Ice Hogs

High On The Hog: Love That Home Cookin’

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate to the Chicago Blackhawks, kicked off their home schedule with style, scoring 10 goals in two victories over Texas and Hershey.

The piglets were on full display this weekend, righting the ship after a 0-2 start in Cleveland to open the season. Here are some of my weekend observations:

  • The IceHogs have scored the first goal in each of the four games they’ve had so far. This weekend, they also showed the resolve to come out on top of a couple of back-and-forth affairs. Rockford outscored their opponents 5-0 in the third period these last two games. “
  • (It was) nice to see we found a way to close a couple of games out,” said head coach Jeremy Colliton during the post-game presser following a 5-2 win over the Bears on Sunday. “I think the third period in both games was reasonably solid. We got some pace and showed we have quick strike potential in the group.”
  • That offense was generated throughout the lineup; Rockford’s 13 goals have come from 11 different skaters. Eight IceHogs picked up their first goals of the 2018-19 campaign in front of the friendly folks at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
  • Tyler Sikura is poised for another strong season for the IceHogs. So far, he’s been in the middle of a slew of scoring chances for Rockford. He always seems to be around the puck or in front of the net. He tops the Hogs score sheet with two goals and four points through four games.
  • Dylan Sikura’s play-making was a factor in both games. He also has four points on the season (1 G, 3 A) and looks to be finding his stride in the AHL. The Brothers Sikura are teaming up on a power play unit that has shown flashes of extreme competence.
  • Schroeder isn’t as adept at the one-timer from the left circle as Cody Franson was last spring, but he’s shown a fondness for taking them on the second power play unit. His third attempt Sunday from that spot resulted in a goal; more could be on the way if he can find the range because the opportunities should come.
  • Matheson Iacopelli made his first two starts of the season, skating with Graham Knott and Nathan Noel. You can dub them the “Prove It” line because all three players are looking to make bigger impacts than they did in their rookie seasons. This weekend, they posted goals in both games. Iacopelli tied the score in the third period Saturday and started a Hogs rally. Knott followed up an Iacopelli shot Sunday that turned out to be the game-winner over Hershey.
  • Also seeing game action for the first time were defensemen Dennis Gilbert and Blake Hillman. Both recorded assists in Saturday’s 5-3 win over Texas.
  • Collin Delia started both games for the Hogs and looked very good doing so. I thought he was especially impressive Sunday when the Bears fired 38 shots his way, most of which came from close range. The second-year goalie showed a lot of poise, stopping 70 of 75 shots this weekend for a .933 save percentage.
  • Delia shouldn’t have had to work as hard as he has. I am not sold on this defense in the early stages of the season. Andrew Campbell and Luc Snuggerud sat out the action this weekend, leaving a very inexperienced group out on the ice. That inexperience definitely showed in the play on the back end. Despite five goals by the Hogs on Sunday, none of the six defensemen recorded so much as an assist on any of them.
  • The Rockford blueline lacks a dynamic offensive performer in the mold of Franson, Adam Clendening or even Ville Pokka. They also haven’t locked down opponents in their own end real well throughout the first two weeks of play. Delia’s play covered up the deficiencies; Colliton admitted as much after Sunday’s contest. If this team is going to compete in the Central Division this season, they will have to improve defensively.

 

Recaps

Saturday, October 13 – Rockford 5, Texas 3

The IceHogs rallied in the final period to pick up the season’s first win. A crowd of 4,773 was on hand to watch Rockford in the home opener.

As has been the case in each game this season, the Hogs got on the board first. The goal came four minutes into the contest and was the result of the man advantage. Dylan Sikura got a puck on net that was stopped by Stars goalie Colton Point but settled in front of the crease. Brother Tyler twisted around his defender and backhanded the loose biscuit into the basket for a 1-0 Rockford lead.

Texas responded with a couple of transition goals to go up 2-1. James Phelan got to the left post just before Hogs goalie Collin Delia to knock in a pass from Colton Hargrove at the 7:31 mark. In the last minute of the first, a Jacob Nilsson turnover led to a rush that ended with Denis Gurianov finishing from the left post.

Rockford knotted the game at two goals at 2:27 of the second period when Henrik Samuelsson put a rebound of Joni Tuulola’s shot over the shoulder of Point. Midway though the period, however, Justin Dowling got a stick on a drive by Gavin Bayreuther, changing the trajectory just enough to send it past Delia for a 3-2 Stars advantage.

After misfiring for much of the evening, Rockford began to connect on some passes. This led to a change in the IceHogs fortunes over the final 20 minutes.

Matheson Iacopelli, in his first action this season, tied the game from the left circle after taking a feed from Graham Knott on a 2-on-1 rush to the Texas cage. Iacopelli’s shot glanced off the left post and settled into Twine Town at 11:06 of the third period.

