Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs got the first half of a four-game road trip off to a great start over the weekend. The IceHogs continued their push to the Calder Cup Playoffs with a pair of wins over the Tucson Roadrunners.

In doing so, Rockford (30-24-4-1) tightened its hold on the fourth-place spot in the AHL’s Central Division. The IceHogs have won seven of their last ten games as the action moves further West to Henderson to complete the road jaunt.

Rockford opened the weekend with an overtime victory Friday night. The IceHogs rallied from a two-goal deficit in the first five minutes to take a 3-2 lead by the second intermission. Former Hogs skater Terry Broadhurst tied the game for the Roadrunners late in regulation, but Rockford won the game 23 seconds into extra skating when Dylan McLaughlin scored.

The IceHogs also fell behind Saturday before prevailing 6-3. Rockford took the lead in a back-and-forth contest with a shorthanded strike by D.J. Busdeker late in the middle frame.  Lukas Reichel put the game away with his 21st goal of the season early in the third period.

 

The Playoff Hunt

On Tuesday, the Hogs hosted Milwaukee with a chance to overtake the Admirals for third place in the division. That failed to materialize in the face of a 5-3 loss, but Rockford could avoid a play-in series by overtaking Milwaukee.

The Texas Stars have won five straight and are a few games behind the IceHogs. At this point, Rockford and the Stars would play a best-of-three series to decide who gets to take on the Chicago Wolves.

 

Fights Piling Up

After several seasons of seeing its fight totals dropping, Rockford is currently tied for fourth with 32 fighting majors this season. With Tucson at the top of the league with 43 fighting majors, it should come as no surprise that some gloves hit the ice over the weekend.

Friday night, Kurtis Gabriel squared off with the Roadrunners Bokondji Imama a few minutes into the contest. It was Imama’s tenth fighting major of the season, earning an automatic one-game suspension from the AHL. Gabriel, with nine fighting majors this season (seven coming with the IceHogs), will be suspended following his next scrap.

On Saturday, Carson Gicewicz objected to a hit Ty Emberson laid on Cameron Morrison and took the Tucson defenseman for a spin around the dance floor. It was Gicewicz’s second scrap of the season; he also was tagged with an instigating minor and a game misconduct for his actions.

In all, 12 different Hogs have at least one fighting major. The bulk have been earned by Gabriel, Garrett Mitchell and Dimitri Osipov. The latter two each have six fighting majors to go with the aforementioned seven by Gabriel.

This will be the IceHogs highest total in this category since racking up 39 FMs in the 2016-17 campaign.

 

Pertinent Thoughts

  • Brett Connolly, who left early in a March 29 loss to Milwaukee, made the trip and had a big impact in both games. After setting up McLaughlin for the game-winner Friday, Connolly picked up a goal and two assists the following evening. He currently has the league’s longest-running point streak at nine games.
  • Josiah Slavin returned to the lineup Friday after missing two games. Like Connolly, Slavin also had a four-point weekend. He had a goal and two helpers Friday before assisting on Busdeker’s game-winner on Saturday.
  • Arvid Soderblom manned the pipes in both games for the IceHogs. Cale Morris returned from a hip injury to serve as the backup. This comes after Rockford recalled Tom Aubrun from the Indy Fuel and released Mitch Gillam from his PTO on Tuesday. I’d guess that Soderblom gets the net in at least nine of Rockford’s last 13 games.
  • Also returning to Rockford’s ECHL affiliate on Tuesday were forwards Riley McKay and Chad Yetman, along with defenseman Cliff Watson. Several IceHogs have returned from injury this past week, including McLaughlin (concussion), Garrett Mitchell (back) and Michal Teply (shoulder).
  • Mitchell celebrated his 500th AHL game with the Hogs first goal on Saturday. Rockford’s captain has six goals and six assists on the season.
  • Defenseman Ryan Stanton set a franchise mark for defenseman by playing in his 267th game with Rockford on Friday night, assisting on Ian Mitchell’s second-period goal. Stanton, who has two goals and assists in 44 games with the IceHogs this season, played both games this weekend.

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

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs had a six-game win streak snapped Saturday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The recent success of the ‘Bago County Flying Piglets has brought at least a smidge of hope to an appearance in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The Hogs boosted their season mark to 23-20-3-5 with a 7-3 record over the last ten games. Rockford is in a tie for fourth in points with Milwaukee (54) in the Central Division. However…

…if the season ended today (which it won’t), neither the Hogs or the Ads would qualify for the postseason. Texas is in that fourth position due to its .531 points percentage, the stat that decides the highest-ranking teams in each division.

