Kris Bennett Named Howies Hockey Tape ECHL Rookie of the Month
Iowa Heartlanders forward Kris Bennett was named as the Howies Hockey Tape ECHL Rookie of the Month for February. Bennett scored 10 goals and added 12 assists in 12 games. He becomes the second Heartlanders player to be named Rookie of the Month, joining Jake Smith who received the honor in January.
Bennett began the month with a goal and an assist in a loss to the Cincinnati Cyclones on February 2. The Heartlanders lost this contest, 6-3, but Bennett scored the goal that tied the game at two midway through the second period and added an assist on a goal by Billy Constantinou that tied the score at three.
Two nights later, Bennett had two goals and an assist in a 6-5 victory over the Toledo Walleye. Toledo jumped out to a 2-0 lead in this contest, but Bennett got the team on the board with his 14th goal of the year, a power-play tally. After Smith tied the score, Toledo retook the lead, but Bennett assisted on a Ryan Kuffner tally that tied the game again. The Walleye took a 5-4 lead, but Iowa tied it before Bennett won it in overtime with his second goal of the contest.
A night later, Bennett had a goal and an assist in a 4-1 victory over the Wheeling Nailers. The Iowa forward helped stake the Heartlanders to a four-goal lead, adding an assist that made it 2-0, then creating a turnover in the Nailers zone that turned into a short-handed tally.
The Utah Grizzlies came to town on February 9 for a three-game series and swept the Heartlanders, but Bennett continued to roll. In the first game, he scored a goal and added an assist again, his fourth straight multi-point game of the month. The forward had an assist on a power-play goal by Zach White and later added his 17th goal of the season, giving Iowa a 4-3 advantage, but they could not preserve the lead, losing 5-4.
Two nights later, Bennett was held off the scoresheet in a 5-2 loss. A night later he had a goal and an assist in a 4-3 loss to the Grizzlies. Bennett had an assist on a power-play goal by Kaid Oliver that made it 2-1. Utah tied the score, but the forward put his team back on top with his 18th goal of the season. Unfortunately, Utah battled back once again, earning the comeback victory.
Following the sweep by Utah, the Heartlanders caught fire, winning their next six games. It started with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Tulsa Oilers, a game where Bennett was kept pointless.
Two nights later, the Heartlanders defeated the Kalamazoo Wings, 5-2. Bennett recorded three assists in the contest, setting up two power-play tallies. He helped the team jump out to a 4-1 advantage, recording helpers on each of the first three Iowa goals.
Three nights later, Bennett had a goal and an assist in another 5-2 victory over Kalamazoo. Bennett scored the opening goal of the contest. Iowa jumped out to a 3-0 lead only to see the Wings pull within one, but Bennett assisted on an Adrien Beraldo tally that sealed the victory.
The Wichita Thunder came to town on February 23, and the Heartlanders crushed them, 7-3. Bennett had two goals and two assists in the contest. He scored the first goal of the contest for the second straight game. Iowa held a 2-0 lead before Wichita rallied to tie the score at two, but back-to-back power-play goals put the Heartlanders on top for good. Bennett had assists on each of those goals. He later added an empty-net tally.
The Heartlanders closed out the month with a pair of games against the Fort Wayne Komets. Bennett was held pointless in the opening contest. A night later, he added a goal and an assist in a 6-2 victory. Bennett added an assist on a power-play goal by Oliver and later scored his 22nd goal of the season.
Bennett had nine multi-point contests in February. He was spectacular on the special teams, recording a power-play goal and adding six assists with the man-advantage. He also had a short-handed tally.
With his 22-point month, Bennett now leads all rookies in the ECHL with 47 points. He is tied for the league lead in goals by a rookie with 22.
By Robert Pannier