DES MOINES, I.A. – The Henderson Silver Knights will open their regular season on the road against the Iowa Wild at Wells Fargo Arena. It marks their first out-of-division contest since the 2021-22 AHL season. Puck drop is set for 5 p.m. PT.
The Silver Knights enter their season with back-to-back preseason wins against the Tucson Roadrunners and the Coachella Valley Firebirds. Forwards Jonas Rondbjerg (currently recalled to the Golden Knights) and Mason Morelli scored against Tucson, with Jakub Brabenec netting the shootout-winning tally. Patrick Guay notched a goal and an assist against the Firebirds, with Brent Pedersen and Robbie Fromm-Delorme also scoring in that game.
The Henderson netminders stood strong in both contests, with goaltender Jiri Patera stopping 23 of 25 shots for a .920 save percentage in his start, as well as denying the Roadrunners all three shootout attempts. Jesper Vikman was likewise impressive, stopping 36 of 37 shots against Coachella for a .972 save percentage.
For Head Coach Ryan Craig, tonight’s match against Iowa marks the start of what he and the team’s players have been eagerly waiting for: games that count towards the standings. The entire team has worked hard throughout multiple training camps and preseason games, which have been split between the Golden Knights and Silver Knights for many players on Henderson’s roster. Now it’s time to put that work to the test with the first few games of the regular season.
“Excited would be a good word for it, but we’re also a little bit anxious to get underway,” he said. “We really believe in our group, we’ve had a good camp, but we’ve got to get going and start playing some games here.”
From the game action that the team has seen, the Silver Knights are well-prepared to win games in a multitude of situations. Against the Roadrunners, Henderson battled back from an early deficit to secure a shootout victory. Against the Firebirds, they dominated, scoring the game-winning goal just 20 seconds after their first of the game. Craig wants to see the team build on the strengths of those two games heading into this first road matchup.
“Our structure. I think what we’ve tried to establish here the most is structure,” Craig added. “I think our pace has been good, we’ve been happy with our execution, we just need to continue with our structure and continue to build with our structure. Especially early in the year – we’ve seen it with the NHL season starting now – sometimes structure isn’t quite there for teams yet. So we’re going to try to make sure ours is strong, and when it isn’t, and there’s a breakdown, I’ll handle that and restructure so we can have a strong start.”
The Iowa Wild are the first non-Pacific Division team that the Silver Knights have played since their 2021-22 regular season. But Craig doesn’t feel that that presents a challenge particularly different from any other matchup in the league.
“We’re more focused on us and what we can do well,” he said. “We’ve seen [The Wild] play one exhibition game, but it was an exhibition game. So I think we’re focused on what we’re trying to do, how we want to play, and how we’re starting to forge our identity as a team.”
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
- The Iowa Wild’s Brett McLean will make his debut as head coach of the team this evening, with Ben Simon and Patrick Dwyer making their Wild assistant coaching debuts.
- Goaltender Jesper Wallstedt finished the 2022-23 AHL season with a .908 save percentage and a 2.68. He also played two games in the Calder Cup playoffs, both losses. He won a bronze medal for Sweden in the 2022 WJC, finishing with a 1.62 GAA and a .940 save percentage, earning him the top goaltending award at the tournament.
- Forward Adam Beckman scored 36 points (24G, 12A) in 53 games for the Wild last year. He has also played a career 12 NHL games, tallying his first NHL point in November 2021.