A ramshackle ass episode if ever there was one. But goddamn it we gave you 75 minutes of content. You’re welcome. And thank you.
The Rockford IceHogs helped themselves solidify a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs this past week, winning two of three games at the BMO Harris Bank Center. Fittingly, both wins came in Gus Macker Time and were spearheaded by big goals from their veterans.
The piglets scored a 4-3 win over Manitoba Wednesday night. Luke Philp had a two-goal night to help the Hogs reach overtime, where recently-acquired Rocco Grimaldi swiped a puck and went coast-to-coast for the game-winner.
After suffering a 6-2 loss to visiting Colorado Friday, Rockford responded with a 3-2 overtime triumph. Grimaldi picked up a pair of assists; Zach Jordan notched his first goal since being called up last week in the opening frame. Philp recorded the other Hogs goal in the second period. After a scoreless third, David Gust scored the game-winner off of a pass by Jakub Galvas.
Rockford (29-23-5-4, 67 points) is still tied with Iowa for fourth place in the Central Division. There is a nine-point gap between the Hogs and Wild and the sixth-place Chicago Wolves. The Moose sit in third place with 74 points. The IceHogs have a chance to control their fate in terms of where they finish in the division this week. That’s because Rockford travels north of the border for two huge games in Manitoba.
The Moose have a game in hand on the IceHogs entering Wednesday’s game. Manitoba is coming off a seven-game road trip. Winning the last meeting between the two teams in regulation would have improved Rockford’s chances of catching the Moose in the standings. Nonetheless, picking up two regulation wins in Manitoba is the priority this week.
Lynch Steps Up
Former Moose forward Bobby Lynch chipped in with a goal in the win against his former team on Wednesday. Lynch potted his tenth goal of the season in the second period after setting up Philp’s first tally in the first.
Lynch, 24, signed with Rockford after an eight-goal, 13-assist season in 46 games with Manitoba last year. The 6’2″ forward has been a steady presence on the Hogs bottom six most of the season. Lynch has stepped up his game when given the chance, with eight goals and two helpers in his last 20 games. This includes an overtime game-winner on February 4 over Iowa when given a rare spot in the 3-on-3.
He may fall back to a third or fourth line role if expected players come down from Chicago in the final weeks of the season. However, Lynch’s play has helped keep the Hogs playoff chances afloat.
Back on Monday last week, the Hogs recalled goalie Mitchell Weeks from the Indy Fuel. Weeks was 12-5-1 with a 2.53 GAA and a .912 save percentage in 19 games with Indy.
The next day, Notre Dame forward Ryder Rolston was inked to a PTO by Rockford following his signing of an entry-level contract with the Blackhawks starting next season. Rolston, who had been injured for the latter part of the NCAA season, has yet to play for Rockford.
Gust returned to action on Wednesday night after his wife gave birth. Also back on Wednesday from concussion protocol was D.J. Busdeker. Brett Seney was back in the lineup from his concussion on Friday; he celebrated his 300th AHL game with a power-play goal in the second period of the loss to Colorado.
Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.
Things are starting to get a little tight down Rockford way. The IceHogs completed a five-game road trip by going 1-3-1, punctuated by a 5-1 beating at the hands of the Chicago Wolves Saturday night. Rockford preceded that loss with a 2-1 overtime setback in Grand Rapids Friday.
The piglets find themselves shorthanded due to injury and call-ups. It’s not a unique development in the AHL, but it’s coming hard and heavy for Rockford, as well as at a most inopportune time.
The Wolves, 10-4-0-1 in their last 15 games, are making a strong push to grab a playoff spot and defend their Calder Cup title. Saturday dropped Rockford to a tie with Iowa for fourth place in the Central Division. The Wild claimed third with Sunday’s win over Manitoba, knocking the Hogs into the fifth and final playoff spot. Chicago, along with the Griffins, is eight points behind Rockford with 16 games remaining.
The Hogs and Wild each have 14 games left. It was inconceivable just a month ago that the Wolves could overtake one of or both of these teams. Now, Rockford is struggling mightily and is staring at some truly scary numbers. Here are but a few.
This was the number of goals the piglets managed on the five-games away from the BMO Center over the past couple of weeks. After falling 5-3 to Toronto in the opening game of the trip, Rockford scored all of one regulation goal in each of the remaining four games. To have won one of those contests and earned a point in another is a testament to the strong play of goalie Arvid Soderblom.
