It was a night with one team trending in the right direction and the other sitting soundly in the bottom of the division with no love lost between these two Central Division rivals.
There were fights, there were some heavy hits, and Iowa competed brilliantly, but it was blown tire and an x’s and o’s mistake in the final two minutes of the game that led to Iowa’s demise in the shootout, 3-2 at the hands of the Griffins (Detroit Red Wings).
C.J. Motte (2-1-3; 2.26 GAA/.925 SV%) got the call once again for Iowa, making 30 saves on 32 Grand Rapids shots to get the Wild in a position to gain another point in the standings. It was a couple of weird goals for the Griffins, but there’s no question that Motte has stepped up huge in this emergency role.
Jared Coreau (8-8-1; 2.99 GAA/.898 SV%) got the nod from Todd Nelson and started on the opposite end for the Griffins. He returned to the win column, stopping 21 of Iowa’s 23 shots and making Pat Cannone miss in the shootout to get Grand Rapids two points as they start working on a little momentum.
Record Setting First for Sam Anas
In the words of so many sportscasters of the past, “these two teams really don’t like each other, Bob.” With the Wild trending in the right direction in more ways than one, it was nothing but expected that the Griffins were going to do anything to throw the guys off their game.
The only problem for the Griffins was, Iowa fought back.
The Wild were the first to strike, with Gerald Mayhew making the sacrifice in the name of a record. Providing some forechecking pressure, the former Ferris State Bulldog was able to swipe a puck from Dan Renouf and get it to Sam Anas in the slot before being absolutely buried by Dominic Shine.
He get’s the secondary assist, but Mayhew is what made the play happen.
Anas dropped the puck back to Justin Kloos in the high slot before the former Gopher hit Anas down low for the backhand through Coreau’s wickets. With the goal, the former Qunnipiac Bobcat became the Iowa Wild franchise record holder for consecutive games with a point - 14 points (7G/7A) over his last nine games (Kloos, Mayhew; 6:08).
He also tied a franchise record for consecutive games with a goal scored - 6 games, a record set by Colton Beck back in October.
A record-setting tally from @samanas7 to start us off pic.twitter.com/K1IWq1jhJI— Iowa Wild (@IAWild) December 23, 2017
The period came to an end with a yard sale on the ice after Luke Kunin took a run at Dylan McIlrath. The 6’4” defenseman took exception and took down the 6’0” Kunin that looked more than apathetic to dropping the gloves. A moments later, Chase Lang got into it with Colin Campbell, but the refs came in to dole out coincidental roughing minors.
At the end of a very “festive” period, Iowa still had the lead in shots, 6-4, on top of their 1-0 lead where it matters most.
The start of the middle frame had a familiar feel to the first - bellicose.
It was Shine once again delivering a blow to a Wild skater, and this time it was Zach Palmquist behind Motte’s net. D-man Alex Grant took exception to Shine running his partner and dropped the gloves for another round of fisticuffs with less than three minutes played.
Apart from the body blows, there weren’t many scoring opportunities for either side. But, as expected, the quiet only lasts for so long.
Reaching the midway point to the period, the Griffins entrenched themselves in the Iowa zone and were able to score a close quarters goal. Eric Tangradi was able to battle with Brennan Menell behind Motte’s net for a puck and was able to retain possession. Nick Seeler battled with Matt Lorito in front, but Lorito was able to get positioning for what felt like a split second on the Eden Prairie native.
It turned out to be enough.
A Tangradi pass only needed a bit of Lorito’s blade to get tipped up and over Motte’s shoulder at the near post. It was a fluky goal, but still a goal as the Grand Rapids was able to tie it up.
The final three minutes of the period were pretty tense, as Grand Rapids was able to retain possession for the majority of it - getting quality opportunities against Iowa’s stand-in goaltender. However, the St. Clair, Mich. native had enough in the tank, and the period came to a close all tied up at one apiece.
With a power play opportunity to start, you would’ve hoped that the Wild would have come out with a little more fire, but that was not how it was meant to go tonight. It was a very tense third period, with both teams deadlocked, and a prevailing feeling that whoever was going to win the board battles would inevitably win on the scoreboard as well.
Sure enough, it was a battle won by Kloos behind the net that broke the stalemate with under six minutes to play in the final frame. But it wasn’t just the battle won, it was the awareness to get back in front of Coreau that made the difference.
After a small feed to Mayhew, the puck found it’s way to Grant at the point with no challengers. Palmquist was calling for the puck, but Grant opted to clap one towards the net and Kloos was able to get the redirect and give Iowa the lead and seemingly all the momentum heading into the final five minutes (Grant, Mayhew; 14:47).
Unfortunately, it was another weird looking goal that got Grand Rapids back even with under two minutes to play, and one that Lalonde wanted to have back. He chalked it up to a young defenseman losing his footing, but placed a lot of the blame on the veterans more poised for a breakout and giving up the slot. It was team captain Matthew Ford that got the equalizer on Motte’s glove side as he was falling to the ice. Almost as if in slow motion, the puck snuck in as Ford made friends with gravity (Tangradi, Street; 18:13).
Iowa was able to hold onto the puck and get the majority of the looks leaning heavily on a group of Kloos, Anas, and Palmquist; three guys with an eye for scoring as of late. However, even with the domination of puck possession, the horn sounded and the game was decided by breakaways.
Anas, as always, had a great move to beat Coreau for Iowa’s initial goal, but then things started to get a little tense. Kyle Rau was able to even things up when Iowa needed it, but when it was Pat Cannone’s turn to keep the shootout going, he missed wide and Grand Rapids got the two points on the night.
Number of the night: 2. The Mayhew-Kloos-Anas line continues to perform and were the starting line for the Wild tonight. They were also responsible for doing all the right things that led to Iowa’s goals tonight: strong forechecking, digging out pucks in deep, and keeping possession in the OZ - Kloos and Mayhew ended the night with multi-point performances because of it. Sam Anas now holds the club record in consecutive games with a point because of it.
“If I get another point, great, if Gerry or Kloos get another point, great,” Sam said of the streak and the line’s success. “I think we’re always working out there...we’re working to get the puck, and when one of us gets the puck, another one gets open and we look for each other...I think there’s always smiles when we score.”
In Coach’s words: It’s another loss for the Wild, but Newsy was happy with the team’s compete-level in what he described as a “trap game” after spending the last ten days on the road leading into this game before three days off for Christmas.
“No complaints,” Lalonde said of the performance. “Of all the games on the schedule...the one game that really scared me was this game...in a lot of cases, teams would’ve laid an egg here. Our guys absolutely battled and competed; that’s why we keep chiseling away points and why we’re where we’re at in the standings. Much needed break...this division is going to be a bear from here on out.”
Iowa will be back in action after the holiday against the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks), who have now jumped Iowa in the standings by winning percentage after an OT win over the Chicago Wolves tonight. It’ll be a 7:00 start next Thursday, Dec. 28th, from Wells Fargo Arena.