Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs dropped a pair of games to the Chicago Wolves over the weekend. The piglets were blown out in the Wolves practice facility in Hoffman Estates Saturday night. The following afternoon, Rockford lost a back-and-forth affair to Chicago at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Here are some musings on the first two of what will be four straight games with the Wolves.

  • The Hogs were never in Saturday’s 6-3 loss. Ivan Nalimov made his debut in net for Rockford and was not good at all. The Wolves were up two goals before the opening minute elapsed and led 3-0 after the first. Cody Franson, Evan Barratt, and Reese Johnson scored for the piglets.
  • Rockford had just one power play chance in Hoffman Estates. Sunday, the Hogs went three-for-five on the man advantage, which allowed then to be more competitive against the class of the Central Division.
  • In his pro debut, Josiah Slavin tied the score with a power play goal early in the third period on Sunday. 1:15 into the final frame, the score was tied 4-4. From that point on, the Hogs were out shot 11-1 over the rest of the contest, losing 5-4.
  • Barratt picked up another goal in Sunday’s loss, his fourth of the season. Barratt has eleven points in 18 games (4 G, 7 A) and is on a three-game point streak. Dylan McLaughlin and Wyatt Kalynuk also caught cord for Rockford.
  • Franson had a three-point weekend and has a four-game point streak going. He is atop the Hogs in points with 14 (4 G, 10 A).
  • Andrei Altybarmakyan sat out the weekend. Hopefully it’s nothing long-term, as he’s been a bright spot in terms of Hawks prospects.
  • Matt Tomkins didn’t fare much better than Nalimov in net in Sunday’s defeat. He was victimized by a couple of deflections, but misplayed a puck behind his net which led to the game-winner from the Wolves Jamieson Rees.
  • Tomkins is still deserving of the bulk of Rockford’s work load in net. That said, I would really like to see rookie Cale Morris (1.72 GAA, .956 save percentage in three appearances) get a chance to face down the Wolves in one of the IceHogs next two games.
  • Chad Yetman, who had a goal in Rockford’s first game of the season, was sent to the Indy Fuel on Friday. The IceHogs also sent D Dimitry Osipov to their ECHL affiliate. Cliff Watson returns to the Fuel after Rockford released him from his PTO. The Blackhawks also assigned Brad Morrison (3 G, 2 A in six games for the Hogs) to Indy Friday.
  • Mikael Hakkarainen is one of several Chicago prospects to yo-yo between Rockford and Chicago’s taxi squad. Hakkarainen has appeared in just six games for the IceHogs this season. Currently in his second season of his entry contract, Hakkarainen is pointless in 14 games for his pro career.
  • Brandon Pirri and Alec Regula also were recalled to the taxi squad, with forwards MacKenzie Entwistle and Reese Johnson and defensemen Wyatt Kalynuk, Lucas Carlsson, and Ian Mitchell coming down to Rockford for the weekend’s action.
  • John Quenneville has struggled to produce on the offensive end this season. In twelve games, he has just one goal and one assist. Quenneville has spent most of the campaign dealing with nagging injuries. He took a big hit against the Wolves on Saturday and was out of the lineup on Sunday.
  • Rockford finishes March with a 5-5 record and is 6-11-1 overall. They are currently 0-5 against the Wolves this season. The Hogs will attempt to pick up that elusive first win over Chicago on the road Saturday night.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for news and opinions on the IceHogs throughout the season.

Hockey

The I-90 Shuffle is alive and well. The road between Chicago and Rockford has been well worn by Blackhawks prospects in the past. The moves are a bit different, but the results are similar.

In normal seasons, young prospects move up and down from the NHL to the AHL. The usual culprit is to reward a player with a quick look or to solve a salary cap issue. The new twist in the shuffle lies in the taxi squad.

Each NHL team must have three goalies available and a taxi squad of at least four members. A lot of players who would be getting steady game experience in Rockford have been in a sort of limbo. They aren’t breaking into Chicago’s lineup on a regular basis, but aren’t eligible to play for the IceHogs.

To keep the youngsters in game shape, several prospects have been rotated back and forth to the taxi squad. With both Rockford and Chicago at home or close to home this week, expect movement between the two teams.

The Blackhawks are attempting to make the best of a bad situation. However, it’s still rough on a player like Brandon Pirri, who has played in just three games this season. He was in the lineup opening night in Chicago, then sat until being assigned to Rockford on March 2.

