Hockey

Proving once again that the Hawks can somehow beat superior teams while also losing to terrible teams, we’re picking up right where we left off before Christmas, albeit with an officially reduced roster of defensemen. This game also proves that sometimes it just comes down to which goalie is better/having a better night. Let’s get to the bullets:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

–The Hawks took advantage of some weak-ass goaltending from Thomas Greiss, and honestly some of that was just luck, as pucks kept deflecting off Islanders defensemen all night but you know what? Fuck ’em. Gilbert’s goal was of the lucky variety, whereas Kubalik’s was a beautiful setup and a perfect reminder why John Quenneville has no business on the top line, and it should be Kubalik-Toews-Kane if CCYP is going to insist on breaking up DeBrincat-Strome-Kane, which seems to be the way the die is cast these days. Speaking of Top Cat, his goal was sorely needed for a guy who hasn’t scored a goal in what seems like years. Greiss got (rightly) pulled, but the Hawks had done enough damage and Robin Lehner was able to hold it down the rest of the time, despite the barrage of shots he of course had to face over the course of the game.

–From there, the Hawks just had to be good enough to hold the lead and they not only did that but they even padded it in the third with Jonathan Toews basically deciding he wanted to score, so he stole it along the boards, created an opportunity and finished the shot. Oh, and Matthew Highmore scored one too? On Semyon Varlamov. Hockey is just weird sometimes.

–Well, we’ll never see the back of Dennis Gilbert, will we? He scored his first goal (yay for you, guy), and managed to have a nice shot block on a PK in the second, and now we will never be rid of him. Nevermind that 44 CF%, right? HE SCORED A GOAL AND HAS THE GRIT AND HEART MY FRENT

–But let’s be honest, the Islanders got their first goal from a guy who’s basically their version of John Scott. Ross Johnston? WTF. However, not only did Greiss give up a goal to Dennis fucking Gilbert (not to mention the two other ones), as noted above, piece-of-shit Varlamov gave one up to Matthew fucking Highmore. Clearly not their best night, but you know what? Fuck ’em.

–I don’t love playing Strome on the wing, but at least he and Dach and DeBrincat are a line of talented young players so it sort of makes sense? They had a 50 CF% and a total of 8 shots, so this could very well be a workable line. Personally I’d rather see Strome and Dach centering lines so we have, ya know, a total of four centers when you add Kampf on the fourth line, but at least this isn’t offensive to the eyes, if it is still offensive to our sense of logic.

–The Hawks gave up 40 shots, which is still way too many. Lehner was up to the task so here we are, but it’s still not good. They also were underwater in possession through the first two periods (49 and 43 CF%, respectively). So number-wise they really shouldn’t have won, but you know what? Fuck ’em.

–The broadcast did their duty in singing the praises of Brent Seabrook and talking about what a “warrior” he is for playing through these injuries and whatta guy and whatta teammate and it was all unnecessary but not surprising at all. Of course Seabrook deserves nothing but admiration from this organ-I-zation and I fully expect Foley and Olczyk to be positively biased, but with all of the uncertainty around this situation I’m just tired of hearing the paeans.

As noted, the underlying numbers are still worrying, but the Hawks needed to come out after the ass-waxing earlier this week and play decently, and they did that. It was decent enough, at least. Onward and upward…

Hockey

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

Beats the heck out of me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Recaps

Friday, November 8-Manitoba 4, Rockford 0

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, November 10-Rockford 4, Chicago 1

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

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

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

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

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

 

Weekend Preview

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs showed off a can-do attitude over the weekend, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in back-to-back games. The resilient piglets continued their winning ways at the BMO Harris Bank Center, beating the Iowa Wild Saturday and the Chicago Wolves the following afternoon.

The Hogs (5-5) are still in the bottom half of the Central Division standings. However, Rockford has won three in a row, potted 16 goals in that span, and leapfrogged over Texas to claim the sixth spot with a .500 points percentage.

 

Hot Hogs

Dylan Sikura is now leading the team in scoring after a four-point night Saturday. Sikura the Younger, who posted a hat-trick in a furious comeback against the Wolves Sunday, has six goals and three assists on the season.

Right behind Sikura on the leaderboard is Sikura the Elder. Tyler’s fifth goal of the season tied the Wild Saturday, allowing Matthew Highmore (2 G, 5 A) to win it in overtime. Both Tyler Sikura and Highmore  have seven points for Rockford and are on three-game point streaks.

Jacob Nilsson (2 G, 4 A) also has points in each of the last three games, as does D Philip Holm. Forward Anton Wedin (2 G, 4 A) collected three apples in Sunday’s wild victory over Chicago.

 

Hurt Hogs

Forwards Kris Versteeg, John Quenneville and Mikael Hakkarainen all sat out another weekend of action. For Versteeg, it has been six games out of the lineup. Quenneville has been out since taking a hard hit along the boards on October 19. Hakkarainen has been out since October 4.