A few minutes later, the IceHogs regained the led on Dylan Sikura’s first AHL goal. It was set up by Nilsson, who gained possession of a rebounding Texas shot in the slot and brought the puck out of the zone and across the red line.

Nilsson hit Matthew Highmore coming into the Stars zone. Sikura handled Highmore’s offering at the top of the left circle, skated to the dot and sent a wrist shot past Point’s glove and into the far side of the net. Rockford now led 4-3 with just under six minutes to play.

Texas pressed hard and had some up close and personal scoring chances that were kept out of harm’s way by Delia, who totaled 34 saves on the night and won First Star honors. The Hogs locked things up in the final minute on a long-distance empty netter by Darren Raddysh.

Rounding out the three stars behind Delia was Iacopelli (Second Star) and Dylan Sikura (Third Star).

Lines (Starters in italics)

Matthew Highmore (A)-Jacob Nilsson-Dylan Sikura

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura-Anthony Louis

Viktor Ejdsell-Jordan Schroeder-Terry Broadhurst (A)

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Lucas Carlsson-Darren Raddysh

Blake Hillman-Carl Dahlstrom (A)

Dennis Gilbert-Joni Tuulola

Collin Delia 

Power Play (1-6)

D. Sikura-Schroeder-T. Sikura-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Highmore-Ejdsell-Louis-Broadhurst-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Stars were 0-1)

Highmore-Nilsson-Dahlstrom-Hillman

Fortin-Knott-Gilbert-Tuulola

T. Sikura-Broadhurst-Carlsson-Raddysh

 

Sunday, October 14-Rockford 5 , Hershey 2 

The Bears peppered Collin Delia with shots, but the Hogs goalie was up to the task, making 36 saves to help Rockford win its second straight.

Anthony Louis got the Hogs on the scoreboard with his first goal of the season at the 3:30 mark. The play got started when Darren Raddysh took control of the puck at his blueline and hit Tyler Sikura entering the middle of the Hershey zone. Sikura passed to Henrik Samuelsson coming down the right side, who found Louis skating toward the left dot. Pass, shoot, score; Rockford led 1-0.

The Bears tied the game midway through the period on a point shot by Tyler Lewington. Despite being out shot 16-7 in the opening 20 minutes, the IceHogs were all square going into the locker room.

A high-sticking infraction by Hershey’s Mike Sgarbossa led to Jordan Schroeder’s first goal of the season. Schroeder’s one-timer from the left circle found the far side of Ilya Samsonov’s net for a 2-1 advantage for the Hogs at 3:13 of the second stanza. Credit Dylan Sikura with an excellent cross-ice feed to Schroeder.

At 6:56 of the second, Liam O’Brien sent a wrister over the glove of Delia. The game wouldn’t stay tied for long, however.

Rockford regained the lead after Matheson Iacopelli gathered in a loose puck in the slot and skated it back out past the top of the left circle before throwing a shot toward the Hershey net. Samsonov made the stop but failed to gather in the loose puck. Graham Knott was skating across the crease when the puck struck his foot and slid under the Bears goalie at 8:17 of the second.

The 3-2 lead held up until the middle of the third period, when Schroeder teamed up with Terry Broadhurst for some much-needed insurance. Viktor Ejdsell brought the puck into Hershey territory and found Schroeder skating up the middle of the ice.

Schroeder bore down on Samsonov, waiting until he was nearly on top of the crease before sliding a pass to a streaking Broadhurst at the left post. The resulting one-timer made it 4-2 Rockford at 10:21 of the third. Matthew Highmore added an empty-net goal with 1:40 remaining to close out the scoring.

Schroeder was named the game’s first star for his efforts on the afternoon, followed by Delia and Tyler Sikura, who had a pair of assists.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Matthew Highmore (A)-Jacob Nilsson-Dylan Sikura

Henrik Samuelsson-Tyler Sikura-Anthony Louis

Viktor Ejdsell-Jordan Schroeder-Terry Broadhurst (A)

Matheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel

Blake Hillman-Carl Dahlstrom (A)

Lucas Carlsson-Darren Raddysh

Dennis Gilbert-Joni Tuulola

Collin Delia 

Power Play (1-4)

D. Sikura-Schroeder-T. Sikura-Samuelsson-Raddysh

Highmore-Ejdsell-Louis-Broadhurst-Dahlstrom

Penalty Kill (Bears were 0-3)

Highmore-Nilsson-Dahlstrom-Hillman

Fortin-Knott-Gilbert-Tuulola

T. Sikura-Broadhurst-Carlsson-Raddysh

 

Go West, Young Hogs

Rockford hits the road for a pair of games with Tuscon this weekend. The Hogs will be in action on Friday and Saturday nights. I’ll have a look at that Roadrunners club on Friday along with other Rockford happenings. Until then, follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the Hogs all season long.

 

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