Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs earned a split in a two-game series with Cleveland this past weekend. Both teams picked up a win at the BMO Harris Bank Center-along with plenty of bruises.

The piglets, now 13-12-1-1 on the season, were in two of the more physical affairs of their 2021-22 season in the first half of the season series with Cleveland. In Friday’s contest, Rockford was able to handle the Monsters in the defensive zone, anchored by 33 saves by Arvid Soderblom. The IceHogs took the opener 5-2.

Saturday, Cleveland was even more aggressive, generating a lot of odd-man rushes at Collin Delia to the tune of a 5-2 second-period advantage. The Hogs rallied in the third and had chances to tie the game in the closing seconds, but wound up dropping a 5-4 decision.

 

Roster News

Following Saturday’s loss, the Blackhawks recalled G Cale Morris to the taxi squad, along with F Mike Hardman, who had a pair of goals over the weekend for Rockford.

Ian Mitchell played a big part in Friday’s win, was recalled to Chicago Saturday and subsequently sent back to Rockford. Also coming back to the IceHogs was rookie forward Lukas Reichel.

Both Chad Yetman and Brandon Pirri were on personal leave for the weekend.

Cameron Morrison was banged up in Friday’s game and did not play on Saturday. In his place was F Kale Howarth, who has recently come back from a shoulder injury.

 

Weekend Notes

  • Reichel and Pirri, two of the Hogs’ more prolific scorers of late, did not take part in the action this weekend. Despite this, Rockford was still able to get consistent scoring. It’s a good sign that the piglets can put points on the board after really struggling to do so in the first three months of the season.
  • Dylan McLaughlin is now on a four-game point streak. He had goals in both games this weekend and added a pair of assists in Friday’s win.
  • Hardman had a nice weekend in his return to the Hogs, with three points in the two games. He had a shorthanded goal after forcing a turnover on Friday, then added a power-play goal and assist Saturday.
  • Former IceHogs captain Tyler Sikura skated in both games for Cleveland, recording an assist on Saturday. In 29 games with the Monsters this season, Sikura The Elder has six goals and eight helpers.
  • Wyatt Kalynuk picked up a power play goal to kick off the scoring for Rockford on Friday. He had a spirited bout with Trey Fix-Wolansky late in that game. Kalynuk landed several punches to the helmet of his Monsters opponent, yet it was Fix-Wolansky who sat out Saturday’s rematch with a sore hand.
  • Two more Rockford skaters picked up their first goals of the 2021-22 campaign. Both came on Saturday night when Dimitri Osipov and Nicolas Beaudin both drew cord.
  • Osipov, who is being used as a forward for the first time this season, had one of his better games despite the loss Saturday. He was as involved on the offensive end as he has been all season and still was able to throw his weight around with several big hits.
  • Defenseman Alec Regula picked up assists on all four IceHogs goals in Saturday’s loss.
  • Collin Delia did not receive the same support in the Hogs zone Saturday as Soderblom had the previous evening. Coming into the contest, Delia was sporting a 1.01 goals against average and a .969 save percentage in his last four starts. However, he found himself struggling to stop the waves of Monsters bearing down on him.
  • The Hogs win streak ends at three games, matching a season-high that was set back in December. Rockford has not won four in a row since November 29-December 6 of 2019.

 

This Week

The IceHogs host Chicago Monday afternoon as the home stand continues. The Texas Stars arrive on Friday and Saturday for a weekend set.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs are readying themselves for a heavy dose of the Cleveland Monsters. The Blackhawks AHL affiliate has just four games with the Monsters this season. However, they all are to be played this week.

The Monsters were to have started the season at the BMO Harris Bank Center on February 5 and 6. Those games had to be rescheduled. Rockford hosts back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday, then travels to Cleveland for games on Saturday and Sunday.

COVID-19 issues kept the Monsters grounded in Cleveland to open the season, with only three games under their belt. The Monsters, like Rockford, are still looking to pick up their first win of the season. They’re coming off an overtime loss in Grand Rapids Saturday afternoon.

 

Easy Breezy Weekend

Rockford was idle over the weekend. That isn’t going to happen for the remainder of the AHL season unless something changes.

Cam Morrison is still waiting to play his first game with the IceHogs after being banged up in training camp. Anton Lindholm, as reported last week, will be missing the next month-plus with a broken thumb.

Forward John Quenneville took a puck to the face in the third period of Thursday’s loss to Grand Rapids. He quickly returned to action in that game, but it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see him sit out with so many forwards available.

It may also be a week that coach Derek King elects to give one or both of his young AHL contracts, Cale Morris and Tom Aubrun, a turn in the Hogs crease. Matt Tomkins has been solid so far, but I wouldn’t think he plays both ends of both back-to-backs.

 

Closeup On The Monsters

This Cleveland squad may not be among the AHL’s elite. However, the Monsters have a large collection of veteran players who are more than capable of taking advantage of rookie mistakes.

First of all, Rockford’s leading scorer and captain, Tyler Sikura, signed with Cleveland. Sikura plays a straight-forward game and always around the net to convert on opportunities.

Zac Dalpe is a long-time Monsters center who was selected as the team’s captain this season. He’s coming off an injury-plagued 2019-20 campaign. However, he’s well-accustomed to putting pucks into Rockford nets over the years. Dalpe and Sikura have been teamed with second-year forward Trey Fix-Wolanski on Cleveland’s top line.

Nathan Gerbe is another experienced player the young campers will have to deal with. Forwards like Nick Lappin, Justin Scott, and Kole Sherwood all have several seasons of AHL action under their belts.

Liam Foudy, the Blue Jackets first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, was recently sent to the Monsters for some work on his game. Foudy is a big, speedy forward that will need to be accounted for.

The defense will be led by Dillon Simpson, who had 23 points (9 G, 14 A) for Cleveland last season. Joining him is AHL veteran Adam Clendenning, who is quite adept on running a power play at this level. The former IceHog had 41 points (7 G, 34 A) in 55 games with the Monsters last season. He was recently sent to Cleveland from the Columbus taxi squad.

Veini Vehvilainen is back at goalie for his second pro season, having posted a 2.76 GAA and a .901 save percentage in 33 games in 2019-20. However, long-time Monsters backup Brad Theissen has been in goal for all three of Cleveland’s games and will no doubt see action in the back-to-back series.

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

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs finished the month of November with an 8-3-0-1 record. The ‘Bago County Flying Piglets have picked it up on the offensive end, rising from the league basement to a more-than respectable three goals per contest. Not bad for a team that is as green as the IceHogs.

Rockford’s average age on its current roster is 23.12 years. That is the second youngest in the AHL behind only San Jose. The piglets are the least experienced club in the league by a fair sight. Rockford skaters have played just 2, 359 AHL games combined, nearly five hundred less than the Barracuda.

