Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs had themselves a roller-coaster weekend on the road, earning three or four points in the first two games of a three-game Lone Star set. The Blackhawks AHL affiliate let leads slip away in Texas before dropping a 7-6 decision via shootout. The next afternoon, the resilient piglets stormed back from two goals down in the final half of the third period to beat San Antonio in overtime.

Goalie Collin Delia did not play in either affair; he backed up Kevin Lankinen on Saturday, then was a scratch Sunday. After Lankinen let in six goals on 36 Texas shots, he backed up Matt Tomkins against the Rampage.

It was the Hogs AHL signee who posted the standout performance of the weekend for Rockford, keeping the Hogs in contention with 21 saves on 23 shots until the offense got on track late in the contest. In his first action in two weeks, Tomkins won his third game in four starts this season.

Tomkins has allowed two goals or less in each of those three victories. He currently has a 2.48 GAA to go with a .915 save percentage. You can forgive Lankinen for a stinker, considering he’s been excellent in his other five starts this season.

Delia’s goals against average remains at 4.09 after sitting out the weekend. It would seem like Hogs coach Derek King would give Delia the net on Tuesday in the rematch with San Antonio, but time will tell soon enough.

 

Roster Move

On Wednesday night, it was announced that the Blackhawks had traded Graham Knott, Chicago’s second-round selection in the 2015 NHL Draft, to Pittsburgh in exchange for veteran forward Joseph Cramarossa. Cramarossa, 27, was on the ice for the Hogs in both games this weekend.

This move was a response to the retirement of Kris Versteeg earlier in the week. In Cramarossa, the Hogs get a physical, veteran who is joining his fifth AHL team in Rockford. The six-foot, 195-pounder has a rugged style that is in short supply on the Hogs roster.

Cramarossa found himself in a scrap behind the Stars net early in Saturday’s game in Texas, then played a key part in Rockford’s first goal against the Rampage. He should be able to make the Hogs a little tougher to play against. Cramarossa kills penalties pretty well, is not a stranger to dropping the gloves, and can chip in offensively on occasion.

The price for this veteran pickup was Knott, which is to say that Chicago bolstered the AHL roster without giving up a piece of said roster. With his entry contract expiring this season, Knott spent the first two months of the season in the ECHL. Knott had five goals and four assists in 13 games with the Indy Fuel but has has been assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton by the Penguins.

 

Recaps

The IceHogs (9-7-0-1) own a .589 points percentage, though they are sixth in the Central Division with 19 points. Rockford is 7-2-0-1 over their last ten games and have several games in hand compared to the rest of the division.

Saturday, November 23-Texas 7, Rockford 6 (SO)

Rockford blew a two-goal lead in the second period and rallied to tie the game in the closing minutes. Ultimately, the Hogs came up short in the shootout in a wild affair at Cedar Park.

Alexandre Fortin put Rockford ahead 1-0 with his second goal of the season 6:31 into the game. The Stars scored twice to take the lead on goals by Jason Robertson and Michael Mersch before an unassisted power play marker by Tyler Sikura tied it at two goals at 15:25 of the first period.

John Quenneville’s pair of goals resulted in a 4-2 Rockford advantage by the mid-point of the contest. However, Texas would return fire with power play goals by Joel L’Esperance and Nicolas Caamano. Late in the second, Anton Wedin tipped in a caroming puck for a 5-4 Hogs lead after 40 minutes.

The Rockford lead would turn into a 6-5 deficit after Gavin Bayreuther and Robertson found the back of Kevin Lankinen’s net. It would take a Brandon Hagel put back with 3:24 to play in the game to draw the teams even once more.

The outcome remained up in the air following Gus Macker Time. In the shootout, Robertson and Dylan Sikura traded goals in the second round before L’Esperance beat Lankinen in the fourth. New IceHogs acquisition Joseph Cramarossa was stopped by Texas goalie Landon Bow to give Texas the win.

The Hogs power play found the net on both attempts, though Rockford did give up three power play goals to the Stars.

 

Sunday, November 24-Rockford 3, San Antonio 2 (OT)

The Rampage scored on their first shot of the afternoon. Ryan Olsen guided a deflected centering pass under IceHogs goalie Matt Tomkins at 3:30 for a 1-0 San Antonio lead. That lead was extended at the close of the first period on a Derek Pouliot goal with five seconds left.

Rockford broke the lock Adam Wilcox had on the net midway through the third period. Joseph Cramarossa found Adam Boqvist skating into the offensive zone. The shot was stopped by the Rampage goalie, but the rebound came out to Boqvist, who skated toward the right post looking for a pass recipient.

Tyler Sikura was in the slot waiting; Boqvist found his stick and Sikura cut the San Antonio lead to 2-1 with ten minutes left to play. Tomkins, who kept Rockford in the game throughout the third period, was brought to the bench in the final minutes for an extra skater.

As the final seconds ran out, Matthew Highmore gained possession of a loose puck off the half boards. Highmore found Dylan Sikura at the right post; Sikura the Younger elevated the puck over the glove of Wilcox to tie the score 2-2 with three seconds left.

Overtime did not last long. Boqvist got the biscuit to Jacob Nilsson at the Hogs blue line. Nilsson did the rest, splitting the defense to spring himself for a breakaway. One backhand later, the Hogs had pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat.

Tomkins played very well between the pipes for Rockford, saving 21 of 23 shots to post his second win of the season. Neither team was able to score on the power play; San Antonio was stopped three times, while the Hogs failed to convert their only opportunity.

 

This Week

The road trip concludes with another tilt in San Antonio Tuesday night. Rockford then comes back to the BMO Harris Bank Center for post-Thanksgiving clashes with Chicago (Friday) and Grand Rapids (Saturday).

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey

Down on the farm in Rockford, the IceHogs washed some of the bad taste of the previous weekend away with a decisive 6-2 victory Wednesday over visiting San Antonio. The Hogs got a bit healthier heading into this weekend’s action at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

In net for the IceHogs was Kevin Lankinen, who had missed seven games with a shoulder injury. Heading into this weekend, Rockford is still carrying three goalies on its roster. I would imagine that Matt Tomkins will be assigned to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL soon if both Lankinen and Collin Delia are tip-top.

 

Keeping It Brief

And of that win over the Rampage? Let’s get to it:

  • After falling behind 1-0 in the opening period, Tyler Sikura, Nick Moutrey and MacKenzie Entwistle scored in a three-minute span to give the IceHogs control of the proceedings.
  • Moutrey, Entwistle, Reese Johnson, Adam Boqvist and Jacob Nilsson all potted their first goals of the 2019-20 campaign.
  • Entwistle (First), Moutrey (Second) and Johnson (Third) were the game’s three stars.
  • Boqvist’s goal came on the man advantage, Rockford’s first of the season in 30 attempts.
  • Lankinen stopped 28 shots in the win.

 

Roster News

On Thursday, the Blackhawks recalled Boqvist. The IceHogs, in turn, brought up D Jack Ramsey from the Fuel..

Dylan Sikura will be missing Saturday’s tilt with Iowa after he was suspended by the AHL for one game. The suspension follows a match penalty that Sikura was assessed for a high-stick late in Wednesday’s win over San Antonio.

 

Weekend At The BMO

The piglets open the weekend Saturday night, when they host Iowa. The Wild defeated Rockford 3-2 in DesMoines to open the season back on October 4.

