The Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks AHL affiliate, used an offensive explosion to sweep Grand Rapids this weekend. The ‘Bago County Piglets have been filling the net, with and without Vinnie Hinostroza.
The IceHogs currently sit behind Manitoba in the division standings with a 15-9-1 record. Rockford has won its last four games heading into this week’s action. If the season would happen to end today, the Hogs are a playoff team. Not that the season shows any signs of stopping, but winning is definitely better than the alternative.
Much of the credit for Rockford’s lofty position in the Central Division standings has to be directed at the goal tending.It’s been a two-man effort in goal so far this year, with J.F. Berube and Jeff Glass both providing solid play. Of late, Glass has been the man for Rockford with Berube up in Chicago before being reassigned this past Friday.
Glass had backstopped the IceHogs last four games before Berube took the BMO Harris Bank Center ice for his first action since coming back down to Rockford. He made it though half the game before some unfortunate luck.
With the Hogs on a second-period power play, Rockford’s Carl Dahlstrom and the Griffins Colin Campbell were chasing down a loose puck that was headed the way of Berube. The IceHogs goalie had just knocked the puck into the corner when the two players passed.
As they came by, Dahlstrom’s left leg swept Berube’s right leg out from under him. Berube’s left leg then buckled beneath him. The Rockford net-minder was attended to by the medical staff and was taken to the locker room. All the while, no weight was put on the injured left leg.
If Berube is to miss any significant time, the pair in Rockford will be what is has been since December 1; Glass and Colin Delia, who has not played in his most recent stint with the team. Its unfortunate that Berube may have gone down with a leg injury. However, the veteran Glass has shown that he is more than capable of shouldering the load in net.
Rockford does have three games this week. None are back-to-back, though. Glass could easily get all three starts for the Hogs. Delia has not played since November 25 with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. Possibly he gets a start down in Texas to get him some action.
Glass’s numbers have inflated to a 2.89 GAA and a .907 save percentage, but that includes the eight goals Glass gave up November 28 to Manitoba (who have been running roughshod through everyone recently). His last three starts, all IceHogs wins, have been excellent. Excluding that blip when the Moose ran loose at the BMO, Glass is 8-0-1 with a 2.17 GAA and a .929 save percentage in his last nine starts.
The piglets tend to leave their goalies some messes to deal with while pushing the tempo the way they do. Berube and Glass have done a fine job keeping the bulk of Rockford’s mistakes out of its net. Glass may have to go it alone until Berube returns, whenever that may be. Based on his play the last few months, he’s up to the task.
By the way…Matt Tomkins, who is on an AHL deal with Rockford, might be worth keeping an eye on. Tomkins was playing well when he was injured early in his second start for Indy back on October 25. He returned this past weekend and stopped 88 of 91 shots in two starts (both wins) for the Fuel.
The big news out here in Rockford, of course, was Vinnie Hinostroza’s recall to the Blackhawks on Friday. Tanner Kero, having passed safely through waivers, was assigned to the IceHogs on the same day. Kero got his first action with Rockford this season on Saturday, picking up an assist on the Hogs power play goal in a 7-2 victory.
On Sunday, Rockford recalled AHL defenseman Brandon Anselmini, who has a goal and five assists in 11 games with the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. This is only my speculation, but it would appear that another Hogs defeseman is banged up. It could possibly be Luc Snuggerud, who sat out Saturday’s game.
Picking Up The Scoring Slack
Hinostroza’s departure leaves a potential void in the Rockford offense. This weekend was a chance for the Hogs to respond to concerns for replacing Hinostroza’s scoring punch. They did so with 11 goals in the two games with Grand Rapids.
Of course, Kero is likely to pick up some of the workload for Rockford. He has shown a goal-scoring knack in both his previous seasons with the Hogs. He had an apple in his first game back with Rockford Saturday.
Tomas Jurco (9 G, 9 A) had two goals and an assist this weekend and is currently riding a four-game goal streak. Jurco’s 85 shots on goal lead the club; he definitely has the puck skills to carry Rockford for a stretch.
Hinostroza is an excellent distributor of the puck and that will be sorely missed. The player I see filling that role is David Kampf. The rookie from the Czech Republic broke an eight-game scoreless streak in a big way this weekend, with a helper Friday and a goal and two assists Saturday.
