DES MOINES, Iowa - With nothing left to play for by pride, the Iowa Wild showed up early in a very physical battle with the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago) in a night of some significant debuts and minutes for both sides of the ice. There were some flashes of brilliance as the Wild had shown all season, but the size and experience of Rockford proved too much in the loss.
Niklas Svedberg (18-18-7; 2.87 GAA/.905 SV%) got another start for the Wild and C.J. Motte provided the back-up role as Steve Michalek missed his second straight game with an illness. The native of Sollentuna, Swe. made 21 saves on 25 shots en route to the loss.
Rookie netminder Collin Delia (17-6-4; 2.64 GAA/.904 SV%) continued his winning ways despite giving up three goals on 23 shots from the Wild. Lots of credit can be paid to his veteran blueline corps.
Plenty of physicality to be had between both sides with the IceHogs fighting for that final playoff spot in the Central Division and Iowa doing everything in their power to keep the Rockford club from getting there. In the opening minutes, there was plenty of jump from both sides, though Rockford appeared to be in total control of the puck while Iowa struggled to remove themselves from their own end.
It didn’t take long for the lack of command to result in an IceHogs goal as Gustav Forsling, who spent the majority of his season up in Chicago, let loose a blast towards Svedberg that was tipped up and in by former first round pick of the Arizona Coyotes, Henrik Samuelsson (Forsling, Martinsen; 3:19).
There were plenty of big body hits as the intensity only seemed to be ramping up and with Iowa having a relatively inexperienced defensive unit, Derek Lalonde’s squad needed to answer quickly.
The opportunity came as Zach Palmquist blasted a shot from the point of his own at Delia, hoping for some poor rebound control. Mason Shaw showed some great awareness skating up through the slot, but it was Gerry Fitzgerald that was teed up for a snipe, and Iowa got it even within the first ten minutes (Palmquist, Grant; 9:06).
As the clock slipped into the latter half of the period, it was some hard skating from Justin Kloos that set Iowa up for another solid scoring opportunity as he crashed the net in search of his own rebound and got some contact with Delia outside of his crease. With Delia too far out of position, Kyle Rau was able to gather a loose puck and put it on net through a lot of chaos, and Iowa had the lead (Kloos, Mayhew; 13:16).
The period ended with Lance Bouma’s stick ending up in Iowa’s bench, Kurtis Gabriel exchanging some pleasantries, and Chris DiDomenico having a long discussion with the refs and was called for a 10 minute misconduct for abuse of officials. However, Iowa held the 2-1 lead heading into the dressing room.
Iowa got their first power play opportunity of the night to start the second frame after some extra-curriculars to end the first. However, the Wild were unable to get anything going on either of their power play units. Inefficiency in a variety of ways from positioning to erratic passing set the mood for what would be a long period.
Palmquist came up to play Bouma at the red line, but got too tangled up with the vet of 357 NHL games and Anthony Louis had a loose puck and nobody to stop him. He skated in on the right side and buried a shot to bring things back even (Kämpf, Svedberg; 4:22). Unfortunately, the IceHogs weren’t done controlling the first ten minutes, and it wasn’t as if Iowa was doing much to help their own cause.
Rockford was able to get their second of the period as another NHL vet, Cody Franson, let loose a shot from the point and Landon Ferraro’s stick was the culprit as the puck changed angles too quickly for Svedberg to adjust and the IceHogs were able to regain their lead (Fortin, Johnson; 8:32).
The Wild were in need of some energy and did battle hard in the final ten minutes of the period, though it wasn’t enough to tie it up as both teams headed to the dressing room with Rockford holding a 3-2 lead.
From Behind the Eight Ball
Once again, Iowa was given the gift of a power play to start the period as Clendening was called for another slash to end the period to Gerry Mayhew on a breakaway. Justin Kloos had a wide-open net, but the puck must’ve been at a weird angle because he took a long time to release his shot that seemed all but in.
The good news is that Iowa got another opportunity.
With Cal O’Reilly digging out a puck and flinging it into the slot, Mayhew was able to corral it for a second to get it away from Victor Ejdsell, but lost just enough of a handle to get Viktor Svedberg sprawled out on the ice. With a little bit of a delay, Gerry was able to serve up a beautiful back hand pass to Rau who beat Delia for his second goal of the night (Mayhew, O’Reilly; 3:39)
While Iowa appeared to dominated the first ten minutes of the period, it was the IceHogs that were able to strike in the final five minutes to put Iowa in the position of playing catch-up again. Bouma had been pestering Iowa defenders near Svedberg’s crease all night, and finally got the opening that he wanted to receive a pass from Chris DiDomenico that Brennan Menell was unable to thwart to beat Svedberg yet again (DiDomenico, Raddysh; 15:14).
Franson was able to finish it off with an empty netter and the Rockford IceHogs officially clinched the final playoff spot in the Central Division.
Same old, same old.
The Wild will be back in action on Friday night against the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville) for the first half of a home-and-home to close out the season.