Pirri had two goals and an assist in two games, then was recalled March 7. He was sent to Rockford last Wednesday, assumedly to play in this past weekend’s games with Iowa. The games were postponed two days, from Friday and Saturday to Sunday and Monday. On Sunday, before that night’s game, Pirri and three other skaters, John Quenneville, Alec Regula, and Mikael Hakkarainen, were recalled to Chicago.

Down came five players-forward Reese Johnson and defensemen Wyatt Kalynuk, Nicolas Beaudin, Lucas Carlsson and Madison Bowey. All five played in Rockford’s 5-3 loss to Iowa Sunday night and in the 6-1 victory the following day.

In a normal season, Pirri would have spent most of this season in Rockford leading the offensive push, offering some veteran presence, and showcasing himself to other organizations. Instead, Pirri and other AHL vets are spending time in purgatory.

Case in point: Iowa’s Gerry Mayhew scored three goals for the Wild in the last two games. Mayhew played in just four games with Minnesota before being sent down. Sunday was his third game for for Iowa. Mayhew now has four goals and an assist for the Wild. Last year’s AHL MVP (39 G, 22 A in 49 games) has been a taxi squad casualty this season.

It’s frustrating to see a player like Pirri, who was signed largely to contribute to Rockford, sit on his hands for the bulk of the season. Imagine how frustrating it must be for the players.

 

Recaps

Sunday, March 21-Iowa 5, Rockford 3

Gerry Mayhew showed the offensive spark that earned him last season’s AHL MVP award Sunday night. Mayhew, who was recently assigned to the Wild from Minnesota, scored twice and added an assist as the Wild broke a five-game winless streak.

Rockford’s two-game win streak was snapped in the first of two home contests with Iowa. Cody Franson had a goal and an assist in the losing effort.

An interference penalty by Reese Johnson set up the first goal of the contest. Iowa quickly set up in the offensive zone. Mason Shaw sent a puck on net from the right dot. Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins stopped that shot as well as Gabriel Dumont’s put back attempt. Gerry Mayhew knocked in the loose puck at 9:30 of the first period to give the Wild a 1-0 advantage.

The IceHogs tied the game early in the second period following a faceoff win by Reese Johnson in the neutral zone. Cody Franson gathered in the puck and fired from just inside the red line. Iowa goalie Hunter Jones whiffed on the long-distance offering, resulting in a 1-1 game 3:47 into the middle frame.

Rockford took the lead on the man advantage later in the second. MacKenzie Entwistle redirected a Franson shot past Jones at the 12:44 mark. That 2-1 lead was short-lived, as Mayhew potted his second goal of the night with a wrap-around attempt. Tomkins made the initial pad save, but the puck was raked across the goal line by the goalie’s stick at 14:17 of the second.

Early in the final period, the IceHogs gained a 3-2 advantage when Rockford captain Garrett Mitchell received a pass from Mitchell Fossier at the left dot. Mitchell’s shot was low and to the far side of the net at the 1:37 mark.

The Wild responded quickly, getting the equalizer from Tyler Sheehy. The rookie potted his first AHL goal, tipping in Dumont’s feed at 3:07 of the third. Five minutes later, Dumont one-timed a Sheehy pass from the high slot past Tomkins for a 4-3 Iowa lead eight minutes into the period.

The Hogs were unable to pull even in the final twelve minutes of action. Tomkins was pulled in favor of an extra skater with 1:47 remaining to no avail. Shaw found the empty net with 15 seconds left to seal Rockford’s fate.

Riley McKay dropped the gloves with Iowa’s Josh Maser early in the second period. McKay managed to dodge a good number of Maser’s punches in the all-rookie bout before being taken down to the ice. The fighting major is his third of the season, which leads the IceHogs.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-Tim Soderlund

Andrei Altybarmakyan-MacKenzie Entwistle-D.J. Busdeker

Matej Chalupa-Dylan McLaughlin-Michal Teply

Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Mitchell Fossier

Anton Lindholm-Madison Bowey

Wyatt Kalynuk-Cody Franson (A)

Lucas Carlsson-Nicolas Beaudin

Matt Tomkins

Cam Morris

 

Monday, March 22-Rockford 6, Iowa 1

For the first time this season, the IceHogs were able to build a cushion against an opponent. This was the first Rockford win of the season to come by more than one goal.