As in past years, it’s been offense by committee in Rockford. The Hogs have no veteran scorers squirreled away to bolster the organization, so the kids will be shouldering the load for better or worse. Recently, it’s been the former.

Here are some of the contributors to the recent surge:

The Brothers Sikura

Whether they are teamed on a line or on separate units, Dylan and Tyler have been Rockford’s biggest point producers. The two brothers each have eight goals and five assists to pace the Hogs offense.

Sikura The Younger kicked off November with a hat trick on the third of the month. Two of his five goals last month were of the game-winning variety. A four-game point streak was snapped Saturday, but Dylan is getting pucks on net at a steady rate. His 83 shots on goal is by far the team lead in that category.

Sikura The Elder was just named captain of the IceHogs Friday night. Tyler had eight points in November (4 G, 4 A) and is instrumental at evens and on both special teams.

 

Brandon Hagel, Forward

Hagel put up five goals and three assists in twelve games last month. He leads the IceHogs rookies in scoring with ten points (5 G, 5 A) this season. Hagel, who was also a plus-six in November, has shown a knack for driving hard to the net with the puck. It’s paid off for him this past month.

 

MacKenzie Entwistle, Forward

Entwistle’s defensive play has shown up on the scoreboard. He has been solid at both ends and had three goals and three helpers in eleven November appearances. His skater rating of plus-six is tied for the team lead among forwards. Along with Dylan Sikura, he shares the team lead with two game-winning goals.

 

Lucas Carlsson, Defense

Carlsson took advantage of some increased opportunities during Adam Boqvist’s stint in Chicago and showed off his own offensive prowess in November to the tune of two goals and six assists. His nifty moves produced a highlight-reel goal in a win over the Wolves November 10.

 

Matt Tomkins, Goalie

Tomkins was in net for that November 10 win over Chicago. It was one of two victories he had over the Wolves and one of three wins the former Ohio State goalie posted this past month. Tomkins gave up just five goals in those three games.

With a 4-1 record in 2019-20, Tomkins leads the Hogs goalies with a 2.38 goals against average. He also sports a .921 save percentage and has worked his way into a tandem with Kevin Lankinen the past couple of weeks.

 

Roster Moves

Just before Friday’s game, the Blackhawks recalled defenseman Ian McCoshen and assigned forward Matthew Highmore back to Rockford. Highmore skated for the Hogs on Saturday night.

I would have figured that Philip Holm would have been in line for the call up to Chicago. Unfortunately, Holm did not play over the weekend. The most productive of Rockford’s defensemen must be a little banged up at the moment, paving the way for McCoshen’s promotion.

Alexandre Fortin sat out Saturday’s game with some bumps and bruises, according to Hogs coach Derek King. Mikael Hakkarainen continues to be on the shelf after being injured in Rockford’s first game October 4.

 

Recaps

With a pair of home wins this weekend, the IceHogs improved to 11-8-0-1 this season. Their 8-3 home record would be the best in the Central Division, save for the juggernaut that is the Milwaukee Admirals. Milwaukee, who visits Rockford for the first time this season on December 7th and 10th, are 8-1-1-1. By the way, the Ads have won 13 straight games heading into play this week.

The Hogs inhabit fifth place in the division standing with 23 points, though they have at least two games in hand on the rest of the Central. Rockford’s .575 points percentage is third-best in the division.

 

Friday, November 29-Rockford 4, Chicago 2

Rockford won over its Interstate 90 rivals for the fifth time in five meetings, scoring three times in the second period to pick up two points.

John Quenneville gave the Hogs a 1-0 advantage late in the first, taking the puck from Alexandre Fortin and looping into the slot. His snipe zipped past Wolves goalie Oscar Dansk at the 15: 25 mark.

Fortin would put Rockford up 2-0 3:50 into the second period when his putback of a Dennis Gilbert shot beat Dansk from the left post. Dylan Sikura converted on Phillipp Kurashev’s pass on the rush for a 3-0 IceHogs lead 6:01 into the second.

Chicago got a goal from Ben Jones midway through the second to cut the lead to two goals, but Brandon Hagel came up with a great individual effort from neutral ice, swiping a puck and beating Dansk on the breakaway at the 11:27 mark.

Brandon Pirri snuck in a power play goal 15:42 of the middle frame, but that’s as close as things got. Hogs starter Matt Tomkins picked up his third straight win with 31 saves. Quenneville, Tomkins and Sikura were voted the game’s Three Stars.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville-Tyler Sikura (C)-Alexandre Fortin

Dylan Sikura-Phillipp Kurashev-Brandon Hagel

Tim Soderlund-Jacob Nilsson (A)-Joseph Cramarossa

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-MacKenzie Entwistle

Lucas Carlsson-Dennis Gilbert (A)

Joni Tuulola-Adam Boqvist

Nicolas Beaudin-Chad Krys

Matt Tomkins

Kevin Lankinen

 

Saturday, November 30-Rockford 3, Grand Rapids 1

Despite falling behind in the opening frame, the Hogs prevailed behind two first-time scorers and 29 saves by Kevin Lankinen.

The Griffins got on the board 6:17 into the game, just after a Nicolas Beaudin slashing penalty came off the board. Brian Lashoff faked a shot from the point, drove to the left circle and sent a shot to the Hogs net. Lankinen got his pads on the shot but not enough to prevent it from trickling into the cage.

It took a while, but the IceHogs evened things up late in the second period. The scoring play capped a very productive shift in which Rockford kept the pressure on Griffins goalie Pat Nagle. Tim Soderlund, brought the puck around the Grand Rapids net and out to Dennis Gilbert at the left point. GIlbert slid a pass to fellow defenseman Lucas Carlsson, who sent a shot off the end boards.

The carom came out to Soderlund, who was salivating near the bottom of the left circle. His attempt caught twine at 17:38 for Soderlund’s first professional goal. The teams went into the second intermission tied at one.

The Hogs took a 2-1 lead 8:49 into the third when Joni Tuulola guided Phillipp Kurashev’s pass past Nagle. Tuulola had missed on a slap shot on net seconds earlier but looped back into position at the left circle to get his stick on Kurashev’s feed for his first goal of the season.

