Hockey

Rockford IceHogs defenseman Ian Mitchell has owned a hot hand over the last few weeks. Mitchell is one of several young blueliners making an impact for the Blackhawks AHL affiliate.

Rockford dropped both ends of a home-and-home with Grand Rapids this weekend, ending a season-high four game winning streak in the process. Still, the Hogs defense continues to perform well at both ends of the ice.

Mitchell had a four-game points streak snapped in Friday’s 5-2 loss to the Griffins. He did pick up an assist at the BMO during Sunday’s 5-2 to Grand Rapids. In February, Mitchell has five goals and three assists.

A recent example of Mitchell’s surge came back on February 15, when he one-timed a late goal to tie Iowa. He then earned Rockford the third point with a successful shootout attempt.

The IceHogs have also gotten strong defensive play from Wyatt Kalynuk, Issac Phillips, Jakub Galvas, Alec Regula and Nicolas Beaudin. All six prospects have proven adept at forcing turnovers and jumping into the offensive rush.

 

Musings

  • It has proven difficult for the piglets to put together wins in recent seasons. Rockford’s four-in-a-row was the longest such streak since December of 2019. The Hogs managed that feat twice in the 2019-20 campaign.
  • Both losses to Grand Rapids this weekend came as a result of the Griffins breaking open tight games in the final frame. Rockford had tied the contest on Saturday with a Cameron Morrison goal early in the third, only to see Grand Rapids pull away with three scores.
  • Sunday’s loss stung because Rockford frittered away a 2-0 advantage in the final 40 minutes. Grand Rapids tied the game with a pair of goals in the second, then surrendered another three goals in the third.
  • The Blackhawks continue to shuffle players back and forth from Chicago to Rockford. Brett Connolly had a goal Sunday in his return to the IceHogs. Josiah Slavin was also reassigned to Rockford on Sunday.
  • The IceHogs recalled center Liam Folkes to Rockford from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel this morning. Folkes has been with the Fuel all season, with 11 points (5 G, 6 A) in 25 games.

 

This Week

The IceHogs travel to Iowa Friday for the first of a three-game weekend. Rockford then returns to the BMO Harris Bank Center Saturday and Sunday for two games with the Texas Stars.

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

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs earned a split in a two-game series with Cleveland this past weekend. Both teams picked up a win at the BMO Harris Bank Center-along with plenty of bruises.

The piglets, now 13-12-1-1 on the season, were in two of the more physical affairs of their 2021-22 season in the first half of the season series with Cleveland. In Friday’s contest, Rockford was able to handle the Monsters in the defensive zone, anchored by 33 saves by Arvid Soderblom. The IceHogs took the opener 5-2.

Saturday, Cleveland was even more aggressive, generating a lot of odd-man rushes at Collin Delia to the tune of a 5-2 second-period advantage. The Hogs rallied in the third and had chances to tie the game in the closing seconds, but wound up dropping a 5-4 decision.

 

Roster News

Following Saturday’s loss, the Blackhawks recalled G Cale Morris to the taxi squad, along with F Mike Hardman, who had a pair of goals over the weekend for Rockford.

Ian Mitchell played a big part in Friday’s win, was recalled to Chicago Saturday and subsequently sent back to Rockford. Also coming back to the IceHogs was rookie forward Lukas Reichel.

Both Chad Yetman and Brandon Pirri were on personal leave for the weekend.

Cameron Morrison was banged up in Friday’s game and did not play on Saturday. In his place was F Kale Howarth, who has recently come back from a shoulder injury.

 

Weekend Notes

  • Reichel and Pirri, two of the Hogs’ more prolific scorers of late, did not take part in the action this weekend. Despite this, Rockford was still able to get consistent scoring. It’s a good sign that the piglets can put points on the board after really struggling to do so in the first three months of the season.
  • Dylan McLaughlin is now on a four-game point streak. He had goals in both games this weekend and added a pair of assists in Friday’s win.
  • Hardman had a nice weekend in his return to the Hogs, with three points in the two games. He had a shorthanded goal after forcing a turnover on Friday, then added a power-play goal and assist Saturday.
  • Former IceHogs captain Tyler Sikura skated in both games for Cleveland, recording an assist on Saturday. In 29 games with the Monsters this season, Sikura The Elder has six goals and eight helpers.
  • Wyatt Kalynuk picked up a power play goal to kick off the scoring for Rockford on Friday. He had a spirited bout with Trey Fix-Wolansky late in that game. Kalynuk landed several punches to the helmet of his Monsters opponent, yet it was Fix-Wolansky who sat out Saturday’s rematch with a sore hand.
  • Two more Rockford skaters picked up their first goals of the 2021-22 campaign. Both came on Saturday night when Dimitri Osipov and Nicolas Beaudin both drew cord.
  • Osipov, who is being used as a forward for the first time this season, had one of his better games despite the loss Saturday. He was as involved on the offensive end as he has been all season and still was able to throw his weight around with several big hits.
  • Defenseman Alec Regula picked up assists on all four IceHogs goals in Saturday’s loss.
  • Collin Delia did not receive the same support in the Hogs zone Saturday as Soderblom had the previous evening. Coming into the contest, Delia was sporting a 1.01 goals against average and a .969 save percentage in his last four starts. However, he found himself struggling to stop the waves of Monsters bearing down on him.
  • The Hogs win streak ends at three games, matching a season-high that was set back in December. Rockford has not won four in a row since November 29-December 6 of 2019.

