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Cleveland comes to Des Moines for the first of their eight meetings with Iowa

Iowa Wild (4-6-2, 10 pts) and the Cleveland Monsters (5-3-2, 12pts) will play a back-to-back this weeked; re-newing their rivalry forged last season

The Iowa power play unit celebrates one of their three goals on the day in a 5-3 win over the IceHogs on Thursday
Iowa Wild/AHL

The Wild got Friday night off in preparation for their back-to-back tilt against the Cleveland Monsters (Columbus Blue Jackets), who come into town in third place in the Central Division standings. It’s been a .500 year for Iowa, who have gone 4-4-2 (10 pts) in their last ten games. While the points are nice, Iowa hasn’t been able to string together back-to-back wins this season.

In Coach Lalonde’s words, “we’re treading water.”

A win against the Monsters would not only be a great momentum builder, but it would also put them in a top for spot in the division; a place they’ve never finished when playoff time comes around.

Top Performers

Cleveland - Point Leaders

  1. Carter Camper (C) - 7 pts (5G/2A)
  2. Calvin Thürkauf (C) - 5 pts (4G/1A)
  3. Miles Koules (RW) - 5 pts (2G/3A)
  4. Joe Pendenza (C) - 4 pts (2G/2A)
  5. Sam Vigneault (C)/Jordan Schroeder (C) - 4 pts (1G/3A)

If you’re looking at this list and thinking to yourself “woah, they’re not scoring very much,” you’d be right, even though the team as only played 10 games thus far. Despite being third place in the Central Division, the Monsters have score the least amount of goals of any of the seven teams. What you’ll also see is three of their five top performers are AHL rookies.

Thürkauf is a new addition to the roster, having quickly acclimated to the North American style after two seasons with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League; he increased his point total by 25 in year two from 45 (18G/27A) to 70 (33G/37A).

Prior to being drafted by Columbus in the 7th round of the 2016 draft, the Zug, Switzerland-native grew up in the EV Zug junior program and was most recently the captain for the U20 club that represented die Schweiz at last year’s WJCs; a tournament where he averaged a point-per-game in Switzerland’s round robin match-ups.

Koules is a 23-year-old rookie who has made a lot of rounds the last two seasons, but making some noise early on in 2017-18. A graduate of the US National Team Development Program, the Los Angeles-native dressed for six different teams between the ECHL and AHL since 2015. If the name sounds vaguley familar, his father, Oren, was a part owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2008 to 2010.

Iowa - Point Leaders

  1. Colton Beck (LW) - 9 pts (6G/3A)
  2. Pat Cannone (C) - 8 pts (5G/3A)
  3. Cal O’Reilly (C) - 8 pts (3G/5A)
  4. Zack Mitchell (C/RW) - 8 pts (1G/7A)
  5. Alex Grant (RHD) - 7 pts (4G/3A)

Grant (2A on the PP), Mitchell (1G/2A), and O’Reilly (1G/1A on the PP) are all coming off of multi-point performances in Iowa’s 5-3 win over Rockford on Thursday morning. The first two mentioned are newcomers to the Iowa Wild leaderboard.

Despite earning a secondary assist Thurs. morning, Justin Kloos was the most recent rookie to have his name drop from this list. Brennan Menell hasn’t tallied a point since the Tucson roadtrip and has been on the minus the last two games.

Iowa may have some more firepower when compared to Cleveland, but their leading scorer, Colton Beck, is 61st in the league in scoring with his nine points.

Cleveland - Goalies

  1. Brad Thiessen (4-1-1) - 2.68 GAA/.896 SV%
  2. Matīss Kivlenieks (1-2-1) - 1.72 GAA/.932 SV%

Thiessen returns to the Monsters for his third season and has already made half as many starts as he did in the entire 2016-17 campaign. He doesn’t have the same stats as his rookie counterpart, but Cleveland seems to turn on the offense to bail him out.

Kivlenieks is in his first pro season after dominating the USHL last year in Sioux City. The native of Riga, Latvia has a shakey record, but his GAA and SV% show that the burden isn’t all his. Of his four starts, the Monsters have lost when he gives up two or more goals; the OTL came in the form of a 1-0 loss.

Iowa - Goalies

  1. Niklas Svedberg (3-6-1) - 2.84 GAA/.904 SV%
  2. Steve Michalek (1-0-0) - 3.00 GAA/.917 SV%

After an emergency call-up to Minnesota, Svedberg is back in town as Iowa’s number one goaltender. Michalek had a great showing on Thursday morning, his first AHL start of this season. In talking with Coach Lalonde at Tuesday’s morning skate, he sees the addition of Michalek to the roster as a welcomed opportunity for the Wild to get some developmental ice time for both goaltenders.

It was just one game, but Michalek looked great in his start against Rockford, especially since it wasn’t the plan for him to play until later in this week’s slate of games. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him in net again this weekend.

Game Plan

Keep up the momentum on the power play. The Wild started the season 0-for-21 with the man advantage, with a couple of short-handed goals given up. Since then, Iowa has nine power play goals in another thirty-nine opportunities; a 23.1 percent success rate.

They’re still only at a 15.0 percent efficiency on the year, but they’ve also gone up nearly 6.0 percent in their last three games alone.

Iowa’s special teams unit still continues to be one of the best in the league at 88.9%. Cleveland’s power play unit is on the opposite end of the spectrum, dead last in the AHL at 10.6% in 47 opportunities. Coincidentally, they are also only one of four teams in the league with under 50 situations on the man-advantage.

It sounds like a platitude, but getting on top early is what might be the difference in this one. Cleveland is one of two teams in the Central that have yet to crack 30 goals on the season and one of only two teams in the entire AHL with under 25. Iowa has never been particularly potent on the offensive side, but the Wild have scored four or more goals in four games to start the season.

Something they didn’t do until December last season.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 CST at Wells Fargo Arena. It’s a “Veterans Appreciation” night in observance for Veterans’ Day (Remembrance Day for our friends in the Commonwealths). As always, there will be some awesome game-worn sweaters available for auction.