High On The Hog: Jake Dowell’s Career Year?

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, continue to play impressive hockey as we approach the holidays. The IceHogs completed a sweep of their four-game trip to Texas and split a weekend set with Iowa and Grand Rapids.

Rockford is on top of the Central Division standings with a 17-6-1-2 record. A loss to the Griffins Saturday put an end to a five-game winning streak, the longest of the season for the Hogs. Playing a big part in the success this team is veteran center Jake Dowell.

Relax, folks; Dowell is only on an AHL deal signed with the IceHogs this fall. He can’t be called up to the Hawks for you to disparage. This is not a plea for Stan Bowman to sign Dowell to NHL ink. Just know that the guy has been a key component of Rockford’s lofty position in the standings.

This weekend, the guy just got some terrific news to boot.

I guess you’d have to call the 30-year-old pivot a journeyman at this stage of his career; Dowell is on his second tour with the IceHogs following stops in Chicago, Dallas and Minnesota in the NHL, as well as Iowa (while with Minnesota) and Hamilton (on an AHL contract), where he served as captain last season.

Many of us are aware of Dowell’s story. To quickly recap, he’s a former Hogs captain (20009-10) and played a full season with the Blackhawks in 2010-11 (6 G, 15 A, plus-five).

Dowell lost his father to Huntington’s disease; his brother also is afflicted. He commits a lot of time raising money for the fight against the disease. Just yesterday, Dowell made an announcement that he was not carrying the gene that causes the fatal disorder.

What must be wonderful news for Dowell and his family comes after a very productive stretch on the ice. Serving as coach Ted Dent’s de facto captain with Brandon Mashinter up in Chicago, Dowell is enjoying what could turn out to be a career season with the IceHogs.

Currently on a six-game point streak, Dowell has four goals and six helpers in that span. He posted the game-winning goal Friday night against Iowa and assisted on the winning goal in Tuesday’s win in Texas.

Dowell has never posted an AHL plus/minus above a plus-four and has a career total of minus-47 in seven previous AHL campaigns. However, Dowell is tied for second in the league with a plus-15 rating through 24 games with the IceHogs in 2015-16. He also has six goals and 11 assists.

Dowell is a fixture at the defensive dot and is a regular when Rockford finds itself shorthanded (full disclosure-there are a couple of empty net goals in his totals). With several prospects shuttling between Rockford and Chicago and injuries hitting the team hard, Dowell has provided stability and leadership so far this season.

Dowell’s best AHL season in terms of scoring came in 2009-10 when as captain he posted 23 points (7 G, 16 A). Whether he reaches that mark this year or not, he is arguably Rockford’s biggest off-season acquisition.


A Goal For Vinnie

Santa, take note; former Notre Dame standout and Hawks prospect Vinnie Hinostroza is still waiting to celebrate his first professional goal. Through a five-game audition last spring, four games with Chicago and 20 tilts with Rockford, the speedy center has ten assists but has yet to dent the twine.

Unlucky, perhaps? Well, Hinostroza is a pass-first type of skater. However, he does have 44 shots on goal this season with the Hogs. He has giddy-up to spare and often gets himself in position to break his maiden. To be blunt, his aim has not been true when openings have presented themselves.

Hinostroza has eight helpers for the IceHogs this season but just three of those have come in his last 11 games. He has spent the last five games on the right wing of Phillip Danault, despite the fact that the team is a little thin at the center position with Dennis Rasmussen up with the Blackhawks.

As often as Hinostroza gets the puck to the net, you’d have to imagine that the goals will start to come. Hopefully the local product starts finding the mark and taking advantage of the chances he creates.

Roster Moves

On Friday, the Blackhawks sent Marko Dano to Rockford. He joined Tanner Kero, who came down when Dennis Rasmussen was recalled by Chicago.

The IceHogs sent forward Daniel Ciampini to Indianapolis Sunday. Ciampini, who had been with the team since Nov. 17, had a goal in seven games with Rockford.

