Dec 222017
 

By Chris Block

A few updates on some injured IceHogs ahead of Friday night’s game as Rockford hosts the Chicago Wolves.

Erik Gustafsson (left arm)

Hasn’t played since taking a hard, clean check from, now Minnesota Wild forward Joel Eriksson Ek on November 24th when Ek was with the Iowa Wild.

Gustafsson returned to the ice this week, practicing in a non-contact sweater for a few days.

On Friday, Gustafsson did not wear a no-contact sweater. He will not play on Friday and his status for Saturday’s game against Grand Rapids is unknown.  Unless he’s desperately needed for some reason, I would expect Gustafsson’s return to be held off until after the Christmas break.

Luc Snuggerud (upper)

Was a favored target of Griffins’ forward Evgeny Svechnikov during the third period of Snuggerud’s last appearance on December 8th. Svechnikov checked Snuggerud hard five times during that third period. Snuggerud finished that game but sat out Rockford’s game the next night and hasn’t appeared in a game since.

Snuggerud returned to practice this week as well, but has not done so without a yellow non-contact sweater as of yet. Snuggerud’s return is expected in another week or so.

J-F Berube (left leg)

Berube left Rockford’s win over Grand Rapids on December 9th midway through that contest with an apparent left leg injury. He was unable to put any weight on the leg as he left the ice. He got some good news days later when it was determined that he’d only miss 4-6 weeks of game action.

Berube is expected to begin skating again soon and his return is still pegged for the second week of January, according to a source.

Jordin Tootoo (arm)

Jeremy Colliton told Scott Powers of The Athletic last week that Tootoo had re-aggravated the injury that has supposedly kept him on the sidelines all season. Colliton also shared that there’s “no timetable now when we’ll see him.”

According to multiple sources, Tootoo reaggravated his injury during the first week while skating in Rockcord early this month and hasn’t skated with the IceHogs since.

Radovan Bondra (unknown)

Multiple sources now have relayed that Bondra is likely to miss the rest of the season.

Bondra suffered what appeared to be an upper body injury during the last game he played with the Indy Fuel back on November 18th. The next day he was put on the 21-day injured reserve list and returned to the Rockford IceHogs, who own his contract.

I happened to see that game in Indy. The funny thing about it was Bondra was injured midway through the second period on an innocent looking play with Tulsa Oilers defenseman Chris Joyaux, who is a Chicago area product and former teammate of Anthony Louis at Miami of Ohio.

Bondra was skating hard on a forecheck when he came together with Joyaux, just inside Tulsa’s zone. Joyaux cleared the puck up ice and, in doing so, his stick came entangled with Bondra’s left arm. Bondra appeared to be in immediate pain and skated off the ice.

Thing is, Bondra never left the bench – and he even returned to the bench for the 3rd period. However, he never skated another shift.

The team has been tight-lipped on the particulars of Bondra’s injury and subsequent care, but after some consultation with IceHogs and Blackhawks medical staff, the decision has been that Bondra is likely to be shut down for the season.

Prior to the injury, there had been some talk of returning Bondra to Prince George of the WHL, where he played last season. Bondra signed with Rockford when it looked like Prince George might not be able to fit him on their roster. But an import slot opened up in November and there was at least some consideration to that move.

In 11 games with Indy, Bondra posted one goal and was a minus-3. Watching him play, he seemed much more comfortable forechecking, and skating without the puck than handling it – which is never a good sign.

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Dec 212017
 

By Chris Block

In the past couple of days, I had a chance to watch Rockford’s most recent three games played Tuesday, Friday and Sunday of last week.

With a slight exception of Friday’s 2-1 shootout loss in San Antonio, the week was as ugly as it looks on paper for Rockford.  After starting December with four consecutive wins, the IceHogs’ offense chilled.

The IceHogs mustered just one goal in each of the three contests, losing all three outings (0-2-0-1).  Rockford’s power play went 0 for 13 and is now statistically the worst (11.8%) in the AHL, and showing no signs of improving.

One positive was the play of Jeff Glass, who got all three starts with J-F Berube getting sidelined by a left leg injury during Rockford’s 7-2 win over Grand Rapids on December 9th.  Berube is not expected back until the second week of January. In the meantime, Collin Delia will serve as the second goalie.

Glass stopped 101 of the 107 shots he faced last week for a 94.4% save percentage and a 1.96 GAA for those three starts.  On the season, Glass is 8-4-1-1 with a .915 save percentage and 2.70 GAA. In his previous four appearances, Rockford had averaged 4.5 goals for Glass and overall on the year they’ve supported him to the tune of 2.9 goals per appearance.

Tuesday December 12 vs Chicago Wolves – IceHogs lose 2-1 on late goal

The week began with a 2-1 loss in Rockford to the suddenly resurgent Chicago Wolves. The IceHogs rival spent much of the first nine weeks of the season mired in last place in the Central Division. All of a sudden the Wolves are back to the .500 mark with a six-game winning streak heading into this Friday night’s rematch with the IceHogs in Rockford.