 

This Week

The IceHogs host Chicago Monday afternoon as the home stand continues. The Texas Stars arrive on Friday and Saturday for a weekend set.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs continue their October tour this weekend. The action takes place in DesMoines, where the piglets will face the Iowa Wild on Friday and Saturday nights. After splitting the first two games of the season in Grand Rapids and Chicago, the Hogs could see their points percentage climb above the .500 mark for the first time since the 2019-20 campaign.

Roster News

On Monday, the Blackhawks called up forward Mike Hardman, sending defenseman Ian Mitchell to Rockford. The IceHogs assigned goalie Cale Morris to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL.

Morris joins goalie Tom Aubrun in Indy. In addition to the two netminders, Rockford has several AHL contracts assigned to the Fuel roster. These include forwards Liam Folkes, Riley McKay and Chad Yetman. Indy hosts Cinncinati on October 23 to open its schedule.

 

A Look At The Wild

Iowa has some new faces, though the Hogs should be familiar with some of them. Forward Dominic Turgeon and defenseman Joe Hicketts come over from Grand Rapids. Longtime Iowa forward Kyle Rau is back after spending last season with Minnesota. Center Connor Dewar returns for his third season after posting 23 points (12 G, 11 A) in 32 games for the Wild in 2020-21. He currently leads Iowa in scoring (2 points) following the first weekend.

The Wild split two games with the Texas Stars to open their season. Veteran goalie Andrew Hammond shut out the Stars on October 16. He’s coming off a solid season with Rochester last spring (2.53 GAA, .908 save percentage) and will likely split starts with prospect Dereck Baribeau against the IceHogs. Baribeau was 2-0 against Rockford last season, with a 2.10 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. Overall, he was 6-1-2 in ten appearances (2.54 GAA, .914 save percentage).

The IceHogs were 1-4-1 at Wells Fargo Arena last season. Nicolas Beaudin had a lot of success against the Wild; in five games, the defenseman had six points (2 G, 4 A). In ten games with the Wild, Reese Johnson also posted six points (2 G, 4 A). Rockford was 4-5-1 in those games.

The Hogs will be leaving Malcom Subban at home for the weekend. Collin Delia looks to get his first start of the season. Arvid Soderblom, who will likely get the other start this weekend, shut out the Wild when the teams met in the preseason on October 23.

Nothing has been announced as of yet, but Chad Krys may be out for a stretch after suffering a knee injury on October 16 in Chicago. Mitchell will likely draw into the defensive mix regardless.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates on this weekend’s games, as well as my thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

 

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs, now owned and operated by the Chicago Blackhawks, will continue their youth movement at defense. There are plenty of familiar faces among the prospects. They will be led into the 2021-22 campaign by another one.

On August 4, the Blackhawks secured the services of Ryan Stanton via an AHL contract. Stanton spent his first three professional seasons in Rockford, starting in the 2010-11 campaign. Hogs coach Derek King was more than pleased with the pickup.

“Exactly what we needed,” King told Rockford broadcaster Joseph Zakrzewski after learning of the acquisition. “I’ve heard nothing but good things about this guy. I had a nice conversation with him and I think he’s going to be a perfect fit for this organization.”

The reason Stanton will come in handy this season is the departure of Cody Franson, who anchored the blueline last season and is now playing for Hershey. Franson put up 17 points (4 G, 13 A) in 26 games with Rockford.

Stanton was a prospect himself in his first stint with the Hogs. He is now at the other end of the spectrum; a 32-year old blueliner entering his twelfth season in pro hockey, Stanton has spent time with six NHL organizations.

His best Hogs campaign came in 2012-13. Stanton skated in 73 games for Rockford, with three goals and 22 assists. The following fall, Chicago tried to sneak him through waivers and he was nabbed by the Canucks. Stanton spent two years with Vancouver, where he played 118 of his 120 career NHL games. He has 514 AHL tilts under his belt, spending last season on an AHL contract with Bakersfield.

With the Condors, Stanton was cast in a similar leadership role that he’s being asked to play with the IceHogs. In 35 games, he had 13 points (1 G, 12 A). Stanton had a 20 point (5 G, 15 A in 65 games) effort with Bakersfield in 2018-19, the last full AHL season.

Stanton probably doesn’t put up offensive numbers like Franson is capable of producing. However, he should chip in and solidify the back end with a physical, defense-first game. It should be to Rockford’s benefit. With fellow AHL teammate Dmitri Osipov being converted to forward this season, the IceHogs can use what Stanton brings to the table.

Stanton will be mentoring a young crop of prospects that may be cycling back and forth between Chicago and Rockford. Wyatt Kalynuk will start the season with the Hawks, as he is currently injured and can’t be sent to the AHL until healthy.

Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin, and Jakub Galvas are players who will be trying to become permanent NHL defensemen this season. It’s likely that each will have plenty of ice time in Rockford.

At least one of this trio is probably beginning the season in Chicago. With news that Caleb Jones will be out up to six weeks with a wrist injury, all three could remain in Chicago. Mitchell and Beaudin both had time with the Blackhawks in 2020-21. Galvas has a couple of years of experience in the top professional Czech league and has impressed the brass with his play.

Two young prospects who are looking to move up the ladder are Alec Regula and Issak Phillips. Regula was the prospect many fans were interested in seeing develop at the beginning of the 2021-22 season. He appeared in just 16 games with the IceHogs due to some injuries. However, he did earn a call-up late in Chicago’s season.

Phillips, on the other hand, was off the radar heading into last season because he wasn’t expected to be around long. Starting the season on an amateur tryout, Phillips was in a position to take advantage of being allowed to skate in the AHL when his junior season was canceled.