Rockford potted some insurance seconds after Nagel skated to the bench with just over two minutes left in regulation. MacKenzie Entwistle picked up a loose puck, skated to center ice and sent the biscuit into the empty basket to make it a 3-1 final.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville-Tyler Sikura (C) Dylan Sikura

Matthew Highmore-Phillipp Kurashev-MacKenzie Entwistle

Joeseph Cramarossa-Jacob Nilsson (A)-Brandon Hagel

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Tim Soderlund

Lucas Carlsson-Dennis Gilbert (A)

Joni Tuulola-Adam Boqvist

Nicolas Beaudin-Chad Krys

Kevin Lankinen

Collin Delia

 

This Week

The Manitoba Moose pay a visit to the BMO Harris Bank Center on Tuesday night before Rockford goes to Grand Rapids Friday. The Hogs get their first look at white-hot Milwaukee on Saturday.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for tidbits on the Hogs 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs have two solid goalie prospects under NHL contracts. So why do they have three goalies on the roster?

Beats the heck out of me.

Rockford, 7-6 and in fourth-place in the Central Division with a .538 points percentage, split the weekend slate. They beat Chicago on Sunday following a shutout loss to Manitoba on Friday. In the last three games, the piglets have had a different man between the pipes. So goes the goalie situation in Winnebago County.

Sunday, Matt Tomkins anchored Rockford’s 4-1 win over the Wolves in Rosemont. Friday, Collin Delia was victimized for four goals as his team was blanked by the Moose. Back on Wednesday, Kevin Lankinen picked up the win over Toronto.

Tomkins spent the bulk of last season toiling in Indianapolis. Lankinen also spent a good portion of his season with the Fuel. The IceHogs began the season with Tomkins, Lankinen and Delia with the team. I figured that with the Hawks tandem healthy entering October, Tomkins would return to the ECHL and build on the solid numbers of 2018-19.

Hasn’t happened. Lankinen was injured opening night, so Tomkins stuck around. He’s continued to stick around despite Lankinen returning to action. According to Hogs coach Derek King, Lankinen was set to start Sunday’s matinee but fell ill, necessitating Tomkins in the crease.

Why not just give Delia another start? Well…he hasn’t been real sharp in the first six weeks of action. In six starts, he’s carrying a 4.09 goals against average and an .867 save percentage. Delia has had to contend with a lot of high-percentage scoring opportunities, but he still hasn’t resembled the netminder he was for most of the last two seasons.

Tomkins has served in the capacity of backup most nights but has two very solid performances in a pair of Rockford victories over the Wolves. He stopped 31 shots against Chicago in an overtime win October 19 before a 19-save effort Sunday.

Lankinen? Well, when he isn’t sick or hurt, he’s been great. Sporting a 1.99 GAA and a .930 save percentage, Lankinen is the Hogs top option in net right now.

I keep waiting for Rockford to send Tomkins, who is on an AHL deal with the IceHogs, back to Indy where he’ll get steady work. Delia and Lankinen can then get in a groove as a tandem; maybe the former can work his way out of his current funk.

Perhaps the organization likes having Tomkins, who was a Hawks seventh-round draft selection in 2012, in Rockford to work with the team’s goalie coaches. For whatever reason, Tomkins is part of a three-pronged goalie attack for the IceHogs.

 

Recaps

Friday, November 8-Manitoba 4, Rockford 0

Rockford was the aggressor early but failed to convert scoring chances all evening. The Moose prevailed behind a 41-save Mikhail Berdin shutout. Crisp Manitoba passing resulted in plenty of offense against the Hogs, who saw their four-game winning streak go by the wayside.

Berdin weathered a storm of IceHogs attempts in the opening minutes. Conversely, one of Manitoba’s first chances was driven to the back of Collin Delia’s net. It came at 8:33 of the first period, when Michael Spacek gathered in a loose puck in the slot and sent it through the Rockford goalie’s wickets for a 1-0 Moose advantage.

Manitoba built a three-goal lead in the second stanza via the power play. With Reese Johnson in the bin of sin for high sticking, the Moose scored after former Rockford defenseman Cameron Schilling sent a point shot off Delia’s pads. With Delia on the deck after getting tied up with Philip Holm, Jansen Harkins sent the long rebound to Luke Green, who one-timed the puck into the cage at the 5:51 mark.

Specek set up C.J. Suess at Delia’s backdoor eleven minutes later for a 3-0 Manitoba lead. The Moose were 2-3 on the man advantage. Rockford, with three power plays in the second to try and climb back into the game, came up empty on the way to an 0-5 night. Seth Griffith closed out the scoring for Manitoba with a third-period goal.

Delia didn’t have his best night, falling victim to several real open looks offered by the Hogs defense. He stopped 22 of 26 shots on the evening. Berdin, incidentally, went into Chicago the following night and blanked the Wolves on 26 shots.

 

Sunday, November 10-Rockford 4, Chicago 1

The IceHogs made it four-for-four this season against the Wolves despite giving up the first goal of the contest. Matt Tomkins picked up the win in net for Rockford with 19 saves.

Each team had a turn on the power play in the opening frame. The IceHogs whiffed. Chicago converted, with Dylan Coghlin blasting the puck past Tomkins 18:21 into the game.

Rockford finally managed to get a puck past a goalie late in the second period. The play was set up when Tim Soderlund held a puck in at the top of the offensive zone before passing to Philip Holm. Holm sent a centering pass to Anton Wedin, who redirected the biscuit past Wolves goalie Garret Sparks. The goal tied the contest at a goal apiece at 14:28 of the second period.

The Hogs took a 2-1 lead on a wonderful individual effort by Lucas Carlsson. The scoring play got started when Holm won possession of the puck in the Hogs zone. Sliding the puck along the boards, Holm cleared it to Brandon Hagel. Hagel, in turn, found Carlsson coming across the red line. Carlsson entered the Chicago zone, juked his way past the Wolves Brett Lernout and sent a shot past the blocker of Sparks 8:31 into the third.

Tomkins made Carlsson’s tally the game-winner with some big stops in the last ten minutes, including a big penalty kill after Reese Johnson was sent to the box for roughing. Matthew Highmore and Tyler Sikura tossed in empty-netters in the final two minutes to seal the fate of the Wolves.

 

Weekend Preview

The IceHogs have a home-and-home coming up with the Grand Rapids Griffins, currently right behind Rockford in the Central Division standings. The Griffins are paced by Chris Terry, who leads the AHL in scoring with 21 points (8 G, 13 A). Matt Puempel (7 G, 9 A) is fourth in the league in points entering this week’s action.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs showed off a can-do attitude over the weekend, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in back-to-back games. The resilient piglets continued their winning ways at the BMO Harris Bank Center, beating the Iowa Wild Saturday and the Chicago Wolves the following afternoon.

The Hogs (5-5) are still in the bottom half of the Central Division standings. However, Rockford has won three in a row, potted 16 goals in that span, and leapfrogged over Texas to claim the sixth spot with a .500 points percentage.

 

Hot Hogs

Dylan Sikura is now leading the team in scoring after a four-point night Saturday. Sikura the Younger, who posted a hat-trick in a furious comeback against the Wolves Sunday, has six goals and three assists on the season.

