Everything Else

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

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

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

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

 

Texas Trip

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

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

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

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

 

Epic Comeback Against San Antonio

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

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

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

 

Roster Changes

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

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

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

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

 

One Timers

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

 

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

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs picked up a huge overtime win over the Chicago Wolves at the BMO Harris Bank Center Wednesday night. The 2-1 victory was in line with the way the piglets have won for the bulk of the 2018-19 campaign. Rockford leaned on its goaltender and picked up two valuable points in the Central Division standings.

On Wednesday, it was Collin Delia who kept the Hogs in contention with a 32-save performance. The frugal IceHogs have won four straight games despite scoring just eight regulation goals in that span.

Buoyed by this winning streak, Rockford has the fourth and final playoff spot in its possession for the time being. The Hogs (31-24-4-6) own a .554 points percentage with 11 games remaining in the regular season.

Texas and Manitoba are right behind Rockford, with Milwaukee still in the hunt for a postseason berth. The IceHogs can put a damper on the dreams of the Admirals, as the two teams face off with each other in each of the next three games.

Rockford visits Milwaukee Friday before the action returns to the Forrest City Saturday and next Wednesday. The Hogs have won four of the seven matchups with the Admirals this season. Three of those wins have come at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.

The IceHogs did themselves a huge favor this past Sunday in beating the Stars 2-1 in regulation. Anton Forsberg, who paces the AHL with a .924 save percentage, stopped 34 shots to pick up the win over Texas. Forsberg is 4-2 against the Admirals this season with a 1.99 GAA and a .920 save percentage.

 

Hot And Cold Running Hogs

Anthony Louis is currently mired in a 15-game goal-less drought. In fact, Louis has just one goal and four helpers in his last 26 games dating back to January 12. Tyler Sikura has been back in the lineup for six games but is looking for his first goal since coming back from a broken thumb.

Jordan Schroeder, who posted the lone shootout goal to beat Chicago Wednesday, continues to put up a steady stream of points. He has two goals and four assists in seven March contests. Since coming aboard last month, Peter Holland has also provide offense for the Hogs. In eleven games with Rockford, Holland has four goals and three assists.

Holland’s four goals since coming aboard February 20 pace Rockford in that span. The Hogs still man the league basement, scoring a paltry 2.40 goals per contest. To be in a position for the postseason is a testament to the play of Forsberg, Delia and Kevin Lankinen in net.

 

Roster Moves

The influx of college and junior players has begun for the IceHogs. Rockford signed center Dylan McLaughlin to a two-year AHL deal on March 13. McLaughlin, who was a Hobey Baker finalist with Canisius College last season, has skated in four games with the Hogs.

The IceHogs also signed Indy Fuel defenseman Dmitri Osipov to a PTO on Saturday. Osipov has skated in two games with Rockford. Wednesday, the Hogs inked forward Fredrik Olofsson, a fourth-round selection by the Blackhawks in 2014, to an Amateur Tryout contract.

On Thursday, Rockford extended the AHL contract of goalie Matt Tomkins through next season. He’s played well in Indy this season, with a 25-17-2 record. He has been named the CCM/ECHL Goaltender of the Week on three occasions this season.

At this point, forwards Jacob Nilsson, Matthew Highmore and Nick Moutrey are still missing from the IceHogs lineup. Defenseman Brandon Davidson is also out, as has been the case since February 20.

I’ll be back on Monday to recap what is shaping up to be another big weekend of action. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for game updates this weekend and thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

Some Hogs thoughts on the abbreviated tip this week, as work commitments have me out of the loop for most of the next few days…

  • Rockford dropped a pair in Manitoba this weekend, losing 3-1 Saturday night and 2-1 in Gus Macker Time the following afternoon. Dennis Gilbert had the lone IceHogs goal in the former, while Peter Holland drew cord for Rockford in the latter.
  • Though 61 games, the Hogs have 63 points and a .525 points percentage. The Moose share that percentage and have a game in hand on Rockford. In turn, the piglets have a game in hand on fourth-place Texas, trailing by four standings points.
  • Tyler Sikura made his return to the lineup from a broken thumb. He skated both games in Manitoba but didn’t post any points on the weekend.
  • Jacob Nilsson continues to be out of the lineup. He’s been out since February 23.
  • No roster moves were made last week.
  • Rockford has a huge three-in-three weekend coming up. The Hogs visit Grand Rapids on Friday night, then host Cleveland and the Stars at the BMO Harris Bank Center Saturday and Sunday. Beating Texas in regulation is a must. The fourth playoff spot in the Central Division is still attainable for any of the last five teams in the standings. If that team is to be the IceHogs, the boys need to start knocking off division opponents.
  • I may squeeze out a few tweets this week if time allows. Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for some Hogs nuggets.
Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs have been in the position of having played more games than most of their Central Division rivals for most of the last couple of months. Soon, the IceHogs are going to get a taste of having games in hand when looking at the division standings.

As of today, Rockford has played 59 games. Heading into this past weekend, this was the most games played in the division. Because the IceHogs had just one game this weekend, an exciting win over Grand Rapids, couple with Rockford being off until this Saturday, the rest of the division will catch up to, and even surpass the Hogs.

Rockford and Texas each have 63 points and are nip and tuck for the fourth and final postseason berth in the Central. The Stars currently have the spot via points percentage, having a game in hand on the IceHogs.

