DES MOINES, Iowa – No Gerald Mayhew? No problem. With their star forward up with the big club, the Iowa Wild welcomed the Chicago Wolves to town and barely missed a beat as Luke Johnson scored his first AHL hat trick in a 5-2 victory.
Sam Anas added three assists in the contest, and Kaapo Kahkonen made 21 saves. The win is the eighth in ten February games for Iowa, and they are 23-7-1 since December 18.
The Wild jumped out to a decisive lead with three first period goals, two of which came on the power play. The first came 1:36 into the contest. Brennan Menell gained control of the puck in the Wild zone, then went the other way and into the Chicago end. After entering the zone, he dropped the puck back to Mason Shaw, who waited for a moment, using a Wolves defender as a screen, then fired a wrist shot that beat Oscar Dansk over the glove hand for his third goal of the year.
A little over four minutes later, the Wild were on the power play when Johnson extended the lead. Anas had the puck along the boards, opting to pass it back to Menell at the point. He fed the puck to Johnson near the left-side boards. Johnson looked like he was trying to wrist the puck toward his teammate near the side of the net, but the puck deflected off a Chicago defender and in for his 13th goal of the year. Menell earned his 38th assist on the play. He leads all defensemen in assists.
Just past the 15-minute mark, Johnson extended the lead to three with his second power-play goal of the game. Anas had the puck in the corner of the Wolves zone. He made a sweet cross-ice feed to Johnson, who corralled the puck before moving in on Dansk. When he was about 15 feet away, he fired a wrist shot that beat the Chicago goaltender on the blocker side to make it a 3-0 Iowa lead.
The Wild looked like they would blow this game open, but, in less than three minutes, the Wolves made this a one-goal game. The first goal came at 5:44 of the second period. Just after Dansk made a brilliant save on a point-blank shot by Colton Beck, the puck went the other way. Brandon Pirri had the puck along the boards in the Wild zone. He fired a shot on net that hit off Gage Quinney’s skate and in for his 15th goal of the year. The initial call was that Quinney had kicked the puck in, and the goal was disallowed but, after review, it was clear that it merely hit off Quinney’s skate and so the goal was allowed.
At the 8:04 mark, Chicago was back on the board. This time with Chicago with the man-advantage, Nic Hague entered the Wild zone, moving toward the boards just before he passed the puck to Tye McGinn as he came into the Iowa end. McGinn fired a quick wrist shot that beat Kahkonen for his 16th goal, and suddenly the momentum was entirely in favor of the Wolves.
However, just before the 16-minute mark, Dmitry Sokolov extended the Iowa Wild lead back to two. Matt Bartkowski carried the puck into the Chicago zone, moving toward the Wolves net. When he was a few feet away, he fed a perfect pass across the crease to Sokolov, who redirected the puck in for his 15th goal of the year and fourth in his last five games.
With eight seconds left in the second, Johnson completed the hat trick with his third power-play goal of the game. Iowa won the draw in the Chicago end. Will Bitten fed the puck to Anas, who made a cross-ice pass to Johnson. As he had on his second goal, Johnson corralled the puck then fired a wrist shot that beat Dansk to the far-side. That made it 5-2.
Chicago had been held to 14 shots through the first two periods and would get nine more on net in the third, but they could not find the right equation to beat Kahkonen. The Iowa goaltender earned the victory moving to 10-1-1 in this last 12 starts with a 1.41 goals against average in that span. He leads the AHL in wins with 24 and is fourth with a 2.14 goals against average.
Anas finished with three assists in the contest. He now has 63 points, moving ahead of Mayhew for the top spot in the league. He leads the AHL in assists with 45. With his two assists, Menell leads all defensemen with 43 points.
The Wild head to the road to begin a six-game road trip starting on Saturday night when they take on the Stockton Heat. The opening faceoff is scheduled for 8:00 CT.
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