Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs have a couple of new faces in the fold. With the NHL trade deadline fast approaching, there could be a couple more before the day is out.

The Blackhawks made two trades this past week. They aren’t likely to have a big impact in Chicago, but they could boost the playoff chances of the Hogs, who beat Grand Rapids in overtime Wednesday before dropping games in Hershey and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton over the weekend.

Rockford (26-22-3-6) are currently fourth in the Central Division with a .537 points percentage. With Chicago, Grand Rapids and Iowa a bit above the rest of the division, the last postseason spot could turn into a dogfight between the IceHogs, Texas and Milwaukee.

On Monday night, the Hawks made a move to bolster the offense, which is still last in the AHL as the month of February nears an end. Chicago sent defenseman Darren Raddysh to the Rangers in exchange for center Peter Holland.

The 28-year-old Holland is a veteran of 266 NHL games with ANaheim, Toronto, Arizona and the Rangers. He is nearly a point-a-game player in his stints in the AHL. In 52 games this season with the Hartford Wolf Pack, Holland had 20 goals and 29 assists.

Obtaining one of the AHL’s top scorers was worth the price of losing Raddysh, who has shown steady improvement in two seasons in Rockford. With a young defenseman like Lucas Carlsson showing he can bring a similar game and a number of young defensemen poised to join the club next year, Raddysh was expendable.

Holland made an impact upon joining the Hogs; he had two assists in a 3-2 win over the Griffins Wednesday, then potted his first goal in a Rockford sweater Saturday in Hershey. I’ve frequently said this season that the IceHogs needed some top-end veteran scoring. Stick tap to Hawks GM Stan Bowman for going out and adding a piece for Rockford.

On Sunday, it was announced that a deal had been struck with the Kings to send Matheson Iacopelli to Los Angeles in exchange for forward Spencer Watson. This is not a move that figures heavily in the plans of the Blackhawks…or the IceHogs, for that matter.

Watson turned pro last season and played 11 games for the Kings AHL affiliate in Ontario. He’s amassed great point totals in the ECHL, including 47 points in 47 games with Manchester. So far this season, though, he hasn’t been able to break into an Ontario lineup that is last in the league. Watson has been up for two games with the Reign this season.

Iacopelli, despite possessing a beauty of a shot, couldn’t find steady work with the IceHogs. He has 27 games in Rockford and has been in Indy for most of the last two months. Watson, who was added to the Hogs roster Sunday, could see some action in lieu of AHL forwards Terry Broadhurst and William Pelletier being banged up.

For the time being, Watson gets a chance to win a regular spot and help keep Rockford afloat at forward. Worst case, he moves down to Indy and helps the Fuel in their hunt for the playoffs.

Could any of the current IceHogs be moved today before the deadline? Very possible. Aside from goalie Kevin Lankinen, not much would surprise me over the next few hours.

 

Roster Moves

Henri Jokiharju and Josh McArdle were men on the move this week. Both left and returned to the Hogs in the matter of a couple of days.

Jokiharju was an emergency call-up by the Blackhawks Friday. He was re-assigned to Rockford the next day and arrived in Hershey in time to dress for Saturday’s game. McArdle was sent to the Fuel last Sunday, then was recalled by the Hogs Saturday.

 

Recaps

Wednesday, February 20-Rockford 3, Grand Rapids 2 (OT)

Rockford stayed the course after a rough opening period to outlast the Central Divisions top team. They beat the Griffins in Gus Macker Time and at Van Andel Arena to boot.

Grand Rapids got goals from Wade Megan and Matt Peumpel in the first period. That 2-0 lead held until the fourteenth minute of the middle frame. Joni Tuulola sent a Peter Holland pass by Griffins goalie Harri Sateri to foil the shutout bid.

Jordan Schroeder knotted the game on the power play, aided by Holland’s second apple of the evening. The game remained a 2-2 affair through the remainder of regulation.

Both teams had chances in overtime. For most of the extra five minutes, Sateri and Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg made the required stops. In the closing seconds, Rockford was able to get into the Griffins zone.

