Mark McNeill doesn’t beat Drew MacIntyre in the shootout Tuesday Jan 13th in Rockford
Photo: Rockford IceHogs Hockey
By Chris Block
On Tuesday night, the Rockford IceHogs began the second half of their season looking to punt their recent goal scoring troubles and get back on a winning track in the first meeting of the season with the visiting Charlotte Checkers.
A weeknight crowd of 2,515 saw their ‘Hogs go down 2-0 midway through the contest only to hustle back to tie, then miss out on the extra point in the shootout competition and lose the game by a 3-2 final score. It was Rockford’s third straight loss.
Phillip Danault and Ryan Hartman were the IceHogs’ goal scorers. It marked the 6th goal of the season for each player. Charlotte’s Drew MacIntyre stopped 41 of 43 Rockford shots while Michael Leighton stood tall at the other end, making 43 saves.
But the struggling IceHogs’ scorers couldn’t get over the two goal hump for the 9th time over the past 11 games. Rockford’s averaging 1.7 goals per game over that stretch while allowing 2.4.
On December 14th the IceHogs were 18-7-2-1, good for best record in the entire AHL. Since, Rockford has gone 3-5-2-1 and one of those victories came via the shootout. They now sit 3rd in the Western Conference and have the 6th best record overall in the AHL.
Rockford is 21-12-4-2 on the season after Tuesday night’s loss. They’re currently also in the midst of the easiest segment of their schedule travel wise. From January 1st to February 18th the IceHogs have just one overnight road trip booked. The rest of their road slate is quick bus trips until a weekend set at Lake Erie February 20-21.
To an extent Tuesday was a continuing of the recent theme for the IceHogs of getting a ton of shots on net but not enough second chance or high quality scoring chances.
Charlotte got on the board first midway through the opening period after the teams traded penalties and unsuccessful abbreviated power plays.
Brendan Woods knocked in a rebound at 14:29 of the first to give the Checkers a 1-0 lead. Jared Staal had the first whack at it after Keegan Lowe’s shot from the right point off a Checkers’ faceoff win was knocked down by Leighton, who was able to stave off Staal’s second chance stab but not Woods’ tally. Charlotte’s goal came as result of back-to-back Drew LeBlanc defensive zone face off losses to Leighton’s immediate left. The first, he was able to glove and get a whistle. The second, Leighton wasn’t as lucky.
Charlotte pushed the pace in the minutes following taking the lead. Looking to change the momentum, Brandon Mashinter dropped the gloves with former IceHogs’ tough guy, Kyle Hagel. Mashinter had lowered the boom on one of the Checkers’ smallest forwards just after Hagel had rubbed Mashinter off a puck along the boards at the red line. Hagel, a Princeton graduate, saw Mashinter finish his check and challenged him. Mashinter, with the longer reach, got the best punch in early on the AHL’s leader in major penalties. Hagel wound up with an extra minor for high-sticking Mashinter, which evidently was Hagel’s way of telling Mashinter he wanted to fight. The ‘Hogs failed to convert on this, their first full two minute power play on the night.
Rockford’s faceoff struggles continued in the final seconds when Danault lost a draw in his end to veteran Ben Holmstrom, who got a shot on Leighton right off the drop. Leighton was ready for it though, and the IceHogs went into the first intermission down only 1-0. Shots were even (10-10) through twenty minutes.
The IceHogs’ penalty kill was put to a test five minutes into the middle frame when Zach Miskovic’s high-stick infraction drew blood from Patrick Brown of Boston College fame.
Midway through that kill Rockford lost another defenseman after T.J. Brennan jumped Trevor Carrick after Carrick lined up P-C Labrie for a big hit as one of the IceHogs’ many enforcers was clearing his zone. Carrick’s hit was within the bounds of the rules and didn’t hurt Labrie, even though Labrie didn’t see Carrick coming. But it would have been better served of Brennan to let that slide for the moment and allow Bass, Mashinter or Labrie himself respond to it later and not when their team was already short-handed a defenseman. All this aside, Brennan is Rockford’s leading scorer and arguably, goaltending aside, the team’s first half MVP.
The ‘Hogs did kill off the rest of Miskovic’s double minor, but then two minutes later Jared Staal knocked his 7th goal of the year by Leighton at 10:53 of the second stanza. Rockford’s defense pair, Dahlbeck and Clendening were covering space but nothing in particular when Brendan Woods shot the puck intentionally wide, looking for a bounce off the back boards. He got that. The puck came out the opposite side to Staal, who was alone since Dahlbeck chased another Checkers’ forward to the right side of Leighton. Staal was able to sneak the puck by Leighton before he could jam his left skate to the post and Charlotte took a 2-0 lead.
