[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].
LAST SEASON LOOKBACK: OCTOBER, 2018
*Returning from record-setting season
The Rockford IceHogs reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time in team history in 2017-18. The 2018-19 squad faced the challenge of carrying that momentum into a fresh season with a largely intact core of skaters from the previous year. However, there’s an entirely different feel between the pressure-filled postseason showdowns and the first handful of games during the opening month of a new season.
Rockford slumped early out of the gate in 2018-19, dropping back-to-back games in Cleveland before finding its stride with points in six of the final seven games of the month.
*Replacing key scorers from late-season surge
The IceHogs saw the departure of playoff heroes in defensemen Adam Clendening and Cody Franson and forward Chris DiDomenico. The trio combined for 45 of the Hogs’ 122 total points during the postseason, nearly willing the IceHogs to the Calder Cup Finals. Following the departure of the trio, Rockford opened the 2018-19 season with returning stars Matthew Highmore and Victor Ejdsell and featured newcomers in Jordan Schroeder and Jacob Nilsson.
Highmore continued his offensive surge from 2017-18 with seven points in October, including a three-point effort on vs. San Antonio on Oct. 24. Schroeder also burst onto the scene with points in five of his seven games during his first month with the Hogs.
The AHL underwent a divisional shakeup prior to the 2018-19 season with Cleveland moving from the Central to the North Division, and both Texas and San Antonio joining the Central from the Pacific Division. On paper, the change was a welcomed sight for the Hogs, as Rockford entered the season with a 30-18-2-4 record against San Antonio and 22-13-3-2 record against Texas. The new Stars-Hogs matchup also brought the added drama of a rematch of the Western Conference Finals from the previous year.
The early returns on the realignment ultimately favored the Hogs in perhaps the worst way. The Monsters won each of the first three meetings during October of what was now a four-game series instead of the eight-contest matchup from 2017-18.
*First-ever game vs. Tucson
Rockford took on Tucson on Oct. 19 and 20 in the first-ever meeting between the two teams for either franchise's team history. The IceHogs notched points in each of the two contests with an overtime loss Oct. 19 and outright win Oct. 20.
*Second-longest point streak of season
The Hogs posted what proved to be the second-longest point streak of the 2018-19 season during October. Rockford went 4-0-1-0 over a five-game stretch from Oct. 13 – 24, finishing one game shy of the team’s overall best streak of 6-0-0-0 from Jan. 25 – Feb. 8.
*THE REAL DEAL-IA
Collin Delia won four of six starts in October to improve to 14-2-3 over his last 19 regular-season games dating back to the 2017-18 season. With the effort, he has appeared in 28 consecutive games without suffering back-to-back regulation losses. His last back-to-back regulation losses were Jan. 2 – 5 of the 2017-18 season.
PLAYER OF THE MONTH:
9 games: 7 points (4g, 3a) | +5 rating
Sikura led all team skaters in goals and shared the team in lead in overall scoring with his seven points. He also skated to an ever-or-better plus/minus rating in eight of his nine games to post a team-high +5 mark through October.
*Head Coach Jeremy Colliton (on his expectations for the season)
“We still have some young guys to break in and we still have some second-year guys so we're going to need help, but overall I do feel pretty comfortable with the guys who are coming back that they know what's expected and the sort of mentality we want to have on a day to day basis. Hopefully they can first of all lead by example but help everyone else to get to that level as soon as we can. So, I guess my approach is different in that we're going to demand more earlier. We think we have a chance to have a really good team and so we're not going to accept less.”