Graham Knott sent a shot from the right circle that came off of Sateri’s pads and right onto the stick of Luke Johnson. Johnson sent the rebound into the open Grand Rapids net with less than a second remaining in the overtime period.

Forsberg sent away 37 shots on the evening to pick up the win, Rockford’s third in a row.

 

Saturday, February 23-Hershey 3, Rockford 2 (SO)

The Bears kept their recent win streak going, winning their eleventh straight. Rockford picked up a point to keep their point streak alive at four games.

Newcomer Peter Holland got the Hogs on the board first, via the power play. Holland one-timed a Henri Jokiharju pass into the Hershey net just 1:21 into the contest. The Bears tied the score at the 14:54 mark when Ryan Sproul’s shot from the goal line caught the blocker of Hogs goalie Anton Forsberg and tumbled into the cage.

Rockford regained the upper hand a few minutes later after Viktor Ejdsell sent a clearing attempt ringing around the boards and out of the defensive zone. Anthony Louis eventually caught up with the puck coming into Bears territory, skated to the goal line, and dropped a pass to a waiting Jacob Nilsson. The shot beat Hershey goalie Ilya Samsonov to the upper right corner of the net for a 2-1 IceHogs advantage.

After a scoreless middle frame, Hershey tied the game after an early Rockford turnover in the final period. Henri Jokiharju sent a pass that Joni Tuulola couldn’t get under control. The Bears Beck Malenstyn scooped up the puck and dealt it to Garrett Pilon, who beat Forsberg to the cord at 1:28 of the third.

The remainder of regulation and overtime passed with nary a puck in a net. The shootout would decide this contest. With the tally 1-1 going into the third round, Hershey’s Nathan Walker beat Forsberg. Anthony Louis lost control of the puck on his third-round attempt. The biscuit rolled into the net under Samsonov but was ruled a no-goal by the officials, ending the game.

 

Sunday, February 24-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 4, Rockford 1

The Penguins scored first, getting a Ryan Scarfo goal at the 6:48 mark. Rockford evened things up late in the period. The Hogs were established in the offensive zone and benefited from some slick passing from defensemen Dennis Gilbert and Lucas Carlsson.

Gilbert sent the puck out to Luke Johnson at the point, who slid a pass to Carlsson along the blue line before skating to the high slot. Carlsson found Johnson on the return feed; Johnson’s shot beat the glove of Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry. The light came on at 18:07 of the first and the teams went into the intermission on equal ground.

Former Rockford skater Jimmy Hayes provide the offense in the second stanza, scoring twice to give Wilkes-Barre/Scranton a 3-1 advantage. Hayes banked a centering pass off of Carlsson 5:45 into the second, then beat Lankinen with a one-timer from the right circle at the 11: 21 mark.

The IceHogs pushed to get back in the game to no avail. Rockford put 12 shots on Jarry (the Hogs out shot the Penguins 34-27 on the afternoon) but couldn’t chip into the deficit. Adam Johnson added and empty-net goal for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 3:18 remaining.

 

Action This Week

Rockford continues its road trip Tuesday in Rosemont and an Illinois Lottery Cup tilt with the first-place Wolves. The Hogs are at the BMO Harris Bank Center on Friday night to host Grand Rapids.

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

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pacing A Winning Streak

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

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

Luke Johnson

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

 

Dylan Sikura

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

 

Jordan Schroeder

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

 

Lucas Carlsson

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

 

Dennis Gilbert

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

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

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

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

 

Roster Moves

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

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

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

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

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

 

Recaps

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Friday, February 8-Rockford 3, Tucson 1

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 9-Tucson 5, Rockford 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

This Week

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

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

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

When the Rockford IceHogs contemplate their annual team awards in a few weeks, they can skip right by the most-improved player award. If Collin Delia hasn’t earned that honor from the team at this point, I’m not sure they’re qualified to give out awards.

