Indianapolis, IN- News and drama were everywhere across the ECHL’s Central Division in this last week of January. From Wheeling to Coralville, the Heartlanders found themselves in the center of all of it. After finishing off the most attended week of Heartlanders hockey, Iowa prepared to take their talents to the road.
Before Derek Damon’s squad could get on the bus, a slew of news and rumors began dancing around the team.
While the ECHL had announced the welcoming of Bloomington, Illinois, to its list of host cities, the name and logo of the team quickly turned the news into a talking point across the league. ECHL Bloomington, owned by Hallett Sports and Entertainment, who also own and manage the Indy Fuel, will be referred to as the Bloomington Bison and will play in the Central Division. Their imagery can be seen below and read about here.
Damon’s squad also had some personnel changes in order going into the weekend away. Kyle Masters and Ben Brinkman returned to the squad from the AHL’s Iowa Wild as Justin Michaelian was returned to the SPHL’s Fayetteville Marksmen. Maxim Cajkovic, who was on loan with the Heartlanders from the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, was recalled and traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Lander fans may see the sharpshooter in a Wheeling Nailers uniform soon. Additionally, leading scorer Davis Koch requested his rights be suspended as he seeks hockey playing opportunities elsewhere. Odeen Tufto did the same earlier this season before returning to Europe to play for EHC Olten of Switzerland, as did Landon Kosior returned to school to play for the University of Saskatchewan. Koch will likely return to Germany, where he played from 2019-2023. Derek Damon will have to take the departure of his two top goal-scorers in stride and find new places for his production to come from, likely turning to Louis Boudon, Nick Campoli, and Brett Budgell for Goals and Yuki Miura, and Casey Dornbach for assists.
The first stop for the weekend was the former host of WHA hockey and ABA basketball in the Heritage Bank Center for a Wednesday matchup with the Cincinnati Cyclones, where Iowa put their Zero wins in 12 tries at this arena to the test and got their efforts to pay off in a 6-4 statement win.
The game started with Liam Coughlin’s tap-in on the first shot of the game for his 5th goal of the season, beating Talyn Boyko before he could even set himself:
Fans were still finding their seats two minutes later when Kyle Masters got his second goal with the Heartlanders and first in this stint with the team, putting Iowa up 2-0. Following a Cincinnati goal halfway through the first, former Czech Youth International Pavel Novak made a statement for a call-up to the senior team with a stop-and-snipe, which you can view below:
Following a goaltender change and some crafty work by the Cyclones to tie the game up, the powerful first line of Yuki Miura, Casey Dornbach, and Louis Boudon took off, with the former two finding the net to find a 5-3 edge.
Cincinnati managed to cut the game to 5-4 and pulled replacement goalie Olof Lindbom with two minutes to go. The empty net gave Chris Lipe a chance to make a moment that would be remembered by Heartlanders fans everywhere for the opportunity, tension, and glory of celebrating on Cyclone ice. Relive Lipe’s moment below, but make sure to turn your volume down before you do:
After the beautiful moment that was Chris Lipe’s third goal of the season and a win sealer for the Heartlanders, Iowa turned towards Indianapolis for their first matchup of the season with their Divisional foe, the Indy Fuel.
As a former concert venue for The Beatles, the Indiana Farmers Coliseum is not shy to big moments, as such was proven with sellouts and fight nights on Friday and Saturday between the Heartlanders and Fuel. Since the last time the two played, Indy added Anthony Petruzelli, a Heartlander Killer who switched sides of the Fort Wayne-Indy rivalry.
On Friday Night, Iowa played two strong periods of defensive-minded hockey, not scoring but only allowing one goal. As the game escaped, Louis Boudon found his ninth goal of the season, but the goals were not the feature moments of the third period. Indy sought revenge in the close matchup as Petruzelli had sustained an injury in the second after a fight with Louka Henault. While Boudon did score halfway through the third, his time to shine was a fight with Brandon Schultz with 29 seconds to go, resulting in both being ejected and Indy’s D.J. King watching the rest of the game from the sin bin.
For the next game, both teams went into Saturday night with the mentality of a UFC fighter, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. The fighting began before the scoring, as Iowa’s Durflinger, Calverley, and Dornbach all dropped the gloves while Indy’s King, MacDougall, and Bilek took them on respectively. Will Calverley and Ross MacDougall were ejected for secondary altercations. Neither player was suspended or fined.
While it was one of many, the feature fight of the night was one the home fans got to celebrate as this eventful ten seconds had the Fuel’s social media team celebrating, as you can see here:
Luckily for the Heartlanders, that was not the moment that ended up making the difference in the game, as four goals in five minutes in the second half of the second off Dornbach, Campoli, Boudon and Campoli again set the Heartlanders in motion.
While Indy did finish off the second period with two goals of their own, all eyes turned to Nick Campoli, as two goals and the fiery memory of his 2022-23 season-ending injury loomed large. Campoli stepped onto the ice in the third and was given his chance to shine:
After the hats flew, Adam Goodsir and Brett Budgell each made sure to put their names on the scoresheet with their second and eighth respectively, and 7-3 was simply too much for the home team to come back from.
Looking forward, Iowa has a two-and-one with Kalamazoo, where the K-Wings will host games on February 2nd and 3rd, while Iowa will host on February 7th. Iowa will host a seven-game homestand and has won their previous four matchups with the Canucks’ affiliate team and will look to extend that towards seven over the next week and a half. Heading into Super Bowl Sunday, the Cyclones will return to town in an attempt to break Iowa’s two-game win streak against Cincinnati in Country Night with discounted beverages on Friday, February 9th, and Cancer Awareness Night the next night. Fans will be able to enjoy various promotions, special moments, new giveaways, and auctions, and watch as the goaltending duo of Hunter Jones and Drew DeRidder lead the Bucks and Roses on their playoff march.