Oct 302011
 

Kyle Beach, the Chicago Blackhawks 1st round pick (11th overall) in 2008, is potentially facing some considerable downtime.

Beach sustained a serious injury Friday night during a third period fight with Peoria forward Stefan Della Rovere.

Officially, the word is Beach suffered an “upper-body” injury.  Beach was in Rockford on Saturday and is expected to be evaluated by Blackhawks’ doctors in the next day or so to determine the next course of action.

“[Beach] is still be evaluating with our doctors here in Rockford and hopefully we’ll know what’s going on in the next few days,” IceHogs’ head coach Ted Dent said on Saturday night.

While team and organizational policy does not allow anyone to speak about player injuries specifically, it was clear while watching the fight Beach injured his shoulder.

Upon seeing the incident, it is apparent Beach dislocated, or suffered some degree of injury to his right shoulder and was in a lot of pain.  If the damage is substantial, surgery could force Beach out for most, if not all, of this season.  If team doctors decide surgery is not necessary, Beach would still miss several weeks minimum.

Though slower to progress as compared to other recent Blackhawks’ first round picks, Beach is still considered a top prospect by many, both in the organization and around the league.

At 21, Beach is off to a strong start in his second year as a pro.  Through eight games, he had posted 3 goals and 6 points, in addition to 18 penalty minutes (including two fights).

Any missed time will be an unfortunate setback for the feisty sniper.

It appears his time out will be substantial, however.

Coincidentally, Beach’s counterpart in Friday’s fisticuffs, Stefan Della Rovere, suffered an “upper body” injury himself during the same altercation.  Della Rovere was not in the Rivermen lineup on Saturday night and currently there is no timetable for his return.  The Peoria Journal Star is reporting Della Rovere suffered a hand injury.

Video of the fight is now up here.

ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com
PuckChatter@gmail.com

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Oct 232011
 

A bad non-call in favor of the Chicago Wolves and an anemic Rockford IceHogs’ power play told the story Saturday night in a 4-1 Wolves’ victory at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

The crowd of 4,279, on hand for the IceHogs’ second home tilt of the season, witnessed Billy Sweatt clearly redirecting Chicago’s second goal in with his skate and past Alexander Salak early in the middle frame to give the visitor’s a 2-0 lead.  However, veteran AHL referee Terry Koharski did not see it that way and allowed the goal to stand.  The IceHogs blew a lot of smoke, but never truly recovered.

While they were on their heels most of the night, the Wolves withstood a barrage of IceHogs’ shots.  Goaltender Matt Climie made 47 saves in all.   One night after his teammate Eddie Lack stopped all 35 Rockford shots in a 2-0 Wolves victory down the road in Rosemont, Illinois.

The shot board tells a story of one-sided dominance for Rockford on Saturday night, but the truth is the IceHogs were not at their best in this game. Continue reading »

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Oct 152011
 
photo: HockeyBroad.com

By Chris Block

The long-awaited return of Jeremy Morin took place in southern British Columbia on Friday night where the IceHogs travelled to take on the Abbotsford Heat.

In just his second shift since January 15th, Morin got a puck entering the Abbotsford zone from Chris DiDomenico.  Given time and space through the middle, Morin wasted no time cutting down the slot and deked Abbotsford goalie Leland Irving down and slipped the puck through to give Rockford a 1-0 lead five minutes into the game.  Morin gave a the big fist pump salute to himself in celebration.

Morin looked very good considering he’s largely been inactive for the past nine months.  It was a good sign on the goal that Morin did not hesitate to take open space through the middle of the ice when it was given to him.  After all, it was a similar situation against the Chicago Wolves back on January 15 that Morin was hip-checked and came down landing head first on the top of his helmet, sidelining the 19-year old for the remainder of the 2010-11 season and still feeling the effects of that unfortunate collision during training camp in September.

Rockford lost the game 4-3, after leading throughout the first 41 minutes of the contest.

Morin started the game on a line with Brandon Bollig and center Chris DiDomenico.  It can basically be considered the IceHogs’ fourth line at the moment.  By the end of the first period, Morin was bumped up to the top line with Brett McLean and Brandon Segal, taking Rob Klinkhammer’s spot.  Morin returned to DiDomenico’s line during the second period but eventually Ted Dent had Morin back up on the top line. Continue reading »

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Sep 052011
 


Concerns about Rockford’s lack of size and experience were partially answered last week with two new player acquisitions.

First, the IceHogs signed 30-year old defenseman Brian Fahey on August 31 to a minor league contract.

Fahey (6-1, 215) spent most of this past season in Hershey with the Washington Capitals organization.  Fahey also got his first taste of the NHL with the Capitals in seven games over separate call ups, the final being last December.