The rookie goalie, signed to an entry contract by the Blackhawks back in July, has seen his fortunes undergo quite the transformation. For the first three months of this season, it couldn’t have gone worse for the former Merrimack standout.

These past couple of months, things couldn’t be better.

The 23-year-old Delia was flat out terrible for the Indy Fuel to start the 2017-18 campaign. I will admit that I didn’t have good vibes about his chances when he presence was required in Rockford following some injuries across the organization.

Why would I; Delia was 1-7-2 for the Fuel with a 4.12 GAA and a .887 save percentage. He looked like a baby deer in net in his first AHL in Iowa November 9. Oh, and he also hadn’t played at either the AHL or ECHL level in over a month when he got a second start against the Wild December 28.

A funny thing happened, though. Delia won that second start. After a few games, Delia started to settle in. The last few weeks, he’s been pretty solid in the IceHogs net, going 8-2-2 in the 12 games leading up to this week’s schedule.

This past week, he was flat-out brilliant.

Wednesday night, Delia stopped 38 shots, propelling Rockford to a 2-1 win over Texas. Saturday night, Delia shut out the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, stopping 34 shots in a 3-0 Hogs victory (UPDATE-Delia was named the CCM/AHL Player Of The Week Monday). If Rockford is to get on a roll late in this season, it might just be with the California Kid manning the pipes.

Jeff Glass hasn’t been bad since being returned to Rockford last week. On the other hand, Delia has denied 72 of the last 73 shots taken at him and has won his last four starts. Makes sense to ride the hot hand for a while.

It has been fun watching Delia find his groove over the last couple of months. On a team full of young prospects, he’s come the furthest from the humble beginnings to his pro career this past fall. If Delia’s not the most-improved IceHogs player this season, someone upstairs isn’t watching.

 

Press Impresses

Defenseman Robin Press, who is on an AHL contract with the IceHogs, has spent most of this season in the ECHL with Indy. On Friday, he was named the CCM/ECHL Player Of The Month for his play in February.

Press put up 16 points (5G, 11A) in 14 games and had a plus-seven rating during that time. For the season, he has nine goals and 24 apples in 38 games played. Press is the first defenseman to nab this monthly honor in the ECHL since 2003.

The 23-year-old converted forward has had limited appearances in Rockford over the last three seasons. He was scoreless in seven games for the IceHogs this season. In fact, Press has yet to register a point in 18 AHL contests.

Press is 6’3” and 210 pounds but hasn’t shown a real physical game in the time he has spent in Rockford. His defensive positioning has been an issue when I’ve seen him play at the AHL level. The Blackhawks have been intrigued about his potential, though not enough to get his name on an entry contract. However, his play in Indy suggests that Press might be worth consideration for a steady role in Rockford.

 

What’s That On My Screen?

As I am wont to do on a Wednesday night, I was in my basement taking in Rockford’s game with Texas. I called up the game on AHL Live a little late and tried to get into the swing of the game.

“Well, it’s not too bad,” I thought as I saw the score. “No score through the first half of the period.”

The key revelation in that anecdote is that I saw the score. For the first time in forever, the IceHogs had the score, time remaining and the period in the corner of the game broadcast. Rockford had finally provided this vital information for the interested viewer. Huzzah!

Of course, the scoreboard at (kind of) center ice at the BMO is currently on the fritz and doesn’t have that information, but I was in my basement, so who cares?

 

New Looks To The Roster

In last week’s post, I pointed out that Chicago could make a few paper moves to ensure that some of the current Blackhawks could take part in possible playoff action for the Hogs. That came to fruition, with the Blackhawks sending J.F. Berube, Carl Dahlstrom and David Kampf to Rockford until the trade deadline, when all three were duly recalled.

Also earning a call-up was Matthew Highmore, meaning that by NHL rules, the Hawks can only recall one more player this season, barring injury. That likely means that veteran players like Cody Franson, Adam Clendening and Chris DiDomenico will be spending the duration of the campaign in Rockford.

