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Iowa suffers sudden collapse in season opener

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The AHL Wild started their season last night with a 3rd period whimper.

AHL: OCT 19 Iowa Wild at Texas Stars Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Yeah, we know that the image is of Kyle Rau, who is with the NHL club right now; we don’t have any access to pictures from last night. Sorry.

While the Minnesota Wild lay dormant, in their quarantine slumber—now represented by eight players on the NHL’s COVID protocol list—with games postponed through Feb. 9, the team’s AHL affiliate in Iowa opened their season against the Texas Stars last night.

Stocked with young talent because of the Canadian junior leagues unable to play, the AHL Wild were able to fill their roster with some of the franchise’s key prospects. Reigning Western Hockey League leading scorer Adam Beckman was able to take a depth spot within the forward lines, and defenseman Ryan O’Rourke at the age of 18 years old was able to make his professional hockey debut on the bottom pairing. This small injection of youth comes with the promotion of blueliner Calen Addison making the scheduled jump into the AHL.

All of this could not prevent the Stars seething jolt in the third period, scoring four goals in three minutes and 14 seconds, entering the frame down by one goal and coming out of that brutish onslaught up 6-3 with less than 10 minutes left in the game. It was all too much for Iowa, stunned by the sudden multi-goal deficit and the game finished 8-4 with an Stars empty-net tally.

It would obviously be nice to see Iowa winning games, but with the announcement that no Calder Cup will be awarded at the end of the season and this being only a few months of minor-league hockey basically serving just some development time with intra-division matchups, the end result appears to be secondary. What ultimately matters is seeing the young players evolve into professional players that can eventually contribute in the NHL—wouldn’t that be nice?

And some teenagers decided to really show up and show that they’re meant to be there.

Despite being slotted in on the fourth line, Beckman came to play and was able to score his first professional goal, the fourth and final Wild goal of the game.

A clip that might take some rewinding to really get a sense of the play, but it appears that Beckman fought off a defender and was able to protect the puck, putting his body in between it and the Texas skater. Then quickly turned, and fired off a laser that went through some bodies and into the back of the net.

Honestly, an impressive goal for a 19 year old to score in his first game against much older player than he’s accustomed to.

Beckman wasn’t the only youngster to get on the board, Connor Dewar, a 2018 third-round pick was able to score this immaculate goal on the power play.

Going through essentially the entire penalty kill unit, Dewar weaved with his stickhandling and control of the puck until he was able to glide by the Texas netminder and give the Wild a short lead. The young forward finished the game with two points to his name.

In addition to the two prospects really taking the momentum of the game into their hands and getting on the board, Dmitri Sokolov was able to score the opener and newcomer Joseph Cramarossa scored the Wild’s second goal of the game.

Beyond the goals, Addison, playing in his first ever professional hockey game for the Wild franchise—the young blueliner appeared in a few games for the AHL Penguins—finished the game with three total assists, earning two secondary and one primary helper throughout his debut. The 20 year old defenseman carried the offensive tag ever since he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins and through the trade that brought him to the Minnesota franchise, but he certainly was able to earn that title last night.

As a right-handed and skilled defenseman, he might be getting some more opportunities if the NHL club resumes play shortly. Both Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon are facing absences—the former being out for at least a couple months—and he can bring more offensive ability than the other potential replacements can.

Hell, Addison even finished a plus-one on the game. While plus/minus isn’t the most telling statistic, it certainly tells a large story when a team gives up eight goals and a player comes away still as a positive.

Despite the unfortunate score line and collapse that led to Iowa’s demise, we still saw significant signs of success coming from players that can contribute to NHL success down the road.

The AHL Wild are going right back at it tonight, facing the Stars at 6:00 p.m. CT.