Kevin Lankinen made a second consecutive start Saturday, with Collin Delia between the pipes Sunday. Matt Tomkins is still up with the Hogs, though I would think he’ll be sent down to Indy to start getting some steady work in net.

 

Recaps

Saturday, November 2-Rockford 3, Iowa 2 (OT)

It was a case of late being better than never for the Hogs, who came back from a two-goal deficit in the waning moments of regulation and swiped two points from the Central Division-leading Wild.

Iowa took a 1-0 lead midway through the first period on a Kyle Rau goal. Colton Beck went coast-to-coast for a power play goal late in the second period.

As the third period ticked away, there was little to suggest that Rockford would be getting back into the contest. However, Hogs goalie Kevin Lankinen was called to the bench and the gambit paid off, big time.

Lucas Carlsson sent a one-timer from the right circle past Mat Robson with 2:30 remaining. After Iowa iced the puck on a long-distance attempt at the empty net, Rockford won the resulting faceoff in the Wild zone. Carlsson was in nearly the same spot on the ice when Philip Holm’s pass found his stick. The shot was redirected by Tyler Sikura and into the Iowa net to tie the game with 2:02 left, sending the game into Gus Macker Time.

Lankinen stopped three Iowa shots in the extra session, keeping the IceHogs in contention until Matthew Highmore nabbed a Wild shot attempt that was blocked by Nicolas Beaudin and came off the end boards. Highmore started a two-on-one rush with Beaudin and sent a laser under Robson’s glove from the top of the right circle. The game-winner came 3:45 into overtime.

Lankinen made 30 saves to post his second win in a row. The game’s three stars were Highmore, Tyler Sikura and Carlsson.

 

Sunday, November 3-Rockford 7, Chicago 4

Dylan Sikura posted a hat trick with all three goals coming in a furious IceHogs rally. In all, Rockford put up five goals in the final ten minutes of action for a third-straight victory.

The Wolves built a 3-0 lead on goals by Zach Whitecloud, Lucas Elvenes and Jimmy Schuldt. The IceHogs countered with a Jacob Nilsson tally on the man advantage at 8:27 of the second period. Reid Duke made it 4-1 a few minutes later before MacKenzie Entwistle scored at the 10:51 mark.

Rockford was still down 4-2 midway through the final frame when all hell broke loose. Things got started on the power play, with Sikura the Younger zipped a Lucas Carlsson pass past Chicago goalie Oscar Dansk. The goal cut the Wolves lead to 4-3 10:41 into the third.

Just 1:25 later, Brandon Hagel tied the game with his first goal of the season. Ninety seconds later, Sikura gathered in a Matthew Highmore pass at the right dot and flung it over the glove of Dansk to put the Hogs up 5-4 at 13:37 of the third.

Rockford did not take its foot off the gas. Tyler Sikura won control of a loose puck behind the Wolves net, skated to the right post and found Dylan in the slot to cue the caps. Reese Johnson added an empty-netter in the final minute for the coup de gras.

Collin Delia stopped 21 of 25 Chicago shots, though he kept the Wolves at bay for the final 30 minutes of action to allow his teammates the chance to storm back in the third. To the surprise of no one, Dylan Sikura was voted the game’s first star, followed by Anton Wedin and Nilsson.

 

School Days

The IceHogs drop the puck on an 10:30 a.m. tilt with the Toronto Marlies Wednesday. The piglets don’t usually fare well in these affairs, but they will be trying to extend the win streak to four games. Rockford will close out their home stand on Friday night, when the Manitoba Moose come to the BMO.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates and opinions on all things Rockford IceHogs throughout the season.

 

 

 

 

Hockey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Line Combos

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

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

Kris Versteeg (C)-Jacob Nilsson-Brandon Hagel

Aleksi Saarela-Phillipp Kurashev-Dylan Sikura

Mikeal Hakkarainen-Reese Johnson-Alexandre Fortin

Lucas Carlsson-Joni Tuulola

Philip Holm-Adam Boqvist

Chad Krys-Nicolas Beaudin

Kevin Lankinen

Power Play (0-4)

Versteeg-D. Sikura-Nilsson-Boqvist-Carlsson

Highmore-Saarela-Hagel-Beaudin-Holm

Penalty Kill (Iowa was 1-5)

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

Defense: Holm-Tuulola-Carlsson-Beaudin

 

Roster Happenings

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

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

 

A Musing Or Two For You

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

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

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

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

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

 

Coming Up

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

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs, Chicago’s affiliate in the American Hockey League, get their season underway Friday night in DesMoines. Rockford will face the Iowa Wild with fresh faces; the team released the opening-night roster Thursday. It’s time for a look at this bunch as the 2019-20 season begins.

Note: Rockford’s AHL contracts are italicized.

Forward

Vets-Nick Moutrey, Matthew Highmore (A), Kris Versteeg (C), Dylan Sikura, Tyler Sikura (A), Jacob Nilsson (A), Alexandre Fortin, Aleksi Saarela.

