Feb 10, 2019

By Tom Witosky

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When Iowa Wild defenseman Carson Soucy put San Antonio forward Ryan Olsen on the seat of his pants Saturday night, Soucy sent two messages:

  1.  The Wild is ready for anything physical opponents might throw at them during the hunt for a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs and…
  2. They can count on seeing the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Alberta native helping to lead that effort

“Olsen’s had our number a bit,” Soucy said after the game of the check that a brought a roar from the 10,020 fans attending the game. “He got (Justin) Kloos when we were down there and he got Cal (O’Reilly) earlier in the game. I saw that there was a little bit of time left so if he was going to get our guys, he would know that someone had gotten back a bit from him.”

Soucy’s solid and rule-compliant neutral zone check was just one of several highlights of his contribution to the club’s dramatic 3-2 overtime win over the Rampage Saturday night. Soucy would not only score the game-winning goal with a slap shot in overtime, but also got a key assist on J.T. Brown’s game-tying score with just 8.2 seconds left in regulation.

“This kind of win doesn’t happen very often,” Coach Tim Army said afterward. “When it does happen, it does feel good. It was another night we had to be resilient and we came away with four big points this weekend.”

With the victory, the Wild further strengthened its grip on second place in the Central Division and kept pace with the first place Grand Rapids Griffins, which has a two-point lead on Iowa with only 26 games left on the schedule. The team also tied a franchise record of 18 home wins in a season with 12 games remaining.

The team now gets time to regroup and make some decisions on whether to stand pat with its 11 forward, 7 defensemen approach that has resulted in five straight wins when using it. The Wild will take on a hot Rockford IceHogs team on the road next Saturday, then faceoff Sunday against Chicago in a road showdown with the Wolves, another playoff contender.

Army said Saturday’s game with San Antonio illuminated how the push for a playoff spot is already underway. The Rampage, despite a slow start, is also in striking distance of the fourth and final playoff spot in the division.

“It was physical, it was chippy, it was a lot like a playoff game,” Army said, adding that a Soucy roughing penalty prompted a discussion of the team’s approach after San Antonio took a 1-0 lead.

Soucy got caught face-washing Rampage forward Sammy Blais as Blais held Soucy’s stick with both teams leaving the Rampage zone. With Soucy in the penalty box, Blais fired a slap shot past Wild goalie Kaapo Kahkonen early in the power play to take the lead.

Army said he understood Soucy’s penalty, but wanted the team to be more disciplined.

“We addressed it after the first period that this is what it is this time of year,” Army said. “We are at Game 50 and have 26 to go. We are working to win the division and working to get into the playoffs. It is only going to get tougher and every game is going to get more intense from now to April and then April to June.”

Army said that’s why Soucy’s role and the other big men on the Wild blueline – Matt Bartkowski, Nate Prosser, and Hunter Warner – are so important at this point in the season.

“We are not big up front so we need guys like Soucy, Prosser, Barts and Hunter to establish a physical presence for us,” Army said. “They were running around tonight and we didn’t have (Mike Liambas) in the lineup so Soucy really helped to settle the game for our skill guys so they could go out and play.”

Soucy, who played in seven games with the Minnesota Wild last season, including four playoff games, has also been assigned a new role on the Wild’s 6-on-5 attack at the end of games. He is the guy designated as the last line of defense with an empty net, but also to attack when it’s necessary.

“He has the size and range that we need,” Army said, adding that last night’s last-second goal was the first of the season 6-on-5. “He is tough, he is physical and that makes him hard to play against. He is one of the guys who stands up to challenges”.

Army said Soucy’s tip of Brennan Menell’s blue line slap shot as the final seconds were ticking off showed exactly why Soucy has become a vital cog in the lineup.

“Soucy has the instinct of always going north,” Army said. “We talk to him a lot about his decision-making to make sure he is in the right spot to go and that the play is developing in such way that he can get involved in the attack.”

Soucy’s deflection missed the net, but found Brown standing on the doorstep with an open side. Brown’s shot was nearly blocked by Rampage goalie Jared Coreau, who managed to get his stick in the way. But, the puck bounced up and forward into the net, sending the game into overtime.

Soucy then ended the game just 39 seconds into the overtime period. Matched with forwards Mason Shaw and Gerry Mayhew, the three got control of the puck after losing the opening faceoff. In short order, Shaw set up Soucy with an open shot from near the top of the right circle that eluded Coreau.

“Shawzy’s been in my ear a little bit about not shooting when I’ve had shots so I made sure I shot this one to make him happy,” Soucy said. “I was ready for it.”

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