THE WILD WIRE - #13Jan 8, 2019
WINNING WAYS HALTED SUNDAY
Iowa Wild took a season-high, five-game winning streak into Rockford on Sunday afternoon. The torrid stretch vaulted Iowa back into the top spot in the Central Division and Western Conference.
Heading into the game, Rockford hadn’t scored a goal in three straight meetings against the Wild. Before their drought (eventually) ended, they went more than 200 minutes of play in the season series without beating Wild goaltenders Kaapo Kahkonen (three consecutive shutouts) and Andrew Hammond.
So when the Wild took a 1-0 first period lead Sunday and then led 2-1 in the second, the team had to be feeling pretty good about themselves.
Well, the winning streak came to a screeching halt as the IceHogs scored the final five goals of Sunday’s showdown, topping the Wild 6-2.
It’s tough to explain exactly what caused the shift in momentum as the game moved along, but turnovers certainly played a role in the Wild’s demise that day. IceHogs goaltender Kevin Lankinen was also pretty stellar in net, styming the Wild on several good chances in the third period when the game was still very much in doubt.
BLOGGER’S NOTE: Joel Eriksson Ek was recalled just a short time ago – he’ll rejoin the Minnesota Wild in Boston today as they prepare to play the Bruins tonight. When I started this blog over the weekend, I planned on putting the finishing touches on it during our flight to Texas. So even though Eriksson Ek is no longer on the Iowa roster, I thought I’d keep this portion below. Anyways…
Joel Eriksson Ek, the No. 20 overall pick in 2015, has been an absolute beast since joining the Iowa Wild on Dec. 28.
In five games played, he racked up six points on four goals and two assists. In his AHL career, he has 15 points (8g, 7a) in 14 games. He’s so dominant at times – at both ends of the rink – that it’s borderline shocking he can’t find more offensive success up at the NHL level.
The Karlstad, Sweden, native’s first name is pronounced “JUHL”, not “JOEL” like the more normal, US-style pronunciation, which most of us are accustomed to.
Wild Head Coach Tim Army has been referring to him as “Double E” – because of his last name.
But no matter what you call him, just know the Iowa Wild are a way better team with him in the lineup.
When in the AHL, he plays in every situation, regularly logs more than 20 minutes of ice time per game and is great in the face-off circle.
However, at the NHL level, Eriksson Ek’s posted just 27 points (10g, 17a) in 117 career games. I’m not sure if anyone knows exactly why that’s been the case. It’s probably a bunch of factors, honestly. The term most often used is “a lack of confidence” and so, Eriksson Ek was sent “down” on Dec. 28 for his first stint in the AHL this season. Hopefully, recording at least one point in each of his AHL games and playing a ton of minutes can jumpstart him with the big club now that he’s back up.
For the record, the kid (he’s just 21) is as nice as they come. He’s a touch quiet, but he’s very low maintenance and he shows up at the rink every day ready to work.
One thing I found interesting was his usage on Iowa’s top power-play unit in the two games against Rockford on Jan. 4 – 6. With Sam Anas and Cal O’Reilly both healthy and back in the lineup, the coaching staff elected to use five forwards on the top PP unit, with Eriksson Ek lining up along the blueline prior to all face-offs and sort of quarterbacking the man advantage.
The only other time I remember a Western Conference AHL power play using five forwards (side note – I obviously don’t get the luxury of seeing every team play in person) was Todd Nelson’s Grand Rapids Griffins from two seasons ago. On Jan. 4, 2017, the Griffins scored a home-ice power-play goal against the Wild while using forwards Tomas Nosek, Mitch Callahan, Eric Tangradi, Ben Street and Martin Frk (no, that’s not a typo – it’s pronounced: FURK) on the ice.
I’m sure there are other instances, whether it’s the Griffins or some other talent-laden team, but that Griffins squad stood out, so I went back to double-check.
I could be wrong here, but I believe the Jan. 4 – 6 games marked the first time in Iowa Wild history where all five players on the ice during a power play were forwards. I don’t remember seeing any of the Wild’s opponents employ this strategy so far this season. It’s a bit unique, but if you have a forward (or two) you trust to be reliable defensively, why not get the most offensive talent you can out there?
LONE STAR STRUGGLES
Next up for the Wild is their final trip of the regular season to Texas.
So far, heading south has been a struggle for Iowa, with four of the team’s nine regulation losses coming in the Lone Star State.
The Wild are 0-4-0-1 in the state of Texas this season. They are 20-5-4-2 in their other 31 games.
To top it off, San Antonio is rolling at home right now, having won seven straight games at AT&T Center. That’s where the Wild play next – Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m.
- Wild Joe Radio