Seven is also the number of the IceHogs top seven scorers from the first five months of the season who were out of the lineup Saturday in Rosemont.
Adam Clendening and Dylan Sikura were traded. Cole Guttman, Reichel, and Philp are with the Hawks. Brett Seney is in concussion protocol. David Gust is with his wife awaiting the birth of their first child.
Pieces were picked up in exchange for some of the players moved out of Rockford. However, right now a lot of pieces are with the Blackhawks. Philp (who signed a two-way deal with Chicago for next season on Thursday) was an emergency recall on Saturday, leaving the Hogs with just eleven forwards for that night’s game.
The organization’s plan was for a host of players to return to Rockford following the conclusion of the NHL regular season. Help is on the way…it just isn’t going to get to ‘Bago County for another month. Following the last game on the Hawks schedule on April 13, Rockford has just three games on its regular season schedule.
Since defeating the first-place Texas Stars on January 3, this is the IceHogs record in the subsequent 25 games. In that span, Rockford is averaging 2.20 goals per contest.
Want another gut punch?
This year’s IceHogs through 58 games: 27-22-5-4, 63 points
Last year’s IceHogs through 58 games: 28-24-4-1, 63 points
In other words, the veteran-laden club the organization compiled this summer has fared no better than the scrappy prospects that toiled the previous season. I would never have believed this having watched this team challenge for the top of the division most of the first three months, but the numbers are screaming it.
Dropping seven straight games in January will do that. The Hogs went 8-2 from November 13 to December 7, their best stretch of the season so far. Since then, most of the remaining Central clubs have gone on similar runs. It’s the Wolves turn at the moment.
Last season’s scrappy prospects finished 8-6 in their final 14 games. Rockford needs to respond in its remaining games. Eight wins might be enough to maintain position for a play-in series. The question is…can they manage eight wins?
The Hogs have four games with second-place Milwaukee and three with third-place Manitoba. Rockford hosts the Moose Wednesday night before Colorado arrives at the BMO for two games this weekend. They also have two games remaining with the hungry Wolves, a pair with Grand Rapids, and a single date with Laval among the remaining schedule.
Regulation wins by the IceHogs this season, tied with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (last in the Eastern Conference). Only San Diego (last in the AHL) has fewer. There are no chances of winning a tie-breaker if things continue to head south.
Times Rockford has needed Gus Macker Time to settle a contest this season, by far the tops in the league. The IceHogs are 12-9 in those games; 7-5 in overtime and 5-4 in the shootout.
We’ve heard head coach Anders Sorensen tout the resiliency of his team, and that is apparent. Rockford has eight third-period rallies for wins. The number the Hogs need to note is their 15-0-1-1 mark when leading after two periods. Just avoid digging holes.
Last week, Nolan Valleau was released from his PTO. Koletrane Wilson was returned to the Indy Fuel, then recalled back to Rockford when Filip Roos was recalled by the Hawks.
Pavel Gogolev, obtained by the Hawks in a trade with Toronto, was waived and released from his NHL entry deal. He then signed an AHL contract with the Marlies and was assigned to Newfoundland of the ECHL, where he had been at the time of the trade.
Along with Philp being recalled by the Hawks Saturday was G Anton Khudobin. Philp, Khudobin, and Roos were all assigned to Rockford on Sunday.
UPDATE-Monday, the Hawks recalled forwards Mike Hardman and Buddy Robinson. The Hogs recalled goalie Mitchell Weeks from the Indy Fuel.
Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs throughout the season.
As the Rockford IceHogs prepare to start the process of locking down a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs, it’s probably a good time to focus on the way the roster was reshaped over the past week. In case you missed it, the Blackhawks made a couple of trades.
This flurry of transactions was a two-prong effort between Chicago and Rockford. As was the case around the league, moves were made involving what amounted to swaps of AHL and NHL contracts. The get-around was using “future considerations”. This fleshed out what seemed to be one-sided trades at the NHL level with reciprocal AHL deals that got the players where everyone wanted them to go.
If you want to sort out all the moves, be my guest. I’m more concerned with the pieces that departed and arrived in Rockford when the trade deadline occurred. Here’s how things currently stand.