Phillips posted a pair of goals to go with seven helpers in 27 games with the IceHogs last season, earning his entry contract with Chicago. Both Phillips and Regula are big defensemen who could help the Blackhawks in a couple of years. Filling out and continuing to learn the pro game will be priorities for both players.

Injuries limited former second-round pick Chad Krys to six games in Rockford in 2020-21. Entering the final year of his entry deal, Krys may have a tough time finding a regular spot in the IceHogs lineup. With Kalynuk out for the first few weeks of action, Krys needs to make an impact early.

In addition to Stanton, Rockford has a couple of players signed to AHL contracts. Michael Krutil was signed last season, appearing in 21 games with the IceHogs. He’s still just 19, but is another bigger body at 6’3″ and 203 pounds. He’ll be playing to earn an NHL entry deal from Chicago.

Cliff Watson was signed to several PTO contracts by Rockford last season, appearing in eight contests. He was signed to an AHL deal this summer, though he will probably spend most of his time with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel.

On Thursday, the IceHogs announced that they had signed Jacob LeGuerrier to an AHL contract. LeGuerrier was scoreless in four games for the Laval Rocket in 2020-21.

Rockford surrendered 3.59 goals per game in a 32-game slate last season. The piglets were overmatched everywhere on the ice in 2020-21 and there was a fair share of breakdowns from a green defensive corps. Most of the lineup is another year older and (hopefully) wiser. With Stanton being the lone veteran penciled into the Hogs pairings, the kids are going to hold up their end in order for Rockford to see improvement defensively.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my thoughts and coverage of the IceHogs all season long. Next week, I’ll offer up a look at the forwards.

 

 

 

Hockey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Meet The New Boss…Same As The Old Boss

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

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

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

 

Catching Up On Recaps

Saturday, April 3-Chicago 4, Rockford 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lines (Starters in italics)

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-Garrett Mitchell (C)

Josian Slavin-MacKenzie Entwistle-D.J. Busdeker

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Dylan McLaughlin-John Quenneville (A)

Matej Chalupa-Michal Teply

Lucas Carlsson-Ian Mitchell

Anton Lindholm-Nicolas Beaudin

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Michael Krutil

Cale Morris

Ivan Nalimov

 

Wednesday, April 9-Rockford 4, Chicago 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lines (Starters in italics)

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-D.J. Busdeker

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Dylan McLaughlin-John Quenneville (A)

Josiah Slavin-MacKenzie Entwistle-Brandon Pirri

Matej Chalupa-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Chad Yetman

Issak Phillips-Cody Franson (A)

Nicolas Beaudin-Ian Mitchell

Lucas Carlsson-Michael Krutil

Matt Tomkins

Ivan Nalimov

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

Hockey

The I-90 Shuffle is alive and well. The road between Chicago and Rockford has been well worn by Blackhawks prospects in the past. The moves are a bit different, but the results are similar.

In normal seasons, young prospects move up and down from the NHL to the AHL. The usual culprit is to reward a player with a quick look or to solve a salary cap issue. The new twist in the shuffle lies in the taxi squad.

Each NHL team must have three goalies available and a taxi squad of at least four members. A lot of players who would be getting steady game experience in Rockford have been in a sort of limbo. They aren’t breaking into Chicago’s lineup on a regular basis, but aren’t eligible to play for the IceHogs.

To keep the youngsters in game shape, several prospects have been rotated back and forth to the taxi squad. With both Rockford and Chicago at home or close to home this week, expect movement between the two teams.

The Blackhawks are attempting to make the best of a bad situation. However, it’s still rough on a player like Brandon Pirri, who has played in just three games this season. He was in the lineup opening night in Chicago, then sat until being assigned to Rockford on March 2.

Pirri had two goals and an assist in two games, then was recalled March 7. He was sent to Rockford last Wednesday, assumedly to play in this past weekend’s games with Iowa. The games were postponed two days, from Friday and Saturday to Sunday and Monday. On Sunday, before that night’s game, Pirri and three other skaters, John Quenneville, Alec Regula, and Mikael Hakkarainen, were recalled to Chicago.

Down came five players-forward Reese Johnson and defensemen Wyatt Kalynuk, Nicolas Beaudin, Lucas Carlsson and Madison Bowey. All five played in Rockford’s 5-3 loss to Iowa Sunday night and in the 6-1 victory the following day.

In a normal season, Pirri would have spent most of this season in Rockford leading the offensive push, offering some veteran presence, and showcasing himself to other organizations. Instead, Pirri and other AHL vets are spending time in purgatory.

Case in point: Iowa’s Gerry Mayhew scored three goals for the Wild in the last two games. Mayhew played in just four games with Minnesota before being sent down. Sunday was his third game for for Iowa. Mayhew now has four goals and an assist for the Wild. Last year’s AHL MVP (39 G, 22 A in 49 games) has been a taxi squad casualty this season.

It’s frustrating to see a player like Pirri, who was signed largely to contribute to Rockford, sit on his hands for the bulk of the season. Imagine how frustrating it must be for the players.

 

Recaps

Sunday, March 21-Iowa 5, Rockford 3

Gerry Mayhew showed the offensive spark that earned him last season’s AHL MVP award Sunday night. Mayhew, who was recently assigned to the Wild from Minnesota, scored twice and added an assist as the Wild broke a five-game winless streak.

Rockford’s two-game win streak was snapped in the first of two home contests with Iowa. Cody Franson had a goal and an assist in the losing effort.