Just Recappin’

Tuesday, December 8-Rockford 5, Texas 3

If the three stars of the game had been Michael Leighton, Michael Leighton and Michael Leighton, it might have looked strange. However, that’s probably how it should have turned out as the veteran goalie flat out stole the final meeting between these teams.

Texas fired 52 shots on the IceHogs net. Leighton stopped 49 of those, propelling his team to a 4-0 record against the two high-scoring Texas franchises.

As was the case for the bulk of the game, the Stars were getting multiple looks at the net early in the first period. Derek Hulak beat Leighton stick side six minutes into the game.

Rockford responded with a goal of its own midway through the first. Viktor Svedberg’s blast from the left point was deflected by Daniel Ciampini past Texas net-minder John Muse at the 10:05 mark. Leighton saw 19 shots in the first 20 minutes but kept the score even-Steven.

The Hogs took a 2-1 lead on a nice piece of fore checking by P.C. Labrie, Chris DeSousa and Jake Dowell. A big hit by DeSousa helped keep Texas pinned in the corner of their own zone. Labrie forced a turnover; DeSousa gathered in the puck and hit Dowell working his way to the net. Dowell’s fourth goal of the season came at 3:07 of the second.

The Stars returned fire two minutes later when Jesse Blacker banged in a one-timer from the top of the right circle. Though Texas sent 19 more shots Leighton’s way and led 38-18 in shots through the first two periods, Rockford was still in a game in which they had no business being.

In fact, Labrie gave the Hogs the lead through two periods with an impressive one-man stampede through the Stars defense. Powering his way into the Texas zone, Labrie fought off a check and held possession until he was able to hit Garret Ross skating toward the right post. Putting the rubber to the ropes at 14:07 of the middle frame, Ross gave Rockford a 3-2 advantage that held up for most of the remainder of the contest.

By the waning minutes, the IceHogs had taken the best that the Western Conference-leading offense could dish out. Muse was brought to the bench with over three minutes remaining in the game. With 1:37 to play, Dowell attempted to send the puck out of his zone. The clearing attempt struck DeSousa and casually slid down the ice and into the welcoming and empty Stars net for a 4-2 Hogs lead.

Keeping six skaters on the ice, Texas did score a desperation goal with 29 seconds left. However, Dowell got an empty-netter of his very own in the closing seconds to seal the fate of the Stars.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Leighton was voted first star of the game.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Jeremy Morin

Garret Ross-Jake Dowell (A)-Chris DeSousa

Pierre-Cedric Labrie (A)-Phillip Danault-Vinnie Hinostroza

Daniel Paille-Dane Walters-Daniel Ciampini

Cameron Schilling-Ville Pokka

Viktor Svedberg-Erik Gustafsson

Nolan Valleau-Kirill Gotovets

Michael Leighton

Scratches-Kyle Cumiskey, Mike Liambas, Dennis Robertson, Kyle Baun, Mark McNeill, Ryan Haggerty.

Power Play (0-3)



Penalty Kill (Stars were 0-3)





Friday, December 11-Rockford 2, Iowa 1

The IceHogs picked up their fifth-straight win and pushed their winning streak over a hapless Iowa franchise to nine games over the past two seasons.

(A word on the Wild; this is a team that fired their coach for going 2-10 to open the season only to have John Torchetti helm them to just two wins in their subsequent 15 games. I know you can do the math but the Wild is 4-19-1-3 so far this season. Iowa has been bad in two previous seasons in DesMoines as Minnesota’s affiliate. This, however, is ridiculous. No fans deserve that kind of hopelessness.)

Rockford took the lead midway through the first on the power play. Ville Pokka took Vktor Svedberg’s pass at the top of the right circle and flung the disk toward net. Garret Ross effectively screened Wild goalie Leland Irving and got credit for his fourth goal of the season when the hunk of burning puck brushed against the tail of his sweater on its way to the soft caress of twine.

Up 1-0 at 9:30 of the opening period, the Hogs deluged Irving with rubber for most of the next 30 minutes. Rockford has been able to limit the Wild offense in previous meetings and was predictably up in shots 31-11 going into the third period.