However, both the Stars and Milwaukee, who is two points back of Rockford, play this week. The Admirals have a three-game weekend. Texas and the IceHogs each have two games. By the time the smoke clears next Monday morning, Rockford will have played 61 games, Texas will have played 62 and Milwaukee will have played 63.

At that point, only the Moose will have played fewer games than Rockford. Having the benefit of games in hand brings a bit more clarity to what the Hogs have to do to earn a trip to the Calder Cup Playoffs. Breaking a three-game losing streak was a good start. Getting some players back should be even better news.

AHL signees Terry Broadhurst and William Pelletier both returned to action against the Griffins Friday night. Broadhust may have reinjured himself in the overtime win, but some other players may be nearing a return.

Hogs coach Derek King mentioned to Rockford broadcaster Joseph Zakrzewski that Tyler Sikura, who has missed most of the last two months with a broken thumb, will be going on the road trip to Manitoba this weekend. He also announced that Matthew Highmore could be back in the lineup by the end of the month.

Could getting last season’s top two goal scorers back have an impact? Maybe just a bit.

 

The Lone Recap

Friday, March 1-Rockford 5, Grand Rapids 4 (OT)

In what was a wild affair at the BMO Harris Bank Center, the Hogs earned two points from the Griffins to snap a three-game skid.

Rockford came flying out of the gate, out-shooting Grand Rapids 15-7 and taking a 3-0 lead. Jordan Schroeder got the scoring started midway through the period, taking a pass from Henri Jokiharju at the top of the right circle and flinging the puck off the far post and in past Griffins starter Harri Sateri at 9:07 of the first period.

At the 13:30 mark, Spencer Watson go his first goal since joining the IceHogs, redirecting Lucas Carlsson’s blast. In the waning seconds of first-period action, Dennis Gilbert sprawled out on the ice to knock in a rebound of Luke Johnson’s attempt.

After one of Rockford’s most inspired efforts, the Griffins pushed back hard in the middle frame. Turner Elson and Wade Megan each got rubber past Hogs goalie Collin Delia to close to within a goal of the lead. Early in the third period, Matt Puempel tied the game with a power play goal. All of a sudden, it appeared that this game could slip away from Rockford.

The IceHogs rallied to take a 4-3 lead at 13:40 of the third period. Anthony Louis led an odd-man rush with Schroeder on his left. Schroeder one-timed the subsequent Louis pass into the cage.

Grand Rapids was not finished, however. Puempel second of the night with just over two minutes remaining knotted the contest again, and the teams entered Gus Macker Time even at four. The IceHogs nearly scored several times in the extra session, finally ending the game with a Peter Holland lamp-lighter from the slot.

 

Two With The Moose

Both Rockford and Manitoba will be well-rested coming into the back-to-back in Winnipeg. The Moose split a pair in Belleville this past weekend. Manitoba was shut out in its loss to the Senators Saturday night.

Manitoba, like the Hogs, don’t score with the regularity of some of the top teams in the division. At 2.52 goals per game, they sit just above Rockford at the bottom of the AHL in offense.

Both of the team’s meetings this season were decided in shootouts. The Moose won 2-1 in Rockford back on October 28. On January 25, the piglets triumphed 4-3 to start a six-game winning streak.

Logan Shaw leads the Moose with 21 goals since coming from San Diego early this season. Seth Griffin (12 G, 31 A) paces the club with 43 points.

Goalie Eric Comrie, who was just reassigned by the Jets, could be in net for at least one of the games this weekend. He has a 2.73 GAA and a .917 save percentage in 40 games with Manitoba this season. Rookie Mikhail Berdin does boast that win against the Hogs this season and probably gets a start as well.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates on the Manitoba games this weekend, as well as thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, have been at home for most of the last three weeks. They made the most of the extended time in their own barn.

The Hogs had nine of their last ten games at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Their record at home during that stretch was 7-2. That includes a thrilling finish to the home stand this weekend.

Rockford had dropped two games in a row heading into the weekend and found themselves down 4-0 Saturday night against visiting Iowa. The piglets roared back into contention to force a shootout and bested the Wild, then finished the weekend with a win over San Antonio.

The IceHogs are now 25-21-3-5 on the season. The pendulum swings the other way for Rockford, who are on the road for seven of its next eight games. The current jaunt begins in Grand Rapids, where the Central Division leaders are 20-5-1-3 this season. The Griffins have won eight of the last tilts at Van Andel Arena; Rockford is 1-2 in Grand Rapids this season.

From there, the Hogs go East to take on Hershey on Saturday and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Sunday. Rockford has home victories in prior meetings with the Bears and Penguins.

 