Right behind Sikura on the leaderboard is Sikura the Elder. Tyler’s fifth goal of the season tied the Wild Saturday, allowing Matthew Highmore (2 G, 5 A) to win it in overtime. Both Tyler Sikura and Highmore  have seven points for Rockford and are on three-game point streaks.

Jacob Nilsson (2 G, 4 A) also has points in each of the last three games, as does D Philip Holm. Forward Anton Wedin (2 G, 4 A) collected three apples in Sunday’s wild victory over Chicago.

 

Hurt Hogs

Forwards Kris Versteeg, John Quenneville and Mikael Hakkarainen all sat out another weekend of action. For Versteeg, it has been six games out of the lineup. Quenneville has been out since taking a hard hit along the boards on October 19. Hakkarainen has been out since October 4.

Kevin Lankinen made a second consecutive start Saturday, with Collin Delia between the pipes Sunday. Matt Tomkins is still up with the Hogs, though I would think he’ll be sent down to Indy to start getting some steady work in net.

 

Recaps

Saturday, November 2-Rockford 3, Iowa 2 (OT)

It was a case of late being better than never for the Hogs, who came back from a two-goal deficit in the waning moments of regulation and swiped two points from the Central Division-leading Wild.

Iowa took a 1-0 lead midway through the first period on a Kyle Rau goal. Colton Beck went coast-to-coast for a power play goal late in the second period.

As the third period ticked away, there was little to suggest that Rockford would be getting back into the contest. However, Hogs goalie Kevin Lankinen was called to the bench and the gambit paid off, big time.

Lucas Carlsson sent a one-timer from the right circle past Mat Robson with 2:30 remaining. After Iowa iced the puck on a long-distance attempt at the empty net, Rockford won the resulting faceoff in the Wild zone. Carlsson was in nearly the same spot on the ice when Philip Holm’s pass found his stick. The shot was redirected by Tyler Sikura and into the Iowa net to tie the game with 2:02 left, sending the game into Gus Macker Time.

Lankinen stopped three Iowa shots in the extra session, keeping the IceHogs in contention until Matthew Highmore nabbed a Wild shot attempt that was blocked by Nicolas Beaudin and came off the end boards. Highmore started a two-on-one rush with Beaudin and sent a laser under Robson’s glove from the top of the right circle. The game-winner came 3:45 into overtime.

Lankinen made 30 saves to post his second win in a row. The game’s three stars were Highmore, Tyler Sikura and Carlsson.

 

Sunday, November 3-Rockford 7, Chicago 4

Dylan Sikura posted a hat trick with all three goals coming in a furious IceHogs rally. In all, Rockford put up five goals in the final ten minutes of action for a third-straight victory.

The Wolves built a 3-0 lead on goals by Zach Whitecloud, Lucas Elvenes and Jimmy Schuldt. The IceHogs countered with a Jacob Nilsson tally on the man advantage at 8:27 of the second period. Reid Duke made it 4-1 a few minutes later before MacKenzie Entwistle scored at the 10:51 mark.

Rockford was still down 4-2 midway through the final frame when all hell broke loose. Things got started on the power play, with Sikura the Younger zipped a Lucas Carlsson pass past Chicago goalie Oscar Dansk. The goal cut the Wolves lead to 4-3 10:41 into the third.

Just 1:25 later, Brandon Hagel tied the game with his first goal of the season. Ninety seconds later, Sikura gathered in a Matthew Highmore pass at the right dot and flung it over the glove of Dansk to put the Hogs up 5-4 at 13:37 of the third.

Rockford did not take its foot off the gas. Tyler Sikura won control of a loose puck behind the Wolves net, skated to the right post and found Dylan in the slot to cue the caps. Reese Johnson added an empty-netter in the final minute for the coup de gras.

Collin Delia stopped 21 of 25 Chicago shots, though he kept the Wolves at bay for the final 30 minutes of action to allow his teammates the chance to storm back in the third. To the surprise of no one, Dylan Sikura was voted the game’s first star, followed by Anton Wedin and Nilsson.

 

School Days

The IceHogs drop the puck on an 10:30 a.m. tilt with the Toronto Marlies Wednesday. The piglets don’t usually fare well in these affairs, but they will be trying to extend the win streak to four games. Rockford will close out their home stand on Friday night, when the Manitoba Moose come to the BMO.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates and opinions on all things Rockford IceHogs throughout the season.

 

 

 

 

Hockey

Down on the farm in Rockford, the IceHogs washed some of the bad taste of the previous weekend away with a decisive 6-2 victory Wednesday over visiting San Antonio. The Hogs got a bit healthier heading into this weekend’s action at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

In net for the IceHogs was Kevin Lankinen, who had missed seven games with a shoulder injury. Heading into this weekend, Rockford is still carrying three goalies on its roster. I would imagine that Matt Tomkins will be assigned to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL soon if both Lankinen and Collin Delia are tip-top.

 

Keeping It Brief

And of that win over the Rampage? Let’s get to it:

  • After falling behind 1-0 in the opening period, Tyler Sikura, Nick Moutrey and MacKenzie Entwistle scored in a three-minute span to give the IceHogs control of the proceedings.
  • Moutrey, Entwistle, Reese Johnson, Adam Boqvist and Jacob Nilsson all potted their first goals of the 2019-20 campaign.
  • Entwistle (First), Moutrey (Second) and Johnson (Third) were the game’s three stars.
  • Boqvist’s goal came on the man advantage, Rockford’s first of the season in 30 attempts.
  • Lankinen stopped 28 shots in the win.

 

Roster News

On Thursday, the Blackhawks recalled Boqvist. The IceHogs, in turn, brought up D Jack Ramsey from the Fuel..

Dylan Sikura will be missing Saturday’s tilt with Iowa after he was suspended by the AHL for one game. The suspension follows a match penalty that Sikura was assessed for a high-stick late in Wednesday’s win over San Antonio.

 

Weekend At The BMO

The piglets open the weekend Saturday night, when they host Iowa. The Wild defeated Rockford 3-2 in DesMoines to open the season back on October 4.

Iowa (6-1-1-1) is currently atop the AHL’s Central Division. The Wild are led by Gerald Mayhew, who has nine points (5 G, 4 A) in five games this season. Goal Kaapo Kahkonen is undefeated in five starts, including opening night against the IceHogs.

The Chicago Wolves arrive Sunday. The teams have split the first two games of the season series. Chicago is 5-0-1 in its last six games and has climbed to just behind Iowa in the division standings.

Rookie center Lucas Elvenes leads the AHL in scoring with 15 points (4 G, 11 A). Veteran Gage Quinney has also gotten off to a great start, with five goals and six apples in the first ten games for Chicago.

