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Inaugural Season in the Books

Clint Cole wraps up the Iowa Wild’s debut campaign.

Forward Brad Winchester and captain Jake Dowell (11) celebrate after Dowell’s goal in the final game of the regular season on April 16. (Photo: Reese Strickland/Iowa Wild)

 

Clint Cole wraps up the Iowa Wild’s debut campaign.

DES MOINES — The inaugural season for the Iowa Wild is complete. It may not have been successful when it comes to the way the team played on the ice or how they finished in the standings, but it certainly wasn’t one to forget.

There were 4,4994 fans in attendance at the final home game of the Wild’s inaugural season, a 4-3 shootout loss to division foe Chicago Wolves on April 16. They finished 10th in the league this season in average attendance with 5,883 fans per game on home ice.

“I thought the fans have been outstanding,” Wild coach Kurt Kleinendorst said following the final home game. “I think the support for what we’ve given them, I think anyone can appreciate that night in and night out.”

Kleinendorst said that they had not lost due to a lack of effort.

“I think at the end of the day it hasn’t gone unnoticed from our end either that we haven’t had a lot of success at home yet,” Kleinendorst said. “They’ve continued to come out and support us, and cheer us and not boo us and that would’ve been the easiest thing to do. So if you’re asking me what I’m going to take out of this first year, on a positive note, I’m going to remember how good the fans have been to us.”

The Wild finished dead last in the Western Conference with a 27-36-7-6 record. They went 16-14-4-4 on the road, but just 11-22-3-2 in front of the home crowd.

Forward Zack Phillips led the Wild in scoring with 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists) in 76 games but also had the team’s worst plus/minus rating at minus-30.

Brad Winchester finished as the team’s top point scorer with 38 points (19-19–38), although only only eight of those points came in an Iowa sweater after he was acquired in a Feb. 26 trade, along with defenseman Zach Miskovic, from the Rockford Ice Hogs in exchange for defenseman Brian Connolly.

Connelly, Iowa’s leading scorer through 50 games before the trade with 32 points (5-27–32), finished the season with 40 points (eight goals, 32 assists) overall.

Six different goalies played for Iowa this season with rookie Johan Gustafsson getting most of the starts when Darcy Kuemper was called up to Minnesota. In 40 games played, Gustafsson allowed 112 goals and had a .903 save percentage.

 

Moving on up

 

Some of the players who started the season with the Iowa Wild are making an impact with the Minnesota Wild as they have started their push in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Erik Haula, who had 27 points (14-13–27) in 31 games for the Iowa Wild this season, already has one goal in the playoffs through three games against the Colorado Avalanche in the first round.

Forward Stephane Veilleux has played 34 regular season games for the Iowa Wild and the Minnesota Wild this season and has appeared in two of three playoff games for Minnesota so far this season.

John Curry got a chance to play for the Minnesota Wild this season as well after starting the season playing for the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL. He started one game for Minnesota and made 43 saves while allowing two goals against the St. Louis Blues after compiling a .920 save percentage in the AHL in 19 games for the Iowa Wild this season.

Curry was the backup to Ilya Bryzgalov in the first game of the playoffs for Minnesota.

Due to injuries with the Minnesota Wild goaltenders, especially Josh Harding, Darcy Kuemper was only able to play in 17 games for Iowa, compiling a .929 save percentage. He played in 26 games for Minnesota in the regular season this year and compiled a .915 save percentage and played an important role in Minnesota’s push for the playoffs.

He came back from injury in game two in relief of Bryzgalov and pitched the first ever playoff shutout for the Minnesota Wild stopping 22 Colorado shots in a 1-0 overtime win in game three.

Kleinendorst said that it’s exciting for him to get to watch these players play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“There’s really three pieces to my puzzle, and that’s one of them,” Kleinendorst said. “To make sure that when guys get opportunities, they’re ready to and they’re ready to contribute and don’t miss a beat. I think we’ve done a nice job with that.”

The second piece, says Kleinendorst, is the “younger kids” and their development and he thinks they’ve done a “nice job with that,” as well. The third piece to his puzzle is winning.

“Even though we’ve had success on the road, we’ve had very little of it at home,” Kleinendorst said. “Two out of three, they say, sometimes isn’t bad, but I don’t think it’s going to fly around here. We’re going to have to get three out of three and that’s going to give us something to shoot for.”

Clint Cole is a freelance hockey writer and reports for Minnesota Hockey Magazine providing coverage of the Iowa Wild, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Minnesota Wild. Clint has grown up around hockey and played the sport since he was a kid all the way through high school. For more coverage of the Iowa Wild, including live tweets from many games, follow @Colezy24 on Twitter.

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