It was their first road game and the first of twelve meetings against the IceHogs (2-0-0, 4 pts; Chicago Blackhawks) this season as the Iowa Wild dropped another divisional match-up, 7-4 in Rockford tonight. With the loss, Iowa moves to 1-3-0 (2 pts) to start the season, and are the only Central Division team to have played four games already.
The word “short” comes up a lot in this one. Rockford had the luxury of a whole week between their win in Cleveland and their home opener against Iowa. The Wild played short on rest as they hopped on the bus promptly after their first win of the year and drove through the night for their second back-to-back to begin the season.
The IceHogs had a full roster, led in scoring by Matthew Highmore. Iowa played shorthanded, dressing just eleven forwards following the departures of Luke Kunin, Landon Ferraro, Zack Mitchell, and Christoph Bertschy.
Chicago’s affiliate scored twice on the power play. Iowa once again with a goose egg on three opportunities and gave up a short-handed goal.
Niklas Svedberg made his fourth start of the season (1-3-0) and was peppered by 46 Rockford shots and made 39 saves in the losing effort. He made a combined 45 saves in his last two starts. Jean-François Bérubé, also coming off a shutout (2-0-0), made 27 saves on 31 attempts from the Wild.
There was a lot of movement on the roster to start the game as Gerald Mayhew moved to the first line, Dante Salituro made his Iowa debut on the second, Justin Kloos played center for two new linemates of Colton Beck and Kurtis Gabriel, with Chase Lang and Evan Janssen rounding out the group.
With very little rest, it showed in the first period. Iowa committed all three penalties between the teams in the first period. Lalonde’s penalty killing unit was awake and able to stave off the first two. In spite of Rockford dominating in shots-on-goal, Alex Grant was able to net his first of the year after another great fore-check that had Cal O’Reilly battling behind the net (O’Reilly, 18:19).
However, the rush of his first was off-set by his slashing penalty that put the IceHogs on the power play. They didn’t take time to capitalize as Highmore got his first power play goal of the season on a tip-in and sent Grant back to the bench on a skate of shame just four seconds into the man advantage (Pokka, Fortin, PP; 19:06).
After Grant was pick-pocketed by Tomáš Jurčo who put it on Highmore’s stick, to Fortin, and a saucer over Mike Reilly’s stick back to Highmore for the goal and a 2-1 lead as the teams headed into the first intermission (Fortin, Jurčo; 19:39). Rockford was able to launch 21 shots to Iowa’s 5 to start the game.
With a little pep talk from Lalonde, the Wild came out better in the second period, the most eventful of the evening. Both squads exchanged a couple of minor penalties early on, but both PK’s did their jobs. Colton Beck got his second of the year in traffic off of a Bérubé rebound opportunity (Cannone, Grant; 7:24). Once again, the energy goal was short-lived.
The stick penalties continued to pile up as Kloos committed a slashing penalty 39 seconds later. The PK unit killed off 1:44 of the penalty, but Rockford was able to convert once again when Erik Gustaffson turned a Vinnie Hinostroza pass into a one-timer from the top of the right circle (Hinostroza, Kämpf, PPG; 9:47). But Iowa had an answer of their own.
An Alex Grant pass slipped through the Rockford defense and Ryan Malone was able to make a great saucer pass across the ice to Mike Reilly who buried the first goal of his assignment down with Iowa on the blocker side of Bérubé (Malone, Warner; 11:18).
After a couple of off-setting penalties from Nick Seeler for hooking and William Pelletier for diving, Kloos was able to atone for his previous slash three minutes later. Menell made a great play to keep the puck in the zone and O’Reilly put himself in position for an easy pass to Kloos in the crease. It wasn’t very pretty, but the former Gopher was able to put it away (O’Reilly, Malone; 14:18).
However, Iowa’s late period lapses came again as the IceHogs caught the Wild in the middle of a line change. William Pelletier was able to carry the puck in real close and was able to feed Anthony Louis who had a wide open net and it was Rockford’s third, last-minute goal of the night (Pelletier, Johnson; 19:04). The second period ended even as Iowa brought some things together and won the shot battle to the tune of 15 to 14.
The third period relatively close as both teams were playing on empty by the end of this one. It was also where Iowa’s struggles on the power play continued. Following a high-sticking call on Highmore, the Wild got two minutes to break their slump.
In the expiring minutes of the power play, Mayhew misplayed his own puck and turned it over for a Graham Knott breakaway. Svedberg made the initial stop, but whiffed trying to clear it to the half-boards and former Iowa Wild member, Tyler Sikura, was able to get the shorty, the second given up by the Iowa power play this year (Knott, SH; 10:07).
In the final ten minutes, the Wild were unable to get anything going, as the miscue by the power play unit turned out to be the deciding goal. A couple of empty-netters from Vinnie Hinostroza (Dauphin, EN; 18:36) and Matheson Iacopelli (unassisted, EN; 19:36) sealed the 7-4 victory for the IceHogs.
Number of the night: 3, the amount of special teams goals given up and and the number of goals Iowa gave with with under a minute to play without the goalie pulled. The stick penalties are here and not going away as Iowa gives up two goals on the penalty kill following slashing minors from Grant in the first and Kloos in the second. Mayhew’s turnover also led to Iowa giving up their second short-handed goal in four games to start the season.
Resiliency is something to take away from this one. It’s hard to win back-to-backs as is, even harder when the second half of it is on the road. Despite the first period shot attempts heavily on the side of Rockford, Iowa played a sound game for the rest of it. Iowa had answers for the IceHogs’ goals, but five is a daunting task. The also showed a lot of grit playing down a few guys from injuries and call-ups. The guys shouldn’t hang their heads too much after this one.
More good news, Iowa has five days to rest up and plan for Manitoba (Winnipeg Jets) who come to Des Moines next Friday night for another Central Division match-up and another back-to-back for Iowa. Better news? It’ll be $2 beer night again.