Coralville, Iowa – The Iowa Heartlanders announced Waterloo native Hunter Lellig has signed an ECHL contract, becoming the first Iowan to ever sign with the Heartlanders. The 24-year-old defenseman played five NCAA seasons split between Minnesota-Duluth (2018-22) and Bowling Green (2022-23). This past season at Bowling Green, the right-handed shot had four assists, 34 penalty minutes and led the Falcons in blocked shots.“It’s great to be back in Iowa after playing the last few years out of state,” Lellig said. “The game of hockey is growing here in Iowa and in my hometown it continues to grow. Seeing players from our state be a pro at a high level hopefully gives younger players the motivation to chase their dream. I’ve had some great conversations with the coaches here, had the opportunity to see the locker room, how things work here and the vision for the team. I’m excited to start my professional career here.”“Hunter is extremely deserving of this opportunity,” said Head Coach and General Manager Derek Damon. “We’re impressed by his physicality and the way he defends. With a strong summer, we expect him to compete in training camp and put himself in position to be a part of our team. On another note, this is an exciting day for our organization. Hockey has grown exponentially in the Hawkeye State over the last few decades with the success of our AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild and the footprint of youth hockey and the USHL. It’s special for us to be a part of helping to grow the game and we are seeing hockey develop at the grassroots level every day in the Corridor.”Iowa opens the 2023-24 season vs. the Rapid City Rush on Fri., Oct. 20 at 7:05 p.m. Season ticket memberships, mini-plans, partial plans and group tickets are available for the 2023-24 season by visiting iowaheartlanders.com/tickets and by calling 319-569-4625.2023-24 Roster (players signed to ECHL contracts)Forwards (9): Yuki Miura, Tanner MacMaster, Jesse Jacques, Mike Knaub, Davis Koch, Nick Campoli, Alec Broetzman, Odeen Tufto, Jake DurflingerDefensemen (6): Kevin McKernan, Chris Lipe, Nolan Orzeck, Ben Brinkman, Robbie Stucker, Hunter LelligGoaltenders (1): Peyton Jones
Iowans in pro hockeyLellig is one of a handful of notable Iowans to play pro hockey. Four players born in Iowa have played in the NHL: goaltender Scott Clemmensen, defenseman Tucker Poolman, goaltender Cal Petersen (also a Waterloo native) and forward C.J. Smith. Currently, Petersen and Poolman are active in the NHL.Additionally, Iowans Patrick Grasso (Adirondack Thunder), Christian Evers (Worcester Railers), Jordan Wishman (Wheeling Nailers) and Kobe Roth (Florida Everblades/Kalamazoo Wings) played in the ECHL last season. Grasso and Wishman are from Des Moines, Evers is from Waukee and Roth is from Mason City.Lellig Need To KnowThe 6-foot-2, 194-lb. blue liner won the 2019 NCAA National Championship with Minnesota-Duluth. That season, he became the first player from Iowa to skate for the Bulldogs.From 2016-18, Lellig played 60 games for the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks. He is a product of the Chicago Mission youth program.