Like I was saying in the last War Pigs report, everything is fine! The IceHogs are still alive in the Calder Cup Playoff hunt and nothing is wrong with the team. Nothing.
“In the infamous words of Michael Scott: “It’s over. We are screwed.”
Well, not quite yet, but it’s looking pretty grim for the Rockford IceHogs Calder Cup Playoff chances as the season heads into February.”
– Opening line of February 3 ‘War Pigs Report’
The Rockford IceHogs have officially dug themselves out of their winter hibernation hole and have crawled their way back into real Calder Cup Playoff contention with four wins in their last five games, all against Central Division opponents. While health remains a major issue plaguing the IceHogs this season, there is hope that key players will be returning to the lineup just in time for the final 24 games of the season.
Back in the hunt
After a stretch of the schedule from Dec. 21 to Feb. 1 where the IceHogs went a staggering 3–14–2 and fell from second to sixth in the Central Division, Rockford has climbed back into the Calder Cup Playoff hunt with four wins in their last five games, three coming in regulation and all four against Central Division opponents. Most recently, the IceHogs took back-to-back games on the road against the Manitoba Moose.
Coming into the final 24 games of the season for Rockford, here are the Central Division standings:
- Milwaukee Admirals (51 games played): 34–10–7, 75 points
- Iowa Wild (51 games played): 31–14–6, 68 points
- Chicago Wolves (50 games played): 24–21–5, 53 points
- Grand Rapids Griffins (51 games played): 22–22–7, 51 points
- Rockford IceHogs (52 games played): 24–25–3, 51 points
- Texas Stars (50 games played): 23–23–4, 50 points
- San Antonio Rampage (49 games played): 17–20–12, 46 points
- Manitoba Moose (52 games played): 22–30–0, 44 points
Following the IceHogs’ upcoming game on Saturday night against the Cleveland Monsters, Rockford will only face Central Division opponents to close out the season. Of those remaining 23 games against divisional foes, only nine will be at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford. From Feb. 22 to March 14, the IceHogs will play seven of eight games on the road. Rockford holds a 10–12–2 record away from home this season with 57 goals scored on the road, tied for the fourth-fewest in the AHL.
While it has been tough sledding to provide offense on the road this season for the IceHogs, their goal production has increased over their last nine games overall and last four games away from home. In the last four road games for Rockford, they are scoring 3.25 goals per game and are 3–1–0. Since Jan. 24, the IceHogs are averaging 2.77 goals per game.
It might not seem like a drastic amount, but compare that to the 1.46 goals per game that Rockford averaged from Dec. 21 to Jan. 22, including being shut out three times over that span, and the offense is clicking just at the right time for a postseason push.
We’re going streaking!
Two players that have been pushing the IceHogs back up the standings have been forward Dylan Sikura and defenseman Lucas Carlsson. Both players are riding impressive scoring streaks and have played major roles in the recent offensive upswing for the IceHogs.
For Sikura, his short stint with the Blackhawks gave him confidence in his game and he is working to get himself back up to the Chicago in the NHL and make sure he sticks if given the opportunity. Currently, Sikura is on a professional career-long nine-game point streak, tallying 12 points over that timeframe with three goals and nine assists.
Since returning to the IceHogs on Jan. 19, Sikura has 13 points in 12 games and ranks third on the team with 29 points in 34 games. His 0.85 point-per-game pace also leads the team by a wide margin over players who have played at least 30 games this season for Rockford, as John Quenneville‘s 0.68 point-per-game pace comes in second.
Lucas Carlsson has been one of the under-the-radar defensive prospects in the Blackhawks’ system for the last two years. While players like Adam Boqvist, Nicolas Beaudin and Dennis Gilbert have grabbed headlines as future pieces, Carlsson has quietly gone out and produced for the IceHogs as one of their most reliable go-to defensemen.
Last season, Carlsson led all Rockford defenders with 33 points in 69 games, finishing fourth on the IceHogs in scoring among players with more than 30 games played with Rockford. This season, Carlsson is again at the top of the list for production, leading defensemen in points with 24 in 45 games and leading all IceHogs in assists with 20 this season.
It is likely safe to say Carlsson will again finish the season as the IceHogs’ leading scoring defenseman, as Beaudin is second among defensemen in points with 13. Like Sikura, Carlsson is also on an impressive point streak for Rockford, riding a five-game streak in which he has tallied seven assists. Carlsson leads the IceHogs this season with six multi-point games.
I have the power!
Keeping with the theme of offensive upswing for the IceHogs, the power play has been hot as of late. Although spending all season at or near the bottom of the league in power play conversion rate, the IceHogs have scored nine power play goals in their last nine games, converting on nine of 37 chances over that span for a 24.3% success rate.
Rockford’s power play still ranks near the bottom of the AHL with a 12.7% success rate, good for 29th in the league, but their current form is promising with the expectation that more players that will see power play time will be coming back to the lineup, such as Philipp Kurashev.
It is encouraging to see the conversion rate increasing over their last nine games since the IceHogs have been one of the best teams in the league at drawing penalties on their opponents. Rockford is one of 10 teams to reach the 200-mark for power play opportunities at this point of the season, and rank sixth overall in power play opportunities in the AHL with 212, averaging 4.07 power plays per game this season.
The Rockford IceHogs are back in action on Saturday at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford as they take on the Cleveland Monsters. Puck drop on Saturday is set for 6 p.m. CST. It is the final game for the IceHogs this season that will come against an opponent outside of the Central Divison. Rockford is 0–3–0 against the Monsters this season, being outscored 15–3 in the previous three matchups. It is also Collin Delia bobblehead night for the IceHogs on Saturday.
Get your cheeks in the seats tomorrow and you’ll get a FREE Collin Delia bobblehead! 🥅
— Rockford IceHogs (@goicehogs) February 14, 2020
Following Saturday’s game, the IceHogs stay at home when they host the Grand Rapids Griffins on Tuesday. Puck drop on Tuesday is set for 7 p.m. CST. Rockford is currently tied with the Griffins in fourth place in the Central Division with 51 points, with the Griffins currently holding the tiebreaker in regulation wins. Rockford holds a 4–3–0 record over Grand Rapids this season.