In case you are unaware, several Pacific Division teams play 68, not 76 games over the course of the season. This necessitates the use of the points percentage statistic. Since it ranks the teams regardless of how many games in hand one team may have on another, I choose to set the standings in this fashion.

I guess points will eventually matter in the Central Division after the final day of the regular season. Until that day arrives, I will report the standings (as I have for some time now) according to points percentage. So Rockford is tied for fifth, not fourth place. I am killjoy, hear me roar.

Actually, there is a lot to be excited about here on our stretch of I-90. The IceHogs still have home-cookin’ ahead of them through this upcoming weekend. They have three division opponents coming in, with the opportunity to keep pushing up North in the standings. There’s the potential of a trade deadline pact that could provide some help in Rockford.

Plus, some of the boys currently residing in town are beginning to step up.

 

Pacing A Winning Streak

The Rockford win streak was anchored by solid defense and some outstanding play in net. However, pucks need to get into the net for a six-pack of wins.

As needs to be the case with the current roster, the push is communal. Here are some players who have  come to the forefront the last few weeks:

Luke Johnson

Johnson (9 G, 8 A), leads Rockford with five game-winning goals this season. He picked up the deciding tally in both IceHogs wins this week. Over the last seven games, Johnson has four goals and a pair of helpers, including two power play strikes. All four of those goals came in Rockford victories.

 

Dylan Sikura

The Hogs leader in goals and points this season (13 G, 17 A) was very noticeable during the winning streak. Sikura The Younger put up eight points (2 G, 6 A) in his last eight games and is currently on a four-game points streak. (UPDATE-The Blackhawks recalled Sikura Monday morning.)

 

Jordan Schroeder

In 42 games, the veteran has 11 goals and 18 assists on the season. Schroeder is on pace to set a career-high in points, his previous high being 44, set with the Wolves in 2011-12. Schroeder ran his current point streak to five games and has seven points (2 G, 5 A) in his last eight contests.

 

Lucas Carlsson

With several injuries on the blue line, the rookie has continued to contribute at both ends of the ice. With eight goals and 17 helpers in 47 games this season, he is a lone assist from tying Darren Raddysh as the team’s top-scoring defenseman. In his last seven games, Carlsson has a goal and four assists.

 

Dennis Gilbert

I’m throwing Gilbert into this bunch mostly because of his outstanding evening on Saturday night. Even before the big rookie notched what was a game-tying goal at the time, I was impressed with how aggressive his was in the offensive zone.

Gilbert sent a personal-best five shots on the Tucson net Saturday, just missing on a couple of attempts and following up on several rebounds. He has 45 shot on the year in 39 games. In his last 15 games, however, he has put pucks on goal 24 times.

A very nice pass by Gilbert set up Johnson’s eventual game-winner Friday to go with his strong showing the following night. Gilbert may be benefiting from increased responsibility in lieu of several Hogs defenders out of commission at the moment.

The former Notre Dame skater has consistently brought a hard-nosed style to the ice this season. Gilbert is not a puck-moving type by any means. However, if he can display just a bit more of the aggressive game he showed Saturday on a regular basis, he could be an exciting player to watch.

 

Roster Moves

Last Monday, forward Matheson Iacopelli was assigned to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. Iacopelli, a third-round draft pick in 2014 for the Blackhawks, had a goal for the Fuel Saturday night in a 5-4 loss to the Quad City Thunder.

At times, Iacopelli has displayed a high-quality shot from the left side. This season, he has again failed to get solid footing in the IceHogs lineup. With his rookie contract set to expire this summer, it’s hard to see the young man back in the organization.

Several IceHogs defensemen are still nursing injuries. Blake Hillman, who took a nasty turn into the end boards February 1, was proclaimed to be okay the next day by the coaching staff. Hillman, however, has not played since. He skated in warmups Saturday night but was still a scratch. Also scratched Saturday was D Joni Tuulola, who did return from injury the previous night. Brandon Davidson has not played since January 21, missing the last seven games.

Luc Snuggerud, who has missed three months with a concussion, may be at a crossroads in his hockey career. It was reported by theathletic.com’s Scott Powers yesterday that the Blackhawks have placed Snuggerud on unconditional waivers.

Snuggerud, a fifth-round selection in the 2014 NHL Draft, also missed a sizable chunk of his rookie season with a concussion. After putting up 5 goals and 12 assists in 40 games last season, Snuggerud had appeared in just four games this season before suffering his current injury November 6.

