Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs are just short of the quarter pole in the 2022-23 season. So far, the team has had little problem putting the puck in the net. Rockford is competing, though this is a team that should be able to find another gear in regards to challenging for a Central Division title.

With injuries forcing the IceHogs to use the latter half of their depth chart at goalie, Rockford has had to put up huge offensive numbers in order to win. Through 17 games, they have been able to supply the necessary goals to compete on a nightly basis.

I’ve been a broken record in my concerns for the goal-keeping. If Arvid Soderblom returns to the Hogs for a stretch and plays to form, it could push the piglets into that aforementioned gear. Here’s a closer look at the season through the first two months.

 

The Numbers So Far

This is how the 9-7-0-1 piglets are faring 17 games into their 72-game schedule:

The IceHogs sit right in the middle of the Central Division standings. That would be fourth place, with 19 points. Milwaukee leads the Central with 24 points, followed by Texas (22) and Manitoba (20).

Rockford is tied with Milwaukee atop the AHL in scoring with a 4.06 per game average. Defensively, the Hogs give up 3.59 goals per game, 26th in the league. They’re fourth in the league in shots (33.53) per game, and 26th (32.35) in shots allowed. The latter number is consistent with last year’s team.

The IceHogs are converting 23.2 percent of their power play opportunities, while snuffing out 77.3 percent of their opponent’s chances. Rockford has given up five shorthanded goals, tied for the worst in the league, while potting just one shorty themselves.

The Hogs have four players in the top 20 scorers in the AHL. Brett Seney (10 G, 13 A) is tied for third. David Gust (10 G, 12 A) is tied for fifth. Lukas Reichel (8 G, 11 A) is tied for tenth, while Luke Philp (11 G, 7 A) is tied for 13th. Philp leads the team with his eleven goals and is fourth in the AHL in that category.

Issak Phillips (2 G, 12 A) leads the league in skater rating (plus-16) and is tied for fifth in scoring among defensemen. Jakub Galvas (1 G, 11 A) is tied for 12th. Alex Vlasic (1 G, 5 A) leads AHL rookies with a plus-11 rating.

 

How Are Those Veteran Pickups Doing?

Go back a couple of paragraphs. They’re spanking fantastic.

The firm of Gust, Seney, and Philp have accounted for 31 goals and 36 assists in 17 games. That’s 45 percent of the IceHogs team goal total of 69. Can this be sustained? Probably not, but several players are starting to find the range.

Dylan Sikura (6 G, 5 A) had back-to-back two-goal games this weekend and could be poised for a December to remember. Buddy Robinson (4 G, 3 A) is chipping in and has been a threat around the net for most of the season so far.

Defenseman Adam Clendening has been a bit underwhelming, though he does have a goal and eight assists. Five of those apples have come on the power play. Clendening is a player who can be attacked in the defensive zone. Hence, his minus-14 rating, which is the lowest in the AHL at the moment. The Hogs didn’t sign Clendening to be a defensive stopper, but there is room for improvement.

 

What About The Kids?

Cole Guttman is starting to pick up some steam in his rookie season. Guttman missed almost a month of action after suffering a concussion on October 15. In eight games since returning to the lineup, he has three goals and four assists.

Phillips, Galvas, and Vlasic have been the backbone of the Hogs blueline. Rookie Louis Crevier (0 G, 2 A) has played 16 games and been a solid third-pairing defender. At 6’8″, Crevier moves pretty well and is adjusting to the pro game.

Michal Teply (3 G, 6 A) started the season slowly but is getting to the net a lot more. Like some other young prospects, Teply is having to compete for ice time. Hogs coach Anders Sorensen recently placed him on a line with Reichel, so his offensive production could soon take off.

 

Roster Happenings

Captain Garrett Mitchell was missing from the lineup for the past three games after injuring his shoulder in Rosemont on November 19. No announcement from the team; until that happens, I’d assume that Mitchell will be out for at least three or four weeks.

Buddy Robinson had a scare on Wednesday night, taking a hit from the Stars Rhett Gardner along the boards by the Rockford bench in the first period of action. Robinson was helped from the ice, unable to put weight on his right leg. He did not return to the game, but was in the lineup for both games against Milwaukee.

After a strong performance in net in Wednesday’s victory, Mitchell Weeks was returned to the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. Despite being Rockford’s top-performing goalie so far this season (3-1-1, 2.95 GAA, .909 save percentage), Weeks is the current odd man out because both Jaxson Stauber and Dylan Wells are on NHL contracts.

On Thursday, Ian Mitchell returned to the IceHogs from Chicago. He played in both games with the Admirals this weekend, picking up an assist on Friday night.

Friday saw D Cooper Zech being assigned to the Fuel. Since being swapped for Evan Barratt a month ago, Zech has been a healthy scratch in all but two games on October 29 and November 2. Zech was scoreless in both contests. Incidentally, since the trade, Barratt has played just two games in Lehigh Valley, with one assist.

 

Recaps

Wednesday, November 23-Rockford 7, Texas 2

Rockford chased Matthew Murray from the crease with three goals in the first 10:30 of action, cruising to a win over the visiting Stars.

The IceHogs wasted little time carrying the attack to Texas, converting on a turnover to take a lead they would never relinquish. Cole Guttman picked off a pass along the halfboards of the Stars zone, skated to the right dot, and sent an offering that beat Murray to the far side at 1:24 of the first period.

Guttman’s tally was quickly followed by a goal by Brett Seney at the 3:26 mark. Issak Phillips‘ strike from the right circle at 10:30 of the first ended Murray’s evening with three goals allowed on seven Rockford shots. The Texas net was filled by Anton Khudobin for the remainder of the game.

Down 3-0 entering the second stanza, Texas got on the board when Stars captain Curtis McKenzie redirected a Ben Gleason shot past Hogs goalie Mitchell Weeks at the 3:24 mark. Rockford quickly re-established the three-goal advantage at 4:56 when David Gust guided a loose puck into the Stars net for his ninth goal of the season.

Rockford limited Texas in the Hogs zone, breaking up centering attempts and effectively preventing a lot of traffic in front of Weeks. The Stars put on some pressure in the final twenty minutes, but Weeks stopped 15 of 16 shots in the third period. Only Alex Petrovic‘s shorthanded goal got past the Rockford rookie, while the Hogs lit the lamp three more times.