Iowa (6-1-1-1) is currently atop the AHL’s Central Division. The Wild are led by Gerald Mayhew, who has nine points (5 G, 4 A) in five games this season. Goal Kaapo Kahkonen is undefeated in five starts, including opening night against the IceHogs.

The Chicago Wolves arrive Sunday. The teams have split the first two games of the season series. Chicago is 5-0-1 in its last six games and has climbed to just behind Iowa in the division standings.

Rookie center Lucas Elvenes leads the AHL in scoring with 15 points (4 G, 11 A). Veteran Gage Quinney has also gotten off to a great start, with five goals and six apples in the first ten games for Chicago.

The IceHogs managed to collect a win over Wolves goalie Garret Sparks October 18. However, Sparks has been excellent for Chicago, with a 1.80 GAA and a .946 save percentage in six appearances.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for the occasional update and thoughts on the Hogs all season long.

 

 

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.

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, have been at home for most of the last three weeks. They made the most of the extended time in their own barn.

The Hogs had nine of their last ten games at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Their record at home during that stretch was 7-2. That includes a thrilling finish to the home stand this weekend.

Rockford had dropped two games in a row heading into the weekend and found themselves down 4-0 Saturday night against visiting Iowa. The piglets roared back into contention to force a shootout and bested the Wild, then finished the weekend with a win over San Antonio.

The IceHogs are now 25-21-3-5 on the season. The pendulum swings the other way for Rockford, who are on the road for seven of its next eight games. The current jaunt begins in Grand Rapids, where the Central Division leaders are 20-5-1-3 this season. The Griffins have won eight of the last tilts at Van Andel Arena; Rockford is 1-2 in Grand Rapids this season.

From there, the Hogs go East to take on Hershey on Saturday and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Sunday. Rockford has home victories in prior meetings with the Bears and Penguins.

 

Musings

  • Kevin Lankinen was in net for all three of Rockford’s games this week, including work on back-to-back nights. The rookie has proved himself this season, sporting a 2.47 GAA and a .911 save percentage despite a 7-6-3 record. If Lankinen needed to carry the load in net for Rockford, it appears that he would be up to the task.
  • On the other hand, why has Anton Forsberg been glued to the bench? There’s the possibility that Collin Delia could be back in Rockford sometime soon and would likely get a bigger share of the starts. Could Forsberg be sitting while a deal to send him out of town is made?
  • Luke Johnson has stepped up his play the last few weeks, with two-point efforts in both weekend games. Johnson’s shooting percentage is 17.5, the highest of the active IceHogs skaters. Right behind him is Jacob Nilsson, who hits nets at a 17.1 percent rate.
  • In contrast to Johnson and Nilsson, two guys who have difficulty converting on their opportunities are Alexandre Fortin and Graham Knott. Both create some decent scoring chances with speed (Fortin) and hustle (Knott). The problem is that those chances don’t cue many horns.
  • Saturday night, Fortin was sprung for a breakaway chance early in the contest. As happens with frequency, he was not able to put an effective shot on net. This has been a consistent problem with the speedy forward. Fortin has 29 games in Rockford and has nine points (4 G, 5 A) to show for it. In 33 games, Johnson has collected 22 points (11 G, 11 A).
  • In fairness to Fortin, his 8.2 shooting percentage is nearly double last year’s effort. He is a plus-seven this season, highest on the squad. You can still see plenty of potential in his game. Sooner or later, however, the kid’s got to knock the cover off of the net.
  • Knott, who like Fortin has another year on his entry deal, is going to better his rookie numbers. His passing has been more noticeable in the offensive end and two of his three goals are game-winners. Aside from the penalty kill, Knott has yet to really stand out in any area of the game. How much higher is the ceiling on Chicago’s second-round pick from 2015?
  • Henri Jokiharju is not long for Rockford; I would imagine he’ll be back in Chicago by the beginning of next month. In eight games with the Hogs, he has seven points (1 G, 6 A). He is also creating a slew of scoring opportunities from the point. Jokiharju is averaging nearly four shots a game and is making an impact since being assigned to Rockford.
  • Jordan Schroeder is emerging as the team MVP. The 28-year-old forward leads the IceHogs in goals (14), assists (19) and points (33). Schroeder’s five-game point streak came to a close on Tuesday in a 3-2 loss to Texas. However, he had a pair of goals in Saturday’s comeback win on the way to a four-point weekend.
  • Rockford’s power play had scored in five straight games before coming up empty Sunday against San Antonio. However, the Hogs (15.3 percent) are still 30th out of 31 teams on the man advantage. The penalty kill has slipped a bit, to 80.8 percent. That’s good for 17th in the AHL.
  • The Rockford offense is still the worst in the league, with an average of 2.46 goals per game. However, over this last ten-game stretch, the Hogs have scored 3.50 goals per game.
  • Simply put, if Rockford can get three goals, they have an excellent chance of winning. There’s still a lot of battle in these kids and the defense and goalie play are going to keep them in games.

 

Roster News

There hasn’t really been any roster activity this week. Brandon Davidson returned from injury Sunday. He scored the game-winner against the Rampage after being out for nine games. Blake Hillman also rejoined the lineup Saturday after missing five games.

Nathan Noel’s last game was back on January 12. Tyler Sikura’s thumb has kept him out of the lineup since January 6. Terry Broadhust was a late scratch on Sunday; no word as to his status for this week.

Matthew Highmore, who had shoulder surgery back in November, is practicing with the team. A return from the second-year forward could provide a big boost to the Hogs playoff hopes.

 

Recaps

Tuesday, February 12-Texas 3, Rockford 2

The Hogs dropped their second straight game as the Stars inched closer to Rockford in the Central Division standings.

Texas drew first cord late in the opening period. The goal came from Park Ridge native Michael Mersch, who sent a deflection past Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen at the 17:10 mark.

The IceHogs narrowly avoided a shorthanded goal against them early in the second period, then came down the ice to tie the contest. Luke Johnson brought the puck out of the Hogs zone after Lankinen stopped a Justin Dowling attempt. Making his way to the opposite coast, Johnson maneuvered between the circles and passed to Henri Jokiharu.

Jokiharu’s shot rebounded off the pads of Texas goalie Phillipe Derosiers, where Johnson had first dibs. The putback was denied, but Jacob Nilsson finished off the scoring play by knocking the puck across the border and into the city. The game was tied at one 2:37 into the second.

The Stars responded with a pair of power play goals of their own to build a 3-1 advantage. Travis Morin added to his hefty scoring totals against Rockford at 6:51 of the second, while rookie Joel L’Esperance put in his league-leading 27th goal of the season 3:31 into the third period.

The IceHogs rallied for a Viktor Ejdsell strike with Lankinen on the bench at the 16:51 mark, but Rockford ran out of clock before they could finish the comeback.

 

Saturday, February 16-Rockford 5, Iowa 4 (SO)

In what just may have been the game to see at the BMO this season, Rockford erased a four-goal deficit in the last 21:32 of action. The Hogs triumphed over the Wild to break a two-game skid in exciting fashion.