Rockford got two-goal performances from Reese Johnson, Chris Wilkie, and Nicolas Beaudin. The offensive outburst was more than enough for rookie goaltender Cale Morris, who stopped 38 shots to pick up the win.

The Hogs stormed out to a big lead in the opening minutes, scoring three goals on their first four shots of the game. The first strike came in transition after Issak Phillips sent a clearing pass to Wilkie. Leading a two-on-one rush, Wilkie hit Johnson for the one-timer from the left circle for a 1-0 lead just 2:24 into the contest.

Wilkie forced a turnover in the Iowa zone a few minutes later. Evan Barratt chased down the loose puck  and passed to Johnson, who brought it around the Wild net. Returning the favor to Wilkie, Johnson centered to set up the tap in, which came at 5:22 of the first.

Wilkie’s next goal came with Lucas Carlsson in the box for holding. Wyatt Kalynuk got the play started with a stretch pass to Wilkie coming out of the defensive zone. Wilkie worked a give-and-go with Dylan McLaughin, receiving the return pass and beating Iowa goalie Hunter Jones to the glove side at the 8:43 mark.

The Wild managed to cut the Rockford lead to 3-1 while on a two-man advantage. Gerry Mayhew snaked through the IceHogs defense and got a shot past Rockford goalie Cale Morris at 15:53 of the first period.

The IceHogs were able to restore a three-goal advantage late in the second period. The goal came on the power play after Wilkie drew a slash from Josh Atkinson. McLaughlin found MacKenzie Entwistle below the goal line. From there, Entwistle connected with Beaudin at the right dot. Beaudin brought the puck to his forehand and roofed it past Jones at 16:28 of the middle frame for a 4-1 Rockford lead.

The IceHogs prevented any pushback by Iowa by controlling the action in the third period. Late in the game, Tim Soderlund centered to Johnson, who potted his second goal of the night to make it 5-1 Rockford at 16:59 of the third. Moments later, Beaudin picked up his second of the evening with a long-distance shot past a screened Jones at the 17:29 mark to close out the scoring.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Mitchell Fossier-Garrett Mitchell-D.J. Busdeker

Andrei Altybarmakyan-MacKenzie Entwistle-Michal Teply

Mataj Chalupa-Dylan McLaughlin-Tim Soderlund

Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson-Chris Wilkie

Anton Lindholm-Lucas Carlsson

Wyatt Kalynuk-Nicolas Beaudin

Issak Phillips-Madison Bowey

Cale Morris

Ivan Nailimov

 

This Weekend

Rockford now settles in for four games with the Chicago Wolves. The first home-and-away back-to-back starts Saturday night in Hoffman Estates.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs had a big weekend, sweeping the Iowa Wild at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The piglets won consecutive games for the first time this season. Several players stood out. Below are some thoughts.

 

Some Thoughts

  • It was a huge weekend for Collin Delia, who was lit up like a pinball machine (remember those?) in his first two conditioning starts for Rockford. Delia was much improved against Iowa, stopping 35 shots in Saturday’s 3-2 win and 27 more in Sunday’s 4-3 overtime thriller. I imagine he gets the start Thursday vs Grand Rapids, his last opportunity for work while on this 14-day stint.
  • It’s premature to tab rookie Andrei Altybarmakyan “Baby Hossa”, but I’m going to anyway. The Hawks third-round pick from 2017 has been surprisingly hardy with the puck. His effort on Sunday’s game-winner was impressive, taking the puck around the offensive zone with Iowa’s Connor Dewar draped all over him and finishing from the slot. Despite being only 5’11”, Altybarmakyan is one of a few IceHogs who can consistently drive hard to the net with the biscuit. He was rewarded with a three-point weekend and is tied for second on the team with six points (3 G, 3 A)
  • I’d like to see Nicolas Beaudin hang around the BMO for a while. He’s getting top-pairing minutes with Cody Franson and is heavily active on special teams. In just four games, he has six assists.
  • With WHL players returning to their teams, I’m wondering how much time D Issak Phillips has on his ATO. I assume he returns to his junior team if/when the OHL get back to action. The 19-year old Phillips has two goals and two helpers in nine games in Rockford and should be a big part of the IceHogs next season.
  • D Alec Regula has been out the last three games with an injury. D Chad Krys has been out since leaving the game against Cleveland February 22. Aside from veteran Cody Franson, it’s a youthful group on the blueline. With just six defensemen healthy at this point, I’m surprised the Hogs haven’t inked any PTOs at the position.

