MILWAUKEE, Wis. – The Iowa Wild found themselves trailing by two a little over three minutes into the second period Wednesday night, as the Milwaukee Admirals were looking to extend their lead in the Central Division. However, two goals by Iowa in the second frame tied the score, and Nico Sturm won it, scoring with 70 seconds left to play to give the Wild a 3-2 victory. The win moved Iowa within five points of the top record in the AHL.
The potent Iowa power play looked to give their team the lead when Mathieu Olivier took a penalty just before the eight-minute mark. However, it would be the Admirals penalty-killing unit who would draw first blood. At 9:01, Frederick Gaudreau broke up a pass at the blueline, knocking it into the neutral zone. Cole Schneider outraced the Wild defender for the puck. He moved to his forehand, then pulled the puck to his backhand before tucking the puck inside the post to give his team a 1-0 lead. It was the 15th goal of the year for Schneider and the eighth short-handed goal allowed by the Wild this season.
In the second, the Admirals extended their lead just before the three-minute mark. Eeli Tolvanen blasted a shot from the point that Kaapo Kahkonen saved, but the rebound went to the other side of the net, where Rem Pitlick knocked it in for his 18th goal of the year.
Iowa was looking like they may get blown out, but the Milwaukee tally was a wake-up call. They began to control the play, and that helped deliver a goal three minutes after the Pitlick tally.
The Wild were pressuring Milwaukee in their end, making it impossible to get the puck out of their zone. Kyle Rau gained control of the puck along the end boards, moving up the boards before passing it back to the point. Keaton Thompson fired a wrist shot that Troy Grosenick saved, but the rebound was loose in the slot. An Admirals defender attempted to knock the loose puck away. Still, Mason Shaw was able to gain control, then made a beautiful no-look, between the legs pass to Rau, who blasted a one-timer by the Milwaukee goaltender to cut the Wild deficit to one.
Five minutes later, the Iowa Wild tied the score. Brandon Duhaime carried the puck through the neutral zone and into the Milwaukee end. He approached the faceoff circle before firing a wrist shot that Grosenick blocked, knocking it into the air. Dmitry Sokolov quickly swept in, batting the puck out of midair and into the net for his 13th goal of the year.
The two teams had combined for 17 shots in the first period, but play picked up in the second. Iowa outshot the Admirals 15-10 in the frame. In the third, the end-to-end action continued as Milwaukee fired 13 shots on Kahkonen, while Grosevich faced 12 shots in the frame.
The score remained tied through the first 18 minutes of the third, however. Both netminders looked incredibly sharp, and this contest looked like it was destined for overtime, but, with 70 seconds left in the game, Sturm delivered the game-winner.
He carried the puck into the Admirals’ end, sweeping in front of the net, trying to tuck the puck between the Milwaukee goaltender’s pads. Grosenick kicked the attempt aside, but Sam Anas regained control before passing it back to Matt Bartkowski at the point. Bartkowski blasted a shot that went wide of the net, but it bounced toward the front. Sturm, who was positioned just behind the corner of the net, reached his stick around, poking the loose puck in for his 12th goal of the year.
On top for the first time in the contest, the Iowa Wild clamped down on the Admirals offense, allowing only a Daniel Carr shot as time expired. Kahkonen was brilliant, stopping 29 of 31 shots for his AHL leading 22nd victory of the season. No Wild player had more than one point in the contest.
The Iowa Wild now head for Texas, where they will take on the Stars tonight. The puck drops at 7:00 PM.
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