Hockey

It was another disappointing weekend for the Rockford IceHogs. Rockford’s current losing streak reached six games with home losses to Manitoba and Milwaukee.

The Hogs managed a point against the Moose before falling 4-3 in a shootout Friday. The following evening, the Admirals cleaned Rockford’s clock, scoring the game’s first three goals before cruising to a 7-1 rout of the IceHogs.

Rockford, now 20-24-1-2, is in the midst of a stone-like decent into the depths of the AHL’s Central Division. The IceHogs sit in seventh place, just a point above Manitoba with a game in hand on the Moose.

As I prepared to dig into the week that was for Rockford, I took a quick scan of the Facebook group of IceHogs season ticket holders. It isn’t surprising to see a lot of angst in the tone of the comments; not with Rockford owning a 3-15-1-1 record over the last six weeks of play.

Several theories were being tossed out over the weekend. Most involved leveling blame at Hogs coach Derek King. To paraphrase the sentiments, King doesn’t coach the players during the game. King isn’t utilizing the wealth of talent in Rockford. King isn’t developing the players. King should be fired.

Usually, when I run across comments I don’t necessarily agree with, I just move on with my life. On rare occasions, when I disagree strongly enough, I will post my thoughts. Yesterday was one of those occasions.

What follows is the post I created in response to the torch and pitchfork set that seem to be ignoring the makeup of the current roster and calling for the head of King on a platter. As the topic of the IceHogs woes was basically what I had planned to discuss here this week, I’ve elaborated on the original post via italics.

 

My Facebook Post-Sunday, February 2, 10:45 a.m.

Don’t often post on here, but here goes…

I’m as frustrated at the current state of the IceHogs as the next fan. That said, a lot of that frustration is being channeled away from the main issues with this team.

Rockford was set up this fall with very inexperienced skaters. Ones with potential, but nearly completely untested in the professional ranks. This group was not supplemented with veteran talent to speak of. A healthy Versteeg wasn’t going to be enough.

This was an issue of concern throughout the summer when the Hawks organization left the cupboard bare in terms of stocking the Hogs with a few solid veterans.

The Hogs showed decent chemistry early and were winning at a pretty impressive rate. Then several top scorers were recalled. Other top scorers were injured. Add more injuries and a slew of games with the league studs and this is the result.

Rockford has been defeated by Milwaukee six times in the last three weeks. 

How would the roster of mid-November have fared with the Ads? Would have been fun to watch, but that hasn’t been possible. The depleted roster currently on hand has been fairly whipped.

That Milwaukee roster, btw, is the polar opposite of Rockford’s. Lots of experienced players with 4-5 years of AHL experience sprinkled in with some impressive youngsters. Stick tap for what that group has done so far this season. I think I gushed enough about the Admirals in last week’s post

The only remedy for the Hogs even hoping to reach a level we saw earlier this year is:

A. Getting completely healthy (Wedin, Nilsson, Kurashev, etc.) Nilsson was injured Friday night, along with Nick Moutrey, continuing the theme of players missing in action this season. Also missing for a lengthy stretch are Mikael Hakkarainen and AHL signing Matthew Thompson.

B. The Blackhawks obtaining 2-3 AHL veterans to bolster this lineup in trades (don’t hold your breath).

C. Derek King breaking multiple clipboards and screaming incessantly at the rookies and ECHL call-ups.

Hold up. “C” isn’t going to do a darn thing. Neither will firing King. Or any of the other coaches/team staff. Or imploring the piglets to try harder.

This isn’t Derek King’s fault. It’s his mess with which to deal, but he certainly did not create said mess. The Hogs organization has been scrambling to bring in pieces, but it’s hard for the AHL contracts to collectively raise Rockford’s fortunes.

The talent the fire-King contingent point to has been hurt or called up. Guys like Tyler Sikura and Brandon Hagel have been playing well, but all the emergency call-ups have left the Hogs coach with a slew of new faces that have been thrown into the mix. It stands to reason that such a group would have trouble meshing on the ice.