 

Roster News

On Friday, the IceHogs signed goalie Ivan Nalimov to a one-year AHL contract. Nalimov is a 2014 sixth-round pick who has bounced around the KHL for the past six seasons. He was released by Dinamo Riga last month, paving the way for the 26-year-old Nalimov to come to Rockford.

Just before game time on Saturday, the Blackhawks recalled D Wyatt Kalynuk and D Lucas Carlsson. On Sunday, F Brandon Pirri and F Tim Soderlund were recalled to Chicago’s taxi squad. Coming down to Rockford was F Brad Morrison and F Mikael Hakkarainen, both of who played that afternoon against Iowa.

 

Weekend Recaps

Saturday, March 6-Rockford 3, Iowa 2

Rockford was out shot 37-19 but broke a two-game losing skid with strong play from goalie Collin Delia and a two-goal performance by Cody Franson.

The Wild out shot Rockford 13-3 in the first period. However, it was the Hogs who took a 2-1 into the intermission. Iowa took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Iowa captain Gabriel Dumont. Dumont was in front of the Hogs crease, where he collected a feed from Mason Shaw. The pass came from behind Delia’s net; Dumont was able to knock the puck into the cage before the Rockford goalie could locate it. Dumont’s sixth goal of the season came at the 4:26 mark.

Rockford would respond with the game’s next two scores. Franson threw in his first goal of the season at 9:33 of the opening frame. The point shot was set up by Andrei Altybarmakyan, who sent a loose puck around the end boards to Nicolas Beaudin. Beaudin sent a pass along the blue line to Franson for the primary assist.

Shortly after tying the game, the IceHogs utilized some crisp passing to take the lead at 12:46 of the first. Franson got the lay of the land from behind his own net before firing to Beaudin at the Rockford blueline. Beaudin got to center ice and found Matej Chalupa coming into the Wild zone. The rookie forward skated to the left dot before slapping the biscuit past the blocker of Iowa goalie Hunter Jones.

The Rockford man advantage unit propelled the Hogs to a 3-1 lead at 11:34 of the second period. Franson’s second of the game came from the left dot, set up by Brandon Pirri and Beaudin.

After a potential goal by Will Bitten was waved off with five minutes left in the middle frame, Iowa cut the lead to 3-2 with 3:59 remaining. Veteran Cody McLeod was in front of the net to collect the rebound of Josh Atkinson’s shot from the point to reduce the IceHogs lead to one goal through forty minutes.

Iowa pushed hard for the equalizer to no avail. The IceHogs come up with two penalty kills in the last five minutes of action, highlighted by some incredible play by Delia. The Rockford goalie somehow managed to make a stick save on a sure Connor Dewar goal from the seat of his pants.

Delia, on a conditioning assignment from the Blackhawks, made 35 stops on the night. His terrific performance comes after giving up 13 goals in his first two starts with Rockford.

Three Stars: Franson (First), Beaudin (Second), Delia (Third).

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville (A)-MacKenzie Entwistle-Brandon Pirri

Andrei Altybarmakyan-Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson

Matej Chalupa-Garrett Mitchell-D.J. Busdeker

Riley McKay-Chad Yetman-Chris Wilkie

Nicolas Beaudin-Cody Franson (A)

Michael Krutil-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Collin Delia

Cale Morris

 

Sunday, March 7-Rockford 4 , Iowa 3 (OT)

The IceHogs finally have a winning streak going after a tough start to the 2020-21 campaign. A two-goal performance by rookie Andrei Altybarmakyan was the difference in the IceHogs 4-3 overtime victory.

The see-saw contest at the BMO Harris Bank Center ended with the IceHogs sweeping Iowa in a two-game weekend set. Rockford, who trailed 3-2 after 40 minutes, wins consecutive games for the first time this season.

Rockford got on the board 8:19 into the game on the first of Altybarmakyan’s two goals. Taking a clearing pass from Dmitry Osipov, he motored up the left side and into the Iowa zone. Altybarmakyan drove the net and sent a backhand shot past Wild goalie Hunter Jones for a 1-0 IceHogs advantage.