The Wild skated into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead courtesy of Brennan Menell’s deflection of Cal O’Reilly’s shot 18:36 into the first period. Goals by J.T. Brown and Sam Anas in the first two minutes of the middle frame had the IceHogs reeling and down three. A Gerald Mayhew tally 16:34 into the second had Iowa leading 4-0 and the outcome seemed academic.

The rally started on a late power play chance, after William Pelletier was cross-checked by Iowa’s Michael Kapla. Luke Johnson won the subsequent draw, with Jacob Nilsson sliding the disc to Jordan Schroeder in the high slot. The offering beat Wild rookie Kaapo Kahkonen’s glove and caught the upper right corner of the net at 18:28 of the second period.

Down 4-1 to start the third period, the piglets came out with some urgency for the first time all evening. Johnson got to the left post to redirect a Henri Jokiharu blast into the Iowa cage 4:38 into the third period. The secondary assist was given to Andrew Campbell, who made a nice play to keep a Wild clearing attempt in the offensive zone.

Midway through the third, Nilsson dropped the puck off to Jokiharju, who skated to the right corner of the Iowa zone and center to Schroeder for his second goal of the night. With 9:10 left in regulation, the Hogs had cut the lead to 4-3.

The much-anticipated equalizer came after Rockford had come up short on a power play. After the Wild’s Mason Shaw came out of the box. Viktor Ejdsell withstood a hard check along the half boards to keep possession. Andreas Martinsen got clear with the puck and sent a pass across the ice to Joni Tuulola at the left dot. Tuulola’s shot cleared the blocker of Kahkonen and rattled into the net at the 15:59 mark.

Neither team could breach the opposing goal in the remainder of regulation or overtime. This comeback would have to be completed via the shootout. Jokiharu and Schroeder were stopped by Kahkonen. Sam Anas and Dimitri Sokolov were denied by Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen.

Ejdsell’s third-round attempt would be the pivotal moment. The shot met Kahkonen’s pads but still retained the giddy-up to slide across the goal line. Mayhew’s attempt was snuffed out by Lankinen and the BMO erupted in celebration.

 

Sunday, February 17-Rockford 5, San Antonio 2

The IceHogs won their second straight game, closing out a six-game home stand with a 4-2 mark.

Rockford got the first goal of the game late in the opening period. Nifty backhand passing by William Pelletier and Andreas Martinsen set up Luke Johnson coming across the Rampage crease. Johnson was able to wait out San Antonio goalie Jared Coreau and slide in his eleventh goal of the season at the 16:33 mark.

The Hogs doubled the lead early in the second period when Dennis Gilbert got off a long pass to Jordan Schroeder coming into the Rampage zone. Schroeder skated to the right circle and let fly with a lamp-lighter for a 2-0 advantage at the 1:02 mark.

San Antonio got a goal back at 3:54 of the period when Adam Musil sent a shot past Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen. A couple of minutes later, Mitch Reinke sent a shot off of Lankinen. Joey LaLeggia got a hold of the rebound and banked in the equalizer off of the Hogs rookie.

The score remained knotted at two through the second intermission, until the IceHogs got a goal from returning defenseman Brandon Davidson. Davidson crashed the Rampage net to follow up on a Nilsson attempt. Collecting the rebound, Davidson stuffed the puck past Coreau at 4:51 of the third period to put Rockford up 3-2.

San Antonio went with an empty net for most of the final minutes, allowing William Pelletier and Nick Moutrey the chance to send the BMO faithful home with free Culvers and wrap up a weekend sweep.

If the feeling moves you, follow me @JonFromi on twitter for news, updates and thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs saw a losing streak swell to four games before knocking off the Chicago Wolves in Rosemont Saturday night. The piglets are mired in a pretty rough patch since the holidays.

Rockford is 2-8-1-1 since December 26. This stretch has resulted in the Hogs dropping to last place in the AHL’s Central Division with a .488 points percentage.

The fortunes of AHL teams can change quickly as rosters fluctuate. That said, the gap between the division’s playoff teams and the IceHogs is growing. Fourth-place Texas has a five-game points lead over the Hogs with three games in hand.

Last year’s club was in better position (22-16-5, .534 points percentage) than the 17-18-3-5 IceHogs are after 43 games this season. The key push started in February when the organization picked up veteran reinforcements.

This begs a pair of questions. Will the Blackhawks be able to bolster the AHL roster in the coming weeks? More importantly, will reinforcements make a difference?

 

Mega-Scary Stat

Two seasons ago, the IceHogs suffered through their worst finish in franchise history, finishing dead last in the Central Division and winning just 25 games. The offense, which also marked a franchise nadir, was last in the AHL at 2.30 goals per game.

Through 43 games in 2018-19, Rockford is scoring at a 2.26 goals per game clip. It should come as no surprise that the Hogs are still last in scoring among the 31 AHL clubs. Rockford is the only team in the AHL that has not eclipsed the 100-goal mark.

 

Ejdsell Returns

Viktor Ejdsell was back in action last week after missing almost a month to injury. The big Swede made his return January 11 in Texas. He didn’t get on the scoresheet that night. However, Ejdsell has posted points in each of his last five games.

Ejdsell scored the Hogs only goal Tuesday night. He sent a shot off the pads of Harri Sateri Friday to set up William Pelletier’s goal, then cleaned up a rebound of Lucas Carlsson’s attempt to get Rockford on the board in Saturday’s overtime win.

With Rockford hurting for offense, Ejdsell coming back is a positive. If he can get on a roll, maybe a few other players can find the scoring touch.

 

Roster Moves

Defenseman Neil Manning, who was on an AHL contract with the IceHogs, was released from his contract on Monday. Manning, who had appeared in three games with Rockford, was named to the ECHL’s Western Conference All-Star Team. By mutual agreement, Manning was released so that he could pursue work overseas. He quickly signed with the EC Kassel Huskies in Germany.

Matheson Iacopelli was recalled to Rockford on Thursday. It’s been a tough year for Iacopelli, who has been in an out of the lineup with the IceHogs. He has two goals and two assists in 26 games this season.

Following Friday’s game, Hogs coach Derek King revealed that F Tyler Sikura, last season’s team MVP and second-leading goal scorer, had suffered a broken thumb in practice. Rockford will miss his high compete level for however long he is out of action.

Recaps

Tuesday, January 15-San Antonio 2, Rockford 1

It was yet another one-goal loss for the IceHogs this season. This one was the third straight loss on the Texas road trip.

Rockford got the game’s first goal 14:08 of the opening period. William Pelletier brought the puck from behind the Rampage net and sent a pass out to Blake Hillman just inside the San Antonio blueline. Hillman swiftly sent the biscuit to Viktor Ejdsell at the right circle. The shot beat Rampage goalie Jared Coreau to the stick side and put the IceHogs up 1-0. It would remain that way into the first intermission.

The Rampage tied the game midway through the second period on a goal by Mitch Reinke. The shot got past Rockford goalie Anton Forsberg, who was fighting a lot of traffic in front of his crease.

The game remained even until late in the final frame. A Luke Johnson turnover was snatched up by San Antonio’s Trevor Smith. Smith sent the puck into the slot, where Bobby MacIntyre slapped it past Forsberg and into the back of the net. With 3:19 to play, the Rampage went up 2-1.

The Hogs pulled their goalie with 2:20 left but was unable to secure the equalizer.

