Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs end a six-game home stand this weekend against the San Antonio Rampage. Rockford has been trying to get its arrow pointed up for some time. A nice win over Texas on Tuesday night has the team entering Friday’s action on the positive tip.

The IceHogs posted a 5-2 victory against the Stars, with goals from Dylan Sikura, John Quenneville, Gabriel Gagne, Brandon Hagel and Dennis Gilbert. Collin Delia fended off 35 shots to help get Rockford a much-needed win.

Hagel continues to be the standout rookie on the IceHogs this season. His 17 goals lead the club and places him in a tie for fourth among freshmen goal scorers. With 25 points on the season, Hagel is 15th among rookies.

Sikura the Younger’s tally was his twelfth of the campaign, tying him with brother Tyler for second place in team scoring. Sikura the Elder leads Rockford with 29 points (12 G, 17 A).

 

Roster News

Dylan Sikura did leave Tuesday’s game in the second period. However, Jacob Nilsson was back in action after a kneeing incident last Friday. Nick Moutrey did not skate on Tuesday after being injured last weekend.

The IceHogs released Peter Quenneville from his tryout contract this week, signing veteran skater Garrett Mitchell to a PTO on Thursday. Mitchell was a long-time member of the AHL’s Hershey Bears, though he has been primarily an ECHL player this season. Rockford also sent D Jack Ramsey back to the ECHL’s Indy Fuel Thursday.

 

Bringing Brandon Bollig Back To The BMO

Former IceHogs forward Brandon Bollig will be at the puck-dropping ceremony at the BMO Harris Bank Center Friday night. Bollig spent parts of three seasons with the IceHogs. He is second all-time to Jake Dowell on Rockford’s AHL leader board with 44 fighting majors.

Bollig was an undrafted free agent who wound up playing five NHL seasons and winning a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2013. I’ll remember Bollig for the ecstatic grin he wore as he hammered away at an opponent. Which he would do regularly.

This year’s IceHogs team, by the way, is up to 18 fighting majors heading into the weekend. At this pace, this will be the feistiest Rockford teams in several seasons. Joseph Cramarossa leads the Hogs in this category with five scraps, while Dmitri Osipov has dropped the gloves four times.

 

Rampage On The Road (To Vegas)

Visiting San Antonio, in the midst of a ten-game road jaunt, was purchased by the Vegas Golden Knights for the purpose of moving the franchise to Nevada this fall. The Rampage sit right below the Hogs in the seventh spot in the Central Division as they pull into the BMO for games on Friday and Saturday.

Rockford is 2-1 against San Antonio this season. They last saw the Rampage in Texas back in November, when they split the last two games of their Lone Star swing.

San Antonio was shut out by Iowa Wednesday night. Like Rockford, the Rampage have struggled of late, having just three wins in their last ten games. San Antonio leads the league with 33.30 shots per game Though they have had trouble getting those shots into the net, this could be a factor this weekend since the IceHogs have been giving up a lot of shots themselves.

Defenseman Derrick Pouliot paces San Antonio with 32 points (6 G, 26 A). Two of those goals have come against Rockford. The Rampage have two 18-goal scorers in Nathan Walker and Mike Vecchione.

Ville Husso has had the bulk of the workload in the San Antonio net. Husso is 11-13-8 this season with a 2.94 GAA and an .898 save percentage. Rockford may also see Adam Wilcox (5-6-3, 2.92, .881) between the pipes this weekend.

Follow me on twitter @JonFromi for my thoughts on the scene in Rockford throughout the season.

 

 

 

 

Hockey

It was another disappointing weekend for the Rockford IceHogs. Rockford’s current losing streak reached six games with home losses to Manitoba and Milwaukee.

The Hogs managed a point against the Moose before falling 4-3 in a shootout Friday. The following evening, the Admirals cleaned Rockford’s clock, scoring the game’s first three goals before cruising to a 7-1 rout of the IceHogs.

Rockford, now 20-24-1-2, is in the midst of a stone-like decent into the depths of the AHL’s Central Division. The IceHogs sit in seventh place, just a point above Manitoba with a game in hand on the Moose.

As I prepared to dig into the week that was for Rockford, I took a quick scan of the Facebook group of IceHogs season ticket holders. It isn’t surprising to see a lot of angst in the tone of the comments; not with Rockford owning a 3-15-1-1 record over the last six weeks of play.

Several theories were being tossed out over the weekend. Most involved leveling blame at Hogs coach Derek King. To paraphrase the sentiments, King doesn’t coach the players during the game. King isn’t utilizing the wealth of talent in Rockford. King isn’t developing the players. King should be fired.

Usually, when I run across comments I don’t necessarily agree with, I just move on with my life. On rare occasions, when I disagree strongly enough, I will post my thoughts. Yesterday was one of those occasions.

