Koepplinger Nets Two as Iowa Extends Streak, 6-2
CORALVILLE, IA – It took 11 games, but Josh Koepplinger recorded his first goal in the ECHL as the Iowa Heartlanders defeated the Fort Wayne Komets, 6-2. Koepplinger not only scored his first goal, but added his second as Iowa rode four first period goals to lead them to victory. Corbin Kaczperski stopped 29 shots to earn his second victory since returning to the club. The win was the sixth straight by the Heartlanders, setting a franchise record.
Iowa took command of this came from the start, as Zach White led a four goal first period, scoring 65 seconds into the contest. Ryan Kuffner passed the puck to White in the slot, who blasted home a shot for his ninth goal of the season. Kuffner earned an assist on the play, extending his consecutive point streak to 16 games.
The one goal lead until just after the 13-minute mark when the Heartlanders recorded three tallies in the span of less than six minutes. At 13:08, Ben Sokay netted his 10th goal of the year. Cole Stallard took a shot that was knocked down by Samuel Harvey, but Sokay was able to put the rebound in to make it 2-0.
At 17:37, the lead became three. With the Heartlanders on the power-play, Riese Zmolek moved the puck into the slot to Kaid Oliver, who drilled the shot off the post and in for his 11th goal of the year.
A little over a minute later, Kris Bennett extended the lead to four. Adrien Beraldo made a cross ice feed to Bennett who lifted a wrist shot past Harvey for his 22nd tally of the year. That made it 4-0 entering the first intermission.
Fort Wayne tried to get back in the contest as Zach Pochiro scored 2:01 into the second period to pull the Komets back within three. Fort Wayne won the draw inside the Heartlanders end. The puck moved to Kylor Wall, who lifted a wrist shot that Pochiro redirected past Kaczperski to make a 4-1.
The Komets put the pressure on, outshooting Iowa 14-6 in the second frame. They had several good scoring chances but Kaczperski came up big each time. At 14:53, Koepplinger scored his first ECHL goal to restore the four-goal advantage. A bad turnover in the Komets zone allowed Koepplinger to gain control the puck. He lifted a wrist shot that caught the upper corner to make it 5-1.
Fort Wayne responded a little over two minutes later when Connor Corcoran netted his 12th goal of the year to cut the Heartlanders lead back to three. Oliver Cooper moved the puck back to Corcoran at the point, who drilled a slapshot that went past a heavily screened Kaczperski to make it 5-2.
Fort Wayne outshot Iowa 12-6 in the final period, but the Heartlanders scored the only goal of the frame. That came when Koepplinger scored his second goal of the contest, delivering a power-play goal at 8:25. Oliver took a shot that was saved by Harvey, but Koepplinger gained control of the rebound, putting it past in the Fort Wayne netminder to make it 6-2. That would be the final.
Besides the two-goal performance by Koepplinger, Oliver had a goal and an assist and Kuffner added two assists. With the victory, Kaczperski moved to 6-4-1, lowering his goals-against average to 2.22. Pochiro had a goal and an assist for the Komets.
The Heartlanders (23-23-7) moved into fifth place in the Central Division with the victory. They travel to take on the Kansas City Mavericks on Saturday. The puck drops at 7:05.
By Robert Pannier