 

Friday, January 18-Grand Rapids 3, Rockford 1

Rockford returned to the friendly confines of the BMO Harris Bank Center Friday, dropping its fourth-straight game.

The IceHogs got on the board late in the opening frame. Dennis Gilbert brought the puck into the Griffins zone, came around the net and hit Viktor Ejdsell at the right dot. Ejdsell stickhandled into a shooting position and sent an offering off the right pad of Grand Rapids goalie Harri Sateri. The rebound found the stick of William Pelletier, who buried it into the twine at 17:38 for a 1-0 Hogs lead.

Grand Rapids tied the game two minutes into the second after Wade Megan scored a clean faceoff win. The puck came out to Jake Chelios, who sent the puck high on Lankinen. The shot, which may or may not have glanced off of the stick of Nick Moutrey, fluttered into the Hogs net to knot the contest at a goal apiece.

Midway through the final frame, Megan put Grand Rapids up 2-1, taking a pass from Matt Puempel at the right dot and roofing the shot past Lankinen. That was enough to beat the Hogs, though Megan added an empty-netter to put a bow on this one.

 

Saturday, January 19-Rockford 3, Chicago 2 (OT)

The Wolves erased a two-goal Rockford advantage early in the third period. However, the Hogs persevered to claim the win in Gus Macker Time.

Neither team found the back of a net in the opening twenty. Rockford got the game’s first goal from the stick of Viktor Ejdsell, who followed up on a shot by Lucas Carlsson. Carlsson had gotten the scoring play started after gaining possession in his own zone. Working with Graham Knott, the two made their way to the Chicago net, where Oscar Dansk made the initial stop before Ejdsell took care of the rebound at 2:37.

A few minutes later, Andrew Campbell took a pass from Andreas Martinsen at the top of the left circle and sent a shot above Dansk’s glove. The IceHogs now had a 2-0 lead at the 6:51 mark of the middle frame.

That cushion was gone early in the third period following penalties by Dennis Gilbert and Luke Johnson. Dylan Coughlin scored on the resulting 5-on-3 at 2:32 of the third. While still up a skater, Erik Brannstrom tied the game at the 3:18 mark. The Wolves out shot Rockford 12-3 in the final period of regulation; the IceHogs failed to log a shot on goal until the final minutes.

Anton Forsberg kept the Wolves at bay for the remainder of the third period. In all, the Hogs goalie stopped 36 shots on the evening. Forsberg’s efforts were not in vain. Rockford broke the tie 1:29 into the extra session, when Knott knocked a loose puck in at the right post.

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs dropped the first two games of what will be a three-game road trip in Texas. The IceHogs picked up a standings point Friday against the Texas Stars, but lost that game in Gus Macker Time before losing the following night in San Antonio.

In losing 4-3 to the Rampage, San Antonio leapfrogged the Hogs in the Central Division standings. Rockford (16-16-3-5) is now in seventh place in the division.

 

Roster Activity

Defenseman Neil Manning was brought back from the Indy Fuel of the ECHL on Wednesday. Going to Indy (on paper at least) was defenseman Luc Snuggerud, who returned to the Hogs the following day.

Snuggerud has been inactive since a concussion suffered on November 3. Perhaps this is a sign that he is ready to begin skating in Indy or Rockford soon.

Also being assigned to the Fuel was forward Matheson Iacopelli. Like last season, Iacopelli has found it difficult to secure steady ice time in Rockford. He’s appeared in 25 games with the IceHogs this season with two goals and two assists.

On Sunday, defenseman Brandon Davidson was loaned to Rockford by the Blackhawks after he cleared waivers earlier this week. Jan Rutta, who Chicago had sent to the Hogs a month ago, was traded Friday to Tampa Bay.

Recaps

Friday, January 11-Texas 4, Rockford 3 (SO)

This back and forth contest was settled in penalty shots, where veteran Stars forward Travis Morin got the only puck into a net to limit the Hogs to a point in the standings.

Texas took a 1-0 lead with a power play goal by Joel L’Esperance, who put a rebound past Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen at 12:41 of the first period. The IceHogs drew even late in the period while on the man advantage. Lankinen had just stopped a shorthanded attempt by the Stars James Phelan. Rockford came down the ice, scoring with 44 seconds left when Dylan Sikura knocked in a pass from Andreas Martinsen.

Denis Gurianov put Texas up 2-1 midway through the second period. Late in the period, Nathan Noel tied the game with an outstanding individual effort for a shorthanded goal. An Anthony Louis power play goal 4:38 into the third period gave Rockford a 3-2 advantage. Texas, however, tied it up at 15:42 with Gurianov’s second goal of the night.

It was a scoreless overtime before Morin beat Lankinen in the shootout. Viktor Edjsell, Sikura and Louis all came up empty on their attempts.

 

Saturday, January 12-San Antonio 4, Rockford 3

Jordan Schroeder had a two-goal evening…but so did the Rampage’s Jordan Nolan. The veteran’s three-point night proved to be too much for the Hogs.

Trevor Smith hit a one-timer from the slot that zipped past Rockford goalie Anton Forsberg and into the net 7:43 into the opening period. The IceHogs tied the score early in the second. Luke Johnson dropped a pass to Dylan Sikura above the right circle. His attempt found its way past San Antonio goalie Jared Coreau at the 1:29 mark.

The Rampage built a 3-1 lead in the second period on strikes by Tanner Kaspick and Nolan. The IceHogs closed the gap to 3-2 4:23 into the third after a faceoff win by Johnson. Schroeder gathered in the puck in front of the San Antonio crease and lifted home the goal past Coreau’s blocker.

San Antonio caught the Hogs napping midway through the third. Nolan took a stretch pass from Joey LaLeggia, skated to the high slot and beat Forsberg to the cord for a 4-2 Rampage lead at the 11:05 mark. Schroeder got his second goal with ten seconds to play with Forsberg on the bench, assisted by Darren Raddysh and Viktor Ejdsell. Unfortunately for Rockford, time ran out on the comeback bid.

 

Coming Up

The IceHogs finish the road trip with a rematch with the Rampage on Tuesday night. Rockford then comes back to the BMO Harris Bank Center for a Friday tilt with Grand Rapids. Saturday night, the Hogs visit Rosemont for a game with the Wolves.

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

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs will commence a four-game home stand Saturday night. In fact, the Blackhawks AHL affiliate will be hosting opponents in seven of their next eight games. Perhaps the nets at the BMO Harris Bank Center will be more receptive to offerings from the piglets.

Through 22 games, the IceHogs scoring is down by over a half goal per contest in comparison to last season. In the month of November, Rockford was undefeated when scoring at least three goals. Unfortunately, that only happened four times.

The Hogs were 5-5-0-3 in November and are now 9-8-1-4 on the season. Rockford is averaging 2.41 goals per game. Last season, the IceHogs were scoring at a 2.95 goals per game clip. The record reflected that; Rockford was 12-9-1 around this point in last year’s schedule.

Due to other activity in the Central Division this week, the IceHogs are in sixth place in the standings. Manitoba improved its points percentage to .525, just ahead of Rockford (.523).

The roster held steady this week, with no new signings or movement between Rockford and Chicago. Coach Derek King will have a similar crew available to take on this weekend’s opponents.

 

The Weekend

Saturday, December 1-Milwaukee, 6:00 p.m.

