THE WILD WIRE - #15Jan 29, 2019
KAHKONEN STEALS THE SHOW
Talk about making your presence known.
For those who did not tune into the AHL All-Star Skills Competition Sunday night, stop reading here and go to AHLTV. Sign-up for the service if you haven’t already and then you’ll be able to watch the event, without a subscription. I’ll wait, because goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen’s performance needs to be seen to be believed.
Welcome back! Crazy, right? In his first All-Star competition EVER (the Finnish leagues don’t have them), Kahkonen stopped 16 shots across three different events, earning the CCM Top Goaltender Award.
Let’s make something clear too. The Skills Competition is not kind to goaltenders at all. It’s designed to let the offensive stars shine. Kahkonen had to go side to side in the Rapid Fire, face three 3-on-0s in the Pass and Score, and then face five breakaways in the Breakaway Challenge. That's not easy at all.
Kahkonen only allowed two goals, both of which came in the Rapid Fire event and was the lowest total for any goalie in that competition. He closed the night out by stopping every chance in the Pass and Score and the Breakaway Challenge.
In the 3-on-3 Challenge, Kahkonen made highlight-reel saves, including stacking the pads late in the Central’s 5-3 win against the Pacific.
Ahead of the event, Kahkonen said he wanted to make sure he wasn’t sniped too much by the All-Star sharpshooters. Mission Accomplished.
CAPTAIN CAL GIVES BACK
When you talk about a true professional in hockey, there’s no one who exemplifies it more than Cal O’Reilly.
O’Reilly attended his fifth(!) All-Star Classic, spending the weekend in Springfield with his family. But of course, he took time out of his weekend to go visit Shriner’s Hospital for Children.
During the hospital visit, O’Reilly met with patients, signing autographs and conversing with the families and caregivers. The highlight though was when O’Reilly and the other All-Stars played air hockey with one patient who was a huge hockey fan.
O’Reilly could have very easily turned down the opportunity to go to Shriner’s, but he understands just how important it is to give back to the community. He’s an active member of the community here in Des Moines and when the chance arose, he wanted to make an impact in Springfield as well.
The AHL selects captains for All-Star Classic, choosing Rockford’s Andrew Campbell and Lehigh Valley’s Colin McDonald this year. O’Reilly has more than 550 AHL points in more than 600 AHL games played across 11-plus seasons. His next All-Star appearance will be his sixth, which would tie a league record. I can’t think of anyone else more deserving of the honor.
FOR THE FANS
This was not a good road trip for the Iowa Wild PR department. Wild Joe Radio started off the trip forgetting dress shoes in Des Moines, which meant borrowing mine for Friday’s game in Milwaukee before buying a pair in Rockford. Then, I proceeded to leave my MacBook charger in the IceHogs’ press box.
So as soon as I got to the hotel in Springfield, I hopped in a Lyft to the nearest Best Buy, a 15-minute drive. With a newly purchased charger in hand, I called Lyft once again to take me back downtown and was picked up by Donna.
On the drive back to the hotel, Donna and I started talking and we get on the subject of the AHL All-Star Classic. Donna has been a season ticket holder in Springfield since the mid-90s and her sons are both season ticket members as well. She shared stories of her and her boys going to games, the heartbreak of seeing Lake Erie win the Calder Cup in the first season after Columbus switched affiliations, to the joy she felt when the Thunderbirds ended the absence of AHL hockey in the area when the Falcons moved to Tucson.
The All-Star Classic is for celebrating the players, the game of hockey and most importantly, the fans themselves. The best players in the league come together to put on a show for the fans, and in Springfield, the fans came out in spades. The 3-on-3 Challenge sold out with everyone in the building cheering for not just the Atlantic but every All-Star team. Springfield treated everyone so very well and I hope Donna enjoyed the weekend as much as I did.
The Wild exits the All-Star break 15 of its next 22 games away from home, beginning with a three-game road trip in California. It’s going to present a good benchmark for the team as Iowa faces off against Bakersfield, San Diego and San Jose.
Bakersfield is on Friday and is just one of two teams this whole season the Wild have not earned a win against. San Diego on Saturday will be the first time the team will play against Justin Kloos since he was traded to the Ducks organization. And the trip caps off with a Tuesday night contest against San Jose, who sits in first place in the Pacific.
Three games against three good teams. What a way to get back to the grind.
When the team heads back to Des Moines (hopefully with a few points banked), the organization will host Local Heroes Night and then Pink in the Rink on Feb. 9. Those are going to be two games you won’t want to miss.
- Born To Be Wild