Hockey

Mitchell Weeks was in Indy trying to settle into his rookie season in net with the Fuel as of last week. Circumstances have resulted in him getting plenty of time in the cage of the Rockford IceHogs.

Weeks was recalled to Rockford Monday and been thrown right into the action at the BMO. The former Sudbury Wolves goalie found himself in all three of Rockford’s games this past week. Sandwiched between losses to Milwaukee and Iowa, Weeks picked up his first AHL victory Saturday night at the BMO Center against Grand Rapids.

From an organizational standpoint, Weeks, on an AHL deal with Rockford, is sixth on the depth chart at goalie. Dylan Wells, played for the Blackhawks on Saturday after being signed to an NHL deal. That was because Jaxson Stauber was injured last weekend in Rockford’s win over Belleville.

Arvid Soderblom, who should have been taking most of the workload for the IceHogs this season, is currently in Chicago (and possibly injured himself) after a groin injury to Petr Mrazek. Alex Stalock going down last week forced the Blackhawks to find help in net, hence the quick signing of Wells.

The IceHogs signed goalie Owen Savory to a PTO on Wednesday. Savory backed up Weeks Wednesday morning and Saturday night before Stauber returned to serve as the backup Sunday afternoon.

Rockford has shown that it has the firepower to put up big numbers on the scoreboard. The play in goal is going to go a long way toward making the Hogs a contender in the Central Division. Right now, that task is being shared by a very green crop of goalies.

 

Weekend Notes

  • D Alec Regula was recalled to Chicago on Halloween. The next day, Dylan Wells was released from his AHL deal so he could sign a contract with the Blackhawks. This move was done out of necessity, as Wells had a 4.27 GAA and an .867 save percentage in three games with the Hogs. Still, good on him for getting into his first NHL action in Winnipeg.
  • Wednesday, the IceHogs signed G Owen Savory to a PTO so that there would be a backup for Weeks this, uh, week. His last game action came last spring with U-Mass-Lowell. He had yet to start a game with Fort Wayne of the ECHL this season.
  • Rockford had pretty good luck with another U-Mass-Lowell goalie they signed to an AHL contract many years ago. That would be Carter Hutton, who spent two years in the Hogs/Hawks organization. Hutton had two outstanding seasons with the IceHogs and administered a beating to current Chicago goalie Petr Mrazek before moving on to a nine-year stint in the NHL. What will the future hold for Savory with Rockford? Only time will tell.
  • Gust (5 G, 8 A) and Brett Seney (6 G, 7 A) lead the IceHogs in scoring with 13 points each. Seney and Luke Philp (6 G, 3 A) pace the club with six goals. Gust and defenseman Jakub Galvas (1 G, 8 A) share the team lead in assists.
  • David Gust did not get a point in either weekend game after potting two goals Wednesday. He did, however, make himself a pest in front of the net and on the forecheck as teammates were able to score.
  • The piglets are currently scoring 3.78 goals per contest, fifth-best in the league. Unfortunately, Rockford has been surrendering 3.89 goals per game. That’s 27th in the AHL. Would those numbers be better with Arvid Soderblom and an AHL veteran sharing the net? Probably.
  • The Rockford power play (21.7 percent) and penalty kill (79.1 percent) are both ranked 16th in the AHL at the moment, pretty much smack dab in the middle of the league.
  • Wednesday’s loss was tempered by a couple of thousand screaming kids from area schools, gathered at the BMO at 10:30 a.m. for the early start with the Admirals. The enthusiastic cheers and morning start must have thrown Lukas Reichel off a bit, as it was not one of his better outings.
  • The BMO Meathead Society managed to put off starting the “Detroit Sucks” chant until a few minutes into the third period on Saturday. Usually, this group serenades the Griffins of Grand Rapids within a few seconds after the opening faceoff.
  • Despite goalies dropping like flies in the organization, one recent acquisition has proved to be up to the physical demands of the AHL. I’m talking, of course, about the paper towel dispensers in the BMO restrooms. They’ve stood tall in this opening homestand, providing assists to the new sinks on a nightly basis.

 

Recaps

Wednesday, November 2-Milwaukee 6, Rockford 4

The Rockford IceHogs dug themselves into an early hole in a rare morning matchup with the Milwaukee Admirals. A three-goal deficit proved too much for the Hogs to overcome Wednesday at the BMO Center.

Milwaukee was able to jump on rookie goalie Mitchell Weeks to the tune of 17 shots and three goals in the opening period. Igor Afanaseyev opened the scoring with a snipe from the slot 6:39 into the contest when Rockford left the middle of the ice open.

Weeks suffered some bad luck later in the period, when a pass attempt by Phil Tomasino wound up striking the skate of Hogs center Lukas Reichel and sliding past the Rockford goalie for a 2-0 Milwaukee lead at the 12:55 mark. Cole Schneider made it 3-0 via a power-play goal 16:42 into the first.

Rockford was able to convert on an Admirals turnover to get on the board late in the opening frame. Josiah Slavin led the rush and found Buddy Robinson, who got the play started in the defensive zone, at the right post. The tap in got past Milwaukee goalie Yaroslav Askarov at 18:24.

The Admirals took a 4-1 advantage midway through the second period on Luke Evangelista’s second goal of the season. Again, the IceHogs responded late in the frame, with Adam Clendening one-timing a pass from Alex Vlasic past Askarov at the 18:16 mark.

