Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs are a single point away from earning a spot in the 2017-18 Calder Cup Playoffs. With the Blackhawks season over, there will be a lot of options for Rockford coach Jeremy Colliton this week.

Following the conclusion of the NHL season, the organization sent six players to Rockford to fortify the ‘Bago County Flying Piglets. Is this flood of talent a boon or bane to the IceHogs?

On the surface, this is a great problem for Colliton and the Hogs to have. What we have is a team that has put it together at an opportune time picking up some high-caliber talent. Lake Erie (now Cleveland) parlayed that combination into a Calder Cup just two years ago. Surely Colliton is going to find it hard to keep arrivals John Hayden, Andreas Martinsen, David Kampf and Victor Ejdsell off the forward lines.

On the other hand, why mess with what’s working? The current group has played very well in the past few weeks. Shouldn’t that be taken into consideration?

It would be easy to suggest that Colliton sit his AHL contracts in favor of a more high-end lineup. Of course, that would mean sitting your second leading goal-scorer and some other key personnel.

I can’t see the IceHogs sitting Tyler Sikura for anyone at this point. Having earned an NHL-deal for next season, Sikura added three more goals this weekend to push his season total to 22. Over his last ten games, Sikura the Elder has six goals and six helpers.

William Pelletier is another AHL contract that would be hard to see in the press box. His speed alone has been a huge plus for the IceHogs, who can count on the former Division-III standout to chase down pucks and negate icing. Oh…he also has 28 points (13 G, 15 A) on the season.

Hayden, Martinsen and Kampf have all spent a good portion of the season in the AHL. It’s difficult not to see them making Rockford a much tougher team to face, chemistry be damned. With three games remaining on the IceHogs regular season schedule, Colliton is going to have some interesting choices to make in the final week of the season, and possibly beyond.

So…who shines a seat? Here’s some speculatin’…

  • First off, I would think the depth at forward would keep D Robin Norell off a forward line, regardless of how much Colliton and/or the organization likes him skating on a wing.
  • If a playoff spot were to be locked up early this week, maybe we see Kyle Maksimovich or recently-signed Mathias From out there in the final weekend of action. Otherwise, they’ll just be along for the ride.
  • Graham Knott, who has been a fourth-line center for the bulk of the campaign, is probably the first regular who loses his spot.
  • Tanner Kero was injured Wednesday night in San Antonio; no word so far as I know regarding a return.
  • Henrik Samuelsson, who earned a full-time AHL contract from the Hogs with some strong play during the stretch run, is likely to be another candidate to sit.

Colliton will also have to decide which of three goalies (Collin Delia, J.F. Berube or Jeff Glass) anchors this team from here on out. Delia has had the hot hand, going 7-0-2 in his last nine starts, including both of Rockford’s wins this week. In that nine-game span, he’s posted a 1.84 GAA and a .935 save percentage.

Of course, Berube has taken a team to the AHL championship back in 2014-15 with Manchester and has good AHL numbers this season (2.37 GAA, .920 save percentage) despite being 7-8 for the Hogs. Glass has had some effective stints in Rockford this season as well, with very similar season numbers to Delia.

If Rockford can collect a single point in any of its last three games, or if Milwaukee fails to win any of its last three, then the IceHogs are playoff bound. Depending on how the final week plays out, it is possible that Rockford winds up as any of the four playoff seeds. Chicago leads the Central as of Monday; the Hogs have a home-and-home Friday and Saturday with the Wolves that could well decide the division.

The recent additions, along with the potential for advancement in the standings, are going to make for a crazy final week of the regular season.

 

Recaps

The IceHogs traveled to Texas this past week, claiming a pair of wins to put them on the brink of locking down a postseason berth. Rockford is fourth in the Central and within striking distance of first-place Chicago. Manitoba and Grand Rapids, who, like the Wolves have assured themselves of playoff action, sit just two points ahead of the Hogs.

Wednesday, April 4-Rockford 4, San Antonio 2

Rockford’s fifth win in a row came against a desperate Rampage club that was fighting for their playoff lives. The IceHogs came out on top of a fast-paced contest that saw quality chances turned away at both ends of the ice.

Matthew Highmore got the scoring started 4:21 into the first period, taking a backhand drop pass from Tanner Kero in the slot and five-holing San Antonio goalie Spencer Martin. Kero would wind up missing most of this game with an injury, but got hold of a stretch pass from Carl Dahlstrom coming into the Rampage zone to set up the goal.

The Rockford lead was short-lived, as San Antonio quickly potted goals by Michael Joly and Tommy Vinnelli. The Hogs tied the score late in a wild first period when Anthony Louis hoisted a backhand into the Rampage zone from just inside his blueline toward a waiting Martin. The bouncing puck was mishandled by Martin, allowing Lance Bouma to get to the rebound and knock it into Twine Town at the 17:11 mark.

The rest of the scoring on this night would be provided by rookie forward William Pelletier. The eventual game-winner came early in the second period with Rockford on the penalty kill. Viktor Svedberg got the play started by winning control of the puck along the half boards of the defensive zone. He tapped the biscuit to Highmore, who banked it to Pelletier in neutral ice.

Pelletier streaked down the left side into San Antonio territory, leading Highmore on a two-on-one rush. Electing to hold on to the puck, Pelletier struck gold short side to complete the shorthanded lamp-lighter 3:03 into the period.

Three goals were enough for Collin Delia, who stopped the Rampage’s last 19 shots over the final 40 minutes. Pelletier chased down Tyler Sikura’s clearing attempt in the final minute and guided it into an empty net to put a bow on the victory.

Highmore was voted the game’s first star. Along with Kero, Luc Snuggerud’s night ended early when he came off holding his wrist in the middle of the first period. Both the Hogs and the Rampage went 0-3 on the man advantage.

 

Friday, April 6-Rockford 3, Texas 2 (SO)

It took an extended shootout to decide this contest. When the smoke cleared, Rockford came out on top thanks to a big blast by Viktor Svedberg.

The piglets went down 1-0 to Texas on a Brent Regner tally late in the first. The IceHogs used a pair of power play goals to take a 2-1 lead by the first few minutes of the third period.

