[Last Season Lookback hits the highlights of each month from the 2018-19 season. Below are the key storylines from the respective month, milestones hit by individual players or the full team, standout stats and a quotable takeaway. Check back each week as we delve into the full seven-month season]. October | November
LAST SEASON LOOKBACK: NOVEMBER, 2018
*Adjusting following coaching change
The IceHogs coaching structure featured a shuffle at the top on Nov. 6 when head coach Jeremy Colliton received a promotion to the Chicago Blackhawks. Colliton led Rockford to a 46-31-5-6 (.585) record from 2017-18 and became the youngest active head coach in the NHL when he joined the Blackhawks. To replace Colliton in Rockford, the Blackhawks named assistant coach Derek King the interim head coach of the IceHogs.
The Hogs took a few games to adjust to the coaching change, suffering a 3-0 shutout against Iowa in the first contest without Colliton behind the bench before reeling off back-to-back wins at Milwaukee and Chicago. Overall, Rockford would go 29-28-3-4 (.508) with King at the helm.
*Loss of Highmore
Rockford’s roster was dealt a serious blow when star forward Matthew Highmore suffered an upper-body injury during the final game of October. The second-year standout, who set the IceHogs’ rookie scoring record during the 2017-18 season, was sidelined through April with the injury. The team announced on Nov. 16 that Highmore underwent successful shoulder surgery and it expected the forward to recover over the next four to six months.
Highmore was again a key piece in the IceHogs lineup through early, limited action in 2018-19. He shared the team lead in scoring with seven points in eight games during the first month of the season.
The Hogs stumbled offensively during November, scoring one or no goals in six of 13 games. Further, the IceHogs only twice eclipsed the three-goal margin, downing Iowa 4-2 on Nov. 4 and Chicago 4-3 on Nov. 10. The month’s results weren’t blowouts, however, as the Hogs’ solid goaltending and defense kept the team in the majority of November’s contests. In fact, only three games were settled by more than two goals during the month.
The low-scoring trend was not just limited November. Rockford finished last in the league in scoring, while its goaltending continued its dominance to lead the AHL in save percentage.
*King notches first AHL win as head coach
IceHogs interim head coach Derek King notched his first career AHL win in just his second game behind the bench. King led Rockford to a 2-1 victory at Milwaukee on Nov. 9 for his first career AHL win as a head coach.
*Campbell faces Milwaukee for first time in career
On Nov. 2, AHL veteran Andrew Campbell skated against the Milwaukee Admirals for the first time in his pro career. Campbell entered the contest having skated in 726 career AHL games between the regular and postseason but had never faced the Ads. Further, he entered Nov. 2 having played either for, or against, every team in the AHL except for Milwaukee.
Rockford snapped a nine-season streak in which it won the series-opening game against the Griffins. Prior to suffering a 3-1 loss on Nov. 14, the IceHogs won nine straight series openers against Grand Rapids. Overall, the Hogs have won 10 of 12 all-time series openers against the Griffins since joining the AHL in 2007-08.
PLAYER OF THE MONTH:
13 games: 8 points (5g, 3a) | +2 rating
Louis potted five goals during November, his best monthly total for the 2018-19 campaign. The third-year Hogs forward capped the month ranked first among Hogs skaters in goals, tied for the lead in scoring and tied for first with a plus/minus rating of +2.
*Interim Head Coach Derek King (on taking over as head coach)
“I’m very excited…it’s nice that the Blackhawks are giving me an opportunity to take the reins here and lead these guys and develop them and hopefully do a good job. I think the big thing is to keep this thing rolling smoothly the way it was. Jeremy (Colliton) put in a nice plan and there’s no reason to change anything. Our job here is to develop players, get these players ready for the hawks and hopefully we can get a winning tradition here down here also.”