Feb 9, 2019

By Tom Witosky

Follow @toskyAHLWild

Dmitry Sokolov has scored his share of game-winning goals, but Friday night’s overtime winner in the Iowa Wild’s comeback victory over the San Antonio Rampage was something special.

Sokolov’s mother, Zhanetta, and an uncle were among the 7,226 fans in the stands on their first visit to Des Moines from Omsk, Russia, a city of more than 1.1 million in southwestern Siberia.

Sokolov’s 10th goal of the season came as he directed a caroming Louie Belpedio slap shot past Rampage goalie Jared Coreau for a 5-4 win. After scoring the goal, Sokolov looked up into the stands and found his mother celebrating about hard as he does on every goal.

“It feels awesome,” the 20-year-old Sokolov said after the game. “I was looking at her after it happened and she was just jumping around all over the place.”

Friday night’s win broke a four-game losing streak for the Wild against the Rampage and helped to strengthen the club’s grip on a Central Division playoff spot, despite playing with a depleted line-up of 11 forwards and seven defensemen. It was the fourth time in a row head coach Tim Army’s team won with an 11/7 line-up.

“We just have to keep finding a way to win because no one is going to feel sorry for you. It’s a tough racket,” Army said.

The victory was even more impressive given the fact the Wild managed to fall behind by two goals twice in a chaotic second period, during which the Rampage and the Wild scored three goals each after a 1-1 first period.

Matt Read, who scored two goals and had an assist, said the club had trouble finding its legs early despite taking a 1-0 lead on an unassisted, shorthanded marker by Wild forward Colton Beck. Beck scored his 14th goal of the season when Rampage defenseman Mitch Reinke fell down trying to handle a pass.

Beck poked the puck past Reinke and led a 2-on-1 rush down the ice with his shot beating Coreau over his left shoulder. San Antonio would respond with a tying goal when a shot on Wild goalie Kaapo Kahkonen hit Rampage forward Trevor Smith on the knee and bounced into the net.

Initially, referee Brandon Schrader disallowed the goal, but reversed his call after consulting with the other game officials.

“We discovered that our legs were still back in California at the start of the game,” Read said. “With the travel and time change, everything affects you a little bit. I thought our team was flat in the first period.”

Early on in the second period, it wasn’t much better as a series of calls and non-calls by Schrader and referee Michael Duco became more of an issue than winning the game, Army said.

“We got all wrapped up in the officiating and whether the calls were going our way,” Army said. “The bench was alive but we sort of forgot about the biggest thing and that was to get back to competing.”

Army said he gathered his team together during a promotional timeout and ordered everyone to stop yelling at the officials about the calls and focus on the game “me included.”

Read credited that meeting, which came after Rampage took a 3-1 lead on goals by Adam Musil and Niko Mikkola within 19 seconds of each other, as when the momentum changed in favor of Iowa. Read would get the Wild back to within one goal when a centering pass from Michael Kapla hit one of Read’s skates and ended up in the net.

Soon after that goal, Read said a strong 45-second shift by Sam Anas, Will Bitten, and Mason Shaw started the Wild back on the right track.

“That’s when we found everything,” said Read, who serves as one of Iowa's three alternate captains. “We found our legs, we found our brains and started working harder than the other team and proceeded to have a good comeback.”

Despite giving up one more goal, the Wild then stormed back with two quick goals on their own.

Kapla, who was making his Iowa Wild home debut, collected his second assist of the game when he took a shot from the point and Read deflected it past Coreau. Then Gerry Mayhew added his 12th point in his last nine games when he redirected a Matt Bartkowski slap shot to set the game at 4-4.

Army said another key Wild moment came after Iowa defenseman Nate Prosser and Rampage forward Bobby McIntyre drew coincidental roughing penalties at 10:34. Moments later, Hunter Warner found himself forced to take a holding penalty after his stick broke and a Rampage attacker began a rush down the ice.

The Wild would then stage a two-minute penalty kill that included 1:29 with three defenders.

“We did a great job of fronting the shot and had several good clears,” Army said. “They are a dangerous team from the blue line, but Kaapo made some big stops and we got through it.”

For the night, the Wild killed off three penalties, scored a shorthanded goal and three power-play goals, including Sokolov’s goal with 1:37 left in overtime.

Afterward, Sokolov said not only was happy his family saw the goal, but was looking forward to getting some home-cooking from his mother.

“She is going to cook some Russian food for me,” he said. “Her soups are really good.” 

San Antonio and Iowa square off again tonight with a 6:00 p.m. puck drop for Pink in the Rink Night, promoting the battle against breast cancer and honoring breast cancer survivors.

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