116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CORALVILLE — There was nothing good to say about the performance you saw Wednesday night from the Iowa Heartlanders.
Well, other than two goals from fan-favorite Yuki Miura. And the stand-on-his-head-at-times goaltending performance by Corbin Kaczperski.
Had Kaczperski been just OK instead of borderline great, a 4-2 loss to the Fort Wayne Komets before 1,244 fans at Xtream Arena surely would have been way more lopsided.
Somehow the scoreboard wasn’t as lopsided as every other part of this crucial late-season ECHL game. Fort Wayne outshot Iowa, 43-18, had infinitely more scoring chances, camped in the Heartlanders defensive zone regularly.
“We struggled offensively, defensively, physicality wise, faceoff wise. They dominated tonight,” said Heartlanders Coach Gerry Fleming. “To lay a stinker like that with everything that’s at stake is quite disheartening.”
Iowa now has 12 regular-season games remaining and sits in sixth place in the seven-team Central Division of the ECHL. Toledo is well in first with 81 standings points, with Fort Wayne in second with 71.
Cincinnati has 67 standings points, which places it in third place, with Wheeling fourth with 64. Kalamazoo is fifth with 62, followed by Iowa (60) and Indy (55).
The top four teams in each of the ECHL’s four divisions qualify for the playoffs. After an expected rough stretch to begin this inaugural season, the Heartlanders rode a seven-game win streak into the fringes of the playoff race.
But they lost twice this past weekend at Kalamazoo, once in overtime, and then there was this thing.
“We haven’t played that bad since like our second or third game against (Toledo) at home this year,” Fleming said, referencing a 10-1 defeat. “That loss was just like this. We were chasing the game from the drop of the puck.”
Kaczperski kept his outplayed team in it, kept pucks out of the net until midway through the second period. Fort Wayne scored three times in the period, with Miura’s first goal the exception.
Miura scored again a shade under three minutes into the third period, giving the home fans hope for a comeback. But Brett Siebenaler’s long slap shot straight on found the net with just under 10 minutes to go, and that was that.
Fleming was asked about the message he gave to his team, which has a pair of biggies at home Friday and Saturday nights against Cincinnati.
“Get their head out of their ass,” he said.
Can’t say it much better than that.
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