The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate to the Chicago Blackhawks, have not been a good road team this season. This past week was a glaring example of Rockford’s struggles in the home of the opposition.
The IceHogs dropped all four games of their most recent road trip, three of which came this week. Rockford did come back to the BMO Harris Bank Center and defeat Chicago Sunday. However, they were outscored 23-7 while they were out of town.
Spencer Abbott was returned to the Hogs on Friday and took part that night in Chicago and Sunday against the Wolves. Coming down with Abbott was Hawks defenseman Gustav Forsling, who also played in those two contests.
Forsling, who sat on Saturday night in Grand Rapids, did not look comfortable on the ice over the weekend. He was a minus-two in a 7-2 loss to Chicago Friday. Sunday, his passing was erratic at best and was slow to a puck which ended up in the Hogs net.
Viktor Svedberg was a scratch the two games Forsling played this weekend. With the logjam of defensemen in Rockford, it will be interesting to see how coach Ted Dent splits up the time. Erik Gustafsson has been injured the past week; the rotation gets more blurry when he returns to action.
Tuesday, January 3-Milwaukee 5, Rockford 2
The only goal in the opening period came on a total mind cramp by the IceHogs penalty kill. Rockford defensemen Carl Dahlstrom and Nick Mattson bumped into each other, allowing the Admirals Adam Payrl to waltz into the slot with Trevor Murphy to his left. Murphy accepted the pass and easily deked Lars Johansson to score at 8:44 of the first period.
Anthony Bitetto added another power play goal for the Admirals 5:06 into period two before Rockford got on the board near the mid-point of the contest. The goal came just as a Hogs power play expired. Carl Dahlstrom took a pass from Sam Carrick at the top of the right circle, skated in and fired to the far corner of the net. Mr. Puck slipped past the glove of Marek Mazanec and into happy land at the 11:14 mark.
Milwaukee responded with a pair of goals to take a 4-1 lead through 40 minutes. Murphy got a slap shot that glanced off of Martin Lundberg and into the Hogs net at 14:44. At the 15:29 mark, Pontius Aberg scored from close range to put Rockford in a three-goal hole.
The Hogs had a couple of short-handed opportunities in the third period, but Mazanec was up the the task of stopping Rockford’s shooters. Justin Kirkland added an empty-net goal with 5:01 remaining to make it 5-1 Milwaukee.
Rockford did get a nice bit of hand-eye coordination by Chris DeSousa in the waning minutes, knocking a Mazanec rebound of a Lundberg shot out of mid-air and into the basket 17:15 into the final frame to complete the scoring for the night.
Lines (starters in italics)
Tyler Motte-Nick Schmaltz-Tyler Johnson
Martin Lundberg-Jake Dowell (C)-Evan Mosey
Mark McNeill (A)-Sam Carrick-Kyle Baun
Pierre-Cedric Labrie (A)-Chris DeSousa-Jeremy Langlois
Nolan Valleau-Ville Pokka
Cameron Schilling-Jonathan Carlsson
Carl Dahlstrom-Nick Mattson
Power Play (0-3)
Penalty Kill (Admirals were 2-6)
Friday, January 6-Chicago 7, Rockford 2
The Wolves broke open a close game with four third-period goals, sending Rockford to its third straight loss.
The Hogs took a 1-0 advantage when Tyler Motte redirected a Robin Norell shot at 13:34 of the opening period. As has been the case this season, though, late goals erased the good feelings.
Samuel Blais skated deep into the slot to net a power play goal for the Wolves at the 16:36 mark. Just 1:14 later, Alex Friesen knocked in a loose puck at the right post to give Chicago a 2-1 lead at the intermission.
Midway through the second period, Motte won a faceoff at the right dot. The puck bounced the way of Nick Schmaltz, who got his shot past Phoenix Copley to tie the game at the 11:35 mark.
Chicago quickly regained the upper hand. Connor Bleackley’s offering from the right half boards got a good piece of Viktor Svedberg on its way to the net. The biscuit tumbled over Hogs goalie Lars Johansson and into the goal at 12: 38 of the second.