The IceHogs managed to collect a win over Wolves goalie Garret Sparks October 18. However, Sparks has been excellent for Chicago, with a 1.80 GAA and a .946 save percentage in six appearances.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for the occasional update and thoughts on the Hogs all season long.

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks. had themselves a rough stretch in Cleveland. After winning their first two games of the season last weekend, Rockford went into Ohio and got knocked around by the Monsters.

The IceHogs took back-to-back lickings, falling 7-1 Friday night before being shut out 5-0 the following afternoon. Rockford fell to 2-5 in 2019-20. With four standings points and a .286 points percentage, the Hogs sit in seventh place in the Central Division heading into a five-game home stand that gets underway Wednesday night.

Rockford’s lone goal came in the first period Friday night, as Tyler Sikura drew even with Dylan Sikura for the team lead with his third goal of the season. From there, it was all Monsters. Up 1-0, the IceHogs gave up 12 unanswered goals the remainder of the weekend’s action.

Cleveland was able to maneuver around the Hogs defense for point-blank attempts in both contests. The Monsters fired 43 shots at Matt Tomkins Saturday. Neither Tomkins or Collin Delia could do enough to stop the deluge of scoring opportunities.

So far this year, the piglets have been flat out bad in all areas of the game. Through this weekend, Rockford is giving up 3.71 goals per contest, ranking them 25th in the AHL. Offensively, the Hogs are in a familiar place-namely, the nether regions of the league.

Only winless San Diego (1.67) score less frequently than Rockford, who average 1.71 goals per game. The power play has been on the ice 28 times and has yet to score. The penalty kill unit has surrendered eight goals in 28 chances. That 71.4 percent is second-worst in the AHL.

To summarize, the Hogs can’t score, allow tons of juicy scoring chances and are stinking up the joint on special teams. A recent spanking at the hands of an experienced Monsters team makes it easy to take a negative point of view. However, Rockford is running pretty low on sunshine and rainbows at the moment.

 

Musings

  • Kris Versteeg and John Quenneville both sat out the weekend with injuries. Kevin Lankinen practiced last week but did not make the trip to Cleveland. Rookie Mikael Hakkarainen also remained out.
  • With Versteeg missing his second and third straight games, Nick Moutrey was the closest thing to veteran presence in the Hogs lineup. The leadership group is comprised of second and third-year players. This contrasted mightily with Cleveland, who got production from Nathan Gerbe and Zac Dalpe. Both have been key veterans for the Monsters.
  • Perhaps Versteeg will be able to get back into action this week. Regardless, he’s not going to be able to carry the offensive load all by himself.
  • Reese Johnson was the first Hogs skater to engage in fisticuffs this season, dropping the gloves in a brief bout with Cleveland’s Justin Scott early in the second period Friday with Rockford down 4-1.
  • There was a extended fracas at the end of that game and some very chippy play Saturday afternoon. The Monsters pulled the piglets into a style Rockford is not set up to play. It showed up on the scoreboard, big time.
  • This has been the case for the two previous seasons, but this young Rockford club is even less equipped to handle bigger, more physical foes. If the Hogs continue to try and play to the strengths of their opponents, it’s not going to end well most nights.
  • The talented rookies that have flooded the current roster have combined for zero goals in the first seven games. This includes the three games Adam Dach took part in while on his conditioning assignment. D Chad Krys and C Phillipp Kurashev each have two assists to pace the Hogs rookies in scoring.
  • Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin, two of the organization’s highly-touted defensemen, are both looking for their first point as professionals. Boqvist played both games in Cleveland after missing the previous two games. Beaudin sat out of Friday’s affair but had three shots on goal on Saturday.
  • I seem to be painting a rather dour picture of the piglets first month of action. Rockford is just seven games into a long season; I’ll put away my crayons for now.

 

Recaps

Friday, October 25-Cleveland 7, Rockford 1

The Monsters put an end to Rockford’s two-game win streak in emphatic fashion, despite the Hogs taking an early advantage.

Rockford opened the scoring midway through the opening period. Tyler Sikura gathered in a rebound from brother Dylan’s off angle shot. The Monsters goalie, Matiss Kivelniecks, stopped Sikura’s initial attempt, but Sikura’s second effort hit paydirt at 9:52 of the first.

The lead was short-lived. Cleveland erupted for four unanswered goals in the remainder of the first period. An Anton Karlsson shot slipped past Hogs goalie Collin Delia at 10:04. Ryan MacInnis took advantage of Delia being out of his crease to give the lead to the Monsters just at the 13:01 mark.

Just 44 seconds later, Nathan Gerbe sent a centering pass off of Hogs defenseman Lucas Carlsson for a 3-1 Cleveland advantage. Paul Bittner sent a shot from the high slot past Delia in the nineteenth minute.

Cleveland added a goal at 14:05 of the second period when MacInnis fed Calvin Thurkauf at the left post for the lamp-lighter. A minute later, Sam Vigneault was credited with the tally when a Kole Sherwood pass glanced off of the shin pads of Carlsson and past Delia.

Zac Dalpe put in a power play goal midway through a chippy third period for the final margin of victory.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Dylan McLaughlin

Matthew Highmore (A)-Tyler Sikura (A)-Dylan Sikura

Anton Wedin-Jacob Nilsson-Brandon Hagel

Alexandre Fortin-Phillipp Kurahsev-MacKenzie Entwistle

Ian McCoshen-Adam Boqvist

Philip Holm-Joni Tuulola

Chad Krys-Lucas Carlsson

Collin Delia

Power Play (0-4)

Wedin-Hagel-Nilsson-Boqvist-Philip Holm

T. Sikura-D. Sikura-Kurashev-Highmore-Carlsson

Penalty Kill (Monsters were 1-2)

Forwards-Wedin, Nilsson, Highmore, T. Sikura, Entwistle, Johnson

Defense-Tuulola, Holm, Krys, Carlsson

 

Saturday, October 26-Cleveland 5, Rockford 0

It was all Monsters in the second game of the weekend; rookie goalie Veini Vehvilainen posted a shutout, stopping 29 Rockford shots.

All the offense Cleveland needed came in the first period. Ryan Collins threaded a shot to Matt Tomkins glove side that reached the top shelf of the goal 8:43 into the game. Ryan MacInnis took advantage of a turnover in the Hogs zone and made it 2-0 at the 16:27 mark.

Rockford gave up two goals in the first two minutes of the second period. That’s pretty much all she wrote for the IceHogs. Monsters captain Nathan Gerbe added a power play goal 7:50 into the period for the final margin of victory.

The Hogs had three chances to take the goose egg off the scoreboard vie the man advantage. Each time, they came up empty.

