THE WILD WIRE #1Oct 7, 2019
Well, another season is underway and you can’t ask for a better opening weekend than what the Wild gave their hometown fans on Friday night and Sunday afternoon.
October 4: 3-2 win against Rockford on the strength of JT Brown’s power-play goal in the final minute.
October 6: 5-2 win against Milwaukee aided by three unanswered goals in the second period.
Two division rivals. Two clutch wins. Two not-very-fun bus rides out of Des Moines for the opponents.
The two games saw about 14,000 fans come through the doors. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that the Iowa Wild have a legit, home-ice advantage when you consider the following:
- 23 wins during the 2018-2019 regular season
- 4-1 mark during the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs
- Opening weekend sweep to kick off the 2019-2020 season
It took a while for the organization to find success at home, but the mojo is here now and hopefully this team continues to dominate at Wells Fargo Arena.
LAST MINUTE LINE JUGGLING
The Minnesota Wild signed forward Luke Johnson this past summer to provide depth at the center ice position. The same could be said for the signing of veteran center Gabriel Dumont.
They were both acquisitions that had to be made, especially to help offset the departure of two-year captain and leading scorer Cal O’Reilly, in free agency.
Dumont has started strong with a goal in each of the wins over the weekend. Last year, he tallied 15 goals with the Syracuse Crunch.
Johnson, a former Chicago Blackhawks draft pick, earned himself 15 NHL games a season ago while posting 31 points in 53 games in Rockford.
The 25-year-old from Grand Forks, ND was slated to be Iowa’s No. 1 center to start the season. He was going to play between speedy wingers Gerry Mayhew and Will Bitten. He was going to log top power play and penalty kill minutes.
And then, he got hurt in literally the final moments of Thursday’s practice (the day before the season opener). With Johnson hobbled, the coaching staff had to make some quick adjustments.
So, Dumont moved up to play with Mayhew and Bitten. Following a late-night scoring correction by the league office, that trio officially finished with seven points in Sunday’s win. Not too shabby.
The injury to Johnson also meant an opportunity for second-year pro Kyle Bauman. He was going to be a healthy scratch on Opening Night and instead ended up centering a line with Colton Beck and Sam Anas in both weekend contests.
I know it’s early in the season, but this Wild team has some pretty good depth up front.
POLICEMEN ON THE ICE
Speaking of opportunity, veteran winger Cody McLeod made his Iowa debut on Sunday after fellow vet Mike Liambas was suspended by the AHL for a hit he threw on Friday night.
McLeod, with almost 800 NHL games on his resume, is a monster of a human and one of the toughest guys in hockey. And that’s not up for debate.
McLeod couldn’t play in the opener because of the AHL’s veteran rule. Currently the Wild have seven players who fall under either “veteran” or “exempt veteran” status because of the number of pro games played in their career. The league only allows you to dress a maximum of six on any given night.
Wild Head Coach Tim Army told me McLeod knew this was a possibility when he signed with the organization late in the summer and that it won’t be an issue if the Manitoba native has to sit in the press box some nights.
Well, with the Liambas suspension, McLeod got his chance. He played pretty well in my estimation and had some good looks around the Milwaukee net.
But more importantly the Wild’s “fourth line” has featured a combination of Mitch McLain, Brandon Duhaime and either Liambas or McLeod in the first two games. All of those players are over 200 lbs. and, by nature, play a physical brand of hockey.
I think it’s fair to say that combination of players will allow the Wild to spend time in the offensive zone, wear down the opponent’s defense and, when needed, intimidate the you-know-what out of the other team.
The Texas Stars come to town this weekend for a two-game, home set. Let’s pack the barn and hope for two more victories.
- Wild Joe Radio