Musings

  • Kevin Lankinen was in net for all three of Rockford’s games this week, including work on back-to-back nights. The rookie has proved himself this season, sporting a 2.47 GAA and a .911 save percentage despite a 7-6-3 record. If Lankinen needed to carry the load in net for Rockford, it appears that he would be up to the task.
  • On the other hand, why has Anton Forsberg been glued to the bench? There’s the possibility that Collin Delia could be back in Rockford sometime soon and would likely get a bigger share of the starts. Could Forsberg be sitting while a deal to send him out of town is made?
  • Luke Johnson has stepped up his play the last few weeks, with two-point efforts in both weekend games. Johnson’s shooting percentage is 17.5, the highest of the active IceHogs skaters. Right behind him is Jacob Nilsson, who hits nets at a 17.1 percent rate.
  • In contrast to Johnson and Nilsson, two guys who have difficulty converting on their opportunities are Alexandre Fortin and Graham Knott. Both create some decent scoring chances with speed (Fortin) and hustle (Knott). The problem is that those chances don’t cue many horns.
  • Saturday night, Fortin was sprung for a breakaway chance early in the contest. As happens with frequency, he was not able to put an effective shot on net. This has been a consistent problem with the speedy forward. Fortin has 29 games in Rockford and has nine points (4 G, 5 A) to show for it. In 33 games, Johnson has collected 22 points (11 G, 11 A).
  • In fairness to Fortin, his 8.2 shooting percentage is nearly double last year’s effort. He is a plus-seven this season, highest on the squad. You can still see plenty of potential in his game. Sooner or later, however, the kid’s got to knock the cover off of the net.
  • Knott, who like Fortin has another year on his entry deal, is going to better his rookie numbers. His passing has been more noticeable in the offensive end and two of his three goals are game-winners. Aside from the penalty kill, Knott has yet to really stand out in any area of the game. How much higher is the ceiling on Chicago’s second-round pick from 2015?
  • Henri Jokiharju is not long for Rockford; I would imagine he’ll be back in Chicago by the beginning of next month. In eight games with the Hogs, he has seven points (1 G, 6 A). He is also creating a slew of scoring opportunities from the point. Jokiharju is averaging nearly four shots a game and is making an impact since being assigned to Rockford.
  • Jordan Schroeder is emerging as the team MVP. The 28-year-old forward leads the IceHogs in goals (14), assists (19) and points (33). Schroeder’s five-game point streak came to a close on Tuesday in a 3-2 loss to Texas. However, he had a pair of goals in Saturday’s comeback win on the way to a four-point weekend.
  • Rockford’s power play had scored in five straight games before coming up empty Sunday against San Antonio. However, the Hogs (15.3 percent) are still 30th out of 31 teams on the man advantage. The penalty kill has slipped a bit, to 80.8 percent. That’s good for 17th in the AHL.
  • The Rockford offense is still the worst in the league, with an average of 2.46 goals per game. However, over this last ten-game stretch, the Hogs have scored 3.50 goals per game.
  • Simply put, if Rockford can get three goals, they have an excellent chance of winning. There’s still a lot of battle in these kids and the defense and goalie play are going to keep them in games.

 

Roster News

There hasn’t really been any roster activity this week. Brandon Davidson returned from injury Sunday. He scored the game-winner against the Rampage after being out for nine games. Blake Hillman also rejoined the lineup Saturday after missing five games.

Nathan Noel’s last game was back on January 12. Tyler Sikura’s thumb has kept him out of the lineup since January 6. Terry Broadhust was a late scratch on Sunday; no word as to his status for this week.

Matthew Highmore, who had shoulder surgery back in November, is practicing with the team. A return from the second-year forward could provide a big boost to the Hogs playoff hopes.

 

Recaps

Tuesday, February 12-Texas 3, Rockford 2

The Hogs dropped their second straight game as the Stars inched closer to Rockford in the Central Division standings.

Texas drew first cord late in the opening period. The goal came from Park Ridge native Michael Mersch, who sent a deflection past Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen at the 17:10 mark.

The IceHogs narrowly avoided a shorthanded goal against them early in the second period, then came down the ice to tie the contest. Luke Johnson brought the puck out of the Hogs zone after Lankinen stopped a Justin Dowling attempt. Making his way to the opposite coast, Johnson maneuvered between the circles and passed to Henri Jokiharu.

Jokiharu’s shot rebounded off the pads of Texas goalie Phillipe Derosiers, where Johnson had first dibs. The putback was denied, but Jacob Nilsson finished off the scoring play by knocking the puck across the border and into the city. The game was tied at one 2:37 into the second.

The Stars responded with a pair of power play goals of their own to build a 3-1 advantage. Travis Morin added to his hefty scoring totals against Rockford at 6:51 of the second, while rookie Joel L’Esperance put in his league-leading 27th goal of the season 3:31 into the third period.

The IceHogs rallied for a Viktor Ejdsell strike with Lankinen on the bench at the 16:51 mark, but Rockford ran out of clock before they could finish the comeback.

 

Saturday, February 16-Rockford 5, Iowa 4 (SO)

In what just may have been the game to see at the BMO this season, Rockford erased a four-goal deficit in the last 21:32 of action. The Hogs triumphed over the Wild to break a two-game skid in exciting fashion.

The Wild skated into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead courtesy of Brennan Menell’s deflection of Cal O’Reilly’s shot 18:36 into the first period. Goals by J.T. Brown and Sam Anas in the first two minutes of the middle frame had the IceHogs reeling and down three. A Gerald Mayhew tally 16:34 into the second had Iowa leading 4-0 and the outcome seemed academic.

The rally started on a late power play chance, after William Pelletier was cross-checked by Iowa’s Michael Kapla. Luke Johnson won the subsequent draw, with Jacob Nilsson sliding the disc to Jordan Schroeder in the high slot. The offering beat Wild rookie Kaapo Kahkonen’s glove and caught the upper right corner of the net at 18:28 of the second period.

Down 4-1 to start the third period, the piglets came out with some urgency for the first time all evening. Johnson got to the left post to redirect a Henri Jokiharu blast into the Iowa cage 4:38 into the third period. The secondary assist was given to Andrew Campbell, who made a nice play to keep a Wild clearing attempt in the offensive zone.