Tomkins made 38 saves on the afternoon in the losing effort.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anton Wedin-Jacob Nilsson-Brandon Hagel

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-MacKenzie Entwistle

Matthew Highmore (A)-Tyler Sikura (A)-Dylan Sikura

Tim Soderlund-Phillipp Kurahsev-Alexandre Fortin

Philp Holm-Lucas Carlsson

Ian McCoshen-Adam Boqvist

Nicolas Beaudin-Joni Tuulola

Matt Tomkins

 

Rampaging Into Rockford

Coming to the BMO Harris Bank Center Wednesday night is the San Antonio Rampage. San Antonio is tied with Grand Rapids for second place in the Central with a 4-1-2-1 mark.

Seventh-year pro Nathan Walker came over from Hershey this summer. Walker leads the Rampage with seven goals (two of which have been game-winners) and five helpers. Another Eastern Conference veteran, D Derrick Pouliot, arrives from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and has seven points (1 G, 6 A).

San Antonio added a lot of veteran pieces after a last-place finish in the division a season ago. Forwards like Cam Darcy (0 G, 5 A) Nick Lappin (four goals) and  Zach Nastasiuk fortifies the Rampage with experienced skaters.

Ville Husso (4-1-1. 2.35 GAA, .919 save percentage) has been very good in net for San Antonio the the early going. Like Cleveland, this is a team with AHL experience. The Rampage will be a tough opponent for the piglets as they try to snap their losing streak.

I’ll be back on Friday to preview Rockford’s weekend action with Iowa and Chicago. Until then, follow me @JonFromi on twitter to catch my thoughts on IceHogs hockey throughout the season.

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, got themselves into the win column in style over the weekend. The piglets picked up their first points of the 2019-20 campaign with a home-and-home sweep of the Chicago Wolves.

After besting their interstate rival 3-2 at the BMO Harris Bank Center Friday night, the IceHogs made the trip to Allstate Arena and posted a 3-2 overtime win. Rockford has a ways to go to get themselves into the upper half of the Central Division standings, but two wins over your closest neighbor has to feel pretty good.

The Hogs currently sit in seventh place in the division with a 2-3 record. Iowa has yet to be defeated in regulation and leads the Central with a eleven points in six games. San Antonio is second with eight standings points; Milwaukee and Texas each have seven.

Rockford’s 2.20 goals per game average is second-worst in the Western Conference. The IceHogs have also started the season 0-18 on the man advantage. Not surprisingly, that’s the nadir of the AHL through the first three weeks of action.

Despite the Hogs struggles on offense, the arrow is pointed up at the moment. Rockford got some great play in net from Collin Delia Friday and Matt Tomkins on Saturday. Tomkins, who is with the IceHogs while Kevin Lankinen recovers from an upper body injury, picked up his first career AHL victory with a 31-save performance.

 

Roster News

Following Friday’s game, Kirby Dach was recalled from his conditioning stint by the Blackhawks. Dach went pointless in three games with Rockford, but played pretty well. He was entrusted with a lot of minutes by Hogs coach Derek King.

Dach’s departure leaves 17 forwards on the current roster. That’s just way too many if King has to find steady minutes for everyone. For whatever reason, the Hawks loaded up on entry deals this spring and summer. There are only three AHL contracts among the forward corps. Two of them won’t be going anywhere soon.

Kris Versteeg wasn’t signed to play in Indy. The Hogs captain will be in Rockford all season. Versteeg left Friday’s win after the first period and did not play Saturday. King gave the impression that the injury was not serious; I’ll take him at his word until I don’t see Versteeg in the lineup in Cleveland this weekend.

Tyler Sikura is also a mainstay in King’s lineup, and rightly so. At 27 and on an AHL contract, Sikura the Elder is not a prospect. However, he is a huge part of this team at both ends of the ice.

Sikura plays a simple game, but he has shown a consistent ability to finish the scoring opportunities he creates. He had a two-goal night in Chicago Saturday, including the game-winner. Sikura not only scored the overtime goal, he created the scoring chance by forcing a turnover.

Sikura is an excellent penalty killer and also provides grit on the power play. On a squad with a microscopic veteran presence, Sikura stands out as a skater who can put points on the scoreboard.

Rockford has seven rookies in the forward bunch. The only players besides Versteeg who are even close to veteran status are Sikura, Nick Moutrey and 26-year-old Swede Anton Wedin, who has points in three of his four games.

Imagine the log jam there would be if Graham Knott and Nathan Noel, both on the final year of entry contracts, were in Rockford instead of Indy right now. Still, minutes are going to be hard-earned with so many forwards.

Mikael Hakkarainen is still dealing with an injury suffered opening night. John Quenneville took a big hit in the third period Saturday and could miss some time in addition to Versteeg. King is still trying to find chemistry in his line combinations. Expect to see several youngsters in and out of the lineup in the next month.

The defensive situation is nowhere near as crowded. King iced the same six skaters on the blueline in both games after Adam Boqvist took a puck in the mouth Friday morning at practice. Unless Jack Ramsey, who was sent back to Indy last week, is recalled, I’d expect Boqvist to be ready to roll in Cleveland.

 

Early Standouts

I have really been impressed by Philip Holm so far. He’s been a stabilizing force on the defense and has show a knack for getting into the action on offense. Holm has a pair of goals and an assist so far and is third on the club with 12 shots on goal.

Wedin, like Sikura, has been solid at both ends. Holm, Sikura and Wedin all have two goals and an assist through five games. Dylan Sikura leads the club with three goals and an apple. He’s also a plus-three with 16 shots on goal. Both are team highs.

 

Recaps

Friday, October 18-Rockford 3, Chicago 2

The Hogs rode a dominant first period to their first victory of the season in an Illinois Lottery Cup matchup with the Wolves.

All three Rockford tallies were recorded in the opening frame. The IceHogs out shot Chicago 17-4 in that span. The first goal came 5:28 into the game, after Brandon Hagel just missed getting his stick on Phillipp Kurashev’s centering pass in front of Wolves goalie Garret Sparks.

Dylan Sikura got a hold of the loose puck and sent it around the end boards, where Hagel wound up with it. Skating to the right faceoff dot, Hagel centered to Sikura, who converted the offering into his third goal of the season and a 1-0 Rockford lead.

Alexandre Fortin was the catalyst for a shorthanded goal midway through the period, swiping the puck from Chicago’s Reid Duke and streaking to the Wolves net.

The shot attempt was stopped by the right pad of Sparks, but the Chicago skaters mishandled the long rebound and Fortin wound up with the puck on his stick at the right post. John Quenneville was behind the Wolves goalie, sliding in the short feed across the goal line at the 12:48 mark.