What follows is the post I created in response to the torch and pitchfork set that seem to be ignoring the makeup of the current roster and calling for the head of King on a platter. As the topic of the IceHogs woes was basically what I had planned to discuss here this week, I’ve elaborated on the original post via italics.

 

My Facebook Post-Sunday, February 2, 10:45 a.m.

Don’t often post on here, but here goes…

I’m as frustrated at the current state of the IceHogs as the next fan. That said, a lot of that frustration is being channeled away from the main issues with this team.

Rockford was set up this fall with very inexperienced skaters. Ones with potential, but nearly completely untested in the professional ranks. This group was not supplemented with veteran talent to speak of. A healthy Versteeg wasn’t going to be enough.

This was an issue of concern throughout the summer when the Hawks organization left the cupboard bare in terms of stocking the Hogs with a few solid veterans.

The Hogs showed decent chemistry early and were winning at a pretty impressive rate. Then several top scorers were recalled. Other top scorers were injured. Add more injuries and a slew of games with the league studs and this is the result.

Rockford has been defeated by Milwaukee six times in the last three weeks. 

How would the roster of mid-November have fared with the Ads? Would have been fun to watch, but that hasn’t been possible. The depleted roster currently on hand has been fairly whipped.

That Milwaukee roster, btw, is the polar opposite of Rockford’s. Lots of experienced players with 4-5 years of AHL experience sprinkled in with some impressive youngsters. Stick tap for what that group has done so far this season. I think I gushed enough about the Admirals in last week’s post

The only remedy for the Hogs even hoping to reach a level we saw earlier this year is:

A. Getting completely healthy (Wedin, Nilsson, Kurashev, etc.) Nilsson was injured Friday night, along with Nick Moutrey, continuing the theme of players missing in action this season. Also missing for a lengthy stretch are Mikael Hakkarainen and AHL signing Matthew Thompson.

B. The Blackhawks obtaining 2-3 AHL veterans to bolster this lineup in trades (don’t hold your breath).

C. Derek King breaking multiple clipboards and screaming incessantly at the rookies and ECHL call-ups.

Hold up. “C” isn’t going to do a darn thing. Neither will firing King. Or any of the other coaches/team staff. Or imploring the piglets to try harder.

This isn’t Derek King’s fault. It’s his mess with which to deal, but he certainly did not create said mess. The Hogs organization has been scrambling to bring in pieces, but it’s hard for the AHL contracts to collectively raise Rockford’s fortunes.

The talent the fire-King contingent point to has been hurt or called up. Guys like Tyler Sikura and Brandon Hagel have been playing well, but all the emergency call-ups have left the Hogs coach with a slew of new faces that have been thrown into the mix. It stands to reason that such a group would have trouble meshing on the ice.

All we can do as fans is hope things get straightened out in terms of team health and that the Hogs can start winning games again. I know most of you follow the roster movements. This is extreme, but typical of an AHL season as far as players going in and out of the lineup.

Again, frustrating as all get out; unfortunately, that where the IceHogs are heading into the last three months of the season.

 

Looking Back At A Couple Of Trades

Earlier this season, the Blackhawks sent forward Aleksi Saarela to the Florida Panthers in exchange for defensemen Ian McCoshen. At the time, Rockford was bursting with forwards and needed some help stabilizing the back end.

Since the deal occurred October 23, Saarela has logged 38 games with Springfield, with 26 points (11 G, 15 A).  Those numbers would be good enough for second among IceHogs scorers this season. Tyler Sikura leads the club with 28 points (12 G, 16 A).

McCoshen has been a constant on the Rockford blueline, but hasn’t been particularly impressive in his 40 games with the IceHogs. He has six assists for Rockford this season.

Another player obtained by trade for the IceHogs was F Joseph Cramarossa, who arrived in exchange for Graham Knott back on November 20 in a trade between Chicago and Pittsburg. Cramarossa isn’t a prolific scorer by any means, but has chipped in with three goals and six helpers in his 32 games for Rockford.

Knott is scoreless in three games with Pittsburg’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He has played 13 games for the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers with two goals and five assists.

 

Roster Moves

Dennis Gilbert was recalled by Chicago on Wednesday last week. In the corresponding move, Rockford brought up D Jack Ramsey from the Indy Fuel. Ramsey did not play in either game for the Hogs this weekend.

On Saturday, the IceHogs recalled F Dylan Coughlin from the Fuel after Jacob Nilsson and Nick Moutrey left Friday’s game with injuries.

 

This Week

Rockford holds court at the BMO Harris Bank Center this week, hosting the Texas Stars on Tuesday night. Texas has won seven of its last ten and beat the IceHogs 1-0 in the last meeting between the two teams on January 22. The piglets will wrap up the home stand this weekend, with games with San Antonio on Friday and Saturday.

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