WITOSKY NOTEBOOK: ODDS AND ENDS FROM THE FIRST SIX GAMESOct 25, 2019
By Tom Witosky
If any questions about the Iowa Wild’s depth this season existed, last weekend’s sweep of the Manitoba Moose should provide fans with assurance the team is much stronger from top to bottom.
Going into the weekend in Winnipeg, Iowa had lost leading scorer Gerry Mayhew and top center Gabriel Dumont to call-ups to Minnesota following injuries to Victor Rask and Joel Erikkson Ek.
Those losses came on top of injuries to center Luke Johnson and defensemen Keaton Thompson, both of whom are expected to be key players this season for the Wild.
In the past, those changes would have weakened the Wild considerably, but Head Coach Tim Army’s team completed a two-game sweep to maintain its early start as one of the top teams in the league.
“We're playing really well and I think that we're staying with it,” Army said as the team prepares for another weekend road trip – this time to Tucson to face the Pacific Division Roadrunners. “We're staying with it in any situation whether we fall behind or we get a one-goal lead or it's tied and late in the game.”
Evidence of the effort by the club can be found in the fact that Iowa now leads the league in power-play opportunities – 38. That leads the league and indicates the effort Army wants to see every night.
“If you're drawing penalties, you're doing things well,” Army said. “You're applying pressure on the opposition. That goes along with the persistence and the execution and the pace in the speed that we play out.”
Anas top Wild scorer
Forward Sam Anas set the club’s record for most points in a career on Saturday night with two goals and an assist to break the record held by former Wild forward Zack Mitchell.
With 135 points in 200 games, Anas, now in his fourth season with the Wild, said his accomplishment is more of credit to playing on good teams with good players.
“It really is a combination of playing with good players and being on good teams last few years,” he said. “All those definitely help achieve individual goals. You don't accomplish them without being surrounded by good players.”
Anas, who has three goals and five assists in the Wild’s first six games, ranks among the leading in scoring this week. He said his strong start is at least partially attributable to not getting a chance to play in a preseason game in a Minnesota Wild sweater.
“I didn't play any preseason games in Minnesota,” Anas pointed out. “And it's normal to say I wasn't happy about that. I took that to heart and I wanted to go out there and get a hot start and do what I can do.”
At the same time, Anas said Iowa‘s hot start to the season has been very positive. He said the number of power-play opportunities in an indication of the team’s speed and grit.
“It's a testament to our speed,” Anas said. “The faster you play the more teams kind of have to hook and maybe grab you when you're getting a step on them.”
As for the grit, Anas said several of Iowa’s smaller players enjoy the physical play.
“We're kind of a small team but we'd like to get in guys faces,” Anas said. “And sometimes when a small guy gives some bigger guy a shot, that guy doesn't like it and sometimes we end up on the power play.”
Lots of “A”
Coach Tim Army said a captain may not be named this season for the Iowa Wild because the club’s leadership group is so strong.
“We might not name a captain,” Army said. “We have an excellent leadership group and they are providing great leadership in the room.”
The group has included Mike Liambas, Matt Bartkowski, Colton Beck, Kyle Rau, J.T. Brown and Gabriel Dumont, who have all worn As this season during games.
“We'll probably rotate the As a bit so everybody will get a chance to wear it,” Army said. “Those guys provide us with the kind of leadership that can really extend into the big group as a whole.”
Army also said the leadership group played a major role in solidifying the team at an early stage in the season. It’s one reason why the club has opened the season so well, he said.
“It's a very tight group and the older guys have done a great job of establishing the type of energy we want to have and togetherness we need to have,” Army said.