DES MOINES, Iowa – There may be a little chaos with the Iowa caucus, but the Iowa Wild defense operated like a well-oiled machine Wednesday night, holding the San Antonio Rampage to just 19 shots in a 4-0 victory. Kaapo Kahkonen was on his game, recording his fourth shutout of the season. Three Wild defensemen scored goals in the contest, including Turner Ottenbreit, who scored his first goal of season.
The Wild set the tone early, allowing the Rampage just two shots in the first period. After Kahkonen stopped a Jordan Nolan attempt 1:20 into the contest, he would not face another shot for over 14 minutes.
While the defense was providing a quiet first frame for Kahkonen, Ottenbreit would give his netminder the lead a little less than 12 minutes into the game. Nico Sturm carried the puck out of the Iowa end and into the San Antonio zone. He fed it to Sam Anas along the boards who waited for Ottenbreit to enter the play before making a great pass into the slot. The defenseman corralled the puck, then blasted a shot by Rampage goaltender Ville Husso to put the Wild ahead, 1-0.
In the second, the Wild continued to dominate play. After outshooting the Rampage 9-2 in the first, they peppered Husso with 14 shots while Kahkonen faced eight in the second. Iowa blew this game open with three goals, including two by defensemen.
The first came at 7:31. With the faceoff in the San Antonio end, Connor Dewar won the draw. Dmitry Sokolov gained control, passing it back to Matt Bartkowski. He moved in about 15 feet before firing a wrist shot that went over the glove hand of Husso and in for his second goal of the year.
Almost exactly two minutes later, Louie Belpedio made it a 3-0 Wild lead. Luke Johnson made a great spin move pass to Will Bitten in the neutral zone that sent the Iowa forward in on a breakaway. He tried to slide the puck between Husso’s legs, but the goaltender was able to shut that down. However, the rebound was loose in the crease, and Belpedio was able to swoop in, firing the puck in for his fourth goal of the year.
With 2:26 left in the game, Mason Shaw gave his team a four-goal lead. Keaton Thompson fired a shot from the point that Husso saved, but Mike Liambas was right in front of the San Antonio netminder, trying to tuck the rebound back in. Once again Husso was able to knock the attempt away, but the loose puck went to the other side of the net. Shaw quickly reacted, diving to knock the puck in for his first goal of the season.
For Shaw, it was a big moment, as the forward had sat out the first 45 games of the season recuperating from an ACL injury he suffered at the end of last year.
Staked to a very comfortable lead, Kahkonen did the rest. He had faced 10 shots through the first two frames, but San Antonio put on the pressure in the final period, outshooting Iowa, 9-4. San Antonio was denied every time, as the Wild goalie allowed very few rebound opportunities all night long. He simply smothered attempts, frustrating the Rampage.
The shutout moved Kahkonen into fifth in the AHL in goals against average at 2.30. His 18 wins are tied for the league lead and he is tied for second in shutouts. Twelve different players had one point for the Wild.
The Wild (28-14-6) are off until Saturday night when they will welcome the Stockton Heat (25-10-6). Both teams are in second in their division. The puck drops at 7:00.
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