The first Rockford goal came midway through the game. Tyler Sikura was in front of Stars goalie Landon Bow to tip in an Adam Clendening offering from up top, tying the score 1-1 at the 8:56 mark of the second period.

The Hogs took the lead 4:11 into the third when Cody Franson found Chris DiDomenico above the right circle on the man advantage. The shot whizzed by Bow and into the top left corner of the Texas net.

The Stars pulled Bow late in the game and it paid off in the form of a Gavin Bayreuther goal that came off of a long rebound with 1:13 to play. Neither team could convert in Gus Macker Time, necessitating the shootout.

Travis Morin put Texas up 1-0 in the third round of the shootout, but Franson was able to respond for the IceHogs. In the bottom of round five, Svedberg skated to the slot and slapped home the game-winner, earning him first star honors.

Rockford wound up going 2-2 on the power play, while stopping both of the Stars opportunities. Collin Delia made 22 stops on the night as the Hogs picked up their sixth straight win.

Saturday, April 7-Texas 4, Rockford 3

Rockford couldn’t hold onto a two-goal lead in the final period, giving up a trio of Texas goals to drop the final game of a Lone Star road trip.

As he had the night before, Brent Regner put the Stars up 1-0 with a goal 5:51 into the game. This one came on the power play, which would burn Rockford twice on this evening.

The Hogs would draw even late in the first, with Tyler Sikura gaining control of a loose puck in the slot and sending it past Stars goalie Landon Bow at the 18:31 mark. Sikura would get his second goal of the game 4:29 into the second period. This one came from a long-distance attempt from the left half boards.

Rockford gained a 3-1 advantage midway through the second after Anthony Louis whiffed on a centering attempt by Luke Johnson. The puck slid through the circles and onto the waiting stick of Alexandre Fortin, who knocked it past Bow at the 11:29 mark.

Unfortunately for the Hogs, Texas rallied in the final 20 minutes. Brian Flynn sent a slap shot past Rockford goalie Matt Tomkins in the third minute. Roope Hintz skated to the bottom of the left circle and beat Tomkins high to tie the game with 6:13 remaining.

Travis Morin turned a stretch pass from Gavin Bayreuther into a two-on-one rush late in the game. His pass to Joel L’Esperance was one-timed past Tomkins to complete the comeback with 2:54 left.

Tomkins, who was starting his first game for Rockford since February 3, stopped 30 of 34 shots on the night. The IceHogs failed to convert on either of their two power play chances, while Texas was 2-5. Sikura’s two-goal performance was enough to be named the game’s second star.

 

The Final Countdown

Tuesday night in Iowa would be a great time to punch that playoff ticket. The Wild have plummeted in the standings down the stretch, losing nine of their last ten.

The regular season is an intriguing home-and-home with Chicago Friday and Saturday. The Wolves have locked up a playoff berth but is the type of organization that likes division titles to brag on. Hard to see them resting starters. The Hogs, however, had three straight wins over Chicago in March.

Milwaukee, for those that gaze upon the out-of-town scoreboard, play in Chicago Tuesday, then wind up the season with a home-and-home with Iowa. Nothing is assured yet.

For updates on Rockford’s playoff status this week, follow me @JonFromi on twitter.

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, were short on the physical element as they prepared to begin the 2017-18 season. Just before the schedule got underway in October, Chicago and Montreal made a swap of forwards. The IceHogs leading point scorer, Kyle Baun, went to the Canadiens organization in exchange for Andreas Martinsen.

This was very much an under the radar transaction, as neither player figures to see NHL action this season. However, in terms of what Martinsen has brought to the IceHogs, I think the Hawks got the better of this trade.

Baun had a pretty decent campaign in 2016-17, finishing with 34 points (14 G, 20 A) to pace a depleted Hogs lineup. While his second pro season was a very productive one, it did help that there was a dearth of prospects on the roster, giving Baun opportunities he would not have this season.

Martinsen brings two things to the table that Baun lacked; NHL experience and a propensity for big hits. While Baun was no shrinking violet, the 6’3″, 220-pound native of Norway is a much more physical player.

With 119 games of NHL experience with Colorado and Montreal, the 27-year old Martinsen adds the facet of leadership to a youthful roster. He and Tyler Sikura have anchored what has been a very productive forward line at both ends of the ice.

Both Martinsen (9 G, 13 A) and Sikura (15 G, 7 A) are tied for third among active Hogs skaters with 22 points. Whether teamed with Alexandre Fortin or another Rockford forward, the pair have been tough forecheckers and have been a big reason the IceHogs have been an effective team at even strength.

Baun currently has 15 points (3 G, 12 A) for Laval in 49 games. He works hard and is a pretty heady player, though I have long questioned Baun’s chances to be a contributor at the NHL level. Regardless, I feel like Martinsen is a better fit for the current IceHogs roster.

 

Samuelsson Inked To PTO

Sunday night, the IceHogs announced that they had signed forward Henrik Samuelsson, son of Hawks assistant coach Ulf Samuelsson, to a Professional Tryout contract. This move comes with Rockford being a little light in the forward ranks of late.

William Pelletier was a scratch in both games this weekend. No word from the team, but I would guess he could be missing some time due to injury. Nathan Noel has not played since being recalled, so I would hazard a guess that he isn’t ready to take the ice.

Luke Johnson may also be among a bevy of injured piglets. He took a big hit in the third period of Friday’s loss to Milwaukee and slowly made his way to the bench. Johnson returned to action a few minutes later, but was a scratch in Iowa Saturday and could also be dinged up.

At this point, defenseman Robin Norell has been a fixture at forward the last few weeks. Even with AHL-signing Alex Wideman on the roster from Indy, the IceHogs had just 13 forwards. With Pelletier, Noel and possibly Johnson unavailable, Rockford is in need of bodies up front.

As far as bodies go, Samuelsson should do just fine. A former first-round draft pick by Arizona in 2012, he had a 40-point season (18 G, 22 A) with AHL Portland in 2014-15. This season, Samuelsson has been with Idaho of the ECHL, where he had 16 goals and 27 helpers for the Steelheads in 49 games.

At 6’3″ and 210 pounds, the 24-year-old Samuelsson could help out in the corners for the IceHogs and has a pretty decent offensive arsenal. I’d guess we’ll see him in action this week.

