Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs are coming off three straight losses to a Milwaukee club that was teetering on the edge of the playoff hunt. As a result, the Hogs can take a simple approach to their final eight games of the regular season.

Win.

Adrian Balboa I’m not, but Rockford would do well to follow that edict. The IceHogs host the top two teams in the Central Division this weekend in Grand Rapids and Chicago. That tall order is followed up by crucial tilts involving two of the three teams currently scrapping with Rockford for the division’s final playoff spot.

The Hogs fared a bit better in Wednesday’s game with the Admirals, though Milwaukee still posted a 4-2 victory. Chad Krys had a solid pro debut for the piglets, creating a scoring opportunity after picking off an Ads clearing attempt and sending a nice drop pass to Anthony Louis in the third period. Louis’s goal tied the score at two, though the Admirals would prevail.

Along with Krys, Rockford also saw Jacob Nilsson and Nick Moutrey return to action. That’s encouraging heading into two must-win contests with the cream of the division coming to the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Rockford needs at least a split against the Griffins Saturday night and Wolves Sunday afternoon to keep up with the neighbors. It’s nearly a dead heat for fourth place. Texas and Milwaukee each have 73 points, with the Hogs and Manitoba each boasting 72. The Moose and Admirals share a .537 points percentage compared to the Stars and Rockford, who both are at the .529 mark.

 

Four Schedules…Four Destinies

The IceHogs have a decent measure of control as far as reaching the postseason. Rockford has two games remaining against Texas and Milwaukee before the regular season ends.

The Stars finish their schedule with three games against last-place San Antonio. Before that, they visit Iowa this weekend for a pair and host the IceHogs for a back-to-back next weekend.

Manitoba has four of its last nine games against the Rampage (two games) and Pacific cellar-dwellers Stockton (two games). On the other hand, the other five are with Bakersfield (two), Grand Rapids and Chicago (two), the best three teams in the Western Conference.

Aside from their two games remaining with the Hogs, Milwaukee has two games left with the Wolves, a pair with Grand Rapids and one each with Iowa and San Antonio. Five of the Admirals last eight games are at home, while each of the other three teams have four home dates left.

Rockford closes the season with four straight road contests (two in Texas, Milwaukee and Iowa) before the regular season finale against the Ads April 14. That game could well decide the fate of the Hogs, provided Rockford doesn’t continue to wobble down the stretch.

 

Roster Moves

Krys, who signed his entry contract with the Blackhawks last week, signed a PTO with the IceHogs on Monday. He’ll probably be a mainstay in the lineup until the season concludes. On Wednesday, Rockford sent defenseman Josh McArdle to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL, along with forward Spencer Watson. Defenseman Dmitri Osipov was released from his PTO the same day.

You could speculate that either of the veteran blueliners, Andrew Campbell and Brandon Davidson, are ready to skate this weekend. Otherwise, Rockford just has six defensemen available. Dennis Gilbert left the ice after a big hit Wednesday but returned to action shortly thereafter.

Forwards Terry Broadhust and Matthew Highmore are nearing returns but probably won’t be on the ice this weekend. Luke Johnson did not skate on Wednesday, missing his second straight game after an injury last Friday in Milwaukee.

Follow me @JonFromi for updates on this weekend’s action as well as thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the rest of the 2018-19 campaign.

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, like their parent organization, are currently riding a four-game winning streak. The Blackhawks AHL affiliate put together a pair of victories over the weekend; the current streak is the longest of the 2018-19 campaign for the Hogs.

Following Saturday’s overtime win in Milwaukee, Rockford has six straight games at the BMO Harris Bank Center over the next two weeks. The IceHogs have been much better in their own building this season, with a .568 home points percentage versus a .481 mark on the road. If there is an opportune time to make a push up the Central Division standings, it is now.

At press time, Rockford (21-19-3-5) is in seventh place in the division standings with a .521 points percentage. The Hogs sit right behind San Antonio (.522) and are withing striking distance of Texas and Milwaukee, who occupies the fourth playoff spot in the Central.

 

Roster Activity

On Tuesday, forward Brett Welychka was recalled from the Indy Fuel. Welychka, whose last game in Rockford was November 20, skated for the Hogs in Milwaukee Saturday night.