Midway through the third, Nilsson dropped the puck off to Jokiharju, who skated to the right corner of the Iowa zone and center to Schroeder for his second goal of the night. With 9:10 left in regulation, the Hogs had cut the lead to 4-3.

The much-anticipated equalizer came after Rockford had come up short on a power play. After the Wild’s Mason Shaw came out of the box. Viktor Ejdsell withstood a hard check along the half boards to keep possession. Andreas Martinsen got clear with the puck and sent a pass across the ice to Joni Tuulola at the left dot. Tuulola’s shot cleared the blocker of Kahkonen and rattled into the net at the 15:59 mark.

Neither team could breach the opposing goal in the remainder of regulation or overtime. This comeback would have to be completed via the shootout. Jokiharu and Schroeder were stopped by Kahkonen. Sam Anas and Dimitri Sokolov were denied by Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen.

Ejdsell’s third-round attempt would be the pivotal moment. The shot met Kahkonen’s pads but still retained the giddy-up to slide across the goal line. Mayhew’s attempt was snuffed out by Lankinen and the BMO erupted in celebration.

 

Sunday, February 17-Rockford 5, San Antonio 2

The IceHogs won their second straight game, closing out a six-game home stand with a 4-2 mark.

Rockford got the first goal of the game late in the opening period. Nifty backhand passing by William Pelletier and Andreas Martinsen set up Luke Johnson coming across the Rampage crease. Johnson was able to wait out San Antonio goalie Jared Coreau and slide in his eleventh goal of the season at the 16:33 mark.

The Hogs doubled the lead early in the second period when Dennis Gilbert got off a long pass to Jordan Schroeder coming into the Rampage zone. Schroeder skated to the right circle and let fly with a lamp-lighter for a 2-0 advantage at the 1:02 mark.

San Antonio got a goal back at 3:54 of the period when Adam Musil sent a shot past Rockford goalie Kevin Lankinen. A couple of minutes later, Mitch Reinke sent a shot off of Lankinen. Joey LaLeggia got a hold of the rebound and banked in the equalizer off of the Hogs rookie.

The score remained knotted at two through the second intermission, until the IceHogs got a goal from returning defenseman Brandon Davidson. Davidson crashed the Rampage net to follow up on a Nilsson attempt. Collecting the rebound, Davidson stuffed the puck past Coreau at 4:51 of the third period to put Rockford up 3-2.

San Antonio went with an empty net for most of the final minutes, allowing William Pelletier and Nick Moutrey the chance to send the BMO faithful home with free Culvers and wrap up a weekend sweep.

If the feeling moves you, follow me @JonFromi on twitter for news, updates and thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Roster Bits

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

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

 

Recaps

No lines this week.

Wednesday, December 26-Iowa 4, Rockford 0

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, December 28-Chicago 4, Rockford 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

This Week

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

 

Everything Else

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

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

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

 

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Tyler Sikura (5 G, 5 A)

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

Anthony Louis (8 G, 5 A)

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

Jordan Schroeder (4 G, 7 A)

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

Viktor Ejdsell (4 G, 7 A)

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

Darren Raddysh (5 G, 10 A)

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

Terry Broadhurst (2 G, 4 A)

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

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

 

Who Could Provide Some Jump To The Lineup?

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

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

 

Statistics Of Note

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

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

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

 

Three In Three

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs put a positive finish on what was a tough stretch for the Blackhawks AHL affiliate. The IceHogs were blown out at the BMO Harris Bank Center by the Chicago Wolves to start a three-in-three weekend. Rockford recovered to take a point in Milwaukee before knocking off the Wolves Sunday at Allstate Arena.

The win broke a six-game losing streak for the piglets and saw them hit the three-goal mark in a contest for the first time since November 10. Incidentally, Rockford defeated Chicago 4-3 that day in Rosemont.

The IceHogs (9-8-1-4) are fifth in the Central Division standings with a .523 points percentage. They could move up the ladder this week despite being inactive until Saturday night, when they host Milwaukee. Grand Rapids (.556), just above Rockford in the standings, plays Iowa, Chicago and San Antonio this week.

 

Putting The Feet Up

After playing ten of 13 November games on the road, the IceHogs will be settling in for a nice home stand to begin December. Rockford will be at the BMO exclusively for four games over the next two weeks. The Hogs visit Grand Rapids December 14, then return to Rockford for three more home games.

The Hogs were 5-3-0-2 on the road in November. Oddly enough, home cooking did not agree with the piglets. Rockford lost all three home games played this month. With seven of the next eight at the BMO, hopefully the boys can reverse that trend.

IceHogs coach Derek King welcomes the chance to unpack his suitcase. “We got a whole week of practice, then we’ve got a little home stand, so it will be nice to get home,” King said following Rockford’s 3-2 win in Rosemont. “I know my wife will be happy, being around the kids, too.”

“I think these guys need it. They need a little R and R; they need to get away from the rink, too. So, we’ll think about Monday off and maybe we’ll look for another day off during the week.”

There are several players on the mend in Rockford. Terry Boadhurst has missed a couple of weeks now and would be a nice addition when he returns. Collin Delia (see below) tweaked his leg Saturday night and could use the time to be recovered for the upcoming home games.

Roster Moves

On Saturday night, goalie Kevin Lankinen was recalled to Rockford. Collin Delia, who played the third period Friday and the entirety of the Hogs shootout loss in Milwaukee Saturday, suffered a lower body injury that kept him from suiting up in Sunday’s game with Chicago. Lankinen backed up Anton Forsberg in that game.