The Wild took advantage of a cross checking infraction by Riley McKay late in the opening period. Up until that point, Rockford had limited Iowa to a single shot on goal. The Wild tilted the ice toward the Hogs net and teed off, tying the contest at the 18:57 mark. Connor Dewar played catch with Calen Addison before sending the equalizer past Hogs goalie Collin Delia from the top of the left circle.

Iowa controlled the action for much of the second period. The Wild out shot Rockford 15-5 in addition to gaining the upper hand on the scoreboard.

The two teams traded goals early in the second. IceHogs regained the lead at the 2:35 mark, following an unsuccessful power play for Rockford. Issak Phillips retrieved a clearing attempt, sliding the puck to Evan Barratt along the left half boards just shy of the Wild blueline. Barratt skated into the offensive zone and blasted home the shot from the top of the left circle.

Less than two minutes later, Michael Krutil suffered a blowout as he was about to skate the puck past the red line. Iowa capitalized, attacking Delia’s net until Dewar was able to poke a loose biscuit into an open cage at 4:21 of the second period.

Successive penalties by Rockford garnered a two-man advantage for the Wild in the seventh minute. With MacKenzie Entwistle and John Quenneville in the box, Iowa took a 3-2 lead on a back-door conversion by Damien Giroux. The goal was set up by Addison and Mason Shaw 6:34 into the middle frame.

The IceHogs drew even with Iowa midway through the third period. Cole Moberg got the scoring play started with a shot on goal that Jones stopped. The rebound was controlled by Entwistle, who backhanded the puck to a crashing D.J. Busdeker at the left post. Busdeker collected the feed and made a deposit into the net just ahead of a diving Jones at 8:11 of the third period.

The score remained all square at three goals through regulation. Altybarmakyan ended the contest in overtime with some strong skating with the puck. Fighting off Dewar around the end boards and back to the top of the Iowa zone, Altybarmakyan made his way to the slot. He fired past Jones for the game-winner 1:16 into the extra session.

Delia picked up the win for the Hogs in net, with 27 saves on the afternoon. Rockford survived a futile day on the power play, going 0-5 while the Wild scored twice in four chances on the man advantage.

The Hogs rally overshadowed a three-point night for Addison (three assists), as well as the pair of goals by Dewar. Jones ended the night with 21 saves on 25 shots.

Rockford is off until Thursday night, where they wrap up a four-game home stand at the BMO against Grand Rapids. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

Three Stars: Altybarmakyan (First), Dewar (Second), Busdeker (Third).

 

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anderei Altybarmakyan-MacKenzie Entwistle-John Quenneville (A)

Matej Chalupa-Evan Barratt-Reese Johnson

Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-D.J. Busdeker

Brad Morrison-Chad Yetman-Mikael Hakkarainen

Nicolas Beaudin-Cody Franson (A)

Michal Krutil-Dimitry Osipov

Issak Phillips-Cole Moberg

Collin Delia

Cam Morris

 

This Week

The Hogs are off until Thursday, when they wrap up the current home stand against Grand Rapids. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.

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

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs are still looking for their first win of the recently-started 2020-21 season. Rockford resumes the quest for victory Saturday night when the piglets travel to DesMoines. The first of ten meetings with the Iowa Wild is set to start at 6:00 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena.

Here is how the week went for the IceHogs, along with a look at their Saturday foe.

 

Roster Moves

On Thursday, the Blackhawks recalled defenseman Wyatt Kalynuk to the taxi squad. Kalynuk had played in both of Rockford’s first two games, posting a goal and an apple in the season opener.

In a reciprocal move, Chicago assigned defenseman Anton Lindholm to the IceHogs. Lindholm had been on the taxi squad and had not appeared in a contest with the Hawks so far this season. The 26-year-old Lindholm had 164 games of AHL experience under his belt with the San Antonio Rampage and the Colorado Eagles.

 

A Look At The Iowa Wild

Minnesota’s AHL affiliate is 1-1-1 on the season. All three games were at home with Texas. The Wild is coached by Tim Army, who is starting his third season as the head man in Iowa.

AHL veteran Gabriel Dumont is pacing Iowa with four points (3 G, 1 A) on the season. Second-year center Connor Dewar also has four points (2 G, 2 A). Forward Dimitry Sokolov (2 G, 1 A) is entering his third full season, with 15 and 16 goals the past two years.