A bigger move was make on Wednesday, with defenseman Henri Jokiharju coming to Rockford from the Blackhawks. The 19-year-old rookie was very noticable over the weekend. Jokiharju picked up his first goal twelve minutes into his Hogs debut Friday, then led Rockford with nine shots on goal against the Admirals Saturday.

Jokiharju’s arrival comes at a good time. Joni Tuulola has been out of the lineup the last few weeks. Luc Snuggerud hasn’t played for almost three months. Brandon Davidson last played on January 21. Blake Hillman took a nasty fall into the boards Friday night. The team has indicated that Hillman, who did not skate Saturday, wasn’t seriously hurt.

That’s good news, but the fact is that the blueline is still banged up. Rockford can benefit from a talented puck-mover like Jokiharju as they try and pick up points in the coming weeks.

 

Hogs Of Note

William Pelletier had goals in both wins this weekend. In 16 games since returning from offseason surgery, the 5’7” forward has four goals and four assists. He’s also a plus-seven in those games.

Terry Broadhurst has a five-game point streak going and chipped in with a pair of helpers in Friday’s win. He also assisted on Pelletier’s goal on Saturday night.

Rookie Lucas Carlsson was paired with Jokiharju on Friday to form what could be an exciting duo in the coming weeks. Carlsson has points in his last four games. In his last four contests, Luke Johnson has four points (2 G, 2 A).

Until the roster is changed through trade or assignments by the Blackhawks, Rockford needs contributions throughout the lineup. The Hogs have managed to put together some solid team efforts in the course of the four-game winning streak.

Recaps

Friday, February 1-Rockford 5, Chicago 2

The IceHogs matched a season high in picking up their third win in a row. A trio of second-period goals paved the way for the victory in this Illinois Lottery Cup tilt.

Chicago’s Daniel Carr got the Wolves on the board 3:13 into the contest with his 22nd goal of the season. That lead survived until the 12:30 mark, when Henri Jokiharju drew cord for his first North American professional goal.

Jordan Schroeder fed Jokiharju for an initial attempt from the right point. That shot did not get through, striking Jacob Nilsson and coming back out to the rookie defenseman. The second offering got by Wolves goalie Oscar Dansk and into the net.

Rockford took a 2-1 advantage on an Alexandre Fortin goal 2:54 into the second period, then doubled that lead a few minutes later. William Pelletier got open in the slot and punched Terry Broadhurst’s centering pass off the right post and into the cage at the 6:19 mark.

In the 12th minute, Viktor Ejdsell got control of a loose puck in the Wolves zone, skated to the slot and sent an attempt off the pads of Dansk. Ejdsell gathered in his own rebound and sent a successful shot past Dansk to make it 4-1 Rockford. At that point, Dansk gave way to backup Zach Fucale.

Chicago got a power play goal from Gage Quinney late in the period, but that was as close as the game got. Fortin added his second goal of the evening with an empty netter in the final minute.

Rockford defenseman Blake Hillman took a head-first spill behind the boards in the first period and was taken from the ice to the locker room. The Hogs played with five defensemen the rest of the way.

 

Saturday, February 2-Rockford 3, Milwaukee 2 (OT)

For over 40 minutes, the game was a scoreless affair, something that has been typical of the action with Milwaukee this season. The Hogs let a two-goal lead slip away in the third period but regrouped to post a fourth-straight victory.

The first goal of the contest came 2:40 into the third period. Andreas Martinsen hauled in a pass from Darren Raddysh behind the Ads net. Martinsen powered to the front of the net before he lost the handle on the puck. Dylan Sikura was on hand to throw the biscuit past Milwaukee goalie Troy Groesnick for the lead.

Rockford went up 2-0 midway through the final frame on a bit of good fortune. Alexandre Fortin hustled to negate an icing call on the Hogs, then slid the puck behind the Admirals net. Terry Broadhurst sent it to the left circle; Lucas Carlsson got a stick on it before William Pelletier got control. The subsequent backhand centering attempt glanced off of the skate of Milwaukee’s Scott Savage and past Grosenick at 12:18 of the third.

The Ads had plenty of fight left, rallying to tie the game with late goals by Eeli Tolvanen and Yakov Trenin, who redirected a Vince Perdie blast between the pads of Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg with 43 seconds left in regulation.

