The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, are hitting the weekend on a two-game win streak. Coach Jeremy Colliton will hope to extend the winning ways as the IceHogs host Cleveland and Manitoba.
Rockford bested a scuffling San Antonio Rampage club at the BMO Wednesday night, but looked a little sloppy doing so. The IceHogs put together 15 minutes of real good hockey Wednesday; that got them by a struggling opponent who now have lost seven straight. Beating Cleveland will require a more complete performance.
With a record of 4-2-1 heading into this weekend, Rockford sits in fourth place in the AHLs Central Division standings. Two wins would keep the Hogs within reach of the Milwaukee Admirals, Chicago Wolves and Texas Stars, the teams ahead of Rockford.
Defenseman Gustav Forsling was sent to Rockford on Monday, having recovered from wrist surgery over the summer. He went right into the lineup Wednesday night.
Tuesday, goalie Anton Forsberg cleared waivers and was assigned to the IceHogs. For the moment, Rockford is carrying three goalies. How long will this remain the case?
Both Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have played well for Colliton in the early going. Both may figure into the future for the Blackhawks. It doesn’t appear that Forsberg fits into those plans. On the other hand, he does have experience in an NHL net in case of an injury.
Forsberg is a very good goalie at the AHL level and will need to showcase those skills if the Hawks have designs on moving his contract. Colliton hinted that Forsberg could get a start for Rockford this weekend. From there, we may see a move made to thin the herd in the crease.
Also on Tuesday, Luke Johnson was recalled to the Blackhawks. This comes after a solid weekend of action with the Hogs in Tucson this past weekend.
Tomkins Shines In Indy
Matt Tomkins, who is on an AHL contract with Rockford, is playing well to open the season for the Indy Fuel. Tomkins was named the CCM/ECHL Goaltender of the Week for the week of Oct. 15-21. Tomkins earned the honor for the second time in his career, previously winning the award the week of Dec. 4-10, 2017.
The former Ohio State goalie turned away 72 of the 76 shots he faced last weekend, winning both games he started for the Fuel. Overall, Tomkins is 3-1 with a 2.76 goals against average and a .926 save percentage.
Wednesday, October 24-Rockford 5, San Antonio 2
Rockford broke out with four second-period goals, overcoming some uninspired play in the first and third frames to pick up the win over the Rampage.
There wasn’t much action in the opening period. Rockford had three shots at the power play but couldn’t put much together in the way of scoring chances. The same was true when the Hogs were at even strength. It was a different story, however, when the teams hit the BMO Harris Bank Center ice for the second stanza.
The first of three IceHogs goals in the opening minutes of the period came at the 1:17 mark. Darren Raddysh and Matthew Highmore moved the puck along the right half boards and into neutral ice. Viktor Ejdsell collected the puck and skated it all the way to the right dot. His shot made it past Rampage goalie Ville Husso for a 1-0 Rockford advantage.
Less than a minute later, Raddysh lifted a puck out of his zone. It was gathered in by Anthony Louis, who skated into the San Antonio zone with teammates in tow. Louis sent a nice saucer pass to Henrik Samuelsson skating toward the right post. The glove-side shot kissed cord at 1:58 of the second and made it 2-0 Hogs.
Rockford went up 3-0 a few minutes later after Terry Broadhurst sprung Highmore on a breakaway chance. Highmore lost the handle on the puck as he prepared to fire on goal. Fortunately, Ejdsell was following the play and knocked the loose biscuit into Husso’s basket at 4:11 of the second.
Dylan Sikura got a chance to showcase his speed after swiping a pass from Robby Fabbri just inside the Hogs blue line. Sikura the Younger zipped across the neutral zone and made a beeline for the San Antonio net. The shot slid between Husso’s pads at 14:26 and it was 4-0 Rockford.
A broken Plexiglas panel forced an early second intermission. The last 3:28 of the second period was played, followed quickly by the third period. This delay marked a shift in momentum as the visiting team was allowed to get back in the game.