In other roster moves, Rockford sent Matt Tomkins back to the Indy Fuel Thursday after J.F. Berube returned to active duty. Friday, defenseman Carl Dahlstrom was recalled to the Blackhawks, where he skated in the Hawks 3-0 loss to Minnesota.

 

Recaps

The IceHogs dropped two of three games this week, including one to Milwaukee. The Ads have won four straight and have leapfrogged Rockford in the division standings. Coupled with a streaking Grand Rapids club that has won seven of its last ten, Rockford is in sixth place in the Central Division.

Wednesday, February 7-Rockford 3, San Antonio 1

The Rampage have had Rockford’s number in three previous meetings. The Hogs came out on top in the final meeting between the two teams this season with a pair of goals in the third period.

Rockford had several scoring chances in the opening frame but didn’t get on the board until late in the period. Matthew Highmore redirected a Viktor Svedberg blast past Rampage goalie Spencer Martin for a 1-0 Hogs advantage at 18:56 of the first.

Felix Girard tied things up 8:01 into the second period, coming from behind the net and finishing a successful wraparound attempt. Through 40 minutes, Hogs goalie Colin Delia had stopped 24 of 25 shots to keep Rockford even. From there, the IceHogs power play proved to be the difference.

Working with the final seconds of a Shawn Ouellette-St. Amant interference infraction incurred late in the previous period, Rockford got the game-winner with Highmore’s second goal of the evening. The play was set up with a pass from Tanner Kero to Highmore at the goal line. The rookie forward maneuvered to the front of Martin’s cage and deposited a backhand shot into the piggy bank 22 seconds into the third.

The man advantage also provided insurance later in the period when San Antonio was called for delay of game in the eighth minute of action. Adam Clendening one-timed an Anthony Louis feed toward the net. Andreas Martinsen had Martin screened but good. The Rampage goalie never had a chance and Clendening’s goal made it 3-1 Rockford at the 8:06 mark.

The three stars proved to be an all-Rockford edition; Highmore, Delia (33 saves) and Clendening.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anthony Louis-Tanner Kero-William Pelletier

Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson-John Hayden

Andreas Martinsen (A)-Tyler Sikura-Alexandre Fortin

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Robin Norell

Luc Snuggerud-Carl Dahlstrom

Cody Franson (A)-Viktor Svedberg (A)

Adam Clendening-Gustav Forsling

Colin Delia

Scratches-Nathan Noel, Darren Raddysh, Ville Pokka, J.F. Berube

Power Play (2-5)

Highmore-Kero-Johnson-Forsling-Dahlstrom

Martinsen-Hayden-Louis-Clendening-Franson

Penalty Kill (San Antonio was 0-4)

Kero-Sikura-Franson-Svedberg

Johnson-Martinsen-Dalstrom-Snuggerud

Pelletier-Hayden-Franson-Svedberg

 

Friday, February 9-Milwaukee 5, Rockford 3

The IceHogs earased one-goal deficits twice before Milwaukee prevailed in what was a tough home loss to a division rival.

Jimmy Oligny got the scoring started for the Ads with his goal at 11:34 of the opening frame. Rockford answered a few minutes later on the power play. Anthony Louis made a cross-ice pass that Cody Franson handled at the right dot before snapping off a lamp-lighter past Milwaukee goalie Anders Lindback. This tied the game at a goal apiece at the 14:29 mark.

The Admirals gained a man advantage late in the first on a Viktor Svedberg tripping penalty. They wasted little time in regaining the lead. After winning the resulting faceoff, Frederick Gaudreau scored from the left circle to make it 2-1 Milwaukee headed into the locker room.

Rockford out shot the Ads 16-6 in the second and drew even again in the fifteenth minute. Darren Raddysh did the honors, aided in part to a nice screen in front of the net by Tyler Sikura. Raddysh’s wrister zipped through the legs of Sikura and past Lindback at 14:18, capping off a nice shift in the Milwaukee zone and knotting the game at two.

At that point, Admirals forward Justin Kirkland, who had all of one goal for the season at that point, finished off the Hogs. His nifty move across the crease after receiving a Yakov Trenin feed got Hogs goalie Collin Delia on the ice. His backhand caught cord for a 3-2 Milwaukee lead 2:42 into the third period.

Kirkland added to the lead ten minutes later, when Delia mishandled Trenin’s shot to his glove side. The puck lay unattended momentarily at the right post. Kirkland knocked it in for a 4-2 Admirals advantage at 12:33.

Rockford closed to within a goal at the 14:24 mark when John Hayden received a pass from Sikura and skated out to the top of the right circle. Utilizing another Sikura screen, Hayden beat Lindback to the twine. The IceHogs trailed 4-3.

That was as close as Rockford got, though. With Delia on the bench for an extra skater, Kirkland completed his hat trick with an empty-net goal from just inside his blueline at 18:31.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson-John Hayden

Alex Wideman-Tanner Kero-Anthony Louis

Andreas Martinsen (A)-Tyler Sikura-Alexandre Fortin

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Robin Norell

Adam Clendening-Ville Pokka

Viktor Svedberg-Cody Franson

Gustav Forsling-Darren Raddysh

Collin Delia

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, William Pelletier, Nathan Noel

Power Play (1-4)

Martinsen-Louis-Hayden-Franson-Clendening

Kero-Highmore-Johnson-Sikura-Forsling

Penalty Kill (Milwaukee was 1-2)

Johnson-Kero-Franson-Svedberg

Hayden-Knott-Forsling-Raddysh

Martinsen-Sikura-Svedberg-Clendening

 

Saturday, February 10-Iowa 2, Rockford 1

Jean-Francois Berube was back in goal for the first time in two months after recovering from a left leg injury. A 27-save effort was a solid return but not enough to get Rockford past the Wild at Wells Fargo Arena.

The first period saw the Hogs and Wild trade deflection goals. Kurtis Gabriel re-directed a Brennen Mennell shot past Berube 5:55 into the contest. Moments later, Tyler Sikura changed the trajectory of a Ville Pokka shot from the right point, knotting the game 1-1 at the 7:41 mark.