All we can do as fans is hope things get straightened out in terms of team health and that the Hogs can start winning games again. I know most of you follow the roster movements. This is extreme, but typical of an AHL season as far as players going in and out of the lineup.

Again, frustrating as all get out; unfortunately, that where the IceHogs are heading into the last three months of the season.

 

Looking Back At A Couple Of Trades

Earlier this season, the Blackhawks sent forward Aleksi Saarela to the Florida Panthers in exchange for defensemen Ian McCoshen. At the time, Rockford was bursting with forwards and needed some help stabilizing the back end.

Since the deal occurred October 23, Saarela has logged 38 games with Springfield, with 26 points (11 G, 15 A).  Those numbers would be good enough for second among IceHogs scorers this season. Tyler Sikura leads the club with 28 points (12 G, 16 A).

McCoshen has been a constant on the Rockford blueline, but hasn’t been particularly impressive in his 40 games with the IceHogs. He has six assists for Rockford this season.

Another player obtained by trade for the IceHogs was F Joseph Cramarossa, who arrived in exchange for Graham Knott back on November 20 in a trade between Chicago and Pittsburg. Cramarossa isn’t a prolific scorer by any means, but has chipped in with three goals and six helpers in his 32 games for Rockford.

Knott is scoreless in three games with Pittsburg’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He has played 13 games for the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers with two goals and five assists.

 

Roster Moves

Dennis Gilbert was recalled by Chicago on Wednesday last week. In the corresponding move, Rockford brought up D Jack Ramsey from the Indy Fuel. Ramsey did not play in either game for the Hogs this weekend.

On Saturday, the IceHogs recalled F Dylan Coughlin from the Fuel after Jacob Nilsson and Nick Moutrey left Friday’s game with injuries.

 

This Week

Rockford holds court at the BMO Harris Bank Center this week, hosting the Texas Stars on Tuesday night. Texas has won seven of its last ten and beat the IceHogs 1-0 in the last meeting between the two teams on January 22. The piglets will wrap up the home stand this weekend, with games with San Antonio on Friday and Saturday.

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

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs faced the best team in the AHL twice this weekend. They were soundly defeated in both tilts.

Following Saturday’s game, the league went on its All-Star break. Rockford’s equipment managers should take the impending free time to sew a patch onto the IceHogs sweaters.

One that reads “Property Of The Milwaukee Admirals”.

Milwaukee has been outstanding through 45 games this season. They sport a 31-8-4-2 mark and a .756 points percentage. They now sit atop the AHL with 68 standings points, nine more than any other team in the league.

The Ads boast the best goalie tandem in the league, with Connor Ingram and Troy Grosenick combining for a 2.16 GAA and a .924 save percentage. Combined with the AHL’s top power play (25.7%), the league’s sixth-best offensive output (3.36 goals per game) and a fast-paced, aggressive brand of hockey, Milwaukee is taking it to the opposition on a nightly basis.

Rockford has faced off with the Admirals seven times since the first meeting of the teams this season on December 7. In those games, the IceHogs have gone 1-6 and been outscored 26-12. The lone win came on December 10; all Kevin Lankinen had to do that night was make 55 saves to propel Rockford to a 2-1 overtime victory.

The last three confrontations with Milwaukee have resulted in three-goal losses, including both games this past weekend. Following a physical affair in Milwaukee Friday, Hogs coach Derek King was left without a full set of forwards. Even with rookie Tim Soderlund returning to the lineup, King iced ten healthy forwards, used defenseman Ben Youds as a forward and went with seven defensemen.

The Admirals had no issues using their depth advantage this weekend. Milwaukee camped out in high-danger scoring areas and whaled away at Rockford goalies Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen. Both saw their goals against average rise thanks to Milwaukee.

I’ll attempt resembling a broken record, but the All-Star break comes at a good time for the Hogs. Somehow, they have to get healthier and in a new mindset following a span in which they have lost 14 of their last 17 games.

Rockford gets back at it with two games at home this coming weekend. The piglets host Manitoba on Friday night, followed by a Saturday contest with…you guessed it…the Admirals Juggernaut.