Seney’s second goal of the night midway through the third gave Rockford a 5-1 lead. After Petrovic cut the lead to 5-2, Luke Philp and Lukas Reichel got in on the scoring in the final minutes of action.

 

Friday, November 25-Rockford 6, Milwaukee 4

When the smoke cleared, the IceHogs stood tall in this Central Division track meet. Rockford broke the Admirals’ four-game winning streak with a come-from-behind victory.

Milwaukee took an early 2-1 lead on a pair of goals by Tommy Novak, sandwiched around a power-play tip-in by Rockford’s Cole Guttman. Bobby Lynch tied the game midway through the first period with a put-back of Carson Gicewicz‘s initial shot. However, Cole Schneider converted a power-play chance for the Admirals, who led 3-2 after 20 minutes.

There was no scoring in the second period, though the pace did not slow. Both teams dismantled rushes up and down the ice, contesting passes and checking hard at both ends. Milwaukee goalie Devin Cooley made 15 saves in the middle frame to keep his club in the lead.

At the other end, Hogs netminder Dylan Wells wasn’t as busy, stopping eight Milwaukee attempts. However, he might have made the two biggest saves of the night midway through the second.

Wells stood his tallest when Brett Seney was stripped of the puck at the Milwaukee blue line by Luke Evangelista. The Admirals forward streaked toward the Hogs’ net completely unchallenged. Wells denied the shot attempt, as well as Zach Sanford‘s follow-up shot to snuff out the scoring threat.

The IceHogs got power-play goals from Lukas Reichel and Dylan Sikura early in the third period, surging to a 4-3 lead. Schneider’s second goal on the man advantage pulled Milwaukee even at four 9:32 into the period before Rockford took over the game.

Seney, whose slashing infraction had led to the Admirals’ equalizer minutes before, skated to the high slot in time to take in a backhanded pass from behind the net by Alex Vlasic. Seney’s aim was true, and the Hogs led 5-4 on his tenth goal of the season at the 12:18 mark.

Wells sent a couple of Milwaukee shots away over the next few minutes, allowing Sikura the chance to put the game away with 3:04 remaining. Sikura maneuvered into the slot and sent a shot through some well-placed traffic to get it past Cooley and into Twinesville to close out a busy night of scoring.

Sikura’s two goals earned him First-Star honors. Reichel and Seney, each of whom had a goal and two helpers, were Second and Third Stars, respectively. Guttman (1 G, 1 A) could also claim a multi-point evening.

Wells recovered from a frustrating opening frame to stop 15 of Milwaukee’s last 16 shots on goal. He picked up his third win of the season with 24 saves on the night.

 

Saturday, November 26, Milwaukee 5, Rockford 3

The Admirals gained a measure of revenge on visiting Rockford at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena Saturday night, using a big third period to split the weekend home-and-home with the IceHogs.

Milwaukee wasted little time in building a lead. Egor Afanasyev pounced on a rebound in front of Hogs goalie Jaxson Stauber and flipped it into the basket 2:19 into the contest. The Admirals added tallies from Cole Schneider and Roland McKeown. Schneider attempted a centering pass to Tommy Novak in front of the Rockford net. Defenseman Adam Clendening denied the pass, but the puck came off his stick and into the goal at the 7:36 mark.

McKeown made it a 3-0 game at 10:22 of the first. Taking a pass from Kevin Gravel, McKeown launched it from the right point past Stauber, who was screened by Zach Sanford and Tommy Apap.

Midway into the opening period, the IceHogs were in a hole. Dylan Sikura started the digging for Rockford, jumping on loose pucks for a pair of goals in the last 3:53 of the first. Both were set up by defenseman Issak Phillips, who had three helpers on the night. The IceHogs were able to draw even with Milwaukee 7:04 into the second stanza when David Gust streaked to the right dot and went to the far post with his shot past Admirals goalie Yaroslav Askarov.

Milwaukee regained the lead 3:18 into the third period. With Stauber way out of his net, Afanasyev skated around the Rockford cage and completed the wraparound attempt just ahead of the stick of Hogs defenseman Louis Crevier.

The Admirals lead became 5-3 after the IceHogs first penalty of the evening. Alec Regula was called for slashing 7:08 into the third period. At 8:47, Markus Nurmi , set up by Afanasyev, sent a shot over Stauber’s glove from the left circle. Rockford attempted to load up for another comeback, pulling Stauber in the final minutes for an extra skater, but Askarov kept the puck out of harm’s way for the remainder of the game.

Askarov finished with 23 saves for Milwaukee. The Admirals rookie is now 7-3 on the season with Saturday’s win. Stauber stopped 23 of 28 shots in a losing effort.

 

Head East

Rockford travels to Springfield (Friday) and Hartford (Saturday) this weekend.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs as the season progresses.

 

Hockey

How many goals do the Rockford IceHogs have to score to get a win these days?

A lot. At least for a while.

The piglets are dropping an average of 3.73 goals per game on opponents in eleven games this season. Unfortunately, Rockford is giving up 3.82 goals to those opponents.

The Hogs dropped a 3-2 decision to Texas on Saturday night. A sluggish middle frame doomed Rockford as Texas scored three times to take control of the contest. On Sunday, Rockford prevailed in a see-saw affair by a score of 5-4, garnering a split of the weekend road trip.

As was the case last season, the IceHogs are surrendering a lot of shots-32.9 a game this season, the third-highest in the AHL. Last year, the play in net negated that stat to a certain extent. With a current lack of AHL experience in goal, it’s a different story.

Jaxson Stauber and Dylan Wells have a total of 30 AHL games between them. At the moment, Rockford lacks a goalie that can carry the main workload and hold opponents under three goals. In the Hogs first eleven games, they have held an opponent to under four goals just four times. Rockford is 3-1 in those games.

In the other seven games, the IceHogs are 2-4-0-1, despite averaging over three goals a game.

Rockford’s current goalie tandem is likely to continue to struggle to hold down the score. Until a goalie comes down from Chicago (Arvid Soderblom, perhaps?), the piglets will have to rely on their quick-strike offense in order to stay competitive in the Central Division.

 

Some Triumphant Returns

Ian Mitchell, who had been recovering from a right wrist injury since training camp, was assigned to Rockford on Friday by the Chicago Blackhawks. Mitchell was on the ice for both games this weekend, picking up an assist in Sunday’s victory.

Cole Guttman had been on concussion protocol since hitting his head on the ice in Manitoba on October 15. He scored his first professional goal in his return to action on Saturday and was quite active on Sunday as well.

