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  • The Iowa Wild wrap up their road trip with two games in Cleveland this week


    It’s been awhile since these teams last met, and the Wild are coming off of their first regulation loss since Nov. 28th. Nine points separate the Monsters (Columbus Blue Jackets) from Iowa in the standings, though they’ve had a rough run as of late having lost six of their last ten contests.

    The Wild find themselves in a similar position as their parent club in St. Paul as well.

    As of right now, Iowa is performing without a suitable goaltender, and in their 6-3 loss to last place Chicago (Vegas Golden Knights), it showed. Niklas Svedberg earned an overtime win over Milwaukee, but Iowa turned around and sent Christian Frey back to Rapid City, recalled Adam Vay, and had to sign Jeromy Semtner to a PTO, who was most recently playing in the Federal Hockey League for the Danville Dashers (‘tis the season).

    Both of these games in Cleveland have the opportunity to turn into a track race with neither team sporting a lot of confidence. Iowa, however, does have the edge in offensive production.

    Top Performers

    Cleveland - Points

    Despite Cleveland having played less games than any other team in the Central Division, none of their players have broken the 20 point ceiling in 23 games to start their season. The good news for the Monsters is that they have two rookies in their top five, three in their top ten.

    Koules has two goals and an assist to his credit in his last five appearances for Cleveland. The Los Angeles, Calif., native may only have eleven points, but he hasn’t been held scoreless in back-to-back games since his last visit to Iowa. However, he didn’t earn a point in their most recent overtime loss to Texas.

    Vigneault did score two goals in that loss to Texas and added an assist against San Antonio; enough for three points in his last five appearances for Cleveland. He had been scoring at a consistent pace to start the season, but since has had two separate streaks of three games without a point.

    Iowa - Points

    Since moving back to center, Kloos has been on an absolute tear and has worked his way up the top five scoring list. Derek Lalonde has put him back on the third line with the wings of Gerald Mayhew and Sam Anas.

    Anas has also benefited from playing alongside Kloos and Mayhew, but has been very diverse in his scoring. He’s been at the front of the net, firing blasts on breakaways, and added an overtime winner during his run last week of scoring four goals and added two more assists to his résumé.

    Rau appeared to be stagnating in his point production, but his three assists last week brought him back to top five form. He had been previously riding a five game slide in point production, the longest of the season for the Eden Prairie, Minn., native.

    Cleveland - Goalies

    In the earlier part of the season, Brad Thiessen had been carrying the load with the rookie, Kivlenieks, providing the relief. However, Thiessen hasn’t made a start for Cleveland since Nov. 30th against Manitoba (Winnipeg Jets), a game where he gave up five goals on sixteen shot attempts.

    Since then, Cleveland has opted to go with two rookies in net with either an injury to just a lack of faith in Thiessen. Kulbakov, an undrafted rookie from Belarus, made two starts for the Monsters this month, though with no wins. He had been previously made 14 starts for the Quad City Mallards in the ECHL, though also to mixed results.

    Kivlenieks has been thrust into the No. 1 position, though his December hasn’t been much better than Kulbakov’s. He’s gone 1-1-1 for the Monsters with an .890 SV% and a 3.60 GAA.

    Iowa - Goalies

    Although Vay is the only goaltender in the system under contract with Minnesota, the AHL is a wild and crazy place in terms of loaned players and professional tryouts. With Svedberg out, Iowa is once again adrift. Motte will have to do for now, even though his stat-line leaves little to be excited about; one win, seven losses in the Quad Cities.

    With Vay’s only backup being a guy who plays in a glorified beer league, the Budapest native was left to show what he could do against a struggling Chicago Wolves team in just his second start of the season. 43 shots against is huge test for a rookie goalie, especially one that the development staff is still trying to mold.

    Game Plan

    Hold on tight. Iowa has been putting together points, and still managed to stay in the game with Chicago until the third period with a goalie that you wouldn’t expect. Seems like the Devan Dubnyk injury has shaken the entire organization. Still, Iowa’s offense has been clicking, even though most of the production has been coming from the third line.

    Special teams might be a make or break for Iowa though. Without a goalie, spending time in the box provides more tests for a goalie that shouldn’t be there to begin with. Motte will most likely be in net against his brother Tyler, who has a goal on the power play for the Monsters this season; just one of their thirteen this season.

    Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 EST from Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

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