The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, have been struggling on the power play. No…perhaps that doesn’t do this unit justice.
Toothless? Impotent? These are probably better ways to describe the period of time when the Hogs have an opponent in the sin bin.
Rockford’s success rate on the power play is dead last in the AHL though 28 games. The IceHogs are drawing cord just 11.8 percent of the time. This was capped off by an 0-13 stretch in this past week of action.
The piglets managed to pick up a point but dropped all three contests. A power play goal could well have turned two of those losses into wins. Alas, power play scoring has been problematic over the past two months.
Rockford began the season with quite the efficient group, posting a power play goal in seven of its first nine games. This culminated in a four-goal effort in a win over Grand Rapids October 28 that pushed the success rate to 22 percent.
Since that evening, the Hogs are 4-83 when up a man. That’s 4.8 percent. Which sucks.
Rockford coach Jeremy Colliton has remained pretty calm when talking about the power play, though he has tried to remedy the problem with some different looks. This weekend in San Antonio, for example, Colliton sent out five forwards as his first unit. The experiment did not bear fruit. In fact, that group gave up a shorthanded goal Sunday afternoon that wound up being the game-winner for the Rampage.
Sometimes the puck movement is there; other times the Hogs look fearful to leave the perimeter. All Colliton can do is continue to tinker with combos until something clicks.
Rockford has been fortunate in terms of health this season. The last few weeks, however, have seen some IceHogs out of the lineup for extended turns. Scott Powers of theathletic.com got Colliton to dish on the status of several players who have missed time of late.
First off, Jordin Tootoo shouldn’t be expected back for a while despite being sent down to Rockford last month. Apparently, Tootoo has aggravated the injury that saw him on the IR list to begin the season in Chicago.
Goalie J.F. Berube, who suffered a left leg injury December 9, looks to be out for about a month. Jeff Glass started all three games for the IceHogs this past week. Will Colin Delia get a start? Rockford has back-to-back games this weekend, then three in a row to close out December. If Delia isn’t in net for one of those games, I would have to assume that the organization lacks confidence in him right now.
Erik Gustafsson, who has missed Rockford’s last nine games, is nearing a return. Colliton was non-committal on a target date for the defenseman, though it sounds like it will be before the end of the calendar year.
Defenseman Luc Snuggerud has missed the last four games. This, plus Ville Pokka being recalled to Chicago last week, leaves the IceHogs a bit thin on the blue line.
Brandon Anselmini was recalled on December 10 and saw his first action against the Wolves last Tuesday. He left the game in the third period after taking a hard run into the boards but was on the ice for both games in San Antonio this weekend.
Rockford dropped three games this week, scoring just three goals in three games. The point they collected Friday in San Antonio has them tied for second with Iowa in the Central Division standings. Overall, the IceHogs are 15-11-1-1 in 2017-18.
Tuesday, December 12-Chicago 2, Rockford 1
A very late Wolves goal brought Rockford’s four-game winning streak to a unsatisfying halt.
The Wolves got on the board 5:03 into the game. Teemu Pulkkinen fired on Hogs goalie Jeff Glass. The shot was stopped, but the rebound came out to Brandon Pirri in the slot. Firing into a wide open net, the ex-IceHogs forward put Chicago up 1-0.
That lead survived until Rockford won an offensive draw midway through the final frame. Carl Dalhstrom fired from the point; Anthony Louis provided the redirect past Wolves goalie Maxime Lagace at 732 of the third.
It appeared that this game was headed for overtime. The Hogs made a final rush that got broken up and became a Chicago rush the other way. Paul Thompson got off a backhand shot from the slot that got over Glass with less than a second remaining to give the Wolves the win.
Lines (Starters In Italics)
Matthew Highmore-Tanner Kero-Luke Johnson (A)
Anthony Louis-David Kampf-Alexandre Fortin
Matheson Iacopelli-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen
Graham Knott-Laurent Dauphin (A)-William Pelletier
Carl Dahlstrom-Viktor Svedberg
Darren Raddysh-Robin Norell
Brandon Anselmini-Ville Pokka (A)
Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Robin Press, Erik Gustafsson, Tomas Jurco, Jordin Tootoo, Jean-Francois Berube
Power Play (0-3)
Penalty Kill (Wolves were 0-3)
Friday, December 15-San Antonio 2, Rockford 1 (SO)
Jeff Glass was a hard luck loser for the second straight game, stopping all but one of the 36 shots he saw in regulation and overtime. It wasn’t enough as his counterpart, Ville Husso, made 43 saves to beat the Hogs.