The Admirals, who defeated Rockford in a shootout this past Saturday, have won four in a row heading into Friday’s game with Texas. Milwaukee is second in the Central Division and have been solid at both ends of the ice.

The IceHogs are 2-0-0-1 against the Ads this year. All three games have been at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena and decided by a single goal; two have required extra time. Milwaukee is 9-2-3 in one-goal games this season.

 

Sunday, December 2-San Antonio, 4:00 p.m.

The Rampage have won five of their last six contests, including two in San Antonio in that span. The Rampage will be playing in Grand Rapids Friday night and in Chicago Saturday before finishing a long weekend in Rockford.

San Antonio is the only team in the AHL below the Hogs in scoring with 2.38 goals per game. However, they have picked it up offensively in the last couple of weeks. The Hogs are 1-1-0-1 vs the Rampage so far this season.

Follow me @JonFromi for thoughts on the scene in Rockford all season long.

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs are sitting in San Antonio with plenty to think about. Chicago’s AHL affiliate has its second game in four days against the Rampage coming up Tuesday night. Rockford will be attempting to snap a three-game skid, its longest of the young season.

It wasn’t a particularly memorable weekend for the piglets. After dropping a 3-1 decision to Grand Rapids Wednesday morning, Rockford flew down to Texas and were dominated in a 5-1 loss to the Stars. The following evening, the offensively-challenged Rampage beat the Hogs 2-1.

With the recent setbacks, Rockford is now 8-7-1-2 on the season. That .528 points percentage is good for sixth place in the Central Division.

In three games, the IceHogs scored three goals. They were 1-14 on the power play. The weekend did not produce a lot of offense in the way of shots, either. Rockford recorded just 16 shots on goal against Texas, then followed that up with a 15-shot performance in San Antonio.

To be fair, the IceHogs were missing some players. However, Rockford got solid goal-tending that had them even with its Lone Star opponents through 40 minutes on both Friday and Saturday. Texas out shot the Hogs 14-2 in the third period to pull away; Rockford mustered six third-period shots against the Rampage.

Jordan Schroeder got back into the lineup after missing nine games, finding the twine in his return Friday night. Tyler Sikura missed his third and fourth games with an illness. Anton Forsberg stayed home to recover from a similar illness.

 

Highmore Grounded

The organization got some bad news this week. Matthew Highmore, who injured his shoulder October 28 in a fall at the BMO Harris Bank Center against Manitoba, will be out for the next four to six months following surgery last Wednesday.

Highmore had seven points (3 G, 4 A) in eight games before leaving that game in the second period. He is one of the Hogs young prospects who can make things happen around the net, so his game is going to be missed.

 

King Quotes

Derek King is hoping to get the ship righted starting Tuesday in San Antonio. Here are some of his observations during the losing streak.

On the Hogs problems getting started in Wednesday morning’s 3-1 loss in Grand Rapids:

“We were walking through the game there for a while. We were standing still, they were setting the pace.”

On Jacob Nilsson, who scored the only goal in the loss to the Griffins:

“(Nilsson)’s a pretty solid player. He’s not going to toe-drag and be super flashy out there, but he’ll get the points when he gets the chance to. He kills penalties, he’s a good guy on the power play, he’s a good faceoff guy. He’s an all-around complete player and I’m going to look to him to lead this team, here.”

On Texas dominating play throughout a 5-1 loss Friday night:

“We were standing still watching them. It was kind of like watching Gretzky or Lemieux out there. When you watch them play you just kind of stand still in awe and watch them play. We gave them (Texas) a lot of respect. We should have been clogging them up like we wanted to and we were just standing there watching.”

On trying to break the current losing streak in Tuesday’s rematch with San Antonio:

“Like I say to the guys, I’ll put up reminders and these are the instructions for tonight. So, you’ve got to read the instructions. If you’re trying to build a drawer from IKEA and you’re not reading the instructions, good luck getting that put together. We put a game plan together; let’s follow it. Sometimes we stray from it and that’s (Saturday’s 2-1 loss) what happens.”

 

Recaps

Friday, November 16-Texas 5, Rockford 1

The Stars, who pressured Collin Delia all evening, broke open a tie game in the third period with four goals. The Hogs goalie kept out 26 of 27 shots in the first 40 minutes before the dam broke.

Texas opened the scoring 6:25 into the contest while the teams were skating four to a side. Denis Gurianov swiped the puck from Rockford defenseman Darren Raddysh just inside the Stars blue line. Gurianov led an odd man rush the other way, setting up Roope Hintz for the score.

Despite being out shot 27-14 in the first 40 minutes, the IceHogs pulled even late in the second period. Viktor Ejdsell had thrown a shot attempt wide of the Texas net. Dylan Sikura chased it down behind the cage, passing to Jordan Schroeder as Sikura came around the end boards. Schroeder, making his return to action after missing nine games, tied the game from the right post at 18:44 of the middle frame.

If the Stars had dominated the game everywhere but on the scoreboard in the first two periods, they remedied that expeditiously in the final twenty minutes. While Texas captain Travis Morin screened Joni Tuulola, Tyler Fedun drew twine on a long-distance wrist shot fifteen seconds into the third period for a 2-1 advantage.

Rockford mustered just two shots to the Stars 14 in the third period. Texas got a goal from Morin at the midway point of the frame, then another from Samuel Lebarge 37 seconds later. Colton Hargrove’s exclamation point on the rout came 15:25 into the period.

For the game, the IceHogs were out shot 41-16. The relentless offensive pressure was too much for Delia in the final period but he still made 36 saves in the contest.

 

Saturday, November 17-San Antonio 2, Rockford 1 

The IceHogs were out of sorts against the AHL’s worst team, dropping their third straight game despite a solid effort by Kevin Lankinen in goal. The rookie, returning from a spell with the Indy Fuel, stopped 19 of 21 shots but didn’t get the support he needed at the other end of the ice.

Rockford experienced a bevy of issues in getting pucks to Rampage goalie Jordan Binnington. Two early power plays yielded nothing in the way of shots, and the two teams spent most of the opening period throwing the puck to each other or chasing it around the ice.

San Antonio took a 1-0 lead at the 14:35 mark of the second period after Graham Knott was called for holding. Austin Poganski knocked a loose puck under the pads of Lankinen to put the Rampage on top.

The Hogs came up with an answer a few minutes later, also while on the man advantage. Carl Dahlstom fielded a pass from Anthony Louis and sent a shot from the point that snaked past Binnington. Justin Auger provided cover from the front of the crease and Rockford tied the game at 18:05.

The Rampage took advantage of a neutral ice turnover midway through the third period to regain the lead. Adam Musil beat Lankinen from the slot at 9:07, assisted by Tanner Kaspick and Joey LaLeggia.

Musil’s goal held up; the IceHogs could muster only 15 goals on the evening. Lankinen was brought to the bench for a sixth skater, but Rockford was unable to utilize the additional manpower and the clock ran out on the Hogs.

 

This Week

Rockford gets a second shot at the Rampage Tuesday night before a brief return to the BMO Friday. The Hogs host the Chicago Wolves on Hockey Fights Cancer Night in the first tilt of a three-game weekend. Rockford visits Milwaukee Saturday night and Chicago Sunday afternoon.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The ‘Bago County Flying Piglets have business in Texas this weekend. Chicago’s AHL affiliate flew to the Lone Star State yesterday and are getting ready for a pair of Central Division contests.