 

Roster Happenings

On Saturday, Rockford sent goalie Chase Marchand, who they have on an AHL deal, back to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL.

Phillipp Kurashev, Mikael Hakkarainen, Anton Wedin and Matthew Thompson continue to be unavailable due to injury. John Quenneville sat out the weekend as well.

Alexandre Fortin, Dylan McLaughlin and Peter Quenneville were all scratches on Saturday.

 

Recaps

Friday, January 24-Milwaukee 7, Rockford 4

Rockford picked up the scoring but couldn’t keep the Ads out of the net, opening the weekend home-and-home series with a loss.

The IceHogs snapped a seven-game scoreless streak early in the game. Dylan Sikura took a shot at goal nine seconds into a Rockford power play. His offering glanced off the stick of Milwaukee’s Jared Tinordi and sailed by Ads goalie Troy Grosenick 3:39 into the game for a 1-0 Hogs lead.

Milwaukee answered on their first man advantage a few minutes later. Alexadre Carrier set up Frederick Gaudreau at the left circle for a one-timer that beat Rockford goalie Collin Delia to the cord. The goal tied the game 1-1 6:15 into the first.

The Ads took a 3-1 advantage after Mathieu Olivier and Mikka Salomakki got pucks past Delia at 10:59 and 14:54, respectively. Rockford would close the gap to 3-2 late in the period on MacKenzie Entwistle’s power play goal. The breakaway attempt was set up by a finely-threaded pass from Nicolas Beaudin. Entwistle skated across the crease and backhanded the puck over Grosenick.

Milwaukee ran out to a 5-2 lead after Gaudreau and Eeli Tolvanen hit on power play markers 20 seconds apart in the opening 67 seconds of the middle frame. The Hogs climbed back into the contest with a pair of their own.

Chad Krys found the back of the net from the blueline at the 4:56 mark to close to within two goals. Three minutes later, the power play came up big for the third time in the game. This time, Brandon Hagel put back a rebound of Gabriel Gagne’s shot 8:34 into the period to cut the Milwaukee lead to 5-4.

The Admirals went up 6-4 following some nifty passing that ended with Rem Pitlick knocked in Tolvanen’s pass at the right post at the 14:50 mark. Milwaukee stretched the lead to 7-4 on Daniel Carr’s goal 4:33 into the third period.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Joseph Cramarossa

Brandon Hagel-Jacob Nilsson-MacKenzie Entwistle

Dylan Sikura-Tyler Sikura (C)-Gabriel Gagne

Alexandre Fortin-Peter Quenneville-Dylan McLaughlin

Chad Krys-Dennis Gilbert

Joni Tuulola-Lucas Carlsson

Nicolas Beaudin-Ian McCoshen (A)

Collin Delia

Kevin Lankinen

Power Play (3-8)

Carlsson-Hagel-D. Sikura-Gagne-Nilsson

Beaudin-McLaughlin-Entwistle-T. Sikura-Fortin

Penalty Kill (Milwaukee was 3-7)

Forwards: Nilsson-Johnson-Moutrey-Fortin-T. Sikura

Defense: Tuulola-Gilbert-Krys-McCoshen

 

Saturday, January 25-Milwaukee 5, Rockford 2

The IceHogs dropped the back half of the home-and-home, losing to the Admirals at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Rockford opened the scoring as they had the previous evening, on the power play. MacKenzie Entwistle got inside position on his defender and was on hand to send the rebound of Ben Youds shot attempt past Admirals goalie Connor Ingram. At 10:09, the piglets owned a 1-0 lead.

From that point on, Milwaukee took over. Eeli Tolvanen tied the game at the 11:42 mark with a put back in front of Hogs goalie Kevin Lankinen. Michael McCarron’s presence in the crease yielded a pair of goals in the second period to stake the Admirals to a 3-1 lead through 40 minutes.

Milwaukee pressed its advantage in the final frame, with Tanner Jeannot and Daniel Carr finding the back of the net midway through the third. Rockford picked up a late goal at the 18:30 mark when Tyler Sikura redirected a Chad Krys blast from the point.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Rockford employed seven defensemen tonight and skated an eighth (Ben Youds) as a forward.

