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Iowa goes on the road to take on Rockford

Their second division test in just four games, Iowa (1-2-0, 2 pts) take on the IceHogs (1-0-0, 2 pts) on the road in Rockford. It’ll be their first of 12 meetings in 2017-18

Iowa’s leading scorer, Pat Cannone, heads the charge as Iowa travels to Rockford, Saturday night.
Iowa Wild/AHL

It’s their first road test of the season coming off of their short reveled 3-0 win over Ontario (Los Angeles Kings) last night and Iowa’s second back-to-back in this fresh 2017-18 season.

The IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks), on the other hand, had a whole week off following their 4-0 blowout of another Central Division opponent; the Cleveland Monsters (Columbus Blue Jackets).

Even after the 5-2 loss to Minnesota, the Blackhawks have scored 23 goals in their first five games and it appears that the Chicago organization is firing on all cylinders to start the year.

Much like with Ontario the night before, there’s not much to key in on with a team that only has one game under their belt. However, Tomáš Jurčo’s three point performance against the Monsters bears some attention. He had an even strength goal and two assists on special teams; one shorthanded, the other on the peepers. The experience of 172 NHL games played doesn’t hurt the Košice, Slovakia-native’s chances of success either, and he will be a good barometer by which young Iowa players can test their skills.

It was also a statement win for their 32-year-old head coach, Jeremy Colliton, who is trying to make a name for himself in the North American system after spending the last four seasons with Mora IK; a team he helped promote from Allsvenskan to the SHL for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

It’s a team stacked with young players as the IceHogs dressed nine rookies for their season opener.

Who to Watch

The trend of following undrafted free agents continues with rookie, left-winger Matthew Highmore. An early March signing for Bowman, the Halifax, Nova Scotia-native racked up 89 points (34G/55A) in 64 games for the St. John Sea Dogs en route a QJMHL championship last season. In his professional debut, he had a power play goal and a primary assist on Viktor Svedberg’s shorty last Saturday night.

With all the youth on the squad, only two were drafted: Matheson Iacopelli and Graham Knott. Knott is probably the higher profile guy as a second round pick for the Hawks in 2015. Last season, the Etobicoke, Ontario-native tallied 52 points (15G/37A) in 59 games split between Niagara and Windsor in the O; winning a Memorial Cup with the Spitfires. Fitting that "power forward" description, the 6’4"/194 lb 20-year-old has a "net front presence [that] pays dividends at the end of the night."

One more "rookie" to pay attention to is forward David Kämpf who joins the Blackhawks organization after playing four seasons with Piráti Chomutov in the Czech Republic. Turning pro at 18, the Jirkov (no, really), Czech Republic-native earned 71 pts (36G/35A) in 183 games for the club that bounced between the Czech 1. Liga and Extraliga; his most productive being the 2016-17 campaign with 31 pts (15G/16A) from the wing. He also has served as captain for the Czech U20 squad.

Game Plan

Iowa’s power play continues to struggle, but it’s not for lack of movement of the puck and gaining fluidity as a unit. Even so, the power play unit sits at 0-for-17 to start the season. Last night, it was discipline that did the peepers in, as Iowa blew a chance to have 1:33 of 5-on-3 to break the slump. They just need to remain patient and let the chances come. Once again, the waiting game isn’t all that bad, and the production is going to happen.

Keep up the good fore-check. The bottom six guys for Iowa have looked great to start the season. Guys like Colton Beck, Kurtis Gabriel and the Mitchell-Kloos-Mayhew line have been particularly adept in breaking up offenses and maintaining possession deep in the offensive zone. In other words, don’t let up.

The last thing would be to roll with the punches. Iowa lost their star power with Luke Kunin moving on to the NHL, and I wouldn’t expect to see him back in Des Moines. Minnesota also called up the left wing of that dominant checking line, Zack Mitchell (11 NHL GP), top six winger Christoph Bertschy (8 NHL GP), and top-line winger Landon Ferraro (75 NHL GP) following the win over Ontario. Now we get to see what kind of depth the organization really has with the call-ups of Dante Salituro and Evan Janssen from Rapid City.

It’s a 6:00 CST scheduled start from BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford, Illinois with Iowa in search of a perfect weekend.