 

Recaps

Wednesday, February 6-Rockford 2, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 1

Rockford won its fifth-straight game with a pair of first-period goals, riding a fine night of goal tending by Anton Forsberg to the victory.

Local product Josh McArdle got the Hogs on the board with his first AHL goal just 1:42 into the contest. The play developed after Viktor Ejdsell sent a shot on goal from the high slot. The rebound was fought for in front of the net by Jordan Schroeder and Nick Moutrey, who sent the puck back out to the slot. McArdle pounced on the opportunity, knocking the biscuit past Penguins goalie Anthony Peters for a 1-0 IceHogs lead.

Just over a minute later, Jarrett Burton beat Darren Raddysh to a Ryan Haggerty pass, leading to a breakaway goal that tied the game. The IceHogs got the game-winner 12:49 into the first, however, converting on a 5-on-3 power play.

Lucas Carlsson had won a battle for the puck behind the boards after a Raddysh attempt was wide of the net. Dylan Sikura gained possession in the corner, skated it back up top and sent a pass to Luke Johnson at the bottom of the left circle. Johnson didn’t get all of the one-timer, but the shot found its way past Peters for a 2-1 Hogs advantage at the 12:49 mark.

That lead held up for the remainder of the game, largely because of Forsberg. Rockford was out shot 39-13 in the final 40 minutes, but the IceHogs goalie was up to the challenge. Fittingly, Forsberg was named the game’s First Star for his 45-save performance.

 

Friday, February 8-Rockford 3, Tucson 1

Late in the first period, Rockford opened the scoring on a transition goal set up by a long cross-ice pass by Jordan Schroeder. The pass found the stick of Jacob Nilsson, who skated the the left dot before hitting Anthony Louis at the opposite dot for the one-timer. The goal came at the 17:38 mark.

The Hogs lead doubled 6:27 into the second period after Dennis Gilbert gathered in a loose puck in the Rockford zone. The rookie defenseman slid a stretch pass to Luke Johnson as he entered Tucson ice. Johnson skated to just outside of the right dot before letting fly with a shot that bested the glove of Roadrunners goalie Adin Hill.

Tucson’s Lane Pedersen knocked home a rebound past Hogs goalie Kevin Lankinen later in the period to cut the lead to a single goal. However, the rookie net-minder would not allow another puck past him on this night, stopping 23 shots to secure the victory.

Meanwhile, the IceHogs picked up a late insurance goal when Nilsson caught cord on the power play, drifting across the slot and flinging the puck past Hill at 15:09.

Saturday, February 9-Tucson 5, Rockford 3

The Hogs put together a rally in the third period from two goals down, tying the game before ultimately losing to end a six-game winning streak.

Rockford took a 1-0 lead 8:19 into the game with a power play goal from the top of the left circle by Lucas Carlsson. With time running out on the man advantage, Carlsson sent a Darren Raddysh feed past Tucson goalie Adin Hill.

The Roadrunners quickly responded, tying the game 25 seconds later on Brayden Burke’s ninth goal of the season. New pickup Jeremy Gregoire made it a 2-1 game at the 11:22 mark. Five minutes into the second period, Robbie Russo got a shot past Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg on a power play. Rockford faced a 3-1 deficit heading into the final frame.

The IceHogs comeback hinged on a roughing penalty by Tucson captain Dakota Mermis, who was called for his mugging of Hogs forward Jacob Nilsson. Rockford took advantage, with Jordan Schroeder catching the top corner of Hill’s net 10:28 into the third period.

Less than a minute later, the Hogs came up with the equalizer. Alexandre Fortin drove into the Roadrunners zone and sent a shot off of Hill’s pads. Dennis Gilbert, who had four previous shot attempts turned away, punched in the long rebound from the left circle and drew Rockford even at 11:08 of the period.

Unfortunately, a penalty on the Hogs side proved to be the turning point of the contest. Andreas Martinsen somehow avoided a boarding call on Mermis before shoving him to the ice. Martinsen was sent to the box for interference at 15:55; near the end of the subsequent power play, Russo banged in his second goal of the evening to give Tucson a 4-3 lead. An empty netter 30 seconds later sealed the fate of the IceHogs.

 

This Week

The Hogs are back at it Tuesday night in Rockford, when they host the Texas Stars. Iowa visits the BMO on Saturday night, followed by a game with San Antonio that will close out this lengthy home stand.

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

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs returned to Illinois yesterday on the heels of a solid road trip. The Hogs picked up three of a possible four points in their Friday and Saturday dates with the Tucson Roadrunners.