Stauber, who had been out since taking a puck to his mask on October 29, got the start on Sunday, stopping 42 of 46 shots to pick up his second win of the season. Also returning in net for Rockford was Wells, who had been with the Blackhawks the previous week. Wells made 33 saves in the IceHogs loss on Saturday night.

 

Talking Points

  • David Gust was the First Star of Sunday’s game with two goals and an assist. Those were his first points since a two-goal performance on November 3. Gust (7 G, 9 A) leads the IceHogs with 16 points. His seven goals is tied at the top of the Rockford stat sheet with Brett Seney (7 G, 8 A) and Luke Philp (7 G, 6 A).
  • Seney, who had an assist on Sunday, is currently on a nine-game point streak. He has recorded a point in ten of Rockford’s eleven games this season.
  • Philp, who potted the game-winner to go with two helpers on Sunday, has a streak of four games with points for the Hogs.
  • In addition to Guttman getting his first goal of the season, Bobby Lynch and Issak Phillips each found the twine for the first time this weekend. Both Lynch and Phillips scored in the second period Sunday to get Rockford back in the game.
  • Sunday’s game had more penalty minutes compared to a pretty tame contest Saturday. Both teams went 0-2 on the man advantage on Saturday and 1-4 on Sunday.
  • Philp’s goal came on the power play late in the third period Sunday after Texas forward Riley Damiani tied the game via the power play earlier in the period
  • Following this weekend’s action, the IceHogs (5-5-0-1) sit in sixth place in the Central Division standings with 11 points.

Lone Star Recaps

Saturday, November 12-Texas 3, Rockford 2

A solid start went for naught, as a sloppy second period spelled defeat for Rockford at the H.E.B. Center.

Cole Guttman made his return to the lineup count with his first professional goal. It came at 9:14 of the first period, when Guttman cleaned up a rebound of a Bobby Lynch shot. Garrett Mitchell got the play started, skating into the offensive zone and sending a pass off the halfboards to Lynch for the secondary assist.

The Hogs lead disappeared in the middle frame, as the Stars got a put-back by Fredrik Karlstrom at 10:44 of the second. Rockford was awarded a power play shortly after, but the puck suddenly became slippery. Brett Seney lost possession in the d-zone, leading to a Thomas Harley goal at the 12:14 mark.

Texas out shot the Hogs 18-4 in what may have been the worst span of play of the season for Rockford. The Stars capped the humiliation with Marian Studenic’s snipe from the top of the left circle, which got by Hogs goalie Dylan Wells at 17:36 of the second for a 3-1 Texas advantage at the second intermission.

The bulk of the third period saw the Stars prevent Rockford from rallying. Hogs starting goalie Dylan Wells was brought to the bench, leading to Seney tipping in a shot by Lukas Reichel with 2:31 remaining. Despite bringing Wells, who made 33 saves on the night, back to the bench, Rockford could not get the equalizer.

 

Sunday, November 13-Rockford 5, Texas 4 

The Stars sent 46 shots toward Jaxson Stauber on Sunday. The rookie goalie denied 42 shots, which was enough for the Hogs to prevail in the closing minutes.

The IceHogs got on the board early in the game when Issak Phillips gained possession in the neutral zone. He connected with Luke Philp, who hit David Gust entering the Texas zone. The shot from the right dot beat Stars goalie Matthew Murray 1:19 into the game for a 1-0 Hogs lead.

Texas evened the score behind a drive by former Hogs forward Tanner Kero. Kero was well-defended by Jakub Galvas, preventing Kero from getting off a serious shot. The puck, however, slid under the pads of Rockford goalie Jaxson Stauber at the 4:49 mark.

Gust restored the IceHogs lead 8:37 into the first. Cleaning up Philp’s wrister from the left circle, Gust converted on the rebound left by Murray for a 2-1 Rockford advantage. The Stars had two power-play chances turned away by Rockford, who held that 2-1 lead into the first intermission.

The middle frame was a see-saw affair. Texas quickly went out to a 3-2 lead on Kero’s second tally of the night and a deflection by Riley Tufte. Both goals came in the first two minutes of play.

The IceHogs took a while to respond, but got the game knotted at three in the fourteenth minute. This time, Gust played the part of facilitator, flipping a puck out of the defensive zone and to a streaking Bobby Lynch. The shot beat Murray to the high glove side at 13:30 of the second.

Issak Phillips gave Rockford a 4-3 lead late in the second with a one-timer set up by a offensive draw victory by Brett Seney. Ian Mitchell received the puck and slid it to Phillips for the long-distance strike with 44 seconds left in the period.

The Stars knotted the game at four goals on the power play three minutes into the third period. Riley Damiani got a shot over the glove of Stauber just as the man advantage was expiring.

Damiani was called for a high-stick 15:55 into the third to set up the eventual game-winner. As the IceHogs skated the puck across the Texas blueline, Mike Hardman threaded a pass to a streaking Luke Philp in the slot. Philp nabbed the feed behind the Stars defense and sent a backhand past the prone Murray at the 16:18 mark.

Murray was pulled for the extra attacker for most of the last two minutes, but Rockford held on to earn the weekend split.

 

This Week

Rockford is back on the road Wednesday, when they play an 11:00 a.m. EDT tilt with Grand Rapids. This coming weekend, the Hogs have a home-and-home with the Chicago Wolves. Friday’s 7:00 p.m. CDT puck drop takes place at the BMO Center before the teams move to Rosemont for a 7:00 p.m. CDT start on Saturday at the Allstate Arena.

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

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have advanced to the Central Division Semifinal via a sweep of Texas in their play-in series. The piglets capped off an impressive defensive performance against the Stars with a 1-0 overtime triumph after winning Game 1 by a score of 2-1.

Rookie goalie Arvid Soderblom stopped 68 of 69 Texas Stars in the two games, good for a .986 save percentage. To the surprise of no one, he was voted the First Star of Game 2 for his 36-save shutout.

After a couple of days to prepare, Rockford opens a best-of-five series with the Chicago Wolves in Rosemont on Thursday night. The Wolves are the top seed in the Central Division. They won more games in the regular season than any team in the league. Their .724 points percentage was the best in the AHL.

The Wolves roster boasts the leagues top goal scorer (Stefan Noessen, 48 goals) as well at the league’s top point-producer (Andrew Poturalski, 101 points). On paper, the Flying Piglets of ‘Bago County will be lucky to win a single game.