The Wolves knocked off Rockford with 2 seconds left in regulation last Tuesday.  Tomas Jurco was a late scratch in this one after skating in the warmup. Matheson Iacopelli, the most healthy-scratched ‘Hogs forward this season, took Jurco’s spot in the lineup. Continue reading »

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Nov 192017
 

By Chris Block

Rockford IceHogs capped a weekend home set on Sunday night with a second-consecutive shootout victory, this time over the Chicago Wolves.

The season’s first meeting between Interstate 90 rivals delivered the back-and-forth action and volatility their games typically inspire.

Chicago’s season has been off to an inauspicious beginning (4-9-1-0) despite a roster full of talent that would suggest better results. The Wolves are now the affiliate of the NHL expansion Vegas Golden Knights, while also carrying a handful of the St. Louis Blues top prospects.  Next season, the Blues will be with AHL San Antonio exclusively. But for now, frequent roster juggling, particularly on the Vegas’ end, has made it difficult for the Wolves’ squad to build much chemistry.

On Sunday, Rockford saw a late 2-goal lead slip away as the Wolves fought back to a tie on tally’s by defenseman Jake Walman and captain Paul Thompson – the latter a short-handed goal off a Laurent Dauphin giveaway.

Vince Hinostroza was once again the hero for the home team.  Hinostroza dangled his way to a highlight reel goal midway through the first and had one of two of the IceHogs goals in the shootout.

Jeff Glass, on his 32nd birthday, was between the pipes for Rockford and stopped 34 shots and another 2 Wolves’ shooters in the skills competition en route to his 5th consecutive win.  Glass got both starts on the weekend with J-F Berube having lost his last 5 starts after beginning the season 5-0. Continue reading »

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Nov 082017
 


By Chris Block

A healthy influx of fresh prospects and NHL experienced forwards have helped drive the Rockford IceHogs to their best start since the 2014-15 campaign.

Rockford rolled off 6 wins in its initial 7 contests, with the only loss coming to rival Milwaukee.

Since, the IceHogs have faltered a bit, losing 3 of their last four and mustering just 9 goals in those four outings. Three of Rockford’s defeats overall have come against Milwaukee, with the other a 3-2 Halloween loss at Cleveland, a night the IceHogs power play let them down (0 for 7).

In all, it’s just the 4th time in 11 seasons that Rockford has posted 7 wins in its initial 10 games.  Only once in those three other seasons did the IceHogs go on to fail to qualify for the postseason. That year, 2013, Rockford followed up a 7-2-1-0 start by losing 8 of its next 10.  They eventually missed the playoffs by 4 points. The 2008-09 and 2014-15 teams did go on to the playoffs.

This year’s group has been steered by a combination of speed, solid blue line and goaltending play.

Rockford’s high-pace attack has caused opponents all some fits in the early going, but it’s come with some growing pains as some opponents have been able to take advantage of Rockford’s over-aggressive forecheck at times in transition.

IceHogs first-year coach Jeremy Colliton admits it’s still a work in progress. Continue reading »

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Mar 282016
 

Labrie_2015May13_IceHogs_ToddReicher_photo_500x407Pierre-Cedric Labrie, IceHogs, photo: Todd Reicher

By Chris Block

Pierre-Cedric Labrie was suspended 1-game by the AHL on Monday, stemming from his actions during a fight in the third period of Friday night’s 5-1 loss at Lake Erie, also Rockford’s 8th consecutive road defeat.

Labrie was assessed a match penalty and game misconduct for his actions during a fight he instigated with Lake Erie forward Josh Anderson.

In the American Hockey League, a match penalty carries an automatic $200.00 fine.

Per Rule 21.1

A match penalty shall be imposed on any player who deliberately attempts to injure an opponent in any manner.

In addition to the match penalty, the player shall be automatically suspended from further competition until the President has ruled on the issue.

During the fight, which Labrie instigated, Anderson speared Labrie down to the ice. While wrestling on the ice, with both linesman trying to separating them, Labrie grabbed the helmet off Anderson’s head, proceeding to attempt to strike Anderson in the head repeatedly with his own helmet. Continue reading »

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Mar 202016
 

Hinostroza_IceHogs_2016Mar15_GregHamil_Photo_500x333Vince Hinostroza in action, March 15, 2016 vs Charlotte
Photo courtesy of Rockford IceHogs, by Greg Hamil

“The last month, he’s probably been our best player.”

-Ted Dent, speaking about 1st year pro Vince Hinostroza, after a tough 4-1 loss Friday night to the Chicago Wolves in Rosemont.

It is a compliment Dent has reserved for a select few players this season – Mark McNeill and Tanner Kero have also been bestowed that praise.

This is a season in which the Rockford IceHogs spent most of the initial two-thirds of the season atop the AHL Central Division. Lately, the Blackhawks top minor league affiliate has slumped and fallen back to third place, four points behind now division leading Grand Rapids, who have won 13 consecutive games coming into Sunday’s action.