Phillip Danault got Rockford on the board exactly five minutes later after nice hustle from Garret Ross beating Keegan Lowe to a Dahlbeck dump-in. Ross sped past Lowe then circled the net. He tried to feed Mark McNeill on the doorstep but the pass hopped right on by him and to Danault, who put it home. Ross and Dahlbeck got the helpers.
Close call for Rockford a minute later when a Brock McGinn shot deflected off Brennan and just wide of the right post as Leighton scrambled to get there.
After forty minutes the IceHogs trailed 2-1.
The third period was a see-saw affair as far as chances go.
Ryan Hartman tied the game at 9:16 when he followed up Dennis Rasmussen’s shot, found the loose puck and beat MacIntyre to the short side. The play was made off some dirty work down low by Matt Carey keeping the play alive after he was knocked off the puck behind the Checkers’ net. Ville Pokka got the second assist, though that may be changed later as he dished off to Hartman before Rasmussen got hold of it.
MacIntyre stoned Mashinter from point-blank range on the shift after Hartman’s tying goal.
Leighton held the tie with four minutes to go after Klas Dahlbeck coughed one up to Zach Boychuk at the IceHogs’ net. Pokka turned another puck over with two minutes to go but Brennan was able to get back and recover to prevent a strong chance against. Some bad puck handling by the ‘Hogs defense in this game. Charlotte was buzzing in the Rockford’s end at the end of regulation but could muster anything of significance.
Matt Carey had a great chance a minute into overtime but MacIntyre stopped him. Rockford had the puck a lot the next three minutes of the 4 on 4 but not much of anything to the net. 3 on 3 went, unofficially, but I believe, 5 shots to 2 in Charlotte’s favor.
McNeill had the Hogs’ last shot when he sped up with left side and cut down the middle but couldn’t sneak one through the five hole with 42 seconds to go.
Rockford had a game decided via the shootout for just the 3rd time this season. At this point in 2013-14, before the new overtime rules, the IceHogs had been in 5 shootouts.
Alex Aleardi converted for Charlotte in the shootout competition. Mark McNeill, Peter Regin and Matt Carey were each stopped by Drew MacIntyre giving the Checkers the extra point and 3-2 final.
McNeill tried to go backhand but was stopped. Aleardi came down with speed, deked to the backhand and beat Leighton five hole. Regin was next and tried a similar move as Aleardi but was stopped. Justin Shugg then hit the post for Charlotte. Carey went with a quick wrist shot but MacIntyre stopped him to seal the win.
Rockford next plays Friday when they host the Iowa Wild at the BMO Harris Bank Center. The IceHogs should be seeking revenge against Iowa, who beat Rockford 2-1 on December 26th in Rockford and 5-1 in Iowa ten days earlier. Despite those outcomes, Rockford outshot Iowa a combined 98-49 in those games.
The IceHogs then travel to Rosemont on Saturday for a 7 p.m. contest with the Chicago Wolves. That’s the front end of a back-to-back with the Wolves, who will be in Rockford on Monday, for a 1 p.m. Martin Luther King Jr. Day contest at the BMO.
Tuesday’s Game Notes – STAN BOWMAN INTERVIEW
—Stan Bowman was in attendance and did a second intermission interview on the Rockford broadcast.
There wasn’t a whole lot of note in his nine minute conversation with IceHogs’ play-by-play announcer Mike Peck.
Bowman talked about Phillip Danault, Mark McNeill and Garret Ross in particular as a line off the top. Keep in mind that line was put together at the specific request of Blackhawks’ hockey ops in early November. It immediately clicked and did until McNeill’s injury on Nov 15th and was just put back together.
“We’re high on all three of those players. I expect them all to play for the Blackhawks at some point. Right now we’re just trying to give them a lot of game experience in big situations here, getting a lot of minutes. They’re used on both the penalty kill and the power play as well. I think, in time, they’re going to get their chance in Chicago.”
-They talked about Teuvo Teravainen, who Bowman brought up, mentioning in the same breath in talking about Brandon Saad. I guess the company line is that Teravainen wasn’t NHL ready at the beginning of the season (first 20 games in Rockford: 3g 10a, minus-2) but he was dominant in the month of December (13gp, 3g 7a, minus-1). Its true Teuvo was hit and miss in October.
