Thursday, December 1 2022

The Heartlanders will play six of their next seven games at Xtream Arena in Coralville.

Grace Smith

Heartlander head coach Gary Fleming shouts at his team during a hockey game between the Iowa Heartlanders and the Tulsa Oilers at Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa on Wednesday, February 16, 2022. The Heartlanders defeated the Oilers in a shootout, 4-3.

After a brief two-game tour against the Kalamazoo Wings, the Iowa Heartlanders will return to Xtream Arena this week for three games. Iowa will face the Wichita Thunder on Wednesday night and the Fort Wayne Komets on Friday and Saturday.

The Heartlanders come into Wednesday’s game on the wings of a three-game winning streak.

Iowa will play six of its next seven home games, which could provide some late-season momentum.

“I’ve been on teams before where at this time of year we turn things around,” Iowa forward Kaid Oliver said. “We needed a start to turn things around, and I think last weekend was everything for us.”

The Heartlanders still have a lot of work to do if they want to qualify for the playoffs in 2021-22. Iowa currently sits sixth in the ECHL Central Division, which has seven teams. The top four teams in each division compete in the ECHL Kelly Cup Qualifiers, named after the ECHL’s first-ever Commissioner, Patrick Kelly.

Iowa has 47 points in the standings as of Tuesday. The Heartlanders are six points out of the top four in the ECHL Central Division, which currently includes the Toledo Walleye, Wheeling Nailers, Fort Wayne Komets and Cincinnati Cyclones.

The Heartlanders have been cemented at the bottom of the ECHL Central Division standings for much of the year. But now they have started to come out of the hole.

“I think we’re finally rewarded,” Iowa head coach Gerry Fleming said. “I think we’ve played some good hockey over the last month here. Now we find ways to win. We stuck to it and never really got discouraged.

Iowa is just one point away from overtaking the Kalamazoo Wings in the ECHL Central Division standings and moving up to fifth place.

The offense fueled Iowa’s recent winning streak. The Heartlanders have scored 4.7 goals in each of their last three games, on average.

“We just have guys running plays well,” Fleming said. “Our top line has been what we expected of them when we signed them at the start of the season. Hopefully we can continue.”

RELATED: Darick Louis-Jean gives Iowa Heartlanders defense a boost

The Heartlanders have also been gaining defensive backing lately, as goaltender Corbin Kaczperski recently joined the team. Kaczperski, who played college hockey at Yale and Denver, spent little time with the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crush between spells with the Heartlanders this season. The Crushes are the AHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Kaczperski’s record as a Heartlander is 4-4-1. He posted a 93 save percentage and allowed just 2.27 goals per game.

[Kaczperski’s AHL experience] was good,” Fleming said. “Talking to him this morning, he said it was a great experience with great coaching.”

Iowa’s three games will start at 7 p.m. this week.

“There are a lot of things that go into winning a hockey game, like goaltending, defense and winning the power play,” Fleming said. “If we do these things right consistently, we give ourselves a chance to win every night.”


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