A Reichel turnover led to a Juuso Parssinen backhander 4:56 into the third period. Down 5-2, Rockford put on a late rally behind a pair of David Gust tallies. The second, coming with Weeks on the bench in favor of an extra skater, pulled the Hogs to within a single goal with 2:28 left.

Sorensen brought Weeks back to the bench in an attempt to pull even, but Schneider ended Rockford’s comeback bid with an empty-netter with 58 seconds remaining.

Weeks finished the night with 26 saves on 31 shots in his debut. Askarov stopped 29 shots to pick up his third win of the season.

 

Saturday, November 5-Rockford 4, Grand Rapids 1

Saturday night, Weeks gave up an early goal, then settled down, posting a 25-save gem against the visiting Grand Rapids Griffins.

The effort allowed Rockford’s quick-strike offense to eventually take control of the Central Division matchup. A big second period proved to be the difference.

Grand Rapids took an early lead on a Cross Hanas goal three minutes into the contest. In contrast to Wednesday’s loss, Weeks got stingy in the crease from that point on.

Rockford went into the first intermission tied at one on the strength of a Carson Gicewicz goal late in the period, set up by a beautiful backhand pass by line-mate Bobby Lynch.

Rockford broke the game open in a four-minute span late in the second period. With Pontus Andreasson and Drew Worrad in the penalty box with infractions four seconds apart, the Hogs power play got to work.

Lukas Reichel came around the boards with the puck, drove down the slot, and beat Griffins goalie Jussi Olkinuora to the twine at the 13:02 mark. Still up a man after the eventual game-winner, Luke Philp lit the lamp just 1:15 later, giving the IceHogs a 3-1 advantage. At 17:13 of the second, Brett Seney completed a power move to the front of the net, scoring his fifth goal of the season for a 4-1 Rockford lead.

Grand Rapids had three power-play chances in the third period to try and get back in the game. However, Weeks and the IceHogs penalty kill unit stopped them cold. For the evening, Rockford held the Griffins without a goal in six attempts with the man advantage.

 

Sunday, November 6-Iowa 5, Rockford 4 (SO)

The loss spoiled an impressive afternoon for the Rockford power play, which had three goals to put the Hogs in a position to win. Mitchell Weeks, making his third-straight start for Rockford in goal, stopped 47 Iowa shots but could not prevent the Wild from winning the shootout.

The two teams traded power-play goals in the opening period. Joe Hicketts pinballed a shot off both goalposts to give Iowa a 1-0 lead 5:52 into the game. Rockford tied the game with Luke Philp’s fifth goal of the season at the 10:56 mark.

The score stayed knotted until the waning minutes of the second period, when Rockford’s Luke Seney jumped on a rebound of a Louis Crevier shot at the left post. Before Wild goalie Zane McIntyre could slide across the crease, Seney sent the puck to the twine, giving the IceHogs a 2-1 advantage at 17:15 of the second period.

Iowa initially thought that they had tied the game on a Steven Fogarty tally late in the frame. The call on the ice was no goal; a call that was upheld after the period ended when the officials took a look at the replay.

However, when the teams came out to start the third, the call was re-evaluated and Fogarty was credited for his sixth goal of the season. What changed? The tablet being used for the replay froze up, forcing the officials to take another look on a working device. The final 44 seconds of the second period were replayed, this time with the game even at two goals.

The IceHogs took control of the contest in the final frame on the power play, with Michal Teply restoring the Rockford lead with a one-timer on the man advantage at 4:34 of the third. Philp got his second of the afternoon with a snipe from the right dot at the 11:04 mark.

With Philp in the box for hooking with 1:56 left, the Wild brought McIntyre to the bench. Immediately, Iowa drew cord with a Chaffee goal at 18:09 of the third. Rockford tried staving off another six-man push by the Wild in the closing seconds, only to see Chaffee sneak into the crease to knock in a loose puck past Weeks with six seconds remaining in regulation.

With no movement in the 3-on-3 session, the extra point was decided in the shootout. McIntyre denied Teply and Seney, while Iowa got shootout tallies from Sammy Walker and Nic Petan to end the game.

 

Texas-Sized Weekend

The piglets jet to Texas for a weekend back-to-back with the Stars. The first of those two games is Saturday night.

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

 

 

Hockey

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

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

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

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

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

 

Roster News

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

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

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

 

Notes

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

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have become quite familiar with overtime hockey of late. Following this weekend’s action, Rockford has needed extra skating to decide each of its last four games.

The IceHogs (16-14-3-1) have earned six of a possible eight standings points in that span, despite just four regulation goals. Rockford’s latest overtime thriller was a big shootout win Saturday in Chicago. The piglets were badly outshot (36-21) but still prevailed 1-0, winning the shootout 2-1 on successful attempts by Michal Teply and Lukas Reichel.

A big road win against the Central Division leaders provided a bit of redemption after a disappointing 2-1 overtime loss in Milwaukee the evening before. Rockford scored a single goal in the weekend jaunt but improved to third place in the division standings with a .529 points percentage.

Leading the way defensively for the Hogs was rookie goalie Arvid Soderblom, who received back-to-back starts for the first time this season. Soderblom denied 68 of the 69 shots he faced this weekend, shutting out the high-powered Wolves with 36 saves Saturday.

Rockford has also tightened down the net when down a man on the ice. The IceHogs penalty kill has not allowed a goal in their last 15 chances over this four-game overtime streak.

With a 5-3-2 mark in January, Rockford’s next action comes on February 2, hosting Milwaukee at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The Admirals are the division’s hottest team, having won six in a row.

