Ice Hogs

High On The Hog: Hop On The Bus, Gus

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, will be embarking on a pivotal road trip this week. At six games, it is the longest time away from the BMO Harris Bank Center this season.

This is a key stretch; after a very friendly schedule to begin the season, the piglets are going to have to get it done in the opposition’s barn for a while. With two rookie goalies still trying to get acclimated to AHL competition, Rockford is in danger of dovetailing out of playoff contention.

In what is proving to be quite the log jam behind Central Division-leading Manitoba, Rockford is finding themselves drifting down the ladder. The Hogs started the week in second place. As of Monday morning, they’re in fifth following a 1-2-0-1 week.

The play in net has been inconsistent. After Jeff Glass’s promotion to the Hawks, Rockford has won just twice in its last seven games. Rockford’s young club has grown accustomed to a bit of a Get Out Of Jail Free card behind them. That is not going to be the case as this road trip begins.

The IceHogs power play has perked up, with goals in each game of what was the team’s final three-in-three stretch of the campaign. However, the penalty kill gave up five goals in 11 opportunities for the opposition. The Hogs also surrendered a key shorthanded goal to Milwaukee Sunday that cost them a point in what became a shootout loss to the Admirals.

The youngsters have fared well in the first half of the 2017-18 season. Now comes a real gut-check of a second half…hop on the bus, Gus.

Rockford will be playing 24 of its final 39 games as the visiting team from now until the regular season ends. The Hogs are 6-7-0-1 on the road heading into action this week. For this team to nab a spot in the playoffs, they will have to be better than that.

The trip begins with a California swing that will see Rockford play three games in four days. First up is Ontario on Wednesday night. The IceHogs next visit San Jose and Bakersfield on Friday and Saturday.

Coincidentally, the Reign, Barracuda and Condors occupy the last three spots in the AHL’s Pacific Division right now. Battling cellar-dwellers isn’t all its cracked up to be; Rockford managed just one win in three games with Cleveland and Grand Rapids.

Next week, Rockford visits Cleveland on January 17 and 19 before wrapping up the trip in Grand Rapids. The boys will likely return to Rockford for a few days following the return from the coast, so it won’t be quite as demanding as it sounds.

However, Chicago (and Milwaukee to a lesser extent) is surging right now. Grand Rapids is starting to put together wins. The results of this jaunt could factor into playoff potential for the IceHogs in a few months.

 

Nay, Cap’n?

We are well into the fourth month of the season and Hogs coach Jeremy Colliton has yet to announce a captain for his club. Will Colliton find leadership out on the road?

At home, the “A”s have been on the sweaters of Laurent Dauphin, Ville Pokka and Luke Johnson.

On the road, the “A”s have been worn by Erik Gustafsson, Viktor Svedberg and Andreas Martinsen.

This week, the latter group wore the letters on Tuesday (home game), Friday (road game) and Saturday (home game). On Sunday (home game), the regular home group displayed letters.

Wrinkle: The red sweaters, usually worn on the road, were used on the aforementioned games Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Sunday, Rockford wore the alternate sweaters. Maybe they just didn’t want to take the letters off.

Seems like the team leaders should have emerged by this point. Maybe someone upgrades to a “C” when the team returns to the BMO. Stay tuned.

 

All Stars Named

Two Rockford skaters were named to the Central Division squad for the 2018 All-Star Classic, to be held January 28-29. Well…one Rockford skater and one Blackhawks skater.

Erik Gustafsson will be making his first appearance in the event. Vinnie Hinostroza will likely need a substitute for his spot on the team, unless the Hawks send him back to Rockford before the end of the month. Hey…how about Matthew Highmore? The rookie leads Rockford in points (26) and goals (17).

 

Roster Happenings

No movement from the Hogs this past week. I’d think a recall might be in order this week, though.

Rockford has been skating with 12 forwards on the current roster since David Kampf was recalled to Chicago. Alexandre Fortin was a late scratch on Sunday; it might be beneficial to have an extra forward for the road trip.

Luc Snuggerud has still not returned to the lineup. He’s been out since December 8. Carl Dahlstrom was also a scratch Sunday. Rockford still has seven healthy defensemen if both Snuggerud and Dahlstrom are unavailable.

A return hasn’t been announced for injured goalie J.F. Berube; I’m guessing he will not be ready to play in California and sits out that half of the trip.

 

Recaps

Tuesday, January 2-Cleveland 4, Rockford 1

A pair of former IceHogs factored heavily in the Monsters coming to town and handing Rockford its third straight loss. Local products Alex and Terry Broadhurst have four of Cleveland’s seven goals against the IceHogs this season. Three of those came Tuesday for the last-place Monsters.

Cleveland got the scoring started when Terry Broadhurst got an open look in front of Hogs goalie Colin Delia in the opening minutes. Delia made the pad save, but the rebound came right back to Broadhurst and the second attempt got over that left pad an into the net at the 3:23 mark.

Rockford had several chances to even the score. Alexandre Fortin got a stretch pass and was way behind the defense. However, his backhand attempt was snuffed out by Cleveland rookie goalie Matiss Kivelnieks. The IceHogs had two power plays in the first 20 minutes but squandered both chances.The Monsters led 1-0 through the first period.