Just 1:43 into the final frame, Trevor Smith took a rebound off the end boards and found the back of a wide open net from the left post to get the Rampage on the board. The Rampage closed the gap to 4-2 on a shorthanded goal by Fabbri at the 9:56 mark.
That’s as close as it got, however. Hussa was pulled to attempt a two-man advantage with Louis in the box for sending a puck over the glass. Tyler Sikura forced a turnover that Highmore deposited into the Bank of Empty Net at 18:40 of the third period, earning frozen custard for all at the BMO.
Lines (Starters in italics)
Mattheson Iacopelli-Graham Knott-Nathan Noel
Terry Broadhurst (A)-Matthew Highmore-Viktor Ejdsell
Dylan Sikura-Jacob Nilsson-Jordan Schroeder
Anthony Louis-Tyler Sikura (A)-Henrik Samuelsson
Blake Hillman-Carl Dahlstrom (A)
Gustav Forsling-Darren Raddysh
Andrew Campbell-Lucas Carlsson
Power Play (0-7)
Penalty Kill (Rampage was 0-5)
Previewing The Weekend
Cleveland-Saturday, October 27
The Monsters are 5-3 on the season and in second place in the AHLs North Division. Like San Antonio, Cleveland will be coming off a game in Milwaukee Friday before taking on the Hogs Saturday at 6:00 p.m.
Zac Dalpe paces the Monsters with nine points (6 G, 3 A). Rookie Eric Robinson has gotten off to a strong start as well, with four goals and three helpers. Both were instrumental in handing Rockford a pair of defeats in Cleveland to open the season.
The IceHogs will need to stop Dalpe and Robinson this time around, as well as captain Nathan Gerbe (1 G, 5 A) and speedy rookie Vitaly Abramov (2 G, 2 A). Forward Alex Broadhurst (1 G, 4 A) has also been tough on his former team in recent years.
One player that Rockford will see for the first time is defenseman Gabriel Carlsson, who leads the Monsters back end with a goal and three assists. J.F. Berube, who beat the Hogs in the season opener, has taken most of the turns in net. In his last start Wednesday morning, he gave up five goals in Chicago in a loss to the Wolves.
Manitoba-Sunday, October 28
The Moose make their first visit to the BMO Harris Bank Center Sunday afternoon for a 4:00 p.m. start. Manitoba is 3-3 heading into their game Saturday night in…you guessed it…Milwaukee.
Last weekend, the Moose took a pair of games at home from San Antonio. After scoring just five goals in their first four contests, Manitoba exploded for ten goals against the Rampage.
Manitoba is led in scoring by last year’s AHL Outstanding Rookie, Mason Appleton. The big winger is off to a solid start, with eight points (4 G, 4 A). He’s coming off a hat trick on October 21, when he had a five-point game against San Antonio.
Rookie C.J. Suess tops the Moose with five goals. He has found the back of the net in four of Manitoba’s first six games. There hasn’t been much scoring throughout the rest of the lineup, save for veteran Seth Griffin, who has chipped in a pair of goals and two apples. Griffin played with Rochester, where he posted 41 points (15 G, 26 A) a season ago.
Sami Niku is a dangerous scoring presence on the blue line, though he’s yet to light a lamp this season. Former IceHogs defenseman Cameron Schilling had a career-year for Manitoba last season (6 G, 26 A) and is back for the Moose.
Other familiar faces include J.C. Lipon, who’s starting his fourth season with Manitoba, and former Milwaukee and San Antonio forward Felix Girard. Girard has two goals for his new team so far.
The tandem in goal is led by Eric Comrie, who has three seasons under his belt with the Moose. In five starts, Comrie is 3-2 with a 2.80 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. His backup is former Devil’s farmhand Ken Appleby, who gave up six goals to Iowa in his last start on October 13.
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