Roster News

Defenseman Alec Regula missed two games with a bone bruise on his left leg, returning for Saturday’s win. Forward Cameron Morrison has been out the last seven games with a left hamstring injury. Dimitri Osipov has not played since receiving a game misconduct in Rockford’s January 21 game with Texas. Not sure if he is injured or sitting out while Kurtis Gabriel fills a similar role in the Hogs lineup.

A scary moment occurred late in Gus Macker Time Saturday when Lukas Reichel was checked in the offensive zone by Chicago’s Jamieson Rees. The Blackhawks top prospect was slow to get up and appeared to be favoring his right leg as he struggled off the ice.

Replays seemed to show Rees’ knee making contact just above Reichel’s right knee. Reichel remained on the Hogs bench and wound up potting the goal that won the shootout for Rockford.

Rees was not penalized for what, at first glance, looked like a knee-on-knee hit on Reichel. The contact was more incidental and looked a bit higher up on Reichel’s leg. Still, the organization may be holding its breath over the next couple of days.

 

Spare Thoughts

  • Despite helping Rockford win Saturday’s game, Reichel saw his seven-game point streak end in Rosemont. His is the longest such streak for a Hogs skater this season.
  • This weekend, the lone Rockford goal was the handiwork of Andrei Altybarmakian, who converted from the outside of the right circle in the first period against Milwaukee. Over his last ten games, Alrybarmakian has eight points (3 G, 5 A).
  • The Blackhawks continued shuttling players, sending defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk to Rockford on Friday. Kalynuk played for the Hogs in Saturday’s win, then was recalled by Chicago the following day.
  • Evan Barratt returned from a stretch on the AHL’s COVID protocols this weekend, though he did not make a dent on the scoresheet. Barratt’s last goal came on December 1, when he had a pair in a win over Milwaukee. Since that night, he’s managed just three assists in his last 15 games.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have been struggling to put points on the scoreboard this season. The AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks scored just seven times in their previous five games entering play on Friday.

The weekend saw a noticeable change.

Rockford blew up for 14 goals in two wins over Chicago and Milwaukee, releasing a torrent of offensive firepower in the piglets first game action since being shut out by the Admirals on December 21. The IceHogs ended the Wolves 12-game winning streak with an 8-0 rout. Rockford then traveled to Milwaukee and posted an impressive 6-2 win.

The IceHogs (13-11-1-1) had been on pause due to the AHL’s holiday break, followed by ten players entering the league’s COVID protocols.

Chicago was without any of their regular goalies this weekend due to recall and injury. Milwaukee used Devin Cooley in net, choosing to rest Connor Ingram on Saturday night. The IceHogs certainly took advantage in both victories; Rockford never trailed the Wolves or the Admirals.

Collin Delia was used in goal by the Hogs for both games. He responded with a 30-save shutout of Chicago and stopped 33 shots in Milwaukee. Rockford was very solid from a defensive standpoint all weekend. However, let’s aim the spotlight on a prolific offensive effort.

  • Lukas Reichel may be in line for AHL Player of the Week honors, totaling six points in the two games. After a four-point (2 G, 2 A) night against the Wolves, Reichel added a goal and a helper in Milwaukee Saturday.
  • Brandon Pirri, who signed a PTO with Rockford Friday morning, immediately got on the scoresheet this weekend. After picking up an assist against Chicago, Pirri posted a hat trick Saturday, propelling the Hogs to a 2-0 lead in the first three minutes of action.
  • Pirri, Rockford’s all-time leading point scorer, has points in eight of his last nine games with the IceHogs dating back to last year. In those games, he has 14 points (11 G, 3 A), with Rockford going  6-2.
  • Interim coach Anders Sorensen used Reichel and Pirri on occasion at even strength, in addition to both being on the Hogs top power play unit. However, the two spent most of the weekend on different lines. This resulted in two extremely active forward combinations-Reichel with Michal Teply and Andrei Altybarmakian, and Pirri with Dylan McLaughlin and D.J. Busdeker.
  • Altybarmikian, who was without a goal in his first 19 games this weekend, found the net in both games. This included the game-winner on Saturday. Teply also recorded his first goal of the season Friday.
  • McLaughlin dished out three assists in the two games-two to Pirri and one to Reichel. He now has points in seven of his last nine games.
  • Chad Yetman and Cameron Morrison also picked up their first goals of the season in Friday’s blowout. Kale Howarth, recently over a shoulder injury, skated for Morrison Saturday.

 

Cooking At Home

The Rockford IceHogs will be playing at home for the next two and a half weeks. A seven-game home stand awaits the IceHogs.

The home stand is bookended with visits from the Iowa Wild, who come to the BMO Harris Bank Center on Tuesday. The Wild have struggled over the last couple of weeks, but have won three of the four meetings with the Hogs this season.

Rockford hosts Cleveland for a weekend set on January 14 and 15, followed by a January 17 afternoon game with the Wolves. The Texas Stars arrive on January 21 for the first of back-to-back games before the return date with Iowa on January 26.

Rockford is 6-5-1 in its own barn this season. With an increase of COVID issues across the AHL in recent weeks, it’s an opportune time to stay home. The Hogs will try to stay healthy and build on their two-game win streak.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs split a weekend in Texas, running their December record to 5-3 and maintaining third place in the AHL’s Central Division. Rockford (11-10-1-1) has used improved defense to go 6-3-1 over its last ten games.

