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High On The Hog: Blowing In The Trade Winds

For the Rockford IceHogs, the All-Star break could not come at a better time. I guess it could come in the middle of a winning streak, but that hasn’t happened much during the 2016-17 campaign.

The Hogs are next in action this Friday and have plenty to ponder this week. Rockford hits the break losers of its last five games. The IceHogs dropped all three games this past week. In doing so, they were out scored 14-5, including 8-0 in the third period.

With a .400 points percentage that is the worst in the league, visions of playoff hockey at the BMO this spring is a delusion of grandeur. What players may be thinking in the coming weeks likely centers on where they will be when the season ends.

It would stun me if the roster remains intact through the NHL and AHL trade deadlines. Who might be on their way out? In my opinion, don’t mark anyone as 100 percent safe. Well…nearly anyone.

Trade Bait

Let’s look at the facts; the Blackhawks desire help at both forward and defense. Rockford is going nowhere. There aren’t a lot of blue-chip prospects that will anchor a trade. Chicago will likely have to package some players to attempt to get what they want.

I would guess that the only player safe from the trading block would be Gustav Forsling, who looks to be a very talented defenseman in need of better decision making. At 20, I have to believe that the Hawks keep him in the fold. (Note: Chicago just recalled Forsling Sunday night.)

Aside from Forsling, no one else surprises me in the least if he’s included in a swap. At the top of this list is Mark McNeill, who seems destined for a change of scenery.

The goal production is down, but McNeill does pace the Hogs with 25 points (6 G, 19 A) along with Spencer Abbott. You can point to a lack of cuing the horn and you would be spot on in your assessment of McNeill. On the other hand, he’s played center pretty exclusively this season. He’ll likely finish with career highs in helpers.

McNeill could very well appeal to a team looking to roll the dice on a former first-round pick. The Blackhawks have provided some fresh starts for some of their prospects and could offer him as a throw-in in a deal.

Ville Pokka is another prospect who seems to be stalled in Rockford. His offensive numbers will be down quite a bit from last season. Defense has never been his calling card. However, he may prove to have as much value as any of the Hawks blueline prospects.

Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg, who has been injured, are also defenders who could see their names discussed in a trade. In reality, you can fill in the blank with your own under-performing Rockford favorite. Aside from Forsling, and to a lesser extent Tyler Motte, all seem to be fair game.

 

Random Questions I’ve Been Meaning To Ask

Over the past few weeks, I have pasted in several questions I have had thoughts about but for various reasons haven’t made their way into this post. I’m sick of cutting them and pasting them into future drafts, so here they are.

“Why not have players signing autographs during the second intermission?”

During the 2012-13 season, the IceHogs would send a player down to the Stars Of Tomorrow display in the concourse for an intermission autograph session. They did this for a couple of seasons, then stopped the practice.

Maybe the team didn’t like the line that formed in the concourse. Maybe the players didn’t like to sit and sign after being scratched that night (I remember getting a photo with an injured Brandon Pirri one night and thinking to myself, “This kid has a brace on his injured knee and he’s still standing up to take pictures? Shame on me.”).

I’d usually see a lot of youngsters in line and they seemed to get a kick out of it. Too bad the Hogs can’t get this going again.

 

“Why not make Hog Talk available to listen to/download on the Hogs website?”

Once a month, Hogs players and coaches get together at a local watering hole with Bob Mills and a bunch of fans for an hour of fellowship. To the best of my limited knowledge, this show streams live on Rockford radio station WXRX-FM’s website. Once.

I wish the IceHogs would post this show on their website. Seems easy enough to archive for those of us who would like to while away a random evening downloading and listening to the stream.

The IceHogs do not have the strong radio presence of a lot of their AHL counterparts. The games (which stream on WXRX’s site) have an AM radio home on occasion. It has been many years since the Hogs have had a radio flagship. Call me old-fashioned (or just plain old), but I wouldn’t mind tuning in games on my car radio or listening to post-game thoughts on my drive home from the BMO.

 

“Why not include the time and score on the AHL Live gamecasts?”

This has been my pet peeve for many a season. As one that occasionally has to go back and watch replays of games, it would be nice to have the time and score on the screen. I can’t be sure, but Rockford may be one of a few teams in the AHL not to have this important visual.

I don’t need any fancy-schmancy graphics or animation or anything like that. Just give the score and clock. I watched a Peoria Rivermen (SPHL) game last week on SPHL Live and they had said score and clock.

If early 1970s graphics are too costly, maybe set a camera on the arena scoreboard (the one they just moved to behind the net instead of the corner of the BMO) and superimpose that into the AHL Live feed. You want to put shots on goal up there? Knock yourself out. All I really want is to know the score and how much time is left. Please.

 

Recaps From Last Week

Wednesday, January 25-San Antonio 6, Rockford 2

The Rampage broke open a tie game with four third-period goals, sending Rockford home losers for the third straight contest.

