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Hammond stands tall in another must-win as Iowa scores Game 3 victory

Goaltender stopped 26 shots on Sunday for his second shutout of the postseason

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe / Wild.com

DES MOINES -- When the going has been tough for the Iowa Wild late in the regular season and during the Calder Cup Playoffs, Andrew Hammond has been the one to get the Wild going.

Or, as was again the case on Sunday afternoon, keep going.

Game 3 Sunday at Wells Fargo Arena wasn't an elimination game for Iowa, but for all intents and purposes, it was as much a must-win contest as one can be without actually being so.

With its competitiveness in the series hanging in the balance, Hammond came up huge once again, making all 26 saves in a 2-0 win over the Chicago Wolves.

Video: Home crowd helps Iowa in Game 3

Iowa still trails the best-of-7 series 2-1, but it's very much back in the series with the next two games coming on home ice. 

Of course, Hammond has been backstopping the Wild for the better part of three-straight weeks now. 

After an eight-game winless streak late in the regular season had the Wild on the ropes, Hammond allowed a total of four goals in three must-win games to close the campaign and get Iowa into the Calder Cup Playoffs. 

Once there, Hammond allowed just one goal in the first two games of Iowa's first-round matchup against Milwaukee, as the Wild built a 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 series. After back-to-back losses put Iowa in a win-or-go-home Game 5 situation, Hammond again stood tall in a 2-1 win in the series finale, advancing Iowa to the Central Division Final.

Now, staring a 3-0 series hole in the face if it lost on Sunday, Hammond backstopped the Wild in yet another season-defining victory.

Tweet from @IAWild: And now, the one and only, @andrewhammond30: pic.twitter.com/f3K9e7e9X7

"You don't want to be in that situation, but given how our season unfolded, I think in a way, it's given us confidence that we understand that until the final whistle is blown and there's no more games to play, we're gonna keep giving it everything we have and our best effort," Hammond said. "Fortunately for us, we've come out on top in a lot of those situations as well."

While Hammond is quick to deflect credit for the Wild's efforts in those situations, his teammates are just as hasty to point the finger right back.

It's Hammond's steadiness and veteran presence that helps calm the Wild when games are at their potential breaking point.

On Sunday, that came in the second period, when Iowa took three consecutive penalties, putting one of the American Hockey League's most potent offenses on back-to-back-to-back power plays.

Clinging to a 1-0 lead in the game, Iowa's penalty kill -- led by Hammond -- came up big and kept Chicago off the board.

"He's been unbelievable for us. He's been a rock back there," said Wild forward Luke Kunin, whose first-period goal was all the help Hammond would need. "He's made some huge saves that have bailed us out and a lot of times, you need that goaltending in the playoffs. He's done an unbelievable job."

Tweet from @IAWild: LUKE 👏 KUNIN 👏#19 scores his sixth of the playoffs to get us on the board! pic.twitter.com/ykJnTtBSnA

Even in the rare occasion where Hammond has been off his game, he's managed to come back the next time out and respond with a huge effort.

Last round, he allowed all five goals in a 5-4 overtime loss to Milwaukee, including a couple he'd probably like to have back.

Sunday, coming off a 4-3 loss in Game 2 of the current series on Thursday, Hammond established himself early with a quiet confidence that his defensemen can sense from the drop of the puck.

"You can tell right away when he's on, he's so square and everything just kind of sticks to him," said Iowa defenseman Carson Soucy. "You know if you get beat, he's going to be there to back you up."

Soucy said Hammond got a bit of a bad wrap for efforts in Game 4 in Milwaukee or Game 2 in Chicago. Funky bounces and sub-par play in front of him also contributed, but whatever the circumstance, Hammond -- like a wily old veteran quarterback after throwing an interception -- has been able to put losses behind him quickly and not let them fester.

It's one of the main reasons why Iowa finds itself right back in its current series and with the ability to bring it even with a victory in Game 4 here on Wednesday night.

"He's done that all year," Soucy said. "He just sticks with it, he knows his fundamentals and he gets right back to it and he's in the right spot most of the time.

"He's been through this a lot, he knows how to bounce back and he knows what to stick with when he's doing it right."


More from Iowa's Calder Cup Playoff run:

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