DES MOINES, Iowa – Kaapo Kahkonen stopped all 33 shots he faced Friday night, leading the Iowa Wild to a 1-0 victory over the Manitoba Moose before a crowd of nearly 5,000 at Wells Fargo Arena. The victory was the 33rd of his career, setting a franchise mark. Nico Sturm had the only goal of the contest.
This was a great goaltending dual between Kahkonen and Manitoba netminder Mikhail Berdin. Through the first two periods, these two were on top of their game (especially Kahkonen, who was far busier than Berdin through 40 mintues). Manitoba entered this contest next to last in in shots per game (27.3), but had 27 through the first two periods. Berdin faced 13 shots through the first two frames.
The Moose had multiple chances early on to take the lead as they took the first five shots on net. Nelson Nogier had two chances just before the four-minute mark. He fired a wrist shot from the boards that Kakhonen saved, but the rebound came to Jimmy Oligny, who skated behind the net, coming out the other side where he fed a pass to Nogier. The Manitoba defenseman blasted a shot but Kahkonen made the save again.
There had been three penalties in the first frame, including five-minute majors for fighting to JC Lipon and Luke Johnson. However, the play got chippier as the period moved along, with the linesman breaking up a few scrums in the final five minutes of the period.
In the second, things turned ugly quickly. At 2:12, Logan Shaw and Gerald Mayhew were each assessed minor penalties. A minute later, C.J. Seuss leveled Connor Dewar with a brutal but clean check. Louie Belpedio was having none of that, instigating a fight with Seuss that led to a game misconduct for the Iowa defenseman. Sam Anas was also issued an instigator penalty, putting Manitoba on the power play.
The Moose had two good scoring chances with the man advantage. The first came when Cameron Schilling fired a wrist shot through a crowd that Kahkonen was somehow able to track to make the glove save. Ten seconds later, a blast by Cole Maier went off the mask of the Wild netminder and out of play.
In all aspects of this contest, Iowa was dominated through the first two periods. Kahkonen was the reason why this was a scoreless tie. Manitoba maintained control through the first 3:40 of the third, but a goal by Sturm just before the four-minute mark quickly changed the momentum of this contest.
The Moose had a couple of good chances about three minutes into the period. The first came at 3:17 when a pass came from the end boards to Kristian Vesalainen who was crashing the net. He deflected the puck on goal, but Kahkonen got the pad out to kick it aside. Seventeen seconds later, Johnathan Kovacevic fired a shot from the point that Kahkonen not only made the pad save on, but directed it to the corner. Two Manitoba players were parked in front of the net looking for the rebound opportunity, but were denied.
Following the save, Mayhew corralled the puck behind his own goal, then burst out of the end. He carried the puck through the neutral zone and into the Manitoba end, going behind the net almost completely uncontested. He came out the other side heading for the blue line, then turned and fired a shot that Sturm stopped. The puck bounced off his stick and up into the air, but he was able to bat it in with the backswing for his 10th goal of the season.
From there, the Iowa Wild dominated play. They outshot Manitoba 14-4 over the final 16 minutes. The Iowa forecheck was making it difficult for the Moose to even get the puck out of their own end — they did not have a shot on net in the final eight minutes of the game — as Iowa finished off the 1-0 victory.
The shutout was the third of the season for Kahkonen and the ninth of his career. The one-goal victory was the 13th of the season for the Wild, tied for most in the AHL. Berdin made 28 saves for the Moose.
These two teams will square off again on Saturday night in the final contest before the All-Star break. The puck drops at 6:00 CST.
Follow Robert on Twitter for all the latest news and notes on the Iowa Wild! Don’t forget to also follow The Sin Bin on Twitter and Facebook for all additional AHL, ECHL, and SPHL minor league hockey coverage and insights!