The dam broke on the IceHogs in the final frame, with four different Chicago skaters lighting the lamp. Johansson, who manned the net until the bitter end, surrendered seven goals on 26 Wolves shots. In his defense, however, Chicago had odd-man rushes on all of the last four goals.
No lines-Gustav Forsling made his Hogs debut and was a minus-two on the night.
Saturday, January 7-Grand Rapids 6, Rockford 1
The IceHogs went down three goals in the opening period and never recovered, losing their sixth of their last seven tilts.
The Griffins scored 1:42 into the game. Ben Street altered the path of the puck and got credit for the power play goal. Street snared a long rebound off the pads of Hogs starter Mac Carruth, wove in through the defense, and backhanded home his second goal of the night at 4:01.
Rockford gave up a late goal to go down 3-0 before heading to the locker room. Kyle Criscoulo knocked a deflected puck into the air, then batted it in with the back of his blade to complete a nifty scoring play with seven seconds left in the first.
It was academic from there. The Hogs lone tally came on a delayed penalty 5:43 into the third period. Carl Dahlstrom found Nick Schmaltz at the left post with a cross-ice pass to remove the goose egg from the scoreboard.
Hogs coach Ted Dent pulled Carruth for an extra skater with less than five minutes remaining and Rockford with a four-minute power play. The result was a pair of short-handed empty-net Griffins goals.
No Lines-Forsling was a scratch, though Dent used seven defensemen Saturday. Also sitting out were Spencer Abbott and captain Jake Dowell.
Sunday, January 8-Rockford 6, Chicago 3
Brandon Mashinter returned to the lineup in style, scoring a pair of goals to help the Hogs snap a four-game skid in front of a full house at the BMO Harris Bank Center.
The action was back and forth in a wild first period that saw six goals scored. The Wolves got on the board first, using a Rockford turnover in front of its own net. Samuel Blais beat starting goalie Mac Carruth for a 1-0 Chicago lead 5:53 into the contest. The IceHogs tied the game with a goal by Tyler Motte, who rang his shot from the left dot off the crossbar and in at the 7:50 mark.
Blais got his second of the night when he got past Gustav Forsling for a loose puck and went top shelf on Carruth 11:37 into the opening frame. Rockford evened the score less than three minutes later on Mark McNeill’s drive to the net with the Hogs on the man advantage.
The Wolves got a power play goal of their own from Ivan Barbashev to go up 3-2 at 18:09 of the first. However, Rockford returned fire once again. This time, it was Mashinter winning a scramble for the puck in front of the Chicago net. The put-back beat Wolves goalie Ville Husso to knot the game at three apiece with 18 seconds left in the period.
Neither team found the net in the second, but the Hogs got two goals to start the final twenty minutes. Beginning the period with a power play, Rockford struck 46 seconds in when Ville Pokka sent a shot to the net. The puck was redirected by Motte, who gave the IceHogs a 4-3 advantage.
Eighteen seconds later, Mashinter stuck in another rebound to make it 5-3 Rockford. The initial shot by Sam Carrick was stopped by Husso before Mashinter put it into the back of the net. Late in the game, Tyler Barnes closed out the scoring with an empty net goal.
Motte, Mashinter and Carrick were voted the first, second and third stars of the game, respectively.
Lines (Starters in italics)
Brandon Mashinter-Sam Carrick-Kyle Baun
Spencer Abbott-Nick Schmaltz-Tyler Motte
Pierre-Cedric Labrie (A)-Mark McNeill (A)-Tyler Johnson
Martin Lundberg-Jake Dowell (C)-Tyler Barnes
Carl Dahlstrom-Nolan Valleau
Ville Pokka-Gustav Forsberg
Cameron Schilling-Robin Norell
Power Play (2-7)
Penalty Kill (Wolves were 1-4)
The Week Ahead
It’s a lighter week for Rockford. The Hogs are off until Friday and Saturday, when they host San Diego and Grand Rapids, respectively.
Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.