Iowa Heartlanders down Cincinnati Cyclones in overtime thriller

Defenseman Matt Murphy tallied the game-winning score in Iowa’s second straight overtime victory.


Matt Sindt

The puck flies into the goal to score the winning point during a hockey game between the Iowa Heartlanders and the Cincinnati Cyclones at Xtream Arena in Coralville on Saturday Nov. 26, 2022. The Heartlanders defeated the Cyclones, 4-3.

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

When Iowa Heartlanders defenseman Matt Murphy saw Cincinnati Cyclones forward Patrick Polino fumble the puck in overtime, he took his chance.

Murphy poked the puck and gained possession on Iowa’s blue line, and he saw nothing but ice in front of him with 3:30 elapsed in the extra period. He skated toward Cyclones goaltender Beck Warm and gave the Heartlanders a 4-3 victory off a breakaway at Xtream Arena on Sunday afternoon.


“The ice was pretty bad, and I just thought I’d slide a five-hole,” Murphy said. “So, I was fortunate it went in, and I think I kind of surprised the goalie.”

Murphy said he wasn’t nervous. Instead, he said he gets excited for those big moments.

The box score made it appear the Cyclones outplayed the Heartlanders. They recorded 16 more shots on goal and spent four extra minutes on the power play. Yet, the Heartlanders overcame a 3-2 deficit.

“We didn’t have our best game,” Iowa head coach Derek Damon said. “Clearly, with fourth game in fifth nights, it’s tough but we battled through it. We were just talking about it after the game, good teams, they find a way to win even when they don’t have their best. They have a B game they can still win with, and I thought we had that tonight.”

Big picture

The win capped a five-game divisional stretch for the Heartlanders, and they earned six out of the possible 10 points.

The Heartlanders dropped a home-and-home with the Kalamazoo Wings last Sunday and Wednesday in post-regulation. Then, Iowa fell at the Indy Fuel on Friday.

But the Heartlanders downed the first-place divisional rival Cyclones on back-to-back days by virtue of two 4-3 overtime wins.

Iowa is now 3-8-2-1. Though the Heartlanders remain at the bottom of the ECHL Central Division, they are two points behind the sixth-place Toledo Walleye and four points out of tying the Fort Wayne Komets for a Kelly Cup Playoff spot.

“I give credit to all the guys in there,” Murphy said. “We have a good leadership group that’s been keeping everyone positive, and Damon especially has been awesome through that skid of losing streak. But we had to start winning some games. So, these two games, winning that was perfect. It was exactly what we needed.”

Jeszka scores first goal of season after unexpected callup

Iowa forward Griff Jeszka tallied the game-tying goal at 7:09 of the third period, but he didn’t know he was going to compete for the Heartlanders until late on Friday.


After Heartlanders forward Nick Campoli was stretchered off the ice during Friday’s game, Damon texted Jeska that the Heartlanders wanted to call him up. Jeska had been with the Southern Professional Hockey League’s Pensacola Ice Flyers, as the Heartlanders cut him before the regular season started.

Though the Heartlanders decided not to keep Jeszka after he participated in their training camp, they did want to bring him back eventually.

Jeszka flew out of Knoxville, Tennessee, on Saturday morning and landed in Chicago, where he took a connecting flight to Cedar Rapids that arrived at 11 a.m.

“I just wanted to help the team in whatever way I could possible,” Jeszka said. “So, it feels good to get on the scoresheet.”

Up next  

The Heartlanders close out the three-game homestand against the Kansas City Mavericks at 7:05 p.m. on Wednesday. Iowa fell in its first meeting with Kansas City, 8-5, on Nov. 11.

Following that contest, the Heartlanders will take their first Canadian trip in franchise history. They will play the Trois-Rivières Lions on Friday and Saturday. Then, they’ll head further east to meet the Newfound Growlers on Dec. 7, 9, and 10.

Iowa returns to Coralville on Dec. 14 to face the Kalamazoo Wings.