Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs took some lumps over the weekend. The piglets are currently mired in a three-game losing streak after a 6-2 loss at the BMO to Iowa Friday night and a 3-2 loss in Manitoba Sunday afternoon.

The group that finished the matinee with the Moose was a wee bit thin up front. To put a finer point on it, the Hogs were skating with ten forwards for the bulk of that game.

Why so shorthanded? Here’s a quick look at how things shook out over the weekend.

The IceHogs entered Friday with 13 forwards. In the third period of what was a very chippy game with the Wild, Nathan Noel was called for a slew foot of Iowa’s Brennen Menell. Noel was given a match penalty for the play and suspended for one game by the AHL.

Despite protests by the BMO faithful, this was absolutely the correct call.

From the waist up, Noel delivers a perfectly legal hit as the players are going up against the end boards. That misdirection kept a lot of folks from seeing Noel’s left leg, which swept the Wild defenseman’s skates out from under him. Hard to determine intent, but it was an obvious slew foot.

As you would expect, Hogs announcer Joey Zakrzewski was drawn in by the legal part of the hit. Iowa broadcaster Joe O’Donnell called the slew foot right away. It just depends on where you were looking on the play. However, Noel was guilty, the officials got it right, and the third-year forward was unavailable for Sunday’s game.

On Sunday, forward Anton Wedin was ill, forcing Rockford coach Derek King to send 11 forwards and seven defensemen onto the ice. In the eighth minute, Phillipp was attempting to get his stick on a loose puck in the defensive zone when Manitoba’s Ryan White skated by and caught the Hogs rookie in the face with an elbow.

Kurashev skated off under his own power but did not return to the contest. As usual, the IceHogs skated hard despite being down to ten forwards but lost the game.

A suspension will likely be announced today for White, who was tagged for a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the play. It appeared that White was trying to avoid contact with Kurashev, though that resulted in undeniable contact to the head.

Following Sunday’s game, King had this to say about Kurashev:

“I think he’s feeling all right. I’ll have to see how he is tomorrow morning, if he feels any better. I think he’s just got a little bit of a headache, or what have you. We’ll try him out, see if he wants to skate, and if he feels good, we’ll see where we go from there.”

I would assume that the organization is going to evaluate their 20-year old prospect’s “headache” before sending him back out for another tilt with the Moose on Tuesday. Rockford may try and finish the Manitoba trip with Noel and possibly Wedin returning. We could see a call up from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel, or King could go with seven defensemen again.

 

Tomkins Shines At Spengler Cup

Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins is with Team Canada at the Spengler Cup. He got his first action on Saturday, stopping 22 of 23 shots in a 5-1 victory over the host team, HC Davos.

 

This Week

The IceHogs travel to DesMoines Friday for another go at the Wild, returning to the BMO Harris Bank Center on Sunday afternoon. There, they tangle with the Chicago Wolves.

I’ll be back on Friday to recap Tuesday’s game in Manitoba and also continue my look at the Hawks difficulties in developing defensive talent. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs split this past weekend’s action, defeating a hot Texas Stars club Friday night before falling to Cleveland the following evening. Rockford (17-11-0-1) trails Iowa by a standings point for second place in the AHL’s Central Division but can leapfrog the Wild when the two teams hook up in Rockford this coming weekend.

The piglets have continued to play well in the face of recent call-ups by the Blackhawks. The roster thins a bit more heading into the holiday break, but the Hogs have still won seven of their last ten games.

 

By The Numbers

Here are a few statistics of note for Rockford through 29 games this season:

  • The Hogs are 11-5 at home and 6-6-0-1 on the road so far in 2019-20.
  • Rockford is scoring 2.93 goals per game…and allowing 2.93 goals per game.
  • Rockford averages 28.59 shots and surrenders 31.76 shots per contest. Only six teams in the league give up more shots on goal than the IceHogs. Strong play in net has been important to the team’s success so far.
  • The power play is 30th out of 31 teams, converting just 10.8 percent of Rockford’s opportunities.
  • While the penalty kill has been better, the Hogs are still working at an 80 percent kill rate. That is good for a tie with Chicago at 23rd in the AHL.
  • The IceHogs have posted seven shorthanded goals this season. That’s tied for the fourth-best mark in the league.
  • Kevin Lankinen’s 55 saves on December 10 is the second-highest total in the league this season. On December 4, Phillipe Desrosiers saved 62 shots for Springfield in a win over Lehigh Valley.
  • Brandon Hagel (8 G, 7 A) and Phillipp Kurashev (5 G, 10 A) are tied for 16th among rookies in scoring with 15 points.
  • Team captain Tyler Sikura (8 G, 9 A) leads Rockford in scoring with 17 points. Dylan Sikura, currently in Rockford, has 16 points (9 G, 7 A) for the Hogs. Hagel and Kurashev are right behind the Sikuras. Defenseman Philip Holm has 14 points (3 G, 11 A).
  • Joseph Cramarossa, who had both goals in Saturday’s loss to Cleveland, is tied for the AHL lead with five fighting majors. He has scrapped three times for Rockford since coming aboard last month. That leads the IceHogs. Reese Johnson has dropped the gloves twice for Rockford. In all, the team has nine fighting majors this season.