Rockford begins the action in Cedar Park with the Texas Stars. The Hogs travel to San Antonio Saturday to face the Rampage in what will be the first of two games. That second game will be on Tuesday.

This is as good a time as any to visit the IceHogs two southern-most division opponents. Texas is siting at .500 right now and the Rampage are the worst team in the AHL right now. Still, it won’t be a cakewalk for Rockford, who have been missing some key players and are tossing a lot of players into the forward mix.

 

Morning Blues

The IceHogs had another morning game this week, losing 3-1 in Grand Rapids. Rookie Filip Zadina’s two goals were the difference; Jacob Nilsson potted his second of the campaign for Rockford. However, Zadina’s second of the night plus an empty netter by the Griffins in the third period did in the Hogs.

It has become an annual tradition that the IceHogs host a morning game and pack the BMO with school children. Hopefully, young fans are being cultivated due to this practice. It certainly isn’t producing winning hockey.

The IceHogs don’t fare well when playing earlier in the day. Going back to the 2011-12 season, Rockford is 3-9 when playing one of these morning games, whether at home or in another team’s barn. Since the Hogs began hosting a morning game in 2013-14, Rockford is 1-5, including a 3-0 loss to Iowa November 9.

The IceHogs have been a bit better when playing on Martin Luther King Day, splitting their last six games played at 1:00 p.m. in the BMO on that day.

 

Roster Moves

Head coach Derek King confirmed Tuesday that Anton Forsberg, who has been awesome for Rockford since being assigned to the AHL, is managing an illness that necessitated the recall of Kevin Lankinen Sunday night. It will be Lankinen and Collin Delia as the goalie tandem for the road trip.

With two games with the low-scoring Rampage this trip, it might be a good plan to go with Delia Friday against the Stars. Lankinen could face San Antonio the next night, with Delia getting the net Tuesday in the return match. Of course, Delia could well start all three of these games.

Monday, the IceHogs signed forward Nick Moutrey to a PTO. Between Cleveland and Belleville last season, the 6’3” Moutrey had five goals and six assists. He’s another big body to go with the others that have been collected in recent weeks by Rockford.

Connor Moynihan was re-assigned to the ECHL’s Indy Fuel Monday. King was hopeful that this weekend would see the return of forward Jordan Schroeder, who has been out the last nine games.

 

Texas-Friday, 7:00 p.m.

This will be the second meeting of the season between the two teams that faced off in last spring’s Western Conference Final. Rockford beat Texas 5-3 at the BMO Harris Bank Center back on October 13.

The Stars (6-6-1-1) are paced by Denis Gurianov, who has seven goals and seven helpers in 13 games. Rookie Joel L’Esperance also has seven goals for Texas. Forwards Eric Condra (5 G, 7 A), Justin Dowling (3 G, 9 A), Michael Mersch (5 G, 5 A) and Colton Hargrove (5 G, 5 A) also are double-digit point producers for Texas.

Defensemen Gavin Bayreuther and Joel Hanley are now skating for Dallas of the NHL. The Hogs will get their first look at veteran Taylor Fedun, who Dallas acquired in a trade with Buffalo last week. Fedun is a steady point-producer who has six assists so far in 11 games between Rochester and Texas. Rookie Benjamin Gleason is tops on the blueline for the Stars, with two goals and four assists for the season.

Landon Bow should get the call for the Stars Friday. The third-year goalie is coming off a loss to Manitoba in which he surrendered five goals. Bow has a 3.00 goals against average and a .893 save percentage.

 

San Antonio-Saturday, 7:00 p.m.

The Rampage are 4-12 thus far. That .250 points percentage is by far the lowest in the league. The problem for San Antonio has been getting pucks in the opposing net, though they did break a three-game skid with a 5-0 win over Manitoba Tuesday night. Jordan Nolan (3 G, 4 A) had a pair of goals in that game.

Rockford beat the Rampage 5-2 back on October 24 behind a 29-save performance by Delia. Four IceHogs poured in four goals in the second period to take control of the game.

Nolan shares the team lead in goals with Klim Kostlin (3 G, 4 A), Trevor Smith (3 G, 2 A) and Ryan Olsen (3 G, 1 A). Veterans Brian Flynn and Chris Butler each have a goal and seven assists to lead San Antonio in scoring.

Jordan Binnington (3-3-0-2, 2.13 GAA, .924 save percentage) shut out the Moose Tuesday and should get at least one start against Rockford. Ville Husso, who gave up four to the Hogs back in the October 24 contest, is scuffling with a 1-9 record, a 3.58 goals against average and an .879 save percentage.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for game updates and thoughts on the goings-on in Rockford all season long.

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs returned to Illinois yesterday on the heels of a solid road trip. The Hogs picked up three of a possible four points in their Friday and Saturday dates with the Tucson Roadrunners.

Both games saw Rockford rally from multiple-goal deficits. Special teams played a bit part in the successs of the piglets, who lost an overtime decision Friday before pulling out a win the following evening.

The IceHogs now settle in at the BMO Harris Bank Center, where they begin a stretch of five of the next seven games at home. Rockford plays host to San Antonio Wednesday before being visited by Cleveland Saturday and Manitoba Sunday.

The Hogs are fifth in the Central Division standings with a .583 points percentage. Coach Jeremy Colliton’s club is putting pucks in the net and are showing that same never-say-die attitude that made last year’s pack of prospects so entertaining.

Question is…will this youthful, entertaining bunch bring in the box office?

 

Bringing ‘Em Into The BMO

Last week (October 12 to be exact), the IceHogs put out a release previewing that weekend’s home openers. The story drew my attention due to a quote from defenseman Carl Dahlstrom concerning the BMO faithful. This comes directly from the article on the Hogs site; I italicized the part of the quote that caught my eye.

“We have one of the fan bases in the league,” defenseman Carl Dahlstrom, who skated in each of Rockford’s 13 playoff games last spring, said. “I’m hoping they can really show that when we play in front of them this year.”

Obviously, a word was omitted. It happens to us all. I’m sure the missing word from Dahlstrom’s quote was “best” or something similar to the sentiment. I kidded on twitter the next day:

The one speculation that was based in fact? Smallest.

As I’ve pointed out on several occasions on this forum, attendance at the BMO has dropped significantly over the past two seasons. Here are the season averages the last three years:

2015-16-5014-Franchise record and the fourth straight season in which average attendance increased from the previous year.

2016-17-4328-Historically poor on-ice performance, last place finish in the Central Division.

2017-18-3915-Young, exciting team morphs into an experienced, exciting team and reaches the conference final. Still, Rockford finishes the regular season 27th out of 30 AHL teams in attendance.

2018-19-?????????

Following the Hogs reaching an apex in attendance, there were two straight years of prodigious drops in fan interest. The shift from the last two years (686 and 413, respectively) represented the widest such disparities in the history of the franchise. Nearly every other shift trended higher, not lower.

The last, and only, drop in yearly attendance came in 2011-12, when the drop was 116 fans from the season before. That could easily be explained away as the season average increased by 860 fans over the next four years.

Over the last two seasons, nearly eleven-hundred fewer fans came through the gates per game. How could this be explained away? Allow me to grasp at some straws. Here goes…

People stayed away because the hockey stank.