Not only do I think the Hogs could win one game, I figure the belief is there for Rockford to shock everyone and win this series.

These teams met 12 times in the regular season. Rockford won eight times.

The IceHogs are 5-0-0-1 at Allstate Arena this season.

Each of the last five meetings was a one-goal decision. Rockford was 4-1 in those games.

The last meeting between Rockford and the Wolves came in the regular-season finale April 30. Chicago was gunning to out-do Stockton for the AHL’s top record. The IceHogs had nothing to gain, having been locked into fourth in the division.

Rockford rested several starters, including Soderblom. Chicago pinned back its ears and swamped the Hogs in their own zone. The Wolves out-shot Rockford 54-25 on the evening.

And yet, the IceHogs had an offensive draw in the final 30 seconds with a chance to tie the contest before ultimately losing 3-2.

Rockford can win this series. They know it. The Wolves know it.

The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, Chicago was the division champ. The Wolves were swept by the fourth-seeded Hogs. That history, plus Rockford’s success against this year’s division champs, makes it unlikely that the piglets are going to be taken lightly by Chicago.

What does Rockford have going for it? Confidence and momentum. They have a hot goalie heading into a series against a team that hasn’t had a game in what will be 12 days when the teams collide on Thursday, May 12.

The Hogs calling card for much of the last couple of months is solid play in the defensive zone and timely goals from a host of young prospects. They’ve had a wildly successful season and have nothing to lose as they enter this series.

 

Playoff Musings

  • The goal scorers in Game 1 were Lukas Reichel and Carson Gicewicz. Reichel deftly handled a pass from Michal Teply on a 2-on-1 in the second period and snapped home the first goal of the game. Gicewicz deflected an Issak Phillips shot past Stars goalie Matthew Murray (who played very well in the two games for Texas) for the eventual game-winner.
  • After a scoreless regulation, Dylan McLaughlin got loose in the high slot, hauled in a pass from Phillips, and sniped the Game 2 winner 56 seconds into overtime.
  • The secondary assist on McLaughlin’s goal went to Ian Mitchell, who returned from a wrist injury suffered in practice April 26.
  • IceHogs forwards Kurtis Gabriel, Dimitri Osipov, and Garrett Mitchell played their part in the series sweep. The three were able to regularly administer devastating hits to Texas skaters without so much as a single infraction between them. In all, the IceHogs committed just three penalties in the two games.
  • Forward Andrei Altybarmakian, who came on strong in the last month of the season, did not skate in either game of the series. His last game action was April 30 in Milwaukee.
  • Game 1 vs Chicago will take place at Allstate Arena on Thursday, May 12 at 7:00 p.m. Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday night at 7:00 p.m., with Game 3 coming to the BMO Harris Bank Center Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates and thoughts throughout Rockford’s playoff run.

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have extended the time they have to develop some key prospects by qualifying for the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs. The postseason gets underway Wednesday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center, when the IceHogs play Texas Stars in a best-of-three play-in series.

Rockford is the fourth-seed and will host the fifth-seeded Stars for every game of the series, per the league’s travel guidelines. The winner moves on to face the Central Division champs, the Chicago Wolves in a best-of-five affair.

Here is the postseason forecast for the Piglets as I see it.

First of all, it would not shock me for the IceHogs to knock off any of their Central Division rivals in a playoff series. Even after dropping a 3-2 decision to the Wolves in the regular season finale Saturday night, Rockford finished 8-3-0-1 against Chicago. They have split the season series with Texas and Milwaukee and were 5-3 against Manitoba. The only Central opponent that dominated them (Iowa) is not in the playoffs.

The IceHogs have generated enough offense to be competitive. For the first time in a couple of seasons, Rockford posted a per game average of over three goals this season. The Hogs 3.10 per game clip was their highest since the 2017-18 season, when they reached the Western Conference Final scoring 3.14 goals per contest.

Unlike that veteran-laden group, this year’s group have been grinding out wins for the bulk of the season. A poised and deep blueline, coupled with very capable goaltending, have been the ticket in the past couple of months. This could prove to be a major strength in the postseason.

Or, the youngsters could get bounced in two games by a hot Texas team that won its last four games. Such is the mystery of playoff hockey. Some confidence and a hot goalie can take you far. A slow start could quickly slam the door on a very solid season for Rockford.

 

Roster News

On Sunday, the Blackhawks assigned D Nolan Allen and F Colton Dach to the IceHogs following the conclusion of their junior seasons. I wouldn’t expect either to play. Maybe one or both could step in and make a surprise impact. I would avoid holding my breath on it, though.

Chicago could also assign some players like G Collin Delia, D Alex Vlasic to bolster the IceHogs roster. As of Monday, they have not done so. At this point, it looks like Rockford will dance with the players it has leaned on for the last month of action.

Ian Mitchell has been out of the lineup since injuring his right wrist in practice last Tuesday. He would be set to come back late in the week, but is probably out for the opening series. The IceHogs depth at defense makes this a little easier to bear, but Mitchell was voted the team’s top defenseman award for good reason. His return makes the Hogs a bit tougher to play against.

D.J. Busdeker returned from a shoulder injury for the last two games of the season, though Brett Connolly is likely out for the duration of the playoffs with a knee injury.

Cale Morris took the net against the Wolves Saturday and stopped 50 shots in the loss. I would imagine that he will back up Arivd Soderblom, who, along with F Dylan McLaughlin, were selected co-MVPs for Rockford this season.

 

Under The Microscope: The Texas Stars

Rockford battled the Stars eight times this season. Both teams won four games. The season series concluded way back on February 27, when Texas won 3-2 at the BMO.

The Stars were 9-4-1 in April, while Rockford wound up 9-6. Of all the possible opponents for the piglets to have, Texas is the one who shouldn’t intimidate the Hogs physically.

There are four players who took the ice in the 2018 Western Conference Final contested between these two franchises; all currently reside on the Stars roster. This includes former Hogs forwards Anthony Louis (24 G, 31 A) and Tanner Kero (5 G, 12 A), as well as Texas captain Curtis McKenzie (21 G, 29 A) and Joel L’Esperance (24 G, 25 A).

Center Ty Dellandrea had an impressive rookie campaign, with a 50-point season (23 G, 27 A). Riley Damiani (13 G, 23 A) was last year’s outstanding rookie in the AHL and could play a big part in the opening series. Ben Gleason (9 G, 35 A) and Ryan Shea (3 G, 29 A) pace the Texas defense.