An interference penalty by Reese Johnson set up the first goal of the contest. Iowa quickly set up in the offensive zone. Mason Shaw sent a puck on net from the right dot. Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins stopped that shot as well as Gabriel Dumont’s put back attempt. Gerry Mayhew knocked in the loose puck at 9:30 of the first period to give the Wild a 1-0 advantage.

The IceHogs tied the game early in the second period following a faceoff win by Reese Johnson in the neutral zone. Cody Franson gathered in the puck and fired from just inside the red line. Iowa goalie Hunter Jones whiffed on the long-distance offering, resulting in a 1-1 game 3:47 into the middle frame.

Rockford took the lead on the man advantage later in the second. MacKenzie Entwistle redirected a Franson shot past Jones at the 12:44 mark. That 2-1 lead was short-lived, as Mayhew potted his second goal of the night with a wrap-around attempt. Tomkins made the initial pad save, but the puck was raked across the goal line by the goalie’s stick at 14:17 of the second.

Early in the final period, the IceHogs gained a 3-2 advantage when Rockford captain Garrett Mitchell received a pass from Mitchell Fossier at the left dot. Mitchell’s shot was low and to the far side of the net at the 1:37 mark.

The Wild responded quickly, getting the equalizer from Tyler Sheehy. The rookie potted his first AHL goal, tipping in Dumont’s feed at 3:07 of the third. Five minutes later, Dumont one-timed a Sheehy pass from the high slot past Tomkins for a 4-3 Iowa lead eight minutes into the period.

The Hogs were unable to pull even in the final twelve minutes of action. Tomkins was pulled in favor of an extra skater with 1:47 remaining to no avail. Shaw found the empty net with 15 seconds left to seal Rockford’s fate.

Riley McKay dropped the gloves with Iowa’s Josh Maser early in the second period. McKay managed to dodge a good number of Maser’s punches in the all-rookie bout before being taken down to the ice. The fighting major is his third of the season, which leads the IceHogs.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-Tim Soderlund

Andrei Altybarmakyan-MacKenzie Entwistle-D.J. Busdeker

Matej Chalupa-Dylan McLaughlin-Michal Teply

Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Mitchell Fossier

Anton Lindholm-Madison Bowey

Wyatt Kalynuk-Cody Franson (A)

Lucas Carlsson-Nicolas Beaudin

Matt Tomkins

Cam Morris

 

Monday, March 22-Rockford 6, Iowa 1

For the first time this season, the IceHogs were able to build a cushion against an opponent. This was the first Rockford win of the season to come by more than one goal.

Rockford got two-goal performances from Reese Johnson, Chris Wilkie, and Nicolas Beaudin. The offensive outburst was more than enough for rookie goaltender Cale Morris, who stopped 38 shots to pick up the win.

The Hogs stormed out to a big lead in the opening minutes, scoring three goals on their first four shots of the game. The first strike came in transition after Issak Phillips sent a clearing pass to Wilkie. Leading a two-on-one rush, Wilkie hit Johnson for the one-timer from the left circle for a 1-0 lead just 2:24 into the contest.

Wilkie forced a turnover in the Iowa zone a few minutes later. Evan Barratt chased down the loose puck  and passed to Johnson, who brought it around the Wild net. Returning the favor to Wilkie, Johnson centered to set up the tap in, which came at 5:22 of the first.

Wilkie’s next goal came with Lucas Carlsson in the box for holding. Wyatt Kalynuk got the play started with a stretch pass to Wilkie coming out of the defensive zone. Wilkie worked a give-and-go with Dylan McLaughin, receiving the return pass and beating Iowa goalie Hunter Jones to the glove side at the 8:43 mark.

The Wild managed to cut the Rockford lead to 3-1 while on a two-man advantage. Gerry Mayhew snaked through the IceHogs defense and got a shot past Rockford goalie Cale Morris at 15:53 of the first period.

The IceHogs were able to restore a three-goal advantage late in the second period. The goal came on the power play after Wilkie drew a slash from Josh Atkinson. McLaughlin found MacKenzie Entwistle below the goal line. From there, Entwistle connected with Beaudin at the right dot. Beaudin brought the puck to his forehand and roofed it past Jones at 16:28 of the middle frame for a 4-1 Rockford lead.

The IceHogs prevented any pushback by Iowa by controlling the action in the third period. Late in the game, Tim Soderlund centered to Johnson, who potted his second goal of the night to make it 5-1 Rockford at 16:59 of the third. Moments later, Beaudin picked up his second of the evening with a long-distance shot past a screened Jones at the 17:29 mark to close out the scoring.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mitchell Fossier-Garrett Mitchell-D.J. Busdeker

Andrei Altybarmakyan-MacKenzie Entwistle-Michal Teply

Mataj Chalupa-Dylan McLaughlin-Tim Soderlund

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-Chris Wilkie

Anton Lindholm-Lucas Carlsson

Wyatt Kalynuk-Nicolas Beaudin

Issak Phillips-Madison Bowey

Cale Morris

Ivan Nailimov

 

This Weekend

Rockford now settles in for four games with the Chicago Wolves. The first home-and-away back-to-back starts Saturday night in Hoffman Estates.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs had a big weekend, sweeping the Iowa Wild at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The piglets won consecutive games for the first time this season. Several players stood out. Below are some thoughts.