As both Berube and Iowa goalie Niklas Svedberg were quite stingy from that point on, the score remained 1-1 until the third period. Iowa potted a power play goal on a Justin Kloos one-timer from the right dot at the 7:31 mark.

The IceHogs had some strong chances to tie both before and after pulling Berube for an extra attacker, but it was not to be. Rockford dropped its second-straight and lost just a little more ground to a division rival.

Lines (Starters in italics-Rockford used 7 defensemen and just 11 forwards)

Matthew Highmore-Tanner Kero (A)-Anthony Louis

Andreas Martinsen-Tyler Sikura-Robin Norell

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Alex Wideman

Alexandre Fortin-John Hayden

Viktor Svedberg-Cody Franson

Adam Clendening-Ville Pokka (A)

Gustav Forsling-Darren Raddysh

Luc Snuggerud

Jean-Francois Berube

Scratches-William Pelletier, Nathan Noel, Luke Johnson

Power Play (0-2)

Highmore-Kero-Louis-Clendening-Franson

Martinsen-Sikura-Hayden-Raddysh-Forsling

Penalty Kill (Iowa was 1-5)

Kero-Hayden-Franson-Svedberg

Martinsen-Sikura-Pokka-Clendening

Fortin-Knott-Raddysh-Forsling

 

This Week

The Hogs are at home for all three games this week. This is the last real home stand of the season for Rockford; only seven of the IceHogs last 22 games following this week’s games will be at the BMO.

The Cleveland Monsters visit Rockford Tuesday, play in Chicago Thursday, then return to the BMO for a Saturday tilt. Both teams have won three of the six meetings this season. Each has won and lost a shootout. The Monsters have dropped seven of their last ten but did break a three-game losing streak Sunday with an overtime win over Manitoba.

Sunday afternoon, San Antonio returns to the BMO for the last time this season. Rockford won the last meeting this past Wednesday night.

Points are vital to Rockford right now, as every divisional loss extends the gap between them and the pack of teams in the playoff hunt. Getting Berube back is a step in the right direction, though losing regulars like Pelletier and Johnson will make things a bit tougher.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, have been struggling on the power play. No…perhaps that doesn’t do this unit justice.

Toothless? Impotent? These are probably better ways to describe the period of time when the Hogs have an opponent in the sin bin.

Rockford’s success rate on the power play is dead last in the AHL though 28 games. The IceHogs are drawing cord just 11.8 percent of the time. This was capped off by an 0-13 stretch in this past week of action.

The piglets managed to pick up a point but dropped all three contests. A power play goal could well have turned two of those losses into wins. Alas, power play scoring has been problematic over the past two months.

Rockford began the season with quite the efficient group, posting a power play goal in seven of its first nine games. This culminated in a four-goal effort in a win over Grand Rapids October 28 that pushed the success rate to 22 percent.

Since that evening, the Hogs are 4-83 when up a man. That’s 4.8 percent. Which sucks.

Rockford coach Jeremy Colliton has remained pretty calm when talking about the power play, though he has tried to remedy the problem with some different looks. This weekend in San Antonio, for example, Colliton sent out five forwards as his first unit. The experiment did not bear fruit. In fact, that group gave up a shorthanded goal Sunday afternoon that wound up being the game-winner for the Rampage.

Sometimes the puck movement is there; other times the Hogs look fearful to leave the perimeter. All Colliton can do is continue to tinker with combos until something clicks.

 

Roster Activity

Rockford has been fortunate in terms of health this season. The last few weeks, however, have seen some IceHogs out of the lineup for extended turns. Scott Powers of theathletic.com got Colliton to dish on the status of several players who have missed time of late.

First off, Jordin Tootoo shouldn’t be expected back for a while despite being sent down to Rockford last month. Apparently, Tootoo has aggravated the injury that saw him on the IR list to begin the season in Chicago.

Goalie J.F. Berube, who suffered a left leg injury December 9, looks to be out for about a month. Jeff Glass started all three games for the IceHogs this past week. Will Colin Delia get a start? Rockford has back-to-back games this weekend, then three in a row to close out December. If Delia isn’t in net for one of those games, I would have to assume that the organization lacks confidence in him right now.

Erik Gustafsson, who has missed Rockford’s last nine games, is nearing a return. Colliton was non-committal on a target date for the defenseman, though it sounds like it will be before the end of the calendar year.

Defenseman Luc Snuggerud has missed the last four games. This, plus Ville Pokka being recalled to Chicago last week, leaves the IceHogs a bit thin on the blue line.

Brandon Anselmini was recalled on December 10 and saw his first action against the Wolves last Tuesday. He left the game in the third period after taking a hard run into the boards but was on the ice for both games in San Antonio this weekend.

 

Recaps

Rockford dropped three games this week, scoring just three goals in three games. The point they collected Friday in San Antonio has them tied for second with Iowa in the Central Division standings. Overall, the IceHogs are 15-11-1-1 in 2017-18.

Tuesday, December 12-Chicago 2, Rockford 1 

A very late Wolves goal brought Rockford’s four-game winning streak to a unsatisfying halt.

The Wolves got on the board 5:03 into the game. Teemu Pulkkinen fired on Hogs goalie Jeff Glass. The shot was stopped, but the rebound came out to Brandon Pirri in the slot. Firing into a wide open net, the ex-IceHogs forward put Chicago up 1-0.

That lead survived until Rockford won an offensive draw midway through the final frame. Carl Dalhstrom fired from the point; Anthony Louis provided the redirect past Wolves goalie Maxime Lagace at 732 of the third.

It appeared that this game was headed for overtime. The Hogs made a final rush that got broken up and became a Chicago rush the other way. Paul Thompson got off a backhand shot from the slot that got over Glass with less than a second remaining to give the Wolves the win.