Troy Bourke opened the scoring for San Antonio, getting a shot past IceHogs goalie Jeff Glass 12:11 of the first. The Hogs quickly evened things up. Spencer Abbott capitalized on a nice pass by Michael Latta, in uniform for Rockford following his acquisition last week. The shot beat Jeremy Smith and tied the game at the 13:16 mark.

Anton Lindholm’s one-timer from the top of the right circle at 17:50 made it 2-1 Rampage after 20 minutes. The score remained unchanged until early in the third period, when Brandon Mashinter redirected Erik Gustafsson’s shot into the cage for a power play goal 3:38 into the period.

From there, it was all Rampage. Rocco Grimaldi knocked in a rebound to put San Antonio up 3-2 at 5:52 of the period. Reid Petryk’s breakaway shorty was the back-breaker at the 13:50 mark. Grimaldi and Mat Clark each added goals in the final minutes.

(No lines for this game. Not going back to watch this mess; sorry.)

 

Friday, January 27-Iowa 3, Rockford 2 (OT)

The IceHogs potted the game’s first goal 18:08 into the first period when Jeremy Langlois put back a rebound of a Martin Lundberg shot. It looked as if Iowa goalie Steve Michalek had the puck covered after Lundberg’s power move to the net, but the officials let play continue, allowing Langlois to finish off the scoring play.

Rockford took a two-goal lead near the midway point of the game just as a power play had expired. Sam Carrick took a pass from Erik Gustafsson and fired from the high slot. The shot was redirected by Gustav Forsling into the Wild net at the 11:01 mark.

The third period told a different story. It was not a happy one for the IceHogs.

Iowa cut the lead to a goal with a power play tally by Mario Lucia 1:14 into the third. The equalizer came at 14:36, when Pat Cannone redirected a Mike Weber shot past Lars Johansson.

It took almost all of Gus Macker Time, but the Wild prevailed after Alex Tuch collected a shot off the end boards and slipped home the game-winner.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Martin Lundberg-Mark McNeill (A)-Jeremy Langlois

Brandon Mashinter (A)-Sam Carrick-Kyle Baun

Tyler Motte-Michael Latta-Spencer Abbott

Luke Johnson-Jake Dowell (C)-Tyler Barnes

Gustav Forsling-Robin Norell

Nolan Valleau-Ville Pokka

Erik Gustafsson-Carl Dahlstrom

Lars Johansson

Power Play ( 0-3)

Abbott-Motte-McNeill-Baun-Pokka

Mashinter-Carrick-Latta-Forsling-Gustafsson

Penalty Kill (Iowa scored on it’s lone power play)

Baun-McNeill-Norell-Pokka

Dowell-Lundberg-Dahlstrom-Valleau

 

Saturday, January 28-Iowa 5, Rockford 1

The annual Pink In The Rink event at the BMO Harris Bank Center resulted in Rockford’s fifth-straight defeat.

After a scoreless first, the Wild got a gift when Ville Pokka let Alex Tuch work around him with a stolen pass early in the middle frame. Tuch’s first attempt was stopped by Jeff Glass, but the rebound was deposited into the net for a 1-0 Iowa lead at 4:02 of the second period.

The Hogs tied the game in short order. Jeremy Langlois batted in a Mark McNeill pass at 6:26. That was the high-water mark of the evening for Rockford, however.

At 11:01, Teemu Pulkkinen got a stick on Mike Weber’s shot attempt and crossed up Hogs goalie Jeff Glass for the eventual game-winner. Iowa added a goal three minutes later when Maxime Fortunus banked one into the net off of the pads of Glass.

The final period saw two additional Iowa goals. Zack Mitchell sent one to the back of the net on a power play midway through the third. Tuch got his second of the game at 13:39 when his long-distance blast was muffed by Glass and tumbled across the goal line.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Spencer Abbott-Sam Carrick-Kyle Baun

Brandon Mashinter (A)-Michael Latta-Tyler Motte

Martin Lundberg-Mark McNeill (A)-Jeremy Langlois

Chris DeSousa-Jake Dowell (C)-Tyler Barnes

Robin Norell-Gustav Forsling

Nolan Valleau-Ville Pokka

Erik Gustafsson-Carl Dahlstrom

Jeff Glass

Power Play (0-3)

Mashinter-Carrick-Latta-Forsling-Dahlstrom

Abbott-Baun-McNeill-Motte-Pokka

Penalty Kill (Iowa was 1-3)

Dowell-Carrick-Pokka-Dahlstrom

Motte-Langlois-Forsling-Valleau

McNeill-Baun-Gustafsson-Norell

 

Coming This Weekend

The Hogs get back to business on the road this weekend. Friday sees them in Milwaukee. The setting is the Allstate Arena for Saturday’s clash with the Wolves.

Each week, I spend time on twitter with spare thoughts on the IceHogs. Follow me @JonFromi to get in on the action.

 

 

 

 

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