Hockey

High On The Hog: November Surge

The Rockford IceHogs finished the month of November with an 8-3-0-1 record. The ‘Bago County Flying Piglets have picked it up on the offensive end, rising from the league basement to a more-than respectable three goals per contest. Not bad for a team that is as green as the IceHogs.

Rockford’s average age on its current roster is 23.12 years. That is the second youngest in the AHL behind only San Jose. The piglets are the least experienced club in the league by a fair sight. Rockford skaters have played just 2, 359 AHL games combined, nearly five hundred less than the Barracuda.

As in past years, it’s been offense by committee in Rockford. The Hogs have no veteran scorers squirreled away to bolster the organization, so the kids will be shouldering the load for better or worse. Recently, it’s been the former.

Here are some of the contributors to the recent surge:

The Brothers Sikura

Whether they are teamed on a line or on separate units, Dylan and Tyler have been Rockford’s biggest point producers. The two brothers each have eight goals and five assists to pace the Hogs offense.

Sikura The Younger kicked off November with a hat trick on the third of the month. Two of his five goals last month were of the game-winning variety. A four-game point streak was snapped Saturday, but Dylan is getting pucks on net at a steady rate. His 83 shots on goal is by far the team lead in that category.

Sikura The Elder was just named captain of the IceHogs Friday night. Tyler had eight points in November (4 G, 4 A) and is instrumental at evens and on both special teams.

 

Brandon Hagel, Forward

Hagel put up five goals and three assists in twelve games last month. He leads the IceHogs rookies in scoring with ten points (5 G, 5 A) this season. Hagel, who was also a plus-six in November, has shown a knack for driving hard to the net with the puck. It’s paid off for him this past month.

 

MacKenzie Entwistle, Forward

Entwistle’s defensive play has shown up on the scoreboard. He has been solid at both ends and had three goals and three helpers in eleven November appearances. His skater rating of plus-six is tied for the team lead among forwards. Along with Dylan Sikura, he shares the team lead with two game-winning goals.

 

Lucas Carlsson, Defense

Carlsson took advantage of some increased opportunities during Adam Boqvist’s stint in Chicago and showed off his own offensive prowess in November to the tune of two goals and six assists. His nifty moves produced a highlight-reel goal in a win over the Wolves November 10.

 

Matt Tomkins, Goalie

Tomkins was in net for that November 10 win over Chicago. It was one of two victories he had over the Wolves and one of three wins the former Ohio State goalie posted this past month. Tomkins gave up just five goals in those three games.

With a 4-1 record in 2019-20, Tomkins leads the Hogs goalies with a 2.38 goals against average. He also sports a .921 save percentage and has worked his way into a tandem with Kevin Lankinen the past couple of weeks.

 

Roster Moves

Just before Friday’s game, the Blackhawks recalled defenseman Ian McCoshen and assigned forward Matthew Highmore back to Rockford. Highmore skated for the Hogs on Saturday night.

I would have figured that Philip Holm would have been in line for the call up to Chicago. Unfortunately, Holm did not play over the weekend. The most productive of Rockford’s defensemen must be a little banged up at the moment, paving the way for McCoshen’s promotion.

Alexandre Fortin sat out Saturday’s game with some bumps and bruises, according to Hogs coach Derek King. Mikael Hakkarainen continues to be on the shelf after being injured in Rockford’s first game October 4.

 

Recaps

With a pair of home wins this weekend, the IceHogs improved to 11-8-0-1 this season. Their 8-3 home record would be the best in the Central Division, save for the juggernaut that is the Milwaukee Admirals. Milwaukee, who visits Rockford for the first time this season on December 7th and 10th, are 8-1-1-1. By the way, the Ads have won 13 straight games heading into play this week.

The Hogs inhabit fifth place in the division standing with 23 points, though they have at least two games in hand on the rest of the Central. Rockford’s .575 points percentage is third-best in the division.