Both games saw Rockford rally from multiple-goal deficits. Special teams played a bit part in the successs of the piglets, who lost an overtime decision Friday before pulling out a win the following evening.

The IceHogs now settle in at the BMO Harris Bank Center, where they begin a stretch of five of the next seven games at home. Rockford plays host to San Antonio Wednesday before being visited by Cleveland Saturday and Manitoba Sunday.

The Hogs are fifth in the Central Division standings with a .583 points percentage. Coach Jeremy Colliton’s club is putting pucks in the net and are showing that same never-say-die attitude that made last year’s pack of prospects so entertaining.

Question is…will this youthful, entertaining bunch bring in the box office?

 

Bringing ‘Em Into The BMO

Last week (October 12 to be exact), the IceHogs put out a release previewing that weekend’s home openers. The story drew my attention due to a quote from defenseman Carl Dahlstrom concerning the BMO faithful. This comes directly from the article on the Hogs site; I italicized the part of the quote that caught my eye.

“We have one of the fan bases in the league,” defenseman Carl Dahlstrom, who skated in each of Rockford’s 13 playoff games last spring, said. “I’m hoping they can really show that when we play in front of them this year.”

Obviously, a word was omitted. It happens to us all. I’m sure the missing word from Dahlstrom’s quote was “best” or something similar to the sentiment. I kidded on twitter the next day:

The one speculation that was based in fact? Smallest.

As I’ve pointed out on several occasions on this forum, attendance at the BMO has dropped significantly over the past two seasons. Here are the season averages the last three years:

2015-16-5014-Franchise record and the fourth straight season in which average attendance increased from the previous year.

2016-17-4328-Historically poor on-ice performance, last place finish in the Central Division.

2017-18-3915-Young, exciting team morphs into an experienced, exciting team and reaches the conference final. Still, Rockford finishes the regular season 27th out of 30 AHL teams in attendance.

2018-19-?????????

Following the Hogs reaching an apex in attendance, there were two straight years of prodigious drops in fan interest. The shift from the last two years (686 and 413, respectively) represented the widest such disparities in the history of the franchise. Nearly every other shift trended higher, not lower.

The last, and only, drop in yearly attendance came in 2011-12, when the drop was 116 fans from the season before. That could easily be explained away as the season average increased by 860 fans over the next four years.

Over the last two seasons, nearly eleven-hundred fewer fans came through the gates per game. How could this be explained away? Allow me to grasp at some straws. Here goes…

People stayed away because the hockey stank.

Very true following 2016-17. Not sure why that continued with a better on-ice product, though perhaps last year’s club suffered from an aftershock from the putrid season before. If I had to put a finger on the reason attendance has dropped, this issue would be first and foremost.

 

People stayed away because they were out following high school sports.

I hear that one occasionally, mostly in the fall. Yes, a lot of people like to follow high school football. However, the local sports scene in Northern Illinois hasn’t changed significantly in the past two years.

 

People stayed away because they couldn’t see folks punching each other.

I hear this lament from many of the old guard fans, though some would quickly poo-poo this. Fighting has dropped to the point of being non-existent in Rockford, but I enjoy the game the piglets showcase at the BMO. So would a lot of other fans if they could take off their sluggin’ goggles for a couple of minutes.

 

People stayed away because they’re old and don’t want to go out.

I have seen quite a number of those old guard Hogs fans scaling back on the number of games they attend. Then again, I’m sure that happens in a lot of places. Time keeps on ticking away…

 

People stayed away because they feel they aren’t accommodated enough.

The season ticket base is afforded many amenities by the organization (Full disclosure; I’ve been a season ticket holder for eight years). Long-time Hogs fans can become a bit spoiled in this area.

As is always the case with a lower-level pro sports franchise, there is always going to be some turnover as people move on to bigger and better things. I still believe that the team is very fan-oriented and are great at working with the season ticket base for a great experience.

I don’t require a butler or anything to go catch a hockey game. Being a season ticket holder has plenty of perks without one.

That said, I will point out one practice I’d like to see more of.

During the 2012-13 season, the team started making players available for autographs outside the “Stars Of Tomorrow” display at the BMO Harris Bank Center. You could go out during the second intermission and get your program or a puck signed by a couple of players. A couple of seasons ago, the team abruptly halted the concept.

At the season opener on October 13, the IceHogs had Luc Snuggerud and William Pelletier signing at a table out in the concourse. Sunday didn’t feature a similar event, but it appears that it will be happening on occasion throughout the season. Kudos.

