Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs picked up a huge overtime win over the Chicago Wolves at the BMO Harris Bank Center Wednesday night. The 2-1 victory was in line with the way the piglets have won for the bulk of the 2018-19 campaign. Rockford leaned on its goaltender and picked up two valuable points in the Central Division standings.

On Wednesday, it was Collin Delia who kept the Hogs in contention with a 32-save performance. The frugal IceHogs have won four straight games despite scoring just eight regulation goals in that span.

Buoyed by this winning streak, Rockford has the fourth and final playoff spot in its possession for the time being. The Hogs (31-24-4-6) own a .554 points percentage with 11 games remaining in the regular season.

Texas and Manitoba are right behind Rockford, with Milwaukee still in the hunt for a postseason berth. The IceHogs can put a damper on the dreams of the Admirals, as the two teams face off with each other in each of the next three games.

Rockford visits Milwaukee Friday before the action returns to the Forrest City Saturday and next Wednesday. The Hogs have won four of the seven matchups with the Admirals this season. Three of those wins have come at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.

The IceHogs did themselves a huge favor this past Sunday in beating the Stars 2-1 in regulation. Anton Forsberg, who paces the AHL with a .924 save percentage, stopped 34 shots to pick up the win over Texas. Forsberg is 4-2 against the Admirals this season with a 1.99 GAA and a .920 save percentage.

 

Hot And Cold Running Hogs

Anthony Louis is currently mired in a 15-game goal-less drought. In fact, Louis has just one goal and four helpers in his last 26 games dating back to January 12. Tyler Sikura has been back in the lineup for six games but is looking for his first goal since coming back from a broken thumb.

Jordan Schroeder, who posted the lone shootout goal to beat Chicago Wednesday, continues to put up a steady stream of points. He has two goals and four assists in seven March contests. Since coming aboard last month, Peter Holland has also provide offense for the Hogs. In eleven games with Rockford, Holland has four goals and three assists.

Holland’s four goals since coming aboard February 20 pace Rockford in that span. The Hogs still man the league basement, scoring a paltry 2.40 goals per contest. To be in a position for the postseason is a testament to the play of Forsberg, Delia and Kevin Lankinen in net.

 

Roster Moves

The influx of college and junior players has begun for the IceHogs. Rockford signed center Dylan McLaughlin to a two-year AHL deal on March 13. McLaughlin, who was a Hobey Baker finalist with Canisius College last season, has skated in four games with the Hogs.

The IceHogs also signed Indy Fuel defenseman Dmitri Osipov to a PTO on Saturday. Osipov has skated in two games with Rockford. Wednesday, the Hogs inked forward Fredrik Olofsson, a fourth-round selection by the Blackhawks in 2014, to an Amateur Tryout contract.

On Thursday, Rockford extended the AHL contract of goalie Matt Tomkins through next season. He’s played well in Indy this season, with a 25-17-2 record. He has been named the CCM/ECHL Goaltender of the Week on three occasions this season.

At this point, forwards Jacob Nilsson, Matthew Highmore and Nick Moutrey are still missing from the IceHogs lineup. Defenseman Brandon Davidson is also out, as has been the case since February 20.

I’ll be back on Monday to recap what is shaping up to be another big weekend of action. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for game updates this weekend and thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

Some Hogs thoughts on the abbreviated tip this week, as work commitments have me out of the loop for most of the next few days…

  • Rockford dropped a pair in Manitoba this weekend, losing 3-1 Saturday night and 2-1 in Gus Macker Time the following afternoon. Dennis Gilbert had the lone IceHogs goal in the former, while Peter Holland drew cord for Rockford in the latter.
  • Though 61 games, the Hogs have 63 points and a .525 points percentage. The Moose share that percentage and have a game in hand on Rockford. In turn, the piglets have a game in hand on fourth-place Texas, trailing by four standings points.
  • Tyler Sikura made his return to the lineup from a broken thumb. He skated both games in Manitoba but didn’t post any points on the weekend.
  • Jacob Nilsson continues to be out of the lineup. He’s been out since February 23.
  • No roster moves were made last week.
  • Rockford has a huge three-in-three weekend coming up. The Hogs visit Grand Rapids on Friday night, then host Cleveland and the Stars at the BMO Harris Bank Center Saturday and Sunday. Beating Texas in regulation is a must. The fourth playoff spot in the Central Division is still attainable for any of the last five teams in the standings. If that team is to be the IceHogs, the boys need to start knocking off division opponents.
  • I may squeeze out a few tweets this week if time allows. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for some Hogs nuggets.
Everything Else

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Lone Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Two With The Moose

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Everything Else

For the Rockford IceHogs, the action in March gets underway quickly. The Blackhawks AHL affiliate opens what is a pivotal month of the 2018-19 season at the BMO Harris Bank Center against Grand Rapids.

