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  • The Wild hold on, earn two points in a 2-1 win over Grand Rapids


    After losing three straight games in overtime, Iowa needed a two point victory badly with the Griffins (Detroit) visiting. There was some physicality, and with the big boys out with injuries, the Wild needed to do a lot of skating and playing a few inches taller than the roster suggests.

    All in all, Derek Lalonde’s squad was able to pull it together to earn their first win since Dec. 1st, and have just two regulation losses going back to their last meeting with Grand Rapids on Nov. 17th.

    After getting some rest after his first real test of the season, Steve Michalek (5-1-2, 2.52 GAA/.926 SV%) was back in net for the Wild. Whatever jitters ailed him during that four game stretch were remedied as he was dialed in, stopping 40 of 41 shots from the Griffins; 13 of them in a scoreless third period.

    Head Coach Todd Nelson decided to give Jared Coreau (6-6-1, 2.88 GAA/.905 SV%) the nod in net for the Griffins. The Perth, Ont. native was able to stop 28 of the 30 shots he saw from the Wild attack on his way to a loss.

    Trying to gain momentum

    Unlike last night, Iowa was able to get the offense going early and there were a lot of good looking opportunities in the opening frame. Christoph Bertschy and Justin Kloos stood out the most, skating well with the puck and generating chances.

    There were a few times, however, where the defense seemed to break down, struggling in 50/50s in their own end at times. Being unable to win pucks turned into some solid possession for the Griffins, but Michalek wasn’t tested too often.

    Luke Kunin ended the deadlock on Iowa’s second power play opportunity of the night a little over halfway through the period. There were two pings off of Coreau’s iron during the man advantage, but Kunin’s wrister was able to bank off the near post and in for this third goal of the season (Ferraro, Cannone; PP - 10:56).

    He was also giving out a ton of checks to Grand Rapids puck carriers.

    The first period came to a close with some face washing, but Iowa held the lead in both goals and shots.

    Physical Second

    The physicality only got more intense in the second period, though mostly at the expense of the Wild. Grand Rapids continued to dominate behind Michalek’s net, but it was still Iowa getting the majority of looks.

    Again, with about half the period gone, Iowa found a way to extend their lead, and it was the third line bringing the offense. Sam Anas did a great job battling at the half boards and was able to get a puck to Nick Seeler at the point. The Eden Prairie product clapped one that turned into a rebound opportunity that was seized by Gerry Mayhew (Seeler, Anas; 10:07)

    Iowa’s netminder was able to keep his composure most of the period, especially with his own guys being buried into him. The Griffins were able to get off 20 shots that period, and it was a failed clearing attempt that turned into a shot and a rebound opportunity for the Griffins.

    It was Zach Nastasiuk, getting his first AHL minutes this season, who had a wide open net after a shot from Luke Esposito (Esposito, Hronek; 12:45). Unfortunately for Michalek, his former teammate at Harvard got the better of him with the helper, and Iowa’s lead was cut in half.

    At the end of the second, it was familiar territory with Iowa nursing a lead going into the final frame, and Grand Rapids was able to surpass Iowa in SOG, 20-14.

    Michalek owns the third

    Tense would be the only way to describe the third period as Iowa has shown a weakness for giving up a third period lead as of late. However, it all worked out in their favor even though they didn’t make it easy on themselves.

    There were a lot of opportunities left on the table for the Griffins with some pretty scary looking turnovers, some guys looking at each other to decide who would go after a loose puck, and frantic clearing attempts turned offensive opportunities for a hard charging Grand Rapids squad.

    In the end, Michalek was able to make all the saves he needed, 13 of them to be exact, as he returned to the win column and earned his the games second star status.

    Final Thoughts

    Number of the night: 40. Apart from a rough rebound, turned goal for Grand Rapids in the latter half of the second period, Michalek was brilliant. He showed a lot of poise and composure in his crease, something he needed a lot of with Grand Rapids spending a lot of time in Iowa’s zone.

    “It is nice being busy and staying in the game,” he remarked with a smile.

    However, Iowa’s defense started playing the body later on in the game, with some huge checks coming from Matt Caito and Carson Soucy. There was also a lot of switching around on the blue line as the pairings changed a lot throughout the night, especially after Alex Grant’s game misconduct in the second period.

    In coach’s words: “We spent a little too much time in our zone, but I thought we defended well...I thought we maintained some structural discipline. We had a box out, but didn’t cut the bottom off, but we kept everything (on the) perimeter.”

    Iowa had a rough go of it behind Michalek’s net all night, but Newsy was absolutely on point in mentioning that most of those pucks tended to hug the boards as opposed to turning into centering opportunities in the slot. Hats off to the defense tonight, though they did need to bail themselves out a few times.

    The teams will get a few days off to think about this one before meeting up again, this time in Grand Rapids on Wednesday. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 EST at the Van Andel Arena.

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