Rockford had the last say in this one. In Gus Macker Time, Jordan Schroeder brought the puck into the Milwaukee zone and was able to wait for his fellow Hogs to get into position. Schroeder hit Raddysh coming into the right slot. Raddysh lifted a shot over Grosenick’s glove to end the contest in favor of the IceHogs.

 

Coming Up

The IceHogs have a couple of non-divisional opponents visiting the BMO this week. First up is Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, who comes a-calling on Wednesday night. Tucson arrives for a two-game weekend set Friday and Saturday.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my Hogs-related musings throughout the season.

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

Like many of you, weather and work kept me away from the BMO this weekend. I pledged to pack in an hour of Hogs-related musings. The clock starts…now.

First off, the kids down in Rockford put together a gritty weekend at home and came out with a pair of victories. Friday night, the IceHogs tied the game with a Jordan Schroeder goal with three seconds in regulation, completing a comeback from two goals down in the final two minutes with a 4-3 shootout win over Manitoba.

On Saturday, Rockford hosted Iowa. The Hogs got enough rubber past Kaapo Kahkonen knock off the Wild 3-1. The game-winner came off the stick of Terry Broadhurst early in the third period. First star of that game was Anton Forsberg, who stopped 33 of 34 Iowa shots.

So…for the sixth time this season, the IceHogs have a two-game win streak. Plus, Rockford joined the rest of the AHL on the 100-goal plateau this season, though those 105 goals are still last in the league.

Just once in the 2018-19 campaign has Rockford stretched a streak to three games. Conversely, the piglets have compiled losing streaks of six (twice) and four games. Rockford (19-19-3-5) shares the Central Division basement with the Moose. Both teams sport a .500 points percentage.

Can the IceHogs parlay a pair of home wins into some sort of climb up the division ladder? I just don’t know. As was the case at this point last year, the piglets were not a playoff-level squad. A lot of things had to change on the personnel side in February of 2018 to transform the roster into the juggernaut that reached the conference final.

As of this morning, this is not a roster that’s going to be competing for a postseason berth. Prove me wrong, boys.

Are there additions from the Hawks roster that could make a difference in the next couple of months? Not unless you think Gustav Forsling can come down and have the impact Cody Franson had in Rockford the last three months of last season. Which I don’t.

Even with some tinkering from above, the hole may be just a bit too deep for the Hogs to vacate. Like last year, the prospect talent alone isn’t close to being able to go on an extended tear through the league. Now, Rockford is two games into a stretch of nine home dates in a span of ten games. If this team has anything resembling a hot patch in it, now would be a great time to display that fire.

Broken record, but the goalies have really been good. Kevin Lankinen and Anton Forsberg have been splitting the work in net and the Swedish Connection continue to stand out despite some less than optimal goal support.

A quick look at this weekend’s AHL All-Star Classic puts things into perspective. With goalie Collin Delia in Chicago, the only representative is Western Conference captain Andrew Campbell.  The veteran defenseman was not selected for his play on the ice.

Anthony Louis is the team’s leading scorer with 27 points (10 G, 17 A). He’s on his way to a similar showing to last season’s 44-point effort. Dylan Sikura leads the team with 12 goals to go with a dozen assists. Jacob Nilsson picked up his 11th goal this weekend, while Louis and Jordan Schroeder each have ten.

Rookie defenseman Lucas Carlsson has been a bright spot, with seven goals and 15 helpers. Darren Raddysh has identical numbers, though he had just a single point in his last 12 games.

Alexandre Fortin assisted on Broadhurst’s game-winner Saturday. The trouble is that was his first point in a month. As was the case last year, Fortin hasn’t made an impact on the scoreboard, with just six points (2 G, 4 A) in 21 games.

Well…the sands are running out on me this week. Rockford hosts the Wolves this Friday, then visit Milwaukee Saturday. With two wins to close out the month, perhaps February is more hospitable to the IceHogs.

Follow me @JonFromi for tidbits on the Hogs throughout the season.

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs have 34 games behind them this season. They currently sit in sixth place in the AHL’s Central Division with a 15-12-3-4 mark, good for a .544 points percentage. Truth be told, this year’s Hogs are faring about as well as they did a season ago.

Yes, before the roster was bolstered with veteran talent in the last three months, it was a young, inexperienced group that was in a similar position at this time of the 2017-18 campaign. Through 34 games, that club was 18-14-1-1 for a .558. That’s about the difference of a standings point for those of you who don’t want to do the math.

