116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CORALVILLE — Goal scorers are gonna goal score, sometimes even when they don’t necessarily mean to goal score.
Brett Gravelle’s history as a hockey player is goal scorer par excellence. The Minnesotan set a North American Tier 3 Hockey League record for goals in a season for the North Iowa Bulls in Mason City back in his junior years.
He led NCAA Division III St. Thomas (Minn.) in scoring all four years of his college career, had 13 goals in just 20 games last season for the Elmira Enforcers of the Federal League in his pro debut. He was off to a hot offensive start for the Quad City Storm of the Southern Professional Hockey League in its first couple weeks of play (two goals, seven points in four games), which prompted the Iowa Heartlanders to offer him an ECHL contract.
All Gravelle did in his first game Wednesday night was score twice and assist on his team’s other goal in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Wheeling Nailers. Gravelle tied the game with 1:30 left in regulation, getting credit for a goal when a point shot by teammate Fedor Gordeev banked off his body and went into the net.
Goal scorers just goal scoring. The Heartlanders hosted the Toledo Walleye at Xtream Arena on Friday and do so again Saturday night at 7.
“I was just trying to protect my face, and it hit my chest,” Gravelle said. “It was incredible. I’ve been waiting for this chance for a while. Personally, it was extremely fun. I wish we would have come out with two points. But, yeah, it was extremely good, and I was grateful for the opportunity.”
“He was good,” said Heartlanders Coach Gerry Fleming. “He came as advertised. He’s got a nose and a knack for the net. I thought he did some good things away from the puck. He comes in, and I thought he was one of our better players (Wednesday). That sends a message to the rest of the group.”
Gravelle, 25, has taken the road less traveled in his hockey career, not playing junior in the United States Hockey League (its highest level) and playing only sparingly in the North American Hockey League, which is considered a level below the USHL. Then he went D-III for college, where, of course, there are no scholarships.
Yet the guy can play, that much is obvious.
“I was talking to a couple of ECHL teams, thinking maybe I was going to go on a PTO after my (senior) season,” Gravelle said. “But once COVID hit, everything changed. The landscape of all hockey, professional, obviously, too, changed. Then (last) season it was pretty tough finding spots. I ended up in the Federal League, was lucky to play. A lot of guys definitely were there that shouldn’t have been there.
“I signed with Quad City for two years, played four games with them this season and luckily got the call up here.”
The Federal League, officially known as the Federal Prospects Hockey League, isn’t the best league in the world, by any stretch, and Gravelle said his stint had its ups and downs. It’s a seven-team league located primarily out East.
“There’s some stuff, some stories that I’ll definitely remember and could tell later,” he said, with a smile. “Maybe not stuff I’ll share right now. But, I mean, I was just lucky to be playing hockey, obviously. With COVID and everything, there were more important things going on. I was just happy to be playing hockey.”
And he’s more than happy to be playing hockey where he is right now. There are no guarantees Gravelle with remain in the ECHL, which is considered a Double-A level of hockey, but he sure made a great first impression.
“Just the pace, especially defensively and staying with guys in the D-zone, getting pucks out,” he said. “I think that’s the most important thing that I need to keep coming, keep getting better at if I’m staying here. But, yeah, I think (the biggest difference) overall, it’s the pace, the skating.
“I think I made an impression, but there are definitely some things I need to clean up.”
The Heartlanders (1-1-1) have made a plethora of player moves in the very early going of the season, and that included this week, with the signings of Gravelle and fellow forwards Cole Golka and Nick Pastorious. The latter actually has been around but was officially added to the active roster after having his immigration status approved.
On Thursday, defenseman Riese Zmolek, goalie Trevin Kozlowski and forwards Ryan Kuffner and Kris Bennett were all sent up to the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League. The Heartlanders picked up goalie Ryan Edquist on an emergency basis and were assigned forward Alexander Khovanov from the Iowa Wild.
Khovanov is from Russia and ranked as the parent Minnesota Wild’s No. 5 prospect, according to The Hockey News. He joins goaltender Hunter Jones and defenseman Fedor Gordeev as Heartlanders on National Hockey League contracts.
Friday, the Heartlanders added defenseman Kyle Thacker and forward Zach Remers to the active roster.
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