Iowa Heartlanders to play three home games this week

The Heartlanders will take on the Indy Fuel Wednesday and the Kalamazoo Wings Friday and Saturday.


Larry Phan

Iowa forward Jack Billings carries the puck down the rink 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.

Jake Olson, Sports Reporter

The Iowa Heartlanders face a three-game homestand this week. They’ll welcome the Indy Fuel to Xtream Arena in Coralville Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Kalamazoo Wings will pay the Heartlanders a visit on Friday and Saturday.

Iowa hasn’t played a home series since December. The Heartlanders have played 10 of their last 11 games on the road. Iowa hasn’t hosted a game since Jan. 14.

“We just try to focus on our game whether it’s on the road or not,” Iowa head coach Gerry Fleming said. “Obviously, you want to get the crowd out of it and play a simple game — not giving them opportunities and taking advantage of opportunities when you get them.”

The Heartlanders have played their best hockey of the season during their recent stretch of road games. Iowa has amassed seven standings points in its last eight contests.

“I think we are really coming together and buying into the system,” Iowa forward Jack Billings said. “Obviously, when it comes to winning, it’s a lot easier. But those times we were losing we stuck together and relied on each other.”

Iowa is now 14-18-5-1 with 34 points to its name. The Heartlanders’ record and points total have them in last place in the ECHL Central Division.

The closest team the Heartlanders could pass to get out of last place in the division standings is the Fuel. Indy is 17-15-2-2 this season with 38 points.

A win over Indy on Wednesday could really help Iowa move up in the division standings. The Heartlanders will have a key piece of their lineup back for their contest with the Fuel too.

Goalie Trevin Kozlowski recently rejoined the Heartlanders’ roster after a brief stint with the Iowa Wild. The Iowa Wild are the Heartlanders’ American Hockey League affiliate.

The Iowa Wild and Heartlanders are both affiliated with the National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild.

During his time in Des Moines with the Iowa Wild, Kozlowski went 1-1, posting a 92 percent save rate.

Corbin Kaczperski filled in at goaltender for the Heartlanders while Kozlowski was gone. With big shoes to fill, Kaczperski stepped up averaging 30 saves per game in the month of January.

“They have given us an opportunity,” Fleming said of Iowa’s goalies. “At times, we have played really good hockey, and at times, our inexperience has shown. When that happens, our goaltending has been there to bail us out.”

Kaczperski signed a professional tryout contract with the Syracuse Crunch on Jan. 26. The Syracuse Crunch are an AHL team in New York. Syracuse’s primary NHL affiliate is the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021.

Even with all the shuffling in his lineup, Fleming can feel his team starting to gel. Fleming believes group cohesion could be an asset for his team as the season continues.

“Guys are starting to get familiar with each other, not only in games, but practices,” Fleming said. “Hopefully, we can build upon what we have been doing recently.”

All three of the Heartlanders games this week begin at 7 p.m.

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