 

Friday, November 29-Rockford 4, Chicago 2

Rockford won over its Interstate 90 rivals for the fifth time in five meetings, scoring three times in the second period to pick up two points.

John Quenneville gave the Hogs a 1-0 advantage late in the first, taking the puck from Alexandre Fortin and looping into the slot. His snipe zipped past Wolves goalie Oscar Dansk at the 15: 25 mark.

Fortin would put Rockford up 2-0 3:50 into the second period when his putback of a Dennis Gilbert shot beat Dansk from the left post. Dylan Sikura converted on Phillipp Kurashev’s pass on the rush for a 3-0 IceHogs lead 6:01 into the second.

Chicago got a goal from Ben Jones midway through the second to cut the lead to two goals, but Brandon Hagel came up with a great individual effort from neutral ice, swiping a puck and beating Dansk on the breakaway at the 11:27 mark.

Brandon Pirri snuck in a power play goal 15:42 of the middle frame, but that’s as close as things got. Hogs starter Matt Tomkins picked up his third straight win with 31 saves. Quenneville, Tomkins and Sikura were voted the game’s Three Stars.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville-Tyler Sikura (C)-Alexandre Fortin

Dylan Sikura-Phillipp Kurashev-Brandon Hagel

Tim Soderlund-Jacob Nilsson (A)-Joseph Cramarossa

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-MacKenzie Entwistle

Lucas Carlsson-Dennis Gilbert (A)

Joni Tuulola-Adam Boqvist

Nicolas Beaudin-Chad Krys

Matt Tomkins

Kevin Lankinen

 

Saturday, November 30-Rockford 3, Grand Rapids 1

Despite falling behind in the opening frame, the Hogs prevailed behind two first-time scorers and 29 saves by Kevin Lankinen.

The Griffins got on the board 6:17 into the game, just after a Nicolas Beaudin slashing penalty came off the board. Brian Lashoff faked a shot from the point, drove to the left circle and sent a shot to the Hogs net. Lankinen got his pads on the shot but not enough to prevent it from trickling into the cage.

It took a while, but the IceHogs evened things up late in the second period. The scoring play capped a very productive shift in which Rockford kept the pressure on Griffins goalie Pat Nagle. Tim Soderlund, brought the puck around the Grand Rapids net and out to Dennis Gilbert at the left point. GIlbert slid a pass to fellow defenseman Lucas Carlsson, who sent a shot off the end boards.

The carom came out to Soderlund, who was salivating near the bottom of the left circle. His attempt caught twine at 17:38 for Soderlund’s first professional goal. The teams went into the second intermission tied at one.

The Hogs took a 2-1 lead 8:49 into the third when Joni Tuulola guided Phillipp Kurashev’s pass past Nagle. Tuulola had missed on a slap shot on net seconds earlier but looped back into position at the left circle to get his stick on Kurashev’s feed for his first goal of the season.

Rockford potted some insurance seconds after Nagel skated to the bench with just over two minutes left in regulation. MacKenzie Entwistle picked up a loose puck, skated to center ice and sent the biscuit into the empty basket to make it a 3-1 final.

Lines (Starters in italics)

John Quenneville-Tyler Sikura (C) Dylan Sikura

Matthew Highmore-Phillipp Kurashev-MacKenzie Entwistle

Joeseph Cramarossa-Jacob Nilsson (A)-Brandon Hagel

Nick Moutrey-Reese Johnson-Tim Soderlund

Lucas Carlsson-Dennis Gilbert (A)

Joni Tuulola-Adam Boqvist

Nicolas Beaudin-Chad Krys

Kevin Lankinen

Collin Delia

 

This Week

The Manitoba Moose pay a visit to the BMO Harris Bank Center on Tuesday night before Rockford goes to Grand Rapids Friday. The Hogs get their first look at white-hot Milwaukee on Saturday.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for tidbits on the Hogs throughout the season.

 

 

 

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