ECHL: Heartlanders re-sign Durflinger, Welcome Minnesotan Duo

Coralville, Iowa- The Heartlanders have announced three signings for the upcoming season, highlighted by the return of winger Jake Durflinger, as well as a duo of former University of Minnesota Defensemen Robbie Stucker and Ben Brinkman.

Durflinger, 25, played 50 games for the Heartlanders in 2022-23 and made a surprise comeback from what appeared to be a long-term injury over the winter. Before transferring to Merrimack College, he was also a 2017-18 NCAA Hockey Champion with Denver University. However, “Durf”, as Iowa fans call him, is known in the Heartland for providing consistency on the wing, being compatible with almost any line, but spent the end of the season on lines with Jesse Jacques, who created an effective duo following the late-season acquisition of Jacques.

Durflinger is also known for not being afraid to punch upwards as a 5’9” skater with a strong team mentality and leaving everything out on the ice every match.

Iowa fans can expect to see more of Durflinger and Jacques playing together at Xtream Arena this Fall and hope to see a continuation of the uptick in scoring that occurred when these two played together.

Stucker, 24, 6’3”, is a Minnesota native who was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2017. He then helped the Fargo Force to the USHL’s Clark Cup and followed it up with three seasons for the Golden Gophers and two for the Catamounts of Vermont. In the 2022-23 Season, Stucker signed for the South Carolina Stingrays following the conclusion of his final NCAA season, where he became an assist machine, providing seven from the blue line to his teammates in just ten games. Stucker also has a fairly neutral plus/minus throughout his college career and first few games in the ECHL, so fans can expect a player who will be determined to make up for every goal that is conceded while he is on the ice.

Brinkman, 22, 6’1”, is a former Edina (MN) High School Captain who had eight assists in six games in the 2017-18 playoffs for the 11-time state champions and was drafted in 2019 by the Dallas Stars. He then played four years at the University of Minnesota and one at Notre Dame, where he was a model of consistency, playing an average of 35 games (including playoffs) during his five-year collegiate career. Brinkman will make his professional debut when he takes the ice in Coralville.

Stucker and Brinkman shared the ice for three seasons at the University of Minnesota but mostly played on different lines during that time. Regardless, they bring the experience of playing with each other to a team that also has a trio of players who played together in college (McKernan, Tufto, and MacMaster at Quinnipiac). These shared minutes should bring additional chemistry to the team, something Heartlanders fans did not see with the revolving door and frequent line changes of 2022-23.

General Manager and Head Coach Derek Damon discussed the signings:

“It’s great to add another returner with Jake Durflinger and expand our blue line with Ben Brinkman and Robbie Stucker. We saw Jake make strides last season, and this summer, he’s focused on expanding what we saw from his game last season. Ben and Robbie are each intriguing prospects that we liked a lot on tape and are tough to push around…”

The Heartlanders now lead the ECHL with 15 players under contract for the 2023-24 season as rosters start to shape up around the league; more news is expected to come from the team as rosters are filled out, and puck drop nears.

Iowa drops the puck on the new season on Friday, October 20, hosting the Rapid City Rush.

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