DES MOINES, Iowa – It was “Pink in the Rink” Night Saturday night, as 9,020 fans packed Wells Fargo Arena to show their support for women who have or are currently battling breast cancer. One of those women was Deme Anas, the mother of Iowa Wild forward Sam Anas, who announced during a first period break that she was undergoing cancer treatment for the fourth time. Inspired by his mother, all Anas did was score two goals and add three assists to lead the Wild to a 5-2 victory over the Stockton Heat. The five-point night was a single game high for the star forward.
The crowd was fired up from the opening faceoff, but it would be the Stockton Heat scoring the only goal of the first period. While on a 5-on-3 power play, Bryon Froese passed the puck back to the point to Alan Quine. He fed it across the blue line to Austin Czarnik, who blasted a one-timer past Iowa goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen to give the Heat the lead with a little less than five minutes left in the frame.
The Wild had been outplayed through much of the first period, but came out of the locker room fired up. They dominated the early part of the second frame, and that helped produce a goal 3:41 into the period.
Anas fed the the puck ahead to Gerald Mayhew, who swooped in on Stockton netminder Jon Gillies. He tried stuffing the puck through the goaltender’s legs, but Gillies was able to make the stop. However, the puck was loose, allowing Nico Sturm to move in, stuffing home the rebound for his 11th goal of the year.
A little over four minutes later, Mayhew scored his AHL-leading 32nd goal of the season to put Iowa ahead. Josh Atkinson fired a blast that Gillies stopped, but the rebound went to the other side of the crease. It hit off the back of the leg of Anas and dropped right in front of Mayhew, who made a nice windmill shot that found the back of the net to put Iowa on top, 2-1.
After the game, Anas joked about the Mayhew tally.
“We were actually laughing, because Atkinson shot it from the point and it hit me in the thigh and I was kind of spinning around trying to find it. Then I looked between my legs and I could see Gerry’s stick and I was like ‘Shoot it!’ So, he put it in and we kind of had a good laugh.”
The Heat looked like they could be down by two goals when Froese took a penalty for holding, putting Iowa on the power play. However, Stockton was able to keep the Wild from getting great shot opportunities, then they tied the score seconds after killing off the penalty.
Adam Ruzicka had the puck in the neutral zone, feeding it ahead to Froese just before he entered the Iowa end. The pass allowed him to split between two Wild defenders, as he fired a wrist shot that went over Kahkonen’s shoulder an in for his 15th goal of the year.
Just before the end of the period, the Wild jumped back on top. With 19 seconds left in the frame and Iowa on the power play, the team used a play that has been become a nightmare for opposing teams to stop. With Anas along the boards, he quickly passed the puck to Kyle Rau along the goal line who made the one-touch pass to Mayhew. He buried the puck for his second goal of the game to put the Wild on top for good.
Anas had three assists through two periods, but he would add a power play goal five minutes into the third period to extend the Iowa lead to two. Brennan Menell passed the puck to Anas in his “office” along the boards. Instead of passing it, this time he moved in, firing a wrist shot that beat Gillies for his 16th goal of the year.
With 3:27 left and Stockton on the power play, they pulled Gillies for an extra attacker. Czarnik gained control of the puck, sweeping in on Kahkonen. He made a nice move looking like he was going to tuck the puck in the short side, then swept across the net. That got Kahkonen leaning to his right and it looked like Czarnik would find the inside of the far post. However, the Iowa goaltender was able to spread eagle, making a toe save to deny the scoring opportunity.
Two minutes later, Anas sealed the victory with an empty-net goal. After gaining control of the puck in his own end, the forward entered the neutral zone, lifting the backhander just after he crossed the center line. The puck rolled into the net for his second goal of the contest, completing the five-point night. The historic night also moved him into first in the AHL in points (55). He also leads the league with 38 assists.
After the contest, Anas talked about his record-setting performance and how special it was with his parents in attendance.
“It’s quite a special moment. It’s crazy how that happened. She’s such a fighter. She tries not to show any signs of struggling, but she’s an amazing mom and an amazing person. For that to happen tonight with her in the crowd is amazing and something that our family will probably cherish forever.”
Mayhew finished with two goals and an assist. He now has 33 goals in just 41 games, easily leading the league in that department. With his 36-save performance, Kahkonen now has 19 victories this season, which leads the league.
These two teams will face off again on Sunday at 3:00 PM CST.
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