Heartlanders start season Friday vs. Steelheads
Coralville, Iowa – The Iowa Heartlanders (0-0-0-0, 0 pts.) kick off their second ECHL season at Xtream Arena against the Idaho Steelheads (0-0-0-0, 0 pts.) Friday at 7:05 p.m. in a matchup presented by Steindler Orthopedic Clinic. Tonight’s contest features two giveaways: a Steindler Fanbango giveaway and a magnet schedule giveaway (pres. by Allison Mackin, Realtor, with the Watts Group). Saturday’s contest will have an affiliation rally towel giveaway (pres. by Allison Mackin).Iowa’s expectations have been raised in year 2 after a strong second-half finish in the team’s inaugural season; the Heartlanders finished 29-33-9-1 (68 pts., 7th Central) but had an above hockey .500 record from Dec. 1 through the end of the regular season. Last season’s club was the “least-experienced” in the ECHL by professional games played, while this year’s opening night roster features ten returners.Head Coach Derek Damon earned a promotion this summer; he was the Heartlanders assistant coach last season with Gerry Fleming, who left in July 2022 after earning a coaching opportunity in the top German professional league with Frankfurt (DEL).The Heartlanders are entering their second season affiliated with the Minnesota Wild and Iowa Wild. Last season in the first year of the affiliation, goaltender Hunter Jones became the first Lander to make an NHL roster after earning a call-up to Minnesota’s taxi squad. Twelve Heartlanders played for the Iowa Wild last campaign and 14 total Landers received AHL playing time.Single-game tickets, group ticket options, partial plans and season ticket memberships are available for Heartlanders home games at Xtream Arena. Call 319-569-PUCK or visit iowaheartlanders.com/tickets for more information.Ahead of Friday's game, the Heartlanders announced forward Patrick Curry has been recalled from loan by the Iowa Wild. Promotion: Home Opener presented by Steindler Orthopedic Clinic with Fanbango Giveaway.Broadcast Coverage: Listen at Iowaheartlanders.com/listenlive or mixlr.com/goheartlanders. Watch on MC22 (Mediacom channel 22, 722, 822) and watch on FloHockey.tv. NHL Affiliates: Iowa Heartlanders (Minnesota Wild/Iowa Wild) | Idaho Steelheads (Dallas Stars/Texas Stars)Get to know the team The Heartlanders look to replace the production of arguably the league’s top-two forwards Kris Bennett and Ryan Kuffner heading into the 2022-23 season. Bennett won Rookie of the Year and tied for the league goals lead (35). Kuffner topped 2021-22 ECHL qualified forwards in points-per-game. To replace this production, the Heartlanders have enlisted a handful of notable returners. This includes 2021-22 forwards Zach White (point-per-game last season) and Jake Smith (led ECHL in power-play goals). Forwards Matthew Boucher and James Sanchez are among new faces to watch; Boucher is averaging a point-per-game in his ECHL career and Sanchez helped lead Jacksonville to the second round of the playoffs last season.On the defensive front, Riese Zmolek (4g, 15 pts. last season) returns to Iowa for his second season. Rookie Ryan Wheeler got a taste of the Heartland coming out of the NCAA level and brought stability to the Iowa blue line in the final month of last season.Goaltenders Hunter Jones, C.J. Motte and Corbin Kaczperski all bring unique and strong skill sets to the table combined with professional experience. Jones was last season's opening night starter in the first game in team history.Scouting the Steelheads The Steelheads have routinely been one of the ECHL’s most-successful franchises, qualifying for the playoffs every season from 2003-19 and advancing past the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs 11 times. The team is affiliated with the Dallas Stars and Texas Stars. Idaho’s players face one of the league’s most-grueling travel schedules due to their location in Boise; the team’s closest opponent, Utah, is a 340-mile drive away in West Valley City. Their second-closest foe, Rapid City, is more than a 900-mile drive.Idaho missed the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the first time in their 18-season history last season, ducking out on the season’s final day and missing the postseason by three points. Third-year Head Coach Everett Sheen is looking to qualify for the playoffs for the first time; he was the team’s head man during the 2019-20 season, but the postseason was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.