Iowa completes three-in-three with road rematch at Wheeling
Wheeling, WV - The Iowa Heartlanders (13-18-5-1, 32 pts.) look to win the weekend as they complete a five-game road trip at the Wheeling Nailers (18-15-1-0, 37 pts.) Sunday at 3:10 p.m. The Heartlanders are 1-1-0-0 in the first two games of the weekend; Iowa won in thrilling fashion with a Joe Widmar go-ahead goal in the final three minutes Saturday at Wheeling, then tapped in an empty-net strike to defeat the Nailers, 4-2.This five-game trips matches the team’s longest this season; Iowa was on the road from Dec. 31 – Jan. 9 as well. Sunday’s game finishes a Heartlanders stretch of 10 of 11 away from Xtream Arena. Iowa returns home for a three-game home stand starting next Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. vs. Indy. Iowa has points in six of seven games (4-1-2-0) and snapped Wheeling’s three-game winning streak with the Saturday victory.Broadcast Coverage: Listen at Iowaheartlanders.com/listenlive or mixlr.com/goheartlanders. Watch on FloHockey.tv.NHL Affiliates: Iowa Heartlanders (Minnesota Wild/Iowa Wild) | Wheeling Nailers (Pittsburgh Penguins/Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins)Last Time OutIn a gritty affair Saturday, the Heartlanders came out on top, 4-2, thanks to a game-winning strike with 2:37 to go from Joe Widmar. Ben Sokay’s empty-net strike sealed the game in the final 20 seconds. Jake Smith and Jack Billings also tallied in the win.Iowa took a 2-0 advantage in a first frame that featured 42 combined penalty minutes. Smith scored six minutes into the game, then Billings netted his 11th of the season on a 5-on-3 man up. In total, Iowa had 26 penalty minutes and Wheeling had 28.Trevin Kozlowski blocked 35 shots in victory, defeating Stefanos Lekkas (19 saves, 3 GA).Billings centers and continues to scorePlaying center for one of the first times this season, Jack Billings scored his 11th of the campaign, added a primary assist and now has team-best 25 points.The last six games, the rookie from Chicago, IL has tallied four goals and ten points. His linemate Jake Smith has scored ten goals over the last seven games and is on a career-best seven-game point streak.The Niagara University graduate was the second player to sign in team history, after Jake Linhart.A storied history The Nailers are the longest-surviving minor league hockey franchise below the AHL level and are a founding member of the ECHL. The club began as the Carolina Thunderbirds in 1988-89, changed names to the Winston-Salem Thunderbirds from 1989-92, then moved to Wheeling in 1992 and have been in the city ever since. The team won the first-ever ECHL championship in 1989, which at the time was known as the Riley Cup.Wheeling made the postseason 14 times since moving to West Virginia and last made the finals in 2016, falling to the Allen Americans. Roadie to the Wheel
Wheeling and Iowa represent the eastern-most and western-most cities in the Central Division. The clubs are separated by 664 miles and one time zone. The Nailers made two trips to the Heartland in the first half of the season. Wheeling is located in a peninsula of land that splits Pennsylvania and Ohio.The games this weekend complete a 10-of-11 stretch on the road in which Iowa traveled 4,393 miles. Included in those trips were ventures to Rapid City, Fort Wayne, Indy and Toledo.Wheeling Season Series Following Sunday’s game, the Landers are back in Wheeling once more this regular season on Sat., Feb. 5. The club is looking to finish above .500 at home for the first time since 2019-20, when Wheeling won 15 home games. The team is 8-8-0-0 at Wesbanco Arena this season.Next upIowa starts a three-game Staybridge Suites Homestand on Jan. 26 vs. Indy at 7:00 p.m.Upcoming Home GamesWednesday, January 26th at 7:00 p.m. vs. Indy – College NightFriday, January 28th at 7:00 p.m. vs. Kalamazoo - Boy Scouts NightSaturday, January 29th at 7:00 p.m. vs. Kalamazoo – Marvel ™ theme nightThe Heartlanders Season ticket memberships, group tickets, mini-plans, flex vouchers and single-game tickets are available for the Heartlanders inaugural season by calling 319-569-GOAL and visiting iowaheartlanders.com/tickets.