The piglets are giving up 3.26 goals per contest. That’s about a half goal less than a month ago. In seven December contests, Rockford is holding opponents to 2.85 goals. The tightened defense has definitely been a catalyst to a more competitive IceHogs squad.

The Chicago Wolves has separated them from the other division clubs, having lost just five games this season. Three of those five losses have come at the hands of the Hogs. Rockford’s 3-2 shootout triumph on November 20 was the last defeat of Chicago by anyone in a month; the Wolves (20-4-1) have won twelve straight since then.

 

Roster News

Defenseman Ian Mitchell was recalled by the Blackhawks after skating for Rockford in Friday’s win in Cedar Park. Mitchell and forward Josiah Slavin were assigned to the Hogs Sunday.

A host of Rockford skaters returned to action over the weekend, including Lukas Reichel (concussion) Dylan McLaughlin (COVID protocol), and Jakub Galvas (concussion). Goalie Arvid Soderblom came out of the concussion protocol to play Saturday night.

 

Weekend Recaps

Friday, December 17-Rockford 3, Texas 1

Rockford slowed the Stars in impressive fashion, making a first-period lead stick in Cedar Park Friday.

The IceHogs struck twice in 30 seconds in the opening period. Dylan McLaughlin hauled in a long stretch pass from Nicolas Beaudin at the Texas blueline. McLaughlin, back in action for Rockford after missing four games, skated to the front of the net and five-holed Stars goalie Anton Khodobin at the seven minute-mark for a 1-0 Hogs lead.

Alex Nylander, assisted by Issak Phillips on an odd-man rush, extended the Rockford advantage with a wrister past Khodobin at 7:30 of the first. Texas cut the lead to 2-1 at 8:55 on a Ben Gleason goal.

Rockford out-shot the Stars 13-7 in the second period, garnering several up-close scoring opportunities. Khudobin kept Texas in the game in the second period, then stifled the Hogs throughout the third. His paddle save of McLaughlin’s shot at an open net midway through the period was one of many outstanding stops.

The IceHogs were only able to pick up an insurance goal when the Texas netminder was called to the bench in the closing minutes. Ironically, the goal was credited to Rockford goalie Collin Delia, who made a pad save for his 24th stop of the evening. An errant centering pass wound up in the Stars net; as the last Rockford player to touch the puck, the Cucamonga Kid picked up his first AHL goal at the 19:57 mark.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mike Hardman-Lukas Reichel-Alexander Nylander

Michal Teply-Dylan McLaughlin (A)-D.J. Busdeker

Cameron Morrison-Evan Barratt-Carson Gicewicz

Andrei Altybarmakian-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dimitri Osipov

Issak Phillips-Ian Mitchell

Wyatt Kalynuk-Alec Regula

Ryan Stanton (A)-Nicolas Beaudin

Collin Delia

Arvid Soderblom

 

Saturday, December 18-Texas 3, Rockford 2

Rockford staged a late rally that came up short, as the Stars rode another solid performance by Anton Khudobin in Saturday’s rematch.

After a scoreless first period, Texas took a 1-0 lead on a Curtis McKenzie goal 2:28 into the second. The goal was set up off a Josh Melnick shot attempt that was blocked by Hogs defenseman Nicolas Beaudin. McKenzie got the puck on his stick at the right post and slipped it past Hogs starter Arvid Soderblom.

The Stars captain picked up his second of the night late in the second. Joel L’Esperance sent a cross-ice pass over the stick of Hogs defenseman Issak Phillips to McKenzie at the right dot. The goal came with 1:05 remaining, sending Rockford to the intermission down 2-0.

Texas went up 3-0 midway through the third period on Tye Felhaber’s first goal of the season. The Hogs broke up Anton Khudobin’s shutout bid with a Mike Hardman goal from the right post at the 14:04 mark.

A high-sticking penalty by the Stars Riley Damiani prompted Rockford to pull Soderblom for an extra skater. Lukas Reichel found the mark from the top of the right circle with 2:35 left to pull the Hogs within a goal. Unfortunately, that’s as close as the game got.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mike Hardman-Lukas Reichel-Alexander Nylander

Michal Teply-Dylan McLaughlin (A)-D.J. Busdeker

Cameron Morrison-Evan Barratt-Carson Gicewicz

Andrei Altybarmakian-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dimitri Osipov

Issak Phillips-Jakub Galvas

Wyatt Kalynuk-Alec Regula

Ryan Stanton (A)-Nicolas Beaudin

Arvid Soderblom

Collin Delia

 

This Week

The IceHogs host Milwaukee Tuesday night in their only action this week.

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

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs are coming off the road a bit lighter in the roster than when they left for the three-game jaunt. They did, however, manage a 2-1 record this week.

Rockford ran up a three-game winning streak with a 2-1 triumph in Milwaukee Wednesday and a 4-1 win in Grand Rapids Friday. The wheels came off in a 6-2 loss to the Griffins in the finale, but overall the piglets played pretty well.

There were some more subtractions to the lineup, though.

Malcom Subban, who turned in a fine performance against the Admirals Wednesday, was traded by the  Blackhawks to Buffalo. Dylan McLaughlin, who has been a steady offensive presence in the lineup, was held out of Saturday’s game in Grand Rapids on the COVID protocol.

Rookie defenseman Jakub Galvas took an elbow from Luke Witkowski in the first period of Saturday’s loss. He missed the rest of the game and might be looking at some time off. Defenseman Ian Mitchell was recalled by Chicago on Saturday. Rockford got a blueliner back when the Hawks reassigned Wyatt Kalynuk on Sunday. The IceHogs also recalled D Cliff Watson Sunday.