Rookies-Mikael Hakkarainen, Dylan McLaughlin, Brandon Hagel, Reese Johnson, Phillipp Kurashev Tim Soderlund, MacKenzie Entwistle, Anton Wedin.

It’s hard to think that the Hogs will carry 16 healthy forwards for too long. Hawks prospects Graham Knott and Nathan Noel are already with the Indy Fuel as room is made for new prospects. The three AHL deals in this group are Versteeg, Sikura the Elder and Moutrey.

There is no way that Versteeg, freshly anointed captain by coach Derek King, is going anywhere. Tyler Sikura is an alternate captain and figures to get heavy minutes. Maybe Moutrey finds himself with the Fuel. However, there’s a good chance a few of the younger guys spends a stretch in the ECHL in the first couple of months.

Key Players

Highmore, who is returning from a 2018-19 lost to injury, is going to be counted on to help pace the offense. Saarela has 30-goal talent at the AHL level and a hot start by the new guy would be great.

Versteeg really seems stoked to be playing hockey in Rockford. If he is a constant in the lineup, there’s no reason he can’t put up 20 goals. Both Sikuras have shown a knack for point-producing in their own ways at this level. Nilsson will be looking to follow up on a promising rookie campaign.

After league-worst offensive production last season, someone’s got to sneak some rubber by opposing goalies on a regular basis. The potential is there, but the new faces are going to have to find chemistry quickly and hope the players above can light the way early.

 

Defense

Vets-Philip Holm, Dennis Gilbert, Lucas Carlsson, Joni Tuulola.

Rookies-Chad Krys, Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin, Jack Ramsey.

This is a really young group without any real veteran presence. Carl Dahlstrom getting picked up on waivers by Winnipeg really hurts in this area, but if the high draft picks perform as advertised, that may not be a problem.

Key Players

Boqvist and Beadin are the latest of a series of highly-touted defensive prospects. Will this duo go the way of Ville Pokka and Gustav Forsling, or will they develop into solid members of Chicago’s blueline?

Gilbert stuck around a good while at Blackhawks training camp. He is still in Europe with Chicago and will apparently be called up to play in this afternoon’s game in Prague. The big defenseman looks like he’s ready to build on last season, where he came on slowly but steadily for the Hogs. Look to Gilbert and Holm to be the defensive stoppers for Rockford. Carlsson showed potential in his rookie season; can he be a power play factor for Rockford?

Krys impressed me in his short stint with the IceHogs this past spring. It will be interesting to see where he will fit into the picture.

 

Goalie

Kevin Lankinen, Collin Delia, Matt Tomkins.

I’m speculating that Tomkins is on the roster until Delia returns from Europe. The Lankinen/Delia combo could be the best tandem in the league by season’s end.

 

Questions To Be Answered In 2019-20

Time to shift into full-on speculation mode. Here goes…

Who carries the scoring load?

Saarela, Highmore, Sikura the Younger, Boqvist and Krys.

Which rookies are going to impress early?

Kurashev, Boqvist…and Hagel.

Can Alexandre Fortin find an offensive game?

I really, really hope so.

How many games will Versteeg play?

He’ll play 60, with 16 goals and 16 assists. Anything above this is gravy. Heck, if he hits those numbers, its still gravy.

Can this team make the playoffs?

Well…first, the Hogs will need to find a way to get the best of the veteran-laden teams in their division like Chicago, Milwaukee and Grand Rapids. It really depends on how quickly a team with 12 rookies can get up to speed in the AHL.

Can the piglets make the postseason? Sure. Will they? That’s for them to know and all of us to find out.

 

Friday Night vs The Wild

Unlike Rockford, the Wild had a two-game preseason series with Manitoba to get into game shape. Iowa made it to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs after finishing third in the Central Division last season.

Gerald Mayhew is coming off a 60-point season and is beginning his fourth full loop in Iowa. Dmitri Sokolov returns from a rookie season of 16 goals and 14 helpers.  Kyle Rau had 26 goals for Iowa in 2018-19.

Gabriel Dumont comes over from the Lightning organization. He had 43 points (15 G, 28 A) for Syracuse in 2018-19. Sam Anas is also a forward who can fill a net.

Among the familiar faces in Iowa is former Hogs center Luke Johnson, who signed with Minnesota this summer after posting career-highs in goals (18) and points (31) with Rockford in 2018-19. Mike Liambas, who was in Rockford back in 2015-16, brings his hard-hitting mentality to the Wild after joining Iowa last season.

Brennan Menell dished out 42 helpers from the blueline for the Wild last year and returns for his third season. Louis Belpedio (6 G, 15 A), Carson Souchy (5 G, 15 A) and Matt Bartkowski (4 G, 15 A) also return to the Iowa defense.

Kaapo Kahkonen flat-out owned the IceHogs last season, shutting Rockford out three times. It is likely that Kahkonen will man the pipes for Iowa to open the season Friday night.