Is having the evenings scratches out signing autographs going to raise attendance back to the 4500-per-night range? Probably not, but it is a magnanimous nod to the fans.

The IceHogs had record attendance for their run through the playoffs this past spring. That included averaging well over 3,000 a night for the three weekday games that normally top out at half that in previous postseasons. So maybe word will get out and the numbers will pick up this winter.

With this being the 20th anniversary of IceHogs hockey in Rockford (including the UHL days), it would be great to see those attendance figures back on the rise. The brand of hockey is exciting (again) and it’s worth heading over on I-90 to check it out.

Numbers Of Note

The IceHogs special teams loomed large in this weekend’s action. Rockford was 5-12 on the man advantage against Tucson. They also turned away the Roadrunners 5-on-3 advantages in the third period of both games.

For the season, the Hogs are converting 29.6 percent of their power play opportunities. That’s good for a tie with Texas for third in the Western Conference. At 84 percent efficiency, the penalty kill unit is fifth in the conference.

Three of those power play goals have come from Jordan Schroeder. He’s in a tie for third in the league in that category.

Dylan Sikura, with six points (1 G, 5 A), is 13th in the AHL among rookie skaters. He’s third in the league in rookie assists. He leads Rockford in points along with his brother Tyler, who has a team-high four goals and a pair of helpers.

Sikura the Elder is also carrying a skater rating of plus-three; tops among the IceHogs forwards. His empty netter to close out Saturday’s win in Tucson kept alive a five-game point streak. Schroeder and Anthony Louis each have three goals for the Hogs; each are working on three-game point streaks.

The defense is paced by Darren Raddysh, who has a goal and three assists so far this season. Carl Dahlstrom has three helpers despite not finding the back of the net in the first couple of weeks.

The goalie numbers are not especially impressive, though opposing skaters are getting a lot of quality chances. Collin Delia has been much better than his 3.26 goals against average would indicate. He is stopping 91 percent of the shots fired upon him and is 3-1 on the season.

Kevin Lankinen (3.39, .825) isn’t boasting gaudy stats, though he has kept the IceHogs in both of his starts.

 

Recaps

Friday, October 19-Tucson 4, Rockford 3 (OT)

Erasing a three-goal deficit in the last 30 minutes of action earned the IceHogs a road point. However, Tucson spoiled the good feelings by nabbing the third point late in overtime.

Rockford had back-to-back power plays early in the contest but couldn’t convert. Tucson went up a man following a Terry Broadhurst slashing penalty and wasted no time getting a puck in Kevin Lankinen’s net. Immediately after the faceoff, Kyle Capobianco sent a shot toward the Rockford net. Michael Bunting was in front with the redirect to give Tucson a 1-0 advantage at 10:22 of the first.

The Roadrunners very nearly took a 2-0 lead in the waning seconds of the period, after a furious charge ended with the puck in the Hogs cage. However, it was ruled that the clock had expired before the goal line had been crossed. Rockford went into the locker room only down a goal.

Tucson’s power play unit struck again 5:28 into the second period. The goal was set up by Trevor Murphy, who got behind the net and got Lankinen out of position before hitting Adam Helewka at the right dot for the one-timer. That lead was stretched to 3-0 after a turnover led to a Trevor Cheek goal at the 10:24 mark.

Rockford got on the board shortly after the resulting faceoff. Anthony Louis chased down Henrik Samuelsson’s dump-in attempt in the right corner of the Tucson zone. Louis centered to Tyler Sikura, who was skating hard through the slot. The one-timer got over the glove of Roadrunners goalie Adin Hill at 10:46 of the second to cut the lead to 3-1.

The IceHogs drew to within a goal midway through the third after the penalty kill team came up large. Matteo Gennero was sent to the box for interference, allowing Louis to get a puck into the offensive zone. Terry Broadhurst got control of the puck along the right halfboards and sent it back to Louis in the high slot. The shot was true and rubber connected with twine to close the gap to 3-2 at the 9:53 mark.

Another Gennero penalty, this time a cross-check, gave Rockford another special teams opportunity. The Hogs converted when Jordan Schroeder knocked in a loose puck past Hill at 15:17, evening the score at three goals. Tucson had some chances to clear the puck after Darren Raddysh sent it off the end boards, but the biscuit tricked over to Schroeder at the left post.

