Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs continued to play winning hockey this week, earning five of a possible six points against Central Division opponents. Rockford sits in fourth place in the division standings, thanks to several hot players.

At the top of that list is Brett Connolly, who is riding a six-game point streak. Connolly posted four goals and a pair of assists in three games. This included two-goal efforts in consecutive games; Wednesday’s 5-4 win over Manitoba and Friday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Iowa.

Dylan McLaughlin returned after missing the last month with a concussion, notching four points over the weekend. After helping send Friday’s game into Gus Macker Time with assists on both of Rockford’s third period goals, the forward added a goal and a helper in Saturday’s 4-0 win over the Moose at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

The story of Saturday’s victory was a 38-save performance by goalie Mitch Gillam, signed to a PTO by the IceHogs on Thursday. Gillam, who has spent this season with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel, blanked Manitoba in his first career AHL start. Cale Morris is nursing a sore hip at the moment. Tom Aubrun was loaned to the Fuel Thursday.

Rookie Lukas Reichel had his five-game point streak snapped on Saturday. With four goals and four assists in that span, Reichel remains on top of Rockford’s goals (20) and points (46) list.

With 16 games left in the regular season, the Blackhawks top prospect is approaching two rookie marks. Namely, Vinnie Hinostroza’s 51 points, set in 2015-16, and Matthew Highmore’s 24 goals, accomplished in the 2017-28 campaign.

 

Roster News

With the Hawks trade of Marc-Andre Fleury on Monday, Collin Delia was recalled by Chicago, along with forward Reese Johnson. Morris was recalled by the IceHogs as well. Defenseman Alex Vlasic was assigned to Rockford long enough for him to be eligible for the AHL playoffs before returning to Chicago.

On Saturday, forwards Riley McKay and Chad Yetman were recalled to Rockford. Yetman skated in that night’s game for the IceHogs.

On the injury front, Michal Teply suffered a shoulder injury Wednesday night after being boarded by Manitoba captain Jimmy Oligny late in the third period. Hogs captain Garrett Mitchell jumped in for a bout with Oligny and is now day-to-day with a lower back injury.

 

Busy Piglets

Rockford will now enter a stretch of five games over the next eight days. This starts with a big home date with Milwaukee Tuesday. The Hogs will then head West for two games each with Tucson and Henderson. Rockford takes on the Roadrunners on Friday and Saturday, then tangles with the Silver Knights on April 4 and 5.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, begin their first season under new ownership in a couple of weeks. The new owners? The Chicago Blackhawks.

The organization purchased the Hogs back in April and are currently making renovations to the BMO Harris Bank Center. As a result, Rockford will be on the road for their first six games before opening the home schedule November 6.

For the ‘Bago County Flyin’ Piglets, the AHL season begins October 15 in Grand Rapids. What kind of club hits the ice against the Griffins?  The roster looks to be similar to the youth-laden squad that finished last in the Central Division by a fair sight in the Reader’s Digest-sized 2020-21 campaign.

Based on the lack of signing organizational depth, the IceHogs are going to be short on veteran leadership when the season begins. Today, I’ll begin breaking down the roster possibilities. Let’s start in net.

Rockford could be looking at several different scenarios between the pipes as the 2021-22 season quickly approaches. They could boast a veteran tandem that could anchor a young roster in the early part of the Hogs schedule. They also could be as green as the remainder of the roster.

It would appear that the Blackhawks will be going with Marc-Andre Fleury and Kevin Lankinen in net this fall. It also seems unlikely that the Blackhawks will carry three goalies on their cap-strapped roster.

In addition to Fleury and Lankinen, Chicago has three goalies under contract. Two of those players, Collin Delia and Malcom Subban, spent last season with the Blackhawks. Subban served as the primary backup to Lankinen, while Delia struggled to find playing time after the initial few games.

Things got so bad for the Cucamonga Kid that he requested and received a rehab assignment to Rockford on February 27. He was terrible in his first two starts of the four-game stint. Despite righting the ship in his final two appearances, Delia wound up with a 5.16 goals against average and an .858 save percentage.

Delia has had stretches where he been a very good AHL net minder. He also has been subject to several funks in his four-year pro career. He was clearly the odd man out last season in Chicago. Like Subban, Delia is in the final year of his NHL contract.