G Dylan Wells-to Dallas
D Cooper Zech-to Rangers
D Adam Clendening-to Hartford
F Carson Gicewicz-to Rochester
D Andrew Welinski-from Rangers
F Pavel Gogolev-from Toronto
F Maxim Golod-from Anaheim (Hawks assigned Golod to the Indy Fuel)
G Anton Khudobin-from Dallas
F Rocco Grimaldi-from San Diego
F Logan Nijhoff-from San Diego (Hogs assigned Nijhoff to the Indy Fuel)
F Zach Jordan-from Hartford (Hogs assigned Jordan to the Indy Fuel)
F Colin Bilek-from Mantitoba (Hogs assigned Bilek to the Indy Fuel)
The Blackhawks assigned David Gust, Brett Seney, Issak Phillips, Lukas Reichel, and Joey Anderson (newly acquired from Toronto) to the IceHogs. Reichel and Anderson were paper moves that were pulled back to Chicago following the trade deadline, but both players are eligible to participate in the postseason for Rockford.
So…how did the Hogs make out?
Surprisingly well. Grimaldi is the type of player BMO fans should salivate over; a veteran AHL sniper who has produced in AHL stops in San Antonio, Portland, and Milwaukee. In San Diego this season, the 30-year-old Grimaldi had 27 goals and 29 helpers in 54 games.
Gogolev was responsible for Rockford’s only regulation goal in a 2-1 shootout win in Laval Saturday night, tipping in a shot by Welinski (4 G, 12 A in 40 games with Hartford).
Khudobin sure would have come in handy earlier this season. There was a need for a veteran goalie who could have played the role Arvid Soderblom was cast in due to injuries. With Soderblom now set to receive the bulk of the starts down the stretch and Jaxson Stauber playing well in a Hogs loss in Belleville Friday, the 36-year-old veteran still provides experienced insurance for Rockford.
As a result of the bevy of moves, the Hogs found themselves a little undermanned this past week. Rockford battled but lost 5-3 in Toronto on Wednesday and 4-1 Belleville on Friday before defeating the Rocket Saturday.
Seney and forward D.J. Busdeker left Friday’s contest with injuries. Busdeker returned for the third period. The following night, both players sat out, forcing the Hogs to play two defensemen, Nolan Valleau and Koletrane Wilson, at forward.
I would imaging that Gust, who was with his expecting wife, and Grimaldi will be in the lineup for Rockford this coming weekend, when the IceHogs finish their five-game road trip in Grand Rapids Friday and in Rosemont on Saturday.
Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs as they look to maintain and improve upon their playoff position.
Reflections on an overdue end of an era, such as it is. Thank you.
The Rockford IceHogs have taken a bit of a hit from the realities of the AHL over the last week. Before the smoke clears following the NHL trade deadline, the Hogs roster could morph into any number of forms.
Trades and injuries have tested the depth in ‘Bago County. Rockford battled its way to a road victory, sandwiched between a pair of tough losses at the BMO Center this past week. The piglets are still on a course for the postseason. How that voyage concludes will depend a lot on the Blackhawks organization and how committed they really are to ensuring playoff hockey for its prospects.
Let’s lead off with…
On Thursday, the Blackhawks traded forward Josiah Slavin to Anaheim in exchange for forward Hunter Drew. Both players have struggled to repeat career-high numbers set the season before, so this is likely a change-of-scenery type of transaction. Drew (5 G, 6 A in 44 games with San Diego) skated in Rockford’s two games with Iowa this weekend.
Drew is listed as a RW/D and there was some speculation as to where he would slot in for the Hogs. Despite being decimated on the blueline, Drew skated as a forward, as he has done for the past couple of seasons. That probably indicates that he’ll remain a forward moving, uh, forward.
About that blueline…
Also on Thursday, the team announced that D Alec Regula and Jakub Galvas have been placed in the concussion protocol and that D Cliff Watson will be out “indefinitely” with a sprained right knee. The Hogs brought up D Andrew Parrott from the ECHL’s Indy Fuel that day.
On Friday, the IceHogs signed D Nolan Valleau to a PTO. Valleau, who was with Rockford for a couple of seasons a few years ago, skated on Saturday night with D Filip Roos being a scratch. Yet another Indy defenseman, Koletrane Wilson, was recalled by Rockford on Sunday.