“Now he’s in Chicago and he’s doing well, but he’s not asked to really control the game or be the go-to guy. He can sort of get acclimated to the league and understand, you know, what its all about, the pace. Things are just different in the NHL. It’s okay that he’s not feeling the pressure to score every night, which he might be if he had been with a different organization where they need him to be the guy. So, I think its going to serve him well. And we like to have patience with our young guys.”
-On later round draft picks getting the same chance as top picks.
“That’s something we’ve talked a lot about internally. We want to make sure that we give everyone a fair chance. And the guys that deserve it are gonna be in Chicago. We don’t really play favorites, as you’ve just referenced. We’ve got some players that were later draft picks. But, if you’re good, you’re good. You know, guys develop at different rates. There’s nothing wrong with a player that spends a couple years in Rockford. Sometimes they need that in their game to get them to the point where they’re ready to play and be a contributor in the NHL. The one thing we try to do is we don’t want to get guys who are just trying to hang on and survive in the NHL. We want them to have the confidence when they come up to play their game. And that sometimes can take a year, or two years, or it can take a half a year. There’s really not a timeline on it. We don’t try to handicap – this guy’s gonna be for a year and a half – this guy will be here for two years. Things change quickly in this game and the guys who progress are the ones who are going to get the opportunity in Chicago.”
Half a year. A year. Two years.
No defensemen were discussed, nor were any other players specifically mentioned. The discussion revolved around prospects in Rockford.
–With Teravainen and Joakim Nordstrom up with the Hawks, Phillip Danault is Rockford’s best forward for the moment. He’s now emerging as an on-ice leader. When things aren’t going so well, Danault has shifts where you can see he’s attempting to will his team back into it. He hunts the puck like no other IceHogs forward, he just doesn’t have the puck skill of a few of the other guys.
–This note is going to be in the still unfinished IceHogs mid season report whenever I find time to wrap that up, but we’ll include it here.
He might not agree with this, but for a large part of his tenure in the Hawks’ organization, I usually gave Kyle Beach the benefit of the doubt. Still, many, if not most wrote Kyle off long before he was traded. Like years before. Those people weren’t right or wrong for doing so. Beach held control of his career fate and he’s now playing in Austria.
With that said, here are some stats worth noting.
Mark McNeill through the half way mark of this season has appeared in 113 games with Rockford. In those appearances, McNeill has 29 goals, 30 assists for 59 points.
Kyle Beach, in his initial 113 games, posted 27 goals, 27 assists for 54 points.
Now, McNeill is far more a complete player than Beach, as McNeill is a much better skater, kills penalties and generally is more reliable in all three zones. Still, the offensive production, considered a huge disappointment in Beach’s case, is eerily similar.
Both players were point-per-game players in the Western Hockey League. Though, McNeill never had the monster goal-scoring season Beach did in his final junior season when Beach put up 52 in 68 games for Spokane in 2009-10. McNeill was a steady 30-goal scorer in junior, as was Beach prior to that 52 goal season.
McNeill has 11 goals in 26 games this year, but 9 of those goals came in a span of 9 games and 18 days.
I don’t get the time on ice stats, but McNeill at the very least would be right with, but more likely well ahead of Beach in terms of total minutes played in those spans.
Beach was a year older by the time he hit 113 games. McNeill has now had a year and a half as a full time pro. He, just as in the case of Beach, came to Rockford at the end of his 19 and 20 year old junior seasons for brief trial runs at the pro level. Beach missed all but two months of his second full season due to shoulder surgery. McNeill missed a month at the end of 2014 with a lower body injury.
Both players are wingers. McNeill hasn’t played center since he was drafted, though many self-proclaimed and so-called prospect experts still list McNeill as a center.
Beach’s plus/minus in those 113 games was minus-23 to McNeill’s minus-9. One thing I know the Hawks would like to see McNeill do more of is use his body and wheels to create more and better shooting chances. In this sample size, Beach registered 13 more shots than McNeill (246-233) has. Penalty minutes, being more Beach’s specialty, are 257 to 71.
McNeill turns 22 on February 22nd. The Hawks essentially gave up on Beach when he was 23, allowing him to play in Sweden only to see Beach rejected there and eventually traded him a month prior to his 24th birthday. Beach turned 25 on Tuesday. Only Ben Smith has managed to languish in Rockford in recent history and eventually find a place on the Blackhawks.
