THE WILD WIRE: TOP 5 WINSJun 30, 2020
The Iowa Wild won 37 games during the 2019-20 season, matching a franchise-record, despite having 13 games left on the schedule at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic suspension of play.
This blog is dedicated to spotlighting some of the great wins in what was destined to be the best season in franchise history. I decided to give this a bit of an awards show feel, so each of these memorable games has been placed in a specific “category”.
Without further ado, here are MY top 5 wins (and subsequent runner-up) from this past season:
The “Jam It Down The Home Crowd’s Throat” Category – awarded to a road victory in thrilling fashion
WINNER: October 30….4-3 Overtime Win In Grand Rapids
Down 2-0 after the first period, the Wild eventually score three unanswered goals to claim a 3-2 lead. However, Grand Rapids evened things up with about seven minutes left in the third period, setting the stage for overtime. Just seconds into the sudden death session, Iowa winger Gerry Mayhew stripped the puck from Detroit first-round draft pick, Filip Zadina, and buried a highlight-reel, breakaway goal. Mayhew finished the game with two goals; he would go on to lead the AHL with 39 on the season, including 10 game-winners.
RUNNER-UP: February 19….3-2 Win In Milwaukee
The first-place Admirals were boasting a record of 35-11-4-3 on February 19, and only four of their 11 regulation losses were on home ice. The previous time Iowa visited UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena they were trounced, 7-1, on December 6. Halfway through the first period on that frigid night in February the Admirals scored shorthanded to take a 1-0 lead. Early in the second period, it became 2-0. But wingers Kyle Rau and Dmitry Sokolov collected goals for the Wild before the middle frame expired, setting up a critical third period. Then, late in the third period with the game still tied, rookie Nico Sturm put the Wild in front, banging home a loose puck with just 1:10 to play. Iowa would claim a 3-2 win, moving within five points of the AHL’s top team.
The “First-Timer” Category – awarded to a game where a record was broken
WINNER: February 11…2-1 Win Over San Antonio
Luke Johnson and Mayhew (GWG) found the back of the net, and goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen made 31 saves, as the hometown Wild prevailed 2-1 over the Rampage. The victory marked the seventh straight win for Iowa, setting a new franchise record. The streak was extended to eight wins just a few nights later, but the club’s winning ways never reached nine games, as the San Diego Gulls picked up a 5-2 win at Wells Fargo Arena on February 15. It should be noted that Mayhew potted a whopping 10 goals during the eight-game winning streak.
RUNNER-UP: October 19…4-2 Win At Manitoba
The eventual John B. Sollenberger Award winner as the AHL’s leading scorer (20 goals, 50 assists), fourth-year pro Sam Anas broke the franchise record for most career points when he netted a first period, power play goal just 2:54 into the contest. It was his 133rd point with Iowa, surpassing his good friend and former roommate, Zack Mitchell. Anas finished with three points (2g, 1a) on the day as the Wild doubled up the Moose 4-2, sweeping the weekend set, and improving their best start in team history to 5-0-0-1.
The “It’s Just Not Fair” Category – awarded to a blowout win
WINNER: December 27…6-2 Win At Rockford
In the club’s first game since the holiday break, Colton Beck and Mayhew tallied before the game was one minute old, and the Wild really never looked back in their rout of the IceHogs. Beck’s goal came off the rush on the game’s first shift, as he found the back of the net just 22 seconds in. Mayhew then struck on the power play 30 seconds later. It was a 3-1 advantage for Iowa at the first intermission, and after a scoreless second period, the Wild added three unanswered goals in the third period to lead at one point, 6-1. Five Wild skaters registered multiple points, including Anas (3a), Sokolov (1g, 1a) and Rau (3a).
RUNNER UP: February 5…4-0 Win Over San Antonio
Nineteen shots. That’s all the Wild allowed in a comfortable 4-0 win at home over the Rampage in early February. In the opening period, Iowa out-shot its opponent 9-2, getting a goal from defenseman Turner Ottenbreit to claim a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes of play. Three more tallies in the second period gave the Wild plenty of breathing room, as they went on to win their fourth straight game and 28th of the season. All told, three defenseman scored (Ottenbreit, Matt Bartkowski and Louie Belpedio) in the shutout win.
The “We Owed You One” Category – awarded to a game where the Wild exacted some revenge
WINNER: February 22…4-0 Win At Texas
After losing in Cedar Park by a 4-3 score the night prior, Iowa entered the rematch mired in a seven-game skid in the Stars home building. A well-rounded effort was needed as the team took the ice on February 22, and boy did they deliver, as Johnson scored early in the second period for a 1-0 advantage, and goals by Hunter Warner, Brandon Duhaime, and Mike Liambas padded the lead. It was Warner’s first marker of the season, Liambas’ second of the campaign, and Kahkonen made 30 saves for the shutout. If there’s ever a game head coach Tim Army wanted to win, it was that one, his first-ever “W” in the Stars’ barn.
RUNNER UP: November 10…3-0 Win Versus Ontario
Sticking with the shutout theme here, although it was rookie goaltender Mat Robson who turned the trick against the visiting Reign (17 saves) in early November. Winger Cody McLeod struck in the first period, recording the eventual game-winner, as Iowa avenged its heart-breaking 3-2 loss from the evening before. Sturm and Mayhew also scored for Iowa, and the team limited the Reign to just 17 shots on goal. Full disclosure here, this was one of the games I was up helping out the Minnesota Wild, so I had to rely on the box score!
The “This One’s For You” Category – awarded to a home win in front of a packed house
WINNER: January 18…4-3 Overtime Win Against San Jose
A crowd of more than 10,000 fans watched Iowa win in thrilling fashion, as Belpedio scored a beautiful goal in overtime, pushing the Wild to a 4-3 win. On the play, Belpedio maintained puck possession for what seemed like an eternity (it was on his tape for nine seconds to be exact), as he weaved his way around a sea of San Jose defenders before backhanding the puck from a tough angle into the top portion of the net. Sokolov scored twice and Will Bitten as well as Connor Dewar each chipped in two assists in the team’s only win of the year against San Jose. The night before the Barracuda netted three, third period goals to defeat the Wild, so not only was this a clutch win in front of a huge crowd, but it also got the team back in the win column, ultimately jumpstarting the club’s 11-game point streak (10-0-0-1), which tied a franchise record.
RUNNER UP: October 4…3-2 Victory Over Rockford
Opening Night. A crowd of 8,540. Trailing 1-0 after 40 minutes of play, Gabriel Dumont tied the game just 24 seconds into the final frame. However, less than a minute later, Iowa trailed again. Mayhew helped pull Iowa even just 70 seconds after that, and all of a sudden, the first game of the 2019-20 season was turning into a barnburner. With 2:09 left in regulation the IceHogs Jacob Nilsson took a face-off violation penalty and the Wild power play went to work. In the waning seconds of the contest, Sturm (in his first AHL game) fired a puck from the right wing boards, which glanced off the chest of teammate J.T. Brown and ricocheted past IceHogs goaltender Kevin Lankinen. Wells Fargo Arena was sent into hysteria, as Iowa claimed a 3-2 win in the season opener.
- Wild Joe Radio