The Rockford IceHogs have a pair of home games this weekend, hosting Texas Friday and Cleveland Saturday. Coach Derek King’s club is 16-10-0-1 as the holidays approach. As promised, here are some musings on the piglets as I clear my head Spongebob-style in preparation for a Star Wars kind of day.
- Rockford is in second place in the Central with at least a pair of games in hand on the rest of the division. The Hogs have earned 33 points in the standings and can boast a .611 points percentage. On a team with minimal veteran presence, that’s not shabby at all.
- Let me say the following about Derek King; he’s not NHL head-coaching material at this stage of his career (just in case a position would open up somewhere), but he is doing an outstanding job in his first full season at the helm in Rockford. I hear lots of chirping around the BMO and Hogs fans social media complaining about the guy. I’m really not sure what their problem is with King, except that he’s not Jeremy Colliton, who dazzled them the previous year and change.
- While I thought Colliton did a decent enough job in his AHL coaching stint, his resume was inflated by a late-season influx of veteran talent from the organization. Take away the host of players that bolstered the roster in the latter months of the 2017-18 season and you would have had a borderline .500 team at best, not the Western Conference finalists.
- King inherited a fresh-faced roster when he took over on an interim basis last season and has an even less experienced group this year. Colliton could not have this roster in any better position than King has them right now. They play hard every night and have been successful even with several standout players up in Chicago. I could continue to expound on this; instead, I’ll sum up. Give King his due, then get off his back.
- As well as the IceHogs have performed of late, they still have a long season ahead of them. Matthew Highmore and Dylan Sikura were two steady point-producers. In their absence, Rockford has had to make the most of the goals they score. A lot of shots are being given up, and high-percentage one’s at that. This next two-week stretch could be challenging for the piglets.
- Rockford still has a three-headed goalie as we close out 2019. Right now, all three are playing well. The 64,000 dollar question looms: why is Matt Tomkins sharing the net with Kevin Lankinen and Collin Delia? The latter two are on NHL contracts and at least one will be counted on at that level in the near future. Why is Rockford’s AHL contract taking time away from them?
- Short answer: Tomkins has earned it by playing great.
- Long answer: Here’s where I speculate…the only reason Tomkins is up in Rockford and playing is because the organization is taking an extended look at their seventh-round pick from the 2012 NHL Draft.
- Both Delia and Lankinen are healthy and could easily handle Rockford’s workload by themselves. There’s no reason to throw Tomkins into the net as many times as the Hogs have unless Chicago is considering adding him to the stable.
- In roster news, Rockford sent AHL forwards Dylan McLaughlin and Matthew Thompson to the Indy Fuel. The Hogs then called up forward Nathan Noel…just in time for Christmas.
- Noel had four goals and eight assists in 24 games with the Fuel, for whom he has toiled all season since being assigned to Indy by Chicago. Noel’s entry contract is up following this season; if he has anything to show the organization, this may be his final shot to do so.
- Could this be the weekend that Mikael Hakkarainen makes his return to the Rockford lineup? Hakkarainen was recalled from Indy on Sunday after a three-game stint in which he posted four points (2 G, 2 A).
- Saturday is Star Wars Night at the BMO. I’ll be missing Friday’s game for…well…Star Wars.
- Texas is in the basement of the Central but has been the hottest team in the division over the last couple of weeks. The Stars are 8-1-1 in their last team and are not to be overlooked.
- Follow me @JonFromi for updates on the IceHogs throughout the season. Don’t expect much tonight; maybe a quick recap tweet or two. No spoilers, I promise.
Tuesday, December 17-Rockford 3, Laval 2 (SO)
The IceHogs dug themselves out of a hole to post a win in the final game of their Canadian jaunt.
Laval went out to a 2-0 lead, using the special teams to do so. An early power play chance resulted in Charles Hudon’s snipe from the right circle 1:52 into the contest.
The Rocket would be given three shots at the man advantage in the period. Rockford had a short power play stint go bad when the Hogs left Alexandre Alain all alone in the slot when trying to set up in the defensive zone. Josh Brook got him the puck and Alain converted past Hogs goalie Collin Delia at the 13:02 mark.
Rockford spent a good portion of the second period on the power play. However, it was while shorthanded that the Hogs got back in the game. Joseph Cramarossa picked off a pass by Xavier Ouellet, with whom he had scrapped late in the first period. Cramarossa raced down the ice and slipped a backhander through the five-hole of Laval goalie Keith Kinkaid. The deficit was cut to 2-1 at 12:46 of the middle frame.
The IceHogs drew back to even ground midway through the third period. Dmitri Osipov nabbed his first AHL goal, taking a shot pass from Philip Holm and firing from just inside the blueline. The shot got through Kinkaid and into the cage 11:14 into the period; neither team could break the tie in regulation or Gus Macker Time.
Delia, who made 31 saves and kept the Hogs in the game for the bulk of the night, stopped all five shooters he faced until Anton Wedin snapped the game-winner past Kinkaid.
Lines (Starters in italics.)
John Quenneville-Phillip Kurashev-MacKenzie Entwistle
Anton Wedin-Jacob Nilsson (A)-Brandon Hagel
Tim Soderlund-Tyler Sikura (C)-Joseph Cramarossa
Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Dylan McLaughlin
Nicolas Beaudin-Chad Krys
Philip Holm-Dmitri Osipov
Ian McCoshen (A)-Ben Youds