Goalie Arvid Soderblom did not dress for any of the three road games this week. No reason has been given, but Cale Morris was recalled to Rockford from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel on Friday to back up Collin Delia. Morris wound up relieving Delia Saturday, making 17 saves on 19 shots in 50 minute of action.

With McLaughlin unavailable Saturday, Chad Yetmen was a late call up from Indy. Yetman, who has five goals and nine assists for the Fuel in 15 games, was in the lineup for interim coach Anders Sorensen Saturday night.

Back on Tuesday, the IceHogs announced that Lukas Reichel (concussion), Brett Connolly (right leg), Kale Howarth (right shoulder) and Michael Krutil (left hand) would be out for the next couple of weeks. Reichel is in concussion protocol and could return at any time.

Despite having a slew of players on the shelf, Rockford is treading water in the Central Division. The Hogs record sits at 8-8-1-1. This .500 points percentage has them in a tie for fourth with the Griffins. Points percentage will factor into any postseason decisions. Grand Rapids, Chicago and Milwaukee each are scheduled for 76 games, as opposed to the 72 scheduled for the rest of the division.

 

Coming Up

The IceHogs stay busy this week; Rockford hosts the Iowa Wild on Wednesday. The Henderson Silver Knights are scheduled to visit the BMO Harris Bank Center for games Friday and Saturday.

 

Weekend Recaps

Friday, December 3-Rockford 4, Grand Rapids 1

Rockford picked up a satisfying victory, anchored by a marvelous 40-save performance by Collin Delia.

Grand Rapids opened the scoring on the power play after Ryan Stanton was called for cross-checking. Kyle Criscuolo redirected Jonathan Berggren’s shot from the left circle past Delia at 5:19 of the first period.

The IceHogs used the man advantage to even the score 6:20 into the second. The goal came from a Ian Mitchell blast from the left circle, set up by Andrei Altybarmakian and Nicolas Beaudin. A few minutes later, Rockford took a 2-1 lead when Alec Regula struck from the right slot, fed by IceHogs captain Garrett Mitchell at the 9:43 mark.

Delia held the Griffins at bay, waiting for the piglets to provide some insurance. That came about seven minutes into the third period, when the Hogs gained another power play. Dylan McLaughlin won the faceoff from the left dot; Jakub Galvas gathered in the puck and slid it across the ice to Philipp Kurashev at the top of the right circle. The one-timer found the net behind Griffins goalie Calvin Pickard at the 7:24 mark for a 3-1 IceHogs advantage.

From there, it was Delia and the Hogs defense holding firm as Grand Rapids came up empty in the final minutes despite pulling Pickard and gaining a two-man advantage for the last 1:35 of play. Kurashev finished off the Griffins with an empty-net goal with 13 seconds left.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Andrei Altybarmakian-Philipp Kurashev-Alexander Nylander

D.J. Buskdeker-Dylan McLaughlin (A)-Michal Teply

Cameron Morrison-Evan Barratt-Carson Gicewicz

Jakub Pour-Garrett Mitchell (A)-Dimitri Osipov

Jakub Galvas-Nicolas Beaudin

Ryan Stanton (A)-Alec Regula

Issak Phillips-Ian Mitchell

Collin Delia

Cale Morris

 

Saturday, December 4-Grand Rapids 6, Rockford 2

The Hogs were buried by a tsunami of Griffins offense in the first period and could not overcome the 5-0 deficit. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak.

Grand Rapids wasted no time building a two-goal advantage. Kyle Criscuola opened the scoring on a Griffins power play. Grabbing a rebound off the endboards and tucking the puck past Hogs goalie Collin Delia, Criscuola made it 1-0 Grand Rapids 3:30 into the contest.

Brian Lashoff sent a long slapshot past Delia 26 seconds later to give the Griffins a 2-0 lead. At 7:08, Turner Elson forced a turnover in the neutral zone and lead an odd-man rush toward the Rockford net. Delia stopped the initial shot, but Dennis Yan was there for the follow up to put the Hogs in a 3-0 hole.

Things got exponentially worse a couple of minutes later. Dominick Shine wove through the Hogs defense, got Delia to the ice, and tucked in a goal at the right post for a 4-0 lead. At this point, Rockford coach Anders Sorensen decided to make a goalie change, sending Cale Morris into action for the first time this season.

The Griffins went up 5-0 when Ryan Murphy came out of the penalty box, skated to a long rebound of the puck in neutral ice, then juked Morris with 1:09 left in the opening period. The IceHogs limped into the locker room in a bad way.

Rockford got on the board 5:32 into the middle frame. Issak Phillips got the play started with a stretch pass to the Grand Rapids blue line. Philipp Kurashev knocked the loose puck to Carson Gicewicz, who skated to the crease and beat Griffins goalie Calvin Pickard.

The Hogs cut the lead to 5-2 with 1:40 remaining in the period on an Alex Nylander one-timer set up by Andrei Altybarmakian and Chad Krys. However, Jonathan Berggren made it 6-2 Giffins on a transition goal with 34 seconds left. Neither team added to their total in the final 20 minutes.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Andrei Altybarmakian-Philipp Kurashev-Alexander Nylander

D.J. Buskdeker-Chad Yetman-Michal Teply

Cameron Morrison-Evan Barratt-Carson Gicewicz

Jakub Pour-Garrett Mitchell (A)-Dimitri Osipov

Jakub Galvas-Nicolas Beaudin

Ryan Stanton (A)-Chad Krys

Issak Phillips-Alec Regula

Collin Delia

Cale Morris

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs entered this weekend with three games in three days on the schedule. The piglets picked up three standings points, splitting two games with a physical Milwaukee Admirals squad and dropping a shootout in Rosemont.

