The Rockford IceHogs’ season opener ended unexpectedly when J.T. Brown deflected Nico Sturm’s shot off his chest and into the net with 16 seconds remaining for a 3-2 Iowa Wild win on Friday in Des Moines at Wells Fargo Arena.
Tied 2-2, Sturm fired a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that Brown deflected off his chest past Kevin Lankinen for the game winner on Jacob Nilsson’s delay of game penalty.
Iowa’s Gabriel Dumount and Gerald Mayhew also scored in Iowa’s three-goal third period. Wild goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen made 24 saves in the win.
Matthew Highmore and Dylan Sikura both scored for Rockford, who went 4-5-0-1 against Iowa last season. MacKenzie Entwistle and Philipp Kurashev each had a primary assist for their first professional points. Lankinen stopped 30 of 33 shots.
Highmore tallied the first IceHogs goal of the season at 3:28 in the second period. Chad Krys chipped the puck into the offensive zone while shorthanded and Entwistle outmuscled Matt Bartkowski for it then sent a shot on net, which Highmore deflected into the net.
Dumont tied the game just 24 seconds into the third period when he skated down the left side, out battled Tyler Sikura then turned and tossed the puck off his backhand between the post and Lankinen.
The IceHogs answered 56 seconds later when Kurashev slipped a pass between two defenders to the slot for Dylan Sikura, who rifled a one-timer under Kahkonen’s glove.
DYLAN— Rockford IceHogs (@goicehogs) October 5, 2019
He spits hot fire pic.twitter.com/C2otjlBkpJ
The quick scoring continued 1:10 later with Mayhew’s 50th AHL goal. The Wild won an offensive zone draw against Tyler Sikura then Louie Belpedio took a slap shot from the point that Lankinen stopped, but Mayhew pounced on the rebound and tucked it into the net on his backhand.
Rockford went 0-for-4 on the power play... Adam Boqvist, Aleksi Saarela, Kris Versteeg each had four shots... Nicolas Beaudin committed two slashing penalties in the second... Boqvist was paired with Philip Holm on the top pairing while Beaudin was with Krys on the second pairing.
Versteeg — Nilsson — Hagel
Saarela — Kurashev — D. Sikura
Highmore — T. Sikura — Entwistle
Hakkarainen — Johnson — Fortin
Holm — Boqvist
Krys — Beaudin
Carlsson — Tuulola
The IceHogs host their home opener Oct. 12 against the Grand Rapids Griffins at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford.