Graber Three-Point Night Dooms Heartlanders, 4-2
CORALVILLE, IA – Three second-period goals proved to be too much for the Iowa Heartlanders on Wednesday evening, as the Fort Wayne Komets skated away with a 4-2 victory. Will Graber led the way for Fort Wayne, recording a goal and adding two assists. Yuki Miura recorded his first two-goal performance for Iowa.
Fort Wayne came out and put the pressure on Iowa right away, outshooting the Heartlanders 13-3 in the first. However, Iowa netminder Corbin Kaczperski was spectacular, holding the Komets off the scoreboard, sending this contest to the first intermission scoreless.
In the second, the Komets finally broke through, scoring three goals in the span of a little less than 10 minutes to earn a two-goal advantage. The first came at 8:24 when Anthony Petruzzelli recorded his 22nd goal of the season. The Fort Wayne forward stole the puck in the Iowa zone, speeding toward the net, evading two Heartlanders players before tucking the puck between the legs of Kaczperski to make it 1-0.
Fort Wayne was back on the board 55 seconds later. Connor Jones had control of the puck at the end line, dishing it to Graber along the boards. He fed it to Lynden McCallum who was just inside the right faceoff circle. McCallum blasted a one-timer by Kaczperski for his 13th goal of the year.
The two-goal lead held for eight minutes before Miura scored his first goal of the night. With the teams playing 4-on-4, Miura collected a rebound, then dished it up along the boards to Jake Smith, who sped through the neutral zone and into the Komets end. He then fed Miura, who had slipped past both defensemen and was moving down the slot. The Heartlanders forward moved to his backhand, beating Seth Harvey over the leg pad to make it 2-1.
Almost exactly one minute later, Fort Wayne extended their lead back to two. Kris Bennett had gone to the penalty box with 1:58 left in the second, and the Komets capitalized eight seconds later. After winning the draw in the Heartlanders zone, the puck moved back to the point. Zach Pochiro passed it to Graber along the boards, who moved in to just above the right faceoff circle before firing a wrist shot that beat Kaczperski to the far post for his 17th goal of the year.
The Heartlanders were being completely dominated in this contest, not only on the scoreboard but had been outshot through the first two periods, 33-8. Yet, they were still in the contest and were able to cut their deficit back to one when Miura scored his second goal of the game 2:56 into the third. Cole Stallard carried the puck into the Fort Wayne end on a 2-on-1 break. He got the defenseman to come toward him, clearing out the slot for Miura, then dished the puck to the Iowa forward. Miura made a great move to get Harvey to bite on the short shot, then went across the crease, tucking the puck just inside the post for his 10th goal of the year.
The Heartlanders continued the pressure looking for the equalizer, but Blake Siebenaler sealed the victory with his fifth goal of the season with a little under 10 minutes left in the game. With the teams playing 4-on-4 hockey, Willie Corrin passed the puck to the point to Graber who quickly fed it across the blueline to Siebenaler. The defenseman blasted a one-timer that beat Kaczperski to the glove side to make it 4-2. That would be the final.
Kaczperski made 39 saves for Iowa. Harvey faced only 18 shots in the game, stopping 16.
The Heartlanders (26-26-8) look to get back above .500 on Friday when they welcome the Cincinnati Cyclones (32-26-3) for the first of two games. The puck drops at 7:00.
By Robert Pannier