Very true following 2016-17. Not sure why that continued with a better on-ice product, though perhaps last year’s club suffered from an aftershock from the putrid season before. If I had to put a finger on the reason attendance has dropped, this issue would be first and foremost.

 

People stayed away because they were out following high school sports.

I hear that one occasionally, mostly in the fall. Yes, a lot of people like to follow high school football. However, the local sports scene in Northern Illinois hasn’t changed significantly in the past two years.

 

People stayed away because they couldn’t see folks punching each other.

I hear this lament from many of the old guard fans, though some would quickly poo-poo this. Fighting has dropped to the point of being non-existent in Rockford, but I enjoy the game the piglets showcase at the BMO. So would a lot of other fans if they could take off their sluggin’ goggles for a couple of minutes.

 

People stayed away because they’re old and don’t want to go out.

I have seen quite a number of those old guard Hogs fans scaling back on the number of games they attend. Then again, I’m sure that happens in a lot of places. Time keeps on ticking away…

 

People stayed away because they feel they aren’t accommodated enough.

The season ticket base is afforded many amenities by the organization (Full disclosure; I’ve been a season ticket holder for eight years). Long-time Hogs fans can become a bit spoiled in this area.

As is always the case with a lower-level pro sports franchise, there is always going to be some turnover as people move on to bigger and better things. I still believe that the team is very fan-oriented and are great at working with the season ticket base for a great experience.

I don’t require a butler or anything to go catch a hockey game. Being a season ticket holder has plenty of perks without one.

That said, I will point out one practice I’d like to see more of.

During the 2012-13 season, the team started making players available for autographs outside the “Stars Of Tomorrow” display at the BMO Harris Bank Center. You could go out during the second intermission and get your program or a puck signed by a couple of players. A couple of seasons ago, the team abruptly halted the concept.

At the season opener on October 13, the IceHogs had Luc Snuggerud and William Pelletier signing at a table out in the concourse. Sunday didn’t feature a similar event, but it appears that it will be happening on occasion throughout the season. Kudos.

Is having the evenings scratches out signing autographs going to raise attendance back to the 4500-per-night range? Probably not, but it is a magnanimous nod to the fans.

The IceHogs had record attendance for their run through the playoffs this past spring. That included averaging well over 3,000 a night for the three weekday games that normally top out at half that in previous postseasons. So maybe word will get out and the numbers will pick up this winter.

With this being the 20th anniversary of IceHogs hockey in Rockford (including the UHL days), it would be great to see those attendance figures back on the rise. The brand of hockey is exciting (again) and it’s worth heading over on I-90 to check it out.

Numbers Of Note

The IceHogs special teams loomed large in this weekend’s action. Rockford was 5-12 on the man advantage against Tucson. They also turned away the Roadrunners 5-on-3 advantages in the third period of both games.

For the season, the Hogs are converting 29.6 percent of their power play opportunities. That’s good for a tie with Texas for third in the Western Conference. At 84 percent efficiency, the penalty kill unit is fifth in the conference.

Three of those power play goals have come from Jordan Schroeder. He’s in a tie for third in the league in that category.

Dylan Sikura, with six points (1 G, 5 A), is 13th in the AHL among rookie skaters. He’s third in the league in rookie assists. He leads Rockford in points along with his brother Tyler, who has a team-high four goals and a pair of helpers.

Sikura the Elder is also carrying a skater rating of plus-three; tops among the IceHogs forwards. His empty netter to close out Saturday’s win in Tucson kept alive a five-game point streak. Schroeder and Anthony Louis each have three goals for the Hogs; each are working on three-game point streaks.

The defense is paced by Darren Raddysh, who has a goal and three assists so far this season. Carl Dahlstrom has three helpers despite not finding the back of the net in the first couple of weeks.

The goalie numbers are not especially impressive, though opposing skaters are getting a lot of quality chances. Collin Delia has been much better than his 3.26 goals against average would indicate. He is stopping 91 percent of the shots fired upon him and is 3-1 on the season.

Kevin Lankinen (3.39, .825) isn’t boasting gaudy stats, though he has kept the IceHogs in both of his starts.

 

Recaps

Friday, October 19-Tucson 4, Rockford 3 (OT)

Erasing a three-goal deficit in the last 30 minutes of action earned the IceHogs a road point. However, Tucson spoiled the good feelings by nabbing the third point late in overtime.

Rockford had back-to-back power plays early in the contest but couldn’t convert. Tucson went up a man following a Terry Broadhurst slashing penalty and wasted no time getting a puck in Kevin Lankinen’s net. Immediately after the faceoff, Kyle Capobianco sent a shot toward the Rockford net. Michael Bunting was in front with the redirect to give Tucson a 1-0 advantage at 10:22 of the first.

The Roadrunners very nearly took a 2-0 lead in the waning seconds of the period, after a furious charge ended with the puck in the Hogs cage. However, it was ruled that the clock had expired before the goal line had been crossed. Rockford went into the locker room only down a goal.

Tucson’s power play unit struck again 5:28 into the second period. The goal was set up by Trevor Murphy, who got behind the net and got Lankinen out of position before hitting Adam Helewka at the right dot for the one-timer. That lead was stretched to 3-0 after a turnover led to a Trevor Cheek goal at the 10:24 mark.

Rockford got on the board shortly after the resulting faceoff. Anthony Louis chased down Henrik Samuelsson’s dump-in attempt in the right corner of the Tucson zone. Louis centered to Tyler Sikura, who was skating hard through the slot. The one-timer got over the glove of Roadrunners goalie Adin Hill at 10:46 of the second to cut the lead to 3-1.

The IceHogs drew to within a goal midway through the third after the penalty kill team came up large. Matteo Gennero was sent to the box for interference, allowing Louis to get a puck into the offensive zone. Terry Broadhurst got control of the puck along the right halfboards and sent it back to Louis in the high slot. The shot was true and rubber connected with twine to close the gap to 3-2 at the 9:53 mark.

Another Gennero penalty, this time a cross-check, gave Rockford another special teams opportunity. The Hogs converted when Jordan Schroeder knocked in a loose puck past Hill at 15:17, evening the score at three goals. Tucson had some chances to clear the puck after Darren Raddysh sent it off the end boards, but the biscuit tricked over to Schroeder at the left post.

Rockford had to turn in a big effort to keep the game tied in the waning minutes of regulation. The IceHogs killed off 1:16 of 5-on-3 hockey to force Gus Macker Time. In the extra session, both teams had chances denied by the goalies. Jacob Nilsson kept a sliding puck out of the net to keep the piglets hopes for a win alive. However, Conor Garland led an odd man rush late in overtime and found the cord with 27 seconds remaining to end the game.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura (A)-Anthony Louis

Terry Broadhurst-Luke Johnson-Jordan Schroeder (A)

Matthew Highmore-Jacob Nilsson-Dylan Sikura

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Viktor Ejdsell

Andrew Campbell (A)-Joni Tuulola

Blake Hillman-Carl Dahlstrom

Lucas Carlsson-Darren Raddysh

Kevin Lankinen

Power Play (2-6)

D. Sikura-Schroeder-T. Sikura-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Highmore-Ejdsell-Louis-Broadhurst-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Tucson was 2-7)

Highmore-Nilsson-Dahlstrom-Hillman

Johnson-Knott-Gilbert-Tuulola

T. Sikura-Broadhurst-Carlsson-Raddysh

 

Saturday, October 20-Rockford 5, Tucson 3

The power play was the catalyst for the season’s first road victory. The IceHogs rallied from a two-goal hole, burning the Roadrunners for three scores. Collin Delia had a big night as Rockford made a big defensive stand in the final 20 minutes.