Lance Bouma was assigned to the IceHogs after clearing waivers; he skated in all three games this week and had a pair of helpers in Saturday’s win.

Clendening, by the way, has found his scoring touch in Rockford. In 21 games with AHL Tuscon, he had a goal and four assists. In 21 games with the IceHogs, he has two goals and 16 helpers.

 

Recaps

The IceHogs were a few minutes shy of grabbing points in all three games this week. However, they did win two of those contests. No lines again this week; I solemnly vow that I will have lines for next weekend’s action.

Wednesday, February 28-Rockford 2, Texas 1

Rockford won its second game in a row behind a 38-save performance by Collin Delia, besting the Stars in front of a healthy weeknight crowd at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

The Hogs power play got things started 14:46 into the opening period on what has become a potent strategy. Chris DiDomenico threaded a cross-ice pass to Cody Franson, who was waiting at the left dot. His one-timer got through the open back door of Texas goalie Mike McKenna for a 1-0 Rockford advantage.

The lead doubled early in the second period. The IceHogs wove their way into the Stars zone with some crisp passing. DiDomenico wound up with the puck near the left dot and dropped a backhand pass to Luc Snuggerud in the high slot. He didn’t get all of the biscuit on his one-timer, but the change-up got the best of McKenna and Rockford led 2-0 at the 4:20 mark.

The Stars got back to within a goal in the 13th minute on a Greg Rallo goal after Delia gave up a rebound in front of the crease. However, that was the only rubber the rookie would allow past him on this night. The Hogs couldn’t come up with any insurance; thanks to Delia, they didn’t need it.

 

Friday, March 2-Milwaukee 4, Rockford 1

With points on the table, the IceHogs let the game slip away in the closing minutes. Rockford dropped a key game to a division opponent despite allowing just 12 Admirals shots on goal.

The penalty kill gave up an early goal, with Alexandre Carrier holding in a clearing attempt and finding Emil Petterssen at the right dot. The resulting wrister beat Hogs goalie Jeff Glass to the near side, giving Milwaukee a 1-0 lead just 1:29 into the contest.

Rockford got back to even ground with a power play strike of its own 4:44 into the second period. Cody Franson collected a rebound of a Tyler Sikura shot and flung it past Ads goalie Anders Lindback to knot the game at a goal apiece.

That’s the way the score remained until late in the final frame. The Hogs had limited Milwaukee to just seven shots in the first 40 minutes of action and had several scoring opportunities wind up in Lindback’s glove.

With just over five minutes remaining in regulation, Anthony Louis juggled a clearing attempt from Franson on the neutral side of the Hogs blueline. Not surprisingly, it wound up in the back of Rockford’s net. Frederic Allard did the honors, finishing the 2-on-1 created by the turnover.

Two minutes later, Petterssen’s shot from the slot was blocked by Luc Snuggerud and hopped into the end boards. Mark Zengerle chased it down before hitting a wide open Petterssen in front of the Hogs net. Glass couldn’t make the stop and Milwaukee now led 3-1 at 17:05 of the third.

Former IceHogs forward Mark McNeill put a lid on the proceedings with an empty-net goal with 1:31 left. Rockford had out shot the Admirals 25-12 but came out of this game with nothing but a bus ride back to Illinois.

 

Saturday, March 3-Rockford 3, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 0

Another impressive Delia effort in net provided the backbone of the IceHogs victory. The rookie from Rancho Cucamonga, California recorded his first professional shutout in front of a sell-out audience at the BMO.

All the scoring Delia would need on this night came on a pretty bit of puck movement by Rockford midway through the first period. Chris DiDomenico got the action started from behind his net, backhanding a clearing pass to Lance Bouma along the left half boards.

Bouma skated up the left side, crossed into Penguins territory and sent a pass all the way across the zone to Luc Snuggerud. Snuggerud backhanded a centering pass to Anthony Louis, who was skating hard to the front of the net. Louis redirected the pass past goalie Etienne Marcoux to finish off a nifty lamp-lighter.

