IceHogs Continue Point-Streak, Add Ejdsell As Playoff Push Intensifies


In a stark contrast to where the Chicago Blackhawks organization found itself a year ago today, the Rockford IceHogs find themselves in the middle of a hunt for the Calder Cup Playoffs and the Blackhawks have been eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention. What a weird, dumb, amazing game hockey can be sometimes. For the IceHogs, the push for the playoffs have intensified over the last two weeks as they have been able to rattle off a number of favorable outcomes against Central Division opponents and find themselves just a point out of a Calder Cup Playoff berth.

IceHogs On Cusp Of Playoff Position

After getting a win over Central Division foe Wild in Iowa, 5-2 on Monday, Rockford has a 4-0-2 record over the last six games against teams in the Central, 5-0-2 over their last seven games, and 7-1-2 over their last ten games, the best last ten game stretch of any team in the Central Division.

Starting back on March 10, the IceHogs began a ten-game stretch against inter-division opponents and have, so far, earned ten of a possible twelve points. With a weekend two-game homestand against the Chicago Wolves and Milwaukee Admirals on deck, followed by back-to-back games against the Manitoba Moose in Manitoba the following weekend, Rockford hopes to keep their current form rolling and create space between them and the Admirals, as well as jump the Wild and/or the Grand Rapids Griffins in the standings.

Goaltending Leading The Way

Probably the biggest credit to helping Rockford’s push is the production in net from Jeff Glass and Collin Delia. Over his last three starts, Glass has come back around to the form he had earlier in the season that earned him his first career NHL recall to the Blackhawks. After returning to Rockford with three losses and giving up 13 goals over that time, Glass has gone 3-0-0 in his last three starts with a 1.65 GAA and a .943 save-percentage. After and overtime win against the Wolves on March 11, Glass said he was finally starting to feel like himself again, and his play is evident that he is  back where the IceHogs need him to be.

For Delia, his development this season has been an interesting story, much like the goaltending situation that the Blackhawks organization as a whole is experience, but in a good way. Delia began the year as a free-agent signing out of Merrimack College and was with the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. After 10 appearances with Indy, Delia was a less than desirable 1-7-2, with a 4.12 GAA and a .887 save-percentage. That’s when the Blackhawks and IceHogs experienced a number of injury woes that would force the hand and give Delia his opportunity in the AHL.

The shakes continued into the AHL for Delia when he began the year 1-4-0, but since January 6, Delia has turned a corner (with one hiccup game) and has gone 11-2-3 to round out his 12-6-3 record this season. His save percentage had dipped to as low as .822 in the AHL this season, but has recovered to .901 and his GAA has dropped to a more than respectable 2.70. Over the IceHogs’ seven-game point-streak, Delia is 1-0-2.

Roster Turnover A Non-Issue In Rockford

Not to be overlooked, the production that the IceHogs have continued to receive even with the Blackhawks making a plethora of roster moves that would otherwise cripple a contending team, has been tremendous. Players like Anthony Louis, Cody Franson, Chris DiDomenico, and Tyler Sikura have all been key to Rockford’s success in the final few weeks of the season.

DiDomenico has been a welcomed veteran presence in the locker room and has been a point-per-game player since joining the IceHogs in January. Sikura has enjoyed a career year in his first full-time AHL season, leading the active roster in goals with 17 (Matthew Highmore has 21 but currently is with Chicago) and eventually earning himself an NHL contract with the Blackhawks.

Speaking of Matthew Highmore, when he was recalled to the Blackhawks, it marked the second time this season that Rockford’s active leading scorer would leave the team for an NHL spot. Enter Anthony Louis. One of the more under-the-radar players on the team behind Highmore and Vince Hinostroza earlier in the year, Louis has taken the team-lead in points with 37 (12G, 25A) in 61 games played in his first full-time AHL season this year.

Finally, Cody Franson’s addition to the Rockford blue-line has been pretty much what anyone could have expected. Although he wasn’t expecting to be playing in the AHL this season, Franson has taken his role with the IceHogs in stride and has been a driving force in their current form. Over the last six games against the Central Division, Franson has seven points (1G, 6A) and has been a key force in all situation’s. With the potential for a number of IceHog call-ups to return as the Blackhawks season winds down with no playoffs in sight, Rockford’s roster can only improve from here.

Martinsen Makes Blackhawks Debut, IceHogs Add Ejdsell

With roster shake-ups on the mind, the two most recent moves that Rockford has made have involved some sizable players. On Tuesday morning, the Blackhawks recalled forward Andreas Martinsen on an emergency basis. Martinsen, a veteran of 119 NHL games with the Colorado Avalanche and Montreal Canadiens, he became the first Norwegian-born player to play for the Blackhawks in Tuesday night’s loss to the Avalanche. Martinsen’s 26 points (12G, 14A) with Rockford this season rank him tied for fourth on the team and he has been a leader in a young locker room ever since joining the organization late in the Summer prior to the start of the season. With his physical game and hard-nosed approach around the net, he could very well earn himself another deal with the Blackhawks once the season ends.

Victor Ejdsell

Victor Ejdsell for HV71 in the SHL. (Courtesy: Mikael Fritzon)

Another sizable player that will factor into the final stretch of the season for the IceHogs is newly acquired forward Victor Ejdsell. A part of the trade that sent Ryan Hartman to the Nashville Predators, Ejdsell has finished his season with HV71 in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) and will be joining the IceHogs to make his North American Pro debut.

The-Rink Video: Victor Ejdsell Highlights

At 6’5″, 215-pounds, Ejdsell can provide a big body for Rockford that is able to have a scoring touch. In 71 career SHL games, Ejdsell has 36 points, but 34 of those came in 50 games this season with HV71. He led the team in goals (20) and finished third on the team in points (34). He will have to have a bit of a learning curve on the smaller ice in North America, but all signs point in the right direction for the 22-year old Ejdsell.

Playoff Race

Here is the AHL Central Standings as of Wednesday, March 21 (games remaining):

  1. Manitoba Moose – 38-19-8, 84 pts, .646 pts % (11)
  2. Chicago Wolves – 35-20-9, 79 pts, .617 pts % (12)
  3. Iowa Wild – 30-20-14, 74 pts, .578 pts % (12)
  4. Grand Rapids Griffins – 34-24-7, 75 pts, .577 pts % (11)
  5. Rockford IceHogs – 33-24-8, 74 pts, .569 pts % (11)
  6. Milwaukee Admirals – 32-28-5, 69 pts, .531 pts % (11)
  7. Cleveland Monsters – 21-33-9, 51 pts, .405 pts % (13)

IceHogs Media Day: March 21

Watch: Head Coach Jeremy Colliton

Watch: Anthony Louis

Watch: Jeff Glass

Watch: Viktor Svedberg

What’s Next?

Rockford returns to action on Friday night as they host the team directly below them in the AHL Central Standings, the Milwaukee Admirals. Puck drop is set for 7pm Central Time at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford. Following that, the IceHogs host the Chicago Wolves, who sit in third place in the Central Division, on Saturday night in Rockford. Puck drop for Saturday’s Illinois Lottery Cup Rivalry game is scheduled for 6pm Central Time.

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