King hinted that Delia was being rested as a precaution. With nearly a week off, it would seem likely that he’ll be back in action this weekend.

Also returning to the IceHogs was forward Luke Johnson. The Blackhawks re-assigned Johnson to Rockford Sunday. He started for the Hogs against the Wolves, potting the game-winner early in the third period.

Johnson could be a spark for coach Derek King and the piglets as they enter the month of December. An alternate captain for much of his sophomore season in Rockford, Johnson will contribute at both ends as well as on both special teams.

 

A Quick Word On Last Night’s Trade News

The Blackhawks sent Nick Schmaltz to Arizona yesterday. In return, Chicago received forwards Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini. I wouldn’t expect either player to make an appearance for the IceHogs in the near future (both players are waiver-exempt). However, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think Strome might wind up in Rockford for a spell.

Strome did play in the AHL for Tucson last season, putting up 53 points (22 G, 31 A) in 50 games for the Roadrunners. Perlini spent 17 games in Tucson back in 2016-17. He had 14 goals and five assists in his time in the AHL.

Strome, in particular, needs to show he can utilize his skills at the game’s highest level despite a lack of speed. There are plenty of first and second-round draft picks bouncing around the AHL who can dominate offensively but lack the skill set to do the same in NHL rinks. Here’s hoping Strome, who is still just a 21-year-old kid, can make that jump with the Blackhawks.

Recaps

Friday, November 23-Chicago 7, Rockford 2

The losing streak reached five games as the visiting Wolves broke out in a big way against Rockford.

Chicago took a 1-0 lead when Hogs starter Anton Forsberg lost track of the puck following a shot on goal by Reid Duke. Forsberg believed he had the shot absorbed by his pads, but instead the puck trickled next to him for Curtis McKenzie to guide into the Rockford net at 4:39.

The IceHogs tied the game at the 8:25 mark with the teams skating four to a side. Anthony Louis took a drop pass from Jordan Schroeder along the left half boards, skated to the bottom of the left circle, and five-holed Wolves goalie Max Lagace.

The game began to get away from Rockford late in the opening frame. McKenzie and Schroeder took simultaneous roughing minors and the teams played four-on-four for two minutes. By the time the two veterans came out of the box, it was 3-1 Chicago.

Tomas Hyka made a slick feed to Zach Whitecloud coming down the slot; the shot got past the blocker of Forsberg, glanced off the left post, and put the Wolves up 2-1 at 17:07 of the first. Seconds later, Brandon Pirri went coast-to-coast with a Hogs turnover. The former Blackhawks farmhand capped off a marvelous play by going stick side on Forsberg at the 17:45 mark.

The Wolves took a 4-1 advantage when Nic Hauge finished off an odd-man rush at 3:42 of the second period. Rockford closed to 4-2 on a power play goal by Darren Raddysh, who took advantage of a Viktor Ejdsell screen. At that point, the bottom dropped out of the IceHogs game.

Chicago restored the three-goal advantage 35 seconds later, converting off a Blake Hillman turnover. Zac Leslie scored on a redirect for a 5-2 Wolves lead. Pirri fed Hyka in the left slot for a power play goal at the 12:11 mark, then Keegan Kolesar finished a 2-on-1 rush up the ice 18 seconds later to make it 7-2 Wolves.

Collin Delia entered the game for Forsberg to start the third period. Rockford out shot Chicago 16-13 in garbage time, though neither team made a dent in the score over the last 20 minutes.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Dylan Sikura-Tyler Sikura (A)-Jacob Nilsson

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Henrik Samuelsson

Viktor Ejdsell-Jordan Schroeder-Anthony Louis

Hunter Fejes-Nathan Noel-Nick Moutrey

Darren Raddysh-Joni Tuulola

Carl Dahlstrom (A)-Blake Hillman

Dennis Gilbert-Andrew Campbell (A)

Anton Forsberg

Collin Delia

Power Play (1-4)

Louis-Schroeder-Ejdsell-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Nilsson-Noel-Sikura-Sikura-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Chicago was 1-6, Hogs did kill off two 5-on-3s)

Knott-Noel-Dahlstrom-Gilbert

T. Sikura-Nilsson-Campbell-Hillman

Fejes-Moutrey-Raddysh-Tuulola

 

Saturday, November 24-Milwaukee 2, Rockford 1 (SO)

Collin Delia turned away all but one of the 29 shots he faced, but Milwaukee’s Troy Grosenick was his equal in regulation and came up with the stops in the shootout. The IceHogs dropped their sixth-straight decision in frustrating fashion.

Matheson Iacopelli was the recipient of a turnover by Ads goalie Troy Grosenick. Taking Grosenick’s outlet attempt at the right circle, Iacopelli fired into the vacated net at 3:03 for a 1-0 Rockford lead.

Seconds later, Justin Kirkland got a shot on net that glanced off the stick of Andrew Campbell and trickled under the pads of Rockford starter Collin Delia. This evened up the game at the 3:44 mark.

Both goalies shut down their respective nets through the remainder of regulation. Milwaukee had a two-man advantage in overtime after Tyler Sikura and Nathan Noel were sent to the box a minute apart. However, the Hogs held firm and forced the shootout.

