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The streaking Wild head to Rockford for another early morning puck drop against the IceHogs

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Derek Lalonde and his Iowa club (6-6-2, 14 pts) are a win away from second place in the Central as they take on a slumping Rockford team (8-6-0, 16 pts) that have lost four of their last five

Kyle Rau (42) battles Alexandre Fortin (42) for a puck in Iowa’s 5-3 win over Rockford last Thursday morning
Ted Sandeen/Iowa Wild

Prior to their last meeting with the IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks), the Iowa Wild had been flirting with a five-hundred record and Derek Lalonde described the crew as “treading water.”

Since that 5-3 win, Iowa has rattled off two more and find themselves with the second best ten-game stretch in the division (5-3-2) and just two points away from moving up the table to a second place spot in the Central.

With the addition of Landon Ferraro, coupled with Zack Mitchell’s ten points in their last five games, this is a very different Iowa Wild team than the one we saw as Minnesota was decimated by injury and calling up players more often than late night calls to an ex.

Sunday night was a particularly impressive win for Iowa, coming back from a 2-0 deficit in the second period to not just force overtime, but get the two points over Cleveland. It took two Monsters goals to wake Iowa up, but they responded rather than tuck tail.

Last week, Iowa had a few up tempo practices to get used to the pace of the new-look IceHogs under first year head coach, Jeremy Colliton. The plan for the Chicago affiliate has been simple: get in the zone, and put pucks on net. Unfortunately for them, that philosophy leads to defensive liabilities to be exploited.

Rockford had a four-game losing streak, hammered home by a 6-0 loss at the hands of San Antonio (St. Louis/Colorado) despite 39 shots on net. They have, however, rebounded after a 5-2, third period beat down against the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville) with 44 shots on net.

Top Performers

Rockford - Points

  1. Vinnie Hinostroza (C) - 15 pts (7G/8A)
  2. Erik Gustafsson (LHD) - 11 pts (3G/8A)
  3. Matthew Highmore (C) - 10 pts (5G/5A)
  4. Tomáš Jurčo (LW) - 10 pts (4G/6A)
  5. David Kämpf (RW) - 9 pts (4G/5A)

Bartlett, Ill., native, and former Notre Dame teammate of Mario Lucia, Vinnie Hinostroza continues to be impressive and make a case for himself to join the Blackhawks to add some firepower down the middle. His goal against Iowa last week was a work of art, finding a way to go bar-down on the near side of a 6’3” goalie.

Highmore is the top rookie on the team in points, but has been streaky to start the season. After scoring five points in his first three professional games, the Halifax, N.S., native has yet to score in back-to-back games since. He is still ranked 8th in the A in scoring amongst rookies as an undrafted free agent.

Despite being in Rockford’s top five, Kämpf’s one goal against Milwaukee was his first point in five games after having tallied a point in the five games prior to the slump. The rookie from Jirkov, Czech Republic is on pace to beat his point total (15-16—31) in 52 games with Piráti Chomutov in the Czech Extraliga.

Iowa - Points

  1. Zack Mitchell (C/RW) - 12 pts (3G/9A)
  2. Colton Beck (C/LW) - 10 pts (6G/4A)
  3. Pat Cannone (C) - 10 pts (6G/4A)
  4. Justin Kloos (C) - 9 pts (3G/6A)
  5. Cal O’Reilly (C) - 8 pts (3G/5A)

He was held scoreless in Iowa’s 3-2 shootout win over Cleveland on Sunday, but Zack Mitchell has been amazing since his up and down road trips to Minnesota to start the season. Mitchell has only been held without a point three times in his nine games played in the A, and had three multi-point games to his credit.

Since Colton Beck’s seven game point streak, he has two assists in his last six games. The last few games, he’s remained on the wing on the third line with Kloos at center and Sam Anas on the opposite wing. With those two, there will be a lot of opportunities for the Langley, B.C., native to provide the below-the-net presence for two very talented puck handlers.

Kloos makes his return to the top five scorers list, though his five game scoring streak came to an end in the shootout win Sunday against the Cleveland Monsters. He’s moved from the 4F on the power play to the wing, though he’s been the man in the middle for that dynamic Beck-Kloos-Anas line.

Rockford - Goalies

  1. Jean-François Bérubé (5-4-0) - 2.58 GAA/.911 SV%
  2. Jeff Glass (3-1-0) - 2.72 GAA/.896 SV%

Collin Delia was sent back down to the Indy Fuel in the ECHL after making his AHL debut against the Iowa Wild last week. That said, Jeff Glass is back, making his first appearance since Oct. 28th in relief of Bérubé in Rockford’s 6-0 loss to San Antonio. Glass did get the start in a much needed win over Milwaukee, 5-3.

Bérubé had two shutouts in the first four games to start the season and was one of the more efficient netminders going into last Thursday. However, since Rockford’s 2-1 overtime win in Iowa a few weeks back, the Repentigny, P.Q., native has given up three or more goals in four straight losses between the pipes.

Iowa - Goalies

  1. Niklas Svedberg (4-6-1) - 2.74 GAA/.906 SV%
  2. Steve Michalek (2-0-0) - 2.00 GAA/.940 SV%

It’s a great feeling that Iowa finally has two goalies to be confident in. Svedberg did a great job carrying the load to start the season and was left out to dry a few times. He was a bit shaky in his start against Cleveland on Sunday, but he was able to buckle down for 25 minutes (including OT) and made three key saves to get his fourth win of the season.

After a trip to Rapid City to get back to game speed, Michalek looked great in his two starts since returning to the A. Lalonde was very excited to have another option between the pipes. At development camp, the message was “competition breeds results.” With two decent goalies and no clear number one like 2016-17, look for the two to split looks.

Game Plan

Ride or die in the Neutral Zone. The IceHogs are hyper-aggressive when it comes to throwing pucks on net, having been held under 30 shots on goal only twice this season. If they’re able to get easy zone entries, the Hogs have talented enough forwards to make moves on defensemen to generate shots. If Iowa is able to disrupt Rockford in the NZ, it will make the day a little easier on their younger defensemen.

Don’t be afraid to slow the game down. With their youth, speed, and two players that would be in the NHL for lesser franchises, the IceHogs are just as aggressive without the puck as they are with it. Alex Grant turned a broken play into a 2-on-1 after drawing in all three IceHog forwards to the redline in pursuit of him in his own DZ. Control the puck and set up those below the net opportunities that Iowa seems so adept in using to generate scoring chances.

It’s two weeks in a row with a 10:30 am puck drop. Rockford will also host their annual “School Day Game” in front of a few thousand screaming kids at the BMO Harris Bank Center.