When the Hawks like a player, they haven’t hesitated – at all – to bring him into the fold.
Marcus Kruger bypassed Rockford entirely. Nick Leddy, a 19-year old defenseman, spent two months in Rockford and a few weeks at the World Junior tournament before his call up. Andrew Shaw was in the AHL for roughly half a season before he was a full-time Blackhawk. Trevor van Riemsdyk has leapfrogged the AHL so far. He missed the last half of his junior college season and stepped right into the Blackhawks’ lineup. And Brandon Saad may not have ever been an IceHog had it not been for the lockout.
All these examples are also evidence of how the Blackhawks internal line of “part of the process” in regards to Teuvo Teravainen in particular is a crock. In that case, they had a player they either couldn’t or didn’t want to move (Versteeg), another they were in no hurry to trade (Morin) then got nothing in return for, and another player no one could figure out why the Hawks would want (Carcillo) and thus no cap space at the beginning of the season. It was too easy for them to send Teravainen down. He’s no more ready now than he was in October. He may or may not return to Rockford. It really all comes down to how he plays there and how healthy the team is when Kris Versteeg is ready to return.
The point of all this, getting back to McNeill, isn’t to bum out the guys currently wearing IceHogs’ uniforms, though it may. I don’t like the chances, and history backs this up, of players in the Hawks’ organization who complete their entry level contract in the minors. They have their company line about being patient with their prospects, but yet they do the exact opposite, at least with the ones they like.
McNeill and others need to turn the corner now. The Blackhawks have been looking for more of a sense of urgency in McNeill’s game that they don’t get consistently. He’s fundamentally sound and dependable enough, but you come away from too many games with a feeling of wanting more of McNeill.
Kyle Beach was the 11th pick in the 2008 NHL Draft.
Mark McNeill was the 18th selection in 2011.
If it was right to be disappointed and expect more of the former after a season and a half as a pro, its equally as justified to be now be wondering aloud about the latter.
The point that McNeill is a more complete player than Beach isn’t necessarily to McNeill’s benefit if he can’t separate himself from the pack and prove that he’s capable of contributing down the line in a top six role at the next level.
Danault, Nordstrom, Ross, Carey and Hartman, if they make it, are all bottom six-ers. McNeill has to be better or he’s at risk of getting lost in that shuffle or shipped off.
A reminder that our 2015 Blackhawks prospect rankings will be published in The Committed Indian this Friday night. That’s available outside the United Center on game night or in PDF form at TheCommittedIndian.com.
A full analysis of the rankings and player bios will appear on this site this coming Monday.
Ted Dent’s lines, pairs, scratches & specials Tuesday vs Charlotte
26-Garret Ross / 18-Phillip Danault / 28-Mark McNeill
11-Peter Regin / 27-Matt Carey / 24-Ryan Hartman
53-Brandon Mashinter / 12-Dennis Rasmussen / 16-Cody Bass
14-Drew LeBlanc / 20-Jamie Wise / 22-Pierre-Cedric Labrie
10-Klas Dahlbeck / 29-Ville Pokka
7-T.J. Brennan / 3-Zach Miskovic
8-Viktor Svedberg / 2-Adam Clendening
33-Scott Darling (backup)
Scratches: D-4-Stephen Johns (concussion, 11/26/14)… C-25-Alex Broadhurst (broken arm, 11/26/14)…. D-15-Kyle Cumiskey… LW-38-Ryan Schnell…
Power play I: Ross-Danault-McNeill w/Clendening & Brennan
Power play II: Carey-Regin-Hartman w/ Dahlbeck & Pokka
PK forwards: Danault-McNeill, Regin-Hartman, Rasmussen-Bass, Ross-Labrie
PK defense: Dahlbeck-Pokka, Svedberg-Brennan, Clendening
Charlotte Checkers lineup Tuesday 1/13/15 @ Rockford
11-Zach Boychuk / 15-Andrej Nestrasil / 14-Justin Shugg
28-Phil Di Giuseppe / 21-Brendan Woods / 22-Jared Staal
7-Brock McGinn / 10-Ben Holmstrom / 59-Chad Larose
18-Kyle Hagel / 24-Patrick Brown / 17-Alex Aleardi
2-Rasmus Rissanen / 9-Danny Biega
20-Dennis Robertson / 4-Keegan Lowe
29-Michal Jordan / 5-Trevor Carrick
30-John Muse (backup)