High On The Hog: Fighting Fading In Rockford?

The Rockford IceHogs have had their share of brawlers in the franchise’s eight-plus seasons as the Hawks AHL affiliate. As professional hockey has seen fighting on the decline, however, the Hogs have followed suit.

Jake Dowell took on Joel Edmundsen in Rockford’s loss to Chicago Saturday night. It was the 17th fighting major assessed to the IceHogs, who picked up three of four points this weekend to stay on top of the Central Division, in 28 games this season. It’s also the second-lowest total for this stage of a season for the franchise.

This got me to thinking; at its current pace, how would Rockford wind up compared to past seasons? Which IceHogs gloves have hit the ice most often? How often do the Hogs scrap, and how do they fare in games when they dance?

If these questions have been keeping you up at night, here’s some food for thought. If you detest fighting and don’t want to know about the dark side of the IceHogs, tough luck. You’ll have to close your eyes until you scroll to the recaps.

Here’s a look at Rockford’s fighting majors through the first 28 games and where the Hogs ended up at each season’s end. I collected these numbers based on records from Hockeyfights.com. Keep in mind that the IceHogs played an 80-game schedule from 2007-08 to 2010-11 and have played 76 in each season afterward:

Season first 28 Season Total League Rank
2015-2016 17 17 13th
2014-2015 23 67 13th
2013-2014 12 44 24th
2012-2013 26 63 16th
2011-2012 25 73 4th
2010-2011 38 92 5th
2009-2010 30 89 9th
2008-2009 47 87 12th
2007-2008 35 88 4th

The totals have trended down and the IceHogs have fallen to the middle of the pack in recent seasons. Why were the totals so high in that 2010-11 season? Patience, because…

…there’s more! After I got the above totals, I was curious as to how fighting affected Rockford in the win column. Also, just what percentage of a given season’s games wound up with fisticuffs. Here’s what I came up with:

Season Record when FM Games w/FM % of games
2015-2016 8-1-2-0 11 39
2014-2015 23-12-2-2 39 51
2013-2014 16-16 32 42
2012-2013 15-20 35 46
2011-2012 18-22-0-5 45 59
2010-2011 23-24-3-4 54 68
2009-2010 30-18-3-2 53 66
2008-2009 30-29-0-3 62 78
2007-2008 28-18-4-4 54 68

Squaring off hasn’t done much to change the fortunes of the IceHogs. For the most part, good Rockford teams posted good records when fighting, while bad Rockford teams didn’t.

Last season kind of stands out as an anomaly in what has been a noticeable drop in fighting. We have Cody Bass to thank for that. That’s him in this week’s photo squaring off with Pierre-Cedric Labrie back in November. Now with Milwaukee, Bass is currently tied for second in the AHL with seven fighting majors.

Bass got five for fighting on 17 occasions in 2014-15, easily pacing the club and cracking the IceHogs all-time top ten in this category in just one season. What does that list look like, you ask? Here you go…the guys with the most frequent fighter miles in Rockford’s AHL years:

Player Fighting Majors With IceHogs
Brandon Bollig 44
Jake Dowell 37
Kyle Hagel 35
Wade Brookbank 27
Mike Brennan 22
Kyle Beach 20
Brandon Mashinter 17
Cody Bass 17
Rob Flick 16
Sean McMorrow 15

Hagel’s totals are interesting. The reining AHL Man Of The Year rang up 31 fights in his first full AHL campaign with Rockford back in 2010-11. That total is easily the highest total by an IceHogs player for a season (as is his 245 penalty minutes form that year).

After Hagel, that team also had Bollig (13 fights), Brookbank (13) and Beach (11). Put four of the top six players from the above list on the same squad and it isn’t hard to believe Rockford’s 92 fights in that campaign.

The high-water mark for that season was a November 9, 2010 home game with Peoria that saw an AHL franchise-high eight fighting majors dished out (as well as 156 penalty minutes between the Hogs and Rivermen). That team finished last in the West Division, by the way.

Behind Hagel’s prodigious season, Bollig (2011-12) and Bass (2014-15) both totaled 17 fights in a single season. Dowell and McMorrow each had 15 in 2008-09.

Dowell, who has twice led Rockford in fights, has just two scraps, including his bout with Joel Edmundsen in Chicago Saturday. On this club, that’s good for second behind Chris DeSousa and Labrie, who have three fights each.

