(Ed. Note: I know the season is almost over and ideally this would’ve been figured out months ago, but Dave is joining us to provide Rockford coverage, including recaps of remaining games. Welcome Dave to the team!)
With the AHL season winding down, the Wild Iowa (31-28-6-2) are feeling the heat of a three-team playoff shuffle in the Central Division with Charlotte and Cleveland. Fueled by that motivation, the Wild powered past the Rockford IceHogs, 4-0, Tuesday night in Des Moines at the Wells Fargo Arena. The scoreless drought continues for the IceHogs, who have been shut out in back-to-back games for the first time this season.
After a failed Rockford (22-34-9-3) power play a half-minute in, the first period belonged to Iowa rookie Luke Kunin. The highly touted 19-year-old prospect was signed to Iowa on Thursday after finishing his second season at the University of Wisconsin, where he was named the first sophomore captain for the Badgers in 41 years. The 15th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft found the net on a 2-on-1 break two minutes in before striking again with a deflection at 8:44 for his first two home scores.
Trailing 2-0, Rockford entered the second 20 minutes on its third power play of the contest. Trying to end a 1-for-30 man-advantage slump, Wild goalie Alex Stalock stayed firm in the Iowa net. Stalock has extensive experience at the NHL level with the San Jose Sharks. The IceHogs generated several quality chances with the extra skater.
Starting Rockford netminder Mac Carruth began the third period with a great stop on Kunin in close before Alex Tuch pushed the Iowa edge to 3-0 at 2:54. Kunin completed the hat trick into an empty IceHog net from center ice at 18:44, as his opening goal proved to be the game-winner. Rockford ended 0-for-6 on the power play, with shots on goal favoring the Hogs, 32-26.
With the 4-0 final, the Rockford scoreless streak has now totaled seven periods of hockey. With the revolving door of the AHL, the IceHogs have seen their share of offensive reductions this season, as neither squad had anyone in the top 100 AHL scorers entering the contest. Rockford was officially eliminated from the Calder Cup Playoffs with the loss Tuesday.
Friday and Saturday night home games are up next for the IceHogs, who play March 31 against the Texas Stars and April 1 against the Grand Rapids Griffins. After the pair of home tilts, only two regular season home games remain for Rockford later in April on the 12th and 15th.