DES MOINES, Iowa – The 2019-20 season will go down as a bittersweet one for the Iowa Wild. The team had its best season ever in Head Coach Tim Army’s second season with the team, where several individual records were set. However, COVID-19 wiped out the remaining two months of the season, ruining what could have very well been a Calder Cup Championship season for the team.
Here is a look back at some of the highlights from the 2019-20 AHL season.
AN INKLING OF THINGS TO COME
The Iowa Wild started out red-hot. They opened the season with four games at home, going 3-0-1 with the only loss coming in a shootout to the Texas Stars. The team then swept a pair in Manitoba before dropping two in Tucson. However, a victory in Grand Rapids on the next to last day of October gave the Wild a 6-2-1 (13 points) record coming out of the first month of the season.
This would be the opening salvo in the best season in the team’s history (despite the virus-shortened season). The Wild finished 37-18-8 and were tied for the second most points in the AHL with 82. The 37 wins tied a franchise record and they did it in 13 less games.
THE REAL ROAD WARRIORS
The Wild were a very impressive 21-8-2 at home this season, but they established themselves as a real Cup contender with how well they played on the road, finishing 16-10-6. Their 38 points was the fourth most in the AHL, trailing only the Belleville Senators (who had 49), and the Milwaukee Admirals and the Providence Bruins (each team had 44). At home, Iowa recorded 44 points, also the fourth most in the league.
TOPS IN THE LEAGUE
Wingers Sam Anas and Gerald Mayhew quickly established themselves as the cream of the crop in the league. Mayhew started out on fire, recording five goals and four assists though five October games. He was playing so well that he was called up twice to the Minnesota Wild where he recorded two goals in 13 games.
While in Iowa, Mayhew was simply unstoppable. He led the league with 39 goals in just 49 games. He finished tied for second in power play goals with teammate Luke Johnson (13), and recorded 61 total points, tied for third most in the AHL (and in spite of an extended amount of time spent with the big club). Mayhew’s goal total set an Iowa Wild record.
Anas was not called up to Minnesota, but it was not for lack of performance. He finished the season as the AHL leader in points with 70 in 63 games. He also led the league in assists (50) and was tops in power play assists (35) and power play points (42). He set the team record for points and assists in a single season. With Mayhew gone to the NHL, Anas kept this offense humming and he should be in strong contention for league MVP.
While the two forwards were grabbing headlines, defenseman Brennan Menell was quietly the top defenseman in the league. He led the AHL in assists by a defenseman (42) and was second among blueliners in points (47). He finished the season second in power play assists (23) and was second in power play points (26).
ALL HAIL KING KAPPO
The offense was not the only story for the Wild. Goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen dominated between the pipes, getting better as the season went along. Kahkonen led the AHL in victories with 25, shutouts with seven, and he was fourth in goals against average at 2.07. He was also called up to the big club where he went 3-1-1 in five starts with a 2.96 goals against average.
After suffering back-to-back losses on November 7 and 9, the netminder went 19-4-3, including winning seven straight games from January 24 to February 19. He allowed two goals or less in 14 of his last 16 starts, including five shutouts. Kahkonen was named the Goaltender of the Month for February after going 8-1-0, allowing only 11 goals for a 1.22 goals against average. During that stretch, he also recorded four shutouts.
His win total was a team record. Kahkonen should not doubt be a strong conteder for the AHL’s top goaltender award.
A PROLIFIC POWER PLAY
It seemed like the most common call by Iowa Wild play-by-play guy Joe O’Donnell during the season. “Anas with the puck along the boards. He passes it down to Kyle Rau, to Mayhew, who blasts the one-timer. He scores!”
This trio, along with defenseman Brennan Menell and forward Luke Johnson, became nearly unstoppable. The Wild finished fifth in the AHL in power play efficiency at 21.9%. Johnson and Mayhew were tied for second in power play goals, while Anas and Menell were 1-2 in power play assists. Rau finished fifth in power play assists (18).
While Mayhew will receive a lot of the accolades, enough cannot be said of how well Johnson performed during Mayhew’s second call-up to Minnesota. He scored a power play goal in each of his final three games before the stoppage and added a power play hat trick, scoring three goals with the man advantage on February 25.
REACHING FOR THE STARS
The ultimate objective for any hockey player is to reach the NHL one day. The 2019-20 season was a magical year for the team, not only because of how well the team performed on the ice, but also because of how many of its stars saw ice time in Minnesota.
|Louis Belpedio, Gabriel Dumont, Nico Sturm all spent time with Minnesota Wild this season. Photo Credits: Iowa Wild|
Besides Mayhew and Kahkonen, six other players were called up to the big club, including Johnson, Menell, Matt Bartkowski, Gabriel Dumont, Nico Sturm, and Louis Belpedio. This not only says a lot about the scouting staff in Minnesota, but it also speaks volumes about the great job that Coach Army and his staff have done in getting these guys ready for the next level.
It is bittersweet that this team will not compete for an AHL championship. However, they will be a real force to reckon with next year. They have a talented team already and have a head coach who is the right fit for taking this team to the next level. Now, we only have to see if he moves to the next level as there are many rumors that Tim Army could very well be the next head coach in Minnesota. Why can’t the coach reach for the stars, as well?