Shaw, Bitten Lead Wild to Victory over IceHogs, 4-1
DES MOINES, IA – Will Bitten and Mason Shaw each scored a goal and added an assist as the Iowa Wild scored four unanswered goals in their 4-1 victory over the Rockford IceHogs on Tuesday. Dereck Baribeau stopped 27 shots to earn his second victory in three starts since returning from Minnesota. The win was the sixth in the last eight games for the Wild, giving the team at least a point in eight straight games (6-0-2).
The Wild had a golden opportunity to jump out in front when they went on the power play 2:38 into the contest, but it would be the IceHogs would take the lead, scoring a short-handed goal 3:26 into the contest. Michael Krutil was battling along the boards for the puck just outside the Rockford zone. That allowed Josiah Slavin to swoop in, corral the loose puck and head for the Iowa end on a 2-on-1 break. He moved into the zone, firing a wrist shot that beat Baribeau between the legs and suddenly the IceHogs had a 1-0 lead.
The early goal was a wake-up call for Iowa, who began to put pressure on the IceHogs. That helped them to tie the score just after the nine-minute mark. Connor Dewar gained control of the puck along the board just inside his own end and made a nice to pass out ahead to Damien Giroux, springing him and Dewar on a 2-on-1 break through the neutral zone and into the Rockford end. As they crossed the blue line, Giroux gave the puck back to Dewar who fired a slapshot that Rockford netminder Cale Morris stopped, but the rebound came right to Giroux, who blasted in the rebound for his seventh goal of the season.
The teams were a bit tentative entering the second period, as there were only five shots through the first nine minutes, but Bitten made that fifth one count, scoring his third goal of the season to put Iowa on top. Shaw made a great pass up the boards to Bitten just before he entered the Rockford zone. That allowed him to move in on a 2-on-1 opportunity, but instead of passing the puck, it looked like he could tell that Morris was leaning a little to his right expecting the pass. Bitten took full advantage, firing a wrist shot that Morris saved, but the rebound came right back to him. Bitten quickly tucked the puck over the leg pad of the sprawling goaltender for his second goal in as many games.
Just before the 13-minute mark, Iowa extended their lead to two. The opportunity was set up by a great play by Turner Ottenbreit. The IceHogs were trying to clear the puck out of their own zone along the boards, but the Wild defenseman was able to knock it down, pushing it ahead along the boards to Shaw. He curled into the slot, firing a wrist shot that beat Morris over the shoulder for his fifth goal of the year. Ottenbreit earned his second assist of the game on the tally.
In the third, Iowa clamped down on Rockford. The IceHogs had 22 shots through the first two periods, but could only muster six on net in the third as the forecheck for the Wild was stifling.
With four minutes left in the game, the IceHogs pulled Morris for the extra attacker looking to try to get back into the game. However, Gerry Mayhew stole the puck in the neutral zone and sealed the victory with an empty net goal to make it 4-1. For Mayhew, it was his sixth goal in 13 games since returning from Minnesota.
The victory moved to the Iowa Wild to 10-9-4, giving them a .522 winning percentage, fourth best in the Central Division. That moves them into a potential playoff spot.
The Wild head to the road, taking on the Grand Rapids Griffins in a pair of games starting on Friday night. The puck drops at 6:00 Iowa time on Friday.
By Robert Pannier