Iowa Wild Upset Texas Stars


The Iowa Wild started a weekend of road games in Texas by taking on the reigning Calder Cup champions, the Texas Stars, on Friday night.

The Wild’s division rival was heading into the night without a few of their key players after star forward Brett Ritchie got a call-up to Dallas for his NHL debut, where he has three goals and an assist in his first six NHL games. The Stars were also without Radek Faksa and Curtis McKenzie.

The Wild were without a number of players as well, with the Minnesota Wild calling up goaltender John Curry, forward Jordan Schroeder, and defensemen Justin Falk and Jonathon Blum. With all those players out, the Wild did get back Guillaume Gelinas, who had been out with an injury since December 12, and Stu Bickel, who was returned from the NHL Wild.

The game started with Texas dominating play. It took Iowa until nearly half way through the first period to get their first shot off. After that it wasn’t exactly as though the flood gates opened. The second shot didn’t come until minutes later. The Stars’ dominance continued through most of the period, with Greg Rallo beating Johan Gustafsson late in the first to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.

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The Wild did spring back to life a bit at the end of the period, bringing the shot totals for the first to 8-15. They didn’t score however, meaning they haven’t scored in the first period in four straight games and have given up the first goal of the game in five of the last seven.

The Wild hung with the Stars in the second and got the equalizer they were looking for late in the period from a surprising source. Bickel knocked in his first goal with the Wild organization on either side of the NHL. Bickel came in with a scrum taking place in front of the net after Marc Hagel wasn’t able to get the puck into an open net. Hagel and Michael Keranen got the assists on the play.

The assist would extend Keranen’s team-leading point total, which, at the end of the weekend, was up to 24 (5-22-27). Bickel would tie Zack Mitchell on the night for a team-leading four shots.

Into the third, the Stars were still controlling large sections of the action and outshooting the Wild, but with 11 minutes to go Brett Bulmer potted the go-ahead goal behind Stars netminder Jack Campbell — a former 11th overall draft pick. Assists on that one, which would stand as the game-winner, went to Keranen and Danny Syvret.

Nice to see Bulmer get a goal here. It’s only his second goal of the year and it ends a 13-game drought for the left winger. Bulmer was expected to assert himself as a go-to call-up for the NHL Wild this season, with some scoring talent and good size. But he’s struggled to find his groove this season, unable to get his offensive production going or have a big impact on the ice. After Schroeder’s call-up, Bulmer found himself in the starting lineup on a line with Stephane Veilleux and Brett Sutter. He made the change work, adding a plus-1 rating and three shots on the night.

Bulmer ranks 13th on the team in points this season, with two goals and four assists.

The Stars outshot the Wild 36 to 21, making Gustafsson a big part of this win and the easy choice for the number one star of the game. Gustfsson’s season numbers are not very promising alone, but Gustafsson has been better than those numbers show. Over the last two seasons he’s been placed in some difficult situations with all the injuries to goaltenders in the organization.

He’s found himself in situations like this weekend where the team can either push him into starting back-to-backs against tough competition on the road, or they can start ECHL goaltender Parker Milner, who was called up from the Quad City Mallards when Curry was called up to the NHL. Milner has played in eight career AHL games.

Iowa still sat at the bottom of the division and the conference after this win, with a record of 13-20-1-1.

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