Landers start three-game home stand and seek another home win
Coralville, Iowa - The Iowa Heartlanders (20-23-6-1, 45 pts.) seek their fourth straight win as the club returns home for a three-game home stand Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. against the Wichita Thunder (22-21-7-0, 51 pts.). Iowa trails Cincinnati by six points for the fourth and final playoff spot. There are 22 games left in Iowa’s 72-game inaugural season.Wednesday is College Night, presented by Hills Bank, with discounted ticket prices and $5 reveal shirts for those with a College/student ID.Iowa hosts Fort Wayne this Friday and Saturday, both 7:00 p.m. puck drops. Friday is DC Comics Night, which features Batman jerseys and a chance to meet Batman at the game to get your picture taken with Gotham’s finest. Saturday is Paint with the Heartlanders.Tavern Blue Fore Packs are available for all home games this season, which includes four tickets, four hot dogs, four sodas, VIP Parking and discounts from Tavern Blue restaurant. Tickets for the game are also available by calling 319-569-PUCK.Promo: College Night, pres. by Hills BankBroadcast Coverage: Listen at Iowaheartlanders.com/listenlive or mixlr.com/goheartlanders. Watch on FloHockey.tv.NHL Affiliates: Iowa Heartlanders (Minnesota Wild/Iowa Wild) | Wichita Thunder (Edmonton Oilers, Bakersfield Condors)Last Time OutIowa scored the opening three goals and never trailed Saturday in a 5-2 win at Kalamazoo, completing a weekend sweep at the K-Wings. Iowa won both games by a 5-2 score. Kris Bennett opened the scoring with his team-leading 19th of the season. Riese Zmolek and Ben Sokay potted the next two before the Wings struck twice in the second to make it 3-2. Before the end of the second, Adrien Beraldo (4th career goal) slapped an important insurance goal from the left blue line. In the third, the Landers scored once on a left-slot wrist shot from Ryan Kuffner, his 8th of the season.Season Series Wednesday completes Iowa’s season series with the Wichita; the Landers have only played the Thunder once before on Dec. 1, a 3-2 shootout victory. In that game, Iowa fell behind 2-0, then received goals from Kris Bennett and Yuki Miura to even the score and force overtime. Iowa attempted six shots in OT, but Evan Buitenhuis stopped them all and two shots in the shootout. Trevin Kozlowski made 36 saves. Peter Crinella and Jay Dickman scored the shootout goals for Wichita.Top line outstandingIowa’s top line of Zach White, Ryan Kuffner and Kris Bennett continues to gel and produce. Bennett leads all qualified ECHL rookies in goals/game (19g in 28 GP) and points/game (41 pts). Kuffner is riding a franchise-best 13-game points streak. Zach White has generated eight goals and 23 points in 30 games. Since Kuffner’s return from injury Jan. 28, the Heartlanders have played 11 games and a player on that line has scored in nine of the 11 contests.Corbin back Iowa received additional goaltending reinforcements Monday; netminder Corbin Kaczperski returned to Iowa after a professional tryout stint with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch. Kaczperski played in three Crunch games, going 1-1-0 with a 2.14 goals against average and .920 save percentage.Kaczperski was named runner-up for Goaltender of the Month in January. He is 4-4-1-0 with a 2.27 goals against average and .937 save percentage with Iowa this season. He has made at least 30 saves in seven of his ten ECHL games this campaign.The Heartlanders add Kaczperski to the goaltending group of Dereck Baribeau (3-0-1 ECHL record) and Trevin Kozlowski (30 stops in win Saturday at Kalamazoo).Scouting Wichita The Thunder have had one of the more-interesting up-and-down seasons in recent ECHL memory and find themselves squarely in the hunt for a playoff spot in the Mountain Division. The club is tied with Tulsa for the fourth and final Mountain Division playoff spot.On Dec. 1, the Thunder beat Iowa in the shootout to improve to 10-5-1. Next, Wichita endured an ECHL-season-long 14-game losing streak to dip to last in the division at 10-16-4-0. The Thunder finally got off the schneid with back-to-back wins at Kansas City Jan. 8-9. Next, the Thunder lost another five straight and six of seven (1-5-1) and were last in the league Jan. 26 at 29 points.Since that point, the Thunder have gone on a season-best 11-game points streak (9-0-2) and enter Wednesday on a three-game winning streak.Upcoming Home GamesWednesday, February 23rd at 7:00 p.m. vs. Wichita – College Night presented by Hills BankFriday, February 25th at 7:00 p.m. vs. Fort Wayne – DC Comics Night (special Batman jerseys)Saturday, February 26th at 7:00 p.m. vs. Fort Wayne – Paint with the Heartlanders, thanks to Brush and BarrelThe 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.