For the IceHogs, a team trying to secure a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs next month, every point counts. The fourth spot in the Central Division is shaping up to be a battle between Rockford, Texas, Milwaukee and Manitoba.

Right now, the Stars are in that final playoff spot in terms of points percentage (.536).  The Hogs are not far behind with a .526 percentage. Rockford holds a one-point lead over Texas in the standings, though the Stars have two games in hand.

Both the Ads and Moose have .509 points percentages and are within four points of the Hogs. Any of these four teams (or even last-place San Antonio, for that matter) could wind up with a spot in the playoffs with a extended run. Conversely, even treading water in March could spell the end of postseason dreams.

Texas hosts first-place Chicago on Friday and Saturday, while Rockford’s game with the Griffins is the lone contest for the piglets this weekend. Following that contest, the Hogs will have eight days off before traveling to Manitoba for a pair of games on March 9 and 10.

The IceHogs beat Grand Rapids in comeback fashion in the last meeting between the teams on February 20. The Hogs have dropped three straight games since that night, including a 1-0 loss in Chicago Tuesday night.

Colin Delia, in his first game back with the Hogs since being re-assigned by the Hawks, stopped 15 of 16 shots. However, his counterpart in net, Max Lagace, blanked Rockford with 27 saves on the night.

After a return visit to Grand Rapids March 15, the IceHogs will have eight of their next nine games at the BMO. If they can go 7-2 as they did in their most recent home stand, they should be in in good shape to make a run at the postseason.

 

On Their Own

Does this group have the talent to turn in another dominant spring? We’ll see. Unlike last year, what you see in Rockford is what you are going to get, for the most part.

The only current member of the Blackhawks who would be eligible for the Calder Cup Playoffs (not counting Delia, who is already with the IceHogs) is Dylan Sikura, who was sent to Rockford in a paper move at the trade deadline. Only players on the Hogs roster as of February 25 can skate in the postseason, not counting late spring ATO and PTO signings.

Whether the Blackhawks get into the playoffs or not, we won’t see a big influx of players coming in to upgrade the Hogs. In fact, Rockford might lose a player or two to emergency call-ups. Depending on how much time Drake Caggiula misses after his concussion, the Hawks may bring up a player like Andreas Martinsen, Luke Johnson or Peter Holland to fill out the bottom six.

Delia was a huge part of last spring’s playoff run to the conference final. That said, he’s not a huge upgrade in goal. Both Anton Forsberg and Kevin Lankinen have played very well in Delia’s absence. I think any of the three goalies could excel if required to carry the workload in net.

The X-factor for the IceHogs is health. There are several players who could make a difference for Rockford who are currently injured. Defenseman Brandon Davidson missed almost a month of action, came back for two games February 17 and 20, then has been out the last three. If he could stay on the ice, Davidson would be a nice veteran piece to have in the lineup.

Forward Terry Broadhurst has not played since February 16. William Pelletier was banged up February 20 and has missed three games. Tyler Sikura has been out since early January with a broken thumb. Matthew Highmore, last season’s MVP, is practicing but has yet to return from a November shoulder injury.

If all the above players could all get back into the Hogs lineup in the coming weeks, it would made a huge impact on Rockford’s playoff chances. This doesn’t seem likely. However, getting Highmore and one of the Hogs AHL signings (Broadhurst or Pelletier) back for the last four or five weeks would still be a positive for Rockford.

