Iowa Heartlanders set for road trip to Toledo, Fort Wayne

The Heartlanders will embark on a three-game road trip to take on the division-leading Toledo Walleye and Fort Wayne Komets.


Gabby Drees

Iowa forward Kris Bennett shoots the puck during a hockey game between the Iowa Heartlanders and Indy Fuel at the Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. Bennet scored two goals. Iowa won 5-3.

Jake Olson, Sports Reporter

The Iowa Heartlanders will travel to Toledo and Fort Wayne this weekend for three games.

Iowa will take on the Toledo Walleye on Friday and Saturday, and finish the weekend with a matchup against the Fort Wayne Komets on Sunday.

The Heartlanders are coming off a 1-0-1 homestand against the Indy Fuel and Kalamazoo Wings. Iowa took down the Fuel, 5-3, last Friday and fell, 3-2, in overtime to the Wings on Sunday.

RELATED: Iowa Heartlanders fall to Kalamazoo Wings in overtime

Iowa currently has a 2-6-2 record with six points — last in the ECHL Central Division.

Despite the slow start, the Heartlanders have seen marked improvement throughout the season, especially during the recent homestand.

“I like the fact that we forechecked well; we played quicker which means our execution was well,” head coach Gary Fleming said. “Anytime that you are playing quick it is normally a tell that you are on point with passing and system play. Hopefully we can build upon that.”

Forward Kris Bennett and defender Riese Zmolek rejoined the Heartlanders last week after brief stints with the Iowa Wild — the Heartlanders’ American Hockey League affiliate.

Bennett, the Heartlanders’ newly announced captain, has been productive this season. The forward has eight points in five games, including six goals and two assists.

Zmolek, an alternate captain, has not yet recorded a goal or assist for the Heartlanders.

“It’s great having them back because they are good players at this level, on and off the ice,” Fleming said. “Having them around for our practice and on the ice all translates to good things for our team.”

Forward Joe Widmar said Bennett and Zmolek provide some much-needed veteran leadership for the young Heartlander squad. He added that Bennett and Zmolek are great people not only on the ice, but in the locker room.

The Walleye and Komets both sit at the top of the ECHL Central Division. The Komets boast a 6-2-1 record with 13 points — first in the division. The Walleye are close behind in second, with 12 points on a 6-4-0 record.

The Heartlanders suffered back-to-back losses at the hands of the Walleye, with a 10-1 loss on Oct. 29 and 5-2 defeat on Oct. 30 at Xtream Arena in Coralville.

The Komets are currently on a losing streak, having lost two of their past three games. Fort Wayne’s one win in the three-game stretch came against the Walleye.

“Obviously Toledo and Fort Wayne are some of the best teams in the league,” Widmar said. “They are in our division and they aren’t going anywhere.”

With a combination of experienced veterans and young talent on the Walleye and Komets, the Heartlanders are preparing for stiff competition.

“It all comes back to playing quick and with pace,” Fleming said. “In order to do that we have to clean up areas in our game that need to be cleaned up and continue to grow in areas where we have done well.”

Following the three-game road trip, the Heartlanders will have a long homestand, with seven of their nine games at Xtream Arena.

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