The score remained 1-0 Rockford until the puck drop to start the third period. Tyler Sikura won the draw, Bouma sent it back to Cody Franson and Franson hit Andreas Martinsen as he was about to enter the offensive zone. Martinsen took care of the rest.

Maneuvering past two Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defenders, Martinsen battled his way toward the right post. With defenseman Kevin Czuczman draped all over him and with only his right hand on his stick, the big Norwegian somehow flipped the puck past Marcoux into the promised land.

At ten seconds, it was the fastest IceHogs goal to begin a period in the AHL history of the franchise. It put Rockford up 2-0 and in the driver’s seat for the rest of the way. Martinsen closed out the scoring with an empty-netter with 1:01 left.

Delia handled all 34 Penguins shots, including anchoring the Hogs penalty kill in six Wilkes-Barre/Scranton attempts. He was named the game’s first star, followed by Martinsen and Louis.

 

This Week

The IceHogs enter the most crucial portion of their schedule, starting Saturday night in Milwaukee. Rockford’s next ten games are against Central Division teams currently ahead of them in the standings.

Following Saturday’s tilt with the Admirals, the Hogs visit Chicago on Sunday. With chances to climb the division ladder enough to secure a playoff spot dwindling, Rockford has to consider each match-up a must-win.

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

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

This week’s Rockford IceHogs post is abbreviated. I mean, I could talk about what Blackhawks prospects factored into a weekend split. However, there is a good chance that some of those players will be the property of other organizations.

Due to the uncertainty that is the trade deadline, I’ll hold off on some of this week’s analysis for a day or two. I will sift through any roster shakeup later this week.

Rockford skaters did reach a couple of milestones over the weekend. Matthew Highmore set an AHL franchise record for rookies with his 21st goal in Saturday’s victory in Hershey. Defenseman Adam Clendening also tied a franchise mark, logging his 134th point and 110th helper. Both tie the previous high for IceHogs defensemen with Brian Connelly.

Will Clendening be around to break that tie? Who knows?

Moves will likely be made, either large or small. Viktor Svedberg was a healthy scratch on Saturday and is one of several veteran blueliners who I would not be surprised to see included in a deal. Same goes for Cody Franson and Clendening.

 

Roster Moves

On Wednesday, with new acquisition Chris DiDomenico ready to roll, Rockford sent forward Matheson Iacopelli to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. As a player with an NHL entry contract, it’s not a common occurrence.

Iacopelli has spent most of his rookie season as a bottom six option. Without a real strong linemate to get him shot opportunities, the former Western Michigan standout still had nine goals in 40 games this season. He’s been a frequent scratch and it’s apparent the coaching staff feels that there is something missing from his game.

Whatever that is, it isn’t his shot. If Iacopelli could secure a role on a scoring line, he has 30-goal potential in the AHL. With this year’s crop of prospects, top-six minutes haven’t been in the cards for him.

Upon arriving in Indy, Iacopelli quickly displayed the kind of offensive punch of which he is capable. He promptly lit the lamp in each of his first two appearances before Saturday night’s hat trick against Quad City.

I’m not sure why Iacopelli has had trouble finding playing time with the IceHogs, but the only thing that can help him fill out his game is steady minutes. I’m positive he’ll get those minutes in Indy for as long as he’s there.

 

Recaps

The IceHogs are still on the outside looking in in terms of the postseason. Rockford did, however, leapfrog Milwaukee into fifth place in the Central Division standings. The threesome of Grand Rapids, Chicago and Iowa still needs to be chased down to grab one of the three spots behind Manitoba in the playoff picture.

Friday, February 23-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 6, Rockford 3

Rockford’s road trip began in not-so-impressive fashion, falling behind early to the Penguins and never getting back into contention.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton took a 2-0 advantage in the first 8:04 of the contest before the IceHogs could get on the board. Tyler Sikura slipped in front of the net to tip in a John Hayden offering at 10:22 of the first period to cut the Penguins lead to 2-1. However, a late Penguins goal put them up 3-1 at the first intermission.