Former IceHogs forward Joseph Cramarossa signed a one-year contract with Minnesota this past summer. Moxie Joe has a goal this season to go with a fighting major so far for the Wild. He’s another experienced skater that should agitate the piglets.

Cody McLeod has a dozen NHL seasons under his belt. The 36-year-old forward spent last season with the Wild and returns as an alternate captain. Center Jarrett Burton is another veteran who has time with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Rochester over the last five seasons.

Skokie native Louie Belpedio is back for a third season on Iowa’s blueline. Also on defense for the Wild is Ian McCoshen, who spent most of last season with Rockford. Keaton Thompson is entering his fifth year in the AHL and second for Iowa. Hunter Warner is another Wild defenseman that has several seasons with the team.

In goal, the Hogs will likely be facing Dereck Baribeau, who has played well in his two starts this season. He’s sporting a 1.92 GAA and a .923 save percentage. The 6’6″ Baribeau saw limited action with Iowa last season, playing 15 games with Allen in the ECHL.

Hunter Jones gave up seven goals to the Stars in his AHL debut on February 5. Jones is a second-round pick of the Wild in the 2019 NHL Draft.

 

Recapping This Week’s Action

Tuesday, February 9-Chicago 5, Rockford 2

The piglets traveled to Hoffman Estates, losing to the Wolves for the second-straight game. Philip Tomasino and Rem Pitlick each had a pair of goals to send Rockford home 0-2 on the season.

The Wolves got the scoring started late in the opening period. Seth Jarvis took in a pass from teammate Joey Keane at the top of the right circle on a Wolves power play, set up by an Evan Barratt slashing infraction. Keane maneuvered around Michael Krutil and fired a shot that glanced off of Hogs goalie Scott Darling. The puck entered the Hogs net at 15:59 for a 1-0 Chicago lead.

Midway through the contest, Barratt had just completed a pass when he took a hit from Wolves defenseman Max Lajoie. Barratt left the game with the aid of the training staff; he was not putting weight on his right knee. Lajoie had to tangle with Andrei Altybarmakyan, who jumped in and dropped the gloves in a brief scrap.

Lajoie was given a major penalty and game misconduct for kneeing. Barratt would return to action later in the period. Altybarmakyan was handed a two-minute instigating minor and a ten-minute misconduct. After some four-on-four action, the Hogs got some power play time and were able to tie the contest.

D.J. Busdeker pounced on the rebound of a Chad Krys one-timer and sent the puck through the wickets of Chicago goalie Jeremy Helvig. Alec Regula was credited with the secondary assist for the goal, which came 13:55 into the second stanza.

The game didn’t remain tied for long. Chicago’s Philip Tomasino drove to the net and snapped a shot that got over Darling’s glove at 16:10 of the second. Two minutes later, with Rockford again on the man advantage, Krys whiffed on a one-time attempt and fell to the ice. Rem Pitlick was off to the races, easily beating Darling on the breakaway strike for a 3-1 Wolves lead.

Tomasino got a stick on a Jeremy Davies shot, changing the direction enough to get it into the Hogs net to make it 4-1 Chicago in the ninth minute of the third period. The IceHogs picked up a shorthanded goal of their own at the 10:44 mark. Chris Wilkie sent a wrist shot from the goal line near the right half boards. The puck glanced off of the leg of Helvig and into the net to cut the Wolves lead to 4-2.

Pitlick closed out the scoring in the final minutes, taking a pass from Stelio Mattheos and beating Darling to complete the odd-man rush with 1:32 remaining in the game.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville (A)-Evan Barratt-Andrei Altybarmakyan

Matej Chalupa-Dylan McLaughlin-D.J. Busdeker

Tim Soderlund-Chad Yetman-Chris Wilkie

Riley McKay-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Hakkarainen

Wyatt Kalynuk-Cody Franson (A)

Chad Krys-Micheal Krutil

Alec Regula-Dimitry Osipov

Scott Darling

Cale Morris

Power Play (1-9, gave up shorthanded goal)

Kalynuk-Franson-Quenneville-Yetman-Barratt

Krys-Regula-Soderlund-Altybarmakyan-Busdeker

Penalty Kill (Wolves were 1-6, Hogs posted a shorty)

Forwards-Mitchell, McLaughlin, Wilkie, McKay, Quenneville, Hakkarainen

Defensemen-Franson, Kalynuk, Krys, Osipov, Krutil, Regula

 

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts and game updates as the Hogs tangle with Iowa Saturday night.

