DES MOINES, Iowa – Valentine’s Day proved to be a sweet night for two Iowa Wild players, as the team blanked the San Diego Gulls, 3-0. Kaapo Kahkonen stopped all 35 shots he faced for his fifth shutout of the season and Gerald Mayhew scored a natural hat trick, giving him an AHL-leading 39 goals this season. The victory was the eighth in a row for Iowa and 10th straight at home.
Early on, the Wild were putting on the pressure and had a number of great scoring opportunities. This included Mayhew making a steal in the San Diego zone about four minutes into the contest. He quickly turned and fired a wrist shot, but Gulls goaltender Anthony Stolarz kicked the attempt away. About two minutes later, the pass came out from behind the net to Dmitry Sokolov who blasted the one-timer, but once again, Stolarz denied the shot.
Kahkonen had it fairly easy in the first, facing just five shots, but the Gulls began to swing the momentum in the second. It looked like they had taken a 1-0 lead 1:12 into the frame when they won the draw deep in the Wild end. Maxime Comtois gained control, quickly firing a shot that looked like it slid by the Iowa netminder. The red light came on, but the referee immediately waved it off. After a review, it was determined that the puck did not go in and play resumed.
The scoreless tie continued into the third, where Mayhew would finally put his team on top 1:58 into the frame. With the faceoff in the San Diego end, Nico Strum won the draw back to Matt Bartkowski. He fed the puck down low to Mayhew who looked to try to pass it across the crease to Sturm, but the puck hit off a Gulls defender and in for his 37th tally of the season.
San Diego suddenly found themselves trailing and began to put the pressure on. They were getting great opportunities, but Kahkonen was not allowing any rebounds. At 7:35, Jani Hakanpaa blasted a shot from the point that the Iowa netminder gloved for a draw. San Diego won the ensuing faceoff back to Hakanpaa, who fired a wrist shot that found its way through traffic, but Kahkonen pulled it into his glove once again.
The Gulls were doing everything they could to try to get the equalizer, firing 20 shots on Kahkonen in the third, but the goaltender denied every opportunity.
With a little over a minute left, the Gulls pulled Stolarz looking for the equalizer. J.T. Brown was able to clear the puck out of his end to Sturm, who found Mayhew near the Gulls blueline. Mayhew quickly fired the puck into the empty net for his second goal of the contest.
Just 20 seconds later, he delivered the natural hat trick. With Stolarz pulled for the extra attacker once again, Keaton Thompson gained control behind his own net, then fed the puck to Sam Anas along the boards. He backhanded the puck out of the Wild zone, where Mayhew outraced a Gulls defender for it. He headed into the San Diego end to put in the empty-net goal when he was hauled down from behind. The referee awarded him a goal, his third of the night.
Mayhew now has 39 goals to the lead the AHL. His three points coupled with Anas’ assist put the two atop the league lead in points with 59. Mayhew now has goals in four straight games, tallying eight during he streak and has 11 multiple goal games this season. The assist by Anas gives him 42, tops in the AHL. He has assists in six straight games, recording 10 helpers in that span.
With the shutout, Kahkonen lowered his goal against average to 2.16, fourth in the league. His five shutouts are tied for the best in the AHL, and he leads the league in wins with 21.
These two teams will be back at it Saturday night. Game time is scheduled for 7:00pm CST.
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