Rockford would whiff on another man advantage midway through the second before Laurent Dauphin was sent to the box. The Monsters power play, worst in the league headed into the contest, came up with a goal at 11: 14 of the second when Paul Bittner stuck back a rebound of Alex Broadhurst’s attempt.

The Hogs trailed 2-0 for most of the remainder of the game. With 3:44 left in the final period, Tomas Jurco tossed the puck toward Kivelnieks from the left corner of the offensive zone. The tough-angle shot struck the Cleveland goalie and settled into the net.

The hope of tying the game prompted Rockford coach Jeremy Colliton to pull Delia in the final minutes. Terry Broadhurst outraced Anthony Louis for a loose puck and poked it down the ice into the empty net to put Cleveland up 3-1 with 1:18 remaining.

Colliton brought Delia to the bench again; this time Alex Broadhurst was the recipient of an empty net after catching up to Brady Austin’s clearing pass. Broadhust guided the puck into the Hogs net with 15 seconds remaining.

Delia had his best night since being called up to the IceHogs. He wasn’t spectacular but turned in a solid effort, stopping 22 of the 24 shots he faced. Most nights, that would have been enough to earn a win. Just not on this night.

Kivelnieks’s 35-save performance earned him the game’s first star, followed by Terry (2 G) and Alex (1 G, 2 A) Broadhurst.

Lines (Starters in italics; Rockford went with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen)

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Anthony Louis-Tanner Kero-Tomas Jurco

Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson-William Pelletier

Graham Knott-Laurent Dauphin

Erik Gustafsson (A)-Darren Raddysh

Robin Norell-Ville Pokka

Carl Dahlstrom-Viktor Svedberg (A))

Brandon Anselmini

Colin Delia

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Robin Press, Matheson Iacopelli , Jordin Tootoo, J.F. Berube

Power Play (0-3)

Highmore-Kero-Jurco-Louis-Gustafsson

Fortin-Johnson-Raddysh-Dahlstrom-Pokka

Penalty Kill (Cleveland was 1-1)

Highmore-Kero-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

Johnson-Jurco-Gustafsson-Norell

Sikura-Martinsen-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

 

Friday, January 5-Grand Rapids 5, Rockford 3

Grand Rapids got the scoring started midway through the first with a wide open back door conversion on the power play. The fireworks came in the middle frame.

The Hogs and Griffins traded goals three times, starting two minutes into the second with a Dominik Shine tally. Just seconds later, Matheson Iacopelli  and Graham Knott played a little patty cake on a 2-on-1 rush, culminating in Iacopelli’s seventh goal of the season at 2:17.

IceHogs goalie Colin Delia misplayed a puck behind his own net following the center ice faceoff. As happens in these situations, it would up in the back of his net, courtesy of Ben Street at 2:28 of the second.

The Griffins committed their own gaffe a few minutes later, turning the puck over between the circles in their own zone. Iacopelli was there to collect the gift. The rookie victimized the stick side of Grand Rapids goalie Jaren Coreau for the second time of the night, cutting the Griffins lead to 3-2 at 5:01 of the second.

Another misplay by Delia, this time off a Street shot, slid to Eric Tangradi at the right post. The veteran Griffins forward slid the offering across the goal line at 7:13 for a 4-2 Grand Rapids advantage.

Rockford returned fire with a power play goal at the 14:05 mark. The score was set up by an Erik Gustafsson blast from the point that rebounded off Coreau. Matthew Highmore was on the scene in front of the Griffins net to knock the puck in to close the gap to 4-3. That score held up into the second intermission.

Street’s second goal of the evening, a power play tally at 12:01 of the third, proved to be the nail in the Hogs coffin. Rockford threw 17 shots at Coreau in the final 20 minutes, but no dice.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anthony Louis-Tanner Kero-Tomas Jurco

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson-William Pelletier

Graham Knott-Laurent Dauphin-Matheson Iacopelli

Robin Norell-Ville Pokka

Erik Gustafsson (A)-Darren Raddysh

Carl Dahlstrom-Viktor Svedberg (A))

Colin Delia

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Robin Press, Jordin Tootoo, J.F. Berube

Power Play (1-2)

Highmore-Kero-Jurco-Louis-Gustafsson

Fortin-Johnson-Raddysh-Dahlstrom-Pokka

Penalty Kill (Monsters were 0-2)

Highmore-Kero-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

Johnson-Jurco-Gustafsson-Norell

Sikura-Martinsen-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

 

Saturday, January 6-Rockford 4, Cleveland 3 (SO)

Down two goals early, Rockford was able to rally to win the rematch with the Monsters at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Sam Kurker and Zac Dalpe put Cleveland ahead 2-0 in the first period. Before the night got away from the Hogs, the Rockford power play got a puck behind Joonas Korpisalo. Erik Gustafsson sent a shot from the top of the right circle that the Monsters goalie stopped. Matthew Highmore and Tanner Kero took whacks at the loose puck until Tomas Jurco collected it at the extended goal line. His shot caught cord at 18:18 of the first period; Rockford skated into the locker room down 2-1.