 

Some Thoughts

  • It was a huge weekend for Collin Delia, who was lit up like a pinball machine (remember those?) in his first two conditioning starts for Rockford. Delia was much improved against Iowa, stopping 35 shots in Saturday’s 3-2 win and 27 more in Sunday’s 4-3 overtime thriller. I imagine he gets the start Thursday vs Grand Rapids, his last opportunity for work while on this 14-day stint.
  • It’s premature to tab rookie Andrei Altybarmakyan “Baby Hossa”, but I’m going to anyway. The Hawks third-round pick from 2017 has been surprisingly hardy with the puck. His effort on Sunday’s game-winner was impressive, taking the puck around the offensive zone with Iowa’s Connor Dewar draped all over him and finishing from the slot. Despite being only 5’11”, Altybarmakyan is one of a few IceHogs who can consistently drive hard to the net with the biscuit. He was rewarded with a three-point weekend and is tied for second on the team with six points (3 G, 3 A)
  • I’d like to see Nicolas Beaudin hang around the BMO for a while. He’s getting top-pairing minutes with Cody Franson and is heavily active on special teams. In just four games, he has six assists.
  • With WHL players returning to their teams, I’m wondering how much time D Issak Phillips has on his ATO. I assume he returns to his junior team if/when the OHL get back to action. The 19-year old Phillips has two goals and two helpers in nine games in Rockford and should be a big part of the IceHogs next season.
  • D Alec Regula has been out the last three games with an injury. D Chad Krys has been out since leaving the game against Cleveland February 22. Aside from veteran Cody Franson, it’s a youthful group on the blueline. With just six defensemen healthy at this point, I’m surprised the Hogs haven’t inked any PTOs at the position.

 

Roster News

On Friday, the IceHogs signed goalie Ivan Nalimov to a one-year AHL contract. Nalimov is a 2014 sixth-round pick who has bounced around the KHL for the past six seasons. He was released by Dinamo Riga last month, paving the way for the 26-year-old Nalimov to come to Rockford.

Just before game time on Saturday, the Blackhawks recalled D Wyatt Kalynuk and D Lucas Carlsson. On Sunday, F Brandon Pirri and F Tim Soderlund were recalled to Chicago’s taxi squad. Coming down to Rockford was F Brad Morrison and F Mikael Hakkarainen, both of who played that afternoon against Iowa.

 

Weekend Recaps

Saturday, March 6-Rockford 3, Iowa 2

Rockford was out shot 37-19 but broke a two-game losing skid with strong play from goalie Collin Delia and a two-goal performance by Cody Franson.

The Wild out shot Rockford 13-3 in the first period. However, it was the Hogs who took a 2-1 into the intermission. Iowa took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Iowa captain Gabriel Dumont. Dumont was in front of the Hogs crease, where he collected a feed from Mason Shaw. The pass came from behind Delia’s net; Dumont was able to knock the puck into the cage before the Rockford goalie could locate it. Dumont’s sixth goal of the season came at the 4:26 mark.

Rockford would respond with the game’s next two scores. Franson threw in his first goal of the season at 9:33 of the opening frame. The point shot was set up by Andrei Altybarmakyan, who sent a loose puck around the end boards to Nicolas Beaudin. Beaudin sent a pass along the blue line to Franson for the primary assist.

Shortly after tying the game, the IceHogs utilized some crisp passing to take the lead at 12:46 of the first. Franson got the lay of the land from behind his own net before firing to Beaudin at the Rockford blueline. Beaudin got to center ice and found Matej Chalupa coming into the Wild zone. The rookie forward skated to the left dot before slapping the biscuit past the blocker of Iowa goalie Hunter Jones.

The Rockford man advantage unit propelled the Hogs to a 3-1 lead at 11:34 of the second period. Franson’s second of the game came from the left dot, set up by Brandon Pirri and Beaudin.

After a potential goal by Will Bitten was waved off with five minutes left in the middle frame, Iowa cut the lead to 3-2 with 3:59 remaining. Veteran Cody McLeod was in front of the net to collect the rebound of Josh Atkinson’s shot from the point to reduce the IceHogs lead to one goal through forty minutes.

Iowa pushed hard for the equalizer to no avail. The IceHogs come up with two penalty kills in the last five minutes of action, highlighted by some incredible play by Delia. The Rockford goalie somehow managed to make a stick save on a sure Connor Dewar goal from the seat of his pants.

Delia, on a conditioning assignment from the Blackhawks, made 35 stops on the night. His terrific performance comes after giving up 13 goals in his first two starts with Rockford.

Three Stars: Franson (First), Beaudin (Second), Delia (Third).

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville (A)-MacKenzie Entwistle-Brandon Pirri

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson

Matej Chalupa-Garrett Mitchell-D.J. Busdeker

Riley McKay-Chad Yetman-Chris Wilkie

Nicolas Beaudin-Cody Franson (A)

Michael Krutil-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Collin Delia

Cale Morris

 

Sunday, March 7-Rockford 4 , Iowa 3 (OT)

The IceHogs finally have a winning streak going after a tough start to the 2020-21 campaign. A two-goal performance by rookie Andrei Altybarmakyan was the difference in the IceHogs 4-3 overtime victory.

The see-saw contest at the BMO Harris Bank Center ended with the IceHogs sweeping Iowa in a two-game weekend set. Rockford, who trailed 3-2 after 40 minutes, wins consecutive games for the first time this season.

Rockford got on the board 8:19 into the game on the first of Altybarmakyan’s two goals. Taking a clearing pass from Dmitry Osipov, he motored up the left side and into the Iowa zone. Altybarmakyan drove the net and sent a backhand shot past Wild goalie Hunter Jones for a 1-0 IceHogs advantage.

The Wild took advantage of a cross checking infraction by Riley McKay late in the opening period. Up until that point, Rockford had limited Iowa to a single shot on goal. The Wild tilted the ice toward the Hogs net and teed off, tying the contest at the 18:57 mark. Connor Dewar played catch with Calen Addison before sending the equalizer past Hogs goalie Collin Delia from the top of the left circle.

