ECHL: Debuts in the Heartland

Photo Credit: Iowa Heartlanders

As we near the end of the 2022-23 regular season, many teams are gearing up to make their final playoff pushes and runs. Though the Iowa Heartlanders will not appear in the playoffs, they are gearing up in another way.

In case you are struggling to keep track of all the new faces hitting the ice recently, the Heartlanders have debuted seven new players in the last twenty days. Players and fans alike hope this end-of-the-year deepening of the bench will set the team up to be a strong competitor as they look toward the franchise’s third season.

For now, here’s your collective guide to the new guys on the team (so far).

F Kaden Pickering

Iowa Heartlanders announce the signing of forwards Kaden Pickering and Matt Hanewall.

Kaden Pickering is a right-wing forward that joins the Heartlanders after playing at Bemidji State University, where he has spent his fifth year in the NCAA. Pickering played 36 games with the club and netted five goals and nine assists. In his four seasons prior, Pickering was a member of the St. Lawrence University hockey team. During those four seasons, he played 118 games and registered 21 goals and 23 assists.

Pickering debuted for the Iowa Heartlanders in the 0-7 loss to the Cincinnati Cyclones on March 8th.

F Matt Hanewall

The six-foot, 194-pound forward joins the Heartlanders after completing his career at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. During his four seasons with the NCAA III team, Hanewall has played a total of 88 games and registered 42 goals and 35 assists. In his most recent season with the club, Hanewall was named the Alternate Captain and recorded ten goals and 11 assists in his last 23 games with the club.

Before his college career began, Hanewall spent time in the North American Hockey League (NAHL), playing games with Brookings Blizzard (2016-17), Wichita Falls Wildcats (2016-17),  and Janesville Jets (2017-18, 2018-19). He recorded 32 goals and 37 assists in 159 games over four seasons. He clocked in playoff experience in one appearance with the Wichita Falls Wildcats and two appearances with the Janesville Jets. 

Hanewall debuted with the Iowa Heartlanders alongside Kaden Pickering in the  0-7 loss to the Cincinnati Cyclones on March 8th. Despite an unideal debut, Hanewall found some superhuman skills in his second appearance. During the Iowa Heartlanders’ Marvel Super Hero Night versus the Indy Fuel on March 10th, Hanewall dawned a Captain America themed jersey and scored his first professional that put the Landers ahead to win the game.

Hanewall’s first professional goal.
Hanewall received the puck from his first professional goal and was named the second star of the game.

D Jared Kucharek

Iowa Heartlanders announce the signing of defenseman Jared Kucharek.

Jared Kucharek is a left-handed, six-foot-four, 205-pound defenseman who joins the Heartlanders after playing splitting time between NCAA clubs. Kucharek spent four seasons with Western Michigan University, where he tallied one goal and 12 assists. Two of those four seasons were cut short for Kucharek, one due to the pandemic and the other to injury. He spent his extra year of eligibility with Lake Superior State University, recording two goals and five assists in 35 games.

Jared Kucharek debuted with the Heartlanders on March 10th in the 2-5 win against the Indy Fuel. Since then, he has appeared in eight games and recorded one assist.

D Justin Michaelian

Iowa Heartlanders announce the signing of defenseman Justin Michaelian.

Michigan native, Justin Michaelian, comes to the Heartland after finishing up his extra year of eligibility at the University of Maine, where the six-foot-tall, 185-pound forward tallied one goal and three assists in 32 games. The four seasons prior, Michaelian played for Farris State University, where he totaled 22 goals, and 27 assists in 99 games. In his season with FSU, Michaelian dawned the “A” and recorded eight goals and 15 assists – his NCAA career high. 

Justin Michaelian debuted with the Iowa Heartlanders on March 17th in the 1-3 loss at the Cincinnati Cyclones. Since then, he has played five games with the club and recorded one point (1A).

G Mitch Benson

Iowa Heartlanders announce the signing of goaltender Mitch Benson and forward Jesse Jacques.

Mitch Benson has been signed as a third goaltender for the Heartlanders. His NCAA resume consists of four seasons (including the pandemic season) with Colgate University and an extra year of eligibility at Boston College. In his Colgate University career, he held an impressive .919 SV% over the three seasons (71GP), and in his final season with Boston College, he had a .904 SV% (35GP). 

Benson debuted with the Iowa Heartlanders on March 22nd against the Witchita Thunder in a 3-2 OT loss. Since then, he has played a second game in the net (.875 SV%).

F Jesse Jacques

Jesse Jaques is a right-handed forward and has joined the Heartlanders after completing his fifth and final season with the University of Minnesota-Duluth. After playing 157 games with the club, Jacques tallied 14 goals and 20 assists. Before he played NCAA hockey, Jacques spent the 2017-18 season with the USHL Green Bay Gamblers. His time with the Gamblers consisted of 58 games, where he tallied nine goals and 16 assists.

Jacques made his debut with the Iowa Heartlanders against the Witchita Thunder in a 3-2 OT loss, where he started the scoring of the game for the Heartlanders by netting his first professional goal. Since then, Jacques has made appearances in three games.

Jesse Jacques scores his first professional goal.

D Marek Korenčík

Iowa Heartlanders announce the Jesse Jacques signing to an ATO.

Marek Korenčík was signed to an ATO after completing his final season at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. The six-foot-three and 201-pound defenseman from Slovakia played four seasons with the NCAA team (114GP); Korenčík tallied 11 goals and 20 assists. Before his NCAA career, Korenčík represented Slovakia on the U18 national team in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Champtionship-18 in 2017 (1G, 5GP)  and the U20 team in 2018 and 2019 (1G, 2A, 5GP).

Marek Korenčík debuted with the Iowa Heartlanders on March 24th in the 2-3 win against the Wichita Thunder. Since then, Korenčík has appeared in a second game with the club.

Though Korenčík is the most recent debut, the signings haven’t stopped. Two other forwards – Chris Lipe and Louis Boudon – have been signed but have yet to debut. Likely, these will not be the final moves made by the Heartlanders as we head into the offseason.

You can catch the Iowa Heartlanders back in action on Friday, March 31st, as they take on the Toledo Walleye at Huntington Center.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ECHL: Liam Finlay Heading Overseas

Forward Liam Finlay is heading overseas to Scotland after spending just two seasons with the Allen Americans, where he would put up 44 goals and 45 assists for 89 points in 80 games. The 27-year-old winger would have a fantastic rookie year in which he would put up 33 goals and 37 assists for 70 […]

Read More

Jets and Moose Extend ECHL Affiliation With Norfolk

The Winnipeg Jets and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Manitoba Moose have made it official that they’ve extended their ECHL affiliation with the Norfolk Admirals. The Admirals spent the 2023-24 season as the Jets’ ECHL affiliate and they will do it for the second consecutive year in 2024-25. Winnipeg Jets draft picks Dmitry Kuzmin […]

Read More

ECHL: Worcester Railers Announce Coaching Changes

The Worcester Railers announced a couple of changes on Tuesday morning. The team and as well the fanbase knew what was coming as they were the last team in the ECHL with a head coach vacancy for the 2024-25 season. The first of which was promoting assistant coach Bob Deraney to head coach and the […]

Read More