The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Blackhawks, have a real issue with goal scoring this season. As the midway point of the 2018-19 season approaches, it’s beginning to create some separation in the AHL’s Central Division standings. For the Hogs, that’s not in a good way.
As has been the case for a while now, Rockford is in sixth place in the division. However, the gap between the IceHogs and fifth-place Milwaukee is growing. The Hogs (.514 points percentage) are closer to seventh-place San Antonio (.485) than they are the Admirals (.571).
This week, the IceHogs were on the short end of a pair of 2-1 decisions. Kevin Lankinen and Anton Forsberg kept things close. In the end, Rockford was not up to the task offensively.
The defense, surrendering just 2.83 goals per game, is ranked fifth in the league. It’s a crying shame the organization doesn’t put some goal-scorers on this team every year. Right now, the IceHogs are made up of prospects and a couple of decent complimentary scorers.
As of this morning, the Hogs are still dead last in the AHL in scoring. Their figure has dropped over the last five games to 2.22 goals per contest. RFD has scored 0, 2, 1,1 and 1 in those past five. To the surprise of no one, the piglets have lost all five of those games.
If RFD is going to pick it up in the second half, some of the kids need to start finding the net. They also are going to need some help in the form of veteran pickups.
Last year, Stan Bowman filled the scoring needs with some trade deadline acquisitions, as well as assigning some players from the bottom of the Hawks roster. The bolstered Hogs reached the conference final. Two years ago, things went sour in Rockford when the team was not shored up with needed talent.
The organization may not start making moves for a few weeks yet. That means that the IceHogs are going to have to start treading water and hope help arrives.
The AHL announced the rosters for the leagues All-Star Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts at the end of this month. Andrew Campbell was named a captain of the Western Conference squad back on December 20. Goalie Collin Delia, who is currently playing with the Blackhawks, was also named from the Central Division.
On Thursday, the IceHogs brought up defensemen Josh McArdle and Neil Manning from the Indy Fuel. Though Dennis Gilbert was back in the lineup this week after missing a few games, Lucas Carlsson and Jan Rutta were out for Wednesday’s game with Milwaukee. The IceHogs were forced to go with 13 forwards and just five defensemen against the Admirals.
Monday, December 31-Grand Rapids 2, Rockford 1
The scoreboard wasn’t used until the midpoint; Carter Camper converted for the Griffins on a two-man advantage at 11:19 of the second period. A goal by Graham Knott was waved off due to a goalie interference call on Luke Johnson a few minutes later.
Rockford tied the game for real after a faceoff win at the left dot by Nathan Noel. Henrik Samuelsson tapped the puck to Matheson Iacopelli, who slid it back to Lucas Carlsson just inside the Grand Rapids blueline. The long-distance shot got the best of Griffins goalie Harri Sateri and nestled into the twine to even the score at a goal apiece at 15:50 of the middle frame.
Grand Rapids took a 2-1 lead with 4:44 remaining in regulation when Chris Terry’s maneuvering created the space for Joe Hicketts to send a slap shot past Hogs goalie Kevin Lankinen. Lankinen was pulled with 2:32 to go for an extra skater, but the IceHogs weren’t able to get a shot past Sateri.
Wednesday, January 2, Milwaukee 2, Rockford 1
Rockford dropped its fifth-straight game, falling to the Admirals at the BMO in front of 3330 humans, several dozen canine friends and at least one pet of the porcine variety.
The Hogs dug a 2-0 hole for themselves over the first two periods. The Admirals swarmed Rockford in the opening minutes, taking a 1-0 advantage on a Yakov Trenin goal 1:45 into the contest. Connor Brickley put back a rebound of an Alexandre Carrier shot 4:21 into the second to double the Milwaukee lead.
Rockford’s starter in net, Anton Forsberg, did not allow another Admirals goal to give his club a chance to rally. The IceHogs had the game’s only four power play chances but could not convert. William Pelletier, Rockford’s most active skater all evening, redirected a Tyler Sikura shot for his first goal of the season. This cut the lead to 2-1 4:26 into the final period.
Hogs coach Derek King went with six skaters for the final two-and-a-half minutes, to no avail. Raddysh sent a shot off the left post but that’s as close as Rockford could get to the equalizer.
Wild Times With Iowa
The prospect of breaking Rockford’s losing streak is made tougher with a home-and-home series with the Iowa Wild this weekend. The Hogs begin the action in DesMoines Friday. The teams come to the BMO Harris Bank Center on Sunday.
Iowa sits atop the Cental Division. The Wild (19-8-4-3) won their fourth straight Wednesday night, beating Chicago 3-1. Iowa has won three of the four games against Rockford this season, outscoring the piglets 11-5 in those games.
The scoring has been spread throughout the lineup; 13 active Iowa skaters have double digit points, compared to just seven for the IceHogs. Cal O’Reilly, the Wild captain and an All-Star selection, paces his club with 25 points (5 G, 20 A). Iowa is getting goals from Gerry Fitzgerald (12), Colton Beck (10) and Justin Kloos (10).
Rookie goalie Kaapo Kahkonen has three wins over the Hogs this season. In fact, he’s shut them out twice. Rockford has just one goal against Kahkonen, who will also represent the Wild at the All-Star Classic, this season.
Of Rockford’s five goals against the Wild, Anthony Louis has three of them. Two came on November 4 in a 4-2 Hogs victory. Louis (8 G, 13 A) is tied with Darren Raddysh (7 G, 14 A) for the team lead in points with 21.
Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.