Lines (Starters In Italics)

Matthew Highmore-Tanner Kero-Luke Johnson (A)

Anthony Louis-David Kampf-Alexandre Fortin

Matheson Iacopelli-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen

Graham Knott-Laurent Dauphin (A)-William Pelletier

Carl Dahlstrom-Viktor Svedberg

Darren Raddysh-Robin Norell

Brandon Anselmini-Ville Pokka (A)

Jeff Glass

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Robin Press, Erik Gustafsson, Tomas Jurco, Jordin Tootoo, Jean-Francois Berube

Power Play (0-3)

Kampf-Kero-Louis-Highmore-Dahlstrom

Dauphin-Knott-Johnson-Raddysh-Pokka

Penalty Kill (Wolves were 0-3)

Dauphin-Kampf-Pokka-Norell

Kero-Highmore-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

Sikura-Martinsen-Pokka-Norell

 

Friday, December 15-San Antonio 2, Rockford 1 (SO)

Jeff Glass was a hard luck loser for the second straight game, stopping all but one of the 36 shots he saw in regulation and overtime. It wasn’t enough as his counterpart, Ville Husso, made 43 saves to beat the Hogs.

The Rampage got the games first tally 8:27 into the second period. Julien Nantel took a pass from Adam Musil, skated around Glass’s net, and banked home a shot off of the Rockford goalie’s back.

The IceHogs would even the score late in that period on a quirky play. Faced with too many skaters on the ice in the eighteenth minute, San Antonio attempted to right the problem. In the confusion, Andreas Martinsen was able to gain possession of the puck between the benches.

The Rampage’s Duncan Siemens collided with an official, giving Martinsen a clear path to the San Antonio zone. Martinsen skated to the top of the right circle before attempting to snap a shot off toward Husso. Whiffing on this try, Martinsen collected the gaffe and fired for real. The shot beat Husso to the far post at 17:53 of the second to knot the game at a goal apiece.

Siemens, possibly enraged at the turn of events, took a run at William Pelletier shortly after the resulting center ice draw. Coming to Pelletier’s defense was Laurent Dauphin, who dropped gloves with the big defensemen and received a cut for his effort. Dauphin returned for the third period with a full cage.

Glass and Husso kept the score where it was through the remainder of the contest. In the shootout, the lone put to draw cord came off the stick of San Antonio’s David Warsofsky in the final round. Rockford shooters David Kampf, Anthony Louis and Luke Johnson all came up empty as the Rampage picked up the point of contention.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Anthony Louis-David Kampf-Tomas Jurco

Matthew Highmore-Tanner Kero-Luke Johnson

Graham Knott-Laurent Dauphin-William Pelletier

Carl Dahlstrom-Viktor Svedberg (A)

Robin Norell-Darren Reddysh

Brandon Anselmini-Robin Press

Jeff Glass

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Erik Gustafsson, Matheson Iacopelli, Jordin Tootoo, Jean-Francois Berube

Power Play (0-6)

Jurco-Kampf-Louis-Highmore-Kero

Dauphin-Johnson-Knott-Dahlstrom-Raddysh

Penalty Kill (Rampage were 0-4)

Jurco-Kampf-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

Dauphin-Knott-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

Sikura-Martinsen-Anselmini-Norell

 

Sunday, December 17-San Antonio 4, Rockford 1

Special teams figured heavily into what went down as the IceHogs third straight loss.

San Antonio grabbed a 1-0 lead 8:19 into the game on a Kenny Agozzino power play goal. The IceHogs evened the score 8:55 into the second period. As was the case in the previous game, the goal was scored by Andreas Martinsen on a bit of a fluky play.

Martinsen took advantage of Rampage defenseman Chris Bigras losing an edge as he was about to corral a pass from Tage Thompson in the San Antonio zone. Martinsen collected the turnover at the right dot and got a wrister past goalie Spencer Martin for the equalizer.

The Hogs had an opportunity to take the lead on the man advantage with San Antonio’s Alex Belzile in the box for tripping. Rockford’s fourth power play of the game yielded a goal; just not for the IceHogs.

Trent Volgelhuber took control of a long rebound in the Rampage zone and led a shorthanded rush. With five forwards on the ice, Rockford was slow to get back. The resulting two-on-one ended with Chris Butler beating Hogs goalie Jeff Glass high on the stick side. San Antonio took a 2-1 lead at 7:28 of the third.

Rocco Grimmaldi separated Robin Norell from the puck behind the Rockford net and slipped it past Glass at the 15:12 mark for an insurance goal. He added an empty-netter to close out the scoring.

Glass stopped 37 of 40 shots but took another hard-luck loss.

No lines for this one; I went to the movies. The Hogs went 0-4 on the power play, including 1:42 of five-on-three time, and gave up a game-winning shorty. I believe I made the correct choice.

 

Weekend Preview

The IceHogs will be at home this coming weekend. Next on the schedule is a pair of division matchups with familiar opponents.

Friday night, the surging Chicago Wolves pay yet another visit to the BMO Harris Bank Center. Rockford has split the first four games of the season series. Both of Chicago’s victories have come in regulation, including the last-second win Tuesday.

It’s Teemu Pulkkinen (9 G, 15 A) and Brandon Pirri (8 G, 13 A) at the forefront of the Wolves offense. Paul Thompson has five points (2 G, 3 A) against the Hogs this season. As of this weekend, Chicago has won five straight.

On Saturday night, Rockford hosts Grand Rapids, who are currently last in the Central Division. The Hogs have won all five contests between the two teams this season.

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

Everything Else

A young Rockford IceHogs team has experienced both highs and lows so far in the first six weeks of their 2017-18 AHL schedule. Expect that to be the case for the piglets throughout the season. IceHogs coach Jeremy Colliton seems to get that.

The new Rockford skipper was able to find some positives in a 6-0 shellacking at the hands of San Antonio Friday night. The team’s fourth-straight loss might have been frustrating, especially coming off of a 5-3 loss at Iowa. The Hogs wound up on the short end of that result despite doubling up the Wild in shots Thursday morning.

However, even following a blowout defeat, Colliton wasn’t in panic mode.

The IceHogs were sent to the box nine times and gave up four power play goals to the Rampage. Colliton lauded his team’s play at even strength in his press conference. He also stressed to the assembled media (his post-game thoughts can be viewed on the Hogs website) the importance of his young charges staying the course:

Sometimes you do good things, you do good things, you do good things…you don’t get rewarded, and sometimes your game slips…and then you don’t deserve anything. So, we just need to keep pushing.