The glaring difference in this year’s and last year’s club is the offensive numbers. The IceHogs of a season ago scored at nearly a goal per game better than this year’s crop of piglets. In 2017-18, Rockford had 105 goals scored and 101 goals allowed at this point of the season. This year, the Hogs have drawn cord 78 times while surrendering 98 goals.

Even with the Wolves putting together a 10-0-1 streak this month, the Central Division is pretty closely contested. No one has run away with the division yet. Last season, several teams put together hot stretches of hockey that had them moving up and down the division ladder. It stands to reason that the playoff spots are all up for the taking come spring.

For that to happen, Rockford is going to have to be better in the opposing zone. The IceHogs do not have a player in the top 20 scorers of the league. That’s a huge understatement, actually. Defenseman Darren Raddysh, Rockford’s top point man with 21, is currently tied for 85th in the AHL in that category.

Last season, the IceHogs were shut out just once. So far, Rockford has been already been blanked on four occasions. The lack of scoring punch is being felt all over the lineup

The Hogs potted three goals in three games this week, squeezing a point on Saturday because of a strong performance from goalie Kevin Lankinen. At 2.29 goals per game, they occupy the league basement. Like Saturday’s overtime loss, what’s keeping Rockford in contention this season is the play in the crease.

There is rarely elite scoring on the Hogs roster from year to year. Most seasons, they’ve put up points by committee. This season, Rockford again lacks top-end scoring power…and the committee has been out to lunch.

Matthew Highmore, last year’s high goal scorer, has missed all but seven games with a shoulder injury. Tyler Sikura, who put up 23 goals a season ago, has just six so far. Vikor Ejdsell is currently out with a groin injury and has just four goals in 27 games.

Jordan Schroeder has 18 points (7 G, 11 A) on the season and is putting up numbers that measure up to his past output in the AHL. However, he is a complimentary scorer. Veteran Terry Broadhurst (2 G, 4 A) hasn’t been productive from a scoring standpoint, but, like Schroeder, he isn’t a guy who should be pacing your club.

There are bright spots. Raddysh has stepped up his game in his sophomore campaign, with seven goals and 14 helpers. Rookie Lucas Carlsson (6 G, 10 A) has also come on in the last few weeks in response to increased responsibility on the blue line.

Jacob Nilsson (7 G, 8 A), who was up for one game with the Blackhawks, has five goals this month. Nilsson isn’t going to lead this team to offensive respectability single-handed. Several players need to bring more to the table. Here are but a few:

Graham Knott (2 G, 6 A in 32 games)-If this kid could find the net on the opportunities he’s had, it certainly would help. Knott has had some top-six time at center and has put himself in places to score at times. He just hasn’t shown any knack for getting a puck past a goalie in his season-plus in Rockford.

Alexandre Fortin (2 G, 3 A in 10 games)-Fortin seems to be a bit more under control after a spell in Chicago. He’s now getting top-line minutes and power play time with the Hogs. Now would be a good time for him to go on a points explosion.

William Pelletier (0 G, 2 A in five games)-Recently returned from offseason surgery, Pelletier is a player who can be used throughout the lineup. He’s capable of chipping in on the offensive end; hopefully he’ll start making a dent as he gets more games under his belt.

You can also toss Sikura and Broadhurst onto that heap. Unless the organization swings a trade that brings a blue-chip AHL goal scorer to town (not counting on it), Rockford is going to have to pick it up throughout the lineup.

 

Roster Bits

On Friday, Jacob Nilsson was sent back to Rockford by the Blackhawks. He played in both weekend games against Chicago. Defenseman Dennis Gilbert suffered a lower body injury in Wednesday’s loss in Iowa. He did not suit up for either game this weekend.

Following Sunday’s trade with Edmonton, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a player assigned to Rockford from the current Hawks roster. If Garrison, who had 28 points (8 G, 20 A) in 58 games with the Wolves last season, gets through waivers, his shot would be a welcome pickup for the IceHogs.

 

Recaps

No lines this week.

Wednesday, December 26-Iowa 4, Rockford 0

This Boxing Day effort was nothing to write home about. The Hogs went to DesMoines and got shut out by Kaapo Kahkanen. The rookie goalie stopped 39 Rockford shots to continue his impressive season.