Even through the eight-game drought, Kampf has been active both with and without the puck. He is centering Anthony Louis and Jurco at the moment. This would be an opportune stretch for him to start impacting the game on the scoreboard.
Also posting a three-point weekend was Matheson Iacopelli, whose strong shot is starting to see some time on the IceHogs power play. Louis, who has earned time in the top six, has a three game point streak going.
Andreas Martinsen had goals in each of the weekend wins and has three in his last four games. Martinsen has four goals and five assists on the season; as I’ve mentioned before in my posts, he is one of a few IceHogs skaters who can bring the physical element on a nightly basis.
Martinsen forced a turnover in the corner Saturday that resulted in an IceHogs goal. The big Norwegian has been getting to the net and showed some skill in a key goal against Grand Rapids Friday night.
Stepping up on the defensive side is Carl Dahlstrom, who has eight points in his last four games. Dahlstrom was especially effective Saturday, pinching in for his first goal since Halloween and adding a pair of assists.
Veteran forward Jordin Tootoo was assigned to Rockford back on November 30. He hasn’t appeared in a game for Rockford. The way things sound, it doesn’t look that that will happen for a while.
After Saturday’s game, Chris Block of thethirdmanin.com asked IceHogs coach Jeremy Colliton about Tootoo. Here was the coach’s response, per the team website:
Right now, he hasn’t played in a long time. He hasn’t skated in a long time. (We’re) trying to get him back up to speed. We’ll see…I don’t know. We don’t have a timeline.
Pushing A Broom: Four Points From The Griffins
Friday, December 8-Rockford 4, Grand Rapids 1
The IceHogs won their third straight game and remained undefeated against Grand Rapids this season thanks to timely scoring and great play in net by Jeff Glass.
The Griffins went up 1-0 at the 12:45 mark on a power play goal by Matt Puempel. Rockford evened the game just over three minutes later.
Carl Dahlstrom got the scoring play started from his own end, sending a pass to David Kampf along the left boards on the Grand Rapids side of the red line. Kampf hit Tomas Jurco coming into the Griffins zone. Splitting the defense, Jurco skated to the top of the left circle and fired to the short side. The puck beat Grand Rapids goalie Jared Coreau at 15:38 for the equalizer.
Rockford picked up its second goal of the contest near the end of the middle frame. It came via the nimble stick of Andreas Martinsen, who picked up a loose puck along the left half boards and skated into the Grand Rapids zone.
Flipping the biscuit past Griffins defenseman Robbie Russo, Martinsen regained possession, skated to the bottom of the left circle and sent a shot high over Coreau’s right shoulder and into cage at 17:20. The IceHogs went into the second intermission up 2-1.
Jeff Glass proved to be the difference for Rockford, making 33 stops on the night, including a spectacular denial of a 2-on-1 Griffins rush late in the second. His play in the third period kept a desperate Grand Rapids squad at bay until some insurance could be had.
That insurance came from Robin Norell, who took a feed from Anthony Louis at the top of the left circle and slapped one toward the Griffins net. The shot glanced off the stick of Colin Campbell and got by Coreau for a 3-1 Hogs advantage with just 1:39 left in the game. Luke Johnson added an empty netter in the final minute to complete the scoring.
Glass was rightfully tabbed the game’s first star, followed by Martinsen and Puempel.
Lines (Starters in italics)
Anthony Louis-David Kampf-Tomas Jurco
Alexandrea Fortin-Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson
Matheson Iacopelli-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)
Graham Knott-Laurent Dauphin-William Pelletier
Carl Dahlstrom-Viktor Svedberg
Luc Snuggerud-Ville Pokka
Darren Raddysh-Robin Norell
Scratches-Tanner Kero, Robin Press, Erik Gustafsson, Jordin Tootoo
Power Play (0-1)
Pentalty Kill (Griffins were 1-4)
Saturday, December 9-Rockford 7, Grand Rapids 2
The Hogs returned to the BMO and delivered a whipping to Grand Rapids, winning for the fourth straight game.
Rockford struck first at 6:41 of the opening frame. Carl Dahlstrom took a cross-ice pass from Matheson Iacopelli and skated to the bottom of the left circle. His centering pass caught the skate of Andreas Martinsen and banked into the Griffins net.