A fourth round pick of the Avalanche in 2000, Fahey has since bounced around the minors for Colorado, the Thrashers, Rangers, Capitals and on his own.    Fahey’s best seasons came on stacked Chicago Wolves’ teams (2006-08) and on Hersey in 2010-11. Between those stops, Fahey had a forgettable year in Hartford that led to him getting dealt back to Colorado for bad seed Nigel Williams.  He got back on track that year in Cleveland with the Monsters.

Fahey is a fundamentally sound veteran defender who provides the IceHogs with a strong right-handed shot from the point.  He’ll make a sound pass into the neutral area, one area in dire need of improvement from last season.  He’ll step into Ivan Vishnevskiy’s vacated spot on Rockford’s power play and Fahey will see time on the team’s revamped penalty kill but largely by default of better options. Continue reading »

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Aug 182011
 


The American Hockey League was finally able to release their 2011-12 regular season schedule on Thursday, exactly fifty days prior to the league’s official opener, October 7th.

Rockford will open its season on Saturday night, October 8th versus the Grand Rapids Griffins at the formerly-named MetroCentre, now the BMO Harris Bank Center.

The next day the IceHogs play their first road game at Peoria.  That October 9th contest against the Rivermen begins a four-game road trip continuing with two games in Abbotsford on Oct 14 and 16.  After five days off, the IceHogs make their first trip to Allstate Arena in Rosemont for the ’11-12 seasons’ initial meeting with the Chicago Wolves, brand new affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks.

In all, the IceHogs and Wolves meet twelve times during the new campaign.  In a weird twist, the Hogs-Wolves season series will be complete by Feb 26th.  The rivals will meet on back-to-back days on three separate occasions: Oct 21-22, Jan 20-21 and Feb 10-11 (both of these games are in Rockford). Continue reading »

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May 022011
 


It appears Norwegian prospect Mathis Olimb‘s stay in the Chicago Blackhawks’ organization will be a short one.

On Friday, Olimb signed a two-year contract with the Frolunda Indians of the Swedish Elite League (Elitserien).  Olimb was scheduled to become a restricted free agent on July 1, having completed the one-year agreement he signed with the Blackhawks back on June 17, 2010.

Olimb returns to Frolunda after having spent the 2009-10 season with the Indians.  In 55 games with Frolunda in ’09-10, Olimb collected 9 goals and 34 points and another goal and four points in seven postseason contests.  Collectively, Olimb was a +1 performer in those 62 games.

After nearly two months on the sidelines in recovering from off season shoulder surgery, Mathis Olimb amassed 10 goals and 22 assists in 59 games as a Rockford IceHog.  Olimb was also a plus-8 and finished with a respectable, yet unspectacular 9.62% shooting percentage.

At five-foot ten and 175 pounds, Olimb figured as a long-shot to be re-signed by the Blackhawks.  At 25, he doesn’t have too much room left to grow and for his size, he doesn’t figure into the score sheet enough to expend a spot on the 50-man roster.

Other notable players with North American experience, signed to Frolunda for 2011-12 are Joel Lundqvist (Dallas Stars), PJ Axelsson (Boston Bruins) and Christian Backman (Blues, Rangers, Blue Jackets).

Olimb is currently playing in the IIHF World Championship tournament as a member of Team Norway.  His younger brother Ken-Andre Olimb is also competing for Norway.

KYLE HAGEL MOVES ON

In news shared with us by Mike Peck on our TTMI podcast Monday night, Kyle Hagel, the gritty Princeton University graduate who spent 2010-11 with the IceHogs on an AHL-contract, signed a two-way contract with the St. Louis Blues over the weekend.

In some respects, Hagel was the heart and soul of the Rockford IceHogs this past season.  His effort and passion both on and off the ice made him a favorite in many fans, teammates and scout’s eyes.

Hagel posted 5 goals and 8 assists (-11 plus/minus) in 77 games with the IceHogs.  But those numbers come in primarily fourth line duty.  Towards the end of the season Hagel moved up to the third line.  He’s versatile enough to play both center and the wing.  Hagel’s 245 penalty minutes ranked 5th in the AHL and second among AHL rookies.  His 31 regular season fights led the IceHogs’ team by a wide margin and ranked amongst the top in the American League.  Hagel had come into his own by the end of the season on a line with Evan Brophey and Igor Makarov, which was a key energy unit and focal point in the IceHogs’ late season turnaround.