The x-factor in this series could well lay in the crease. Matthew Murray has been used quite a bit since signing an ATO out of UMass this spring. He split time with second-year goalie Adam Scheel, who was recalled to Dallas on Saturday.

If Murray winds up being the man in net for Texas, he’s coming in hot. Currently, he is sporting a 1.68 GAA and a .947 save percentage in his six AHL starts. Likely to serve as Murray’s backup is LaGrange native Matt Jurusik.

 

Keys For The IceHogs

  • Rockford needs to be to limit the Stars speed in transition and continue to take care of the puck in their own zone. That’s been the formula for the Hogs success this season; no reason to change things up.
  • Players like Mike Hardman (19 G, 13 A), Michal Teply (13 G, 18 A) and Andrei Altybarmakian (10 G, 21 A) have to capitalize on the play-making abilities of Lukas Reichel (the team’s Rookie Of The Year with 21 goals and 36 helpers) and McLaughlin.
  • In 14 April games, Josiah Slavin has eight goals and seven assists. He is a big part of the Hogs penalty kill and leads the team with three shorthanded goals.  It’s important for Slavin to continue leading Rockford’s forecheck against the Stars. Slavin’s game should be well-suited for playoff hockey; he could have a big series.
  • Slavin sat out the final regular season game with Chicago along with Altybarmakian, Alec Regula, Kurtis Gabriel and Soderblom. Texas has been off since April 26, but both teams should be rested and ready Wednesday night.

 

Schedule

Game One is set to begin on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., as will Game Two on Friday. If necessary, Game Three will start at 6:00 p.m.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the Calder Cup Playoffs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs ran out of steam in their latest three-game weekend, falling to the Texas Stars Sunday afternoon. The 3-2 loss comes after the Hogs dropped a 4-3 decision in Iowa Friday. Between the two setbacks, Rockford used a four-goal first to subdue the Stars 7-4 Saturday night.

I’m setting the timer for one-hour; here are some thoughts on the weekend.

 

Thoughts On The Weekend

  • The Hogs penalty kill continues to impress. Despite problems staying out of the box against Texas, Rockford gave up a single goal (Saturday) in 15 chances in the three games. The IceHogs PK is now operating at an 86.4 kill rate. That’s in the top five of the league. The credit goes to assistant coach Jared Nightengale, who is in charge of that unit. Rockford has a lot of aggressive skaters who have proven adept at denying easy entry into the zone. Strong play in goal by Collin Delia and Arvid Soderblom completes the package.
  • Rockford has four goalies on the roster. The work is being handled primarily by Delia and Soderblom. Cale Morris has two starts for the IceHogs this month; Tom Aubrun’s last game action came with the Indy Fuel on December 12.
  • Lukas Reichel was reassigned to the IceHogs Saturday, totaling two points (1 G, 1 A) in his two games this weekend. Reichel is clearly the most dynamic offensive player on the roster. Interim coach Anders Sorensen has used Reichel and Brett Connolly on different lines in order to spread out the Hogs scoring potential. However, the two are together on the power play and were paired together fairly often in the two games with Texas.
  • The IceHogs led 2-1 after 40 minutes Sunday but just ran out of steam in the latter stages of the game. Before Texas tied the game with 5:42 remaining, Rockford had just been trying to absorb the Stars big push. It was only a matter of time before they gave up the lead.
  • The BMO faithful was quite vocal about a near-goal by Evan Barratt with four minutes left. The puck slid along the goal line and was close to crossing before the Stars broke up the potential equalizer. The officials used the next stoppage to review the play before maintaining the call on the ice, which was no goal. The masses booed even after getting a look at the replay, which clearly showed that the puck did not cross the line.
  • Of course, Texas got the eventual game-winner seconds after the subsequent faceoff. Which brought more boos and claims that the officials had stolen the game from the piglets. Not true, but a tough loss to stomach nonetheless.
  • Former IceHogs forwards Tanner Kero and Anthony Louis both made an impact this weekend. Louis, who is on a six-game point streak, had goals in both games for Texas. Kero assisted on Louis’ goal on Sunday. Louis also picked up an assist in the Stars win. In 41 games with Texas this season, Louis has 16 goals and 19 assists for 35 points.
  • Mike Hardman had himself a solid weekend, with a pair of goals in Saturday’s win to go with a goal Sunday. He now has eleven on the season, second on the team to Reichel’s 15, and he’s done it in just 19 games.
  • Since returning to the Rockford lineup, Connolly has six points (2 G, 4 A) and is on a four-game point streak.
  • Dylan McLaughlin, second on the team in scoring (6 G, 19 A) missed this weekend with a concussion.
  • Rockford maintains its position in fourth place in the Central Division standings with a .522 points percentage, just ahead of Grand Rapids. The five teams behind Chicago and Manitoba will be battling for position for most of the remainder of the schedule. The IceHogs are more than capable of qualifying for the postseason if they can continue to get the defense and goaltending they have over the past six weeks.
  • The IceHogs will spend the first half of March on the road. The five-game jaunt begins on Thursday, when Rockford travels to Manitoba for the first of two games with the Moose. The rematch will be played on Saturday.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs split a pair of games with the Texas Stars this weekend. Rockford lost control of a tight game in the third period Friday, winding up on the short end of a 5-2 decision. The following evening, the piglets played the grinder role to perfection, rallying from a goal down in the final frame of regulation. Rockford outlasted the Stars 3-2, though it took a seven-round shootout to do so.

The IceHogs are 15-14-1-1 this season, good for fourth place in the AHL’s Central Division. Saturday’s win broke a three-game losing streak. Rockford is 2-3 during this January home stand, which wraps up  Wednesday against Iowa.

 

Teply On A Tear

The offensive game of forward Michal Teply has suddenly roared to life this month. Teply, Chicago’s fourth-rounder in the 2019 NHL Draft, was goalless through his first 34 professional games. In his second season with the Hogs, Teply finally drew cord on January 7 against the Wolves. Since that night, Teply has five goals and three assists spanning the last seven games.

He had both regulation goals for Rockford Saturday and added a successful shootout attempt in the victory. He also had a goal on Friday night. What gives?

Teply has been active on the offensive end most of the season, creating a lot of scoring opportunities that somehow hadn’t found a home. He has 47 shots in 2021-22, which is fourth on the team.