Rockford had to turn in a big effort to keep the game tied in the waning minutes of regulation. The IceHogs killed off 1:16 of 5-on-3 hockey to force Gus Macker Time. In the extra session, both teams had chances denied by the goalies. Jacob Nilsson kept a sliding puck out of the net to keep the piglets hopes for a win alive. However, Conor Garland led an odd man rush late in overtime and found the cord with 27 seconds remaining to end the game.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura (A)-Anthony Louis

Terry Broadhurst-Luke Johnson-Jordan Schroeder (A)

Matthew Highmore-Jacob Nilsson-Dylan Sikura

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Viktor Ejdsell

Andrew Campbell (A)-Joni Tuulola

Blake Hillman-Carl Dahlstrom

Lucas Carlsson-Darren Raddysh

Kevin Lankinen

Power Play (2-6)

D. Sikura-Schroeder-T. Sikura-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Highmore-Ejdsell-Louis-Broadhurst-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Tucson was 2-7)

Highmore-Nilsson-Dahlstrom-Hillman

Johnson-Knott-Gilbert-Tuulola

T. Sikura-Broadhurst-Carlsson-Raddysh

 

Saturday, October 20-Rockford 5, Tucson 3

The power play was the catalyst for the season’s first road victory. The IceHogs rallied from a two-goal hole, burning the Roadrunners for three scores. Collin Delia had a big night as Rockford made a big defensive stand in the final 20 minutes.

Tucson took advantage of a turnover by the Hogs penalty kill unit early in the game. Jens Looke wound up with a shot from the high slot; the puck glanced off Collin Delia’s blocker and tumbled into the net. This gave the Roadrunners a 1-0 lead 5:49 into the contest.

The IceHogs tied the game at 9:59 of the first when Luke Johnson got credit for his first goal of the season. After Jacob Nilsson won an offensive draw at the left dot, Dylan Sikura got him the puck at the goal line. Nilsson’s centering pass struck Johnson’s leg and settled into the Tucson cage.

The Roadrunners regained the lead when a ring-around attempt by Joni Tuulola caught the skate of the official and hopped into open ice. Tucson pounced on the loose puck, resulting in Lane Pederson firing from the slot over Delia’s glove. At the 15:29 mark, the Hogs trailed 2-1. That score held up through the first intermission.

A Trevor Murphy snipe made it 3-1 Tucson 4:30 into the second period and it appeared that the game may be getting away from the piglets. That all changed in a 22-second span near the midway point of the game.

Roadrunners defensemen Kyle Capobianco and Dysin Mayo wound up in the box in quick succession in the seventh minute. Jordan Schroeder and Darren Raddysh played catch between the circles until Schroeder gained the space to sling home his third goal of the season past Tucson goalie Hunter Miska. This pulled Rockford to within a goal of Tucson at the 7:42 mark.

The IceHogs still had a man advantage to work with following the goal and got right back to work. Carl Dahlstrom took in a nice no-look pass from Terry Broadhurst and set up Anthony Louis for a one-timer from the right dot. Just like that, the game was tied at three goals 8:04 into the second.

Late in the period, Delia made a fantastic stop, gloving a shot just as former Hogs forward Laurent Dauphin crashed into the blue paint. The resulting penalty carried over into the final 20 minutes.

On that man advantage, Rockford moved the puck around the Tucson zone with aplomb. It didn’t take long for the Hogs to punch in the game-winning goal. It came off of the stick of Terry Broadhurst, who took a pass from Johnson at the top of the left circle and fired past Miska. For the first time all weekend, the IceHogs held the lead, going up 4-3 1:22 into the third period.

Holding that lead wouldn’t be easy. The Roadrunners peppered Delia with 16 shots in the last 20 minutes of action. The pivotal stretch came midway through the third when Nathan Noel was called for a slash. Just 37 seconds into the Tucson power play, Delia was whistled for delay of game after knocking the goal post off its mooring.

Rockford dug in and, for the second straight night, killed off a two-man advantage on the road in the latter stages of the game. Tucson had an extended spell in the Hogs zone a few minutes later with a stick-less Delia to shoot at. However, they were denied by the Rockford defense. Miska was pulled with just under two minutes remaining. Tyler Sikura won a battle for a loose puck in neutral ice and threw in the back-breaker at 18:26 of the third.

Delia denied 35 Tucson shot attempts on the evening and was a big part of the win. However, Broadhust was named the game’s First Star, followed by Dahlstrom and Johnson.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Jeremy Colliton went with 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the first time this season.