Thursday also saw the Blackhawks sign Rockford’s leading scorer, David Gust (24 G, 26 A), to a two-year NHL contract. Gust, who had a pair of goals Wednesday night in a loss to Texas, picked up his first NHL goal on his first shift in Chicago’s win in San Jose. The IceHogs recalled F Cameron Hillis from the Fuel in response. Hillis, who was Indy’s top point-producer at the time, was in the Hogs lineup Friday and Saturday.
Rockford is down four of its top defensemen (including Issak Phillips, who was recalled to the Hawks the previous week). The Hogs are also sans their two leading scorers in Gust and Brett Seney (who also scored for the Hawks Saturday night).
Despite the depletion, the IceHogs did manage to compete.
On Tuesday, Rockford entered the third tied 2-2 with the division-leading Stars before eventually falling 5-3. Friday, the Hogs went into DesMoines and posted a 3-1 win over Iowa behind two-goals by Luke Philp (17 G, 19 A). In the rematch Saturday, Rockford couldn’t get enough pucks past a tough Wild defense, let alone find the net. Zane McIntyre shut out the IceHogs 2-0 as Rockford was out shot 38-23.
The IceHogs currently sit in the middle of the Central Division. With 60 points, they are four points behind third-place Manitoba and five points ahead of the fifth-place Wild. Rockford went 5-3-0-2 in February and are about to start a five-game road trip over the next two-and-a-half weeks.
The Canadian portion of that jaunt is this week. The Hogs visit Toronto on Wednesday, then stop in Belleville and Laval on Friday and Saturday. The Marlies are arguably the league’s top club, though the Senators and Rocket are very beatable teams. However, questions linger entering the month of March:
- How much will the Hogs roster change in the next five days?
- What are the Blackhawks going to do about it?
Yeah! What Are They Gonna Do About It?
There is no doubt that several trades are going to be completed by Friday’s trade deadline. At least two or three will involve the Blackhawks. Players may need to be recalled to Chicago to fill out the NHL roster.
In the past, the Blackhawks have included prospects in deals that left the Hogs toothless in terms of their ability to compete. They have also occasionally obtained some help for Rockford and strengthened the piglets. If the organization is serious about keeping the IceHogs a contender, the scales should be tipped in the latter category.
The Blackhawks may also choose to keep some players eligible for the Calder Cup Playoffs even if they figure to remain in Chicago for a while. In order to be playoff eligible for the AHL postseason, a player has to be on that team’s roster at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, March 3. There are exceptions, like signed draft choices, amateur tryouts, etc.., but player on Chicago’s NHL roster won’t qualify.
However, the Hawks could (and absolutely should) assign players to Rockford Friday morning, then recalled them after the trade deadline. This “paper” move would allow the players involved to play in any postseason games Rockford has whenever they are finished with Chicago this season.
The way things stand right now, if I was Kyle Davidson (which I’m not) and I was putting my money where my mouth was, I would temporarily assign the following players to Rockford by Friday morning:
David Gust, Brett Seney, Cole Guttman, Issak Phillips, Ian Mitchell, Jaxson Stauber (One down-Chicago assigned Stauber to Rockford Sunday night)
Anything less than four of those names (provided none are involved in a trade) and talk of wanting to go on a deep playoff run with Rockford is just that-talk.
Back in 2017-18, when the IceHogs reached the Western Conference Final, Rockford was bolstered in both trades and paper assignments. A lot of talent came down to the BMO in time for the playoffs. Is it possible that Davidson equips the IceHogs to go on a similar run this spring? For sure.
Is it also possible that he weakens the roster in the name of draft stock? Not if you believe the organizational rhetoric over the past season.
The 64,000-dollar question, of course, is…do you believe that rhetoric?
The answer to that question hinges upon the course Davidson takes in the next few days.
What the hell are they even doing, and should we even care either way? But we thank you for caring enough to listen.
The Rockford IceHogs put together a successful weekend, rebounding from a Wednesday defeat in Grand Rapids to pick up four valuable standings points against a pair of tough Central Division opponents. Hopefully the Hogs remember how it felt to knock off Texas and Iowa, because that’s all the piglets will be seeing this week.
