As much as my girlfriend and I had been looking forward to our trip to see the Iowa Wild, we weren't thrilled for the snow storm that greeted us on our ride down. It was my second trip to see an Iowa Wild game and her first.
We left 9:30 AM, hoping traffic had died down.
That was not the case.
35W down to the Iowa border was literally an ice rink. You couldn't get a mile without seeing an accident or someone already in the ditch. A drive that should of taken us three, three and a half hours took about six and half to seven.
But we got there safe, and in the end that's all that counts.
The game featured the Iowa Wild against the San Antonio Rampage.
The game was a tribute to breast cancer awareness, something that hits kind of close to home for me. They handed out pink towels and pink coozies as you walked in, as well as giving the option of dying your hair or beard pink for a donation to breast cancer research and awareness.
To top it off, to start the game they had a group of four woman who had beat breast cancer (including the Iowa Wild's own Sam Anas's mother) dropped the first puck, which was amazing to see and be part of.
The environment at the stadium was spectacular. The fans in Iowa are loving the hockey down there. The stadium wasn't sold out but there were plenty of fans out for the game.
You can tell the players enjoy it. I was sitting right next to the Iowa Wild tunnel and the players interacted with a number of people. I even saw one give his stick away to a lucky fan. It was a great environment for a hockey game and I highly recommend shooting down 35W to see a game. It will be worth your time.
The game itself was...interesting.
Both teams came out sloppy, and for the most part it kind of stayed that way. Both teams played undisciplined at times and took bad penalties at the wrong time.
It was an entertaining game with plenty of hitting and high-energy action. It seems like there's some bad blood between the two teams.
The Iowa Wild fell down 1-0 and 2-1 but came back both times. With seconds on the clock, J.T Brown buried a rebound to send the game into overtime. The reaction of the crowd was great, it was really cool to take it all in. Seeing Soucy win the game on a great shot win it in overtime couldn't have been more perfect. The fans loved it.
I went to the game wanting to see and pay attention to a few players in particular.
San Anas seems to be all over the place and was always able to find the puck. He has good hands, quick feet, and never seems out of place. He definitely has room for growth though, as most players down there do, but I don't think his size will be an issue in the NHL.
Carson Soucy was another guy I was keeping a close eye on. He is big, can move the puck, and seems to be defensively sound most of the time. Saturday wasn't his best game though. He took a bad penalty and one of his turnovers resulted in a goal. He also looked lost at times. He never got down on himself for mistakes though, playing through them and eventually scoring the game winner in overtime on a great hard shot.
Louis Belpedio was another player I wanted to see in person. Like Soucy, he had a decent game. For one, his turnovers did not result in goal. He looked fast, recovering nicely when it looked like he was beat, and has decent hands for a defense man. Although he still has some growing to do, I like his game and believe it can translate to NHL level, much like Soucy.
Last but not least, I wanted a good look at goalie Kaapo Kahkonen. I really like his game. He seems to see the puck very well, even through traffic. Yes, he did allow two goals, but the saves he made to keep it at two goals were great. He could easily back up Dubby next year and maybe some day take the number one goalie spot, although I'd have to see more of him to get a better read. From what I did see, though, I definitely liked him.
A couple other guys that stood out for me were Hunter Warner and Michael Kapla, both defenemen. Each played a good game and were physical, things I definitely like to see in d-men. They are certainly two guys I will try to keep an eye out for
Lastly, Hunter Warner seem like a crowd favorite. Every time he touched the puck people cheered or chanted his name. If anybody has the story behind that I'd love to know.
Although the ride was less than ideal, seeing the Iowa Wild in action definitely made it worth it. Hopefully at least a few of the prospects I saw will make a meaningful difference for the big league club.
Thank you for reading!
Jeff Hartfiel is a Minnesota sports analyst specializing in the Wild and Vikings. He's been a part of Rambling On since 2018.