Iowa Heartlanders prepped for homestand against Toledo Walleye

In four matchups so far this season, the Heartlanders have not yet won against the Walleye.


Gabby Drees

Heartlanders head coach Gerry Fleming speaks with the team during a hockey game between the Iowa Heartlanders and the Toledo Walleye at the Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa on Friday, Oct. 30, 2021. The Walleye won against the Heartlanders, 10-1.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

The Toledo Walleye have been a thorn in the side of the Iowa Heartlanders throughout the 2021-22 season.

In the four matchups between the two teams, the Walleye have gone 4-0, outscoring the Heartlanders, 26-5.

Iowa will have three more chances to get its first-ever win against Toledo this week. The Heartlanders will take on the Walleye on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday at Xtream Arena in Coralville.

Though the 12-5 Walleye and the 5-11 Heartlanders sit on polar opposite ends of the ECHL Central Division standings, the Heartlanders are confident they can perform well during their series.

“I’ll tell you what, it’s going to be a battle for sure,” Heartlanders head coach Gerry Fleming told reporters Tuesday. “They’re a good team. They got a lot of veteran guys. They got a lot of skill in their lineup. We have some guys banged up right now, so it’s an opportunity for other guys to come in and fill those voids and showcase what they can do in those situations.”

The Walleye are leading the ECHL in scoring this season with 72 goals, while the Heartlanders have surrendered the most goals in the league at 83. The 24 points the Walleye have earned in the standings this season are the second-most in the ECHL. The Heartlanders’ 13 points are tied for the fewest in the league.

Iowa has already won with holes in its lineup once in the past week. The Heartlanders downed the Fort Wayne Komets, 2-1, on the road in Indiana Dec. 5.

RELATED: Iowa Heartlanders split two-game road series in Fort Wayne

Only five of the Heartlanders’ usual six defenders were available for Iowa’s last game against Fort Wayne. Goaltender Trevin Kozlowski picked up the slack for the Heartlanders’ defense in that contest, registering a career-high 48 saves.

The Heartlanders will likely be without their captain, Kris Bennett, this week. The 25-year-old forward was called up to play with the American Hockey League’s Iowa Wild Tuesday. Bennett leads the Heartlanders with 10 goals and 21 points.

“So, we got a good group here and everybody we’ve brought in throughout the season has gelled in really well with the guys,” Kozlowski said Tuesday. “So, that’s awesome, and having to go to battle with those guys every night, it’s great. Everybody lays it all out on the line for the guys sitting next to them in the locker room. So, it’s a good group.”

Despite the lineup changes his team has endured this season, Fleming said the Heartlanders’ strategy does not change.

All three of Iowa’s games this week will begin at 7 p.m. Each leg of the homestand will feature a different theme. Wednesday is college night. So, University of Iowa students will have the opportunity to purchase tickets at a discounted rate.

Iowa will host a teddy bear toss Friday night. Fans are encouraged to bring teddy bears to throw on the ice after the Heartlanders score their first goal. The stuffed animals thrown onto the ice will be donated to Toys for Tots, a charity that distributes toys to children in families that can’t afford Christmas gifts.

“I got a good feeling for the three against them this weekend,” defenseman Billy Constantinou said. “So, I’m pretty excited. Obviously, they’re a really, really good team. They’ve obviously proved that they got a lot of older guys, all great players. But we had a really good practice today, and I think we’re all ready and we’re looking forward to playing them.”

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