IceHogs: Calder Cup Playoff Spot Within Reach For Rockford


As of Thursday, the Rockford IceHogs sit on the outside looking in at the AHL Calder Cup Playoff picture. With a 26-22-6 record with 58 points and a .538 points-percentage, Rockford is in sixth-place in the AHL Central Division and in 12th place in the Western Conference. With 22 games to play, the IceHogs have an uphill battle ahead of them, but a roster makeup that could have enough in the tank to make a Playoff push.

Roster Shakeup Ahead?

While no team is immune to the inevitable roster turnover in the AHL, the IceHogs have seen their fair share of talent come and go this season. Whether getting called up, assigned down, or traded, the IceHogs roster at the moment misses a lot of what made them a dangerous team early in the season. No player had a bigger impact in the first two dozen games for the IceHogs this year than Vince Hinostroza. He was nearly a point-per-game player with 22 points in his 23 games with Rockford, but was called up to the Chicago Blackhawks early in December and has not looked like he has any intention of coming back to Rockford this season, or any other season for that matter.

Along with Hinostroza, players like Tomas Jurco, Carl Dahlstrom, Erik Gustafsson, and David Kampf have been key contributors this season for Rockford that have been recalled to the Blackhawks and may not return to the IceHogs this season. Alongside the call-ups are the re-assignments, and those have benefited the IceHogs this season with players like Cody Franson, Gustav Forsling, John Hayden, and Tanner Kero making their marks in the AHL this season.

Tomas Jurco Rockford IceHogs

Tomas Jurco of the Rockford IceHogs (Courtesy: Todd Reicher)

The problem that will give the Rockford roster the biggest issue as they attempt to make a playoff push, is the NHL trade deadline. The deadline ends at 3pm Eastern Time on Monday, Feb. 26. With the Chicago Blackhawks looking to be sellers as the final days approach, the IceHogs roster could very well be the target of a few deals. Already players like Ville Pokka and Laurent Dauphin have been parts of trades out of the Blackhawks organization that had sizable impacts with the IceHogs this year.

The weekend will have its fair share of action as the IceHogs hit the road for games against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears, but with the deadline clock ticking down, it’ll be interesting to see who comes back to Rockford with the team and who is in the lineup for the Wednesday game against the Texas Stars.

Henrik, so hot right now. Henrik.

One player that the IceHogs added to the mix on a Professional Tryout agreement earlier this month is Henrik Samuelsson. Since joining the team on Feb. 11, Samuelsson has three goals in three games played and has seen his fair share of quality ice-time with Rockford.

Henrik Samuelsson Rockford IceHogs

Henrik Samuelsson of the Rockford IceHogs. (Courtesy: Todd Reicher)

There is a fair chance that Samuelsson has already played his way into the favor Jeremy Colliton, being given powerplay opportunities and top-minutes, but the pace Samuelsson’s on may be an illusion early on. Hopefully for Rockford’s sake, it is not.

Samuelsson’s Media Day: 2-20-18

IceHogs Lead With Balanced Attack, Face Defensive Questions

While the roster has endured its changes, the IceHogs still have the ability to apply pressure offensively from multiple angles. Line combinations like Tyler Sikura, Andreas Martinsen, and John Hayden rolled along with a grouping like Anthony Louis, Matthew Highmore, and Henrik Samuelsson can give opposing teams fits to deal with the size, speed, and skill combinations that Rockford can put together. Since the departures of Hinostroza and Jurco this season, top forward rookies Matthew Highmore and Anthony Louis have been the key players jump starting the offense, along with additions like John Hayden, Tanner Kero, and Adam Clendening in the back half of the season.

Rockford IceHogs Anthony Louis

Anthony Louis shoots on net against the Milwaukee Admirals. (Courtesy: Todd Reicher)

The biggest issue will be defending. While the third-highest scoring team in the AHL Western Conference, the IceHogs are a -3 in goal-differential this season. Losing J.F. Berube to injury for two months and then getting recalled by the Chicago Blackhawks, paired with Jeff Glass being recalled by the Blackhawks for a month and a half put Rockford in a pinch between the pipes. Matt Tomkins and Collin Delia were forced into roles as an AHL goaltending tandem when they were expected to be the Indy Fuel’s one-two punch in the ECHL. While Tomkins and Delia were efficient enough in net to keep the IceHogs in most games, and on more than one occasion steal a game, the IceHogs were missing their original tandem in Glass and Berube. Getting Glass back and having a now AHL-tested Delia in net should give the IceHogs an advantage in net moving forward.

Along with improvements in net, the IceHogs have improvements to make on the blue-line as well. While the addition and return of longtime Rockford Adam Clendening has been a plus, the loss of Ville Pokka and Jeremy Colliton’s use of Robin Norell as a forward has left the Rockford defensive core on the edge. Erik Gustafsson and Carl Dahlstrom have been recalled and with the Blackhawks for some time now, while Cody Franson and Gustav Forsling have been working towards getting back to the Chicago lineup for almost just as long. The problem lines with the next few days as Clendening, Franson, and Gustafsson could all be pieces of trade deadline moves. The IceHogs will need to have players like rookies Darren Raddysh, Luc Snuggerud, and veteran Viktor Svedberg pull their weight as questions around the defensive rosters stability hang in the air over the weekend.

What’s Next?

As mentioned before, the IceHogs travel over the weekend to faces the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday night in Pennsylvania. Puck drop is set for 6:05pm Central Time on Friday night. After that, the IceHogs stay in Pennsylvania to take on the Hershey Bears on Saturday night. Saturday night’s puck drop is set for 6pm Central Time. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is currently in Calder Cup Playoff spot in the AHL Eastern Conference sitting in fifth-place at 30-15-5 with 65 points and a .650 points-percentage, while Hershey sits in 12th place in the East with a 22-25-7 record, 51 points and a .472 points-percentage.

Again, a reminder that the NHL trade deadline is Monday, Feb. 26 at 3pm Eastern Time (2pm Central Time).

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