Both interim head coach Anders Sorensen and Teply acknowledge that his play away from the puck is the secret to his recent success. His presence around the net will be vital to Rockford, who were scraping for goals again this weekend.

 

Fight(s)!

The pivotal moment in Saturday’s loss to Texas game came in the third period. The Hogs were down 3-2 with 10:54 remaining when Garrett Mitchell delivered a slash to the hands of Stars defenseman Jared Rosburg. Texas captain Curtis McKenzie responded by cloths-lining Mitchell and engaging in fisticuffs.

Coinciding with that scrap was Dimitri Osipov grabbing Stars center Fredrik Karlstrom and swinging away. Following the melee, the officials removed McKenzie and Osipov from the game. Each received instigation minors, fighting majors, and game misconducts.

Mitchell was tagged with fighting as well as the slash that started the fireworks. Karlstrom, who did not remove his gloves or swing at Osipov, remained in the game. The Stars were handed a seven-minute power play as a result.

I do not recall ever seeing seven consecutive minutes of power-play time go up on a scoreboard. At the time, I was hopeful that it would be the IceHogs with some much-needed man advantage time. However, it quickly became apparent that Karlstrom had not engaged with Osipov and that the time on Rockford’s side of the scoreboard was no mistake.

Three guesses as to which Texas skater gave the Stars a 4-2 lead about two minutes later? Karlstrom’s power-play goal was more than enough insurance, as Rockford spent the next five minutes killing the rest of the penalty.

By the time they got back to even strength, Texas had a two-goal lead and just under four minutes left to play. RFD pulled Collin Delia in desperation but gave up an empty netter, on which Rosburg assisted for good measure.

Texas is one of the more penalized teams in the league; getting physical with the Stars was to Rockford’s detriment Friday. The IceHogs committed just one penalty Saturday, neutralizing the Texas power play in its only chance.

 

Roster News

Several IceHogs are doing the I-90 shuffle between Rockford and Chicago. Mike Hardman and Cale Morris were moved three times this week. Hardman is currently with the Hogs; Morris is on the Blackhawks roster. Wyatt Kalynuk played for Rockford Friday before being recalled to Chicago the following day.

Chad Yetman has played a similar role, oscillating between Rockford and the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. He was in the Hogs lineup for both games this weekend. Saturday, Rockford sent Riley McKay to the Fuel.

The IceHogs released veteran forward Brandon Pirri from his PTO on Wednesday after three goals and an assist in three appearances. Whether Pirri winds up on Canada’s Olympic squad or just decided to pursue other opportunities is not yet apparent.

Forward Kurtis Gabriel came out of COVID protocols on Friday and skated in his first game with Rockford on Saturday, drawing in for Osipov.

On Sunday, goalie Arvid Soderblom, who stopped 20 shots to pick up the win Saturday, was recalled to the Blackhawks.

 

Weekend Notes

  • Andrei Altybarmakian, like Teply, has begun to get onto the scoresheet on a regular basis. He has points in five of his last seven games, including his first two goals of the season.
  • Center Dylan McLaughlin has nine points (3 G, 6 A) in January. He’s second on the team behind Lukas Reichel (12 G, 12 A) with six goals and 13 helpers.
  • The Hogs out shot their opponents both nights. However, many of Rockford’s attempts came on the perimeter as opposed to between the circles. This has been an issue for much of the season; hopefully players like Teply, Altybarmakian, and Kale Howarth, who got to the left post to score the IceHogs second goal Friday, can point the rest of the Hogs toward the front of the net.
  • The 18-year-old (who, as the nine-year-old, only occasionally watched the games when he wasn’t spilling Dippin’ Dots under everyone’s seats) commented that Saturday’s game was perhaps the most exciting result of the season for Rockford. Tall praise, as he’d attended hoping for gloves to drop and was not obliged. I only partially agreed, as he had lamentably chosen to skip Rockford’s 8-0 shellacking of the Wolves earlier this month. I did concur that it was possibly the most dramatic Hogs win so far this season.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs split a weekend in Texas, running their December record to 5-3 and maintaining third place in the AHL’s Central Division. Rockford (11-10-1-1) has used improved defense to go 6-3-1 over its last ten games.

The piglets are giving up 3.26 goals per contest. That’s about a half goal less than a month ago. In seven December contests, Rockford is holding opponents to 2.85 goals. The tightened defense has definitely been a catalyst to a more competitive IceHogs squad.

The Chicago Wolves has separated them from the other division clubs, having lost just five games this season. Three of those five losses have come at the hands of the Hogs. Rockford’s 3-2 shootout triumph on November 20 was the last defeat of Chicago by anyone in a month; the Wolves (20-4-1) have won twelve straight since then.

 

Roster News

Defenseman Ian Mitchell was recalled by the Blackhawks after skating for Rockford in Friday’s win in Cedar Park. Mitchell and forward Josiah Slavin were assigned to the Hogs Sunday.

A host of Rockford skaters returned to action over the weekend, including Lukas Reichel (concussion) Dylan McLaughlin (COVID protocol), and Jakub Galvas (concussion). Goalie Arvid Soderblom came out of the concussion protocol to play Saturday night.

 

Weekend Recaps

Friday, December 17-Rockford 3, Texas 1

Rockford slowed the Stars in impressive fashion, making a first-period lead stick in Cedar Park Friday.

The IceHogs struck twice in 30 seconds in the opening period. Dylan McLaughlin hauled in a long stretch pass from Nicolas Beaudin at the Texas blueline. McLaughlin, back in action for Rockford after missing four games, skated to the front of the net and five-holed Stars goalie Anton Khodobin at the seven minute-mark for a 1-0 Hogs lead.

Alex Nylander, assisted by Issak Phillips on an odd-man rush, extended the Rockford advantage with a wrister past Khodobin at 7:30 of the first. Texas cut the lead to 2-1 at 8:55 on a Ben Gleason goal.

Rockford out-shot the Stars 13-7 in the second period, garnering several up-close scoring opportunities. Khudobin kept Texas in the game in the second period, then stifled the Hogs throughout the third. His paddle save of McLaughlin’s shot at an open net midway through the period was one of many outstanding stops.