Dylan Sikura-Tyler Sikura (C)-Gabriel Gagne

Brandon Hagel-Jacob Nilsson-MacKenzie Entwistle

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Joseph Cramarossa

Tim Soderlund-Ben Youds

Dennis Gilbert-Ian McCoshen (A)

Joni Tuulola-Lucas Carlsson

Dmitri Osipov-Nicolas Beaudin-Chad Krys

Kevin Lankinen

Matt Tomkins

Power Play (1-4)

Carlsson-Hagel-D. Sikura-Gagne-Nilsson

Beaudin-Soderlund-Entwistle-T. Sikura-Youds

Penalty Kill (Milwaukee was 1-4)

Forwards: Nilsson-Johnson-Moutrey-Cramarossa-Soderlund-T. Sikura

Defense: Tuulola-Gilbert-Krys-McCoshen

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs continued their winning ways this past week, coming out on top in two of their three games. The piglets followed up a big win over Milwaukee at the BMO with a weekend split in the first two games of a Canadian road jaunt.

I have a lot of thoughts to share on how the season is going for the Hawks prospects, including the crowded Hogs net and some youngsters who are going to have to step things up in the coming weeks. Those thoughts will remain in my head until Friday, or on twitter @JonFromi throughout this week.

For now, let’s get caught up on the latest from the farm:

  • The Hogs are 15-10-0-1, having won seven of their last ten. Rockford is in second place behind Milwaukee in the Central Division with 31 points.
  • Anton Wedin is back in Rockford, having been reassigned by Chicago. Dylan McLaughlin, Dmitri Osipov, Matthew Thompson and Mikael Hakkarainen were recalled from Indy.
  • Dylan Sikura and Matthew Highmore, along with Adam Boqvist, were recalled by the Blackhawks.
  • F Alex Krushelnyski was released from his PTO and is back with the Fuel. The Hogs signed D Ben Youds, who spend two seasons in Rockford from 2011-2013, to a PTO.

 

Recaps

Tuesday, December 10-Rockford 2, Milwaukee 1 (OT)

The Admirals out shot Rockford 56-14 in this game. The out shot the Hogs 25-2 in the third period. It took a record-setting effort by Kevin Lankinen, but he and the piglets avenged Saturday’s loss at the BMO with a win over the Central Division leaders.

Rockford could muster just two shots on goal in the first period. However, Lankinen fended off 19 Milwaukee shots to keep things scoreless through the first intermission. The Hogs converted nine seconds into their first power play chance of the night in the middle frame. Brandon Hagel hauled in a rebound of a Phillipp Kurashev shot and threw a backhand past Ads goalie Connor Ingram. Rockford led 1-0 at the 6:41 mark.

Milwaukee got one puck by Lankinen on this night, but it took a wild scrum in front of the Rockford net and a video review by the officials for the Admirals to officially tie the score 12:46 into the third. Lankinen made save after save to keep the Hogs even through regulation.

The Gus Macker Hero turned out to be Anton Wedin, who took the puck from Ben Youds, skated to the left dot and fired past Ingram for the game-winner 1:02 into extra hockey.

Lankinen’s 55-save evening set a new IceHogs record. Rockford gave up six power plays to the Admirals, but Milwaukee was turned away each time.

 

Friday, December 13-Belleville 5, Rockford 2

The IceHogs battled but couldn’t complete a third-period comeback, dropping the team’s first-ever meeting with the Senators to kick off a three-game road trip.

Belleville took advantage of sloppy play by the Rockford power play unit, scoring shorthanded via Jean-Christophe Beaudin’s breakaway goal 13:54 into the opening period. Just 28 seconds into the second, Eric Brannstrom sent a shot off of the pads of Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins. The rebound came right out to Jordan Szwarz at the bottom of the right circle. Szwarz knocked the puck past Tomkins for a 2-0 Belleville advantage.

