With multiple games getting moved around before they even dropped the puck, the Rockford IceHogs 2021 AHL season got off to a rough start … And then they actually did drop the puck, and it was even rougher. Over the weekend, the team dropped their first two games of the season against the Wolves, falling 5-4 on Saturday and 5-2 on Sunday.
With three assists in Saturday’s loss, veteran defensemen Cody Franson, who was named as an alternate captain (along with John Quenneville), leads the IceHogs in points after their first two games of the year.
Wyatt Kalynuk scores his first pro goal as the IceHogs score on the power play again. Cody Franson sets up the one-timer. pic.twitter.com/ADuG5IA3AE
— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) February 6, 2021
Meanwhile, Garrett Mitchell, who was the captain of the Hersey Bears from 2015-2018, will serve as the Captain for his second AHL team.
With a staggering 12 rookies already making their AHL debuts, Rockford will need to lean heavily on the leadership group of Mitchell, Franson, and Quenneville this season. Between the three of them, they’ve played a combined 792 AHL games – only Gabriel Gagne (189) has played as many games in the AHL as the IceHogs’ leadership group.
Goaltender Scott Darling (68 appearances) is the player on the roster with the next most AHL games played.
Speaking of Darling … He made his first start back with the IceHogs on Sunday, notching 22 saves on 27 shots faced in the 5-2 loss to the Wolves. Playing on a professional tryout deal, Darling last played with the IceHogs back on February 21, 2015. He’ll likely be the backup to Matt Tomkins for the time being, with Tom Aubrun and Cale Morris rotating through from time to time.
Rookies Wyatt Kalynuk and D.J. Busdeker lead all first-year players on the IceHogs with two points a piece. Kalynuk made an impact right away in his first AHL game with a goal and an assist (the former Wisconsin Badgers Captain is going to be looked at to play heavy minutes on the Rockford blue-line).
#IceHogs coach Derek King on Wyatt Kalynuk's #AHL debut: "He was excellent. Looking at him playing this game you wouldn't think [it] was his first time playing at this level. He stood out for me. He looked very comfortable, really poised with the puck." #Blackhawks
— Brandon Cain (@brandonmcain) February 7, 2021
Rockford’s loss on Sunday was particularly frustrating due to the fact that they had NINE powerplay opportunities against the Wolves, but were able to convert only one. Through two games this season, the IceHogs have had the second-most powerplay opportunities (15) in the AHL and the fourth-ranked powerplay at 26.7 percent. They would rank second in the league among teams that have played more than one game so far.
Did a major deep dive into the @goicehogs records…
Yesterday's 9 power plays for the IceHogs were the most since 3/4/14 vs. @AmerksHockey in a 4-2 win. They went 0/9 that night.
— Joseph Zakrzewski (@JoeyZRadio) February 10, 2021
On the flip-side, the IceHogs penalty-kill unit has been not as successful through two games. Though, to be sure, it’s not terrible: They have the fourth-most times being shorthanded (11) so far this season, with an 81.8 percent kill-rate, which ranks 13th in the league. The IceHogs penalty-kill ranks seventh amongst teams with more than one game played.
The IceHogs have a road game against the Iowa Wild on Saturday, February 13 (6:oo p.m. CT) and then are back at home taking on the Chicago Wolves on Tuesday, February 16 (6:00 p.m. CT).