Terry Broadhurst-Luke Johnson-Jordan Schroeder (A)

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura (A)-Anthony Louis

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Jacob Nilsson-Dylan Sikura

Andrew Campbell-Blake Hillman

Joni Tuulola-Carl Dahlstrom

Luc Snuggerud-Darren Raddysh

Lucas Carlsson

Collin Delia

Power Play (3-6)

D. Sikura-Schroeder-T. Sikura-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Nilsson-Johnson-Louis-Broadhurst-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Tucson was 1-6)

Noel-Nilsson-Dahlstrom-Hillman

Johnson-Knott-Campbell-Tuulola

T. Sikura-Broadhurst-Carlsson-Raddysh

 

Mid-Week Preview: Hogs vs San Antonio

The Rampage come to the BMO Wednesday night; they are in action the night before in Milwaukee. San Antonio is currently 1-5 and in the basement of the AHLs Central Division. This is the first season that the Blues are the sole parent team of the Rampage.

Key additions to the San Antonio lineup include Brian Flynn, who was a leader in Texas as they marched to the Calder Cup Final last spring. After a 47-point (18 G, 29 A) season with the Stars, Flynn is now in a similar role with the Rampage.

Trevor Smith comes over from Milwaukee, where he spent the last two seasons of his 11-year AHL career. Last season, he had 43 points (17 G, 26 A). The 6’1”, 200-pounder is a very capable AHL center who can put up offense.

Chris Thorburn is coming off of 12 seasons in the NHL for Pittsburgh, Atlanta/Winnipeg and St. Louis. He’s a big, physical forward with 118 NHL scraps to his name. His only full AHL campaign was in 2005-06, when he had 23 goals, 27 assists and ten fighting majors. He has yet to appear in a game for the Rampage.

Unlike Thorburn, Jordan Nolan has been an on-ice presence for San Antonio. He is a veteran of 361 NHL games, mostly with the Kings. Nolan is another big-physical forward (6’3”) with a propensity for fighting. He has 30 NHL fighting majors and 19 AHL FMs.

The Rampage don’t return a lot in the way of offense; the leading returning scorer from the 2017-18 forward group is Klim Kostin, who totaled six goals and 22 helpers last year in his rookie season.

Rookie center Zach Sanford has a pair of goals for San Antonio this season. He’s the only member of the Rampage with more than one; the team has just 13 goals in six games.

Defenseman Chris Butler has nearly 400 games of NHL experience with the Sabres, Flames and Blues. He has spent most of the past three seasons in the AHL. Last year he had 29 points (8 G, 21 A) for San Antonio.

Joey LaLeggia is a skilled point man who comes over from Bakersfield, where he played for the past three seasons. In 2017-18, he had 15 goals and 28 assists with the Condors. Tyler Wotherspoon comes over from the Stockton Heat, where he spent the last three seasons. He had career-highs in goals (7) assists (30) and points (37) with the Heat last year. He is entering his sixth AHL campaign.

Sam Lofquist is 28 and has spent the last seven years playing in Europe. He skates pretty well, has a big shot and is a physical player. He has a goal and an assist in three appearances to pace the San Antonio blueline. Rookie Mitch Reinke also has a goal and assist.

Goalie Jordan Binnington is a familiar face from his time with the Wolves, where he played three full seasons before being loaned to Providence by the Blues last year. There, he posted a 2.05 goals against average and a .926 save percentage in 28 games with the Bruins.

Ville Husso begins his third season with the Blues organization. He played 38 games for the Rampage last year, with a 2.42 GAA and a .922 save percentage. He’s started five of San Antonio’s first six games this month, sporting a 3.24 goals against average and an .893 save percentage.

I’ll be back on Friday to preview the Monsters and Moose tilts as well as a recap of Wednesday’s action. Until then, follow me @JonFromi on twitter for game updates, IceHogs thoughts and analysis all season long.

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs are back on the road again this weekend. Chicago’s AHL affiliate is currently in Tucson for two games with the Roadrunners. The puck drops for both Friday and Saturday are scheduled for 9:05 p.m. central time. What can we expect from this back-to-back weekend?

 

Rockford’s Week

On Thursday, the Blackhawks re-assigned Luke Johnson to Rockford in order to make room on the roster for Corey Crawford to be activated. Johnson will be meeting the team, who departed for Arizona earlier that day, in Tucson and should be in the lineup for at least one of the two games.

