After an exhausting loss to Rockford to cap off last weekend, the Iowa Wild had a week to prepare, got one of their guys back, and got another forecheck-powered goal to open this weekend with a hard-fought, 3-2 win against the visiting Moose from Manitoba (Winnipeg Jets).
Niklas Svedberg (2-3-0) made his fifth consecutive start of the season, stopping 26 of 28 shots and showing his boxing abilities in the win. Eric Comrie (1-2-0) made one more save, but also let in one more goal as he made 27 saves on 30 Iowa attempts in his second loss of the season.
At puck drop, the game plan for Iowa was apparent in the first five minutes: get the puck in deep and use the forecheck to their advantage. An aggressive strategy, Lalonde’s guys were able to maintain possession, but they had trouble finding shooting lanes on Eric Comrie early on.
It was a relatively uneventful first period. Both sides got an opportunity to play with the man-advantage, both sides were able to put forth a successful penalty kill. Iowa had a great look on a short-handed, two-on-one situation, but Colton Beck was unable to find the tape of Justin Kloos’ stick, much to the chagrin of the Wild development staff on hand.
An errant pass from Ryan Murphy to the skates of Kurtis Gabriel in the neutral zone turned into a turnover and an opportunity for Manitoba. Mason Appleton carried the puck into deep into Iowa’s zone and made a great centering pass to a crashing Jack Roslovic to open the scoring, his third of the season (Appleton; 19:47).
Iowa was hoping for an offside call on Roslovic, but the score stood and the first period came to a close, 1-0 in favor of the Moose. Manitoba also ended the period in control of shots-on-goal, 9-7. The last minute goal was the fourth given up by the Wild this season, and their fourth in four periods.
The start of the second saw Iowa come out firing, and the Wild were able to score early on; once again it was a turnover off of a skate. Sami Niku tried to make a cross-ice pass in his own zone to Appleton, only to see it go off of his skate. Rapid City call-up Evan Janssen made a great play to keep the puck in the offensive zone, and Chase Lang was able to corral it and hit Janssen with a lot of open ice on the left side. The Green Bay, Wisc., native took advantage of the opportunity, firing a laser over Comrie’s glove for his first professional goal (Lang; 3:09).
With half the period gone, Manitoba’s Buddy Robinson was called for a hold and Iowa went on their twenty-second power play of the season; still in search of their first goal on the peepers. With former Gopher Kyle Rau camping in the slot, the break Iowa had been waiting for finally came as Murphy went to Kloos in the left circle, got it to Rau who buried it glove-side. It was his first of the season in his first game of the year in his first appearance with the Wild organization (Murphy, Kloos; PP - 11:37).
Unfortunately, Iowa was unable to put together the perfect period, as Manitoba had the final say in the second frame. The Moose were able to control the puck for nearly a minute of play before Sgarbossa was able to loop around the top of the zone, firing a pass to Melchiori for a tip-in goal (Niku, Sgarbossa; 15:35).
As the teams headed into the locker rooms for the second intermission, it was all knotted up at 2-2 with Manitoba holding the edge in shots-on-goal, 18-14.
The start of the third period had some ominous tones to it as Iowa essentially began and finished the final frame on the PK. Mario Lucia headed to the box just 1:20 into the third, though the penalty kill of Cal O’Reilly-Christoph Bertschy-Brennan Menell-Nick Seeler were able to stave off their third of the night.
Apart from the PK, Iowa spent a lot of time at even strength in the offensive zone in the first five minutes of the period. They were hungry and looking to break the deadlock as they took control of shots-on-goal early on and never gave it up. Their possession looked great, and there was a definite chemistry amongst the guys, particularly during a 6-on-5 opportunity on a delayed penalty where they were able to hold onto the puck for nearly 1:20 before a whistle. They got off three shots and had numerous decent looks on Comrie.
The break that they were looking for took a little bit, but came with a little under six minutes to play in the game. Once again, the forecheck came up huge from the bottom six guys as both Janssen and Beck battled in the trapezoid for the puck. A desperate pass from Niku ended up on Bertschy’s stick who got it to Beck, and the Langley, BC., native got it past Comrie for the lead and his third on the year (Bertschy, Janssen; 14:08).
The final three minutes saw a hefty helping of Manitoba on the attack and a lot of icing calls from the Wild defense. Head coach Pascal Vincent tried his luck with an extra attacker, Patty Roy style, with over 2:30 left in the game and down only one goal. However, Iowa was unable to capitalize on the opportunity. Manitoba’s attackers were all over Svedberg’s crease and where the refs didn’t step in, the Swedish netminder did, delivering a right hook to the back of Buddy Robinson’s dome.
However, the twelves seconds of power play time wasn’t enough and Iowa was able to skate off with the win in this one.
Number for the night: 1. There were a lot of firsts going. Rau got his first look of the season playing on the number one line. He got his first goal of the year as well. Janssen got his first goal of his pro career tonight. As a team, Iowa was also able to earn their first power play goal of the year, something that comes as a relief after starting the year 0-for-20 through the first four games.
Lalonde has been animate about the AHL game being played in five game segments. In his words, “two and three is better than one and four,” especially after playing three Central Division opponents to start the season. The four points should feel good for these guys, and Newsy is making sure that the players still “live in the moment” while getting the hard earned Ws of each five game segment.
This was the first game of the season where multiple parts came together to result in a much deserved win. The forecheck was exemplary, though Lalonde was quick to point out that all of those pucks thrown north for opportunities didn’t have players chasing with that “spark” at the game’s onset.
“It’s a laid back room,” Lalonde explained. Though he hopes that the identity of the first five games can develop into the hungry-side the Wild showed in the third period; one where the fired off sixteen shots, their highest total out of any period this season.
On top of that, their special teams stepped up tonight. The penalty kill was able to post a shutout, and the power play was able to get one on the board. Lalonde was quick to point out that it was far from a complete game, but that Iowa was taking a lot of steps in the right direction.
The two squads are back at it tomorrow for their second meeting of eight this season. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 with a “pre-game Tailgate Party”.