Kaczperski Stars in Return to Iowa, 4-2
CORALVILLE, IA – Corbin Kaczperski made a triumphant return to the Iowa Heartlanders on Friday evening, stopping 30 shots to lead Iowa to a 4-2 victory over the Fort Wayne Komets. Kaczperski had been up with Springfield (AHL), but returned just in time to keep his team rolling as the Heartlanders set a franchise record with their fifth straight victory. Jake Smith and Kaid Oliver each had three points in the game. Smith scored two power-play goals.
This was an open ice affair to start the contest as Fort Wayne outshot Iowa in the first period, 14-12. The Heartlanders jumped on top 4:34 into the contest. Moving into the Komets zone on a rush, Smith centered the puck into the slot to Ben Sokay, who ripped a wrist shot past Samuel Harvey for his ninth goal of the season.
The one-goal lead held for the next 12 minutes, but a great forecheck by Lynden McCallum created a turnover with a little less than three minutes left in the period. He beat Kaczperski with a quick shot to tie the score at one.
The Komets looked to build some momentum following the goal, but Cole Stallard put the Heartlanders back on top with his 10th goal of the season just before the 18-minute mark. Oliver set up the play when he made a perfect feed into the neutral zone and right onto the stick of Stallard. That sent Stallard in on a breakaway as he beat Harvey through the five-hole to make it 2-1 heading to the first intermission.
Neither team could find the back of the net in the second period. Fort Wayne outshot Iowa 12-8, but Kaczperski was fantastic, keeping his team on top.
Smith rewarded his netminder 50 seconds into the third frame when he scored his first power-play goal of the night. Oliver stopped a clearing attempt by the Komets, then fed the puck to Smith at the left faceoff circle, who blasted a one-timer by the Fort Wayne netminder for his 17th goal of the year.
The Komets were reeling, but Anthony Petruzzelli got his team back in the contest, netting his 19th goal of the season at the 5:17 mark. A terrible giveaway but the puck right onto the stick of Petruzzelli, who wasted no time, roofing a shot to make it 3-2.
However, Iowa stymied Fort Wayne in the final frame, holding the Komets to just six shots. At 11:06, Smith scored his second power-play tally of the evening, extending the lead back to two. The goal looked almost identical to his first tally as Oliver fed him the puck at the left faceoff circle, where Smith blasted a one-timer by Harvey.
Fort Wayne pulled their goaltender with a little over two minutes left in the game, but the Heartlanders were relentless defensively, as the Komets could not even get a shot on net.
Kaczperski was spectacular in his return, finishing with 30 saves to earn the victory. The Iowa netminder is now 5-4-1, lowering his goals against average to 2.24. Harvey finished with 30 saves for Fort Wayne.
Smith finished with two goals and an assist and Oliver had three assists for the Heartlanders. Sokay had a goal and an assist.
These two teams will do battle again on Saturday evening. The puck drops at 7:00.
By Robert Pannier