ONTARIO, Calif. – It took the final round of the shootout to do it, but the Iowa Wild were finally able to end their four game losing streak, downing the Ontario Reign, 4-3. Dmitry Sokolov delivered the game winner, taking advantage of his first shootout attempt of the season. Mat Robson earned the victory, stopping 37 shots as the Iowa Wild moved back into second place in the Central Division.
For only the eighth time in 27 games this season, the Wild scored first. With Ontario on the power play, Will Bitten made a great play to break up a pass at the blue line, then headed the other way on a breakaway. Reign goaltender Cal Petersen made a nice save on Bitten’s shot, but no one kept Connor Dewar from crashing the net, as he blasted in the rebound for his third goal of the season. That made it 1-0 with just 73 seconds left in the first period.
This was a contest dominated by special teams, with the Reign scoring both a power play and a short handed goal in the second to take the lead. A bad line change by the Wild gave the Reign a 3-on-1 break. Martin Frk took a pass at the corner of the net and looked like he had a sure goal, but Robson seemingly came from out of nowhere to kick the attempt away.
The puck came back to Sean Durzi, who fired a great cross-ice pass to Rasmus Kupari at the backdoor. He blasted the one-timer past Robson for his sixth goal of the season, filling the ice with stuffed animals on “Teddy Bear Toss Night.”
Three minutes later, the Wild were on the power play, but it would be Ontario that would net a short handed goal to take the lead. Gabriel Vilardi carried the puck out of his own end and into the Wild zone. He fired a slapshot that Robson saved, but Vilardi crashed the net, knocking the rebound just past the Iowa goaltender and into the corner. He outhustled an Iowa defender for the loose puck, then fired a pass to the point to Mikey Anderson. Anderson sent a wrist shot toward the net that Lance Bouma tipped by Robson for his seventh goal of the year, giving the Reign a 2-1 lead.
Ontario had outshot Iowa 30-22 through the first two periods, but the third period proved to be tighter checking affair, as each team only took seven shots. However, three goals came out of the frame.
Iowa tied the score at 12:51 as Bitten netted a power play goal. Sam Anas moved in on the Ontario goal before passing the puck down low to Kyle Rau, who quickly redirected it to Bitten in the slot. Bitten fired a wrist shot over Petersen’s shoulder for his third goal of the year.
With 27 seconds left in the game, the Iowa Wild looked like they had pulled out the dramatic victory. Louie Belpedio made a great pass out of his end to Rau, who was heading down the boards and into the Reign end. Rau dropped the puck to Luke Johnson, who made a nice backhand pass to Belpedio who was just entering the Ontario zone. The Wild defenseman blasted a shot from just inside the blue line that Petersen got a piece of, but it went over his shoulder and in to give Iowa the lead.
This game looked all but over, but no one told the Ontario Reign that. After the Reign took their timeout, Petersen was pulled for the extra attacker. Ontario won the draw, driving into the Wild end. Brett Sutter had the puck behind the Wild net. He passed the puck to Vilardi who was at the side of the net. He knocked the puck toward the net as Robson could not pull it in. The puck trickled over the line, tying the score with just 12 seconds left in the game.
Neither team scored in the overtime, forcing a shootout. In Round One, both Anas and Frk scored. Neither team tallied in the second round, setting up the Sokolov winner. After Robson stopped Carl Grundstrom’s attempt, Sokolov moved in on Petersen. He went to his forehand, getting the Ontario goaltender leaning to his right before going to his backhand. He tucked the puck under the crossbar with the game winner, ending the four-game losing streak. It was also the sixth time this season that the Wild have won a contest when trailing entering the third period.
Bitten finished with a goal and an assist for the Wild. Rau had two assists. Vilardi let the Reign with a goal and an assist.
The Iowa Wild (13-10-4) remain in Ontario to take on the Reign (11-11-4) on Sunday night. The puck drops at 5:00 CT.
Follow Robert on Twitter for additional coverage of the Iowa Wild. Be sure to “like” The Sin Bin on Facebook for our in-depth news and analysis on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL!
Please consider becoming a Patron as a way to say thanks and support us for what we do! https://www.patreon.com/thesinbinhockey