The Wolves looked to tie their best start for a season since the 2007-08 Calder Cup Champion team. The Wild were coming into town with a depleted lineup due to the COVID-19 cases at the NHL level. The Wolves did not disappoint, jumping out to an early lead with tons of fireworks all night long and little resistance from the Wild. The young team played some of the most cohesive and unselfish hockey they have played all year, showing they are one of the teams to beat in the AHL. Although Morgan Geekie was sent to the Wolves via Carolina 24 hours before Saturday’s game, he came in and proved a point, earning the first star of the game honors.
The scoring didn’t take long, with new face Morgan Geekie scoring his first AHL goal of the year on his first shot 19 seconds into the game. Five minutes later, Anthony Richard received a beautiful dish from Novak on a quick play through the neutral zone putting them up 2-0. It was Richard’s second goal of the season.
In the early going, Iowa was given a golden opportunity when Richard earned a game misconduct for boarding. A five-minute major was assessed to the Wolves, while Iowa also received a two-minute minor. The Wolves held their own during the 4-on-4 portion of the penalties until Frederic Allard was called for holding and sent to the box, giving Iowa an eventual minute and a half of 5-on-3 play.
Iowa drew iron twice but nothing got past Wolves net minder Jeremy Helvig. Coach Ryan Warsofsky praised the timely blocked shots by Fitzgerald and Healy once back at full strength, but from there Helvig was lights out. Coach said Helvig was, “outstanding all night [and] made some big saves.” That could have been the turning point for Iowa to get back in the game, but Helvig held strong.
When asked about the penalty kill tonight, Coach responded, “the PK has been a work in progress and its been really good the last couple games and we can continue to work on the details as a four man unit and making sure we are smart with our reads.”
Ryan Suzuki and Rem Pitlick also added tallies. On Pitlick’s goal, Geekie earned an assist, his second point of the night. After falling behind by a daunting four goals, Iowa started to get chippy. At the 1:25 mark of the first period, Geekie dropped the gloves earning what appeared to be a Gordie Howe Hat Trick in the first period alone. However, it was later ruled a roughing minor on Geekie, so no Gordie Howe Hat Trick for the newcomer.
When asked about the chippy game play and growing a massive lead early, Coach Warsofsky said, “Our focus is to take it shift by shift, our mental focus can’t waiver.” The Wolves stayed focused and play team hockey all night with everyone touching the puck. Coach credited the team’s focus to the leadership on the team.
While it wasn’t the 19-second start the first period had, the scoring only took 100 seconds for the Wolves. Seth Jarvis took a shot from an impossible angle on the left side of the net and placed it top shelf. Jarvis continues to amaze. AHL fans are questioning if the new rules this year allowing some juniors to play at the AHL level should be permanent.
While many fans anticipated the Wolves to sit on their heels with a massive lead, Geekie rolled into the score column again. From this point on, Iowa looked mentally defeated. Pitlick recorded his second of the night by banking the puck off the cross bar.
Being down 8-0, Wolves’ broadcasters Jason Shaver and Billy Gardner started to question why Iowa kept Hunter Jones in net after the onslaught. Iowa stuck with him to gain experience, as Saturday was only Jones’ second career professional game. Cole Smith and Jarvis also tallied goals to close the period. Jarvis, Geekie, and Pitlick all had two goals by the end of the second period, making for a suspenseful third to see if anyone could tuck home a third goal.
Iowa finally scored as Dmitrii Sokolov scored his third of the season. On the scoring play, the puck was dumped in, creating a 2-on-1 battle on the boards behind the net, opening up the opportunity for the wrap around goal by Sokolov.
Four minutes later, the Wolves found themselves in trouble after a shot ricocheted off the boards to Mitch McLain, giving Iowa a break away opportunity. McLain capitalized on the chance, scoring the second goal of the game for the Wild.
Neither of the Wild’s goals were lethal mistakes for Helvig, who had an outstanding game that was overshadowed by the offensive explosion. The Wolves received another power play thanks to a hooking call on Josh Atkinson. On the power play, Novak scored his second of the year, after having three assists earlier in the night.
Excitement built as the Wolves franchise record for goals in a game was in reach with half the period left. However, the Wolves could not tie the record, falling one short of the 11-goal franchise record. The 11-goal game was against Peoria, highlighted by Wolves legend Jason Krog’s 7 points.
Morgan Geekie looks like he is the real deal and can eventually become a full time NHLer. While Carolina sent him down because of early season struggles, Coach Warofsky thinks Geekie can get back to Carolina permanently, “…[he has] a little bit more urgency in his hockey game, a little bit more of a motor playing away from the puck with more speed and more pace…he is a really good player and sometimes it is just confidence, and we just have to build it back up… and get him to that point.”
The Wolves took the game shift by shift and did not let the score effect how they played. Coach kept the game simple, making it easy for the young core to build on their early success. While the penalty kill has been one of the areas that needed work early on in the year, it held together tonight when it was tested multiple times. Helvig has really been a bright spot on this team, especially going into the year questioning how the goalie situation was going to shake out with the NHL taxi squad rules.
What’s On Tap Next?
Iowa will want revenge Saturday while trying to stop the Wolves from breaking their franchise record for a start to the season. On the game plan for tomorrow, Coach said, “We are going to see a different Iowa team…we will make sure we are prepared, make some adjustments, again we will focus on ourselves and our first shift is going to be really important tomorrow. We are going to look to build off our first shift and worry about the first period really and see where we are at.” Joel Rumpel should be in net for the Wild so don’t expect the same flurry of scoring that occurred in tonight’s game.
The Wolves and Wild are set to begin play at 3:00 PM CST. The game will once again be played at the Triphahn Ice Arena in Hoffman Estates, IL.