The IceHogs out shot Iowa 15-3 in the opening period, though neither team scored. The Wild took a 1-0 lead 3:11 into the second period on a Matt Bartkowski snipe. A defensive zone turnover led to a Gerry Fitzgerald goal at the 14:41 mark put the Hogs down a pair.

A Will Bitten tip-in made it 3-0 1:25 into the final frame and pretty much sealed the fate of Rockford. Hogs coach Derek King yanked starting goalie Kevin Lankinen for an extra skater with 3:17 remaining to try and foil the shutout bid, but Matt Read intercepted a pass and threw in an empty netter to close out the scoring.

Rockford denied three Wild power plays but failed to convert on four of its own man advantage opportunities.

 

Friday, December 28-Chicago 4, Rockford 2

Rockford dropped its second straight game despite leading twice in this game. Curtis McKenzie’s two goal effort provided the winning margin at the BMO Friday night.

After skating to the tune of no goals for most of the opening period, the teams traded goals in the latter part of the frame.

Jordan Schroeder got Rockford up 1-0 at the 15:26 mark. Schroeder got to a rebound off a Darren Raddysh shot at the right post, knocking his attempt through Wolves goalie Oscar Dansk and just across the goal line. Moments later, Chicago responded with a Curtis McKenzie goal. The teams went to the first intermission all even.

Lucas Carlsson was set up by Graham Knott early in the second period to give the Hogs a 2-1 lead. At the seven minute mark, the Wolves Keegan Kolesar potted the equalizer. After a delay of game penalty on Rockford, McKenzie drew cord on the power play for his second goal of the contest. His back hand attempt slipped under the stick arm of Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg at 11:24 to give Chicago a 3-2 advantage.

Late in the second period, the Wovles man advantage struck again. Dylan Coughlin sent a hard slap shot from the slot that skidded past Forsberg for a 4-2 Chicago lead with 14 seconds to play in the period.

The IceHogs made a push to get back into the contest but found the post uncooperative on numerous occasions in the third period. The Wolves couldn’t score, but didn’t need to.

Chicago won the special teams battle, converting twice in six chances. The IceHogs came up empty on four power play attempts.

 

Saturday, December 29-Chicago 2, Rockford 1 (OT)

The Hogs salvaged a point in Rosemont solely on the strength of Kevin Lankinen’s performance on the evening. The rookie goalie stopped 43 shots and weathered a first-period assault by the Wolves to keep his team in the game.

Chicago came out smoking; Lankinen fended off 25 of the 26 shots the Wolves sent at him in the opening frame. Brooks Macek capped an extended scrum in front of the crease by knocking in his 17th of the season at the 14:18 mark, giving Chicago a 1-0 lead that they would hold through the bulk of regulation.

Rockford managed to play a more competitive game after the first intermission. However, they wouldn’t come up with the equalizer until the waning minutes. Stefan Matteau provided the opportunity after throwing an elbow at the IceHogs Blake Hillman.

Nathan Noel and Curtis McKenzie were already in the bin of sin for an earlier altercation. As they exited the box, Jordan Schroeder faked the shotand hit Jacob Nilsson at the goal line with a pass. Nilsson got Wolves goalie Max Lagace to bite on a fake, scooted around the cage and beat Max Lagace to the right post. Nilsson’s wrap-around made it 1-1 with 3:25 remaining.

An IceHogs infraction would set up the Chicago game-winner. Rockford was called for too many men on the ice three minutes into Gus Macker Time. The Hogs got caught in a partial change and Macek set up McKenzie in front of the net. Lankinen stopped the point-blank chance, but Dylan Coughlin followed up on the rebound, backhanding the puck though Lankinen’s pads and across the goal line at 3:55 of overtime.

Both teams scored once on the power play; Rockford was one of four, while the Wolves were one for six.

 

This Week

The IceHogs will be in Grand Rapids Monday night to close out the 2018 portion of the schedule. Starting Wednesday, the Hogs will don their white sweaters at the BMO. First home date of the new year is with Milwaukee. Friday, Rockford travels to Iowa before hosting the Wild on Sunday afternoon.

 

Everything Else

Entering Friday’s game in Grand Rapids, the Rockford IceHogs are staring at three consecutive games this weekend. The piglets, who have already been struggling, will be missing their leading scorer, along with their most capable defender.