 

 

 

 

 

Hockey

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Blackhawks, finally got their season underway Saturday afternoon at the BMO Harris Bank Center. As I expected, the piglets were unable to slow down the talented Chicago Wolves. Rockford lost their season opener 5-4.

What I did not expect to see was the IceHogs competing with their intrastate rivals. Rockford has nowhere near the firepower the Wolves possess, yet they led twice in the contest and had an open look to tie things up late in the game.

The key for the Hogs this year will be how the young prospects will contribute to the scoring sheet. On Saturday, three rookies drew cord-Chat Yetman, Wyatt Kalynuk, and Matej Chalupa. Evan Barratt chipped in with an assist and was active around the net.

Chalupa’s third-period goal was set up with a nice feed from behind the Wolves net by D.J. Busdeker. Andrei Altybarmakyan contributed a secondary assist and, like Barrett, had three shots on goal.

It was nice to see the youth of Rockford get into the offensive mix. That is going to have to continue if the IceHogs expect to stay with teams like Chicago. Especially since the piglets will be seeing a lot of the Wolves.

Chicago, who had beaten Grand Rapids 3-1 the previous evening, was filling in as Rockford’s opponent after the Cleveland Monsters were grounded with COVID-19 issues. It was announced over the weekend that two additional games with the Wolves had been scheduled. The first of which will be in Hoffman Estates on Tuesday, February 9.

Musings

  • Matt Tomkins saw 36 shots and made 31 saves. It appears that Rockford coach Derek King is set on giving the former Ohio State goalie the starters role. Tomkins wasn’t bad, considering the Wolves kept the pressure on for the last 50 minutes of action.
  • The Wolves bore a passing resemblance to the Admirals team of a year ago that just overwhelmed opponents in the offensive zone. Makes sense, since many of those players now skate for Chicago. The Wolves aren’t quite as experienced or adept at passing as that Milwaukee bunch, but the nose for the net is there.
  • Rockford mustered just on even-strength goal in the game. Several players, including Altybarmakyan and Chalupa, created breakaway chances in the opening period only to be denied by Wolves goalie Jeremy Helvig. That turned out to be a key momentum swing, as Chicago stayed in the game long enough to get its offense rolling.
  • Kalynuk, making his pro debut, really appeared to be accustomed to the speed of the game. He made some nice plays at both ends of the ice and his one-timer was spot on.
  • Franson, who set Kalynuk up for his first pro goal, had three helpers and was easily the best defenseman on the ice. Much like his run with the Hogs in 2018, he is strong at both ends and capable of controlling the action on the power play. He’s on an AHL contract and was pretty up front about trying to earn some NHL ink. Franson could draw some interest from a team in need of some depth at defense as the season progresses.
  • In keeping with the “prospect camp” approach the Blackhawks are taking with their AHL affiliate, the piglets were sporting some pretty high numbers on their porcine sweaters. Krys, for example, went from wearing number 4 a season ago to donning number 43. Only four players had numbers lower than 40. Lots of fives, sixes, and sevens out there for Rockford.
  • Rockford’s Dmitry Osipov was involved in a brief scrap with Jeannot midway though the first period. First fight of the year…and with ten more meetings between the IceHogs and Wolves, it won’t be the last.
  • With eleven games between these two teams, there will likely be a clear winner of the vaunted Illinois Lottery Cup, presently holding open the locker room door at the BMO Harris Bank Center (or so I like to think).

 

Roster Moves (Just Where Is Jack Ramsey?)

As things got underway at the BMO Saturday, I got a tweet inquiring about defenseman Jack Ramsey, who wasn’t on the ice for the Wolves game. Ramsey also was not on the Hogs opening day roster. Or the training camp roster. Or the Indy Fuel’s roster, because that’s where I looked next.

Ramsey signed a one-year AHL contract with the IceHogs on April 30. The Minnesota defenseman was a seventh-round selection of the Blackhawks in the 2014 NHL Draft. He spent the bulk of last season with the Fuel (2 G, 8 A in 46 games). He was recalled a couple of times by Rockford but never got into a game.

