IceHogs Continue Point-Streak, Close Gap In Central Division

  

Over the weekend, the Rockford IceHogs were able to continue their current point-streak and close the gap in the AHL Central Division as the race for the Calder Cup Playoffs continue to intensify down the last stretch of the season. With an overtime loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday and a regulation win over the Chicago Wolves on Saturday, the IceHogs improved their record to 32-24-8 on the season and sit just .007 percentage-points behind the Griffins for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division.

Friday: Grand Rapids Griffins def. Rockford IceHogs, 4-3 (OT)

Friday’s game saw Collin Delia get the start in net for Rockford. One of the hottest goaltenders in the league over the last few weeks, Delia rode a personal six-game point streak (5-0-1) into Grand Rapids and looked to keep that form and keep the IceHogs moving forward, rather upwards, in the Central Division against the Griffins.

Grand Rapids would have other ideas though as they were able to get on the board first in the opening period with a rebound goal from Matthew Ford late in the period. Ford’s second effort goal was his 22nd of the year and gave the Griffins the advantage after the first 20 minutes of action. Grand Rapids would add to their lead in the second period with a powerplay goal from Matt Lorito just three and a half minutes into the second period. Lorito was able to control a loose puck in front of net and buried his 20th of the season, while taking a high stick, to give the Griffins a 2-0 lead.

The IceHogs would be able to claw their way back into the game with a pair of goals from veteran defenseman Viktor Svedberg. The first of Svedberg’s two goals came late in the second period as he ripped a slap shot from the blue-line. Andreas Martinsen provided the screen in front of Griffins goaltender Tom McCullom and the IceHogs were on the board. Svedberg’s second of the night came at the mid-way point of the third period as he was able to throw the puck on net and, thanks to a handful of screens in front of McCullom, was able to put it home for his fifth goal of the season. Rockford used Svedberg’s double to knot the game up 2-2, but it wouldn’t last long as just about two minutes later, on the powerplay, Ben Street was able to redirect a puck in front of net and give the Griffins the lead once again, 3-2.

Late in the third period, with Delia pulled from net, Rockford’s Luke Johnson was able to play hero as he tipped a shot from Cody Franson to tie the game at 3-3 with just 40 seconds to play. Johnson’s tip was his 12th goal of the season and was enough to earn the IceHogs at least a point in their fifth-straight game. It would also mark the fourth game in a row that Rockford would need either the overtime period or a shootout to find a result. Just short of four minutes into the extra frame, Grand Rapids was able to find the winner thanks to Eric Tangradi. Delia played a puck behind his net that was just out of reach for Anthony Louis and Tangradi was able to control the loose puck and find the back of the net from the sot to give the Griffins the 4-3 win in overtime.

Griffins def. IceHogs: Game Highlights

Delia made 18 saves on 22 shots faced, and although he didn’t get the victory, he was good enough to continue his personal point-steak to seven games at 5-0-2, and has a record of 11-2-4 since January 6. While the IceHogs dropped behind the Griffins after Friday’s loss by a point, it was still a spirited effort to not go down easy and earn a point themselves heading into Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day contest against the Chicago Wolves.

Saturday: Rockford IceHogs def. Chicago Wolves, 3-2

On Saturday, the IceHogs continued their tour of the AHL Central Division as they squared off against the Chicago Wolves. Jeff Glass would get the start in net for Rockford, coming off of a win over the Wolves just six days prior.

Another slow start had Rockford playing catch-up as just over four minutes into the game, former IceHog Brandon Pirri opened the scoring on a one-timer for his 25th goal of the season. Pirri now has five goals and two assists in eight games against the IceHogs this season and put Chicago ahead after one period, 1-0.

In the second period, Rockford was able to pull even on the powerplay. Matheson Iacopelli, a few games into he return from a short stint with the ECHL Indy Fuel, buried a wrist shot from the high-slot to give the IceHogs the equalizing goal. Iacopelli’s 10th of the season late in the second period was enough to keep it a tie game into the third period at 1-1

In the third period, Rockford was able to strike twice in just over two minutes. The first goal coming just over four minutes into the final frame, with Chicago on the powerplay. In one of the more fluky plays of the season, the Wolves lost control of the puck in the Rockford zone and Tyler Sikura gave chase to the loose puck into the Wolves’ zone, Oscar Dansk charged from his net to play the loose puck but couldn’t control it and Sikura was able to put it into the empty net for the short-handed goal. Sikura’s 17th goal of the season gave the IceHogs the 2-1 lead early in the period, and just over two minutes later, Anthony Louis extended that lead to 3-1. Chris DiDomenico found Louis open in the slot and Louis was able to roof his 12th goal of the season to put Rockford in comfortable position. It wouldn’t stay that comfortable for too long as the Wolves cut the lead to 3-2 with a goal from Paul Thompson just two minutes after the Louis goal. But from there, Glass was able to shut the door and give the IceHogs a 3-2 win.