The Hogs tied the game 15 seconds into the second when Highmore redirected a Gustafsson blast into the Griffins net. The 2-2 score held up until the midway point of the game. Cleveland forced a turnover in the IceHogs zone after Rockford had scored a clean faceoff win. Cameron Gaunce one-timed a Carter Camper set up past Colin Delia to put the Monsters up 3-2 at the 10:42 mark.

Rockford evened the score again five minutes later. Laurent Dauphin came in ahead of the Cleveland defense to get a puck on net. Korpisalo knocked it aside, but Tyler Sikura was on hand to collect the rebound in the right corner along the goal line. Sikura’s shot eluded Korpisalo and made it 3-3 at 15:51 of the second.

Neither team could manage a goal in the third period or overtime. In fact, the only shot that made it across a goal line came from the stick of Anthony Louis, who beat Korpisalo in the opening round of the shootout. Delia held off attempts from Dalpe and Terry and Alex Broadhurst to give Rockford the victory.

Highmore, Jurco and Alex Broadhurst were named the game’s three stars, but Delia deserves recognition in what may have been his strongest game to date in the IceHogs net. Delia stopped 29 of the 32 shots he faced, including a couple of big stops late in the game to keep the score even.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Anthony Louis-Tanner Kero-Tomas Jurco

Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson-William Pelletier

Graham Knott-Laurent Dauphin-Matheson Iacopelli

Robin Norell-Ville Pokka

Erik Gustafsson (A)-Darren Raddysh

Carl Dahlstrom-Viktor Svedberg (A))

Colin Delia

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Robin Press, Jordin Tootoo, J.F. Berube

Power Play (1-6)

Highmore-Kero-Jurco-Louis-Gustafsson

Fortin-Johnson-Raddysh-Dahlstrom-Pokka

Penalty Kill (Griffins were 2-4)

Highmore-Kero-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

Johnson-Jurco-Gustafsson-Norell

Sikura-Martinsen-Dahlstrom-Svedberg

 

Sunday, January 7-Milwaukee 5, Rockford 4 (SO)

Rockford failed to hold on to a late advantage, picking up a single point but falling to the Admirals in the shooting competition.

The power play got the Hogs started on the scoreboard midway through the opening period. As the clock wound down on the man advantage, Tomas Jurco took a pass from Anthony Louis at he top of the left circle. He worked his way toward the faceoff dot before snapping home a winner past Ads goalie Anders Lindback at 10:35 of the first.

Rockford started the second period up 1-0 and on a power play, nearly scoring early in the period. However, some sloppy play in the neutral zone allowed a shorthanded break the other way. Mark Zengerle had a free look in the slot, beating Hogs goalie Matt Tomkins high to tie the game 1-1 at 1:26 of the middle frame.

The IceHogs regained the lead 12:07 into the period. Viktor Svedberg skated the puck out of his zone and all the way to the Admirals goal line. His backhanded centering attempt was knocked into the Milwaukee net by Matthew Highmore for a 2-1 Rockford advantage at 12:07.

Former Hogs forward Cody Bass brought the Admirals back to even about four minutes later, when he batted in a floating puck off the crossbar and into the Rockford cage. The officials took a long look at the replay before upholding the goal call on the ice. That made it 2-2 at the 16:03 mark; the score held up as the buzzer ended the second period.

Milwaukee grabbed a 3-2 lead on a Bobby Butler power play goal 1:10 into the third. This time, it was Rockford’s turn to reply. They did at the 5:28 mark when William Pelletier jumped on a Milwaukee turnover and fired past Lindback in the slot. The puck hit the left post, but Tanner Kero was there to knock it into the net for a 3-3 tie.

It looked as if the IceHogs were going to come away with a win after Tyler Sikura’s terrific redirect effort of Matheson Iacopelli’s shot attempt. The score put Rockford up 4-3 at 17:08 of the third period. However, with 58 seconds remaining and Lindback on the bench, Butler stuck in a rebound to knot the game at four goals.

Milwaukee, shooting second after neither team could end the contest in overtime, got a first-round goal from Justin Kirkland. Jurco, Rockford’s third shooter, hit on a backhand attempt. Harry Zolnierczyk beat Tomkins on the Ads final shot to claim the win for the visitors.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Matthew Highmore-Luke Johnson-Tomas Jurco

Anthony Louis-Tanner Kero-William Pelletier

Laurent Dauphin-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)

Graham Knott-Matheson Iacopelli

Erik Gustafsson (A)-Viktor Svedberg (A)

Robin Norell-Ville Pokka

Darren Raddysh-Brandon Anselmini

Robin Press

Matt Tomkins

Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Alexandre Fortin, Jordin Tootoo, Carl Dahlstrom, J.F. Berube

Power Play (1-3)

Highmore-Kero-Jurco-Louis-Gustafsson

Penalty Kill (Admirals were 1-4)

Highmore-Kero-Pokka-Svedberg

Johnson-Jurco-Gustafsson-Norell

Sikura-Martinsen-Pokka-Svedberg

 

 

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