Belpedio, Wild Surge Past IceHogs, 6-1
DES MOINES, IA – The Iowa Wild blew open a 1-1 tie with five unanswered goals on their way to a 6-1 victory over the Rockford IceHogs on Friday. Louie Belpedio led the way with two goals and Will Bitten scored a goal and added an assist in the rout. Hunter Jones had a big evening for the Wild, stopping 26 of 27 shots for his sixth victory of the season.
Iowa scored the only goal of the first period, when Belpedio scored his second goal of the season 13:54 into the contest. Mason Shaw moved down toward the goal line near the right face-off circle, then curled toward the half boards before dishing the puck back to Bepedio who was trailing the play. He blasted a one-timer by Rockford netminder Matt Tomkins to give Iowa a 1-0 lead.
The IceHogs tied the score 2:08 into the second. Chad Yetman had the puck behind the net, and tried to pass it out in front, but it hit off the cage and out to Michal Teply, who quickly fed it across the crease to Mitchell Fossier at the back door. Fossier redirected the puck in for his third goal of the season to tie the score at one.
The Wild responded with five unanswered goals, the first of which came off the stick of Turner Ottenbreit at 12:30. Rockford was having difficulty clearing the puck out of their zone thanks to the relentless forecheck of Jarrett Burton. The attempt to clear it along the boards was stopped by Ottenbreit. He fired a wrist shot that somehow found its way through a crowd of bodies and just inside the left post past a surprised Tomkins to give Iowa a 2-1 lead.
From there, the Wild poured it on, adding two more goals in the period. At 15:58, Shaw won the drama inside the IceHogs zone. The puck came to Gerry Mayhew who began curling his way back toward the point before turning and firing a wrist shot that went between the legs of the Rockford goaltender for his ninth goal of the season.
A little less than two minutes later Gabriel Dumont extended the lead to three. With the Wild on the power-play, Connor Dewar fired the puck from the high slot that Tomkins saved, but no one had cleared out Dumont in front of the net. He stuffed the rebound just inside the right post to put the Wild on top, 4-1.
Things remained relatively quiet for the first 13 minutes of the third period, but Belpedio broke the silence with his second goal of the game, adding a power-play goal at 13:26. Mitchell Chaffee fired a shot that was knocked down in front and right onto the stick of Bitten. He noticed Belpedio moving down the slot and made a great backhand pass that the Iowa defenseman blasted through the wickets of Tomkins. The tally was the second power-play goal of the game for the Wild, who went 2-5 with the man advantage.
With 22 seconds left in the game, Bitten netted his sixth goal of the season. The IceHogs were buzzing around the Iowa goal, looking to add another tally, but the puck was knocked into the corner where Keaton Thompson gained control. He fed the puck up the boards and out into the neutral zone where Bitten scooped it up, moving in on a breakaway. As he got just above the left face-off circle, he fired a wrist shot that went over the glove of Tomkins and into the upper corner of the net to make it a 6-1 Wild advantage. That would be the final.
Besides the two-goal performance by Belpedio, Matt Boldy and Shaw each had two assists. The six goals scored by Iowa was a season high.
The victory moved to the Wild to 14-12-4 on the season. They are 6-3-1 over their last 10 games. Rockford and Iowa will meet for the final time this season on Sunday. The puck drops at 4:00.
By Robert Pannier