ROCKFORD, Ill. – It isn’t gambling, but the Iowa Wild made the most of a pair of threes on Friday night, returning from Christmas break to score three goals in the first and third periods as they defeated the Rockford IceHogs, 6-2. Kyle Rau extended his point streak with three assists, and Gerald Mayhew scored a pair of goals for the fourth time this year to lead the offense. The victory moved Iowa three points ahead of Rockford in the battle for second place in the Central Division.
Colton Beck got the Wild offense rolling early, scoring the quickest goal to start a contest in franchise history. Just 22 seconds into the game, Rau carried the puck into the IceHogs end on a 2-on-1 break. The forward made a great pass through the slot to Beck, who buried the shot in the upper corner for his third goal of the year. For Rau, it was his seventh straight game with at least one assist, extending his point streak to nine games.
Just 30 seconds later, the Wild were back on the scoreboard. Rockford took a penalty 12 seconds after the Beck tally. With the man advantage, Rau had control of the puck along the end boards. He passed it to Sam Anas, who found Gerald Mayhew alone just below the right faceoff circle. Mayhew buried the one-timer by Rockford goaltender Kevin Lankinen for his team-leading 17th goal of the year.
Iowa held onto the 2-0 lead for the next 17 minutes, but Rockford cut that in half with 2:19 left in the first. The IceHogs were on the power play when Lucas Carlsson fired a wrist shot from the point. Brandon Hagel tipped the puck just past Kaapo Kahkonen for his 10th goal of the year to make it a one-goal game.
The Wild would get it right back, scoring 41 seconds later to restore their two-goal lead. Brandon Duhaime had the puck behind the net. He passed it front to Dmitry Sokolov, who was alone in the slot. He fired the puck over the shoulder of Lankinen for his sixth goal in 13 games to make it 3-1.
The Wild outshot the IceHogs in the first 13-7, but the second turned into a grinding battle as nine total shots were taken by the two teams. Neither goalie was severely tested, as Kahkonen faced just 11 total shots through the first two frames.
In the third, the Iowa Wild blew the game open, scoring three goals in the first ten minutes of the period. The first came at 2:55 as Connor Dewar intercepted a clearing pass just outside the Rockford zone. He passed the puck to Duhaime, who weaved between two defenders, moving across the slot to other side of the goal before firing a blistering wrist shot that went over Lankinen’s shoulder and into the far corner of the net. That was his fourth goal of the year.
A little less than four minutes later, the combination of Mayhew-Rau-Anas recorded another goal. Iowa had a 5-on-3 power play and took full advantage of it. Rau and Anas were moving the puck along the end boards, looking for the perfect setup. Anas came out from the corner, then made a great pass through a defender to Mayhew who was parked in front of the net. He redirected the puck in for his second goal of the game, giving Iowa a 5-1 advantage.
The Wild added one more power play goal just past the nine-minute mark. Brennan Menell passed the puck along the blue line to Luke Johnson, who blasted a one-timer that found the upper corner of the net for his fourth goal of the year. Anas recorded his third assist of the night, giving him a team-high 20 on the year.
While getting blitzed, the Rockford IceHogs showed a lot of heart and battled hard. That resolve resulted in their second goal of the game at the 13-minute mark. For the second time in the contest, Carlsson blasted a shot from the point that was deflected past Kahkonen, this time by Anton Wedin. For Wedin, that was his sixth goal of the year.
Iowa finished 3-for-7 with the man advantage. They also outshot Rockford 35-19. Besides the big nights by Rau, Mayhew, and Anas, Duhaime had a goal and an assist and 11 players found their name of the scoresheet for Iowa. Carlsson had two assists for Rockford.
The Iowa Wild have a quick turnaround as they head home to take on the Chicago Wolves on Saturday night. The opening faceoff is set for 7:05 CST.
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