If things break correctly for me, I’ll be taking in Friday’s opener at BMO South (my basement) and sending out a tweet or twelve during the game. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter to join in the discussion, along with thoughts on the Hogs throughout the season.

Everything Else

To say that the Rockford IceHogs had a successful 2018-19 campaign would be overstating things by a goodly amount. This year’s crop of piglets certainly had its ups and downs. A youthful Rockford club had to deal with changes in the coaching staff as well as injuries.

The Hogs finished the season with a 35-31-4-6 mark. Their 80 points placed the team in seventh place in the eight-team Central Division. The playoffs were within reach, though ultimately Rockford fell seven points short of a postseason berth.

The IceHogs began the season with a 6-3-1-2 record before coach Jeremy Colliton was promoted to the head coaching position in Chicago. Assistant Derek King took over, guiding the team to a 29-28-3-4 mark the rest of the way.

In their brief stint with Colliton, Rockford averaged three goals a contest. King didn’t receive the same offensive production in his 64 games at the helm. The IceHogs finished dead last in the AHL in offense, averaging just 2.39 goals per game.

That was pretty much the story of the season. If the Hogs put three or more goals up on the board, they were likely to win. Credit Mario Tirabassi of the-rink.com for this stat: Rockford was 30-2-2 when they hit the magic number.

They were involved in a league-high 43 one-goal games, going 23-10-4-6. Rockford had eight third-period comeback wins, tied for tops in the AHL. The Hogs played hard every night, kept things close, and

On the other hand, the IceHogs were shut out seven times this season. The power play hit at an anemic 14.5 percent. And when opposing teams scored three times in a game, Rockford was 11-29.

The high water mark for the piglets this season came in a two-month stretch from January 25 to March 20. Rockford went 14-5-1-1 in that time to claw its way into fourth place in the division. Three straight losses to Milwaukee put them back in seventh place; the Hogs went 4-4 to finish the campaign.

The IceHogs finished the season with the second-fewest penalty minutes in the league. Rockford skaters were tagged with 19 fighting majors this season, which was 28th in the 31-team AHL.

The goal tending really kept the Hogs afloat for the bulk of the season. Whether it was Collin Delia, Anton Forsberg or Kevin Lankinen, the play in net was outstanding. The pace was fast enough to keep a young defensive corps from feeling too much pressure in their own zone. Rockford simply couldn’t convert enough at the offensive end most nights.

 

Did The IceHogs Meet Expectations?

No.

With that question answered, let’s see if we can’t pinpoint why Rockford came up short this season.

I went back into time and pulled my forecast of the 2018-19 before this got underway this fall. Those thoughts are italicized, with my 20/20 hindsight included.

Before the Hawks organization sent veteran reinforcements in February, Rockford was a young, exciting team that was fun to watch but was probably going to finish a spot or two out of the playoff picture. Not a one of the veteran catalysts remains from the club that reached the Western Conference Final.

Veteran AHL goaltender Mike McKenna has recently retired after a long career in the professional ranks. He led Texas to a Western Conference Final win over the IceHogs in 2017-18. Back on Wednesday, he tweeted about some of his former teammates having an impact with Dallas this spring.

McKenna dropped this nugget of wisdom on the importance of winning at the AHL level:

“I’ve always felt winning is so important in the minors. Development is the key word, but that can’t truly be achieved without habitually winning and learning what it takes to do so. And if you want to win…you need vets to support those blue chip kids. Takes a balanced attack.”

Excluding last spring, that balance has largely been absent in Rockford. This spring, it equates to a seventh-place team that is watching the playoffs at home. This year’s team very closely resembled last year’s model, pre-fortification.

The only veteran add made this year was Peter Holland, who came aboard in February in a trade with the Rangers. Holland put up 16 points in 21 games. It was an erstwhile move by management, but in no way resembled the massive veteran wave that arrived the season before. As a result, this year’s Hogs wound up pretty much where last year’s team was headed before the big roster boost.

Where does that leave this season’s group? Well, it would be foolish to think that the roster will undergo its share of turnover over 76 games.

Players are going to slide in and out of town at various points in the campaign. A lot of skaters earned looks in Chicago last season and that figures to continue with a lot of youth in the Hawks lineup.

Nine IceHogs would up with some time in Chicago this season. Delia, Alexandre Fortin, Luke Johnson, Jacob Nilsson, Dylan Sikura, Dennis Gilbert and Lankinen were in Rockford when the season ended. Gustav Forsling and Carl Dahlstrom were recalled midseason and finished up with the Blackhawks.

As constructed, a lot of the load will have to be shouldered by returning players like (Matthew) Highmore, (Tyler) Sikura and (Anthony) Louis. (Terry) Broadhurst and (Jordan) Schroeder getting off to hot starts and being steady, point-producing vets would be more than welcome.