Late in the first, Jacob Nilsson hauled in a stretch pass from Chad Krys and powered his way to the Chicago net. Sparks stopped the attempt, but the loose puck slid into the right circle. Hagel did a nice job tying up the stick of Wolves wing Tyrell Goulbourne, allowing Anton Wedin to scoop up the loose biscuit. Wedin looped into the slot and beat Sparks to the far post with a wrist shot, making it 3-0 IceHogs heading into the first intermission.

Rockford was not as effective in the next forty minutes, particularly at the faceoff dot. The Wolves got a goal from Jaycob Megna in the second period and a power play strike by Gage Quinney late in the third. However, the Hogs managed to hang on to secure the victory.

Captain Kris Versteeg left the game following the first period and did not return to action.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville-Tyler Sikura-Alexandre Fortin

Matthew Highmore-Kirby Dach-Dylan Sikura

Kris Versteeg (C)-Phillipp Kurashev-Aleksi Saarela

Anton Wedin-Jacob Nilsson (A)-Brandon Hagel

Dennis Gilbert (A)-Lucas Carlsson

Philip Holm-Nicolas Beaudin

Chad Krys-Joni Tuulola

Collin Delia

Power Play (0-5)

Versteeg-Nilsson-Dach-Wedin-Holm

D. Sikura-Saarela-Kurashev-Hagel-Beaudin

Penalty Kill (Wolves were 1-6, Rockford posted a shorthanded goal.)

Forwards-Highmore, T. Sikura, Wedin, Nilsson, Quenneville, Fortin

Defense-Gilbert, Tuulola, Krys, Holm

 

Saturday, October 19-Rockford 3, Chicago 2 (OT)

Tyler Sikura and Matt Tomkins, two of Rockford’s AHL contracts were the big names at Allstate Arena Saturday. Sikura had two goals, including the game-winner, while Tomkins picked up the win with 31 stops on the night.

Rockford scored first via a Sikura goal 12:22 into the contest. The play was set up by Lucas Carlsson, who sent a clearing pass to Dylan Sikura in the neutral zone.

Tyler hauled in the bro-pass coming toward the left circle. Sikura the Elder let fly with an attempt that rebounded off the pads of Wolves goalie Garret Sparks. The rebound glanced off of Chicago defenseman Brayden Pachal and slid past Sparks for a 1-0 IceHogs advantage.

Less than three minutes later, Pachal found Lucas Elvenes knocking at the backdoor of the Rockford cage. Elvenes punched the puck home past Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins for his third of the season at 15:03.

The score remained tied until 4:50 into the third. Philip Holm got the play started in his own zone, setting up Reese Johnson with a clearing pass. Johnson hustled into Wolves territory before dropping a pass to Aleksi Saarela. Holm played the role of trailer to perfection, taking Saarela’s pass at the left circle and slinging it past Sparks to put Rockford up 2-1.

Late in the game, the Hogs found themselves down a man after Chad Krys sent a clearing attempt into the stands. Alexandre Fortin picked off a pass and found himself with a breakaway chance. Unfortunately, Fortin was unable to finish the opportunity.

Curtis McKenzie came back the other way and tied the game for the Wolves a few seconds later. McKenzie’s shot glanced off of Dennis Gilbert, who was prone on the ice to close off passing lanes, and slid though the wickets of Tomkins to even the score at two goals with 3:56 remaining. Regulation ended without a deciding goal.

It took most of Gus Macker Time, but the IceHogs prevailed with Tyler Sikura’s second goal of the evening. Sikura forced a Nicolas Roy turnover in the Rockford zone; Joni Tuulola gathered the loose puck and sprung Sikura for the breakaway. The Elder slammed the door on Chicago with a stick-side wrister past Sparks with 12 seconds left.

John Quenneville took a big hit in front of the Rockford bench in the third period. He went to the locker room favoring his left side and did not return.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Matthew Highmore (A)-Tyler Sikura (A)-Dylan Sikura

Anton Wedin-Jacob Nilsson-Brandon Hagel

John Quenneville-MacKenzie Entwistle-Alexantre Fortin

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Aleksi Saarela

Joni Tuulola-Dennis Gilbert

Chad Krys-Lucas Carlsson

Philip Holm-Nicolas Beaudin

Matt Tomkins

Power Play (0-3)

Wedin-Entwistle-Hagel-Nilsson-Holm

Highmore-Quenneville-D. Sikura-T. Sikura-Carlsson

Penalty Kill (Wolves were 1-3)

Forwards–Highmore, T. Sikura, Wedin, Nilsson, Quenneville, Fortin, Moutrey

Defense-Gilbert, Tuulola, Krys, Holm

 

Coming Up

Rockford will be on the road this upcoming weekend, traveling to Cleveland for two games with the Monsters. I’ll preview that match-up Friday.

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

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, Chicago’s AHL affiliate, wrapped up the 2018-19 season last night against Milwaukee. The Hogs were beaten by the Admirals 3-2, concluding the IceHogs season with a 35-31-4-6 mark. The 80 points earned by Rockford placed them seventh in the Central Division, out of the playoff picture this season.

As often happens with April snowstorms, I opted for my basement over the BMO Harris Bank Center to watch the curtain fall on this year’s crop of prospects. What follows are my thoughts as the piglets finished this season Sunday evening.

 

Pregame

Looks like a less than full throttle bunch to close out the season. Hogs MIAs include Peter Holland, Matthew Highmore, Jordan Schroeder, Jacob Nilsson, Dennis Gilbert, Lucas Carlsson, Collin Delia and Anton Forsberg. Kevin Lankinen is starting in goal; Matt Tomkins is backing him up. Apparently, with no tomorrow for Rockford, the Hogs have decided to punt.

Perhaps that’s a bit harsh; obviously, the brass want to see some of the newer faces take to the ice. Milwaukee, meanwhile, is gunning for the second seed in the Central Division. Back on March 22, the Ads were five points behind Rockford for the fourth playoff spot. Milwaukee has gone 9-0-1 since.

The IceHogs went 4-6 in their past ten games. Rockford beat the Admirals in overtime Tuesday in Milwaukee. They fell 3-0 in Iowa Saturday night; it was the seventh time this season that the piglets have been shut out this season. Right to the end, goals were too scarce for this bunch.

The Lankinen-Tomkins connection could be a preview of the goalie tandem next fall, though it’s very possible a veteran will be obtained to pair up with Lankinen, who was very good in limited opportunities for the IceHogs. He definitely needs 40 starts in Rockford instead of the 18 he got this season.

Highmore, who spent most of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, left Tuesday’s game and hasn’t played since. Last year’s top goal-scorer suffered through a disappointing season. Hopefully he’s just being held out to keep him healthy and his summer can be spent getting ready for a more productive campaign.

