O’Rourke on Saturday.

 

Recaps

Tuesday, February 16-Chicago 3, Rockford 2

The IceHogs dug a three-goal hole in the first forty minutes of action. Despite rallying for a pair of goals in the final stanza, the IceHogs fell to the Chicago Wolves for the third time this season. Rockford drops to 0-3-1 after a 3-2 defeat at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

The Wolves quickly went up 1-0 on Anthony Richard‘s quick strike past Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins 1:22 into the game. The scoring play was started by Jeremy Davies hauling in a wayward shot attempt by Rockford’s Cole Moberg. The puck rapidly made its way to Tom Novak, who hit Richard coming into the Hogs zone. Richard finished off a 2-on-1 rush by finding the top right corner of the net.

The IceHogs were nailed with a too many men on the ice infraction midway through the first period. Chicago converted late in the man advantage. Ryan Suzuki did the honors, taking a pass from Richard in the near right circle and one-timing into the open net. The Wolves led 2-0 at the 12:55 mark and took that lead into the first intermission.

Tomkins denied several high-percentage shots from the Wolves in the second period. However, Philip Tomasino got himself open in the slot, taking a pass from David Cotton and driving a shot over the Rockford goalie at 13:32 mark. Rockford came up empty on three power play chances in the second stanza and began the final period down 3-0.

Two goals in the span of 19 seconds midway through the final frame brought the Hogs roaring back into contention. Brad Morrison brought the puck out of the Rockford zone, up the left side, and into the high slot. There, he floated a backhand shot toward net. Just before Wolves goalie Beck Warm could glove the attempt, Chris Wilkie batted it into the net at 7:01 of the third.

On the ensuing faceoff, Wilkie found himself with the puck on his stick just outside the Chicago blueline. He passed to a pinching Issak Phillips, who drove to the net and sent a shot that Warm stopped with his left pad. Phillips, who continued to drive to the net behind his shot, scooped up the rebound and cut the Wolves lead to 3-2 at the 7:20 mark.

The IceHogs kept the pressure on Warm, firing 15 shots on the Chicago rookie in the third period. Despite a frantic push in the final minutes, Rockford was unable to complete the comeback.

Warm stopped 37 of 39 shots on the evening to pick up the win. Tomkins kept the Hogs in the contest with several point-blank saves, finished with 33 saves on 36 shots.

Three Stars: Richard (First), Wilkie (Second), Tomasino (Third).

Lines (Starters in italics)

Brad Morrison-Chad Yetman-Chris Wilkie

Matej Chalupa-John Quenneville (A)-Andrei Altybarmakyan

Mitchell Fossier-Evan Barratt-Gabriel Gagne

Riley McKay-Dylan McLaughlin-Tim Soderlund

Chad Krys-Cody Franson

Alec Regula-Michal Krutil

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Matt Tomkins

Scott Darling

Power Play ( 0-5)

Quenneville-Barratt-Yetman-Regula-Franson

Soderlund-Gagne-Altybarmakyan-Moberg-Krys

Penalty Kill (Wolves were 1-4)

Forwards-Soderlund-Chalupa-Quenneville-McLaughlin

Defensemen-Krys-Franson-Phillips-Moberg

 

Thursday, February 18-Grand Rapids 3, Rockford 1

The IceHogs offense was as ferocious as a box of kittens on Thursday, mustering just 13 shots in Rockford’s fifth-straight loss to open the season. Rockford falls to 0-4-1 with the defeat. Grand Rapids improves to 2-2 in the first of eight meetings between the Central Division rivals.

The Griffins came out firing, out-shooting Rockford 8-2 in the opening minutes on the way to a 12-5 shot advantage in the first period. Grand Rapids had several chances in two power plays in the first, only to be nullified by some off-target passing.

The two Central Division rivals traded goals in the second stanza. The Griffins Michael Rasmussen got his blade on a Dennis Cholowski shot just over a minute into a Grand Rapids power play. Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins could only watch as the puck entered the net. The Griffins led 1-0 at the 4:33 mark.

Rockford drew even just after a man advantage of their own expired. Rookie Alec Regula pounced on a rebound of a shot by a Chad Krys shot from the point. Gathering in the puck, Regula beat Grand Rapids goalie Kevin Boyle to the left side of the Griffins net. The score was even at a goal apiece at 13:34 of the second period.

