Bennett Hat Trick, Kaczperski Shutout Propel Iowa, 5-0
CORRALVILLE, IA – It was a night of firsts for the Iowa Heartlanders on Friday evening in a 5-0 victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones. Kris Bennett recorded the first hat trick of his career and Corbin Kaczperski delivered his first career shutout to lead the team. Kaczperski also recorded the first shutout in Heartlanders history.
Cole Stallard got things going for Iowa, netting his 11th goal of the season 5:09 into the contest. The Heartlanders on the power-play, Iowa entered the Cincinnati zone on a rush. Kaid Oliver took a shot from just inside the left faceoff circle that Sean Bonar saved, but Stallard stuffed in the rebound to make it 1-0.
The Heartlanders blew this game open as Bennett scored all three of his goals in the span of less than nine minutes. His 30th goal of the year came at 7:55. It was an absolute sniper goal. Connor Russell had the puck at the right faceoff circle, dishing it to Bennett who was in the slot. Bennett moved slightly toward the left disc before firing a wrist shot that caught the far post to make it 2-0.
At 10:39, Bennett was back on the board. This goal was setup on a beautiful play by Zach White. White moved down the slot toward the left post, weaving between two defensemen while still maintaining control of the puck. As he approached the net, he lifted a backhander that hit off the crossbar and deflected toward the opposite side of the net. That is where Bennett was able to knock it in for his second goal of the night.
At the 16:21 mark, Bennett sped into the Cincinnati zone, quickly moving past two defensemen, then blasting a laser wrist shot over the blocker of Bonar to make it 4-0. The natural hat trick was the first in franchise history.
For good measure, Ryan Kuffner scored his 12th goal of the year just before the 15-minute mark in the second. With Iowa back on the power-play, Kuffner moved down toward the left faceoff circle then drilled a wrist shot past Michael Houser to make it 5-0.
That was more than enough support for Kaczperski, who was in complete command of this game. The netminder had faced just 14 shots through the first two periods, but the Cyclones put up 15 in the third. However, Kaczperski dominated this game, making a number of great saves to finish with his first shutout as a professional. He also becomes the first Heartlanders netminder to record a shutout. Kaczperski is now 10-5-1 with a 2.22 goals against average and a .935 save percentage.
With the victory, the Heartlanders move to 27-26-8, five points behind Cincinnati for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Mountain Division. The Cyclones drop to 32-27-3. These teams will square off again on Saturday evening. The puck drops at 7:00.
By Robert Pannier