At their current pace, the IceHogs will finish the season with just 46 fighting majors, nearly equaling the franchise low. Of course, there are lots of games left with teams like Chicago, Milwaukee and Iowa that could see a spike in those figures.


Book ‘Em (Dano)

As a result of his slew-footing of Chicago forward Ty Rattie Saturday night, the AHL suspended Marko Dano for one game.

The play occurred during the Gus Macker session at the Allstate Arena. The two players battled for the puck along the half boards and became tangled when the action moved toward neutral ice.

Dano used his leg to take Rattie’s skates out from under him, resulting in a delayed penalty call that factored into the Wolves game-winning goal. Dano was also taken down on the play and left just two Rockford skaters to try (and fail) to hold off a Chicago rush.

Dano will be missing Monday night’s game with Milwaukee.


Roster News

On Friday, the big news was Phillip Danault being recalled to the Blackhawks in the wake of Marcus Kruger’s wrist injury. The IceHogs did get some players back in the lineup, however.

Mark McNeill, who has seen a lot of time in the pivot this season, came back after missing a month with an injury. Also returning to action was Ryan Haggerty, who had last played on October 21.


Weekend Recaps

Friday, December 18-Rockford 6, Milwaukee 2

The Hogs beat Milwaukee for the second time in five meetings, breaking a three-game losing streak to the Ads.

Following a scoreless opening twenty, the Admirals took a 1-0 lead on Kevin Fiala’s goal 43 seconds into the second stanza. Rockford, however, would surge into the lead with a pair of goals nine seconds apart.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie snagged a rebound of Vinnie Hinostroza’s shot and slipped the puck past Marek Mazanec at 5:55 of the second to tie the score at a goal apiece. Jake Dowell won the subsequent faceoff; Labrie came down the left side with the puck and Hinostroza streaking down the other side.

Hinostroza buried Labire’s pass into the back of the net before Mazanec could make it to the right post. It was the rookie’s first professional twine tickler and gave the IceHogs a 2-1 lead at the 6:04 mark.

A few minutes later, Ryan Hartman was stuck in the face with a slap shot off the stick of Victor Bartley. Hartman was taken off the ice and did not return to action. (He did skate the next night in Chicago, however.)

The Rockford power play got involved toward the end of the period. Marko Dano got a stick on Erik Gustafsson’s slap shot from the point. The redirect beat Mazanec and put the Hogs up 3-1 at 16:41 of the second period.

Labrie potted his second goal of the night on the first shift of the third period, coming down the right side and snapping a laser over Manzanec’s glove 20 seconds in. Milwaukee countered with a Trevor Murphy goal a minute later, but Rockford still held a 4-2 advantage.

The IceHogs killed three penalties over the course of the final frame. On the final of these, Rockford turned a missed scoring chance on the Ads part into the dagger. Frederick Gaudreau was off the mark with a rebound attempt. Tanner Kero  gathered in the puck and made a bee line for the Milwaukee zone.

Kero found Mark McNeill trailing the play and slipped him the biscuit. In his first game back in a month, McNeill zipped a shot that wound up on the cord behind Mazanec. The shorthanded goal gave Rockford a 5-2 lead at the 15:38 mark.

Mazanec was pulled later in that power play, but even with a two-man advantage Milwaukee came up sans goal. As the chance expired, Jeremy Morin swiped a puck in neutral ice and wound up with the empty netter that sent he 3847 in attendance to the exits.

Michael Leighton made 31 saves on 33 shots. Labrie, who had a three-point night, and Hinostoza were the first two stars.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Marko Dano-Tanner Kero-Ryan Hartman

Garret Ross-Mark McNeill-Jeremy Morin

Pierre-Cedric Labrie (A)-Jake Dowell (A)-Vinnie Hinostroza

Daniel Paille-Chris DeSousa-Ryan Haggerty

Cameron Schilling-Ville Pokka

Viktor Svedberg-Eirk Gustafsson

Kirill Gotovets-Nolan Valleau

Michael Leighton

Scratches-Kyle Cumiskey, Dane Walters, Mike Liambas, Dennis Robertson, Kyle Baun.

Power Play (1-3)



Penalty Kill (Admirals were 0-5, Hogs had the McNeill shortie.)





