Its not about how you start, its about how you finish. That was certainly true on Monday night in San Jose. The Sharks would strike early as Brent Burns would make a nice play near the blueline to get behind Jonas Brodin and race in on Kaapo Kahkonen to score on a backhander and give San Jose a 1-0 lead just 45 seconds into the game. Normally, a fast start by the opponent normally spells doom for the Minnesota Wild. Minnesota would counter attack on a turnover in the neutral zone a few minutes later and it was nice give and go in a 2-on-1 between Mats Zuccarello and Victor Rask and Rask set up Zuccarello for the snipe by Martin Jones. This was just the start of what was a fantastic night for the Zuccarello, Rask and Kirill Kaprizov line. Just 11 seconds after Zuccarello’s goal they would light the lamp again as Zuccarello made a perfect diagonal pass towards the goal that was tapped in by Kaprizov on a pretty tic-tac-toe play. 2-1 Wild and the Sharks would sense they were losing control of this game and youngster Nikolai Knyzhov dropped the gloves with Marcus Foligno. The Wild power forward controlled most of the fight which helped give Minnesota some more momentum going into the 2nd period.
Minnesota would not let up, as the Ryan Hartman raced into the Sharks’ zone and swing a pass back to a trailing Ian Cole who one-timed a shot that beat Jones cleanly to give the Wild a 3-1 advantage. The 3rd line would strike again as a turnover in the neutral zone by Hartman was dished to Foligno who took a shot from the high slot that would end up being deflected by the Sharks’ Nicolas Meloche and the puck would flutter up and over Jones to make it 4-1 Wild. The goal gave Foligno a ‘Gordie Howe hat trick’ of if a fight, a goal and an assist. Sharks head coach Bob Boughner had seen enough and he swapped out Jones for Devan Dubnyk. The Sharks would answer back about a minute later as Evander Kane had a nice no-look pass from beneath the goal line to Logan Couture who would stuff home a shot just inside the left post to cut the Wild’s lead to two. Minnesota would respond once again, and this time on the power play as Zuccarello would find a trailing Jonas Brodin who fired a wrist shot by Dubnyk to give the Wild a 5-2 lead going into the 3rd.
The Sharks tried to pour it on in the 3rd period but Minnesota stayed patient and forcing San Jose to settle for shots from the perimeter. Boughner would pull Dubnyk for an extra attacker with nearly 4 minutes left, but the Wild would add a nail to San Jose’s coffin as Rask buried an empty netter to seal a 6-2 victory. Mats Zuccarello ended up with a 4-point night (1 goal, 3 assists) while Rask had a 3-point evening (1 goal, 2 assists) which is important on a night where the Sharks were able to neutralize the Wild’s top line. Kaapo Kahkonen had 31 saves in the victory.
What did you think of the Wild’s performance against the Sharks? Let us know on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist, we’d love to hear from you!
Iowa 1, Chicago 4
Reeling from an embarrassing 10-2 loss to the Wolves the night before, Iowa would try to settle the score on Sunday in a rematch. Wild and Wolves were playing physical and careful to start the game. Iowa’s Joey Cramarossa was throwing his weight around early and often as the Wild were not giving Chicago much time and space. Still, Chicago would score first as a point shot by Joey Keane was deflected by Morgan Geekie that managed to elude Joe Rumpel. 1-0 Chicago. If there is one area early on in the season that is concerning is the struggles of Iowa’s penalty kill and Chicago would take advantage of late power play as Geekie blistered a shot by Rumpel to make it 2-0 Wolves late in the 1st.
Iowa would use an early power play to gain a territorial advantage early in the 2nd period, but the Wild just couldn’t manage to get anything by Chicago’s goalie Beck Warm. Chicago would finally break out of their own end and the Wolves would add to their lead as Rem Pitlick found the back of the net behind Rumpel. 3-0 Wolves. Iowa would really press hard trying to cut into Chicago’s lead but they were unable to get one by the Chicago netminder. Perhaps sensing his team was losing their fire, Cody McLeod would drop the gloves with Chicago’s Josh Healey and the experienced pugilist was throwing some haymakers before both players wrestled to the ice. Iowa would finally get on the scoreboard as Gabriel Dumont set up Mason Shaw for a quick shot that he fluttered on goal that beat Warm. Wolves still held a 3-1 lead going into the 2nd intermission.
Iowa was again swarming early in the 3rd period as they hoped to make it a one-goal game. Warm did a good job with his rebound control as Iowa was crashing the net with great frequency as they were in search of any loose change given up by the Chicago netminder. McLeod would try to spark his team with a big open ice hit on former Golden Gopher Tommy Novak but he’d earn a penalty instead. Iowa would get the big kill and they would resume their assault on Chicago’s end of the ice. Even with the man advantage the Wild couldn’t manage to find the twine behind Warm who was tracking the puck so well. Iowa kept hustling but give Chicago credit for keeping the Wild to the perimeter of the zone making the opportunities Warm faced were coming from a distance and often without the benefit of a screen or traffic in front of him. Even with an extra attacker it wasn’t enough to breakthrough and Tanner Jennot would bury an empty netter in the closing seconds to seal a 4-1 victory despite outshooting the Wolves 41-14. Rumpel had 13 saves in the loss. Iowa’s next game is Wednesday as the Wild travel down to Austin to play against the Texas Stars.
Wild Prospect Report:
D – Brennan Menell (Dinamo Minsk, KHL) ~ The ‘Woodbury Workhorse’ just keeps plugging away for Dinamo Minsk as he had the assist on Shane Prince’s OT game winning goal in their 3-2 victory over Traktor Chelyabinsk on Saturday. He also had 5 shots on goal and 4 PIM’s and logged 25:22 of ice time in the game. Menell has 5 goals, 37 points, 58 PIM’s and is a +8 in 45 games.
High School Hockey Rankings
Here are your Class AA Boys hockey rankings from @KarEastHockey of the Youth Hockey Hub podcast. If you want to hear Karl’s justifications for his rankings (which comes through a lot of viewing and careful consideration) you can read that here. He also has full breakdowns of the teams in each Class AA section, its well worth checking out that link.
#1 Maple Grove (11-0)
#2 Eden Prairie (10-1)
#3 Lakeville South (10-0)
#4 Grand Rapids (7-1)
#5 Hill-Murray (9-2)
#6 Prior Lake (10-1-1)
#7 Andover (10-1)
#8 Benilde-St. Margaret’s (11-1)
#9 Wayzata (7-4)
#10 Cretin-Derham Hall (10-1)