If we string together a bunch of good efforts, over time, we’ll get paid off for it. But, if you slip and you all of a sudden start getting away…start playing as individuals and everyone trying to do their own thing and taking care of themselves…then that’s where you get in trouble. So we’ve gotta avoid that at all costs.

We’re talking about it in the leadership group. The guys who think they are gonna drive the bus for us…they need to sort of take ownership of this and just make sure we play a good, hard, smart road game tomorrow…and if we do that, probably it will pay off in points.

I can’t say for sure it will, but I do know that over time if you do good things night in and night out, you get rewarded.

The IceHogs effort resulted in a 5-2 road win in Milwaukee Saturday, so some of those bus drivers got the word out. Overall, Rockford moved to 8-6 in 2017-18. Colliton appears very aware that there are going to be peaks and valleys throughout the season. Such the case of the special teams.

 

Not So Special Teams

The IceHogs special teams are in need of some special attention after a spate of poor play in recent weeks. During the team’s hot start, both the power play and penalty kill units were top-five in the AHL. Neither group has fared well of late.

After hitting the man advantage jackpot with four goals against Grand Rapids on October 28, the IceHogs have found the back of a net just once in 21 power play opportunities. Even with the slump, Rockford has a fairly respectable 17.9 success rate.

The penalty kill has been a sieve over the Hogs last seven games. They have surrendered a power play tally in all of those games, including two to Milwaukee on October 27, three in Iowa November 9, and four to open their game with San Antonio November 11.

Rockford, incidentally, lost all three of those games. The IceHogs PK unit is the league’s worst with a 74.6 kill rate.

Despite not scoring on three third period power plays Saturday night in Milwaukee and giving up a shorthanded goal late in the second period, Rockford was still able to snap a four-game losing streak with a 5-2 win over the Admirals. The passing on the power play looked sharp Saturday; maybe that group can start showing up in the box score with more frequency.

 

A Look At The Stat Sheet

Vinnie Hinostroza continues to compile points, with four in three games of action this week. He currently sits atop the IceHogs in goals (7), assists (8, tied with Erik Gustafsson) and points (15).

Luke Johnson, who is taking a leadership role in his second season, has gotten off to a solid start. After a 17-point rookie campaign, Johnson has three goals and five helpers in 14 games this season. More importantly, he is showing a bit more finishing ability on scoring plays.

Gustafsson leads the IceHogs blueline with 11 points (3 G, 8 A). That total is also good for a tie for second among AHL defensemen.

Four rookies are in Rockford’s top ten scorers right now. Matthew Highmore has ten points (5 G, 5 A) after a couple of helpers this week. David Kampf is next among the first-years with nine points (4 G, 5 A), followed by Matheson Iacopelli (3 G, 4 A) and Anthony Louis (2 G, 4 A).

The only Rockford skater not to notch a point is D Robin Norell, who has not scored in his eight appearances. Norell, Andreas Martinsen and Alexandre Fortin are all looking for their first goal of the season.

 

Where’s Fortin?

One of the more intriguing rookies to come on board was Fortin, who earned an NHL entry deal from Chicago in 2016. The free agent was inked following a strong prospect camp coupled with an impressive preseason with the Blackhawks.

To date, Fortin hasn’t had a similar impact in Rockford.

The young wing is currently mired in a seven-game scoreless streak. Fortin has just four assists to show for his first dozen games of AHL competition. This, despite being grouped with Tomas Jurco and David Kampf the last two weeks. On what should be a high-scoring line, Fortin hasn’t made a lot of noise.

Maybe on a team filled with speedy skaters, I just haven’t noticed Fortin and what he’s been bringing to the table. However, he isn’t getting any time on special teams and his play hasn’t stood out these first six weeks of the campaign.

Fortin began the season as a bottom-six forward and has been a healthy scratch twice so far this season. Perhaps the move up to skate with Jurco and Kampf was an attempt to provide a boost to the rookie. If so, it has yet to kick in.

 

Forcing Delia?

Hawks goalie prospect Colin Delia has been getting a lot of attention from the organization since Chicago signed the free agent to an entry deal. It’s a little early for a pronouncement of his capabilities, but it has been rough going so far for Delia.

After backing up J.F. Berube in a couple of games the previous week, Delia was tapped to start Thursday’s morning affair in Iowa. From the onset, he did not look comfortable in net. In the Rockford loss, Delia gave up four goals on just 16 Wild shots.

A single start, and an AHL debut at that, does not a career make. After all, this is a guy who’s been a wall in his carefully arranged ECHL schedule with Indianapolis…except…he hasn’t.

As has been noted on several occasions, Chicago is developing the rookie goalie in Rockford and sending him to the Fuel purely for game experience. Delia has appeared in eight games for Indianapolis, compiling a 1-5-2 record, a 3.87 goals against average and a .892 save percentage.

Saturday night in the Quad Cities, Delia gave up five goals in a 5-2 loss to the Mallards. He had been pulled in his previous start in the third minute of the second period after surrendering five goals against Wheeling. Fair to say that the kid is scuffling right now, though Delia turned in a good performance Sunday in an overtime loss to the Mallards.

It’s also fair to question the strategy of yanking Delia back and forth between Rockford and Indy as opposed to letting him settle in with the Fuel for at least a couple of weeks. I know the Blackhawks want to keep close tabs on what they believe to be a legitimate goalie prospect. Surely, however, Delia’s progress wouldn’t be badly stunted with a three or four-week stretch with the Fuel?

 

Dauphin Injured

Forward Laurent Dauphin has missed two straight games after being helped from the ice in Thursday’s 5-3 loss to Iowa. Dauphin was injured after being sandwiched against the boards by the Wild’s Hunter Warner.

Warner had a pretty good head of steam going when he delivered the hit. Dauphin landed hard and looked to hit his head on the ice. He has not played since departing that game in Des Moines.

 

The Week That Was

Thursday, November 9-Iowa 5, Rockford 3

Three Iowa goals on the man advantage were too much for the IceHogs to overcome. Rockford lost for the third straight time despite out shooting the Wild 36-17.

The Wild built a 2-0 advantage on the power play in the first ten minutes of the opening frame. Rookie goaltender Colin Delia, making his first AHL start for Rockford, surrendered goals to Cal O’Reilly and Zack Mitchell to put the Hogs in a two-goal hole.

