Wallstedt, McIntyre Lead Wild During Hot Streak
For two seasons, the Iowa Wild have been looking for that prolonged winning streak, or at least an extended point streak. Last year, the team was able to put together two separate four-game winning streaks (November 10-19, April 5-10), both of which started a streak of six victories out of seven games. The second of these winning streaks helped to elevate the team toward a potential playoff spot, but three losses over the final four games of the season knocked the Wild out of the chase, sending them home early.
This season, the team has finally put together that prolonged winning streak, currently on a streak of seven straight games with at least one point (6-0-1). That run began with a stretch of six straight victories near the start of January, and Iowa is in a position where they could extend this to eight on Tuesday night, as they take on the Rockford IceHogs, a team they have dominated this season (5-1-0).
Dating back to the final two games of December, the Wild are 8-1-1 over their last 10 games, helping to countable them in fifth place in the Central Division, nine points ahead of the 6th Pl., Grand Rapids Griffins. I will enters Tuesday nights game four points behind the Milwaukee Admirals for second place, and are just one point behind Rockford, giving them the opportunity to leapfrog the IceHogs into fourth.
It has been an impressive run, but one that has been spurred by the incredible play of the two men between the pipes – Zane McIntyre and Jesper Wallstedt. Both have been on a roll of late, and have carried the team during this hot streak.
Let’s Start with Some Numbers
It takes a lot of factors to get a winning streak going, but one that must be acknowledged is that Iowa is not blowing teams out. During the 10-game stretch they have scored 32 total goals, an average of 3.2 per contest.
Sammy Walker leads the team in scoring with 15 goals, but he spent the beginning of the streak up with the big club in St. Paul, but has returned to provide three goals and five assists over his last eight games.
It has seemingly been a different player coming through with a key goal or a big night that has helped this club. Adam Beckman has four goals and an assist since the streak began, but three of those points came in one contest, a 4-1 victory over Rockford on January 8. Defenseman Joe Hicketts has been the second biggest point producer over the last 10 games, providing nine assists, nearly a third of his point total of 28 he has through the first 38 games.
The leading score over the last 10 games has been forward Nic Petan, who missed a month with the club from November 12 to December 13, but has returned with a vengeance, scoring five goals and adding seven assists over the last 10 games. He has four two-point games since December 30, including a three-point performance in a 4-0 victory over Grand Rapids on January 13.
Those are solid numbers, but they are not ones that one would expect when a team has gotten on a roll like this. There is usually when an offensive superstar has s 1.75 point per game average or more during the stretch.
It’s the Goaltending Stupid
While the offense has been adequate, it has been the goaltending that has been absolutely spectacular during the 10-game run, allowing 20 total goals. The netminders have given up nine goals in two of those contests, leaving just 11 over the other eight. That includes a shutout of Grand Rapids on January 13.
It is the combination of McIntyre and Wallstedt that has this team right back in the chase for second place in the division. Wallstedt has made five of the starts, all victories. He has allowed five total goals in that span, stopping 147 of 152 shots, a .967 save percentage.
What has been impressive about the rookie’s performance is that he has been the difference in games on many nights. His run began on December 30 when he stopped 34 of 35 shots in Denver. That proved to be critical in the victory over the Colorado Eagles, as Iowa produced just two tallies in the 2-1 victory.
On January 7, it was another 2-1 victory led by Wallstedt. He helped to keep this a 1-1 tie heading into overtime, stopping 20 shots in the contest. That allowed the team to earn the victory when Dakota Mermis scored 34 seconds into the extra session. Wallstedt returned between the pipes just 17 hours later, holding Rockford to one goal on 35 shots in a 4-1 victory over the IceHogs.
On January 13, the goaltender earned his first shutout of the season, stopping all 24 shots he faced against Grand Rapids. That came in a 4-0 victory. On Friday, the team welcomed the Milwaukee Admirals and came away with a 3-2 overtime victory when Petan scored 27 seconds into the extra frame. Wallstedt was brilliant once again, stopping 36 of 38 shots, with two power-play goals the only blemishes on his record.
McIntyre was expected to be the workhorse for this team when the season began. However, he has found himself up with the big club due to injuries and illness, but has yet to appear in a game for the Minnesota Wild. However, the shuttling back and forth between St. Paul and Des Moines has meant stretches where he did not play at all. This has required him to regain his game form, and he has been solid over the last five, allowing 13 total goals, going 3-1-1 during the stretch.
McIntyre began the 10-game streak with 15 saves in a 5-3 victory over Colorado in Denver on December 28. Six nights later, he took the only loss in the last 10, giving up four goals on 26 shots in a 5-2 lost to the Wolves.
Since then, McIntyre has been spectacular. He stopped 32 shots in a 5-2 victory over Grand Rapids on January 11, and followed that up with a 2-1 shootout victory over Grand Rapids on Martin Luther King Day, a game where he stopped 37 of 38 shots. His last outing resulted in a 4-3 shootout loss to Milwaukee on Saturday, a game where he stopped 16 of 19 shots.
Over his last five, McIntyre has saved 122 of 135 shots, a .904 save percentage. Combined with the five games for Wallstedt, the pair has stopped 269 of 287 shots, a .937 save percentage, ranking the duo among the league leaders in that category since the end of December.
A Chance to Build on It
The Iowa Wild will take on the Rockford IceHogs on Tuesday, giving the duo a golden opportunity to extend their run. Wallstedt has faced Rockford three times this season, giving up two goals on 39 shots the first time he faced them, and he has allowed a single goal in each of his last two outings against the IceHogs. McIntyre allowed four goals the first time he faced Rockford (November 6), but allowed two goals in each of his last two appearances against them.
That means whichever netminder is between the pipes, Iowa can depend upon a solid performance. They could very well be 9-1-1 in their last 11 after tonight’s contest.
By Robert Pannier