Over the next 30 minutes of action, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton got three more pucks by Hogs goalie Jeff Glass, taking a 6-1 lead midway through the final frame. At that point, Rockford managed to gain a measure of respectability with a couple of garbage-time goals.

The IceHogs power play got rubber to twine when new addition Chris DiDomenico got a piece of Viktor Svedberg’s slap-shot at the 13:40 mark. A few minutes later, DiDomenico got to a puck in the corner of the Penguins zone. His pass found Anthony Louis near the right post for the score at 16:19.

 

Saturday, February 24-Rockford 4, Hershey 3 (OT)

The ending was not without controversy, but the Hogs were able to pull out a win in what was a pretty unusual affair with the Bears.

Despite a landslide advantage in shots on goal, this game was nip-and-tuck in terms of score. Rockford was able to gain the first goal of the contest while killing a delay of game penalty.

John Hayden proved to be the catalyst on a shorthanded chance, creating a turnover along the half boards and getting a shot on net that was knocked aside by Hershey goalie Vitek Vanacek. Matthew Highmore was at the left post to collect the rebound, setting a Hogs rookie record for goals with his 21st of the season. Rockford led 1-0 at the 12:35 mark.

The Bears answered in the second period when Liam O’Brien laid a big hit on Alexandre Fortin to separate him from the puck. The big winger worked a give-and-go with Zach Sill before firing past Hogs goalie Collin Delia to tie the game 1-1 at the 13:25 mark.

Rockford’s power play made it a 2-1 game late in the period. Adam Clendening sent a stretch pass to William Pelletier, who got across the Bears blueline ahead of the defense. Pelletier skated to the net before getting a backhander past Vanecek at 17:46 of the second.

Hershey rallied again, drawing even on Travis Boyd’s power-play goal 6:35 into the third period. The IceHogs regained the lead 70 seconds later when Pelletier tipped in a Chris DiDomenico shot for his second of the night.

The Bears, for the third time of the evening, were able to come up with the equalizer, again while on the power play. Riley Barber took advantage of an open look from the right circle to tie the game on what was just Hershey’s 14th shot of the game. Rockford had 38 shots, by contrast, but the scoreboard showed three goals for each club. That’s how things ended in regulation.

Gus Macker Time ended 1:46 into the proceedings. What could easily have been a penalty on DiDomenico after getting tangled up with Barber wound up an odd-man rush the other way. Hayden brought the puck into the Hershey zone and fired past Vanecek to notch the game-winner.

Most nights, stopping just 11 of 14 shots wouldn’t be good enough for a win. On this night, it was as Delia picked up his ninth win of the season. Hayden and Pelletier were named the first and second stars of the game, respectively.

 

Coming Up

Rockford has a Wednesday night skate with the Texas Stars at the BMO, visit Milwaukee on Friday, then hosts the Penguins of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Saturday night.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter to get some nuggets of thought on Rockford doings all season long.

 

 

 

 

Everything Else

The Rockford IceHogs, much like their NHL parent club in Chicago, have been slumping hard in February. As a result, they’ve created some separation between themselves and the teams looking to secure a playoff spot in the AHL’s Central Division.

It’s the bad type of separation. The ‘Bago County Piglets may be hitting a wall in the AHL schedule. It’s coming at a rather inopportune time.

Rockford managed to snap a four-game losing streak Sunday with a win over San Antonio. The win took some of the stink off of two home losses to a weak Cleveland squad earlier in the week. The Hogs problems with the last-place Monsters goes a long way in part to explain why Rockford has plummeted to sixth-place.

The formula for success in the divisional standings is simple-beat the teams in your division. Unfortunately, this has been much easier to say than for the IceHogs to do this season.