Hogs coach Jeremy Colliton will have some decisions to make on his lineup card:

  • Which forward is sitting to make room for Johnson? The odd man out would appear to be Matheson Iacopelli, but I thought he played well at the BMO this weekend, collecting a goal and a helper in wins over Texas and Hershey.
  • Will Andrew Campbell or Luc Snuggerud draw back into the defensive rotation? Rookies Dennis Gilbert and Blake Hillman played last weekend.
  • How will Colliton utilize his goalie tandem? Collin Delia had the net in both games this past weekend. I would expect Delia and Kevin Lankinen to each get a start in Tucson.

No team-issued updates on William Pelletier and whether or not he’s nearing a return to action. It’s certainly possible that Campbell and/or Snuggerud are sitting due to an injury, but no information was divulged concerning that topic at Colliton’s Tuesday media availability.

 

Captain-less But Not Leaderless

Colliton hadn’t yet decided on his starting goalies in this weekend’s action in his Tuesday media session. He also hasn’t decided on a captain for the 2018-19 piglets. This is likely due to the fact that he isn’t planning on naming one.

Last season, Colliton went with different sets of alternate captains for home and road games. The way it sounded Tuesday, his preference is to have several leaders in place as opposed to sticking a “C” on one player’s sweater.

Campbell, Jordan Schoeder and Tyler Sikura donned “A”s while the IceHogs visited Cleveland. At the BMO Harris Bank Center, Colliton’s alternates were Matthew Highmore, Terry Broadhurst and Carl Dahlstrom.

 

Quick Stats

Rockford currently sits in fifth place in the Central Division with a .500 points percentage. Chicago leads the division with a 4-0 record. Iowa is 3-0, while Milwaukee is 4-0-1 on the season.

The IceHogs special teams have performed well in the early going. The power play has three goals in 15 chances. Rockford has also killed all but one of the opposition’s 12 man advantages.

Tyler (2 G, 2 A) and Dylan (1 G, 3 A) Sikura pace the Hogs with four points. Matthew Highmore, like Tyler Sikura, has a pair of goals to lead Rockford. Highmore (2 G, 1 A), Darren Raddysh (1 G, 2 A) and Jordan Schoeder (1 G, 2 A) all have three points for the IceHogs.

Rockford has scored first in all four games to begin the season.

 

A Look At Tucson

The Roadrunners are coming off of their first loss of the season, a 3-2 shootout loss in San Jose Monday night. That wrapped up a span of three road games in four days for Tucson.

Most of the big point producers from last season’s Pacific Division Champs are elsewhere. That team was the top seed in the Western Conference but was eliminated in the second round by Texas.

The forward group is led by Michael Bunting, who tied for the team lead in goals with 23 last season. Former IceHogs center Laurent Dauphin also returns for the Roadrunners after combining for 9 goals and 20 assists between Rockford and Tucson a season ago. Center Lane Pederson is back for his second season after 12 goals and 14 helpers last year.

Adam Helewka, who had 38 points (9 G, 29 A) for the Barracuda in 2017-18, has four goals to pace the Roadrunners this season. Also with Tucson this fall is Hudson Fasching, who played with Rochester last year (12 G, 18 A).

Among the rookies up front for the Roadrunners are Kelly and Kevin Klima. Not only are they brothers, but twins to boot. The sons of former NHL forward Petr Klima were signed to AHL deals with Tucson. Kevin had 39 goals in his last season of juniors in the QMJHL.

Defenseman Robbie Russo should be a familiar face to Rockford fans; the Westmont native spent three seasons with Grand Rapids before the Red Wings traded him to Arizona this summer. Russo had 32 points (9G, 23 A) with the Griffins last season.

Russo will join Trevor Murphy, who came from Milwaukee in a mid-season trade, as the top offensive options on the blueline. Murphy has had double-digit goals in each of his first three AHL seasons, including 10 goals and 25 assists between Milwaukee and Tucson last year.

Kyle Copobianco (2 G, 28 A) is back after a strong rookie season. Dysin Mayo and Dakota Mermis are also returning defensemen with some experience. Mermis is tied for the team lead so far with four poins (1 G, 3 A). As a group, the Roadrunners defense is not real big but have an edge in experience over their Rockford counterparts.

Tucson won 42 games in 2017-18 and have the same goalie tandem this season. Third-year pro Adin Hill posted a 2.28 goals against average and a .914 save percentage and served as the Roadrunners playoff goalie.

Hill split the starts with Hunter Miska (both goalies played in 36 games), whose numbers weren’t quite as gaudy but went 22-9-0-1 in the regular season. Tucson is very solid in net regardless of who patrols the crease.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates on this weekend’s action as well as a coherent though or two throughout the week.