Highmore injured his shoulder October 28 and played in just a dozen games. Sikura missed two months with a broken thumb and saw his number drop as a result. Louis was healthy but didn’t match his production from his rookie season.

Schroeder had a career-high 45 points. No offense to Nilsson, but he was Rockford’s MVP this season. Broadhurst’s impact was less than his career number would have suggested, with a career-low 12 points (4 G, 8 A) in 40 games.

Ultimately, it could come down to how Rockford grows up on the defensive side of the puck that dictates team success. Last spring’s playoff lessons could pay dividends with what is still a very young team. Will it be enough to land the Hogs in the postseason? 

The play on the back end was sufficient. Ultimately, the Hogs couldn’t find a replacement for the extended loss of their two top goal scorers from the season before. There wasn’t enough veteran scoring added to replace what had departed last summer.

The result? A young, hard-working team that couldn’t score and was prone to streaky play. It was not enough to keep the piglets season going.

Next week, I will begin looking at the Hogs player by player. We’ll start with the forwards.

Follow me @JonFromi for thoughts on the IceHogs in and out of season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs put in a decent effort in Texas this past weekend, earning a split against the Stars. With each contest being of the must-win variety, two points in Cedar Park just isn’t enough to get the piglets over the playoff hump.

Rockford is currently on the bottom of a five-team sprint for the last two playoff spots in the Central Division. With three games left to play in the regular season, the Hogs figure to wind up on the outside looking in.

On the strength of an eight-game winning streak, Milwaukee (83 points) has leapfrogged Iowa for third place in the Central Division. The Wild, who have dropped eight in a row, now sit in a tie with Manitoba with 81 points. Texas trails Iowa and the Moose by a single point. In seventh place, with 78 points, are the IceHogs.

Rockford winds up its schedule with the Admirals in Milwauke Tuesday and at Iowa Saturday before wrapping up the regular season at the BMO against the Ads Sunday afternoon. Even if Rockford were to sweep this week, it seems unlikely that they can earn enough points to vault into fourth place.

 

Texas Trip

Peter Holland led the Hogs in Texas with four points (2 G, 2 A) in the back-to back. He had the only goal for Rockford in a 2-1 loss to the Stars Friday night and got another in the Hogs 4-3 shootout victory Saturday.

Holland’s goal Friday tied that game in the third period; Texas would pull out the win on a penalty shot by Ty Dellandrea midway through the final frame. Saturday was a back and forth affair, with the IceHogs tying the contest on a Tyler Sikura goal with just over five minutes remaining.

Holland, who had scored in the second period of regulation, kept Rockford alive in the third round of the shootout, which ended with a successful attempt by Jacob Nilsson in the fifth round.

The goal tending was solid throughout the weekend. Collin Delia stopped 26 of 28 Texas shots in a losing effort Friday. Anton Forsberg turned away 32 Stars shots, including a pair of point-blank attempts following Rockford turnovers in overtime.

 

Epic Comeback Against San Antonio

Forgive the hyperbole, but Rockford really pulled a rabbit out of its hat back on Tuesday night at the BMO. Trailing San Antonio 3-1 through two periods, a listless IceHogs team came out in fast-strike mode in the final frame to keep hopes alive.

William Pelletier scored twice in a thirteen-second span in the seventh minute to tie the contest. Rockford gave the stunned Rampage a reprieve until Dylan Sikura scored his second goal of the night at 15:25 of the third to put the Hogs ahead. On the next shift, Andreas Martinsen knocked in a rebound of Brandon Hagel’s attempt to cap off a 5-3 triumph.

As impressive as Tuesday’s rally was, it came at a price. Jordan Schroeder was helped off the ice at the end of the first period and did not return to action. Schroeder did not skate in Texas this weekend.

 

Roster Changes

Last Monday, Dylan Sikura was assigned to Rockford by the Blackhawks. The next day, Sikura was joined in the Hogs lineup by Matthew Highmore. Highmore made his return to action following an injury suffered back on October 28.

Dennis Gilbert was recalled by Chicago Tuesday, played for the Hawks Wednesday and was returned to Rockford that night. I was happy to see Gilbert get a look from the parent club; I felt like he was a player who made strides in his development this season.

Thursday, Rockford re-signed defenseman Dmitri Osipov to a new PTO after releasing him last week. They also inked forward Philipp Kurashev to an ATO after his junior season ended. Kurashev played in both games against the Stars; Osipov skated on Saturday night.

Friday, goalie Kevin Lankinen was recalled by Chicago to back up Cam Ward in Nashville in the Blackhawks season finale Saturday. He was assigned back to Rockford Sunday.