 

Team Awards

Before the game got underway, the IceHogs handed out their team awards. I tweeted my selections (@JonFromi) earlier Sunday afternoon. Here’s how things shook out:

Defensive Player Of The Year-Lucas Carlsson, who isn’t playing tonight.

My Pick: I had Carlsson, who led Rockford defensemen with 33 points (9 G, 24 A) this season.

Most Improved Player-Dennis Gilbert, who isn’t playing tonight.

My Pick: Gilbert, who really added to his physical game throughout the season at both ends of the ice.

Rookie Of The Year-Dylan Sikura

My Pick: Jacob Nilsson, who had a promising rookie season, with 15 goals and 18 helpers in 62 games. Sikura was an outstanding rookie for the IceHogs; my selection of Nilsson was largely because he spent the bulk of the season in Rockford, as opposed to Sikura, who played 49 games.

Unsung Hero(es)-Tyler Sikura, William Pelletier

My Pick: Andrew Campbell, who anchored this young team despite not putting up the points. His three-goal, five assist season was what I expected offensively from Campbell. I also expected a strong veteran presence, which Campbell more than delivered.

Heavy Hitter-Andreas Martinsen, who isn’t playing tonight.

My Pick: Gilbert, who put a lot of butts on the ice during the season. He also dropped the gloves seven times to pace the club.

Man Of The Year-Pelletier

My Pick: The team announced this a while back, so we all knew how this would go. I really hope Pelletier, who missed the first couple of months, is back with the IceHogs for a third season. His motor is a definite asset.

Team MVP-Jacob Nilsson, who isn’t playing tonight.

My Pick: Jordan Schroeder, who also isn’t playing tonight after being injured last weekend. All Schroeder did was set a career-high in points with 45 (19 G, 26 A) and score 19 goals for Rockford. With points in 37 of his 62 games, Schroeder’s longest point drought was three games.

He had points in 23 of those games, including the Hogs only hat trick against Iowa January 6. However, Schroeder was a steadier scoring threat for the offensively-challenged Hogs.

On a team that was woefully short on veteran scoring, Schroeder stepped up his game. He was consistently Rockford’s most productive offensive player all season. In my opinion, this was the team’s biggest miss in regards to the awards.

 

First Period

Tanner Jeanneau puts Milwaukee up 1-0 with a tip-in at 6:29. A couple minutes later, Milwaukee scores again on a power play goal by Cole Schneider. Just over eight minutes in and Rockford trails by a pair.

The Hogs get a goal back when Alexandre Fortin knocks in a centering pass by Dylan McLaughlin midway through the frame. Fortin has had difficulty converting on scoring opportunities this season (this was his sixth goal of 2018-19). The speed is there, but the kid needs to learn how to finish plays.

Pelletier gets hooked a moment later and Rockford’s 29th-ranked power play hits the ice. As happens more often than not, the IceHogs come up short. Could a more effective man advantage have helped Rockford this season? Definitely.

The IceHogs are out-shot 12-3 in the first 20 minutes and head to the intermission down a goal.

We already know that Rockford will not be participating in the postseason. That’s because (sorry) the Hogs were not a playoff-level team.

Rockford, as you would expect from a prospect-laden squad, ran very hot and cold this season. The Hogs lost six straight games on two occasions and had several three and four-game skids.

Rockford did put together a six-game winning streak in late January and early February and had the goal-tending to put together a solid campaign. However, there was never enough offense to capitalize on the great play between the pipes.

 

Second Period

Hogs broadcaster Joey Zakrzewski mentions that there are 19 skaters for Rockford who will be free agents this summer. I will forecast which of those we can expect to return to the organization in the next few weeks.

Tyler Sikura is one of those skaters who I would like to see back. He may not be quite the prospect that Sikura the Younger is, but Sikura the Elder can still make a difference for the Hogs next fall. His season wasn’t as productive and he lost a lot of time to injury. However, Sikura still had seven goals and a dozen assists in 50 games.

The Ads go up 3-1 during some four-on-four time on a goal at 6:33 by Adam Halewka, his 21st of the season. Rockford, like last season, hasn’t let a two-goal lead get them down. This team has battled hard under interim coach Derek King. What does that mean to King’s chances of getting the gig moving forward?

I don’t know.

Rockford is on its way to a seventh-place finish. This is about how last year’s team would have fared without the slew of veterans who took over in the spring. Management is going to have to believe that King can get some of these prospects ready for action at the next level. I would think that that decision will come in the next couple of days.

Fortin has a clear path to the net midway through the period; he loses the handle and another scoring chances fritters away. The shots are now 25-9 in favor of Milwaukee, who take the 3-1 lead into the second intermission.

 

Third Period

Rockford has a couple of big rallies this season, including a four-goal third period against San Antonio last week that pulled out a crucial victory at the BMO. They came back from 3-1 in Milwaukee Tuesday, so I am not counting the piglets out of this game yet.

As if on cue, Luke Johnson gets a rebound of a Nick Moutrey shot into the cage at 8:57 of the third. It’s Johnson’s 18th of the season (career high) as well as his 31st point (also a career high), despite only 53 games played for the IceHogs in 2018-19. Johnson is an RFA this summer that has shown steady progress in Rockford.

The Hogs refusal to capitulate has been a big selling point these last two seasons. There is a nice crowd at the BMO tonight. Not sure it’s going to be enough to prevent another drop in the yearly attendance, though.

Right now, Rockford’s average is 3828, down just a tad from 3915 last season. The hockey wave may have crested, but it’s too bad more people aren’t taking an interest in a young team that plays hard and gets up and down the ice with urgency.

Rockford is pressuring the Admirals as the sands begin to run out in the final stanza; they’ve out shot Milwaukee 7-2 in the first 15 minutes of the period. Johnson and Dylan Sikura each have six game-winners this season and have a lot of other clutch goals. Maybe they sneak one past Tom McCullom to knot this game.

Lankinen heads to the bench and the Hogs take their last hacks. Phillipp Kurashev, who I imagine will be in Rockford full-time this fall, has a good look from the bottom of the right circle that is snatched out of the air by the Ads goalie. Time out called by King.

The IceHogs win the faceoff but just can’t put that key third goal in the back of the Milwaukee net. The Admirals vault Iowa and Grand Rapids for the second seed. They’ll start with the Wild in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs; Chicago gets the slumping Griffins. The Hogs skate off the ice to clear out their lockers.

So ends the twentieth season of pro hockey in the Forest City and the twelfth as the Blackhawks AHL affiliate. Was this season a success?

My thoughts on that question (and probably many others) will come in future posts. Stay tuned.