The Iowa Wild’s Opening Weekend

Darcy Kuemper goalie
Darcy Kuemper (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

After waiting anxiously for Saturday, Iowa Wild fans piled into the Wells Fargo Arena to watch their first hockey team since 2009 start off their opening weekend with a pair against the Oklahoma City Barons. Although the Wild started off strong with a win in their home opener, they had a bit of a stumble in the following game the next day with a tough loss. With a split weekend, the Wild need to take notes of their early games to decide how they will move forward in their first season after the move from Houston.

Game One

In their first home opener since 2008 with the Iowa Chops, the new Iowa Wild hit the ground running at Des Moines’ Wells Fargo Arena. Tallying a total of 29 shots, two more than the Oklahoma City Barons, the Wild eventually got one past Barons’ goaltender Richard Bachman to lead 1-0. That was all that was needed as Brett Bulmer, the lone goal scorer, would record his first ever game-winner. Wild’s backup goaltender Johan Gustafsson filled in for Darcy Kuemper, who was recalled up to the Minnesota Wild pending Niklas Backstrom’s injury, and recorded a shutout in his first ever AHL game. Iowa fans couldn’t have been happier to watch their first team in years get a win, and the numbers showed as they recorded the third largest crowd ever at Wells Fargo Arena with a total attendance of 10,213.

Game Two

Unfortunately, the enormous returning crowd from the Iowa Wild’s home opener would be faced with disappointment the following Sunday night. Playing against the Oklahoma City Barons again, the teams were tied through two with a score of 2-2 with Brett Bulmer scoring in back-to-back games for Iowa, along with Dave Steckel who tallied his first of the season with Iowa after joining the team from the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks. The tie game took an unfavorable turn for the Wild though when Jason Zucker delivered a hit to the head against Barons’ Linus Omark. Though Linus Omark later returned to play, Zucker was given a match penalty for the hit, giving the Barons a long five minute power-play. That power-play would lead to two goals against Iowa, giving the Barons a 4-2 lead. Unable to recover from the two goal deficit, the reassigned Darcy Kuemper would receive the loss, and Iowa would split their opening weekend at home against Oklahoma.

With Zucker’s head hit on Omark pending review, AHL rules have automatically suspended him until further ruling which is expected to come by mid-week. Depending on the AHL’s ruling, the Wild may be down a forward when heading to Charlotte for a pair against the Checkers this weekend. With Kuemper recalled again after Sunday night to fill in for the injured Backstrom, it is likely that Gustafsson will be in net against the Checkers. With their record now 1-1, Iowa will need to address the situations facing the team before Saturday if they are to register some wins in their first road games this season.