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Greenway plays his cards right, leads Iowa to first-round series win

Rookie forward assists on game-winning goal, makes key plays as Wild advances to second round of Calder Cup Playoffs

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe /

MILWAUKEE -- Jordan Greenway wasn't himself for the first four games of the Iowa Wild's playoff series against the Milwaukee Admirals. 

Greenway had a point in three of the first four contests, but he wasn't the kind of difference-maker fans in Minnesota had grown accustomed to seeing as the 2018-19 season went on.

It wasn't as though he was playing poorly, but Iowa coaches -- and Greenway himself -- felt there was plenty more to give.

In Game 5 on Monday, Greenway showed just what kind of a difference-maker he can be.

The rookie forward assisted on Louie Belpedio's game-winning goal in the third period but, more importantly, was a monster with and around the puck as Iowa closed out a 2-1 win in a decisive final game of its first-round series at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena on Monday.

Iowa will advance to the Central Division finals against the Chicago Wolves, a best-of-seven series that begins Wednesday at Allstate Arena in suburban Chicago.

Greenway's turnaround actually came in a Sunday film session with coaches, who felt he wasn't moving his feet enough. 

The result was lost puck battles and four penalties through the first four games of the series. 

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

"We let him look at it and then we talked afterward, and I think he saw that he wasn't playing with the pace that he can play with," said Iowa head coach Tim Army. "And because he wasn't attacking, he wasn't in a position to possess the puck, which is where he's at his best. 

"I think he saw he wasn't moving his feet, and as a result, he wasn't a one-on-one guy, he wasn't possessing the puck and making things happen."

It's natural for any young player to go through peaks and valleys during a season, especially during a marathon of a campaign for him, already by far the longest of his hockey career. Greenway played in 81 games with Minnesota, five more with Iowa during its regular season and now five more postseason contests. 

Counting the Olympics last year, Greenway played in 52 total games between his time at Boston University, the Wild and Team USA, his most up to that point.

Iowa assistant coach Brett McLean, who himself had a 385-game NHL career, said it was likely a combination of fatigue and simply losing that attention to detail that may have caused Greenway's game to slip ever so slightly. Sometimes, it's as simple as a video session to help straighten that out.

"It definitely helped me," Greenway admitted. "And it definitely transferred into the game tonight."

Army said he could tell early on that Greenway was engaged and ready to go.

It started with a big hit near the Admirals bench and continued a couple of shifts later when he chipped a puck into the offensive zone past a retreating defenseman, then raced down to corral it himself to set Iowa up with control in the offensive zone.

Greenway was also possessing pucks and shielding defensemen to maintain control, a staple of his game in the NHL when things are going well. 

"The difference he makes -- at any level, but especially this one -- when he's moving his feet through the neutral zone is huge," McLean said. "He creates zone time, he creates space for his linemates and we really saw that tonight."

Tweet from @IAWild: LOUIE FROM THE POINT! IT'S A 2-1 GAME!!! #MILvsIA

Greenway's space-making skill was on display on Belpedio's winner, when the big forward maintained control of the puck below the goal line and along the right-wing half wall. Instead of making the simple play to Nate Prosser manning the right point, Greenway fed a cross-zone pass to Belpedio at the left point.

That pass caught the Admirals off guard and opened a shooting lane for Belpedio toward the net. His wrister bounced off the end wall and came right into the blue paint, where it deflected off goaltender Troy Grosenick's right arm and into the goal. 

It wasn't the prettiest goal, but with the game tied 1-1 in the third period, it ended up saving Iowa's season.

"Kudos to Greener, he's a great player and obviously he's got good vision," Belpedio said. "That [pass] spread it out a little bit and they had to go from the other side of the ice towards mine. I just tried to get available for him and I knew he'd find me."

Army has admitted all week that the final scores in Des Moines were somewhat of an aberration. 

The Wild won 7-0 in Game 1, really the only game in the series that got out of hand. Even a 6-1 win in Game 2 was a one-goal game early in the third period.

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Once the series shifted to Milwaukee, it got even tighter, as Iowa lost 3-1 in Game 3 in a contest that was a one-goal game with six minutes left. Game 4 was decided in overtime.

With the momentum trending the Admirals way, Army felt Greenway had a chance to be the kind of player who could separate Iowa in a big spot.

On Monday, he did just that.

"There was one thing in the back of my mind all day, and that was that he hadn't yet been at his best," Army said. "I think [Milwaukee] had given everything. I think we had given everything, but I think there was more there with him. 

"It's like you have this one trump card in your back pocket, and I felt if he played the way he was capable of, he could be the big difference-maker. I think he was tonight."

More from Iowa's Calder Cup Playoff run:

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