Anthony Richard and Kirkland beat Delia in the first two rounds. Anthony Louis was denied by Grosenick’s right pad; Viktor Ejdsell was stopped by his left and the contest came to an end. Grosenick, who made 31 saves plus two shootout stops, was awarded the game’s First Star.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Jacob Nilsson-Tyler Sikura (A)-Henrik Samuelsson

Dylan Sikura-Graham Knott-Justin Auger

Annthony Louis-Jordan Schroeder-Viktor Ejdsell

Matheson Iacopelli-Nathan Noel-Nick Moutrey

Carl Dahlstrom (A)-Lucas Carlsson

Andrew Campbell (A)-Dennis Gilbert

Joni Tuulola-Darren Raddysh

Colin Delia

Power Play (0-7)

Nilsson-T. Sikura-D. Sikura-Auger-Dahlstrom

Louis-Schroeder-Ejdsell-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Penalty Kill (Admirals were 0-6)

Knott-Noel-Dahlstrom-Gilbert

T. Sikura-Nilsson-Campbell-Carlsson

Auger-Moutrey-Raddysh-Tuulola

 

Sunday, November 25-Rockford 3, Chicago 2

The Hogs avenged Friday’s blowout loss with a more focused effort, ending a six-game losing streak.

After killing off a pair of Chicago power plays early in the game, the IceHogs took a 1-0 lead on a Tyler Sikura goal. Sikura had set up Graham Knott at the right circle for a one-timer with an open net at which to shoot. Knott misfired and the Wolves cleared the zone. Sikura regained possession in the neutral zone, skated to the right circle and fired under the pads of Chicago goalie Max Lagace at 12:15.

Following the subsequent faceoff, the Wolves came up with an equalizer. Gage Quinney out-maneuvered Luke Johnson coming down the left side and sent a centering pass to Tomas Hyka streaking to the left post. Hyka redirected the pass by Hogs starter Anton Forsberg and into the net to make it 1-1 at the 12:47 mark.

The score stayed even until late in the second period, where the Hogs power play came up big. Viktor Ejdsell gloved a blocked pass attempt by Jordan Schroeder and brought it around the net to Anthony Louis. Louis waited it out at the right circle before hitting Ejdsell at the goal line with a pass. Ejdsell backed up a bit and went far side on Lagace to put Rockford ahead 2-1 at 18:50 of the middle frame.

The IceHogs posted a big goal early in the third. The play started when Dylan Sikura was the first man to a loose puck in the neutral zone. He backhanded a pass to Jacob Nilsson as the center was crossing the Wolves blueline. Nilsson went across the ice to Luke Johnson, who was seeing his first action for Rockford since being sent down by the Hawks.

Johnson sent a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that went past Lagace’s blocker and snuggled into the soft twine in the back of the Chicago net. The Rockford advantage was now 3-1 5:13 into the third.

Chicago closed to within a goal with 4:24 remaining with Lagace on the Wolves bench and pulled him again with just under two minutes left. Despite losing three draws in the defensive zone, Forsberg and the Hogs were able to persevere and pick up their first win since beating Chicago back on November 10.

Ejdsell, Chicago’s Reid Duke, and Johnson were named the three stars of the game. Forsberg picked up a measure of redemption with 26 saves after surrendering seven goals to the Wolves two days hence.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Dylan Sikura-Jacob Nilsson-Luke Johnson

Tyler Sikura (A)-Graham Knott-Henrik Samuelsson

Anthony Louis-Jordan Schroeder-Viktor Ejdsell

Nick Moutrey-Nathan Noel-Justin Auger

Lucas Carlsson-Carl Dahlstrom (A)

Andrew Campbell (A)-Dennis Gilbert

Joni Tuulola-Darren Raddysh

Anton Forsberg

Power Play (1-5)

Louis-Ejdsell-Schroeder-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Nilsson-Sikura-Sikura-Johnson-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Wolves were 0-4)

Knott-Noel-Dahlstrom-Gilbert

T. Sikura-Nilsson-Campbell-Carlsson

Johnson-Moutrey-Raddysh-Tuulola

 

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

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs hit the weekend in search of points. Points on the scoreboard and points in the AHL standings.

Entering a big three-games in three days stretch, the IceHogs are staring at two of the better teams in the Central Division. Rockford did post wins over the Chicago Wolves and Milwaukee Admirals two weeks ago. The problem is that they haven’t won since.

The IceHogs are in sixth place in the Central Division standings with a .526 points percentage. Texas (.533) and Grand Rapids (.531) sit right above Rockford.

It’s not hard to pinpoint a reason for the Hogs four-game losing streak. There’s a power outage on the offensive end. The last four games of Rockford’s road trip yielded just five goals. The only multi-goal game in that span did get them a point Tuesday in San Antonio, though the IceHogs lost that game in a shootout.

Right now, goal-tending is not a problem for the piglets. Anton Forsberg, who looks set to return from an illness, and Collin Delia have been excellent. Delia, in particular, has felt the pinch of the goal shortage. In his last seven starts, the Cucamonga Kid has posted a 2.22 goals against average and a .941 save percentage. His record in those starts is 1-3-0-3.

The Hogs are currently 30th out of 31 AHL teams in scoring with just 2.47 goals per contest. The team below them, San Antonio, just beat Rockford twice to close out the road trip. The IceHogs are also 30th in the league in shots at 26.79 per game.

Why the drought? Simple. Matthew Highmore (24 goals last season) is out for possibly the season following shoulder surgery. Tyler Sikura (23 goals last season) has been out of the lineup the last five games.