Dylan Sikura (9 G, 9 A) and Carl Dahlstrom were recalled this week to the Chicago Blackhawks, leaving several players behind that will need to pick up the slack. One of those players could be Alexandre Fortin, who was assigned to Rockford after spending the first couple of months with Chicago.

Provided no other team makes a claim, defenseman Jan Rutta may also be with the IceHogs in time to take part in this weekend’s action. How much impact Fortin and Rutta could have in Rockford remains to be seen. However, there are several players currently on the Hogs roster who would do well to step up. Time to name names…

 

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Tyler Sikura (5 G, 5 A)

Over his last ten games, Sikura the Elder has just one goal and one assist. He has been as active around the net as any of the Hogs have been in that time, but it hasn’t shown up on the scoreboard.

Anthony Louis (8 G, 5 A)

Last year’s points leader is scoreless in four December contests heading into Friday. His last goal came on November 23 in a loss to the Wolves.

Jordan Schroeder (4 G, 7 A)

Since returning from an injury that kept him out for a couple of weeks back in November, Schroeder has just one goal in ten contests. His other three goals this season have come off the power play, which has been a little quiet the last month.

Viktor Ejdsell (4 G, 7 A)

Ejdsell has a goal and five helpers in 16 games in November and December. He’s also carrying a minus-three skater rating in that span.

Darren Raddysh (5 G, 10 A)

In his last 11 games, Raddysh has a goal and two asssists.

Terry Broadhurst (2 G, 4 A)

Like Louis, Broadhurst is pointless in December. In his defense, he’s recently returned from injury. However, the Hogs thirst for veteran scoring and Broadhurst is one of the players who can help in this area.

Rockford’s best players are not producing on the scoreboard. That has to change soon. If each of the above players could get on the score sheet this weekend, I like the IceHogs chances for a couple of wins.

 

Who Could Provide Some Jump To The Lineup?

Well, Fortin brings speed. He had trouble hitting twine last season; perhaps he’ll come down from the NHL and contribute on the offensive end. It appears that William Pelletier could be ready to get his season started soon. He might be able to provide a spark.

You know what? If Graham Knott could convert on his scoring chances, you could see a scoring outburst out of him. He’s put himself in some high-percentage opportunities but just lacked the power to finish. Maybe it takes that one shot that gets past a goalie to open some sort of flood gate.

 

Statistics Of Note

With strong goal-tending this season, it should come as no surprise that the IceHogs are quite adept at killing penalties. Their kill rate of 87 percent is third in the AHL in this catagory. The power play is converting at just 14.5 percent, though.

The Hogs are still dead last in the league in goals and by a fair sight. They are scoring at a 2.27 goals per game clip. Rockford only gives up 2.88 goals per game, good for third in the AHL. As mentioned earlier, if the team’s top offensive players could start representing, the play in net could sustain a hot stretch.

As it is, Rockford (11-10-1-4) just hasn’t been able to string together victories. The IceHogs have not won more than two in a row all season long.

 

Three In Three

The weekend is book ended with meetings with the Griffins, with whom Rockford has split two previous meetings this season. The Hogs visit Van Andel Arena Friday and host Grand Rapids at the BMO Harris Bank Center Sunday afternoon.

Rockford has not fared well in Grand Rapids in recent seasons. In the past five years, the piglets are 5-11-3-0 at Van Andel Arena. The Giffins are third in the Central Division and are coming off of a 5-2 loss in Milwaukee Tuesday night.

On Saturday night, the IceHogs host Texas, who have won four straight and are fourth in the division standings. This is the third meeting between the two teams, having split the first two.

The Stars are scoring four goals a game and have the AHL’s second-best power play unit (28.4%). Leading the way for Texas is Eric Condra (13 G, 17 A), Denis Gurianov (9 G, 19 A), Justin Dowling (7 G, 17 A) and rookie Joel L’Esperance (12 G, 11 A).

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

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs commence on-ice operations for the 2018-19 season this weekend. The piglets are opening their AHL slate in Cleveland, where they play Friday night and again Saturday afternoon. In the interest of getting you ready to take in the action at your respective bases of operation, here’s a preview of the upcoming weekend for the Blackhawks affiliate.

