DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Wild looked like they might get burned, trailing the Stockton Heat 2-0 a little over 12 minutes into Sunday afternoon’s contest. However, the team rallied by scoring seven of the next nine goals — including two by star forward Gerald Mayhew — on their way to a 7-4 victory. Five players had at least two points for the Wild and Mat Robson made 25 saves in his first start since January 25. The victory was the sixth in a row for Iowa.
It was a wild first period that saw six goals scored, 34 minutes in penalties, and several melees. The Heat got on the board first on a great setup by Austin Czarnik. With Stockton on the power play, he had the puck along the right boards in the Iowa zone. He saw Byron Froese at the far post, then made a great cross-ice pass right to Froese, who tipped it in for his 16th goal of the season.
The lead became two at 12:28 on a great individual effort by Alan Quine. Czarnik made a nice feed to send his forward in on a partial breakaway. Quine looked like he would try to stuff the puck in on the short side, but then reached his stick out to wrap the puck around Iowa goaltender Mat Robson just inside the far post for his 11th goal of the year.
The Wild seemed back on their heels, but things changed quickly when Louie Belpedio scored 48 seconds after the Quine goal. J.T. Brown passed the puck back to the point, where Belpedio sent a screaming one-timer past Stockton netminder Artyom Zagidulin for his fifth goal of the season.
At the 15-minute mark, Mayhew scored his AHL leading 34th goal of the year. Brennan Menell fed the puck across the blue line to Keaton Thompson, who blasted a shot from the point. Mayhew tipped the puck past Zagidulin to tie the score at two.
With 85 seconds left in the frame, Mason Shaw gave his team the lead. Brown fired a shot that was deflected toward Shaw. He directed the puck in for his second goal in his fifth game since returning from an injury, giving the Wild a 3-2 lead.
With 36 seconds left, Luke Johnson scored a power play goal to put the Wild on top by two. Mayhew passed the puck to Johnson near the left faceoff circle. Johnson moved into the slot, then fired a wrist shot that Zagidulin never had a chance to make a play on. That was his ninth goal of the year. Sam Anas earned his AHL-leading 39th assist of the season on the play.
That sent the Wild to the break leading 4-2 in a very testy first period. After Jonathan Racine and Josh Atkinson dropped the gloves just before the seven-minute mark, Matt Bartkowski and Andrew Nielsen went at it 37 seconds later. Following Shaw’s tally, Brown and Zagidulin were in the middle of a scrum and Mike Liambas and Alex Gallant would go at it at the 12-minute mark.
In the second, the Iowa Wild extended their lead 1:27 into the period. Anas fed the puck back to Menell, who blasted a shot in for his fifth goal of the season.
Stockton was struggling early in the second. After recording a shot 13 seconds into the frame, they could not muster another for the next nine minutes. They were being mightily outplayed, but quickly turned things around just past the 10-minute mark.
Ruzicka took a shot that Robson saved, but the puck was loose in front of the net. Rinat Valiev alertly swooped in, knocking in the rebound for his second goal of the year.
Just 53 seconds later, the Heat were back on the board. The Stockton forecheck forced a turnover in the Iowa end. Glenn Gawdin took a shot that Robson saved, but the puck came to Zac Leslie. He quickly passed it to Justin Kirkland who fired a shot that Luke Philp deflected in for his 16th goal of the year.
Suddenly, the Heat had all the momentum, and were looking to tie the score when they went on the power play with two minutes left in the period. However, a great play by both Mayhew and Brown delivered a short-handed tally. Mayhew gained control of the puck in his end, then made a great pass out of his end to Brown who was streaking through the neutral zone. He entered the zone, looking to blast the slapshot. That got Stockton netminder Jon Gillies down. Brown then pulled the puck back, moved up about 10 feet, then fired a wrist shot into the top corner for his eighth goal of the season.
With 2:22 left in the game, Philp nearly made this a one-goal game once again. He took the feed as he was crashing the net, redirecting the puck to the top corner. It looked like it was going to find nothing but the back of the net, but Robson flashed the quick glove to make the save.
That proved to be huge, as Mayhew delivered an empty-net goal seconds later. That gave him a four-point night, moving him into second in the AHL in points (55), trailing only Anas who had two assists in the game. Johnson added an assist on the tally, giving him a goal and two assists on the night. Brown also had a goal and two assists in the contest.
The victory not only extended the Iowa Wild’s win streak to six, but extended their home winning streak to a franchise record eight games. Their 30th win on Sunday is the quickest the team has reached that mark in franchise history.
The Wild welcome back the San Antonio Rampage on Tuesday evening. The opening faceoff is scheduled for 7:00pm CST.
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