The IceHogs were only able to pick up an insurance goal when the Texas netminder was called to the bench in the closing minutes. Ironically, the goal was credited to Rockford goalie Collin Delia, who made a pad save for his 24th stop of the evening. An errant centering pass wound up in the Stars net; as the last Rockford player to touch the puck, the Cucamonga Kid picked up his first AHL goal at the 19:57 mark.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mike Hardman-Lukas Reichel-Alexander Nylander

Michal Teply-Dylan McLaughlin (A)-D.J. Busdeker

Cameron Morrison-Evan Barratt-Carson Gicewicz

Andrei Altybarmakian-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dimitri Osipov

Issak Phillips-Ian Mitchell

Wyatt Kalynuk-Alec Regula

Ryan Stanton (A)-Nicolas Beaudin

Collin Delia

Arvid Soderblom

 

Saturday, December 18-Texas 3, Rockford 2

Rockford staged a late rally that came up short, as the Stars rode another solid performance by Anton Khudobin in Saturday’s rematch.

After a scoreless first period, Texas took a 1-0 lead on a Curtis McKenzie goal 2:28 into the second. The goal was set up off a Josh Melnick shot attempt that was blocked by Hogs defenseman Nicolas Beaudin. McKenzie got the puck on his stick at the right post and slipped it past Hogs starter Arvid Soderblom.

The Stars captain picked up his second of the night late in the second. Joel L’Esperance sent a cross-ice pass over the stick of Hogs defenseman Issak Phillips to McKenzie at the right dot. The goal came with 1:05 remaining, sending Rockford to the intermission down 2-0.

Texas went up 3-0 midway through the third period on Tye Felhaber’s first goal of the season. The Hogs broke up Anton Khudobin’s shutout bid with a Mike Hardman goal from the right post at the 14:04 mark.

A high-sticking penalty by the Stars Riley Damiani prompted Rockford to pull Soderblom for an extra skater. Lukas Reichel found the mark from the top of the right circle with 2:35 left to pull the Hogs within a goal. Unfortunately, that’s as close as the game got.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mike Hardman-Lukas Reichel-Alexander Nylander

Michal Teply-Dylan McLaughlin (A)-D.J. Busdeker

Cameron Morrison-Evan Barratt-Carson Gicewicz

Andrei Altybarmakian-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Dimitri Osipov

Issak Phillips-Jakub Galvas

Wyatt Kalynuk-Alec Regula

Ryan Stanton (A)-Nicolas Beaudin

Arvid Soderblom

Collin Delia

 

This Week

The IceHogs host Milwaukee Tuesday night in their only action this week.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for news and notes on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

Hockey

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

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

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

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

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

 

Roster Move

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

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

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

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

 

Recaps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

This Week

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs put in a decent effort in Texas this past weekend, earning a split against the Stars. With each contest being of the must-win variety, two points in Cedar Park just isn’t enough to get the piglets over the playoff hump.

Rockford is currently on the bottom of a five-team sprint for the last two playoff spots in the Central Division. With three games left to play in the regular season, the Hogs figure to wind up on the outside looking in.

On the strength of an eight-game winning streak, Milwaukee (83 points) has leapfrogged Iowa for third place in the Central Division. The Wild, who have dropped eight in a row, now sit in a tie with Manitoba with 81 points. Texas trails Iowa and the Moose by a single point. In seventh place, with 78 points, are the IceHogs.

Rockford winds up its schedule with the Admirals in Milwauke Tuesday and at Iowa Saturday before wrapping up the regular season at the BMO against the Ads Sunday afternoon. Even if Rockford were to sweep this week, it seems unlikely that they can earn enough points to vault into fourth place.

 

Texas Trip

Peter Holland led the Hogs in Texas with four points (2 G, 2 A) in the back-to back. He had the only goal for Rockford in a 2-1 loss to the Stars Friday night and got another in the Hogs 4-3 shootout victory Saturday.

Holland’s goal Friday tied that game in the third period; Texas would pull out the win on a penalty shot by Ty Dellandrea midway through the final frame. Saturday was a back and forth affair, with the IceHogs tying the contest on a Tyler Sikura goal with just over five minutes remaining.

Holland, who had scored in the second period of regulation, kept Rockford alive in the third round of the shootout, which ended with a successful attempt by Jacob Nilsson in the fifth round.

The goal tending was solid throughout the weekend. Collin Delia stopped 26 of 28 Texas shots in a losing effort Friday. Anton Forsberg turned away 32 Stars shots, including a pair of point-blank attempts following Rockford turnovers in overtime.

 

Epic Comeback Against San Antonio

Forgive the hyperbole, but Rockford really pulled a rabbit out of its hat back on Tuesday night at the BMO. Trailing San Antonio 3-1 through two periods, a listless IceHogs team came out in fast-strike mode in the final frame to keep hopes alive.

William Pelletier scored twice in a thirteen-second span in the seventh minute to tie the contest. Rockford gave the stunned Rampage a reprieve until Dylan Sikura scored his second goal of the night at 15:25 of the third to put the Hogs ahead. On the next shift, Andreas Martinsen knocked in a rebound of Brandon Hagel’s attempt to cap off a 5-3 triumph.

As impressive as Tuesday’s rally was, it came at a price. Jordan Schroeder was helped off the ice at the end of the first period and did not return to action. Schroeder did not skate in Texas this weekend.

 

Roster Changes

Last Monday, Dylan Sikura was assigned to Rockford by the Blackhawks. The next day, Sikura was joined in the Hogs lineup by Matthew Highmore. Highmore made his return to action following an injury suffered back on October 28.

Dennis Gilbert was recalled by Chicago Tuesday, played for the Hawks Wednesday and was returned to Rockford that night. I was happy to see Gilbert get a look from the parent club; I felt like he was a player who made strides in his development this season.

Thursday, Rockford re-signed defenseman Dmitri Osipov to a new PTO after releasing him last week. They also inked forward Philipp Kurashev to an ATO after his junior season ended. Kurashev played in both games against the Stars; Osipov skated on Saturday night.

Friday, goalie Kevin Lankinen was recalled by Chicago to back up Cam Ward in Nashville in the Blackhawks season finale Saturday. He was assigned back to Rockford Sunday.