The Rampage got the games first tally 8:27 into the second period. Julien Nantel took a pass from Adam Musil, skated around Glass’s net, and banked home a shot off of the Rockford goalie’s back.
The IceHogs would even the score late in that period on a quirky play. Faced with too many skaters on the ice in the eighteenth minute, San Antonio attempted to right the problem. In the confusion, Andreas Martinsen was able to gain possession of the puck between the benches.
The Rampage’s Duncan Siemens collided with an official, giving Martinsen a clear path to the San Antonio zone. Martinsen skated to the top of the right circle before attempting to snap a shot off toward Husso. Whiffing on this try, Martinsen collected the gaffe and fired for real. The shot beat Husso to the far post at 17:53 of the second to knot the game at a goal apiece.
Siemens, possibly enraged at the turn of events, took a run at William Pelletier shortly after the resulting center ice draw. Coming to Pelletier’s defense was Laurent Dauphin, who dropped gloves with the big defensemen and received a cut for his effort. Dauphin returned for the third period with a full cage.
Glass and Husso kept the score where it was through the remainder of the contest. In the shootout, the lone put to draw cord came off the stick of San Antonio’s David Warsofsky in the final round. Rockford shooters David Kampf, Anthony Louis and Luke Johnson all came up empty as the Rampage picked up the point of contention.
Lines (Starters in italics)
Alexandre Fortin-Tyler Sikura-Andreas Martinsen (A)
Anthony Louis-David Kampf-Tomas Jurco
Matthew Highmore-Tanner Kero-Luke Johnson
Graham Knott-Laurent Dauphin-William Pelletier
Carl Dahlstrom-Viktor Svedberg (A)
Robin Norell-Darren Reddysh
Brandon Anselmini-Robin Press
Scratches-Luc Snuggerud, Erik Gustafsson, Matheson Iacopelli, Jordin Tootoo, Jean-Francois Berube
Power Play (0-6)
Penalty Kill (Rampage were 0-4)
Sunday, December 17-San Antonio 4, Rockford 1
Special teams figured heavily into what went down as the IceHogs third straight loss.
San Antonio grabbed a 1-0 lead 8:19 into the game on a Kenny Agozzino power play goal. The IceHogs evened the score 8:55 into the second period. As was the case in the previous game, the goal was scored by Andreas Martinsen on a bit of a fluky play.
Martinsen took advantage of Rampage defenseman Chris Bigras losing an edge as he was about to corral a pass from Tage Thompson in the San Antonio zone. Martinsen collected the turnover at the right dot and got a wrister past goalie Spencer Martin for the equalizer.
The Hogs had an opportunity to take the lead on the man advantage with San Antonio’s Alex Belzile in the box for tripping. Rockford’s fourth power play of the game yielded a goal; just not for the IceHogs.
Trent Volgelhuber took control of a long rebound in the Rampage zone and led a shorthanded rush. With five forwards on the ice, Rockford was slow to get back. The resulting two-on-one ended with Chris Butler beating Hogs goalie Jeff Glass high on the stick side. San Antonio took a 2-1 lead at 7:28 of the third.
Rocco Grimmaldi separated Robin Norell from the puck behind the Rockford net and slipped it past Glass at the 15:12 mark for an insurance goal. He added an empty-netter to close out the scoring.
Glass stopped 37 of 40 shots but took another hard-luck loss.
No lines for this one; I went to the movies. The Hogs went 0-4 on the power play, including 1:42 of five-on-three time, and gave up a game-winning shorty. I believe I made the correct choice.
The IceHogs will be at home this coming weekend. Next on the schedule is a pair of division matchups with familiar opponents.
Friday night, the surging Chicago Wolves pay yet another visit to the BMO Harris Bank Center. Rockford has split the first four games of the season series. Both of Chicago’s victories have come in regulation, including the last-second win Tuesday.
It’s Teemu Pulkkinen (9 G, 15 A) and Brandon Pirri (8 G, 13 A) at the forefront of the Wolves offense. Paul Thompson has five points (2 G, 3 A) against the Hogs this season. As of this weekend, Chicago has won five straight.
On Saturday night, Rockford hosts Grand Rapids, who are currently last in the Central Division. The Hogs have won all five contests between the two teams this season.
Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.