Rockford got on the board at the 15:40 mark, just after the Hogs came up empty on their fourth power play chance of the night. Ben Youds hauled in a cleared puck in the Rockford zone and sent a long pass to Reese Johnson. Johnson took the puck off the half boards and slid it to Nicolas Beaudin. The rookie defenseman did the rest, skating to the slot and firing past Belleville goalie Filip Gustavsson. Beaudin’s first pro goal cut the IceHogs deficit to 2-1, which was the score at the second intermission.

The Hogs knotted the game at two goals early in the third period. Joseph Cramarossa forced a turnover in the Senators end of the ice. Tyler Sikura pounced on the loose puck at the bottom of the left circle and hit John Quenneville skating into the slot. Quenneville’s one-timer got over Gustavsson’s glove at the 28 second mark to square the match.

Belleville regained the lead when the Hogs got caught in a line change a few minutes later. Tomkins had just made an incredible stop to keep things even in the fifth minute. Brannstrom got possession of a clearing attempt puck in the neutral zone and quickly sent it the other way. Josh Norris wound up with lots of room to maneuver in front of Tomkins; his goal at 4:35 made it 3-2 Senators.

Senators forwards found their way past the IceHogs defense several times as the time wound down in regulation. The back-breaker came with 2:11 left, when Szwarz got to the front of the net to redirect a Jack Dougherty shot. Tomkins made a pad save on the redirect, but Szwarz tapped in the rebound to make it 4-2. An empty netter in the final seconds closed out the scoring.

 

Sunday, December 15-Rockford 4, Toronto 2

The Hogs took a 1-0 lead 5:41 into the game on a play that got started when John Quenneville freed up a puck in the corner of the defensive zone. Phillipp Kurashev skated it out along the half boards and pulled up near to the top of the left circle. Kurashev backhanded a pass to Philip Holm at the point; Holm, in turn, sent a backhand to Quenneville at the bottom of the right circle. The one-time blast made its way past Kasimir Kaskisuo and into Net Land.

The net front presence of Rich Clune resulted in the Marlies tying the game when the veteran converted on a rebound of Jordan Schmaltz’s shot. Clue drew Hogs goalie Kevin Lankinen out of position and netted the equalizer at 14:14 of the first.

Kurashev was the beneficiary of a fortunate bounce a few minutes later. A long stretch pass attempt by Nicolas Beaudin glanced off of the skate of MacKenzie Entwistle and on to Kurashev’s blade. Unencumbered by the Toronto defense, the Swiss rookie converted the breakaway rush at the 16:30 mark.

The Marlies tied the game again 1:13 into the second period when Adam Brooks slipped away from the defense. Brooks hung out at the front of the Hogs net; Matt Read connected with the feed and Lankinen was unable to bail out his teammates.

Quenneville would put Rockford up for good 7:56 into the second stanza, capping off a nice bit of passing by the IceHogs. Ben Youds sent the puck to Anton Wedin at the top of the left circle. Wedin threaded a pass to Quenneville, who had collected another loose puck in the corner to spark another scoring play. Quenneville settled the puck and fired past the glove of Kaskisuo for a 3-2 Rockford advantage.

Entwistle was awarded a penalty shot late in the period, but was stopped by Kaskisuo and the Hogs lead remained a single goal through forty minutes. The Marlies could muster just five third period shots, all stopped by Lankinen. Nick Moutrey sealed the deal with an empty net goal with 45 seconds remaining.

 

This Week

The IceHogs complete the road trip Tuesday night in Laval, then return to the BMO Harris Bank Center for tilts with a hot Texas club on Friday, followed by a game with Cleveland on Saturday.

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks affiliate in the American Hockey League, hope to continue their strong play into the month of December. The piglets got the month started right with a 4-2 win over Manitoba Tuesday. Another big Central Division weekend looms for the IceHogs. Friday sees Rockford in Grand Rapids. The first meeting of the season with Western Conference-leading Milwaukee is Saturday.

 

Roster Activity

On Tuesday, D Dennis Gilbert was recalled to the Blackhawks. Rockford has seven defenseman on its current roster. However, Philip Holm has been out the last couple of games and Lucas Carlsson took a puck in the face late in Tuesday’s game with the Moose. No one has been brought up from Indy this week, so I’d guess one or both players should be ready to play.