Both Subban and Delia are subject to waivers if they aren’t on the Hawks roster to begin this season. There is a strong chance that one or both could be claimed if/when Chicago attempts to assign them to Rockford. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that the Hawks are hoping one gets snatched up by another team, with the other clearing waivers and providing a bit of depth in case of injury.

Matt Tomkins, who was Rockford’s primary starter in goal last season, signed with Frolunda HC of the Swedish Hockey League in the offseason. In his place, the Blackhawks signed Arvid Soderblom to an entry contract this spring after a strong performance last season in the SHL. Soderblom does have a European Assignment Clause in his contract. If Subban and Delia both wind up in Rockford, it’s a possibility that he opts to play in Sweden for another season.

The Blackhawks seem to be planning on getting the 22-year-old Soderblom steady AHL work. Because of this, they may choose to work out a trade of Delia and/or Subban to keep a spot open for a younger goalie.

The IceHogs could see a tandem of Delia and Subban in the crease to open the season. One of the veterans could be paired with Soderblom if a trade or waiver claim materializes.

A solid option for the IceHogs would be for Soderblom to pair with former Notre Dame goalie Cale Morris for the workload in net. Morris is on an AHL contract with Rockford and showed promise in limited action in the abbreviated 2020-21 campaign.

The 21-year-old Morris made five starts and two relief appearances for the IceHogs last season, posting a 2.52 goals against average and a .923 save percentage. He’s earned an increased role, providing the Hawks thin the herd at goalie in the coming weeks.

Rockford also has Tom Aubrun under AHL ink for another season. Aubrun, 26, saw most of his action with the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. He did make three appearances in Rockford (4.46, .864) in 2020-21. Aubrun will likely bounce from Indy to Rockford when needed.

As will be the case throughout the Hogs roster, the way Chicago’s roster takes shape will factor into the makeup of the piglets. Next time, I’ll continue the season preview with a look at the defense.

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs are closing out the 2020-21 season this weekend with a home-and-home with the Chicago Wolves. For the Blackhawks AHL affiliate, the season concludes much like it began.

The Hogs dropped a 6-5 game in Hoffman Estates to the Wolves. This is Rockford’s third-straight loss; the piglets lost on Friday and again Sunday to Iowa.

The season commenced at the Triphahn Center Ice Arena (the Wolves practice facility) and will end there on Saturday night. The Wolves will be hoisting the vaunted Illinois Lottery Cup, having beaten Rockford in seven of the nine games held so far between the two teams.

The rivalry has been one-sided to say the least. Chicago has boasted a loaded squad for the bulk of the season, yet the only hardware they will hoist will be the above mentioned talisman. The AHL’s Central Division will eschew postseason activities; the Wolves can take their trophy from Rockford and go home.

The IceHogs would be going home regardless, being in the division basement by a considerable margin. They were pretty up front in their intentions of getting ice time for a young group. In all, 35 skaters and six goalies got into the action during what amounted to extended prospect camp.

Rookie goalie Tom Aubrun got his first start of the season for the Hogs on Monday, giving up four goals to the Wolves in the first period on the way to the loss. Before that, Iowa dominated Rockford in DesMoines Friday night, winning 6-1 before grinding out a 2-0 win over the IceHogs at the BMO Harris Bank Center Sunday afternoon.

 

No Recaps, Just Musings

  • The final two games with the Wild were brutal affairs. Iowa wanted to get physical with the IceHogs and did so in the two wins.
  • Brandon Pirri, who did not travel to Iowa, was pointless on Sunday to bring his five-game point streak to a close. He responded with two goals against the Wolves, pulling him into a tie with Chris Wilkie for the team lead in that category with eight.
  • For the most part, Rockford allowed far more up-close opportunities to their opponents than the Hogs were able to generate in their last three contests. This has been the theme for the piglets; they just can’t maneuver their way to a lot of high-percentage shots.
  • Defenseman Cliff Watson, who is the captain of the Indy Fuel of the ECHL, played in all three games for Rockford, picking up an assist Monday afternoon. He has been signed to four PTO contracts by the Hogs this season.
  • Remember back when I openly wondered what happened to Jack Ramsey, the defenseman who signed an AHL contract with Rockford last spring? The best I can offer is that he looks to have retired.