 

One Timers

  • In 19 games with the IceHogs, Holland has 15 points (7 G, 8 A). That’s not quite at the pace he was scoring with Hartford for most of the season, but he leads Rockford in points since joining the club. For the season, Holland has 64 points (27 G, 37 A), good for a tie for seventh in the AHL.
  • Schroeder had 16 points (8 G, 8 A) in his last 19 games dating back to February 16. Even if he doesn’t play again this season, he has set a career-high in points with 45 (19 G, 26 A).
  • Highmore was back in the lineup for all three games this past week. He had an assist in each of the games against the Stars.
  • From February 1 to March 16, the Admirals were 4-7-7-1 and just about out of the playoff race. Beginning with the three-game set with Rockford, with started March 22, Milwaukee is 8-0. That three-game sweep at the hands of Milwaukee will wind up the difference between The IceHogs making and missing this year’s Calder Cup Playoffs.
  • As of Monday morning, all eight Central Division teams have played 73 games. No games in hand for anyone in the division at the moment.
  • Despite two helpers this weekend, Anthony Louis is going to see a drop in his offensive numbers from his rookie campaign. More concerning is the fact that his scoring has faded badly in the latter part of both his pro seasons. In his last 32 games this season, Louis has two goals and six assists.
  • Rookie defenseman Lucas Carlsson, who paces the Hogs blueliners with eight goals, is on a twenty-game goal drought.
  • In his last 20 games, Alexandre Fortin has one goal and one assist.
  • It’s been a disappointing return to Rockford for Terry Broadhurst, who hasn’t skated for the Hogs since March 1. In 40 games played this season, Broadhurst has four goals and eight assists. These are by far the worst scoring numbers in five full AHL seasons.
  • Tyler Sikura’s goal Saturday was his first since December 19. In a season win which he missed two months with a broken thumb, Sikura The Elder has 19 points (7 G, 12 A) in 47 games. With a plus-five skater rating (fourth among active Hogs), Sikura is an RFA I’d like to see back in town next season. Goals or no goals, his work ethic is evident on the ice every night.

 

Follow me on twitter @JonFromi for game updates, news and thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season and beyond.

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs have six games in the 2018-19 season to wrest a playoff berth from a host of Central Division rivals. Whether the piglets can do so hinges on how this group of youngsters can finish up, starting this coming weekend in Texas.

The Stars, along with Milwaukee, put themselves in the catbird seat for the time being with a pair of wins in Iowa this weekend. The Admirals, who’s three-game sweep of Rockford last week propelled them back into playoff consideration, beat division leaders Chicago and Grand Rapids in back-to-back games.

The Hogs beat the Griffins 4-1 at the BMO Saturday night. They then dropped a 5-2 decision to the Wolves the following afternoon. A split was a pretty decent effort for Rockford. It just wasn’t enough to keep pace with Texas and Milwaukee.

Through 70 games, Rockford (32-28-4-6) are sitting in seventh place in the division standings with 74 points, three points behind the Admirals and Stars and one behind Manitoba. Fourth place is attainable. The road is uphill, but it is very, very clear.

How does Rockford break out of the pack? Simple. The Hogs must follow these easy steps…

  1. Take care of business Tuesday night against last-place San Antonio. Do not leave the BMO with any less than two points. Overtime, shootout…doesn’t matter.
  2. Sweep Texas this weekend. Two regulation wins. The Stars must be denied even a single point.
  3. Beat the Ads April 9 in Milwaukee, then come to the BMO and beat them again in the final game of the regular season April 14. Regulation wins? Yup.
  4. I was going to suggest that dropping the penultimate game on the schedule to Iowa might be all right if the first three steps were met. You know what? Better knock off the Wild as well.

Hey, if things had gone differently against Milwaukee last week, it wouldn’t be so dire. However, the Admirals have an eight-game point streak going and Texas has won three in a row. That postseason berth will have to be won. That may well mean running the table the last two weeks.

 

Setting Things Straight

In the action on Saturday (I was there in the stands) and Sunday (I was on the internet), I picked up a lot of frustration on the part of the BMO faithful. Whether I heard it live or via social media, a vocal portion of IceHogs nation have pinned the blame for the team’s struggles to match last-year’s spring awakening on the following transgressions, which I will summarize below:

  1. The kids aren’t putting in enough effort.
  2. The team doesn’t score because they aren’t shooting enough.
  3. Derek King is a terrible coach because he stands behind the bench with his arms crossed.
  4. Anton Forsberg is the worst goalie in the history of ever.

I lack the time to fully dissect these theories for validity, but respectfully disagree with each of the above takes. Last night, on my twitter page, I belched out a lengthy diatribe on the subject. Below is said diatribe.

 

My Twitter Diatribe (@JonFromi)

1. Reading a lot of fan frustration following the Hogs 5-2 loss to Chicago this evening. Words like “effort” and “coaching” and “Forsberg” trying to point a finger at what is a borderline playoff team.

2. RFD split the weekend and probably needed to get four points after dropping three straight games to MIL last week. Hogs are three points behind the Admirals, who have the fourth Central berth with six games to play in the regular season.

3. It’s not a lack of effort or a desire to hit the links this spring that has RFD in its current position. Interim coach Derek King is not the the anchor keeping the Hogs from another spectacular postseason run. Nor is it any of the three goalies.

4. The truth is that this is pretty much where last year’s club would have slotted…had they not been fortified with a slew of NHL-level players coming down from the Blackhawks. Don’t agree? Let’s look at the names…

5. David Kampf, Lance Bouma, Chris DiDomenico, John Hayden, Cody Franson and Adam Clendening were all added to the IceHogs roster in the spring of 2018, This is the sole reason that the IceHogs reached the postseason and why they went as far as they did.

6. This season, King lost his top goal scorer, Matthew Highmore, to injury. Then leading point-producer Dylan Sikura was called up. Peter Holland was obtained and has been a big part of the RFD offense. However, King received a pittance of the bounty provided for Jeremy Colliton.

7. Not sure King is going to have the “interim” removed from his title following the season. I will say this; no way Colliton gets substantially more out of the current piglets. They don’t score consistently, at evens or on the man advantage.

8. RFD may or may not get to the playoffs. They are kids; young teams are streaky by nature and effort has nothing to do with this. If King manages to coax the IceHogs into the postseason despite the AHL’s worst offense and power play, tip your cap to the guy.

In the spirit of honesty, the Hogs scored a power play goal this weekend to move up to 29th in the league with a man advantage.

 

Roster Moves

Brandon Hagel and Reece Johnson both made their pro debuts Saturday night. Hagel was assigned to Rockford by the Blackhawks; Johnson signed an ATO with the Hogs.

On Sunday, Spencer Watson was recalled to Rockford from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. Fredrik Olofsson was released from his ATO.

 

Win ‘Em All

San Antonio visits the BMO Harris Bank Center Tuesday night. Then, it’s off to Texas for two pivotal contests.