The Hogs dropped two straight to the Monsters to open 2016-17, a harbinger of miserable times to come.  Rockford split four games at Quicken Loans Arena last season, though the franchise is just 5-9-1-1 in Cleveland over the past five campaigns.

The Monsters should have a different look from the squad that finished dead last in the Western Conference by a wide margin. For starters, two of Cleveland’s top scorers from that club now don the Hogs head.

Jordan Schroeder (36 points) and Terry Broadhurst (32 points) were third and fourth, respectively, in scoring for the Monsters. I would expect both veterans to be in Rockford’s lineup this weekend. The only returning Cleveland player from the top of the score sheet is Alex Broadhurst, who was second on the team with 41 points.

Cleveland (again helmed by Hawks alumn John Madden) has several veteran players coming in that should more than make up for the loss of offense over the summer. Topping that list is former Penguins/Blue Jackets/Oilers center Mark Letestu. The 33-year-old hasn’t skated in the AHL since the 2019-10 season, when he had 55 points (21 G, 34 A) for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The scoring load will also be shouldered by 31-year-old Nathan Gerbe, who has 398 NHL games under his belt. He skated in 24 games for the Monsters after signing with Columbus mid-season with four goals and 14 assists. He is a more than capable AHL scorer.

Tommy Cross, a 6’3” defenseman, is also new to the Monsters this season after playing in the Bruins organization. The 29-year-old has spent most of his seven-year career in the AHL with Providence. Cross had 12 goals from the blueline two years ago and finished 2017-18 with eight goals to go with 28 assists. He isn’t afraid to finish a check, either.

Oilers farmhand Dillon Simpson is a new addition to the Monsters blueline, which is made up of some big bodies. Dillon is set to begin his fifth season of AHL action. Former Notre Dame defenseman and Aurora native Justin Wade was signed to an AHL deal by Cleveland.

Along with Alex Broadhurst, who skated with Rockford for several seasons, Hogs skaters may see a familiar face in net this weekend. Jean-Francois Berube was assigned to Cleveland this week; he’ll probably face off against his former team at least once or twice this season.

 

Roster Moves

The IceHogs roster has been trimmed to 24 players headed into game one. Brett Welychka and Josh McArdle were assigned to the ECHL’s Indy Fuel Monday. Matt Tomkins followed suit the next day.

I expect that William Pelletier will not be available to begin the season; he was at the BMO for Friday’s Fan Fest with what appears to be an injured left thumb or wrist. I don’t believe he took part in any on-ice activities in training camp.

Right now, Hogs coach Jeremy Colliton should have 13 forwards on hand to use in Cleveland. There are eight defensemen on the roster; keep in mind that Colliton would often an extra skater on the blueline and go with just 11 forwards. With several rookie defenders on the team, it is an option Colliton may choose to employ again this season.

The unexpected call up of Collin Delia following an injury suffered by Hawks goalie Anton Forsberg makes for a bit of uncertainty between the pipes. Matt Tomkins was called up from Indy while Delia is with Chicago, joining Kevin Lankinen as the current net tandem.

If Delia isn’t needed past last night, perhaps he is sent back down to the Hogs and makes a start in the crease Friday or Saturday. I would guess that with two games less than 24 hours apart, Colliton was planning on using both of his goalies against the Monsters. It will be either Delia and Lankinen or Lankinen and Tomkins, depending on if Delia’s presence is required with the Hawks in St. Louis.

It is likely that I’ll be watching both IceHogs games vs Cleveland and might just fire off a tweet or two. Follow me @JonFromi for updates, thoughts and general foofooraw all season long.

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs were left a bit shorthanded for last weekend’s action. Adam Clendening, Joakim Nordstrom and Phillip Danault are all traveling with the Blackhawks. Mark McNeill and Michael Leighton are recovering from injuries. It wasn’t a stretch for you to believe the Hogs might take some lumps with three Midwest Division games in three days.

In this case, you’d be wrong.

Rockford ran the table this weekend, winning home games with Iowa and Milwaukee at the BMO Friday and Saturday before shutting out the Wolves in Chicago Sunday afternoon. With 29 points through 19 games, Rockford (14-4-0-1) is currently on top of the AHL.

Everything Else

The 27th week of the AHL schedule brought the IceHogs to Canada for one last time during the 2013-14 regular season. Before heading back to the BMO Harris Bank Center for some home games, the IceHogs stopped at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee to kick off week 28.