Iowa controlled the action for much of the second period. The Wild out shot Rockford 15-5 in addition to gaining the upper hand on the scoreboard.

The two teams traded goals early in the second. IceHogs regained the lead at the 2:35 mark, following an unsuccessful power play for Rockford. Issak Phillips retrieved a clearing attempt, sliding the puck to Evan Barratt along the left half boards just shy of the Wild blueline. Barratt skated into the offensive zone and blasted home the shot from the top of the left circle.

Less than two minutes later, Michael Krutil suffered a blowout as he was about to skate the puck past the red line. Iowa capitalized, attacking Delia’s net until Dewar was able to poke a loose biscuit into an open cage at 4:21 of the second period.

Successive penalties by Rockford garnered a two-man advantage for the Wild in the seventh minute. With MacKenzie Entwistle and John Quenneville in the box, Iowa took a 3-2 lead on a back-door conversion by Damien Giroux. The goal was set up by Addison and Mason Shaw 6:34 into the middle frame.

The IceHogs drew even with Iowa midway through the third period. Cole Moberg got the scoring play started with a shot on goal that Jones stopped. The rebound was controlled by Entwistle, who backhanded the puck to a crashing D.J. Busdeker at the left post. Busdeker collected the feed and made a deposit into the net just ahead of a diving Jones at 8:11 of the third period.

The score remained all square at three goals through regulation. Altybarmakyan ended the contest in overtime with some strong skating with the puck. Fighting off Dewar around the end boards and back to the top of the Iowa zone, Altybarmakyan made his way to the slot. He fired past Jones for the game-winner 1:16 into the extra session.

Delia picked up the win for the Hogs in net, with 27 saves on the afternoon. Rockford survived a futile day on the power play, going 0-5 while the Wild scored twice in four chances on the man advantage.

The Hogs rally overshadowed a three-point night for Addison (three assists), as well as the pair of goals by Dewar. Jones ended the night with 21 saves on 25 shots.

Rockford is off until Thursday night, where they wrap up a four-game home stand at the BMO against Grand Rapids. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

Three Stars: Altybarmakyan (First), Dewar (Second), Busdeker (Third).

 

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anderei Altybarmakyan-MacKenzie Entwistle-John Quenneville (A)

Matej Chalupa-Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson

Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-D.J. Busdeker

Brad Morrison-Chad Yetman-Mikael Hakkarainen

Nicolas Beaudin-Cody Franson (A)

Michal Krutil-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Collin Delia

Cam Morris

 

This Week

The Hogs are off until Thursday, when they wrap up the current home stand against Grand Rapids. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

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

Hockey

VS

Records: Hawks 7-5-4 / Wings 4-10-2

Puck Drop: Monday & Wednesday @ 6:30 Central

TV/Radio: Monday NBCSN/WGN 720 Wednesday: NBC “Rivalry Night”

Your Move, Creep: Winging It In Motown 

 

Now we come to the second dance with our ancient enemy, the Detroit Red Wings. While the Wings themselves may be a subway car filled with dead clowns, they managed to blow the doors off the hovercraft filled with sexual predators that is Nashville on Saturday night. Just goes to show that in any given game, even the shittiest of NHL teams can pull one off.

Before their skulling of the Preds, the Wings had gone through a 1-8 stretch that saw them give up the kind of numbers usually seen at Wrigley when the wind is blowing out. They managed to give up 30 goals in that span, and that includes the one game where they held the Panthers to a whopping two goals.

The Wings on the back end are a mess, as they just threw former Cornerstone of the D-Corps Danny Dekeyser and his 5 million cap hit on waivers this morning. Dekeyser had only played 10 games this season due to various maladies, but was originally thought fairly highly of by the front office (clearly, since they signed him to a contract with that kind of paper attached to it). Now assuming he clears waivers (based on that contract, a virtual certainty) he’ll find a home in Grand Rapids or on the Wings taxi squad.

Other than the dearly departed Dekeyser, the Wings D includes such stalwarts as Marc Staal, Patrick Nemeth and Filip Hronek. Despite this rotating cast of characters the Wings D-men have still managed to give up 3 less goals than the Hawks, which can be directly attributable to the presence of Nikita Zadorov.

Behind that Chinese Fire Drill you have the recently returned from injury Jonathan Bernier and Thomas Greiss, who actually haven’t been terrible thus far. Together the two average an 83.33 save percentage on high danger chances, which is good enough for 9th best in the league. Bernier’s stats, while fairly ugly on the surface, have kept the Wings in games long enough for them to merely lose by 1 or 2, as opposed to the 4 or 5 it could be.

Despite all the issues with the D listed above, where the Wings truly shine in their incompetence is on the offensive side of the puck. I had to look up to make sure this was the case, but the Wings don’t have a single player who has scored double digit points thus far. Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin and the aforementioned Filip Hronek have 9 each, and Bobby Ryan has 8. Some of this is due to the fact that the Wings are completely unable to create any high danger chances for their forwards. The team as a whole has only generated 93 high danger chances so far, 9th worst in the league. If you adjust that for games played, they’re 3rd worst. Only Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin have more than 35 shots on the team.

As for the Hawks, after their comeback in the 3rd Saturday night despite getting domed in possession, they currently sit tied with Carolina, Columbus and Dallas for 2nd overall in the division with 18 points. They lose out big time, however, if the league decides to go to win percentage as a tiebreaker (as they will almost certainly have to do, due to the fact that some teams have a higher viral load than the playpen off the Chicago shoreline in July).

