Heartlanders goaltender Corbin Kaczperski’s whirlwind professional season

In 2021-22, Kaczperski competed in three different leagues and landed with the Iowa Heartlanders three separate times.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa goalie Corbin Kaczperski reacts after a goal during a hockey match between Iowa and Wheeling at Xtream Arena in Coralville on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. The Nailers defeated the Heartlanders, 6-4.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

As goaltender Corbin Kaczperski headed into his first professional season, he expected to work in the ECHL. But, he didn’t know what would happen from there.

Kaczperski went through a whirlwind in the 2021-22 campaign, landing with the Iowa Heartlanders three times.

“It didn’t feel real for a bit, I won’t lie to you,” Kaczperski said of his season. “It was one of those years where just so many cool things happened. I got to experience so much.”

The ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones and Worcester Railers released Kaczperski in the preseason. Then, the left-handed catcher signed with the Vermilion County Bobcats of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) in late October.

In his nine games with the Bobcats, Kaczperski recorded a 5.09 goals against average. He took a short break from the Bobcats in December as he was loaned to the Railers and AHL’s Utica Comets, but Kaczperski never competed for either club.

“I honestly wasn’t expecting to play in the SPHL, and then when that happened, it was a letdown,” Kaczperski said. “Obviously, you want to play at the highest level you can, right? But it was one of those things where, OK, if you want to get out of it, you just got to work.”

The Heartlanders added Kaczperski on Dec. 27. In his first stint for Iowa, he saved over 93 percent of the shots he faced throughout 10 games and was the runner-up for January’s ECHL Goaltender of the Month honor.

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The AHL’s Syracuse Crunch picked Kaczperski up on Jan. 25 on a professional tryout contract. Kaczperski competed in three games with the Crunch and won the singular matchup he started, stopping 32 of 33 puckson Feb. 5 against the Charlotte Checkers.

The Crunch, however, released him, and he returned to Coralville on Feb. 21.

The Michigander won all five games he started during his second stint with the Heartlanders, allowing no more than three goals in each appearance as part of Iowa’s nine wins in a 10-game stretch.

“We found him, he came in, and he was great for us,” Heartlanders head coach Gerry Fleming said. “He was a big part of our success in the middle part of the season. So, really, that worked out for everybody.”

On March 15, the Crunch resigned Kaczperski to another professional tryout contract. He participated in one game and surrendered six goals in his second stretch with Syracuse before he was let go again. He joined Iowa for the third time on March 22.

In his third tour with the Heartlanders, he recorded the franchise’s first shutout in a 5-0 victory over the Cyclones on March 25, saving 29 shots. When the Heartlanders’ 2021-22 campaign ended, he owned a 2.69 goals against average with a .921 save percentage in the ECHL.

Kaczperski said he made two tactical changes to his game throughout the season: his footwork and the way he challenges opponents.

In his past two summers, Kaczperski reported to a landscaping or construction job during the offseason. But this year, he’s planning on using the offseason to train and work with his hometown goaltending coach, A.J. Walczak.

Where Kaczperski signs next season is unknown, but he does want to pursue the AHL if it works out in his favor.

But if the AHL isn’t in the cards?

“I love it here, and I would love to stay,” Kaczperski said. “But again, we’ll see what happens.”

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