Rockford was missing a veteran scorer in Jordan Schroeder for nine games until he returned this past weekend. Terry Broadhurst, another veteran, has been out the last six games.

Having your top scorers out is going to put a dent in the offensive output. Rockford is a team of prospects. The organization, as is usually the case, did not go out and stock the roster with AHL scorers this summer. When four big point-producers miss time, it’s hard to replace them on the score sheet.

Dylan Sikura (6 G, 8 A) and Darren Raddysh (4 G, 8 A), along with Anthony Louis (7 G, 4 A) pace the Hogs in scoring. However, Rockford does not have a player in the top twenty of the league in goals or the top forty in scoring.

It seems unlikely that the Blackhawks are going to obtain veteran scoring help in the immediate future. Rockford is going to have to get healthy, then get after it in the offensive zone to turn its fortunes.

 

Weekday Action

Thursday, the IceHogs assigned two players to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. One was forward Brett Welychka, who had been in Rockford since October 29. Welychka played eight games but hadn’t recorded a point.

Also going to Indianapolis is goalie Kevin Lankinen. The rookie from Finland had a nice game in net for the IceHogs Saturday night in San Antonio despite being hung with the loss.

These moves suggest that goalie Anton Forsberg and second-year forward Tyler Sikura may be ready to rejoin the lineup. Sikura would be a particularly welcome addition in light of Rockford’s offensive woes.

 

Recap

Tuesday, November 20-San Antonio 3, Rockford 2 (SO)

Collin Delia recorded 36 saves to give the Hogs a chance to break the losing streak. However, an early two-goal lead went for naught and the Rampage prevailed on penalty shots.

It didn’t take long for the IceHogs to build that two-goal advantage. Dylan Sikura took a pass from Graham Knott into the Rampage zone, maneuvered his way into some open ice and fired past San Antonio goalie Jordan Binnington at 3:06 for a 1-0 Rockford lead. Later in the fourth minute, Anthony Louis took a cross-ice pass from Jordan Schroeder and sent an offering over Binnington’s shoulder and into the cage. 3:54 into the game, the Hogs led 2-0.

With Andrew Campbell in the penalty box for tripping, San Antonio cut into the lead with a power play goal. Jakub Jerabeck sent a shot toward goal that glanced off of the stick of defenseman Lucas Carlsson and found its way past Hogs goalie Collin Delia. The goal came at the 18:10 mark; the teams skated to the locker room with Rockford leading 2-1.

A turnover by Carl Dahlstrom set up the Rampage with a 2-on-1 rush in the Hogs zone. San Antonio tied the game when Jordan Kyrou passed to Charlie Sampair at the left post. Delia never had a chance and it was 2-2 8:52 into the middle frame.

Both Binnington and Delia stood tall in the third period as well as in overtime. The shootout started badly for Rockford as Austin Poganski and Kyrou scored on their attempts. Louis converted in the second round for the Hogs after Viktor Ejdsell was denied. Delia stopped Joey LeLeggia, but Binnington did the same to Sikura to close out the contest.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anthony Louis-Viktor Ejdsell-Jordan Schroeder

Dylan Sikura-Graham Knott-Justin Auger

Matheson Iacopelli-Jacob Nilsson-Henrik Samuelsson

Brett Welychka-Nathan Noel-Nick Moutrey

Blake Hillman-Lucas Carlsson

Joni Tuulola-Darren Raddysh

Andrew Campbell-Carl Dahlstrom

Collin Delia

Power Play (1-2)

Louis-Samuelsson-Schroeder-Ejdsell-Raddysh

Nilsson-Sikura-Auger-Carlsson-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Rampage was 1-2)

Knott-Noel-Carlsson-Dahlstrom

Nilsson-Moutrey-Tuulola-Hillman

 

This Weekend

The IceHogs touch down briefly at the BMO after a six-game road trip with a game with Chicago Friday. The Wolves are tied with Milwaukee for second place in the division.

Chicago will be missing Daniel Carr (9 G, 13 A), who was recalled to Las Vegas Thursday. Thomas Hyka (15 G, 33 A last season) comes down to join the Wolves. Brandon Pirri (7 G, 13 A) has been hot of late for Chicago, with a four-game point streak. He has three goals in his last two games.

Rockford visits Milwaukee Saturday night before going to Chicago Sunday afternoon. The Admirals got Rocco Grimaldi (4 G, 7 A) back this week after a month in Nashville. Milwaukee is led by defenseman Matt Donovan, who has eight goals and eight apples so far this season.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for updates between periods tonight at the BMO and thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs are sitting in San Antonio with plenty to think about. Chicago’s AHL affiliate has its second game in four days against the Rampage coming up Tuesday night. Rockford will be attempting to snap a three-game skid, its longest of the young season.

It wasn’t a particularly memorable weekend for the piglets. After dropping a 3-1 decision to Grand Rapids Wednesday morning, Rockford flew down to Texas and were dominated in a 5-1 loss to the Stars. The following evening, the offensively-challenged Rampage beat the Hogs 2-1.

With the recent setbacks, Rockford is now 8-7-1-2 on the season. That .528 points percentage is good for sixth place in the Central Division.

In three games, the IceHogs scored three goals. They were 1-14 on the power play. The weekend did not produce a lot of offense in the way of shots, either. Rockford recorded just 16 shots on goal against Texas, then followed that up with a 15-shot performance in San Antonio.