 

Live From The BMO

My number came up in the ticket lottery the IceHogs held for season ticket holders, so I will be attending the home finale Friday night. You’ll get intermission updates along with whatever observations I can muster. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for all the fun.

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs continue to maneuver through the COVID minefield that is the 2020-21 season. The IceHogs have had to adjust to several postponements throughout the campaign. This weekend may see more of that trend.

Rockford’s game last Saturday in Grand Rapids was postponed due to issues within the Griffins organization. After losing in Iowa Tuesday night, the Hogs are due to host the Chicago Wolves this Saturday before traveling to Hoffman Estates for a game with the Wolves Wednesday.

However, COVID issues affecting the Wolves forced Chicago to postpone Thursday’s game with the Griffins. This may put Saturday’s affair on hold, though the AHL has not yet postponed the contest.

All four of the Central Division teams on Rockford’s schedule have had to postpone games with the IceHogs due to COVID issues during the season. The game Rockford missed last Saturday is supposed to be played on May 3. A February 28 date in Cleveland has not yet been rescheduled.

The IceHogs have played 21 games heading into the weekend. They are 7-13-1 and in the basement of the Central Division standings.

 

Roster Moves

Goalie Matt Tomkins is currently on the Blackhaws taxi squad. Tom Aubrun is on loan to the Indy Fuel.  This leaves Rockford with just two goalies on the roster, Cale Morris and Ivan Nalimov.

Wednesday, defensemen Ian Mitchell and Nicolas Beaudin were brought up to the Hawks taxi squad, with forward Brandon Pirri being assigned yet again to Rockford. Despite playing in just three games for the Hogs this season, Pirri is second on the team with five goals.

On Thursday, the IceHogs announced that they had signed UMass forward Carson Gicewicz to an AHL contract through the 2022-23 season. Gicewicz had 17 goals and seven assists for the Minutemen, who recently were crowned NCAA Champs.

I can’t recall Rockford inking a player to a three-year deal in the past. Expect the 24-year old Gicewicz to get into some action, provided the Hogs have an opponent to play in the coming weeks.

 

Tuesday, April 13-Iowa 4, Rockford 1

The Hogs win streak ends at one game. Iowa put up four unanswered goals to beat Rockford.

With Cody Franson in the box for hooking, Rockford took the lead on a fine individual effort by Josiah Slavin. Winning a board battle in neutral ice, Slavin skated the puck into Wild territory and let fly from the right circle. The shot beat Iowa goalie Dereck Baribeau to the stick side for a 1-0 Hogs lead just 3:26 into the game.

The Wild tied the game with a transition goal that caught the Rockford defense on its heels. Damien Giroux got things started in the neutral zone and cleaned up a rebound of Connor Dewar’s initial attempt. Cale Morris was unable to make a second stop on the rush and the game was even at a goal apiece 9:03 into the first period.

Iowa built a 3-1 lead in the middle frame on goals by Will Bitten and Mason Shaw. The Hogs were unable to generate any offensive pressure in the third period, as Iowa would out-shoot Rockford 13-6 in the final twenty. Gerry Mayhew added an empty-net goal for the Wild in the final minutes to wrap things up.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Andrei Altybarmakian-Dylan McLaughlin-John Quenneville (A)

Josiah Slavin-MacKenzie Entwistle-Michal Teply

Evan Barratt-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Chris Wilkie

Mitchell Fossier-D.J. Busdeker-Tim Soderlund

Nicolas Beaudin-Cody Franson (A)

Issak Phillips-Ian Mitchell

Cole Moberg-Micheal Krutil

Cale Morris

Ivan Nalimov

 

Fingers Crossed

If all goes as planned, Rockford hosts the Wolves at the BMO Saturday night. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs had weekend plans with the Iowa Wild. They still do…kinda.

The AHL, in response to COVID-related issues in the Wild organization, pushed back what would have been Friday and Saturday games at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Instead, the two games are now scheduled for Sunday, March 21, and Tuesday, March 23.

Rockford’s schedule has been altered several times this season. Each time, the issues have been in the opponent’s camp. Right now, it still appears that the IceHogs, who have won two straight games, will have a chance to extend that streak against a struggling Iowa team that has dropped its last five contests.

