All good things must come to an end, and in the case for the Iowa Wild, it was their five game win streak on Wednesday night after a 3-1 loss in Rockford (Chicago Blackhawks). However, netminder Steve Michalek (4-0-0; 1.72 GAA/.947 SV%) continues his winning ways, stopping 33 of 34 shots Friday night to keep his record flawless.
I was able to drive to Rockford before spending time with the family on Thanksgiving, but it turned more into a showcase for Blackhawks prospect, undrafted Matthew Highmore, who netted his first professional hat trick and accounted for all three of Rockford’s goals that night.
Niklas Svedberg (5-7-1; 2.64 GAA/.912 SV%) was tacked with the loss that night, the third goal of the night coming on the IceHogs’ 40th shot of the night; Iowa managed just 24.
It was a frustrating game to watch, and I’m sure it was just as frustrating for the coaching staff with the way the game started. Jeremy Colliton’s game plan shut down Iowa in the neutral zone, leading to turnovers and quick zone entries to get shots off on Sveds.
With Luke Kunin and Joel Eriksson Ek sent down, I was hoping to see an explosive offense with those two on the top line with the always mobile Christoph Bertschy. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
Even when Iowa was able to chip the puck into the zone, the Rockford defense won the majority to the 50/50 battles and the Wild weren’t able to get the best part of their offense going; behind the net of Jean-François Bérubé (6-5-0; 2.39 GAA/.916 SV%).
The silver lining was that Gerry Mayhew was able to break his goal scoring drought, as he hadn’t lit the lamp since the first game of the season against Milwaukee.
With time winding down, Vinnie Hinostroza couldn’t help but get some last minute chirps in towards Iowa’s bench, though it didn’t seem as if anyone on the Wild was listening.
After everyone had slept off their turkey and spent quality time with their families, it was Military Appreciation night in Rockford. Each side had a different look in net, as Iowa went with Michalek and Rockford had Jeff Glass (5-1-1; 2.49 GAA/.914 SV%) who had been between the pipes for five straight wins.
The Wild had a day to ruminate about the lack of offense from two days earlier and came out firing. Lalonde’s offense launched 16 shots in the first period, nearly half of their entire shot total for the game.
An aggressive scheme paid off, as Iowa lit the lamp first on a Ryan Murphy goal real late in the first (Eriksson Ek, O’Reilly; 19:47). The refs were taking control of the first, doling out a faceoff violation on each team; one for Justin Kloos and one for David Kämpf.
Rockford was able to answer in the second on a Luc Snuggerud goal, though it would be the last goal from either side in regulation (Hinostroza, Norell; 6:59).
Both sides played some disciplined hockey, even though there is definitely bad blood between the two squads. Rockford didn’t commit a single penalty in the finals two periods and Iowa managed to stay out of the box after Carson Soucy’s hooking penalty 12:15 into the second.
Without the stops in play, both offenses were allowed to get pucks on net, as the IceHogs and Iowa managed to get 34 shots on net in a goaltender duel between Glass and Michalek.
Fortunately for Iowa, their 34th shot off of Joel Eriksson Ek’s stick found it’s way past Glass for the overtime winner and Iowa’s eight game where a point was earned in their last ten (Ferraro, Murphy; 3:47); the fifth best stretch (7-2-1) in the AHL as of Nov. 25th.
The Iowa penalty continues to be dominant, having killed off all seven man advantages for the IceHogs, though Rockford does have the third worst power play in the Central. With the blemish-free performance by the PK, the Wild are now back above 90 percent while down a skater; the only team in the A that can say that.
Iowa is back in action tomorrow afternoon as they’ll play the Chicago Wolves (Vegas Golden Knight/St. Louis Blues) for the first time this season in the Windy City at Allstate Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 3:00 CST.