Toledo, OH- After their third game in three days, Iowa was able to get a dramatic shootout win, final score 5-4, in Toledo’s Huntington Center following a Friday loss of 6-2 at Cincinnati and a Saturday 5-3 loss at the Walleye.
The Heartlanders started the weekend in Cincinnati with game five of their 10-game road span, which featured the return of Tanner MacMaster, out since the first game of the season for Iowa with an injury. The Iowa Wild also sent Defenseman David Spacek to the Landers, the Czechian who has played 10 games at the AHL level and wears the #21 jersey.
On Friday, the Heartlanders kept it close with the Cyclones at the Heritage Bank Center through almost two full periods, but the Cyclones pulled away in the end and have won all 12 matchups all-time the two teams have played in Cincinnati. While the fact that the Heartlanders just can’t get over the edge in Cincy will be remembered as the narrative of the matchup, Yuki Miura deserves to be recognized for his stellar shorthanded goal and 6th of the season, while Will Calverley did what he does at the net front to keep up with the total of the fan favorite.
On Saturday, while many Iowans chose to tune into Hawkeye Football and the Big Ten Championship game, and Toledoans tuned in to Rockets Football for the MAC Championship Game. While both Football teams were unable to secure their desired trophy, the Walleye were able to fill the Huntington Center to capacity while the Walleye earned a 5-3 victory, scoring those five goals on just 24 shots, while Iowa put 45 shots on their divisional rival. While captain Kevin McKernan suffered an upper-body injury in the middle of the game and did not return or play on Sunday, defensive reinforcement David Spacek scored his first ECHL goal, while Miura and Tufto each found the back of the net.
On Sunday Afternoon, Iowa had slipped down to third in the Central Divison, and Derek Damon called for the team to gain points to pass idle Cincinnati and have a nice bus ride home. 30 Minutes into the game, this seemed very likely, with Davis Koch finding goals number 11 and 12 to climb into a tie for second in league scoring, Spacek finding #2, and Brett Budgell getting his third on a steal-and-score, while Peyton Jones kept a clean sheet.
Unfortunately, this game was a tale of two halves for Iowa. Following a fight between Casey Dornbach and Former Heartlander Defenseman Adrien Beraldo and a dramatic 46 minutes worth of penalties in the second half, Toledo was able to use frequent fights and stoppages to find the net at an almost unstoppable rate, capitalizing on three power plays, a four on four, and injuries that kept Yuki Miura and Tanner MacMaster out of most of the game.
However, Iowa held on in even strength, and while the Landers were not able to score until the shootout, their top shooters made the shootout worth the wait, even though stressed-out Heartlander and Walleye fans will agree otherwise. After Iowa was unable to put shots on net in two breakaways and Peyton Jones stayed strong in 3v3 overtime, the two teams were headed to a shootout, where Odeen Tufto and Davis Koch each put the puck past Walleye Goalkeeper Jan Bednar. On the other side, Toledo shot second in the best-of-three shootout and caught each Toledo shot, making the tough task look easy.
Looking towards next weekend, the Heartlanders, back in second in the central division, will play Friday through Sunday again, this time visiting their rival Kalamazoo Wings for 6 pm CT puck drops on Friday and Saturday at the Wings Event Center, and a matchup with another rival in Fort Wayne with a 4 pm CT start time at the Memorial Coliseum. Landers fans will likely see a few roster changes, pending the updates on injuries to Tanner MacMaster, Kevin McKernan, and Yuki Miura. Maxim Cajkovic, Hunter Lellig, and anyone returning to full health will likely be returning to the ice, as well as the potential of adding players externally for the upcoming end of their road trip.