 

McLaughlin Strikes Twice

Forward Dylan McLaughin is one of many AHL contracts signed by the Hogs that has capitalized on an increased role on the team this season. McLaughlin split his rookie season between Rockford and Indy; he had two goals and five helpers in 28 games with the IceHogs and 13 goals and 11 assists in 20 games with the Fuel.

McLaughlin spent most of 2019-20 as a fourth-line skater and penalty killer. Lately, he has seen a lot of top-six minutes and also has a spot on a power-play unit. As a result, McLaughlin is having his most noticeable stretch in his short IceHogs career.

Rockford got game-winning overtime goals from McLaughlin in consecutive victories over Grand Rapids on Saturday and Tuesday. He also assisted on the two goals that tied each game for the IceHogs.

McLaughlin, who spent four seasons at Canisius College before starting his pro career, is now second on the team in scoring with seven points (2 G, 5 A) in ten games for Rockford. So far this season, he’s made the most of the chances afforded to him.

 

Roster News

On Tuesday, it was announced that the Blackhawks had signed forward Josiah Slavin to a two-year entry contract that begins this fall. The IceHogs inked Slavin, whose season at Colorado College ended recently, to an amateur tryout, which should run through the rest of the AHL season.

Wednesday, Rockford assigned G Tom Aubrun to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. The Blackhawks sent F Brandon Pirri from the taxi squad to the IceHogs. Pirri had two goals and an assist in two games with Rockford earlier this month.

D Anton Lindholm got into his first game action of the season for Rockford Tuesday after suffering a broken thumb in training camp. Also returning to action Tuesday was forward Michal Teply.

 

Tuesday, March 16-Rockford 2, Grand Rapids 1 (OT)

Rockford won its second-straight game in Grand Rapids, prevailing in nearly the exact manner of Saturday’s overtime victory. This time, Matt Tomkins made 46 saves, allowing Dylan McLaughlin to pot another game-winner for the Hogs.

The Griffins took advantage of an ill-advised pass attempt by Hogs rookie defenseman Alec Regula to take a 1-0 advantage midway through the first period. Regula was in the corner of his own zone and tried to send a no-look backhand pass to Dylan McLaughlin.

The pass did not connect; instead, the puck found the stick of Givani Smith. A quick pass to Chase Pearson at the left post was knocked past Tomkins at the 10:26 mark. The Hogs were out shot 16-9 in the opening twenty and went to the locker room down a goal.

Rockford capitalized on a Griffins turnover to tie the game early in the second stanza. Grand Rapids captain Brian Lashoff was unable to gather in a bouncing puck in the corner of the Griffins zone. McLauglin swooped in to take control and sent the puck out to Cody Franson at the right point.

Franson’s shot was stopped by Grand Rapids goalie Calvin Pickard, but McLaughlin gathered in the rebound and sent it to the blue paint. Gabriel Gagne slid the biscuit across the goal line 1:15 into the second to make it a 1-1 game.

The Griffins kept Rockford on its heels for most of the remainder of the second period. Tomkins, as he had in Saturday’s Hogs victory, kept his team in the game with many point-blank stops. Grand Rapids out shot the piglets 16-3 in the third period. Tomkins sent them away time and again, including two power plays in the final twenty minutes.

The ending was short, sweet, and nearly a carbon copy of Saturday’s triumph. The Griffins won the opening faceoff in Gus Macker Time and got set to bring it up the ice. A long stretch pass knocked the stick out of Tim Soderlund’s hands, effectively making it a 3-on-2 Grand Rapids advantage. No matter.

Issak Phillips retrieved the loose puck and skated into the offensive zone. With all three Griffins defenders surrounding him at the right dot, Phillips dropped a pass to McLaughlin. The resulting shot to the far corner caught twine and earned Rockford the win 19 seconds into the extra session.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Andrei Altybarmakyan-MacKenzie Entwistle-D.J. Busdeker

Matej Chalupa-Evan Barratt-Michal Teply

Tim Soderlund-Dylan McLaughlin-Gabriel Gagne

Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Mitchell Fossier

Alec Regula-Cody Franson (A)

Anton Lindholm-Michael Krutil

Issak Phillips-Dimitry Osipov

Matt Tomkins

Cale Morris

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