Rockford is in its current position in the Central Division table precisely because of a poor showing among their regular opponents. Here’s how the teams stack up in inter-divisional play after this weekend’s action:

Team                 Record       Point Percentage

Manitoba          17-8-3-2     .650

Grand Rapids  23-13-1-4   .621

Chicago             20-11-3-2   .625

Iowa                   20-11-2-3   .625

Milwaukee        21-16-3-0   .562

Rockford       18-20-2-2 .476

Cleveland          14-23-1-3    .390

The Hogs are 6-3 against the Griffins this season. However, they have dropped the last three meetings with Grand Rapids, who currently are on a 9-0-0-2 run that has them in that second-place spot in the Central.

The IceHogs do not own a winning record against any of the other teams in the division. To make matters worse, the two games they lost at home to Cleveland this week leaves Rockford with a 3-4-0-1 mark in the season series with the Monsters. Not terrible, you say? Here’s how the rest of the loop is faring with the division cellar-dwellers:

Manitoba: 4-1-1

Grand Rapids: 5-1-0-1

Chicago: 4-1

Iowa: 6-0-1

Milwaukee: 4-3

Rockford is 3-6-1 over its last ten contests. All three wins are against teams from the Pacific Division (Ontario, San Antonio). Meanwhile, Grand Rapids is 8-0-0-2, the Wolves are 7-2-1 and Iowa is 7-3 in that same span.

 

Road Hogs

Rockford can certainly work its way out of this tailspin. However, they will have to do most of the heavy lifting on the road.

Of the IceHogs 22 remaining games, just seven will be in the confines of the BMO Harris Bank Center. Rockford has consecutive games just once for the rest of the campaign when they host Milwaukee and Chicago March 23-24.

The Hogs have 14 division games left. Ten of those contests are on the road. For a team that has to rack up regulation wins against the teams above them in the standings, that’s a tall order.

 

The New Guys

There were a number of moves made last week on the roster front. Last Sunday, the IceHogs inked forward Henrik Samuelsson to a PTO. A former first-round pick of Arizona and the son of Hawks assistant Ulf Samuelsson, the big wing paid early dividends for Rockford.

Samuelsson, who had 43 points (16 G, 27 A) with Idaho of the ECHL this season, posted a goal in each of his first three games with the IceHogs. He has already worked his way into the Rockford power play mix and skated with Matthew Highmore and Luke Johnson over the weekend.

Thursday was rife with moves. Goalie Jeff Glass came down to Rockford, with J.F. Berube being recalled to the Blackhawks. Chicago also pulled the trigger on a deal with Ottawa that saw defenseman Ville Pokka depart after nearly four seasons with the Hogs.

The organization reacquired forward Chris DiDomenico from the Senators in exchange for Pokka. DiDomenico skated in Rockford from 2010 to 2012. He’s spent this season between Ottawa 6 G, 4 A in 24 games) and AHL Belleville (5 G, 9 A in 25 games). DiDomenico did not skate in either IceHogs game since the trade.

A player who did get his first on-ice action with Rockford was rookie forward Nathan Noel, who made his debut Tuesday and got his first AHL goal Sunday afternoon. Noel made it clear what style of play we should expect from the fourth-round selection of the Hawks in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Noel stood out in that he is a pesky instigating-type that is in short supply on the Hogs roster. The 5’11”, 175-pound forward didn’t seem to have any problems finishing checks or adding an extra shove around the net.

Noel was injured to start the season. He was sent to Indy when he recovered and is coming off another injured stint while with the Fuel. In 17 games in Indy, Noel had four goals and five assists. It should be interesting to see if he can stay healthy and what Noel can contribute to this team.

 

Recaps (Readers Digest Version)

It wasn’t the best of weeks for Rockford. The Hogs managed to avoid being swept at the BMO, but lost two games to Cleveland before beating San Antonio. Here’s the long and the (mostly) short of it:

Tuesday, February 13-Cleveland 3, Rockford 1

Terry Broadhurst potted a shorthanded goal to open the scoring for Cleveland, taking advantage of a Gustav Forsling turnover. Rockford had five power play chances on the night; the only one that ended up on the scoreboard was the one from Broadhurst’s stick.