Luc Snuggerud halved the Iowa lead at 11:41 of the first with his first goal of the season. The shot came from the left point, glanced off of O’Reilly and made its way past Wild goalie Steve Michalek. Assisting on the play was Carl Dahlstrom and Andreas Martinsen, who provided the grunt work in the corner to dig out the puck and get things started.

Rockford pulled even with the Wild with a power play goal of its own. Martinsen again played a key part in the goal, scooping up a rebound of a Vinnie Hinostroza shot in front of the cage and finding Laurent Dauphin open at the right post. The one-timer got past Michalek at 6:46 of the second period.

The game remained tied for about five minutes before Iowa took the lead for good. A defensive breakdown in the neutral zone led to a 2-on-1 rush for the Wild. Mario Lucia took aim at Delia in the high slot and fired past Delia on the stick side. Iowa now led 3-2 at the 11:54 mark.

The Wild restored their two-goal advantage early in the third on another power play tally. Ryan Murphy wound up nailing a one-timer past Delia from the left point for a 4-2 Iowa lead at 3:37 of the third period.

Rockford closed the gap to a single goal in the 13th minute. Matthew Highmore hit Hinostroza coming across the red line. Hinostoza did the rest, skating to the left circle before some nifty moves created enough space to progress to the slot. The shot found its way into the upper left corner of Michalek’s net, making the score 4-3 with 12:40 gone in the third.

The Hogs could not pot the equalizer, despite a power play chance late in the game. Delia gave way to an extra skater to no avail; Pat Cannone scored on the empty net with 1:06 remaining to seal Rockford’s fate.

Delia’s welcome to the AHL was anything but; the former Merrimack standout stopped just 12 of 16 shots on the morning.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Vinnie Hinostroza (A)-Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson

Tomas Jurco-David Kampf-Alexandre Fortin

Anthony Louis-Tyler Sikura-William Pelletier

Matheson Iacopelli-Laurent Dauphin-Andreas Martinsen

Viktor Svedberg-Ville Pokka

Erik Gustafsson-Darren Raddysh

Carl Dahlstrom-Luc Snuggerud

Colin Delia

Scratches-Robin Norell, Graham Knott, Jeff Glass

Power Play (1-4)

Jurco-Highmore-Kampf-Gustafsson-Raddysh

Dauphin-Hinostroza-Johnson-Martinsen-Pokka

Penalty Kill (Iowa was 3-4)

Sikura-Pelletier-Svedberg-Pokka

Dauphin-Johnson-Dahlstrom-Snuggerud

Martinsen-Kampf-Gustafsson-Raddysh

 

Friday, November 10-San Antonio 6, Rockford 0

The Rampage ran roughshod over the piglets on this evening, scoring four times as the result of Rockford penalties. Three came in the opening period, which was more than enough to best the Hogs.

Starting goalie J.F. Berube’s night ended after San Antonio scored for the fifth time 12:23 into the second period. Jeff Glass came in for what amounted to 28 minutes of garbage time.

Adding insult to the defeat was Luke Johnson taking a pounding in his second period fight with Mason Geertsen of the Rampage. Johnson showed some heart taking on a bigger opponent to try and change his team’s fortunes. However, neither the bout or the game turned out well for the Rockford contingent.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Alexandre Fortin-David Kampf-Tomas Jurco

Vinnie Hinostroza-Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson (A)

Matheson Iacopelli-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Graham Knott-William Pelletier-Anthony Louis

Erik Gustafsson-Carl Dahlstrom

Viktor Svedberg-Ville Pokka (A)

Luc Snuggerud-Robin Norell

Jean-Francois Berube

Jeff Glass

Scratches-Laurent Dauphin, Darren Raddysh

Power Play (0-4)

Jurco-Iacopelli-Highmore-Kampf-Gustafsson

Knott-Sikura-Martinsen-Hinostroza-Pokka

Penalty Kill (Rampage was 4-9)

Highmore-Johnson-Norell-Svedberg

Sikura-Hinostroza-Snuggerud-Pokka

Pelletier-Jurco-Gustafsson-Dahlstrom

 

Saturday, November 11-Rockford 5, Milwaukee 2

A big third period by Vinnie Hinostroza and solid goal tending by Jeff Glass were the keys to Rockford ending a four-game losing streak on the road. The Hogs kept the game close until breaking out for a trifecta of scoring in the final 20 minutes.

Rockford had been prone to falling behind quickly in previous losses; Friday, the Hogs drew first twine. Tomas Jurco found David Kampf in front of the Milwaukee net for the lamp-lighter past Ads goalie Anders Lindback at 8:48 of the opening frame.

That lead held up until P.C. Labrie slipped behind the Hogs defense, took a stretch pass from Trevor Murphy and potted his first goal against his former team ninety seconds into the second period. The Admirals grabbed a brief 2-1 advantage on a Pontus Aberg power play strike that got under the pads of Glass at the 17:52 mark.

The IceHogs had an answer for the Admirals, however. Andreas Martinsen took a pass from Matheson Iacopelli in the high slot, firing the puck at Lindback. Lindback did not field the offering cleanly. Tyler Sikura made him pay for his clumsiness, knocking the loose puck into the Milwaukee net for the equalizer just 16 seconds after Aberg’s tally.

All even at two at the second intermission, Rockford got the game-winner 24 seconds into the final period. It came when Hinostroza put in a rebound of a Matthew Highmore shot. The IceHogs held that 3-2 advantage for almost ten minutes, unable to build on the lead despite three power play chances in that span.

Rockford was playing 4-on-4 with the Admirals when Hinostroza struck again. Scooping up a Milwaukee turnover, the speedy forward streaked to the net, slowed up to size up the goalie, and flung home some insurance over Lindback’s glove at 10:55.

About five minutes later, Johnson got in on the fun, taking a long feed from Raddysh near the red line and progressing unencumbered to the Milwaukee doorstep. Lindback guessed wrong, Johnson’s backhander stuck cord, and the IceHogs had a 5-2 lead at the 15:49 mark.

