Iowa Heartlanders drop season-opener to Idaho Steelheads

The Heartlanders surrendered four goals in the first period en route to a 6-2 loss in front of a franchise-record crowd at Xtream Arena on Friday night.


Isabella Cervantes

A player sees action during a Heartlanders scrimmage at Xtream Arena in Coralville on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022. The Rose Team defeated the Dash Team 4-3.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

A rough first period cost the Iowa Heartlanders in their season-opening 6-2 loss to the Idaho Steelheads at Xtream Arena on Friday night.

The Heartlanders struggled with their forecheck and had trouble keeping possession as they allowed four goals in the opening frame. Idaho forward Ryan Dmowski tallied a hat trick, with two of his scores coming in the first 20 minutes.

Iowa head coach Derek Damon mentioned postgame the Heartlanders performed like they didn’t have a preseason game. 

Though the Heartlanders competed in a public scrimmage, they never scheduled an exhibition contest. The Steelheads played two preseason affairs against the Utah Grizzlies, which Damon said was noticeable on opening night.

“I think there’s times where we’re just soft on pucks, and the league’s just too good to be able to get away with being soft on pucks and being soft on coverage,” Damon said. “It showed tonight.”

Though the Steelheads outshot the Heartlanders, 42-29, Iowa had the upper hand in the second period. Iowa forward Kevin Conley tallied a 5-on-3 power-play goal early in the stanza, and the Heartlanders won the shooting battle, 16-14, while keeping the Steelheads off the scoreboard.

Damon said he thought the Heartlanders outplayed the Steelheads during the middle frame because his team was hard on pucks and on the forecheck.  But Damon said the Heartlanders had defensive lapses later in the game.

“We didn’t have a preseason game, and that’s on me,” Damon said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re ready tomorrow night. We’ll make our necessary adjustments, and we’ll get better as this goes on. It’s the first time. We’ve got a whole new system this year, and it’s going to take time.”

Heartlanders debuts

Eleven of the Heartlanders’ 17 skaters in Friday’s lineup made their first appearance with the club.

Including Conley, forwards Tommy Parrottino, Brendan Robbins, Mitchell Balmas, Alec Broetzman, James Sanchez, Nick Campoli, and Matthew Boucher all debuted for Iowa. Defensemen Nolan Orzeck, Justin Wells, and T.J. Fergus also saw their first playing time in a Heartlanders sweater.

Boucher recorded Iowa’s first goal at 14:09 of the first period.

Goaltender C.J. Motte, who hasn’t competed yet for the Heartlanders, dressed for the game but didn’t step on the ice.

Attendance record broken

After setting the franchise attendance record in the first game of their inaugural season in 2021 with 4,017 fans, the Heartlanders broke that figure by putting 4,176 people in the stands for the opening contest of their second campaign.

“It’s incredible,” Damon said. “It’s a fun place to play, especially when you have that kind of crowd. But at the end of the day, we’ve got to bring it on the ice, and guys know that, and you got to be better.”

Up next

The Heartlanders will face the Steelheads at Xtream Arena on Saturday. Puck drop is for 7:05 p.m.