Over the weekend, the Rockford IceHogs began a three-game road trip to the state of Texas to take on the Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage. In back-to-back 4-3 losses, the IceHogs fell to the Stars in a shootout and dropped the first of two games against the Rampage. Rockford’s 0-1-1 weekend drops them into seventh-place in the AHL Central Division with 40 points in the standings.
IceHogs Fall Twice Over Weekend
Coming off the biggest margin of victory since November 4, the IceHogs had themselves a bit of momentum heading on the road for three games in Texas starting on Friday night against the Stars and then Saturday and upcoming on Tuesday against the San Antonio Rampage. While they didn’t totally lack scoring over the weekend, scoring three goals in each game, Rockford was only able to come away with one point out of a possible four points.
Texas Stars def, Rockford IceHogs, 4-3 (SO)
Against the Stars, the IceHogs found success on the powerplay, tallying two goals on the man-advantage thanks to efforts from Dylan Sikura and Anthony Louis, the top-two point leaders for the IceHogs this season. The goal coming between the powerplay tallies for the IceHogs, which was the 2-2 game-tying goal at the time, came in highlight-reel form from Nathan Noel. His second goal of the season came on a mid-air shot, cutting across the middle of the ice.
Find it below at the 1:55 mark of the game highlights:
Noel wasn’t only active on the score-sheet for the IceHogs, but also on the fight card for the night. Noel dropped the gloves with James Phelan early in the third period, Noel fell one assist short of a Gordie Howe Hat-Trick on the night. Also dropping the gloves earlier in the game was defenseman Dennis Gilbert as he squared up with Samuel Laberge.
Gilbert leads the IceHogs this season with 5 fighting majors, followed by Noel with 3 fighting majors to his name. All of last season, Rockford totaled 11 fighting majors. So far through 40 games this season, the IceHogs have 15 fighting majors. While maybe it’s a case of roster make-up this season to last, or that teams who are facing more adversity feel the need to drop the gloves more as a means of sparking the team, the IceHogs have shown bite this season while their play on the ice has left more to be desired. After having the least amount of fighting majors last season in the AHL, the IceHogs rank 14th in the league so far this season.
Kevin Lankinen got the start for the IceHogs against the Stars and made 26 saves on 29 shots faced. Lankinen has allowed three or fewer goals in his last seven-straight starts dating back to October 17, but sees his overall record this season drop to 2-4-3 with a 2.51 GAA and a 0.908 save-percentage. In the shootout, Travis Morin was the only Stars skater to beat Lankinen for the deciding goal, while Victor Ejdsell, Dylan Sikura, and Anthony Louis were unable to convert for Rockford.
San Antonio Rampage def. Rockford IceHogs, 4-3
Following Friday’s shootout loss, the IceHogs headed South on I-35 to San Antonio for their first of two games in four days against the San Antonio Rampage. Anton Forsberg got the start for the IceHogs, looking to break out of a three-game personal losing streak in net.
The IceHogs played from behind all night, only having a tied game at 0-0 or 1-1 for a combined 14:31 minutes of game time. The Rampage opened the scoring in the first period with Trevor Smith‘s sixth goal of the season. Rockford would tie the game early in the second period thanks to Dylan Sikura’s 11th goal of the season. San Antonio would break out for two goals in the second period following Sikura’s game-tier to take a 3-1 lead into the third period.
Rockford would crawl back into contention early in the third period with a goal from Jordan Schroeder to cut the Rampage lead to 3-2, but Jordan Nolan would put San Antonio back on top by a two-goal lead with his 10th goal of the season. Schroeder would tally his ninth goal of the season to cut the Rampage lead to 4-3 with just 11 seconds to play in regulation and the comeback would be too little, too late for the IceHogs.
With his two-goal effort against San Antonio on Saturday night, Schroeder continues to be one of the most reliable point-producers for the IceHogs, second on the team with a 0.71 point-per-game rate this season, just behind Dylan Sikura’s 0.76 point-per-game rate. Schroeder also moved into a tie for second on the IceHogs in scoring this season with 22 points, equal to Dylan Sikura and three points behind Anthony Louis for the team-lead with 25 points.
Anton Forsberg made 35 saves on 39 shots faced, losing his fourth-straight game in regulation. Forsberg’s record this season now falls to 7-7-1, with a 2.86 GAA and a 0.912 save-percentage.
IceHogs Trending Down
The loss on Saturday night marks Rockford’s eighth loss in their last nine games (1-6-2) since the Christmas holiday break. Rockford’s 2-6-2 mark over their last ten games is also the second-worst ten game stretch in the AHL since December 21 behind the Ontario Reign.
With 92 goals for this season, the IceHogs also have the second-lowest goal production in the AHL behind the Manitoba Moose. Rockford and Manitoba are the only two teams to not break the 100-goal mark this season and the Moose have played four fewer games than the IceHogs. The IceHogs are scoring 2.30 goals per game this season to Manitoba’s 2.38 goals per game, making them the lowest scoring team on average in the AHL.
While the two powerplay goal effort on Friday night against the Stars helped earn the IceHogs a point in the standings, they still rank in the bottom-third of the AHL in converting on the man-advantage. With a 15.2-percent success-rate on the powerplay, Rockford ranks 27th in the league converting with the advantage. A very disappointing mark given that the team ranks 13th in powerplay opportunities this season.
Conversely, on the penalty-kill, the IceHogs rank tied for fifth in the AHL with a 84.6-percent kill-rate. Rockford ranks 15th in the league in times shorthanded this season with 162.
Neil Manning was added to the IceHogs roster from the Indy Fuel of the ECHL on Wednesday, with Matheson Iacopelli heading to the Fuel from Rockford in the same transaction. Manning has three games played this season with the IceHogs. Iacopelli has four points (2 G, 2 A) in 25 games with Rockford this season. UPDATE: Manning was re-assigned to the Fuel on Monday afternoon.
On Thursday, defenseman Luc Snuggerud was activated to the roster after being cleared to return to practice. He is yet to be cleared to return to game action. Snuggerud has not played with the IceHogs since suffering a head injury on November 3 against the Iowa Wild. Snuggerud had one assist in his four games played this season with the IceHogs.
On Friday, the Chicago Blackhawks traded Jan Rutta and a 2019 seventh-round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Slater Koekkoek and a 2019 fifth-round pick. Rutta played in eight games with the IceHogs, tallying four points (G, 3 A). Koekkoek has 14 points (9 G, 9 A) in 85 career NHL games with the Tampa Bay Lightning and in 185 AHL games with the Syracuse Crunch, Koekkoek has 55 points points (12 G, 43 A).
Finally, the Chicago Blackhawks assigned defenseman Brandon Davidson to the IceHogs on Sunday afternoon. Davidson has played in 10 games with the Blackhawks this season with just one assist. Davidson has not played in the AHL since the 2014-15 season with the Oklahoma City Barons. In his 162 career NHL games, Davidson has 23 points (9 G, 14 A) and in 150 AHL games, Davidson has 28 points (11 G, 17 A).
The Rockford IceHogs are back in action on Tuesday night as they close the three-game Texas road-trip with another contest against the San Antonio Rampage. Following Saturday night’s loss, the IceHogs hold a 1-2-2 record against the Rampage this season. Puck drop for Tuesday night’s game at the AT&T Center is set for 7pm CT.