I will try and follow up on Ramsey’s status for this season.

 

Hey! We Got A Recap!

Saturday, February 6-Chicago 5, Rockford 4

The Rockford IceHogs got off to a fast start in their season opener. They just couldn’t keep a talented Chicago Wolves out of the net.

The Hogs raced out to an early 2-0 lead, only to see Chicago rally from behind twice as the Wolves took over to win, 5-4. A pair of goals from Wolves rookie Seth Jarvis proved to be the difference in this high-scoring affair.

The Hogs were 2-2 on the power play in the first half of the opening period. With Lukas Craggs in the box for holding, John Quenneville took a pass from Wyatt Kalynuk into neutral ice. A give and go with Cody Franson allowed Quenneville to streak into the Wolves zone. He beat Chicago goalie Jeremy Helvig from the slot at 4:41 for a 1-0 Rockford advantage.

A few minutes later, Joey Keane was sent to time out for holding the stick. The IceHogs won the resulting offensive zone draw and maneuvered the puck to a pinching Franson. The veteran defensman found Evan Barratt in front of the Chicago crease. Helvig stopped the attempt, but Chad Yetman’s put back gave Rockford a 2-0 lead at the 8:35 mark.

The Wolves rallied in the latter half of the first period. Jarvis potted his second goal of the season, cleaning up a rebound of a Jamieson Rees power move to the Hogs net at 17:22 of the first. Just over a minute later, Cavan Fitzgerald sent a snipe from the top of the left circle. The shot beat Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins, clanged off the left post and settled into the net to tie the contest at two goals with 1:36 remaining in the fist period.

Rockford went up early in the second when Franson set up Kalynuk for a one-timer from the right dot on the man advantage 4:36 into the middle frame. The Wolves responded with three unanswered goals.

Coming off a faceoff win in the Hogs zone, Alexandre Carrier sent a shot wide of the net. However, the carom off the end boards wound up on the stick of Tanner Jeannot, who tied the game 3-3 at the 5:11 mark. Another strong move to the net by Rees got him past the defending Chad Krys. Jarvis was on hand to finish the play and put the Wolves up 4-3 at 8:10 of the second.

Rem Pitlick got in the way of a Quenneville pass attempt to set up a breakaway chance. Pitlick sent a shot over the blocker of Tomkins for a 5-3 Chicago lead at the 14:35 mark. The IceHogs found themselves down a pair at the second intermission.

Rockford cut the Wolves lead to 5-4 on an even-strength goal by Matej Chalupa, who gathered in a nice backhand pass from behind the net by D.J. Busdeker and snuck a shot past Helvig. Dylan McLaughlin was credited with the secondary assist and also helped out with a screen of Helvig on the goal, which came at 9:27 of the final frame.

The equalizer would not materialize before the final horn. Yetman had an open look from the left post on a late Rockford power play. However, his put back attempt of Barratt’s shot was just off the mark. Despite pulling Tomkins for a two-man advantage, Chicago held firm and time ran out on the Hogs.

Tomkins made 31 saves in the loss, in which the Hogs were out shot 36-32. The game’s three stars, in order, were Jarvis, Franson, and Kalynuk.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville (A)-Evan Barratt-Andrei Altybarmakyan

Tim Soderlund-Dylan McLaughlin-D.J. Busdeker

Matej Chalupa-Chad Yetman-Michal Teply

Mikael Hakkarainen-Garrett Mitchell (C)-Gabriel Gagne

Wyatt Kalynuk-Cody Franson (A)

Alec Regula-Dimitry Osipov

Chad Krys-Michael Krutil

Matt Tomkins 

Scott Darling

Power Play (3-6)

Barratt-Yetman-Quenneville-Franson-Kalynuk

Chalupa-Altybarmakyan-Teply-Regula-Krys

Penalty Kill (Wolves were 1-5)

Forwards-Mitchell-Hakkarainen-Quenneville-McLaughlin

Defensemen-Krys-Kalynuk-Franson-Krutil-Regula-Osipov

 

Next up for the piglets are these same Chicago Wolves. The two teams will meet at the Triphahn Center in Hoffman Estates on Tuesday in one of those classic 2:00 p.m. starts that everyone can enjoy.

Follow me on twitter @JonFromi for game recaps, news, and thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.