 

One Timers

  • In 19 games with the IceHogs, Holland has 15 points (7 G, 8 A). That’s not quite at the pace he was scoring with Hartford for most of the season, but he leads Rockford in points since joining the club. For the season, Holland has 64 points (27 G, 37 A), good for a tie for seventh in the AHL.
  • Schroeder had 16 points (8 G, 8 A) in his last 19 games dating back to February 16. Even if he doesn’t play again this season, he has set a career-high in points with 45 (19 G, 26 A).
  • Highmore was back in the lineup for all three games this past week. He had an assist in each of the games against the Stars.
  • From February 1 to March 16, the Admirals were 4-7-7-1 and just about out of the playoff race. Beginning with the three-game set with Rockford, with started March 22, Milwaukee is 8-0. That three-game sweep at the hands of Milwaukee will wind up the difference between The IceHogs making and missing this year’s Calder Cup Playoffs.
  • As of Monday morning, all eight Central Division teams have played 73 games. No games in hand for anyone in the division at the moment.
  • Despite two helpers this weekend, Anthony Louis is going to see a drop in his offensive numbers from his rookie campaign. More concerning is the fact that his scoring has faded badly in the latter part of both his pro seasons. In his last 32 games this season, Louis has two goals and six assists.
  • Rookie defenseman Lucas Carlsson, who paces the Hogs blueliners with eight goals, is on a twenty-game goal drought.
  • In his last 20 games, Alexandre Fortin has one goal and one assist.
  • It’s been a disappointing return to Rockford for Terry Broadhurst, who hasn’t skated for the Hogs since March 1. In 40 games played this season, Broadhurst has four goals and eight assists. These are by far the worst scoring numbers in five full AHL seasons.
  • Tyler Sikura’s goal Saturday was his first since December 19. In a season win which he missed two months with a broken thumb, Sikura The Elder has 19 points (7 G, 12 A) in 47 games. With a plus-five skater rating (fourth among active Hogs), Sikura is an RFA I’d like to see back in town next season. Goals or no goals, his work ethic is evident on the ice every night.

 

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

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs are coming off three straight losses to a Milwaukee club that was teetering on the edge of the playoff hunt. As a result, the Hogs can take a simple approach to their final eight games of the regular season.

Win.

Adrian Balboa I’m not, but Rockford would do well to follow that edict. The IceHogs host the top two teams in the Central Division this weekend in Grand Rapids and Chicago. That tall order is followed up by crucial tilts involving two of the three teams currently scrapping with Rockford for the division’s final playoff spot.

The Hogs fared a bit better in Wednesday’s game with the Admirals, though Milwaukee still posted a 4-2 victory. Chad Krys had a solid pro debut for the piglets, creating a scoring opportunity after picking off an Ads clearing attempt and sending a nice drop pass to Anthony Louis in the third period. Louis’s goal tied the score at two, though the Admirals would prevail.

Along with Krys, Rockford also saw Jacob Nilsson and Nick Moutrey return to action. That’s encouraging heading into two must-win contests with the cream of the division coming to the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Rockford needs at least a split against the Griffins Saturday night and Wolves Sunday afternoon to keep up with the neighbors. It’s nearly a dead heat for fourth place. Texas and Milwaukee each have 73 points, with the Hogs and Manitoba each boasting 72. The Moose and Admirals share a .537 points percentage compared to the Stars and Rockford, who both are at the .529 mark.

 

Four Schedules…Four Destinies

The IceHogs have a decent measure of control as far as reaching the postseason. Rockford has two games remaining against Texas and Milwaukee before the regular season ends.

The Stars finish their schedule with three games against last-place San Antonio. Before that, they visit Iowa this weekend for a pair and host the IceHogs for a back-to-back next weekend.

Manitoba has four of its last nine games against the Rampage (two games) and Pacific cellar-dwellers Stockton (two games). On the other hand, the other five are with Bakersfield (two), Grand Rapids and Chicago (two), the best three teams in the Western Conference.

Aside from their two games remaining with the Hogs, Milwaukee has two games left with the Wolves, a pair with Grand Rapids and one each with Iowa and San Antonio. Five of the Admirals last eight games are at home, while each of the other three teams have four home dates left.

Rockford closes the season with four straight road contests (two in Texas, Milwaukee and Iowa) before the regular season finale against the Ads April 14. That game could well decide the fate of the Hogs, provided Rockford doesn’t continue to wobble down the stretch.

 

Roster Moves

Krys, who signed his entry contract with the Blackhawks last week, signed a PTO with the IceHogs on Monday. He’ll probably be a mainstay in the lineup until the season concludes. On Wednesday, Rockford sent defenseman Josh McArdle to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL, along with forward Spencer Watson. Defenseman Dmitri Osipov was released from his PTO the same day.

You could speculate that either of the veteran blueliners, Andrew Campbell and Brandon Davidson, are ready to skate this weekend. Otherwise, Rockford just has six defensemen available. Dennis Gilbert left the ice after a big hit Wednesday but returned to action shortly thereafter.

Forwards Terry Broadhust and Matthew Highmore are nearing returns but probably won’t be on the ice this weekend. Luke Johnson did not skate on Wednesday, missing his second straight game after an injury last Friday in Milwaukee.

Follow me @JonFromi for updates on this weekend’s action as well as thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the rest of the 2018-19 campaign.

