116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - You had to figure COVID would hit at some point this hockey season, and it did last week with the Iowa Heartlanders.
The ECHL club announced prior to Wednesday night’s home game against Toledo that head coach Gerry Fleming and two players had tested positive for the virus and would be quarantining away from the team for the forseeable future.
The players were unidentified, though defensemen Fedor Gordeev and Jake Linhart had played two games over the weekend at Fort Wayne, have been staples this season on the blueline and were conspicuous with their absences in all three of Iowa’s games last week.
“It’s a part of our world now days,” said assistant coach Derek Damon, who has taken over head coaching duties with Fleming unavailable. “We try and be as diligent as we can. Unfortunately we got whacked with it. I think it’s no coincidence Fort Wayne has been dealing with it, and we were in Fort Wayne last weekend for two playing against those guys. Then we get whacked with it. I know they’re doing their best to curb that, but we’ve just got to find a way to move on.”
The Heartlanders lost Wednesday night to the Walleye, 4-0, but posted encouraging back-to-back 3-2 wins Friday and Saturday night against one of the best teams in the ECHL. The Friday win came in a shootout, the Saturday victory with a three-goal third period.
Goaltender Trevin Kozlowski has been terrific of late, stopping 36 of 40 shots Wednesday, 33 of 35 (and all three shootout attempts) Friday and 36 of 38 shots Saturday. Iowa was doubled up in shots on goal Saturday by Toledo, 38-19.
The Walleye had beaten the Heartlanders five previous times going into the weekend games by a combined score of 30-6.
“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind,” Damon said. “It’s tough with guys going down with COVID and injury and call ups. But that’s part of the business. It comes back to being a pro, showing up and doing your job. Going out there and giving your best effort every night. That’s what it takes to be a pro, especially in this league, where there is so much uncertainty ... The way I see it is it’s the New England Patriots motto, it’s the next man up. Just go out there and do your job.”
CEDAR RAPIDS ROUGHRIDERS
Like the Heartlanders, Cedar Rapids RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson confirmed his entire team has been vaccinated for COVID. Thus far in the United States Hockey League season, it has had no issues with the virus.
The team did play a pair of home games over the weekend without four players, but that was for a good reason.
Goaltender Bruno Bruveris and forwards Daniels Murnieks and Martins Lavins are representing Latvia at the U20 World Championship Division I Group A in Denmark. Forward Yusaku Ando is representing Japan in a similar international tournament.
The RoughRiders lost to the Chicago Steel on Friday night, 6-4, but came back to beat the Des Moines Buccaneers on Saturday night, 5-2.
The loss to Chicago, the USHL’s top team, especially hurt as Cedar Rapids had a 4-1 lead after a period only to allow five unanswered goals. The RoughRiders outshot the Steel in the game by a 34-19 margin.
Cedar Rapids scored four unanswered goals to overcome a 2-1 deficit against Des Moines. That included three third-period goals: an even-strength goal by Adam Flammang, a short-handed goal by Conor Lovett and an empty net goal by Flammang.
Robert Flinton had a goal in each weekend game for the Riders and was a plus-three on Saturday night. He was a seventh-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning over the summer.
The RoughRiders also announced this week that defenseman Travis Shoudy has committed to play college hockey at Ferris State in his homestate of Michigan.
The RoughRiders (10-11-0, 20 standings points) close out the pre-Christmas portion of their schedule with a home-and-home against Chicago. Friday night is the home game at ImOn Ice (7:05 p.m. opening faceoff), with a special appearance by area country singer Adam Keith.
The Heartlanders (7-12-2-1, 17 standings points) are on the road this week, with games at Kansas City on Friday and Saturday nights against the Mavericks.
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