The IceHogs took full control of the contest in the second period with a pair of goals. The first occurred shortly after Rockford had shut down a Grand Rapids four-on-three power play. Laurent Dauphin received a pass from Ville Pokka as he entered the Griffins zone.
Tomas Jurco skated into the slot to take Dauphin’s offering to the crease. Deking goalie Tom McCollom, Jurco backhanded the puck into happy land at the 6:01 mark for a 2-0 Rockford lead.
About four minutes later, Viktor Svedberg hit Graham Knott with an entry pass. Knott skated into the high slot before finding Darren Raddysh with all kinds of room coming down the right side of the slot. A quick pass afforded Raddysh the scoring chance and he buried it at 9:58 to put the Hogs up 3-0.
Midway through the period, J.F. Berube got tangled up with Dahlstrom and the Griffins Colin Campbell and went down favoring his left knee. The medical staff was brought out and the injured goalie was helped from the ice. Jeff Glass took over for the remainder of the game.
Rockford was able to double its three-goal advantage in the first 3:18 of the final period. Matthew Highmore carried David Kampf’s feed to the bottom of the left circle and burned McCollom 1:19 into the third. Dahlstrom banged home a power play slapper from the point at 2:03.
Shortly thereafter, Martinsen forced a turnover in the corner of the Grand Rapids zone. Tyler Sikura gained control of the puck and centered to Matheson Iacopelli in front of the cage. The shot was high to McCollom’s stick side; he never had a chance.
Up 6-0, Rockford surrendered a pair of Griffins goals before closing out the scoring via a David Kampf backhander from the slot. The primary assist on the play came from the stick of Anthony Louis.
Lines (Starters in italics)
Matthew Highmore-Tanner Kero-Luke Johnson (A)
Anthony Louis-David Kampf-Tomas Jurco
Matheson Iacopelli-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen
Graham Knott-Laurent Dauphin (A)-William Pelletier
Robin Norell-Ville Pokka (A)
Viktor Svedberg-Darren Raddysh
Carl Dahlstrom-Robin Press
Jean Francois Berube
Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Erik Gustafsson, Jordin Tootoo, Alexandre Fortin
Power Play (1-5)
Penalty Kill (Grand Rapids was 0-6)
What Lies Ahead-A Look At The San Antonio Rampage
Rockford hosts Chicago Tuesday night. The IceHogs hold a 2-1 advantage in the season series; both those wins came at the BMO. The Wolves are coming off a Micheal Leighton shutout of Cleveland Saturday night but still are in the Central Division basement with a 7-12-4-1 mark.
Following that game, the IceHogs travel to the Lone Star State for a pair of games with the San Antonio Rampage. Rockford has Friday and Sunday dates with Colorado’s AHL affiliate.
San Antonio spanked the piglets 6-0 at the BMO November 10. The Rampage drew cord on their first three power play opportunities and wound up with four tallies with the man advantage.
A parade to the Rockford penalty box was a big part of that loss. On the other hand, goalie Spencer Martin stopped 39 shots to blank the Hogs. Ville Husso faced the Hogs three times last season when he was with the Wolves. Husso won two of those matchups, but is currently up with St. Louis, who has been loaning him to the Rampage.
Another pair of former Wolves lead the Rampage (13-10-2, fourth in the AHL’s Pacific Division) in scoring. Forward Andrew Agozzino is a familiar face to Hogs fans, having played in Lake Erie as well as Chicago. In his second stint with San Antonio, Agozzino has 19 points (7 G, 12 A). He is currently on a nine-game goal drought. Defenseman Jordan Schmaltz, another former Wolves skater, also has 19 points (5 G, 14 A) and is a plus-ten on the campaign.
Rocco Grimaldi is smallish forward who can really light it up; he had 31 goals for the Rampage a year ago. He started slow this fall but recorded a hat trick this weekend against Bakersfield. Rookie center Tage Thompson has seven goals and seven assists for San Antonio, but just one assist in his last five games.
Another offensive force is former Milwaukee Admiral Vladislav Kamenev, who had three apples in the Rampage win over Rockford November 10. He hasn’t been in the San Antonio lineup since mid-November, however. He was recalled by the Avs and injured in his first game with Colorado.
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