 

Weekday Recap

Tuesday, December 3-Rockford 4, Manitoba 2

Rockford won its third straight game behind a strong performance from goalie Collin Delia, who posted a 37-save performance in his first action since November 3.

The Hogs drew cord on the power play 4:15 into the contest. The play was set up with a long pass by Delia to Dylan Sikura. Sikura maneuvered to the high slot and drew three defenders before sliding the puck to MacKenzie Entwistle. The rookie forward went forehand-backhand on Manitoba goalie Mikhail Berdin, striking through the five-hole to put Rockford up 1-0.

The Moose quickly responded with a Seth Griffith goal. However, the piglets regained the lead on a point blast by Joni Tuulola. Tyler Sikura picked up the apple with some deft stick work along the half boards and the IceHogs held a 2-1 advantage at the 8:53 mark.

Manitoba came back with a power play goal by Skylar McKenzie 14:48 into the first. Delia, who was having trouble securing the puck at times, made a nice pair of saves late in the period to send the teams to intermission even at two goals.

Both teams had a couple of power play chances in the second period. Brandon Hagel had recently come out of the penalty box for hooking when Matthew Highmore slid a pass his way in front of the Rockford net. Hagel did the rest, streaking past the Moose defense to buzz the goal mouth and backhand the puck into the Manitoba cage. The IceHogs led 3-2 at the 16:48 mark and held that advantage as the teams skated to the second intermission.

Delia held off the charging Moose in the third period. The Hogs goalie stopped twelve shots, including an outstanding pad save on a back door attempt midway through the period. Nick Moutrey added an empty net goal with 32 seconds remaining in regulation to put a topper on the win.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville-Tyler Sikura (C)-Matthew Highmore

Dylan Sikura-Phillipp Kurashev-Tim Soderlund

Brandon Hagel-Jacob Nilsson (A)-MacKenzie Entwistle

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Joseph Cramarossa

Joni Tuulola-Adam Boqvist

Lucas Carlsson-Dennis Gilbert (A)

Nicolas Beaudin-Ian McCoshen

Collin Delia

Matt Tomkins

Power Play (1-4)

Boqvist-Quenneville-Hagel-Nilsson-Kurashev

Carlsson-Beaudin-Sikura-Entwistle-Soderlund

Penalty Kill (Moose were 1-5)

Forwards-T. Sikura-Soderlund-Nilsson-Entwistle-Moutrey-Cramarossa

Defense-Gilbert-McCoshen-Tuulola-Beaudin

 

Previewing The Weekend

Friday night, Rockford is in Grand Rapids. The Griffins have lost six straight, including a 3-1 loss to the Hogs at the BMO last Saturday.

Saturday night is the IceHogs first look at the Milwaukee Admirals. It’s also the team’s annual Teddy Bear Toss Night. The Ads had a 13-game win streak snapped by Texas on Monday night but still lead the Central Division with a 17-4-1-2 mark.

Admirals center Yakov Trenin is second in the AHL with 14 goals this season. Daniel Carr (11 G, 10 A) was a 30-goal scorer with the Wolves last year but has been out of the Milwaukee lineup for a couple of weeks. The Admirals are bolstered by the scoring of Cole Schneider (6 G, 14 A), Colin Blackwell (6 G, 13 A) as well as defensemen Alexandre Carrier (3 G, 13 A) and Matt Donovan (1 G, 13 A). Former IceHogs forward Laurent Dauphin (5 G, 5 A) will also be facing off against Rockford.

It’s been a true tandem in goal for Milwaukee. Veterans Connor Ingram and Troy Grosenick have split the workload and together boast a 2.36 goals against average and a .921 save percentage. The Admirals are the stingiest defensive team in the AHL despite giving up over 31 shots a game, so the goalies are getting it done big time.

I would speculate that the Hogs will be facing Grosenick Saturday, as Ingram will likely play Friday when Milwaukee hosts Iowa. Regardless, getting pucks in the Ads net could prove challenging.

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