Tucson took advantage of a turnover by the Hogs penalty kill unit early in the game. Jens Looke wound up with a shot from the high slot; the puck glanced off Collin Delia’s blocker and tumbled into the net. This gave the Roadrunners a 1-0 lead 5:49 into the contest.

The IceHogs tied the game at 9:59 of the first when Luke Johnson got credit for his first goal of the season. After Jacob Nilsson won an offensive draw at the left dot, Dylan Sikura got him the puck at the goal line. Nilsson’s centering pass struck Johnson’s leg and settled into the Tucson cage.

The Roadrunners regained the lead when a ring-around attempt by Joni Tuulola caught the skate of the official and hopped into open ice. Tucson pounced on the loose puck, resulting in Lane Pederson firing from the slot over Delia’s glove. At the 15:29 mark, the Hogs trailed 2-1. That score held up through the first intermission.

A Trevor Murphy snipe made it 3-1 Tucson 4:30 into the second period and it appeared that the game may be getting away from the piglets. That all changed in a 22-second span near the midway point of the game.

Roadrunners defensemen Kyle Capobianco and Dysin Mayo wound up in the box in quick succession in the seventh minute. Jordan Schroeder and Darren Raddysh played catch between the circles until Schroeder gained the space to sling home his third goal of the season past Tucson goalie Hunter Miska. This pulled Rockford to within a goal of Tucson at the 7:42 mark.

The IceHogs still had a man advantage to work with following the goal and got right back to work. Carl Dahlstrom took in a nice no-look pass from Terry Broadhurst and set up Anthony Louis for a one-timer from the right dot. Just like that, the game was tied at three goals 8:04 into the second.

Late in the period, Delia made a fantastic stop, gloving a shot just as former Hogs forward Laurent Dauphin crashed into the blue paint. The resulting penalty carried over into the final 20 minutes.

On that man advantage, Rockford moved the puck around the Tucson zone with aplomb. It didn’t take long for the Hogs to punch in the game-winning goal. It came off of the stick of Terry Broadhurst, who took a pass from Johnson at the top of the left circle and fired past Miska. For the first time all weekend, the IceHogs held the lead, going up 4-3 1:22 into the third period.

Holding that lead wouldn’t be easy. The Roadrunners peppered Delia with 16 shots in the last 20 minutes of action. The pivotal stretch came midway through the third when Nathan Noel was called for a slash. Just 37 seconds into the Tucson power play, Delia was whistled for delay of game after knocking the goal post off its mooring.

Rockford dug in and, for the second straight night, killed off a two-man advantage on the road in the latter stages of the game. Tucson had an extended spell in the Hogs zone a few minutes later with a stick-less Delia to shoot at. However, they were denied by the Rockford defense. Miska was pulled with just under two minutes remaining. Tyler Sikura won a battle for a loose puck in neutral ice and threw in the back-breaker at 18:26 of the third.

Delia denied 35 Tucson shot attempts on the evening and was a big part of the win. However, Broadhust was named the game’s First Star, followed by Dahlstrom and Johnson.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Jeremy Colliton went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the first time this season.

Terry Broadhurst-Luke Johnson-Jordan Schroeder (A)

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura (A)-Anthony Louis

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Jacob Nilsson-Dylan Sikura

Andrew Campbell-Blake Hillman

Joni Tuulola-Carl Dahlstrom

Luc Snuggerud-Darren Raddysh

Lucas Carlsson

Collin Delia

Power Play (3-6)

D. Sikura-Schroeder-T. Sikura-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Nilsson-Johnson-Louis-Broadhurst-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Tucson was 1-6)

Noel-Nilsson-Dahlstrom-Hillman

Johnson-Knott-Campbell-Tuulola

T. Sikura-Broadhurst-Carlsson-Raddysh

 

Mid-Week Preview: Hogs vs San Antonio

The Rampage come to the BMO Wednesday night; they are in action the night before in Milwaukee. San Antonio is currently 1-5 and in the basement of the AHLs Central Division. This is the first season that the Blues are the sole parent team of the Rampage.

Key additions to the San Antonio lineup include Brian Flynn, who was a leader in Texas as they marched to the Calder Cup Final last spring. After a 47-point (18 G, 29 A) season with the Stars, Flynn is now in a similar role with the Rampage.

Trevor Smith comes over from Milwaukee, where he spent the last two seasons of his 11-year AHL career. Last season, he had 43 points (17 G, 26 A). The 6’1”, 200-pounder is a very capable AHL center who can put up offense.

Chris Thorburn is coming off of 12 seasons in the NHL for Pittsburgh, Atlanta/Winnipeg and St. Louis. He’s a big, physical forward with 118 NHL scraps to his name. His only full AHL campaign was in 2005-06, when he had 23 goals, 27 assists and ten fighting majors. He has yet to appear in a game for the Rampage.

Unlike Thorburn, Jordan Nolan has been an on-ice presence for San Antonio. He is a veteran of 361 NHL games, mostly with the Kings. Nolan is another big-physical forward (6’3”) with a propensity for fighting. He has 30 NHL fighting majors and 19 AHL FMs.

The Rampage don’t return a lot in the way of offense; the leading returning scorer from the 2017-18 forward group is Klim Kostin, who totaled six goals and 22 helpers last year in his rookie season.

Rookie center Zach Sanford has a pair of goals for San Antonio this season. He’s the only member of the Rampage with more than one; the team has just 13 goals in six games.

Defenseman Chris Butler has nearly 400 games of NHL experience with the Sabres, Flames and Blues. He has spent most of the past three seasons in the AHL. Last year he had 29 points (8 G, 21 A) for San Antonio.

Joey LaLeggia is a skilled point man who comes over from Bakersfield, where he played for the past three seasons. In 2017-18, he had 15 goals and 28 assists with the Condors. Tyler Wotherspoon comes over from the Stockton Heat, where he spent the last three seasons. He had career-highs in goals (7) assists (30) and points (37) with the Heat last year. He is entering his sixth AHL campaign.

Sam Lofquist is 28 and has spent the last seven years playing in Europe. He skates pretty well, has a big shot and is a physical player. He has a goal and an assist in three appearances to pace the San Antonio blueline. Rookie Mitch Reinke also has a goal and assist.

Goalie Jordan Binnington is a familiar face from his time with the Wolves, where he played three full seasons before being loaned to Providence by the Blues last year. There, he posted a 2.05 goals against average and a .926 save percentage in 28 games with the Bruins.

Ville Husso begins his third season with the Blues organization. He played 38 games for the Rampage last year, with a 2.42 GAA and a .922 save percentage. He’s started five of San Antonio’s first six games this month, sporting a 3.24 goals against average and an .893 save percentage.

I’ll be back on Friday to preview the Monsters and Moose tilts as well as a recap of Wednesday’s action. Until then, follow me @JonFromi on twitter for game updates, IceHogs thoughts and analysis all season long.