Saturday, December 19-Chicago 4, Rockford 3 (OT)

Rockford was able to rally from a two-goal deficit in the third period but wasn’t able to complete the comeback, dropping the second point in Gus Macker Time.

As is often the case in these affairs, the IceHogs and Wolves had problems playing nice. 132 penalty minutes were handed out Saturday, 95 on the Rockford side of the ledger. All three Chicago goals in regulation came via the power play.

The Wolves took the lead 9:20 in with a Jordan Caron backhander at the tail end of Chicago’s first man advantage. Caron blocked the shot of Peter Harrold, which had drawn Michael Leighton down while tracking the puck. Caron flipped the loose puck into a wide-open net.

Rockford’s response was immediate. The IceHogs won the faceoff and got the puck to Jeremy Morin in neutral ice. Morin skated across the Wolves blue line to the high slot before executing a nice pull and drag move to free up a shooting lane. The resulting offering got past Chicago goalie Pheonix Copley and tied the game at a goal apiece.

The Wolves got another power play goal 12:31 into the first after Eriah Hayes found a rebounding puck at the left post. That score held up until the third period, when Chicago had time fr0m a Viktor Svedberg elbowing penalty from the previous stanza.

Chris Butler’s shot from the point struck the left post and settled just behind Leighton in the blue paint. Jeremy Welsh got a stick on the puck just before the Hogs goalie could cover to put the Wolves up 3-1 just 1:03 into the third.

Again, Rockford was able to return fire, taking advantage of a sloppy line change by the Wolves. Cameron Schilling found himself with some space at the right circle. Schilling one-timed Kirill Gotovets’s pass under the blocker of Copley to cut the Chicago lead to 3-2 at 2:02 of the final frame.

In a game rife with misconduct penalties, things boiled over late in the game after Copley stopped a pair of attempts by Marko Dano. The dust-up behind the cage that followed resulted in Garret Ross being sent to the locker room with a ten-minute misconduct and six players (including Dano, Svedberg and Ryan Hartman for Rockford) going to the box for roughing. Dano was also assessed a second roughing penalty to put the Hogs down a skater with just 3:31 remaining in the contest.

Leighton kept the puck out of the net despite a flurry of pucks to open the Wolves power play. The IceHogs then skated the puck out of the defensive zone and came into Chicago ice with numbers.

Morin flung the disk toward net from the top of the left circle. The shot glanced off of Erik Gustafsson and tumbled past Copley and into the ropes at 16:57 of the third for the equalizer.

Both teams had chances to claim the second point. The end came on what would be a delayed penalty in neutral ice. Ty Rattie was taken down with a slew-foot by Dano as the Wolves broke into a 2-on-1 rush, allowing Chicago to send Harrold into the action.

Leighton denied Ivan Barbashev with a fantastic save. However, the Wolves forward retrieved the puck off the end boards and passed to Harrold at the left dot. Zach O’Brien was at the front of the net to tap-in Harrold’s centering pass across the goal line and Chicago prevailed.

After the fact, Dano was assessed a match penalty for the slew foot. Gustafsson was also given a game misconduct for abuse of officials. Morin was named the game’s second star.

Lines (starters in italics)

Pierre-Cedric Labrie (A)-Jake Dowell (A)-Vinnie Hinostroza

Marko Dano-Tanner Kero-Ryan Hartman

Garret Ross-Mark McNeill-Jeremy Morin

Daniel Paille-Chris DeSousa-Ryan Haggerty

Cameron Schilling-Ville Pokka

Viktor Svedberg-Eirk Gustafsson

Kirill Gotovets-Nolan Valleau

Michael Leighton

Scratches-Kyle Cumiskey, Dane Walters, Mike Liambas, Dennis Robertson, Kyle Baun.

Power Play (0-3)



Penalty Kill (Wolves were 3-6, Hogs did get a shorthanded goal.)





Holiday Action

The Milwaukee Admirals are right behind Rockford in the Central Division standings. The IceHogs have a chance to put a bit of distance between them and the Ads with games Monday and Friday at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

A bus ride to Iowa awaits the Hogs following Friday’s game. Rockford tangles with the Wild in DesMoines Saturday night.

Follow me on twitter @JonFromi for some updates of the action this week.





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