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Lone Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Two With The Moose

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, have been at home for most of the last three weeks. They made the most of the extended time in their own barn.

The Hogs had nine of their last ten games at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Their record at home during that stretch was 7-2. That includes a thrilling finish to the home stand this weekend.

Rockford had dropped two games in a row heading into the weekend and found themselves down 4-0 Saturday night against visiting Iowa. The piglets roared back into contention to force a shootout and bested the Wild, then finished the weekend with a win over San Antonio.

The IceHogs are now 25-21-3-5 on the season. The pendulum swings the other way for Rockford, who are on the road for seven of its next eight games. The current jaunt begins in Grand Rapids, where the Central Division leaders are 20-5-1-3 this season. The Griffins have won eight of the last tilts at Van Andel Arena; Rockford is 1-2 in Grand Rapids this season.

From there, the Hogs go East to take on Hershey on Saturday and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Sunday. Rockford has home victories in prior meetings with the Bears and Penguins.

 

Musings

  • Kevin Lankinen was in net for all three of Rockford’s games this week, including work on back-to-back nights. The rookie has proved himself this season, sporting a 2.47 GAA and a .911 save percentage despite a 7-6-3 record. If Lankinen needed to carry the load in net for Rockford, it appears that he would be up to the task.
  • On the other hand, why has Anton Forsberg been glued to the bench? There’s the possibility that Collin Delia could be back in Rockford sometime soon and would likely get a bigger share of the starts. Could Forsberg be sitting while a deal to send him out of town is made?
  • Luke Johnson has stepped up his play the last few weeks, with two-point efforts in both weekend games. Johnson’s shooting percentage is 17.5, the highest of the active IceHogs skaters. Right behind him is Jacob Nilsson, who hits nets at a 17.1 percent rate.
  • In contrast to Johnson and Nilsson, two guys who have difficulty converting on their opportunities are Alexandre Fortin and Graham Knott. Both create some decent scoring chances with speed (Fortin) and hustle (Knott). The problem is that those chances don’t cue many horns.
  • Saturday night, Fortin was sprung for a breakaway chance early in the contest. As happens with frequency, he was not able to put an effective shot on net. This has been a consistent problem with the speedy forward. Fortin has 29 games in Rockford and has nine points (4 G, 5 A) to show for it. In 33 games, Johnson has collected 22 points (11 G, 11 A).
  • In fairness to Fortin, his 8.2 shooting percentage is nearly double last year’s effort. He is a plus-seven this season, highest on the squad. You can still see plenty of potential in his game. Sooner or later, however, the kid’s got to knock the cover off of the net.
  • Knott, who like Fortin has another year on his entry deal, is going to better his rookie numbers. His passing has been more noticeable in the offensive end and two of his three goals are game-winners. Aside from the penalty kill, Knott has yet to really stand out in any area of the game. How much higher is the ceiling on Chicago’s second-round pick from 2015?
  • Henri Jokiharju is not long for Rockford; I would imagine he’ll be back in Chicago by the beginning of next month. In eight games with the Hogs, he has seven points (1 G, 6 A). He is also creating a slew of scoring opportunities from the point. Jokiharju is averaging nearly four shots a game and is making an impact since being assigned to Rockford.
  • Jordan Schroeder is emerging as the team MVP. The 28-year-old forward leads the IceHogs in goals (14), assists (19) and points (33). Schroeder’s five-game point streak came to a close on Tuesday in a 3-2 loss to Texas. However, he had a pair of goals in Saturday’s comeback win on the way to a four-point weekend.
  • Rockford’s power play had scored in five straight games before coming up empty Sunday against San Antonio. However, the Hogs (15.3 percent) are still 30th out of 31 teams on the man advantage. The penalty kill has slipped a bit, to 80.8 percent. That’s good for 17th in the AHL.
  • The Rockford offense is still the worst in the league, with an average of 2.46 goals per game. However, over this last ten-game stretch, the Hogs have scored 3.50 goals per game.
  • Simply put, if Rockford can get three goals, they have an excellent chance of winning. There’s still a lot of battle in these kids and the defense and goalie play are going to keep them in games.

 

Roster News

There hasn’t really been any roster activity this week. Brandon Davidson returned from injury Sunday. He scored the game-winner against the Rampage after being out for nine games. Blake Hillman also rejoined the lineup Saturday after missing five games.

Nathan Noel’s last game was back on January 12. Tyler Sikura’s thumb has kept him out of the lineup since January 6. Terry Broadhust was a late scratch on Sunday; no word as to his status for this week.

Matthew Highmore, who had shoulder surgery back in November, is practicing with the team. A return from the second-year forward could provide a big boost to the Hogs playoff hopes.

 

Recaps

Tuesday, February 12-Texas 3, Rockford 2

The Hogs dropped their second straight game as the Stars inched closer to Rockford in the Central Division standings.