Iowa did have a chance to tie the game about six minutes into the third period action when they found itself on a 3-on-2 rush up the ice. Brett Sutter got on a rebound and slid the puck past Hogs net minder Mark Visentin. However, Cameron Schilling reached into the blue paint and prevented the attempt from crossing the goal line.

The IceHogs recorded what would turn out to be the game-winner in the eighth minute of the period. Catching the Wild in a line change, Ross got to his own entry dump-in. He passed to Jeremy Morin coming across the Iowa crease. The shot was stopped by Irving’s pads but Jake Dowell pounced on the rebound. Dowell fed the open net to cue the horn at 7:32 for a 2-0 Rockford advantage.

Iowa would spoil Visentin’s shutout bid with a Colton Beck goal at 11:18 of the final frame. That’s as close as this one would get; the Hogs defense went on lockdown mode. The Wild managed a single shot on goal in the final nine minutes.

Ross and Dowell were the game’s first and second stars. Irving’s effort drew third star honors.

Lines (Starters in italics)

Garret Ross-Jake Dowell (A)-Jeremy Morin

Marko Dano-Tanner Kero-Ryan Hartman

Pierre-Cedric Labrie (A)-Phillip Danault-Vinnie Hinostroza

Daniel Paille-Chris DeSousa-Daniel Ciampini

Cameron Schilling-Ville Pokka

Viktor Svedberg-Erik Gustafsson

Nolan Valleau-Kirill Gotovets

Mark Visentin

Scratches-Kyle Cumiskey, Dane Walters, Mike Liambas, Dennis Robertson, Kyle Baun, Mark McNeill, Ryan Haggerty.

Power Play (1-2)



Penalty Kill (Stopped the Wild’s lone attmept)




Saturday, December 12-Grand Rapids 4, Rockford 1

Rockford’s win streak came to a halt after five games, while the Griffins cemented their position as the hottest team in the league by winning their tenth straight.

Grand Rapids scored first on a 2-on-1 rush up the ice following a draw in the Griffins zone. Anthony Mantha hit Andreas Athanasiou streaking into the slot. The subsequent one-timer at 7:59 of the first period gave the visitors a 1-0 advantage.

The IceHogs responded with a shorthanded goal in the sixteenth minute thanks to the persistence of Jeremy Morin. Taking the puck from Jake Dowell and crossing the Griffins blue line, Morin had two shots blocked but was able to regain possession both times. Morin’s third attempt caught the top corner of the net to cue the lamp, the horn and a cascade of stuffed animals at 15:33. (Saturday was Rockford’s annual Teddy Bear Toss Night.)

Michael Leighton and Griffins goalie Jared Coreau held the two squads at bay through the middle frame. What was a pretty evenly played contest was broken open in the third by some loose pucks around the Hogs net.

Tyler Bertuzzi knocked one of those pucks past Leighton 4:19 into the third. Eric Tangradi found the net following a rebound of an Andy Miele attempt at 11:57. The final Grand Rapids goal came on Mantha’s empty-netter with 2:09 remaining.

Lines (Starters in italics)-Rockford skated just 11 forwards and seven defensemen, so there were a lot of different combinations throughout the evening.

Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Marko Dano

Garret Ross-Phillip Danault-Vinnie Hinostroza

Daniel Paille-Jake Dowell (A)-Chris DeSousa

Pierre-Cedric Labrie (A)-Jeremy Morin

Cameron Schilling-Ville Pokka

Viktor Svedberg-Erik Gustafsson

Nolan Valleau-Kirill Gotovets

Dennis Robertson

Michael Leighton

Scratches-Kyle Cumiskey, Dane Walters, Mike Liambas, Kyle Baun, Mark McNeill, Daniel Ciampini, Ryan Haggerty.

Power Play (0-5)



Penalty Kill (Griffins were scoreless in three attempts.)





This Week

The IceHogs are off until the weekend, when they venture to Milwaukee and Chicago for games Friday and Saturday nights. Follow me on twitter @JonFromi for game updates, provided my holiday shopping is complete.







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