University of Iowa student serves as Heartlanders’ emergency backup goaltender

Ethan Snee, a sophomore at the UI, sat on the Heartlanders’ bench during their Wednesday game against the Wichita Thunder.


Larry Phan

Heartlanders bench spectate the match during a hockey match between the Iowa Heartlanders and the Toledo Walleye at the Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa, on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. The Walleye defeated the Heartlanders 5-2.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

The Iowa Heartlanders needed an emergency goalie on Wednesday night, and they found it in an active college student at the University of Iowa.

Ethan Snee, a sophomore cinema and communication studies major, served as the Heartlanders’ emergency backup goaltender for their midweek matchup at Xtream Arena against the Wichita Thunder.

Though he never made an appearance during the game, Snee was dressed in full goalie gear and skated during pregame warmups. The former high school player, who last competed in 2019, went through the pregame motions acted like a typical goaltender would — even while his 5-foot-11 frame appeared undersized compared to the other skaters.

“Since I’ve been growing up in Iowa City, I’ve always wanted to see a hockey team in Iowa City and finally got one,” Snee said after Iowa’s 3-2 shootout loss Wednesday. “Kind of always been a little dream of mine to get on the ice, so getting on the big stage out here was pretty cool, even if it was just sitting on my butt.”

The Heartlanders lost a goaltender Tuesday after Hunter Jones was recalled to the Iowa Wild, leaving Trevin Kozlowski as the only player at that position. The ECHL requires each franchise to have two active goaltenders for every game, so the Heartlanders needed to sign someone fast to fulfill that requirement.

Iowa decided to add Snee, a former goaltender on the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders high school team, to the roster.

Snee was on the University of Iowa men’s club hockey team for a while, but never received playing time. When the Heartlanders called him, he was helping the UI women’s club hockey team as an assistant and goalie coach who dresses as a goaltender for about half of the club’s practices.

“We just needed somebody quick and somebody serviceable and he fit the bill,” Heartlanders head coach Gerry Fleming said. “So, we appreciate him coming in and doing that.”

Snee participated in the morning skate with the Heartlanders on Wednesday and described his performance as “not the hottest.” He got nervous to the point of texting his father that he was going to vomit, but his nerves calmed down by puck drop as he recognized there was an unlikely chance he would appear in the game.

All of Snee’s short-lived teammates introduced themselves to him on Wednesday. Snee told reporters that Kozlowski especially was helpful and is a cool person.

Though Snee never touched the ice during the game, he could tell the intensity during warmups was much different than what he had previously experienced.

“The pregame rituals that people have — it’s just a lot of preparing yourself,” Snee said. “There wasn’t as much preparation in high school. It’s just a different level here. I think guys in high school should strive to be as prepared as they are here, but obviously with school and whatnot you can’t always be doing that, but I think the preparedness was pretty impressive to me.”

The Heartlanders play next on Friday at the Fort Wayne Komets — giving themselves time to sign a goaltender that has previous college or professional experience. But for one night, they made a local student’s wish come true in unexpected fashion.

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