Hinostroza, not surprisingly, was the game’s first star. Lindback got enough press box support for third star honors, though it was Glass who stopped 23 of 25 shots and kept the puck out of the Rockford net in some dicey moments in the final ten minutes.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Vinnie Hinostroza-Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson (A)

Alexandre Fortin-David Kampf-Tomas Jurco

Matheson Iacopelli-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Graham Knott-William Pelletier

Erik Gustafsson-Carl Dahlstrom

Viktor Svedberg-Ville Pokka (A)

Luc Snuggerud-Robin Norell

Darren Raddysh

Jeff Glass

Scratches-Laurent Dauphin, Anthony Louis

Power Play (0-3)

Iacopelli-Hinostroza-Highmore-Johnson-Pokka

Jurco-Kampf-Martinsen-Gustafsson-Raddysh

Penalty Kill (Admirals were 1-3)

Highmore-Johnson-Norell-Svedberg

Sikura-Hinostroza-Snuggerud-Pokka

Pelletier-Jurco-Gustafsson-Dahlstrom

 

Previewing Next Week

The IceHogs are at home for their next five games against the bottom three teams in the Central Division. Don’t let that fool you; each of these contests will be hard fought.

This week’s action gets underway Wednesday morning when Iowa pays a visit to the BMO Harris Bank Center. It’s a school day game, scheduled every year so that children from the Rockford area can scream continuously for a couple of hours without fear of detention.

The Wild don’t match up will the team speed of Rockford, but that didn’t stop Iowa from beating them this past Thursday. The Hogs typically swarm the Iowa net with shots; the key will be getting those shots to fall. The Wild will return to the BMO November 22 and 24, meaning that three of Rockford’s next five games will be against Minnesota’s AHL affiliate.

On Saturday night, Grand Rapids comes to town for the third time this season. Rockford bested the Griffins in a shootout back on October 20, then rallied from a two-goal deficit with three power play goals for a 4-3 win October 28.

Rockford’s interstate rivalry with the Chicago Wolves begins Sunday, when the two teams begin the hunt for the Illinois Lottery Cup. This grail-like plastic and wooden trophy goes to the Illinois team who has the most points after the dozen head-to-head matchups this season.

The Wolves are 4-7-1 as of Monday morning but are the current holders of the ILC, having beaten the IceHogs in eight of those twelve meetings in 2016-17. Their roster is full of familiar faces, headed up by AHL point machine Teemu Pulkkinen. He, along with former Hawks prospect Brandon Pirri, has topped the league in scoring in his career and has a boatload of goals against the IceHogs

The Wolves also boast potent AHL scorers like Wade Megan and T.J. Tynan and veteran Brett Sterling. Defenseman Jason Garrison has been loaned out to the Wolves from Las Vegas since the end of October.

These Rockford-Chicago affairs are usually pretty rough-and-tumble. Seven of the IceHogs 39 fighting majors (18 percent) came against the Wolves. Come to think of it, Rockford had seven FM’s with Grand Rapids last year and six more with Iowa, for what it’s worth.

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

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

 

The Rockford IceHogs won three of four games this past week, winning three in a row for just the third time this season. The Hogs also got the overtime monkey off their backs.

Rockford won in overtime for the first time this year in Milwaukee Friday night, then prevailed in a shootout the next evening over San Antonio at the BMO. In all, the IceHogs played five straight games that went past regulation before Sunday’s win over the Admirals.

A couple of Hogs have been stepping up as the team snapped an eight-game losing streak this weekend. Let’s take a look at some of the players who made an impact.

Everything Else

For the Rockford IceHogs, the All-Star break could not come at a better time. I guess it could come in the middle of a winning streak, but that hasn’t happened much during the 2016-17 campaign.

The Hogs are next in action this Friday and have plenty to ponder this week. Rockford hits the break losers of its last five games. The IceHogs dropped all three games this past week. In doing so, they were out scored 14-5, including 8-0 in the third period.

With a .400 points percentage that is the worst in the league, visions of playoff hockey at the BMO this spring is a delusion of grandeur. What players may be thinking in the coming weeks likely centers on where they will be when the season ends.

It would stun me if the roster remains intact through the NHL and AHL trade deadlines. Who might be on their way out? In my opinion, don’t mark anyone as 100 percent safe. Well…nearly anyone.

Everything Else

For the Rockford IceHogs, the All-Star break could not come at a better time. I guess it could come in the middle of a winning streak, but that hasn’t happened much during the 2016-17 campaign.

The Hogs are next in action this Friday and have plenty to ponder this week. Rockford hits the break losers of its last five games. The IceHogs dropped all three games this past week. In doing so, they were out scored 14-5, including 8-0 in the third period.

With a .400 points percentage that is the worst in the league, visions of playoff hockey at the BMO this spring is a delusion of grandeur. What players may be thinking in the coming weeks likely centers on where they will be when the season ends.

It would stun me if the roster remains intact through the NHL and AHL trade deadlines. Who might be on their way out? In my opinion, don’t mark anyone as 100 percent safe. Well…nearly anyone.

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs season is bottoming out in December. The Hawks AHL affiliate set a franchise record Saturday night when they lost for the ninth-straight time. The Hogs last won back on November 19.

I could continue to pile on the state of the club, but I’m sounding like a broken record. Things will pick up. After all, it’s the holiday season, right?

In that spirit, let’s focus on some positives. They’re out there if you’re willing to look…right?

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs have put in a lot of travel miles on the road this season. What’s two thousand more this week?

After dropping two of three games this past week, Rockford is embarking on its last road trip of the regular season. For their sake, I hope their mode of travel will be airplane. This is a frustrated bunch of Hogs. I’d hate to think of Ted Dent threatening to turn the bus around.

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs opened this past week with a tough stretch of games in Texas ahead of them. With three of those four contests in the books, a four-game Lone Star sweep is within the reach of the IceHogs.

In what may be its most impressive stretch of the season, Rockford posted 15 goals in three victories. After winning a track meet against the Texas Stars Wednesday, the Hogs scored two wins over the San Antonio Rampage over the weekend. Rockford improved its season mark to 15-5-1-2 and sit at the top of the Central Division.

With several of last year’s leading scorers on the shelf, Rockford looked to be in need of some offensive punch against some good offensive teams.

Who provided a good portion of that punch? The above picture should spill the beans.