Kevin Lankinen bounced back nicely from urping all over himself in the first game against the Jackets, only allowing an absolute top shelf snipe from Laine and a tip shot from Cam Atkinson. He should get the cage in at least the first game, though I wouldn’t be shocked to see Malcom Subban take one as it appears he’s locked up the backup job after his performance in Dallas.

On the scoring side of things, the Hawks PP continues to be weapons-grade and should prove to be too much for the scattershot PK of the Red Wings. Last time out, the Hawks netted 3 power play goals in the series, and that was before the unit really found it’s stride. Look for DeBrincat and Kane to continue their psychic connection with the man advantage.

As for the 5 on 5 play, the Hawks have managed to actually pot a few goals recently at evens, though the team continues to be underwater most nights possession-wise. Some of this could be helped if players like Ian Mitchell, Beaudin and Boqvist (if he can get out of the pressbox) are allowed to carry the puck out of the zone using their speed and creativity. This would take the pressure off the wingers attempting to move past the blue line and into the neutral zone, allowing them to enter the attacking zone with some speed. We’ll see if Colliton is willing to live with the mistakes that can occationally pop up with those things.

The Hawks D continues to be an adventure in their own end, as without Connor Murphy to take up minutes Duncan Keith has been forced to shoulder a larger load. Duncs averaged about 25 minutes per night in the Columbus series, and despite his superhuman training regimen will not be able to keep up that kind of pace. Ian Mitchell played almost 40 minutes in the series and scored his first career goal, as did Nicholas Beaudin. Both are still fairly raw in their own end, however, and Zadorov isn’t helping. Also scratching Boqvist in favor Lucas Carlsson and letting the kid actually learn from his mistakes might be helpful in the long run. Which is the entire point of this season, if you think about it.

All told, if Lankinen and Subban do their part and the PP doesn’t suddenly fall off a cliff the Hawks should (SHOULD) handle the Wings this week. Granted now that I’ve gone from clinically depressed to cautiously optimistic about this team, this is where the wheels will fall off and the Wings will double up their offensive output in a single series. Hopefully I didn’t just motherfuck this into existence. It’s highly unlikely, as if you take out the first game against the Jackets the team has looked fairly competent overall…and dare I say FUN.

Let’s Go Hawks

 

 

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

There is no use ignoring what is clearly the biggest sports story in at least a decade, and that is the spectre of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while the NBA had already been a bit more active in getting out ahead of things even with both the visiting Sharks and the Blue Jackets declaring their intent to play in front of empty buildings, the NHL still is insisting to this very moment that games will not be postponed or cancelled even as news of the NBA bringing things to a halt due to the infection in the Jazz locker room broke during the game. It feels like this might be the last game for the forseeable future, as shit is becoming real at a break neck pace. Both teams played like they were distracted for periods, and while the Hawks may have sold every ticket, it was sparse crowd that was even visible from TV. If nothing else, the Hawks braintrust will use the outbreak as a crutch to finally announce the sellout streak is over, and then brag that it took an act of god (or Satan) to halt them. With the win tonight the Hawks still remain mathematically alive, but then again, aren’t we all at this point?

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. had themselves a rough stretch in Cleveland. After winning their first two games of the season last weekend, Rockford went into Ohio and got knocked around by the Monsters.

The IceHogs took back-to-back lickings, falling 7-1 Friday night before being shut out 5-0 the following afternoon. Rockford fell to 2-5 in 2019-20. With four standings points and a .286 points percentage, the Hogs sit in seventh place in the Central Division heading into a five-game home stand that gets underway Wednesday night.

Rockford’s lone goal came in the first period Friday night, as Tyler Sikura drew even with Dylan Sikura for the team lead with his third goal of the season. From there, it was all Monsters. Up 1-0, the IceHogs gave up 12 unanswered goals the remainder of the weekend’s action.

Cleveland was able to maneuver around the Hogs defense for point-blank attempts in both contests. The Monsters fired 43 shots at Matt Tomkins Saturday. Neither Tomkins or Collin Delia could do enough to stop the deluge of scoring opportunities.

So far this year, the piglets have been flat out bad in all areas of the game. Through this weekend, Rockford is giving up 3.71 goals per contest, ranking them 25th in the AHL. Offensively, the Hogs are in a familiar place-namely, the nether regions of the league.

Only winless San Diego (1.67) score less frequently than Rockford, who average 1.71 goals per game. The power play has been on the ice 28 times and has yet to score. The penalty kill unit has surrendered eight goals in 28 chances. That 71.4 percent is second-worst in the AHL.

To summarize, the Hogs can’t score, allow tons of juicy scoring chances and are stinking up the joint on special teams. A recent spanking at the hands of an experienced Monsters team makes it easy to take a negative point of view. However, Rockford is running pretty low on sunshine and rainbows at the moment.

