Leonard Nets Two as Heartlanders Down Nailers
CORALVILLE, IA – Steven Leonard scored two goals in his debut with the Iowa Heartlanders as the team went on to defeat the Wheeling Nailers, 5-1. Hunter Jones stopped 23 shots and Tyler Busch and Michael Pastujov each had two points. The victory was the third straight for Iowa over Wheeling.
Iowa absolutely dominated the first period, outshooting the Nailers 14-3. Brad Barone was the difference early on, as he stopped 13 shots in the first frame.
The Heartlanders were able to break through at the 12:47 mark when Tanner MacMaster scored his first goal of the season. Yuki Miura gained control of the puck behind the Wheeling net, then found MacMaster moving down the slot. He passed the puck out in front where MacMaster buried a one timer into the upper corner to make it 1-0.
The Heartlanders held the one goal advantage into the second, but Pastujov scored 1:19 into the frame to make it 2-0. The Nailers were trying to clear the puck out of their zone, but Busch intercepted the attempt, moving toward the corner before making a backhand pass into the crease where Pastujov tipped it by Barone for his sixth goal of the year.
Wheeling finally got into the contest when Brooklyn Kalkimov scored 2:14 into the third. They Nailers were doing a great job of controlling the puck inside the Iowa zone. That enabled the team to get to point-blank shots on net, but Jones stoned both attempts. The puck moved to the corner where Gianluca Esteves gained control, passing it out in front where it was tipped into the air. Kalmikov was able to gain control, blasting it by Jones for his 13th goal of the year.
This was a nailbiter over the next 13 minutes, as the Nailers try to tie the score. However, Busch scored with a little over four minutes left in the game to restore the two-goal advantage. Pastujov gained control the puck along the boards inside the neutral zone and made a perfect pass onto the stick of Busch, springing him for a breakaway. As he approached Barone, he moved toward the right side of the goal, then tucked a backhander through the five hole of the Wheeling netminder for his ninth goal of the year.
What just under two minutes left, Leonard scored an empty net goal, his first of the season to make it a three goal Heartlanders advantage. Then, 15 seconds later, Leonard delivered his second goal of the game, finding a rebound and putting it in to make it 5-1.
Leonard, who had just been acquired from the Pensacola Ice Flyers (SPHL) delivered two goals in his first ever ECHL game. Both Pastujov and Busch had a goal and an assist.
The Iowa Heartlanders will take on the Nailers again on Saturday. The puck drops at 7:05.
by Robert Pannier