The IceHogs didn’t fare as well in terms of health.

It’s possible that Rockford will be on a three-game road trip without its two leading scorers. Brett Connolly (5 G, 6 A) was injured in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Wolves. Interim head coach Anders Sorensen listed the veteran forward as “day-to-day” in his postgame interview Sunday night after the IceHogs beat Milwaukee 2-1.

In the third period of that contest, Lukas Reichel (7 G, 5 A), took a spill into the half boards and was down for several minutes. He was helped from the ice and did not return to action.

The IceHogs are currently scoring 2.67 goals a game even with Reichel and Connolly. Losing either player crimps Rockford’s offense. Losing both would be a severe blow as the Hogs begin play in December.

Rockford is now 6-7-1-1 on the season and in fifth place in the Central Division. They visit Milwaukee on Wednesday night, then spend the upcoming weekend in Grand Rapids, where the IceHogs will face the Griffins on Friday and Saturday.

 

Weekend Musings

  • Collin Delia followed up a big start in Chicago November 20 with another impressive start despite taking the loss Saturday. He stopped 26 of 28 shots in regulation and overtime. Starts are going to be infrequent for Delia, as well as for Malcom Subban. Both goalies are going to have to make the most of the time they get in the Hogs net.
  • If Connolly and Reichel are out of the lineup this week, Dylan McLaughlin may be able to pick up some of the scoring slack. McLaughlin is currently on a five-game point streak. Alex Nylander had the game-winner off a rebound of McLaughlin’s shot; both players are going to be counted on heavily in the next few games.
  • Rockford fell behind in each game this weekend. The piglets fell behind 2-0 in what was a listless 5-2 loss to the Admirals Friday, then allowed the game’s first goals to Chicago and Milwaukee on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Kale Howarth picked up his first AHL goal in his third game with the Hogs. He also got into a scrap with Milwaukee’s Ben Harpur after Howarth hip-checked an Admiral into the end boards. Howarth could be an interesting player to watch. I don’t believe him to be a fighter, but he plays rugged and Rockford could use another player who can hang around the net.
  • In 15 games, the IceHogs have scored the first goal three times. They’re 2-1 in those games.
  • Rockford has not out shot an opponent this season.
  • It should come as no surprise that attendance is down at the BMO. Rockford averaged 2447 fans in their seven home dates in November. On Friday night matchups with traditional rivals Chicago and Milwaukee, the best the Hogs could do was to fill the barn to half-capacity. Of course, the current landscape explains why some fans may be staying home for the time being. Attendance may be a moot point with the Blackhawks committing the next 15 seasons to Rockford. Still, the atmosphere on Sunday and weeknight games is non-existent.

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

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, Chicago’s AHL affiliate, wrapped up the 2018-19 season last night against Milwaukee. The Hogs were beaten by the Admirals 3-2, concluding the IceHogs season with a 35-31-4-6 mark. The 80 points earned by Rockford placed them seventh in the Central Division, out of the playoff picture this season.

As often happens with April snowstorms, I opted for my basement over the BMO Harris Bank Center to watch the curtain fall on this year’s crop of prospects. What follows are my thoughts as the piglets finished this season Sunday evening.

 

Pregame

Looks like a less than full throttle bunch to close out the season. Hogs MIAs include Peter Holland, Matthew Highmore, Jordan Schroeder, Jacob Nilsson, Dennis Gilbert, Lucas Carlsson, Collin Delia and Anton Forsberg. Kevin Lankinen is starting in goal; Matt Tomkins is backing him up. Apparently, with no tomorrow for Rockford, the Hogs have decided to punt.

Perhaps that’s a bit harsh; obviously, the brass want to see some of the newer faces take to the ice. Milwaukee, meanwhile, is gunning for the second seed in the Central Division. Back on March 22, the Ads were five points behind Rockford for the fourth playoff spot. Milwaukee has gone 9-0-1 since.

The IceHogs went 4-6 in their past ten games. Rockford beat the Admirals in overtime Tuesday in Milwaukee. They fell 3-0 in Iowa Saturday night; it was the seventh time this season that the piglets have been shut out this season. Right to the end, goals were too scarce for this bunch.

The Lankinen-Tomkins connection could be a preview of the goalie tandem next fall, though it’s very possible a veteran will be obtained to pair up with Lankinen, who was very good in limited opportunities for the IceHogs. He definitely needs 40 starts in Rockford instead of the 18 he got this season.

Highmore, who spent most of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, left Tuesday’s game and hasn’t played since. Last year’s top goal-scorer suffered through a disappointing season. Hopefully he’s just being held out to keep him healthy and his summer can be spent getting ready for a more productive campaign.

 

Team Awards

Before the game got underway, the IceHogs handed out their team awards. I tweeted my selections (@JonFromi) earlier Sunday afternoon. Here’s how things shook out:

Defensive Player Of The Year-Lucas Carlsson, who isn’t playing tonight.

My Pick: I had Carlsson, who led Rockford defensemen with 33 points (9 G, 24 A) this season.

Most Improved Player-Dennis Gilbert, who isn’t playing tonight.

My Pick: Gilbert, who really added to his physical game throughout the season at both ends of the ice.

