High On The Hog: Traveling Blues

The Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, must have had a little extra room on the bus after departing for three road games this past week. You see, the Hogs left their offense on the curb outside the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Rockford dropped all three contests this week to push its current losing streak to five games. In doing so, the IceHogs mustered a single even-strength goal in over 180 minutes of hockey.

The Hogs have sunk to 13th place in the Western Conference following this weekend’s action. Their 4-6-1 mark has them seventh in the Central Division standings. A lack of scoring has definitely played a part in this team’s recent struggles.

Rockford has scored 23 goals in its first eleven games. Their per game average of 2.09 is the worst in the conference. The power play has scored seven of those goals, good for a 15.2 success rate. At 12th in a 16-team conference, that’s slightly better but not enough to compensate for how poorly the Hogs have played five-on-five.

Lars Johansson started all three games this week, allowing two goals in each. That should have been enough to claim at least one victory. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The closest Rockford could get to a win was a point earned Sunday in Iowa.

That scoring is especially anemic on the road, where the Hogs are 1-5-1 so far. In seven contests, Rockford had potted just nine goals. They’ve given up 21.

The IceHogs will travel to Grand Rapids Friday night, then settle into the BMO, where they will play nine of their next 11 games. Maybe home cooking will snap the offense out of its current funk.

 

Roster Move

On Saturday, Rockford sent forward Evan Mosey to the Indy Fuel of the ECHL. Mosey had been scoreless in three appearances with the IceHogs.

I suspected that Mosey’s assignment may have been a harbinger of a forward coming down from Chicago this week. Rockford has 13 forwards on the roster as of Monday morning. With Tyler Motte possibly out of action for some period of time, the chances could also be good that someone could be headed East on I-90 instead.

 

Looking Back

I apologize once again for the lack of line combos this week. They will be back next week. It’s safe to say that whatever lines coach Ted Dent sent out weren’t putting pucks in the net.

Wednesday, November 4-Charlotte 4, Rockford 0

The AHL’s all-time shutout leader picked up number 48 at the expense of his former team. Michael Leighton had the benefit of only having to stop 17 Rockford shots.

The game was scoreless until the midway point, when the Checkers Brock McGuinn fired from the left circle to beat IceHogs goalie Lars Johansson. Rockford had several power play chances to knot the contest but were 0-for-5 on this night when up a man.

Down 2-0 late in the game and on that fifth power play, Hogs coach Ted Dent pulled Johansson, which quickly led to an empty netter. With the deficit three goals, Dent elected to leave his goalie on the bench in an attempt to get the doughnut off the scoreboard. This resulted in a second empty-net goal in the waning seconds.

 

Thursday, November 5-Charlotte 2, Rockford 1

The Hogs second look at Leighton also resulted in defeat. One night after getting off just 17 shots on goal, Rockford managed only 14 in the rematch.

Charlotte took the lead 4:53 into the game when Brock McGuinn knocked in a rebound left by IceHogs goaltender Lars Johansson. Later in the opening period, Rockford was able to even the score following a scary play in the left corner of the Checkers zone. It took a while to develop, however.

Spencer Abbott, chasing a puck into that corner after skating it into the offensive zone, was hit from behind and into the boards by Matt Tennyson.  Chris DeSousa was also sent to the box following the resulting scuffle for roughing. After Jake Dowell was called for a hand pass on the subsequent faceoff, Charlotte wound up with two minutes of a 4-on-3 advantage.

Rockford killed Dowell’s infraction, got the power play back, and eventually potted the equlizer off a face off win in the Checkers zone. Cameron Schilling collected the puck from Sam Carrick and flicked it through traffic and past Leighton to tie the game at the 16:57 mark.

The game remained tied as the third period got underway. in the fifth minute, Rockford’s Evan Mosey had his pocket picked by the Checkers Lucas Wallmark at the Hogs blue line. Andrew Miller streaked to the puck and beat Lars Johansson to score 5:26 into the period.

Down a goal and with almost 15 minutes of game time remaining, Rockford was limited to two shots in the final frame. Dent pulled his goalie with ninety seconds left, but the Hogs sent nary a shot to Leighton even with six skaters.

 

Sunday, November 6-Iowa 2, Rockford 1 (OT)

The Hogs managed to pick up a point but still dropped their fifth straight game in DesMoines.

Iowa got a power play goal from Teemu Pulkkinen with 40 seconds remaining in the opening period. That held up throughout much of what was a typical game between the IceHogs and the Wild. Namely, Rockford out shot the home team by a wide margin. On this night, however, getting a puck by Iowa goalie Steve Michalek prove difficult.

The Hogs banged away at the Wild net minder for almost 45 minutes before uniting rubber and twine. The breakthrough came via a slap shot by Cameron Schilling at the 14:51 mark. It would be the only shot Michalek failed to stop out of the 50 sent his way.

Schilling’s third goal of the season forced Gus Macker Time and Rockford had a couple of nice chances to secure the third point of the evening. However, Michalek stopped an Erik Gustafsson attempt, leading to Grayson Dowling nabbing a stretch pass from Gustav Olofsson.

Hogs goalie Lars Johansson came out to challenge Dowling. The Wild center got Johansson down before flipping a backhand shot into the far corner of the net, ending the contest.

 

The Week Ahead

The IceHogs wrap up their road jaunt against the Griffins Friday before returning to the BMO for a pair of games. Saturday is a chance to even the score a bit against Charlotte. On Sunday, Rockford hosts the Ontario Reign for the first time ever.

Follow me @JonFromi on twitter for IceHogs musings throughout the week.

 

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