Rockford dropped a 5-4 decision to the Griffins on Wednesday before getting an outstanding performance from goalie Dylan Wells Friday night at the BMO Center. Wells kept the IceHogs in contention, stopping 37 Texas shots. This allowed Rockford to post a big 3-2 victory. Alex Vlasic scored the game-winner 45 seconds into Gus Macker Time. The rookie defenseman nabbed a loose puck and send a pass Lukas Reichel to start the rush, then skated to the left post. Reichel found the tape on the return pass and Vlasic finished off the Stars.
On Sunday afternoon, the IceHogs rode Dylan Sikura’s hat trick to a 5-3 win in DesMoines. The Wild threatened to tie the game in the waning minutes but Rockford prevailed despite being out shot 25-16. The win was the Hogs third straight over Iowa, giving Rockford a cushion of five points between the two teams in the Central Division standings.
Rockford is 25-17-4-4 through 50 games in the 2022-23 campaign with 58 standings points. The IceHogs trail Milwaukee and Texas, who share the Division lead, by six points.
This week, Rockford hosts the Stars on Wednesday night, then have a home-and-home weekend with Iowa. The action will be at Wells Fargo Arena on Friday night before the teams return to the BMO Center for a Saturday showdown.
February comes to an end with some tough games. Things only get tougher in March, when the IceHogs begin with a five-game road trip to Toronto, Belleville, Laval, Grand Rapids, and Rosemont. It’s called the playoff push; Rockford is in for some heavy lifting over the next three weeks.
Friday Was Pride Night At The BMO. Observations?
- For an event that was promoted by the organization, I was a bit surprised at how the Hogs came out for warmups. The players came out in their regular red sweaters. There were no patches, though the team handed out stickers which would have made a nice patch had they wanted to go in that direction.
- I kind of figured that there would be some multi-colored tape on some of the sticks of the IceHogs skaters. That was not the case. The only stick with such adornment belonged to Hammy Hog. Hammy also made his rounds through the BMO stands with the Hogs pride logo sticker on his chest.
- The IceHogs played a videotaped Pride Night intro featuring several of the players as well as coach Anders Sorensen. I know that I saw Brett Seney, David Gust, Cooper Zech, and Lukas Reichel in the video. There very likely were more players representing, but I wasn’t taking notes and AHL TV did not share the scoreboard view. Nor has any team media put it out on youtube or other social media as of yet.
- Members of Madison Gay Hockey and Team Trans Ice Hockey were on hand at the puck drop. The teams scrimmaged at the BMO earlier in the afternoon. There was a video feature on the groups shown between periods. Pride Night merchandise was promoted throughout the evening.
- Late in the second period, during the Kiss Cam feature at a media timeout, the in-house camera production staff put on a shot of a person in the stands holding up a sign reading “Except Ye Repent, Ye Shall Perish”. Live at the BMO, there was some booing and negative reaction to the sign.
- If the sign-bearer had flipped off the camera instead, I doubt the production staff would have held the shot for six seconds. That’s how long the sign was visible on the big screen before they moved on to another kissing couple.
- Speculation into the way this situation developed is just that. Who knows what the production staff was up to before or after the incident. Was the fan approached by team staff in any way? What is the IceHogs official word on what took place? We don’t know; the team has not offered any response as of Sunday night.
On Tuesday, forwards Cole Guttman (16 G, 14 A) and Brett Seney (18 G, 26 A), along with defenseman Issak Phillips (4 G, 16 A), were recalled to the Blackhawks. For the IceHogs to have won two of three games minus some of their top performers says a lot about Rockford’s depth this season.
On Wednesday, forward Buddy Robinson (9 G, 9 A) made his return to the lineup after missing twelve games with a wrist fracture. Robinson posted an assist in the loss to Grand Rapids.
Sunday afternoon, defenseman Jakub Galvas (2 G, 22 A) was knocked to the ice by Iowa’s Brandon Baddock early in the first period. He left the game shortly thereafter and did not return.
Missing Galvas and Phillips for an extended period puts a bit more pressure on Vlasic (2 G, 9 A) and Alec Regula (5 G, 14 A) to hold down the blueline. Rookie Louis Crevier (0 G, 4 A) broke an 18-game point drought with an assist on Wednesday and may see an increase of minutes.
Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for thoughts on the IceHogs all season long.
Football is over so we have to talk about hockey more now. Every single one of you is our Valentine.