To be fair, the IceHogs were missing some players. However, Rockford got solid goal-tending that had them even with its Lone Star opponents through 40 minutes on both Friday and Saturday. Texas out shot the Hogs 14-2 in the third period to pull away; Rockford mustered six third-period shots against the Rampage.

Jordan Schroeder got back into the lineup after missing nine games, finding the twine in his return Friday night. Tyler Sikura missed his third and fourth games with an illness. Anton Forsberg stayed home to recover from a similar illness.

 

Highmore Grounded

The organization got some bad news this week. Matthew Highmore, who injured his shoulder October 28 in a fall at the BMO Harris Bank Center against Manitoba, will be out for the next four to six months following surgery last Wednesday.

Highmore had seven points (3 G, 4 A) in eight games before leaving that game in the second period. He is one of the Hogs young prospects who can make things happen around the net, so his game is going to be missed.

 

King Quotes

Derek King is hoping to get the ship righted starting Tuesday in San Antonio. Here are some of his observations during the losing streak.

On the Hogs problems getting started in Wednesday morning’s 3-1 loss in Grand Rapids:

“We were walking through the game there for a while. We were standing still, they were setting the pace.”

On Jacob Nilsson, who scored the only goal in the loss to the Griffins:

“(Nilsson)’s a pretty solid player. He’s not going to toe-drag and be super flashy out there, but he’ll get the points when he gets the chance to. He kills penalties, he’s a good guy on the power play, he’s a good faceoff guy. He’s an all-around complete player and I’m going to look to him to lead this team, here.”

On Texas dominating play throughout a 5-1 loss Friday night:

“We were standing still watching them. It was kind of like watching Gretzky or Lemieux out there. When you watch them play you just kind of stand still in awe and watch them play. We gave them (Texas) a lot of respect. We should have been clogging them up like we wanted to and we were just standing there watching.”

On trying to break the current losing streak in Tuesday’s rematch with San Antonio:

“Like I say to the guys, I’ll put up reminders and these are the instructions for tonight. So, you’ve got to read the instructions. If you’re trying to build a drawer from IKEA and you’re not reading the instructions, good luck getting that put together. We put a game plan together; let’s follow it. Sometimes we stray from it and that’s (Saturday’s 2-1 loss) what happens.”

 

Recaps

Friday, November 16-Texas 5, Rockford 1

The Stars, who pressured Collin Delia all evening, broke open a tie game in the third period with four goals. The Hogs goalie kept out 26 of 27 shots in the first 40 minutes before the dam broke.

Texas opened the scoring 6:25 into the contest while the teams were skating four to a side. Denis Gurianov swiped the puck from Rockford defenseman Darren Raddysh just inside the Stars blue line. Gurianov led an odd man rush the other way, setting up Roope Hintz for the score.

Despite being out shot 27-14 in the first 40 minutes, the IceHogs pulled even late in the second period. Viktor Ejdsell had thrown a shot attempt wide of the Texas net. Dylan Sikura chased it down behind the cage, passing to Jordan Schroeder as Sikura came around the end boards. Schroeder, making his return to action after missing nine games, tied the game from the right post at 18:44 of the middle frame.

If the Stars had dominated the game everywhere but on the scoreboard in the first two periods, they remedied that expeditiously in the final twenty minutes. While Texas captain Travis Morin screened Joni Tuulola, Tyler Fedun drew twine on a long-distance wrist shot fifteen seconds into the third period for a 2-1 advantage.

Rockford mustered just two shots to the Stars 14 in the third period. Texas got a goal from Morin at the midway point of the frame, then another from Samuel Lebarge 37 seconds later. Colton Hargrove’s exclamation point on the rout came 15:25 into the period.

For the game, the IceHogs were out shot 41-16. The relentless offensive pressure was too much for Delia in the final period but he still made 36 saves in the contest.

 

Saturday, November 17-San Antonio 2, Rockford 1 

The IceHogs were out of sorts against the AHL’s worst team, dropping their third straight game despite a solid effort by Kevin Lankinen in goal. The rookie, returning from a spell with the Indy Fuel, stopped 19 of 21 shots but didn’t get the support he needed at the other end of the ice.

Rockford experienced a bevy of issues in getting pucks to Rampage goalie Jordan Binnington. Two early power plays yielded nothing in the way of shots, and the two teams spent most of the opening period throwing the puck to each other or chasing it around the ice.

San Antonio took a 1-0 lead at the 14:35 mark of the second period after Graham Knott was called for holding. Austin Poganski knocked a loose puck under the pads of Lankinen to put the Rampage on top.

The Hogs came up with an answer a few minutes later, also while on the man advantage. Carl Dahlstom fielded a pass from Anthony Louis and sent a shot from the point that snaked past Binnington. Justin Auger provided cover from the front of the crease and Rockford tied the game at 18:05.

The Rampage took advantage of a neutral ice turnover midway through the third period to regain the lead. Adam Musil beat Lankinen from the slot at 9:07, assisted by Tanner Kaspick and Joey LaLeggia.

Musil’s goal held up; the IceHogs could muster only 15 goals on the evening. Lankinen was brought to the bench for a sixth skater, but Rockford was unable to utilize the additional manpower and the clock ran out on the Hogs.

 

This Week

Rockford gets a second shot at the Rampage Tuesday night before a brief return to the BMO Friday. The Hogs host the Chicago Wolves on Hockey Fights Cancer Night in the first tilt of a three-game weekend. Rockford visits Milwaukee Saturday night and Chicago Sunday afternoon.

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