Tomkins Playing For Spengler Cup

The goalie situation becomes a bit less crowded over the holidays. Rockford has loaned Matt Tomkins to Team Canada for the upcoming Spengler Cup. The former Ohio State net minder gets an opportunity to impress on the international tournament after some solid play for the piglets.

Tomkins has started six games for the IceHogs this season. He’s 4-2 with a 2.66 GAA and a .912 save percentage. This leaves Kevin Lankinen and Collin Delia as Rockford’s goalie tandem for the first time this season.

 

Quenneville Recalled

The IceHogs lost another productive skater when Chicago recalled forward John Quenneville on Sunday. Quenneville is coming off a stretch in Rockford where he had four goals and four helpers over his last five contests. His plus-nine skater rating was the highest on the team at the time of the call-up.

This leaves the Hogs roster at 23 players; 13 forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies. Alexandre Fortin has yet to return from an injury suffered November 29 against the Wolves. Anton Wedin sat out both games this weekend. Nathan Noel, fresh off his recall from the Indy Fuel, was injured Friday and did not play in Saturday’s game with Cleveland.

Mikael Hakkarainen skated in a game at the BMO Harris Bank Center for the first time. Returning from an injury in Iowa on October 4, Hakkarainen played in both weekend contests.

Barring I would expect at least a couple of forwards to be brought up from Indy sometime before Rockford’s next game. That comes on Friday when the Wild come to town.

 

Weekend Recaps

Friday, December 20-Rockford 4, Texas 2

The Stars were 8-1-1 in their last ten games before coming into the BMO Friday. Rockford put together a terrific 60-minute effort to knock off Texas.

Brandon Hagel was the catalyst for the first IceHogs goal of the evening, forcing a turnover in the Stars zone, then gathering in a long rebound off the pads of Texas goalie Landon Bow. Hagel skated out to the top of the zone and dropped a pass to John Quenneville at the left point. Quenneville’s long-distance offering slipped by Bow and gave Rockford a 1-0 lead 4:23 into the opening period.

Josh Melnick tied the game for Texas in the 13th minute, but Rockford took a 2-1 intermission lead thanks to some nifty passing on a late power play. Phillip Kurashev, assisted by Quenneville and Lucas Carlsson, sent a wrist shot by Bow with 2:53 remaining in the first period.

Carlsson made it 3-1 Hogs after one-timing a cross-ice feed off the boards from MacKenzie Entwistle 5:09 into the second period. That was plenty for Collin Delia, who stopped 33 of the 35 shots he saw on the night. The Stars pulled Bow and scored with six skaters at the 17:05 mark of the third, but Hagel’s empty-netter in the final minute of play sealed the victory.

 

Saturday, December 21-Cleveland 3, Rockford 2

Joseph Cramarossa was the offense for the IceHogs; his pair of lamp-lighters wasn’t enough to beat the visiting Monsters.

Cramarossa gave Rockford an early 1-0 lead, taking a drop pass from Phillipp Kurashev  and sending shot from the right circle that got though Cleveland goalie Veini Vehvilainen just 29 seconds into the game.

The Monsters took control of the game in the second period with three unanswered goals. Brett Gallant redirected an Adam Clendening blast by Hogs starter Kevin Lankinen 4:03 into the period. The Cleveland power play gave the Monsters a 2-1 lead on Nathan Gerbe’s snipe from the left circle 13:15 into the second. Two minutes later, Stefan Matteau potted an unassisted shorthanded goal to increase the Cleveland advantage to 3-1.

The IceHogs, as is their custom, played hard in the final twenty, closing the gap to 3-2 on the man advantage. Cramarossa’s first attempt from the left post was stopped, but the second effort elevated over Mehvilainen’s pad at the 7:57 mark. Lankinen spent most of the last three minutes on the Rockford bench in favor of the extra skater, to no avail.

 

Coming Up

The IceHogs host the Wild Friday, then head to Manitoba for games on Sunday and Tuesday. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for game updates this weekend as well as thoughts on the team all season long.