IceHogs def. Wolves: Game Highlights

For Glass, it marks his first wins in consecutive starts since Dec. 22-23 when he won back-to-back starts against the Wolves and Griffins. With the win, Glass improves his record to 12-7-2 on the season. Also with the win, importantly coming in regulation, Rockford finds themselves in the middle of a .066 percentage-points difference in the AHL Central Division separating the second-place Wolves and sixth-place Milwaukee Admirals, as of Sunday.

Calder Cup Playoff Race

Here are the AHL Central Division Standings, heading into Sunday’s action (games remaining):

  1. Manitoba Moose – 38-18-8, 84 pts, .656 pts% (12)
  2. Chicago Wolves – 33-20-9, 75 pts, .605 pts% (14)
  3. Iowa Wild – 30-18-14, 74 pts, .597 pts% (14)
  4. Grand Rapids Griffins – 33-24-7, 73 pts, .570 pts% (12)
  5. Rockford IceHogs – 32-24-8, 72 pts, .563 pts% (12)
  6. Milwaukee Admirals – 32-27-5, 69 pts, .539 pts% (12)
  7. Cleveland Monsters – 21-32-8, 50 pts, .410 pts% (15)

With 12 games remaining, Rockford plays their next five games against Division opponents. Currently through five games of a ten-game stretch against teams in the Central Division this month, the IceHogs are 3-0-2, and 4-0-2 over their last six games in March. All points are important at this time of the year, but Rockford continues to control its own Calder Cup Playoff destiny with a dozen games remaining.

IceHogs Sign Maksimovich

On Sunday, the Rockford IceHogs announced that the team has signed forward Kyle Maksimovich to an Amateur Tryout Agreement. Maksimovich has played the last four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League with the Erie Otters and tallied 66 points (31G, 35A) in 65 games this season.

Over his four seasons with the Otters, Maksimovich has skated in 253 regular season games with 225 points (80G, 145A) and also has 55 OHL playoff games under his belt with 32 points (13G, 19A).

He was a part of the 2016-17 Erie Otters team that won the OHL Championship and were runners-up in the 2017 Memorial Cup. Maksimovich joins former Otters teammates Darren Raddysh with the IceHogs and Alex DeBrincat with the Blackhawks as part of the Chicago Blackhawks organization.

At 5-9, 175-pounds, Maksimovich is another under-sized prospect that the Blackhawks organization is giving a shot. From Dominic Tiano of The OHL Writers on Maksimovich:

Despite the size, he has no fear of going into the corners to battle, nor does he shy away from going to the net.  He also plays with a high level of energy and hard to contain.

At least at this level, Maksimovich overcomes his size with his speed and smarts.  He has the ability to expose defences with his creativity and passing.  When he gets into a position to shoot, it’s usually on target and with a purpose.

Maksimovich’s defensive game continues to be  a work in progress, but he’s coming along.  He’s getting into shooting and passing lands, blocks shots and kills penalties.

An undrafted player in the 2016 and 2017 NHL Entry Drafts, Maksimovich played in the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect camp this summer and served at the Otters Captain in 2017-18. He will wear No. 14 for the IceHogs.

What’s Next?

Rockford is back in action with a rare Monday night contest, concluding a three-game road trip. The IceHogs are in Iowa Monday night as they take on the Central Division third-place Iowa Wild. Puck drop is scheduled for 7pm Central Time on Monday night in Des Moines. After that, Rockford is off until a Friday-Saturday, back-to-back home slate against the Milwaukee Admirals and Chicago Wolves. Friday night against the Admirals is set for a 7pm Central Time puck drop, while Saturday’s game against the Wolves is set for a 6pm Central Time puck drop, with both games at the BMO Harris Bank Center.

Center Ice Forums IceHogs Continue Point-Streak, Close Gap In Central Division

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