 

Bit ‘O Hoggies

  • Rockford has 18 games remaining in the regular season. Ten of those games are at home.
  • The IceHogs play Texas three more times, including back to back nights in Cedar Park April 5 and 6. Texas has won four of the five games with the Hogs so far this season. They’re all big ones from here on out, but these tilts with the Stars could well decide who dances in April and who sits home with their thoughts.
  • Same goes for the five games remaining with the Admirals. Both teams have taken nine points from the first seven games of the season series. Rockford is 4-2-0-1 against Milwaukee but needs to rack up some regulation wins over the Ads.
  • The Hogs have put themselves in position to grab a postseason berth primarily through defense. Rockford is still last in the AHL in scoring at 2.40 goals per game. The power play is 29th in the league, converting at just 15.4 percent.
  • On the other hand, the Hogs allow just 2.76 goals per contest. That’s good for fourth-best in the AHL. The penalty kill is 15th in the league with a 81.5 percent success rate.
  • The key to the solid defense? Between the pipes, where the IceHogs goalies have a combined .917 save percentage. That is by far the best in the league. Syracuse is second at .911; Manitoba and San Jose are both at .910.

 

Roster Moves

Nathan Noel, who had been out since January 12, returned to action this past weekend. On Wednesday, the Hogs sent Brett Welychka back to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. Recently acquired forward Spencer Watson played for the Hogs Tuesday night in Chicago.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for intermission updates tonight, as well as thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs have a couple of new faces in the fold. With the NHL trade deadline fast approaching, there could be a couple more before the day is out.

The Blackhawks made two trades this past week. They aren’t likely to have a big impact in Chicago, but they could boost the playoff chances of the Hogs, who beat Grand Rapids in overtime Wednesday before dropping games in Hershey and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton over the weekend.

Rockford (26-22-3-6) are currently fourth in the Central Division with a .537 points percentage. With Chicago, Grand Rapids and Iowa a bit above the rest of the division, the last postseason spot could turn into a dogfight between the IceHogs, Texas and Milwaukee.

On Monday night, the Hawks made a move to bolster the offense, which is still last in the AHL as the month of February nears an end. Chicago sent defenseman Darren Raddysh to the Rangers in exchange for center Peter Holland.

The 28-year-old Holland is a veteran of 266 NHL games with ANaheim, Toronto, Arizona and the Rangers. He is nearly a point-a-game player in his stints in the AHL. In 52 games this season with the Hartford Wolf Pack, Holland had 20 goals and 29 assists.

Obtaining one of the AHL’s top scorers was worth the price of losing Raddysh, who has shown steady improvement in two seasons in Rockford. With a young defenseman like Lucas Carlsson showing he can bring a similar game and a number of young defensemen poised to join the club next year, Raddysh was expendable.

Holland made an impact upon joining the Hogs; he had two assists in a 3-2 win over the Griffins Wednesday, then potted his first goal in a Rockford sweater Saturday in Hershey. I’ve frequently said this season that the IceHogs needed some top-end veteran scoring. Stick tap to Hawks GM Stan Bowman for going out and adding a piece for Rockford.

On Sunday, it was announced that a deal had been struck with the Kings to send Matheson Iacopelli to Los Angeles in exchange for forward Spencer Watson. This is not a move that figures heavily in the plans of the Blackhawks…or the IceHogs, for that matter.

Watson turned pro last season and played 11 games for the Kings AHL affiliate in Ontario. He’s amassed great point totals in the ECHL, including 47 points in 47 games with Manchester. So far this season, though, he hasn’t been able to break into an Ontario lineup that is last in the league. Watson has been up for two games with the Reign this season.

Iacopelli, despite possessing a beauty of a shot, couldn’t find steady work with the IceHogs. He has 27 games in Rockford and has been in Indy for most of the last two months. Watson, who was added to the Hogs roster Sunday, could see some action in lieu of AHL forwards Terry Broadhurst and William Pelletier being banged up.

For the time being, Watson gets a chance to win a regular spot and help keep Rockford afloat at forward. Worst case, he moves down to Indy and helps the Fuel in their hunt for the playoffs.

Could any of the current IceHogs be moved today before the deadline? Very possible. Aside from goalie Kevin Lankinen, not much would surprise me over the next few hours.

 

Roster Moves

Henri Jokiharju and Josh McArdle were men on the move this week. Both left and returned to the Hogs in the matter of a couple of days.

