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Swaney, Giroux Lead Wild Comeback

DES MOINES, IA – Call them the “Comeback Kids.” Twice the Iowa Wild found themselves trailing by a goal on Friday evening, rallying each time to tie the score before scoring three unanswered goals to close out the contest to defeat the Rockford IceHogs, 6-3. Nick Swaney and Damien Giroux helped spur the comeback, as each player scored two goals in the victory.

Rockford gained control of the contest early, as they had two good scoring chances within the first four minutes of the game, but Andrew Hammond made nice saves on each attempt to keep the game scoreless.

The Wild had their chances as well, especially after Josiah Slavin went off for boarding at 6:10. Rockford was making it difficult for Iowa to get set up inside the Rockford zone, at least initially. The Wild were finally able to control the puck inside the IceHogs zone and had a huge opportunity to take the lead when the puck came to Will Bitten at the left faceoff circle. He fired a shot that was saved by Arvid Soderblom, but the puck slipped through his glove to the other side of the net. Connor Dewar sped over and gained control, turning into the right faceoff circle before firing a shot that Soderblom saved, but the rebound came right to Bitten who tried to hammer it home. The Rockford goalie stood strong, however, pulling the rebound chance into his chest to draw the stoppage of play.

That proved to be huge as Rockford took the lead at 17:51 of the first. Reese Johnson set up the play, carrying the puck in from the neutral zone, drawing the defender, then dropping it off for Jakub Pour, who blasted a shot that beat Hammond to the far post. For Pour, it was his first goal of the season.

The IceHogs carried the one-goal lead into the second period, but Dewar tied the score just 32 seconds into the frame. Mitchell Chaffee created a turnover in the neutral zone that put the puck right onto the stick of Turner Ottenbreit, who fed it to Kyle Rau along the boards. Rau carried the puck into the Rockford zone, then made a nice feed across to Dewar in the slot. He moved to his backhand, going over the outstretched Soderblom and under the crossbar for his second goal of the season.

Rockford tied the score a little over five minutes later. Pour gained control along the boards inside the Wild end, firing a shot toward the net. The puck was knocked down in front but right onto the stick of Johnson, who went to his backhand, going over the shoulder of Hammond for his first goal of the year and the IceHogs were back on top, 2-1.

The lead did not last long, however, as Iowa tied the score and took the lead on back-to-back goals by Swaney in the span of two minutes. The first came at 8:18 when Doyle Somerby was trying to keep the puck inside the Rockford zone, bouncing it off the boards to Swaney in the corner. The Wild forward then fired a pass toward the net looking for Joseph Cramarossa, but the puck hit off the back of Soderblom and in to tie the score at two.

At 10:20, Swaney put his team on top. With the faceoff deep in the Rockford zone, Swaney won the draw back directly behind himself, where Kevin Czuczman gained control, quickly firing a pass to the opposite side defenseman, Cramarossa. Cramarossa fired a shot toward the net that Swaney redirected by Soderblom for his second goal of the year, giving the Wild their first lead of the night.

Wells Fargo Arena was rocking, but not for long as Lukas Reichel tied the score 70 seconds later with a power-play goal.  Rockford had set up a beautiful tic-tac-toe play down to Brett Connolly at the goal line and out to Evan Barratt in the slot, but Barratt was wise enough to realize that he did not have a good shot. Instead, he was able to quickly turn and feed the puck through the slot to Reichel at the opposite side faceoff circle, who blasted a shot by Hammond for his second goal of the year.

With just over five minutes left in the second, Iowa took the lead for good. The Wild entered the Rockford zone on a 3-on-1 break. Nate Sucese dropped the puck back to Cramarossa who was trailing the play. Cramarossa fed it right back to Sucese, who went across the crease to Giroux. Giroux lost control of the puck for a split second, but kept his bearings, turning quickly before firing a backhander past Soderblom to put the Wild on top, 4-3.

Iowa had outshot Rockford 33-14 through two periods, including peppering Soderblom for 21 shots in the second period. However, they did not let up, outshooting the IceHogs 20-5 in the third, which helped them extend their lead to three.

At 3:45, Chaffee gave his team a two-goal lead. Dewar took the puck behind the net, moving to the opposite side where he dropped it off Rau. He found Chaffee in the slot, who fended off a poke check before firing a wrist shot by the Rockford goaltender to make it a 5-3 game.

Just before the eight-minute mark, Giroux closed out the scoring. Just as a Rockford penalty was ending, Adam Beckman fired a shot from the right faceoff circle that Soderblom saved. The rebound came to Rau, who tried to put it back on net, but the puck was deflected to Giroux just in front of the net, who put in a wrist shot for his second goal of the game. That made it 6-3, which would be the final.

The Wild had 12 players whose name made it onto the scoresheet. Rau and Cramarossa each had three assists in the game. Dewar added a goal and an assist. Hammond finished with 16 saves. Despite giving up six goals, Soderblom played well, stopping 47 shots.

These teams square off again on Saturday evening in Des Moines. The puck drops at 6 p.m.

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    Robert Pannier covers the Iowa Wild for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @FPHWild.

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