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(Iowa) Wild Warmup: Previewing round two against Chicago

Following an emotional series win over Milwaukee, Iowa doesn't have much time before embarking on the Central Division Finals beginning Wednesday

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe / Wild.com

After winning its first-ever Calder Cup Playoff series in a 2-1 thriller over Milwaukee in Game 5 on Monday, the Iowa Wild will have little time to revel in its victory. That's because the Wild will embark on the Central Division Finals against the Central Division champions, the Chicago Wolves, beginning Wednesday at Allstate Arena in suburban Chicago. 

The series against the Admirals was an emotional one -- and a long one, considering it went just five games. While each series the rest of the way becomes a best-of-7, Iowa hasn't been home in a week. After disposing of Milwaukee by a combined scored of 13-1 in Games 1 and 2 in Des Moines, Iowa arrived in southeast Wisconsin early last Wednesday morning. Back-to-back losses in Games 3 and 4 last Thursday and Friday forced Iowa to stew all weekend in Milwaukee.

Because of the quick turnaround, Iowa went directly to Chicago following the game on Monday night. 

Video: Iowa: Postgame reaction to Game 5 win

It's a schedule that won't allow the Wild to get comfortable, but that's not always a bad thing.

"You look in the NHL, the Hurricanes had that quick turnaround and it seems like they've been able to build some momentum off the end of their first-round series," said Iowa goaltender Andrew Hammond. "Obviously, you want to build on the good momentum and hopefully carry it forward to that first game."

While Chicago rolled to a division title, the two teams were actually battling for the crown until Iowa's eight-game winless streak late in the year pushed the Wild down the standings. 

With Iowa's ship righted, perhaps that's a sign of things to come.

Four of the eight games played between the teams during the regular season resulted in overtime, while one other was a one-goal game. Two others would have been one-goal margins if not for a late empty-net goal. 

Each club won four of the eight matchups. Each team tallied 21 goals. 

It doesn't get much closer than that.


The schedule

Games 1 and 2 will be back-to-back affairs at Allstate Arena in the Chicago suburb of Rosemount, Illinois on Wednesday and Thursday.

After that, the games will shift to Des Moines for Games 3, 4 and 5. Game 3 is scheduled for Sunday at 3 p.m. CT while Game 4 is set for 7 p.m. on May 8. If necessary, Game 5 would be May 10. 

Should the series need to go any further, Games 6 and 7 will be back at Allstate Arena on May 13 and 15. 


What's at stake

The winner of the series will advance to the Western Conference Finals and play the winner of the Pacific Division Finals between the Bakersfield Condors and San Diego Gulls. 

The Wolves, who serve as the AHL affiliate for the Vegas Golden Knights, have won the Calder Cup twice in franchise history, most recently in 2008.


Scouting Iowa

Special teams is perhaps the biggest reason why Iowa has advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time. 

The Wild allowed just one power-play goal in five games against the Admirals, which came with Milwaukee skating 5-on-3 in the Game 5. Prior to that goal, Iowa had killed its previous 18 man advantages to start the series.

Video: Iowa wins Game 5 vs. Milwaukee, advances to 2nd round

On the flip side, Iowa scored six power-play goals, including the opening goal in Game 5 by Cal O'Reilly. The tally was a big one; the team that scored first won each of the first four games of the series, a trend that extended to five when the final horn sounded. 

While Iowa's penalty kill was the story of the first round, the Wild would certainly help itself by staying out of the penalty box. Iowa was forced to kill 23 Milwaukee power plays, tied with Chicago's first-round opponent, Grand Rapids, for second-most of any team in the league.

Hammond will also be under the microscope. 

The Wild's goaltender wasn't his best in a 5-4 overtime loss in Game 4, but was spectacular in each of the other four games, including a 26-save performance in Game 5. 

Iowa boasts a deep, four-line team that poses threats from everywhere. 