Jokiharju was an emergency call-up by the Blackhawks Friday. He was re-assigned to Rockford the next day and arrived in Hershey in time to dress for Saturday’s game. McArdle was sent to the Fuel last Sunday, then was recalled by the Hogs Saturday.

 

Recaps

Wednesday, February 20-Rockford 3, Grand Rapids 2 (OT)

Rockford stayed the course after a rough opening period to outlast the Central Divisions top team. They beat the Griffins in Gus Macker Time and at Van Andel Arena to boot.

Grand Rapids got goals from Wade Megan and Matt Peumpel in the first period. That 2-0 lead held until the fourteenth minute of the middle frame. Joni Tuulola sent a Peter Holland pass by Griffins goalie Harri Sateri to foil the shutout bid.

Jordan Schroeder knotted the game on the power play, aided by Holland’s second apple of the evening. The game remained a 2-2 affair through the remainder of regulation.

Both teams had chances in overtime. For most of the extra five minutes, Sateri and Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg made the required stops. In the closing seconds, Rockford was able to get into the Griffins zone.

Graham Knott sent a shot from the right circle that came off of Sateri’s pads and right onto the stick of Luke Johnson. Johnson sent the rebound into the open Grand Rapids net with less than a second remaining in the overtime period.

Forsberg sent away 37 shots on the evening to pick up the win, Rockford’s third in a row.

 

Saturday, February 23-Hershey 3, Rockford 2 (SO)

The Bears kept their recent win streak going, winning their eleventh straight. Rockford picked up a point to keep their point streak alive at four games.

Newcomer Peter Holland got the Hogs on the board first, via the power play. Holland one-timed a Henri Jokiharju pass into the Hershey net just 1:21 into the contest. The Bears tied the score at the 14:54 mark when Ryan Sproul’s shot from the goal line caught the blocker of Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg and tumbled into the cage.

Rockford regained the upper hand a few minutes later after Viktor Ejdsell sent a clearing attempt ringing around the boards and out of the defensive zone. Anthony Louis eventually caught up with the puck coming into Bears territory, skated to the goal line, and dropped a pass to a waiting Jacob Nilsson. The shot beat Hershey goalie Ilya Samsonov to the upper right corner of the net for a 2-1 IceHogs advantage.

After a scoreless middle frame, Hershey tied the game after an early Rockford turnover in the final period. Henri Jokiharju sent a pass that Joni Tuulola couldn’t get under control. The Bears Beck Malenstyn scooped up the puck and dealt it to Garrett Pilon, who beat Forsberg to the cord at 1:28 of the third.

The remainder of regulation and overtime passed with nary a puck in a net. The shootout would decide this contest. With the tally 1-1 going into the third round, Hershey’s Nathan Walker beat Forsberg. Anthony Louis lost control of the puck on his third-round attempt. The biscuit rolled into the net under Samsonov but was ruled a no-goal by the officials, ending the game.

 

Sunday, February 24-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 4, Rockford 1

The Penguins scored first, getting a Ryan Scarfo goal at the 6:48 mark. Rockford evened things up late in the period. The Hogs were established in the offensive zone and benefited from some slick passing from defensemen Dennis Gilbert and Lucas Carlsson.

Gilbert sent the puck out to Luke Johnson at the point, who slid a pass to Carlsson along the blue line before skating to the high slot. Carlsson found Johnson on the return feed; Johnson’s shot beat the glove of Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry. The light came on at 18:07 of the first and the teams went into the intermission on equal ground.

Former Rockford skater Jimmy Hayes provide the offense in the second stanza, scoring twice to give Wilkes-Barre/Scranton a 3-1 advantage. Hayes banked a centering pass off of Carlsson 5:45 into the second, then beat Lankinen with a one-timer from the right circle at the 11: 21 mark.

The IceHogs pushed to get back in the game to no avail. Rockford put 12 shots on Jarry (the Hogs out shot the Penguins 34-27 on the afternoon) but couldn’t chip into the deficit. Adam Johnson added and empty-net goal for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 3:18 remaining.

 

Action This Week

Rockford continues its road trip Tuesday in Rosemont and an Illinois Lottery Cup tilt with the first-place Wolves. The Hogs are at the BMO Harris Bank Center on Friday night to host Grand Rapids.

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