Saturday buzz: Gust breaks out for IceHogs

Photo: Todd Reicher

📝 by Patrick Williams

Rockford IceHogs forward David Gust broke out in a big way on Friday night.

Gust, who helped represent the IceHogs at the AHL All-Star Classic with Lukas Reichel and Brett Seney earlier this month, dished out a goal and an assist as the IceHogs defeated Texas in overtime, 3-2, improving to 4-2-0-0 this season against the Central Division’s top club.

The night also broke a seven-game spell without a goal for Gust, who is having a career season in his first year with Rockford. Gust signed a one-year AHL deal last summer after winning the Calder Cup with the Chicago Wolves, and the Orland Park, Ill., has emerged as a top-line offensive threat with the IceHogs, already setting career highs in goals (22), assists (25), and points (47).

Gust, who had hat tricks 15 days apart in December, played his 300th AHL game on Wednesday at Grand Rapids. He broke into the league with Bakersfield in 2017-18 and later moved on to Charlotte for a season. He has steadily progressed from a bottom-six forward spot into this season’s starring role.

“I think I got an opportunity to be a top-six player this year, and with that opportunity I think I’ve produced and kind of run away with that chance,” Gust said.

That production has come along with a chance to be a part of the Chicago Blackhawks organization. He went to training camp with the NHL club that he grew up cheering for years ago.

“That was a pretty special moment,” Gust recalled.

With a league-best 72 points, the Calgary Wranglers have grown accustomed to seeing an opponent’s best effort each night. After all, it’s easy to get up to play one of the AHL’s elite teams.

The Colorado Eagles showed up ready Friday night at Scotiabank Saddledome, outshooting the Wranglers 8-0 in the opening six-plus minutes. Goaltender Dustin Wolf weathered that barrage, and then Calgary pushed back by going on a 15-4 run in shots the rest of the period.

While the Wranglers eventually pulled out a 2-1 overtime win, head coach Mitch Love wants a much better start when the teams meet again Sunday afternoon.

“You couldn’t have written up a better road start for a team than they had, outside of not scoring a goal,” Love told Wranglers TV afterward. “We’ve got to be more dialed there. This is a heck of a hockey team. They’re well-coached. They’re competitive. They’re on top of you.

“We weren’t ready for that. That’s not something we can take lightly on Sunday. We’ve got to be much more engaged from the get-go.”

With forwards Adam Gaudette and Mikhail Abramov part of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ massive three-team NHL deal late on Friday night, a ripple effect through the organizational depth chart followed for the Toronto Marlies.

Abramov and Gaudette were sent to the St. Louis Blues as part of a deal that landed forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari as the Leafs gear up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Gaudette’s 20 goals led the Marlies, and he also had 14 assists to give him 34 points in 40 games, including an assist just hours before the deal in Friday’s 6-2 loss at Rochester. Abramov had 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 34 games for the Marlies.

In need of forward help for this afternoon’s home match-up with Rochester (4 p.m. ET, TSN2, AHLTV), the Marlies recalled forward Orrin Centazzo from the Newfoundland Growlers, their ECHL affiliate. Centazzo, 22, spent a five-game stretch with the Marlies in December and has 46 goals in 85 ECHL games over the last two seasons.

The Marlies also lost goaltender Erik Källgren to recall by the Maple Leafs after Friday’s game.

The footsteps are growing louder for both the Utica Comets and the Syracuse Crunch.

They meet tonight at Adirondack Bank Center, where the Crunch have won both of their visits this season. Syracuse is 5-1-1-0 so far in the season series, but is on an 0-4-1-0 slide overall since their last win, a 4-3 shootout decision in Utica on Feb. 1

For their part, the Comets find themselves with one win in their past seven games (1-5-0-1), that being a 3-0 win at home against Hershey on Feb. 10.

Both teams’ slides have caused the North Division race to get much tighter. While Toronto has built a 16-point lead for first place in the division, the second-place Comets (53 points) and third-place Crunch (49 points) are feeling pressure from teams chasing them.

Rochester’s win over Toronto on Friday moved them into a tie with Syracuse at 49 points, followed closely by Laval (48) and Cleveland (47), which has won four in a row.

After tonight, there are still six Crunch-Comets match-ups to go. Four of them will be in Utica.