While the IceHogs as a group may have recently lost some steam, Hinostroza is playing his best hockey yet. Continue reading »

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May 132015
 

By Chris Block

Returning home for Games 3 through 5 of their best-of-seven series down 2-0 to Grand Rapids, the Rockford IceHogs took to the ice on Wednesday night with an automatic sense of urgency in an almost must-win situation.

The IceHogs exhibited that urgency and desperation before a crowd of just 1,780 at BMO Harris Bank Center in a fiery and physical opening twenty minutes in Game 3.

That dominant first period set the table for an eventual 4-1 IceHogs victory.

Mark McNeill scored his 2nd goal of the postseason just 25 seconds into Grand Rapids’ first power play of the game, a controversial five minute major assessed midway into the first period. The breakaway goal gave the IceHogs a 1-0 lead. Rockford’s penalty kill kept a consistent pressure on the Griffins’ power play throughout the 5 minute kill and prevented the visitor’s from tying the game.

Later, when Rockford got its first chance on the power play, Ryan Hartman banked a pass to himself at the Grand Rapids blue line and strode in alone the same way McNeill had earlier and beat Griffins’ starter Tom McCollum with 1:24 to play in the opening frame. Hartman’s goal would stand as the game-winner.

“We knew this was a must win for us and we came out in the first period and were a desperate hockey team,” said goaltender Michael Leighton, who made 23 saves in Rockford’s 4-1 win in Game 3. Continue reading »

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May 082015
 

By Chris Block

Before the IceHogs left for Games 1 and 2 in Grand Rapids earlier this week, Rockford head coach Ted Dent spoke of his team’s focus needing to be on containing Teemu Pulkkinen and keeping their composure in a building they haven’t had much success at in recent years.

After outplaying Grand Rapids in much of Game 1, but losing the decision 5-3 because of their own costly mental and physical errors, Rockford had to feel some sense of reassurance knowing they really only beat themselves in the series opener.

Well, on Friday, Rockford was resoundingly blown out of Van Andel Arena.

Grand Rapids allowed the first goal of the game when Spencer Abbott setup Brandon Mashinter for a one timer than was blown through Tom McCollum’s five hole at 6:18 of the first period.

But the Griffins responded by scoring five unanswered goals in route to a 5-1 final. Continue reading »

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May 042015
 

2015 Calder Cup Western Conference Semifinals Series

Grand Rapids Griffins (#2) vs. Rockford IceHogs (#4)

Game 1: Wed May 6 – 6pm – @ Grand Rapids
Game 2: Fri May 8 – 6pm – @ Grand Rapids
Game 3: Wed May 13 – 7pm – BMO Harris Bank Center
Game 4: Thu May 14 – 7pm – BMO Harris Bank Center
Game 5: Sun May 17 – 4pm – BMO Harris Bank Center

Game 6: Tue May 19 – 6pm – @ Grand Rapids
Game 7: Wed May 20 – 6pm – @ Grand Rapids

-All Times Central
–For those with tickets to the game in Rockford, Game 3 is “Game D”, Game 4 (E) and Game 5 (F).

Tickets for Games 3-5 are available through TicketMaster or the BMO Harris Bank Center Box Office at 815-968-5222.

If you live in the Rockford region, games are televised on digital channel 23.2 Antenna TV. That’s channel 436 on Comcast in the Rockford area only. 247 on Comcast in Rochelle; 101 on Mediacom Cable; 193 for Charter Communications.

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Apr 242015
 

By Chris Block

Tonight, Rockford plays its first playoff contest since 2010 when they begin their best-of-5 opening round series with the Texas Stars in suburban Austin.

Rockford has lost the past 10 consecutive playoff games they have played. The American Hockey League record of most consecutive losses in postseason is 12, set by the Buffalo Bisons in the 1950s.  The IceHogs last playoff win came in Game 5 of their second round series with the Chicago Wolves in 2008, the IceHogs first season in the AHL. Rockford was up 3-2 in that series then lost games 6 & 7.  The Wolves would go on to with the Calder Cup that year.

While the IceHogs dominated the season series with Texas, this was about the worst draw Rockford could have asked for. The key to Rockford’s success against Texas during the regular season was catching the Stars at the right times, and a power play that ran at a 37.5% clip against the Stars this season.

Rockford can skate with any team in the West at 5-on-5. Where they have separated themselves for success is in getting elite goaltending from Michael Leighton, Scott Darling and Antti Raanta. Mac Carruth, who was in net for three games this season and went 2-1 with a shutout (at Chicago) is now the backup.

But aside from the goaltending, which, no mistake, is why the IceHogs are in the postseason, Rockford’s special teams were consistently the difference between a win and a loss in 2014-15.

Noting that, no team boasts better special teams than Texas.

Their combined special teams mark is 106.9 (86.9 PP + 20.0 PK). Texas ranks 3rd overall in the AHL, and tops in the Western Conference on the power play. Their penalty kill is 4th in the AHL and 2nd in the West. Continue reading »

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