Texas drew first cord late in the opening period. The goal came from Park Ridge native Michael Mersch, who sent a deflection past Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen at the 17:10 mark.

The IceHogs narrowly avoided a shorthanded goal against them early in the second period, then came down the ice to tie the contest. Luke Johnson brought the puck out of the Hogs zone after Lankinen stopped a Justin Dowling attempt. Making his way to the opposite coast, Johnson maneuvered between the circles and passed to Henri Jokiharu.

Jokiharu’s shot rebounded off the pads of Texas goalie Phillipe Derosiers, where Johnson had first dibs. The putback was denied, but Jacob Nilsson finished off the scoring play by knocking the puck across the border and into the city. The game was tied at one 2:37 into the second.

The Stars responded with a pair of power play goals of their own to build a 3-1 advantage. Travis Morin added to his hefty scoring totals against Rockford at 6:51 of the second, while rookie Joel L’Esperance put in his league-leading 27th goal of the season 3:31 into the third period.

The IceHogs rallied for a Viktor Ejdsell strike with Lankinen on the bench at the 16:51 mark, but Rockford ran out of clock before they could finish the comeback.

 

Saturday, February 16-Rockford 5, Iowa 4 (SO)

In what just may have been the game to see at the BMO this season, Rockford erased a four-goal deficit in the last 21:32 of action. The Hogs triumphed over the Wild to break a two-game skid in exciting fashion.

The Wild skated into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead courtesy of Brennan Menell’s deflection of Cal O’Reilly’s shot 18:36 into the first period. Goals by J.T. Brown and Sam Anas in the first two minutes of the middle frame had the IceHogs reeling and down three. A Gerald Mayhew tally 16:34 into the second had Iowa leading 4-0 and the outcome seemed academic.

The rally started on a late power play chance, after William Pelletier was cross-checked by Iowa’s Michael Kapla. Luke Johnson won the subsequent draw, with Jacob Nilsson sliding the disc to Jordan Schroeder in the high slot. The offering beat Wild rookie Kaapo Kahkonen’s glove and caught the upper right corner of the net at 18:28 of the second period.

Down 4-1 to start the third period, the piglets came out with some urgency for the first time all evening. Johnson got to the left post to redirect a Henri Jokiharu blast into the Iowa cage 4:38 into the third period. The secondary assist was given to Andrew Campbell, who made a nice play to keep a Wild clearing attempt in the offensive zone.

Midway through the third, Nilsson dropped the puck off to Jokiharju, who skated to the right corner of the Iowa zone and center to Schroeder for his second goal of the night. With 9:10 left in regulation, the Hogs had cut the lead to 4-3.

The much-anticipated equalizer came after Rockford had come up short on a power play. After the Wild’s Mason Shaw came out of the box. Viktor Ejdsell withstood a hard check along the half boards to keep possession. Andreas Martinsen got clear with the puck and sent a pass across the ice to Joni Tuulola at the left dot. Tuulola’s shot cleared the blocker of Kahkonen and rattled into the net at the 15:59 mark.

Neither team could breach the opposing goal in the remainder of regulation or overtime. This comeback would have to be completed via the shootout. Jokiharu and Schroeder were stopped by Kahkonen. Sam Anas and Dimitri Sokolov were denied by Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen.

Ejdsell’s third-round attempt would be the pivotal moment. The shot met Kahkonen’s pads but still retained the giddy-up to slide across the goal line. Mayhew’s attempt was snuffed out by Lankinen and the BMO erupted in celebration.

 

Sunday, February 17-Rockford 5, San Antonio 2

The IceHogs won their second straight game, closing out a six-game home stand with a 4-2 mark.

Rockford got the first goal of the game late in the opening period. Nifty backhand passing by William Pelletier and Andreas Martinsen set up Luke Johnson coming across the Rampage crease. Johnson was able to wait out San Antonio goalie Jared Coreau and slide in his eleventh goal of the season at the 16:33 mark.

The Hogs doubled the lead early in the second period when Dennis Gilbert got off a long pass to Jordan Schroeder coming into the Rampage zone. Schroeder skated to the right circle and let fly with a lamp-lighter for a 2-0 advantage at the 1:02 mark.

San Antonio got a goal back at 3:54 of the period when Adam Musil sent a shot past Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen. A couple of minutes later, Mitch Reinke sent a shot off of Lankinen. Joey LaLeggia got a hold of the rebound and banked in the equalizer off of the Hogs rookie.

The score remained knotted at two through the second intermission, until the IceHogs got a goal from returning defenseman Brandon Davidson. Davidson crashed the Rampage net to follow up on a Nilsson attempt. Collecting the rebound, Davidson stuffed the puck past Coreau at 4:51 of the third period to put Rockford up 3-2.

San Antonio went with an empty net for most of the final minutes, allowing William Pelletier and Nick Moutrey the chance to send the BMO faithful home with free Culvers and wrap up a weekend sweep.

If the feeling moves you, follow me @JonFromi on twitter for news, updates and thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.