 

Musings

  • Kris Versteeg and John Quenneville both sat out the weekend with injuries. Kevin Lankinen practiced last week but did not make the trip to Cleveland. Rookie Mikael Hakkarainen also remained out.
  • With Versteeg missing his second and third straight games, Nick Moutrey was the closest thing to veteran presence in the Hogs lineup. The leadership group is comprised of second and third-year players. This contrasted mightily with Cleveland, who got production from Nathan Gerbe and Zac Dalpe. Both have been key veterans for the Monsters.
  • Perhaps Versteeg will be able to get back into action this week. Regardless, he’s not going to be able to carry the offensive load all by himself.
  • Reese Johnson was the first Hogs skater to engage in fisticuffs this season, dropping the gloves in a brief bout with Cleveland’s Justin Scott early in the second period Friday with Rockford down 4-1.
  • There was a extended fracas at the end of that game and some very chippy play Saturday afternoon. The Monsters pulled the piglets into a style Rockford is not set up to play. It showed up on the scoreboard, big time.
  • This has been the case for the two previous seasons, but this young Rockford club is even less equipped to handle bigger, more physical foes. If the Hogs continue to try and play to the strengths of their opponents, it’s not going to end well most nights.
  • The talented rookies that have flooded the current roster have combined for zero goals in the first seven games. This includes the three games Adam Dach took part in while on his conditioning assignment. D Chad Krys and C Phillipp Kurashev each have two assists to pace the Hogs rookies in scoring.
  • Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin, two of the organization’s highly-touted defensemen, are both looking for their first point as professionals. Boqvist played both games in Cleveland after missing the previous two games. Beaudin sat out of Friday’s affair but had three shots on goal on Saturday.
  • I seem to be painting a rather dour picture of the piglets first month of action. Rockford is just seven games into a long season; I’ll put away my crayons for now.

 

Recaps

Friday, October 25-Cleveland 7, Rockford 1

The Monsters put an end to Rockford’s two-game win streak in emphatic fashion, despite the Hogs taking an early advantage.

Rockford opened the scoring midway through the opening period. Tyler Sikura gathered in a rebound from brother Dylan’s off angle shot. The Monsters goalie, Matiss Kivelniecks, stopped Sikura’s initial attempt, but Sikura’s second effort hit paydirt at 9:52 of the first.

The lead was short-lived. Cleveland erupted for four unanswered goals in the remainder of the first period. An Anton Karlsson shot slipped past Hogs goalie Collin Delia at 10:04. Ryan MacInnis took advantage of Delia being out of his crease to give the lead to the Monsters just at the 13:01 mark.

Just 44 seconds later, Nathan Gerbe sent a centering pass off of Hogs defenseman Lucas Carlsson for a 3-1 Cleveland advantage. Paul Bittner sent a shot from the high slot past Delia in the nineteenth minute.

Cleveland added a goal at 14:05 of the second period when MacInnis fed Calvin Thurkauf at the left post for the lamp-lighter. A minute later, Sam Vigneault was credited with the tally when a Kole Sherwood pass glanced off of the shin pads of Carlsson and past Delia.

Zac Dalpe put in a power play goal midway through a chippy third period for the final margin of victory.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Dylan McLaughlin

Matthew Highmore (A)-Tyler Sikura (A)-Dylan Sikura

Anton Wedin-Jacob Nilsson-Brandon Hagel

Alexandre Fortin-Phillipp Kurahsev-MacKenzie Entwistle

Ian McCoshen-Adam Boqvist

Philip Holm-Joni Tuulola

Chad Krys-Lucas Carlsson

Collin Delia

Power Play (0-4)

Wedin-Hagel-Nilsson-Boqvist-Philip Holm

T. Sikura-D. Sikura-Kurashev-Highmore-Carlsson

Penalty Kill (Monsters were 1-2)

Forwards-Wedin, Nilsson, Highmore, T. Sikura, Entwistle, Johnson

Defense-Tuulola, Holm, Krys, Carlsson

 

Saturday, October 26-Cleveland 5, Rockford 0

It was all Monsters in the second game of the weekend; rookie goalie Veini Vehvilainen posted a shutout, stopping 29 Rockford shots.

All the offense Cleveland needed came in the first period. Ryan Collins threaded a shot to Matt Tomkins glove side that reached the top shelf of the goal 8:43 into the game. Ryan MacInnis took advantage of a turnover in the Hogs zone and made it 2-0 at the 16:27 mark.

Rockford gave up two goals in the first two minutes of the second period. That’s pretty much all she wrote for the IceHogs. Monsters captain Nathan Gerbe added a power play goal 7:50 into the period for the final margin of victory.

The Hogs had three chances to take the goose egg off the scoreboard vie the man advantage. Each time, they came up empty.

Tomkins made 38 saves on the afternoon in the losing effort.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anton Wedin-Jacob Nilsson-Brandon Hagel

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-MacKenzie Entwistle

Matthew Highmore (A)-Tyler Sikura (A)-Dylan Sikura

Tim Soderlund-Phillipp Kurahsev-Alexandre Fortin

Philp Holm-Lucas Carlsson

Ian McCoshen-Adam Boqvist

Nicolas Beaudin-Joni Tuulola

Matt Tomkins

 

Rampaging Into Rockford

Coming to the BMO Harris Bank Center Wednesday night is the San Antonio Rampage. San Antonio is tied with Grand Rapids for second place in the Central with a 4-1-2-1 mark.

Seventh-year pro Nathan Walker came over from Hershey this summer. Walker leads the Rampage with seven goals (two of which have been game-winners) and five helpers. Another Eastern Conference veteran, D Derrick Pouliot, arrives from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and has seven points (1 G, 6 A).

San Antonio added a lot of veteran pieces after a last-place finish in the division a season ago. Forwards like Cam Darcy (0 G, 5 A) Nick Lappin (four goals) and  Zach Nastasiuk fortifies the Rampage with experienced skaters.

Ville Husso (4-1-1. 2.35 GAA, .919 save percentage) has been very good in net for San Antonio the the early going. Like Cleveland, this is a team with AHL experience. The Rampage will be a tough opponent for the piglets as they try to snap their losing streak.

I’ll be back on Friday to preview Rockford’s weekend action with Iowa and Chicago. Until then, follow me @JonFromi on twitter to catch my thoughts on IceHogs hockey throughout the season.