O'Reilly led the Wild with six points during the first round, including three goals and three assists. His linemate, Gerald Mayhew, led Iowa with four goals and lit the lamp a team-best 27 times during the regular season.

Video: Iowa: 'Energy bunny' providing playoff spark

Luke Kunin and Matt Read found chemistry on Iowa's second line after the veteran right winger was moved to the side of Kunin and left wing Ryan Donato midway through the series

Jordan Greenway, coming off his strongest game of the series in Game 5, skates with Kyle Rau on the Wild's "third line," where Colton Beck earned more ice time following an injury to Mason Shaw in Game 3. 

Shaw did not play again that series and likely won't play again this season.

Even Iowa's fourth line, featuring Mike Liambas and Sam Anas was getting plenty of ice time in a tight Game 5. Mitch McLain played in the final two games, but Gerry Fitzgerald or Dmitry Sokolov could see ice time in round two.

Iowa gets offense from its backend as well, as evidenced by Louie Belpedio's series-winning goal in the third period of Game 5. Brennan Menell, who led Wild defensemen with 42 assists in the regular season, had four more helpers in the first round.

Hammond started all five games for Iowa in the first round and will likely be counted on to carry the load in round two.


Scouting Chicago

The Wolves, like the Wild, are led offensively by a player who figures to be one of the league's best players. 

The only question is, whether he'll be ready to play once the series begins.

Left winger Daniel Carr has played in 100 games in the NHL with Montreal and Vegas over the past four seasons, but he's really made his mark in the AHL, where he has 161 points in 191 games since graduating from Union College in 2014. 

Carr had his best season yet in 2018-19, scoring 30 goals and finishing with 71 points in just 52 games, and was named the AHL's Most Valuable Player on April 19. 

But Carr struggled with injuries during the season and did not play in the first round against Grand Rapids. It isn't known yet whether he will play against the Wild, but if he does, he would certainly present a big boost to Chicago's lineup. 

Carr wasn't the only player out of the lineup for Chicago in the first round. The Wolves also missed forward Brooks Macek (26 goals, 60 points) and defenseman Dylan Coghlan, who led Chicago defensemen in goals (15) and points (40). 

Their statuses for the series are also questionable.

Without their stars, Tye McGinn and Tomas Hyka led the Wolves' offensive attack with six points apiece. T.J. Tynan chipped in with five points while Keegan Kolesar had four goals.

Forward Cody Glass, the sixth overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, was a nice addition to the Wolves roster late during the regular season after finishing up his Western Hockey League career with the Portland Winterhawks. He scored three goals and five points in six games, then added two goals and four points in the first round.

"They've got a bunch of skill guys that love to touch the puck, so we have to try and take their time and space away," Rau said.

Defensemen Nic Hague and Zach Whitecloud each had a goal and two assists in five first-round contests. Whitecloud is a former Bemidji State Beaver.

The Wolves will likely rotate goaltenders, especially with back-to-back games in Games 1 and 2. Oscar Dansk started three of the five first-round contests, posting a 2-1 record with a 2.68 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.

Max Legace posted slightly better stats during the regular season but struggled statistically in two first-round starts, going 1-1 with a 4.00 goals-against and an .849 save percentage.


Behind the benches

Iowa is led by Army, who was the Central Division's coach at the AHL All-Star Game. He is in his first season with the Wild organization after serving one season as an assistant coach with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the previous six as an assistant with the Colorado Avalanche.

Rocky Thompson is in his second season as Chicago's head coach. The Wolves lost in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs in Thompson's first year when he led the club to 42 wins. Chicago had 44 victories and advanced for the second time in three years overall. Prior to his current stint in the AHL, Thompson was head coach of the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League for two seasons.


Following the Iowa Wild

Tickets can be purchased for both games in Iowa by visiting IowaWild.com or by clicking here.

For fans that can't get to Des Moines but want to follow along, streaming packages are available here or you can listen via radio voice Joe O'Donnell by clicking here.

Check back at Wild.com often as we will be following Iowa during the postseason.


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