Rookie Of The Year-Dylan Sikura

My Pick: Jacob Nilsson, who had a promising rookie season, with 15 goals and 18 helpers in 62 games. Sikura was an outstanding rookie for the IceHogs; my selection of Nilsson was largely because he spent the bulk of the season in Rockford, as opposed to Sikura, who played 49 games.

Unsung Hero(es)-Tyler Sikura, William Pelletier

My Pick: Andrew Campbell, who anchored this young team despite not putting up the points. His three-goal, five assist season was what I expected offensively from Campbell. I also expected a strong veteran presence, which Campbell more than delivered.

Heavy Hitter-Andreas Martinsen, who isn’t playing tonight.

My Pick: Gilbert, who put a lot of butts on the ice during the season. He also dropped the gloves seven times to pace the club.

Man Of The Year-Pelletier

My Pick: The team announced this a while back, so we all knew how this would go. I really hope Pelletier, who missed the first couple of months, is back with the IceHogs for a third season. His motor is a definite asset.

Team MVP-Jacob Nilsson, who isn’t playing tonight.

My Pick: Jordan Schroeder, who also isn’t playing tonight after being injured last weekend. All Schroeder did was set a career-high in points with 45 (19 G, 26 A) and score 19 goals for Rockford. With points in 37 of his 62 games, Schroeder’s longest point drought was three games.

He had points in 23 of those games, including the Hogs only hat trick against Iowa January 6. However, Schroeder was a steadier scoring threat for the offensively-challenged Hogs.

On a team that was woefully short on veteran scoring, Schroeder stepped up his game. He was consistently Rockford’s most productive offensive player all season. In my opinion, this was the team’s biggest miss in regards to the awards.

 

First Period

Tanner Jeanneau puts Milwaukee up 1-0 with a tip-in at 6:29. A couple minutes later, Milwaukee scores again on a power play goal by Cole Schneider. Just over eight minutes in and Rockford trails by a pair.

The Hogs get a goal back when Alexandre Fortin knocks in a centering pass by Dylan McLaughlin midway through the frame. Fortin has had difficulty converting on scoring opportunities this season (this was his sixth goal of 2018-19). The speed is there, but the kid needs to learn how to finish plays.

Pelletier gets hooked a moment later and Rockford’s 29th-ranked power play hits the ice. As happens more often than not, the IceHogs come up short. Could a more effective man advantage have helped Rockford this season? Definitely.

The IceHogs are out-shot 12-3 in the first 20 minutes and head to the intermission down a goal.

We already know that Rockford will not be participating in the postseason. That’s because (sorry) the Hogs were not a playoff-level team.

Rockford, as you would expect from a prospect-laden squad, ran very hot and cold this season. The Hogs lost six straight games on two occasions and had several three and four-game skids.

Rockford did put together a six-game winning streak in late January and early February and had the goal-tending to put together a solid campaign. However, there was never enough offense to capitalize on the great play between the pipes.

 

Second Period

Hogs broadcaster Joey Zakrzewski mentions that there are 19 skaters for Rockford who will be free agents this summer. I will forecast which of those we can expect to return to the organization in the next few weeks.

Tyler Sikura is one of those skaters who I would like to see back. He may not be quite the prospect that Sikura the Younger is, but Sikura the Elder can still make a difference for the Hogs next fall. His season wasn’t as productive and he lost a lot of time to injury. However, Sikura still had seven goals and a dozen assists in 50 games.

The Ads go up 3-1 during some four-on-four time on a goal at 6:33 by Adam Halewka, his 21st of the season. Rockford, like last season, hasn’t let a two-goal lead get them down. This team has battled hard under interim coach Derek King. What does that mean to King’s chances of getting the gig moving forward?

I don’t know.

Rockford is on its way to a seventh-place finish. This is about how last year’s team would have fared without the slew of veterans who took over in the spring. Management is going to have to believe that King can get some of these prospects ready for action at the next level. I would think that that decision will come in the next couple of days.

Fortin has a clear path to the net midway through the period; he loses the handle and another scoring chances fritters away. The shots are now 25-9 in favor of Milwaukee, who take the 3-1 lead into the second intermission.

 

Third Period

Rockford has a couple of big rallies this season, including a four-goal third period against San Antonio last week that pulled out a crucial victory at the BMO. They came back from 3-1 in Milwaukee Tuesday, so I am not counting the piglets out of this game yet.

As if on cue, Luke Johnson gets a rebound of a Nick Moutrey shot into the cage at 8:57 of the third. It’s Johnson’s 18th of the season (career high) as well as his 31st point (also a career high), despite only 53 games played for the IceHogs in 2018-19. Johnson is an RFA this summer that has shown steady progress in Rockford.

The Hogs refusal to capitulate has been a big selling point these last two seasons. There is a nice crowd at the BMO tonight. Not sure it’s going to be enough to prevent another drop in the yearly attendance, though.

Right now, Rockford’s average is 3828, down just a tad from 3915 last season. The hockey wave may have crested, but it’s too bad more people aren’t taking an interest in a young team that plays hard and gets up and down the ice with urgency.

Rockford is pressuring the Admirals as the sands begin to run out in the final stanza; they’ve out shot Milwaukee 7-2 in the first 15 minutes of the period. Johnson and Dylan Sikura each have six game-winners this season and have a lot of other clutch goals. Maybe they sneak one past Tom McCullom to knot this game.