The loss leaves Rockford with Brandon Bollig as the prime candidate to fill Hagel’s roll.  Bollig himself had a hard time getting into the line up in 2010-11, primarily due to Hagel’s performance, but also because Bollig didn’t show much offensively and took a lot of bad penalties when he did get into the lineup.

ChrisBlock@TheThirdManIn.com

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Apr 012011
 

Rockford can go without seeing the Oklahoma City Barons for another seven months.

The bubble burst on Rockford’s five-game winning streak and overall recent upswing in the form of a 7-0 pummeling Friday night in Oklahoma City.

Hannu Toivonen made his fifth start in six games but was pulled in favor of Alec Richards during the first intermission.  Toivonen allowed three goals on nine shots.  Richards didn’t fair much better, letting another three by himself in the second period.  Richards stopped 14 of 18 Barons overall in finishing the game.

Toivonen has been pulled from 8 of his 41 starts this season.  Four of those have come against the Barons.

Friday, Oklahoma City scored all seven of their goals at even strength.  The Barons did go 0 for 2 on the power play but one of those lasted just 26 seconds and by the time they got their second chance the score was already 6-0.

The IceHogs finish the season series with OKC at a record of 1-4-1-0.  They were dominated 29-16 (-13) in the scoring column and their lone win came back on Jan 2 in Oklahoma City when the IceHogs needed six goals to defeat the Barons 6-5. Continue reading »

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Mar 312011
 

Hours after the Chicago Blackhawks and NHL office made his first professional hockey contract official, Jimmy Hayes got his first experience in the pro ranks for the Rockford IceHogs.

Under the guise of an amateur-try out contract, Hayes made his debut in Cleveland on Wednesday night as the IceHogs took on the Lake Erie Monsters.  Hayes’ entry-level pro contract with the Hawks kicks in on July 1st.

Hayes acquitted himself quite well in his unofficial pro debut.  He exhibited nice hands, decent wheels and didn’t seem too out of place all things considered.  The adjustment from college to the pro-pace wasn’t too much of a factor, at least in Lake Erie.  Oklahoma City on Friday poses a different challenge.

On his first shift, skating with Mathis Olimb and Ben Smith on the Hogs’ second-line Hayes showed good strides in transition leading a Hogs’ odd-man rush up the right side boards.  Hayes strung a slick pass just an inch or two further than Olimb could handle though, coming down just left of the slot and they didn’t get a scoring chance there.

In the middle period, Hayes again led a rush, but it also amounted to nothing.  Hayes was carrying the lead with Olimb and Andy Bohmbach on a 3-on-2, but Hayes lost the handle as he strode through the right circle.  He finished the game with three shots.  He’s not shy on the body but it appears he prefers to use his stick and he’ll have to shake that too much finesse with his head down college habit.  So its great for the Hawks, and IceHogs, Hayes is able to join up for some valuable minutes before an all-important off season.

Before the game Bill Peters noted he plans to dress Hayes in all seven (Wednesday included) of the IceHogs remaining games.  Peters was down six regulars (add another if you count Jeremy Morin) on Wednesday, so Hayes saw as much or more ice time as he figures to get in any single outing over the final two weeks of the season. Continue reading »

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Mar 262011
 

Friday night Evan Brophey became the latest player to add fuel to the blindside head shot debate.  And its likely he’s going to face a multi-game suspension due to a decision he made in the blink of a eye.

NHL observers who recall Joe Thornton’s check on David Perron back on November 4, 2010 would find that as a comparable hit.

Brophey had just stepped out of the penalty box mid-way through the third period with the IceHogs up 3-1.

A diagonal Hamilton pass through the neutral zone put Bulldogs’ forward Hunter Bishop in the direct line of Brophey as rejoined the play.  Brophey took a step or two and launched himself into Bishop.  Brophey is 6-3.  Bishop is 6-foot.

“Obviously it was a bad hit,” a conciliatory Brophey said after the game.

“It was to his head.  And my intentions were to just go shoulder to shoulder.  But it was a blindside hit and I feel bad.  And I’m sorry about that hit.”

Brophey has never been thought of as a dirty player, or one who takes cheap shots while an opponent is in a vulnerable position.  On Friday though, a split-second decision to separate Hunter Bishop from the puck in the neutral zone put Brophey in the eye of the current state of head shots, blind side hits and players putting some respect for each other back into the game.

Conventional hockey thinkers would say Brophey did what he was supposed to do.  Except he overshot his target when striking Bishop’s head.

“It was an unfortunate situation where I had just come out of the box and the puck came to him,” Brophey explained in his own words.   “So, I was trying, like I said, to go shoulder to shoulder.  But I clipped him right in the head, straight on.  You know, I feel bad and I apologize for that.” Continue reading »

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