The Hogs evened the score with Henrik Samuelsson’s first goal with the team. The new guy was camped out in the slot, took a pass from Matthew Highmore and sent it to Twineville at 16:42.

The Monsters took the lead late in the second on a Carter Camper goal, then held off the Hogs the rest of the way. Alex Broadhurst hit an empty net to lock the game up in the final minute as the brothers continued to pile up offense against their former team.

J.F. Berube was solid in his second game back from injury, stopping 27 of 29 shots thrown his way. I wasn’t enough as the Hogs dropped their third-straight.

 

Saturday, February 17-Cleveland 5, Rockford 2

It was another exercise in futility on the special teams. Rockford went scoreless in five attempts, including a five-minute major. They surrendered another shorthanded goal and gave up a Monsters goal on the man advantage.

After a scoreless first, Cleveland came out and scored three goals in the first 8:29 of the middle frame. The offensive outburst was capped by Zach Dalpe’s shorty past Jeff Glass, who had little in the way of help in the second period.

Back came the Hogs with a pair of goals. Graham Knott’s shot bounced off sliding defenseman Cameron Gaunce and through the wickets of Monsters goalie Matiss Kivlenieks and into the net at 12:50 of the second. Henrik Samuelsson caught Matthew Highmore’s bank shot off the end boards and scored from the goal line at the 18:38 mark.

Rockford entered the third period down 3-2. That’s as close as this one got. Cleveland scored 1:35 into the third and added an empty-netter from Terry Broadhurst with 1:02 remaining.

 

Sunday, February 18-Rockford 4, San Antonio 3

The IceHogs got things turned around on the power play, with a pair of first-period conversions after falling behind 1-0.

Luke Johnson drew cord after putting in a long rebound of an Adam Clendening shot, tying the game 1-1 at the 14:20 mark. Less then two minutes later, Henrik Samuelsson had the space in the slot to sling home a Cody Franson pass for a 2-1 Hogs advantage.

Tanner Kero scored from the right post to give Rockford a 3-1 lead early in the second. Less than a minute later, Alexandre Fortin forced a turnover that wound up in front of the Rampage net. Nathan Noel was on the scene to get his first goal of the season at 2:33 of the second.

That chased San Antonio starter Spencer Martin from the crease. Ville Husso came into the game and held Rockford scoreless the rest of the way.

The Rampage added power play goals midway through the second and early in the final frame. However, Collin Delia made enough stops (25 of 28) to give the IceHogs a much-needed victory.

 

Save My Life, I’m Going Down For The Last Time-The Hogs Head East

Rockford is on the road this weekend, taking on a pair of Eastern Conference clubs.

Friday, the IceHogs tangle with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the first time since ever. The Penguins, who will visit the BMO in a couple of weeks, are 30-15-4-1 heading into this week’s play. They are led by Daniel Sprong, who is third among AHL rookies with 40 points (20 G, 20 A). Behind him is former IceHogs forward Ryan Haggerty, who has 16 goals and 15 helpers in addition to leading the team with a plus-21 skater rating.

In net, the Hogs will likely face Casey DeSmith, who has a 2.74 GAA and a .911 save percentage. DeSmith has lost four of his last five starts, though. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has dropped its last three games heading into the match-up.

Saturday, Rockford plays in Hershey, who are in seventh-place in the eight-team Atlantic Division. The Bears have won three straight games, however.

The IceHogs came out on top in the team’s first-ever meeting at the BMO, a 5-0 win. Three of Rockford’s goal scorers on that night, Vinnie Hinostroza, Tomas Jurco and Erik Gustafsson, are not on the current roster.

The Bears have a lot of experienced skaters, including forward Joe Whitney (24 points). Hershey is led in scoring by Travis Boyd (14 G 26 A) and Riley Barber (17 G, 16 A). Former Rockford forward Jeremy Langlois is skating for the Bears this season.

Hershey has used a tandem of Vitek Vanacek (2.79, .892) and former Chicago Wolves goalie Phoenix Copley (3.02, .892) in net.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my occasional musings on the Rockford scene.