Lankinen heads to the bench and the Hogs take their last hacks. Phillipp Kurashev, who I imagine will be in Rockford full-time this fall, has a good look from the bottom of the right circle that is snatched out of the air by the Ads goalie. Time out called by King.

The IceHogs win the faceoff but just can’t put that key third goal in the back of the Milwaukee net. The Admirals vault Iowa and Grand Rapids for the second seed. They’ll start with the Wild in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs; Chicago gets the slumping Griffins. The Hogs skate off the ice to clear out their lockers.

So ends the twentieth season of pro hockey in the Forest City and the twelfth as the Blackhawks AHL affiliate. Was this season a success?

My thoughts on that question (and probably many others) will come in future posts. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs have six games in the 2018-19 season to wrest a playoff berth from a host of Central Division rivals. Whether the piglets can do so hinges on how this group of youngsters can finish up, starting this coming weekend in Texas.

The Stars, along with Milwaukee, put themselves in the catbird seat for the time being with a pair of wins in Iowa this weekend. The Admirals, who’s three-game sweep of Rockford last week propelled them back into playoff consideration, beat division leaders Chicago and Grand Rapids in back-to-back games.

The Hogs beat the Griffins 4-1 at the BMO Saturday night. They then dropped a 5-2 decision to the Wolves the following afternoon. A split was a pretty decent effort for Rockford. It just wasn’t enough to keep pace with Texas and Milwaukee.

Through 70 games, Rockford (32-28-4-6) are sitting in seventh place in the division standings with 74 points, three points behind the Admirals and Stars and one behind Manitoba. Fourth place is attainable. The road is uphill, but it is very, very clear.

How does Rockford break out of the pack? Simple. The Hogs must follow these easy steps…

  1. Take care of business Tuesday night against last-place San Antonio. Do not leave the BMO with any less than two points. Overtime, shootout…doesn’t matter.
  2. Sweep Texas this weekend. Two regulation wins. The Stars must be denied even a single point.
  3. Beat the Ads April 9 in Milwaukee, then come to the BMO and beat them again in the final game of the regular season April 14. Regulation wins? Yup.
  4. I was going to suggest that dropping the penultimate game on the schedule to Iowa might be all right if the first three steps were met. You know what? Better knock off the Wild as well.

Hey, if things had gone differently against Milwaukee last week, it wouldn’t be so dire. However, the Admirals have an eight-game point streak going and Texas has won three in a row. That postseason berth will have to be won. That may well mean running the table the last two weeks.

 

Setting Things Straight

In the action on Saturday (I was there in the stands) and Sunday (I was on the internet), I picked up a lot of frustration on the part of the BMO faithful. Whether I heard it live or via social media, a vocal portion of IceHogs nation have pinned the blame for the team’s struggles to match last-year’s spring awakening on the following transgressions, which I will summarize below:

  1. The kids aren’t putting in enough effort.
  2. The team doesn’t score because they aren’t shooting enough.
  3. Derek King is a terrible coach because he stands behind the bench with his arms crossed.
  4. Anton Forsberg is the worst goalie in the history of ever.

I lack the time to fully dissect these theories for validity, but respectfully disagree with each of the above takes. Last night, on my twitter page, I belched out a lengthy diatribe on the subject. Below is said diatribe.

 

My Twitter Diatribe (@JonFromi)

1. Reading a lot of fan frustration following the Hogs 5-2 loss to Chicago this evening. Words like “effort” and “coaching” and “Forsberg” trying to point a finger at what is a borderline playoff team.

2. RFD split the weekend and probably needed to get four points after dropping three straight games to MIL last week. Hogs are three points behind the Admirals, who have the fourth Central berth with six games to play in the regular season.

3. It’s not a lack of effort or a desire to hit the links this spring that has RFD in its current position. Interim coach Derek King is not the the anchor keeping the Hogs from another spectacular postseason run. Nor is it any of the three goalies.

4. The truth is that this is pretty much where last year’s club would have slotted…had they not been fortified with a slew of NHL-level players coming down from the Blackhawks. Don’t agree? Let’s look at the names…

5. David Kampf, Lance Bouma, Chris DiDomenico, John Hayden, Cody Franson and Adam Clendening were all added to the IceHogs roster in the spring of 2018, This is the sole reason that the IceHogs reached the postseason and why they went as far as they did.

6. This season, King lost his top goal scorer, Matthew Highmore, to injury. Then leading point-producer Dylan Sikura was called up. Peter Holland was obtained and has been a big part of the RFD offense. However, King received a pittance of the bounty provided for Jeremy Colliton.

7. Not sure King is going to have the “interim” removed from his title following the season. I will say this; no way Colliton gets substantially more out of the current piglets. They don’t score consistently, at evens or on the man advantage.

8. RFD may or may not get to the playoffs. They are kids; young teams are streaky by nature and effort has nothing to do with this. If King manages to coax the IceHogs into the postseason despite the AHL’s worst offense and power play, tip your cap to the guy.

In the spirit of honesty, the Hogs scored a power play goal this weekend to move up to 29th in the league with a man advantage.

 

Roster Moves

Brandon Hagel and Reece Johnson both made their pro debuts Saturday night. Hagel was assigned to Rockford by the Blackhawks; Johnson signed an ATO with the Hogs.

On Sunday, Spencer Watson was recalled to Rockford from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. Fredrik Olofsson was released from his ATO.

 

Win ‘Em All

San Antonio visits the BMO Harris Bank Center Tuesday night. Then, it’s off to Texas for two pivotal contests.

 

 

 

 

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.