The Rockford IceHogs have two solid goalie prospects under NHL contracts. So why do they have three goalies on the roster?
Beats the heck out of me.
Rockford, 7-6 and in fourth-place in the Central Division with a .538 points percentage, split the weekend slate. They beat Chicago on Sunday following a shutout loss to Manitoba on Friday. In the last three games, the piglets have had a different man between the pipes. So goes the goalie situation in Winnebago County.
Sunday, Matt Tomkins anchored Rockford’s 4-1 win over the Wolves in Rosemont. Friday, Collin Delia was victimized for four goals as his team was blanked by the Moose. Back on Wednesday, Kevin Lankinen picked up the win over Toronto.
Tomkins spent the bulk of last season toiling in Indianapolis. Lankinen also spent a good portion of his season with the Fuel. The IceHogs began the season with Tomkins, Lankinen and Delia with the team. I figured that with the Hawks tandem healthy entering October, Tomkins would return to the ECHL and build on the solid numbers of 2018-19.
Hasn’t happened. Lankinen was injured opening night, so Tomkins stuck around. He’s continued to stick around despite Lankinen returning to action. According to Hogs coach Derek King, Lankinen was set to start Sunday’s matinee but fell ill, necessitating Tomkins in the crease.
Why not just give Delia another start? Well…he hasn’t been real sharp in the first six weeks of action. In six starts, he’s carrying a 4.09 goals against average and an .867 save percentage. Delia has had to contend with a lot of high-percentage scoring opportunities, but he still hasn’t resembled the netminder he was for most of the last two seasons.
Tomkins has served in the capacity of backup most nights but has two very solid performances in a pair of Rockford victories over the Wolves. He stopped 31 shots against Chicago in an overtime win October 19 before a 19-save effort Sunday.
Lankinen? Well, when he isn’t sick or hurt, he’s been great. Sporting a 1.99 GAA and a .930 save percentage, Lankinen is the Hogs top option in net right now.
I keep waiting for Rockford to send Tomkins, who is on an AHL deal with the IceHogs, back to Indy where he’ll get steady work. Delia and Lankinen can then get in a groove as a tandem; maybe the former can work his way out of his current funk.
Perhaps the organization likes having Tomkins, who was a Hawks seventh-round draft selection in 2012, in Rockford to work with the team’s goalie coaches. For whatever reason, Tomkins is part of a three-pronged goalie attack for the IceHogs.
Friday, November 8-Manitoba 4, Rockford 0
Rockford was the aggressor early but failed to convert scoring chances all evening. The Moose prevailed behind a 41-save Mikhail Berdin shutout. Crisp Manitoba passing resulted in plenty of offense against the Hogs, who saw their four-game winning streak go by the wayside.
Berdin weathered a storm of IceHogs attempts in the opening minutes. Conversely, one of Manitoba’s first chances was driven to the back of Collin Delia’s net. It came at 8:33 of the first period, when Michael Spacek gathered in a loose puck in the slot and sent it through the Rockford goalie’s wickets for a 1-0 Moose advantage.
Manitoba built a three-goal lead in the second stanza via the power play. With Reese Johnson in the bin of sin for high sticking, the Moose scored after former Rockford defenseman Cameron Schilling sent a point shot off Delia’s pads. With Delia on the deck after getting tied up with Philip Holm, Jansen Harkins sent the long rebound to Luke Green, who one-timed the puck into the cage at the 5:51 mark.
Specek set up C.J. Suess at Delia’s backdoor eleven minutes later for a 3-0 Manitoba lead. The Moose were 2-3 on the man advantage. Rockford, with three power plays in the second to try and climb back into the game, came up empty on the way to an 0-5 night. Seth Griffith closed out the scoring for Manitoba with a third-period goal.
Delia didn’t have his best night, falling victim to several real open looks offered by the Hogs defense. He stopped 22 of 26 shots on the evening. Berdin, incidentally, went into Chicago the following night and blanked the Wolves on 26 shots.
Sunday, November 10-Rockford 4, Chicago 1
The IceHogs made it four-for-four this season against the Wolves despite giving up the first goal of the contest. Matt Tomkins picked up the win in net for Rockford with 19 saves.
Each team had a turn on the power play in the opening frame. The IceHogs whiffed. Chicago converted, with Dylan Coghlin blasting the puck past Tomkins 18:21 into the game.
Rockford finally managed to get a puck past a goalie late in the second period. The play was set up when Tim Soderlund held a puck in at the top of the offensive zone before passing to Philip Holm. Holm sent a centering pass to Anton Wedin, who redirected the biscuit past Wolves goalie Garret Sparks. The goal tied the contest at a goal apiece at 14:28 of the second period.
The Hogs took a 2-1 lead on a wonderful individual effort by Lucas Carlsson. The scoring play got started when Holm won possession of the puck in the Hogs zone. Sliding the puck along the boards, Holm cleared it to Brandon Hagel. Hagel, in turn, found Carlsson coming across the red line. Carlsson entered the Chicago zone, juked his way past the Wolves Brett Lernout and sent a shot past the blocker of Sparks 8:31 into the third.
Tomkins made Carlsson’s tally the game-winner with some big stops in the last ten minutes, including a big penalty kill after Reese Johnson was sent to the box for roughing. Matthew Highmore and Tyler Sikura tossed in empty-netters in the final two minutes to seal the fate of the Wolves.
The IceHogs have a home-and-home coming up with the Grand Rapids Griffins, currently right behind Rockford in the Central Division standings. The Griffins are paced by Chris Terry, who leads the AHL in scoring with 21 points (8 G, 13 A). Matt Puempel (7 G, 9 A) is fourth in the league in points entering this week’s action.
Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for my thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.