The game remained tied until the Griffins Riley Barber worked his way into an open look from the slot. Taking a pass from Taro Hirose, Barber sent a wrister over the blocker of Tomkins for a 2-1 advantage at 7:13 of the final period.

Rockford had a huge chance for an equalizer midway though the third. However, the IceHogs came up empty on a power play that included almost a minute of a five-on-three advantage.

Tomkins, who stopped 26 of 28 shots in the game, was pulled with 2:12 remaining during Rockford’s timeout. The Hogs lost an offensive zone draw, leading to an empty-net goal by Chase Pearson that made it 3-1 Griffins with 2:01 left.

Three Stars-Hirose (First, 2 assists), Cholowski (Second, 2 assists), Barber (Third, game-winning goal)

Lines (Starters in italics)

Matej Chalupa-Evan Barratt-Chris Wilkie

John Quenneville (A)-Garrett Mitchell (C)-MacKenzie Entwistle

Riley McKay-Dylan McLaughlin-Tim Soderlund

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Chad Yetman-Mikael Hakkarainen

Issak Phillips-Dimitry Osipov

Chad Krys-Cody Franson (A)

Alec Regula-Michael Krutil

Matt Tomkins

Cale Morris

Power Play (0-5)

Quenneville-Barratt-Wilkie-Entwistle-Franson

Chalupa-Altybarmakyan-Mitchell-Krys-Regula

Penalty Kill (Grand Rapids was 1-4)

Forwards-Mitchell-Chalupa-Quenneville-Wilkie-Hakkarainen-Soderlund

Defensemen-Osipov-Regula-Phillips-Krutil-Franson-Krys

 

Coming Up

Rockford is idle this weekend, but have four games with the Cleveland Monsters next week. The Hogs play host to Cleveland Monday and Tuesday, then visit the Monsters on Saturday and Sunday.

I’ll be back with a preview of the Monsters on Monday as the Hogs attempt to pick up that elusive first victory. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for reports on Rockford throughout the season.

 

Hockey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Roster Moves

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

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

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

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

 

Disappointment In DesMoines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Stars-Beckman, Morrison, Giroux.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mitchell Fossier-Chad Yetman-Brad Morrison

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Dylan McLaughlin-John Quenneville (A)

Evan Barrett-Matej Chalupa-Chris Wilkie

Gabriel Gagne-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Tim Soderlund

Chad Krys-Cody Franson (A)

Alec Regula-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Matt Tomkins

Cale Morris

Power Play (0-2)

Barratt-Quenneville-Yetman-Regula-Franson

Penalty Kill (Iowa was 0-4)

Forwards-Mitchell-Quenneville-McLaughlin-Wilkie-Chalupa

Defensemen-Phillips-Moberg-Osipov-Regula

 

This Week

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

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

Hockey

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

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

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

Here are some of the contributors to the recent surge:

The Brothers Sikura

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

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

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

 

Brandon Hagel, Forward

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

 

MacKenzie Entwistle, Forward

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

 

Lucas Carlsson, Defense

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

 

Matt Tomkins, Goalie

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

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

 

Roster Moves

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

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

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

 

Recaps

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

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

 

Friday, November 29-Rockford 4, Chicago 2

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

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

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

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

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

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville-Tyler Sikura (C)-Alexandre Fortin

Dylan Sikura-Phillipp Kurashev-Brandon Hagel

Tim Soderlund-Jacob Nilsson (A)-Joseph Cramarossa

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-MacKenzie Entwistle

Lucas Carlsson-Dennis Gilbert (A)

Joni Tuulola-Adam Boqvist

Nicolas Beaudin-Chad Krys

Matt Tomkins

Kevin Lankinen

 

Saturday, November 30-Rockford 3, Grand Rapids 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville-Tyler Sikura (C) Dylan Sikura

Matthew Highmore-Phillipp Kurashev-MacKenzie Entwistle

Joeseph Cramarossa-Jacob Nilsson (A)-Brandon Hagel

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Tim Soderlund

Lucas Carlsson-Dennis Gilbert (A)

Joni Tuulola-Adam Boqvist

Nicolas Beaudin-Chad Krys

Kevin Lankinen

Collin Delia

 

This Week

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

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