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Corridor Cross Checks: Old college teammate sells Tanner MacMaster on Iowa Heartlanders
Forward moves from Sweden to ECHL after sales pitch from former Quinnipiac College teammate, current Heartlanders teammate Kevin McKernan
CEDAR RAPIDS — Whenever Kevin McKernan’s professional hockey playing career comes to a conclusion, he should consider coaching a junior, college or pro team. It seems he’s got the recruiting part already down.
The Iowa Heartlanders defenseman was instrumental in getting forward Tanner MacMaster to leave his professional team in Sweden and come to the heartland and the ECHL.
MacMaster has been about a point-per-game guy for the Heartlanders, who play Wednesday night at Xtream Arena against the Kansas City Mavericks.
“Leaving Sweden, it was a tough couple of years with injuries and stuff like that,” MacMaster said. “Some things go on, and (you’re) a little bit unhappy and was kind of undecided about what I was going to do with my future.”
MacMaster and McKernan were college teammates at Quinnipiac and had kept in communication.
“I talked to Kevin here and there ... he’s one of my best friends,” MacMaster said. “He said it’s a really good group here and all the staff is really good. I thought it would be a lot of fun to re-connect with Kev, come here and try and help the team win some hockey games.”
MacMaster has three goals and 11 points in 12 games since joining the Heartlanders from Vita Hasten HC in Sweden, a team that plays in a league a level below the country’s well-known Swedish Elite League. The 27-year-old from Calgary, Alberta, played last season in Sweden after three-plus seasons in the American Hockey League.
That included an 11-goal, 30-point season with the Toronto Marlies in 2019-20.
“It’s a little different with the smaller ice (in Europe),” MacMaster said. “It’s a different game, for sure, but the hockey here is really good. There are some really good players in this league. Overall, I think it’s awesome hockey, and it’s nice being here and being able to play. It’s been great.”
MacMaster said he is enjoying the extra ice time he’s getting with the Heartlanders and being part of the team’s top power-play unit. He said his focus has been on improving his overall game.
“I think I’m a skilled player,” he said. “I think I’ve got good vision. I like being on the power play with that extra time and space. One thing I’ve been working on the last couple of years is being trusted all over on the ice. Whether that’s a D-zone draw late in the game, or trying to score and tie the game up. Just trying to round my game out a little bit.”
The Heartlanders went 1-1-1 last week, losing at Xtream Arena to Indy, 4-3, Wednesday night, beating Kalamazoo, 5-2, Friday night at home and losing the following night in overtime, 3-2.
Indy scored three consecutive goals in the second period to win the Wednesday game. Tyler Busch and Zach White each had a goal and assist in the win over Kalamazoo.
James Sanchez and Zach White had third-period goals, White with 36 seconds left, to send Saturday night’s game to overtime. The Heartlanders have lost an ECHL-high 11 OT games this season.
They have a 13-26-11-1 record for 38 standings points, seventh and last in the Central Division.
Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
The Cleveland Classic didn’t go quite so well for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, who lost to the Youngstown Phantoms, 4-1, last Thursday in their first-ever outdoor game at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
Martins Lavins scored the game’s first goal 10:18 into the first period, but Youngstown got the final four goals.
Back indoors and at Youngstown, the RoughRiders lost Friday night, 2-1, in a shootout. They did pump 35 shots on net, with defenseman Colin Grable scoring his team’s lone goal.
The weekend was salvaged Saturday night with a 3-1 win at Youngstown. Riley Bassen’s second goal of the season in the second period was the winner, with goaltender Bruno Bruveris making 20 saves for the victory in net.
Cedar Rapids is in sixth place in the eight-team Eastern Conference of the United States Hockey League with 47 standings points, on a 20-17-4-3 record. Chicago leads the division with 61 points.
The RoughRiders have a pair of home games Friday and Saturday against the Muskegon Lumberjacks. Opening faceoff both nights is 7:05.
Muskegon goes into the week seventh in the Eastern Conference with 42 standings points on a 20-22-2 record.
It’s a four-game week for the Heartlanders, who host Kansas City on Wednesday night at 7:05 to conclude a seven-game homestand. Iowa is at Cincinnati on Friday night, at Toledo on Saturday night and at Fort Wayne on Sunday afternoon.
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