Ryan Kuffner Named Warrior Hockey ECHL Player of the Month
The accolades continue to pour in for the first year Iowa Heartlanders as Ryan Kuffner was named as the Warrior Hockey ECHL Player of the Month for February. The Heartlanders forward recorded four goals and added 19 assists in 12 games.
Kuffner received the honor following the announcement that teammate Kris Bennett was named as the Howies Hockey Tape ECHL Rookie of the Month for February. Bennett is the second player on the team to receive the honor. Jake Smith was named Rookie of the Month in January.
Kuffner began the month with two assists in a February 2 loss to the Cincinnati Cyclones, 6-3. The forward had an assist on the opening goal of the contest, a power-play tally by Smith. He later added an assist on a goal by Billy Constantinou that tied the score at three.
Two nights later, Kuffner had two goals and two assists in a 6-5 come from behind victory over the Toledo Walleye. Toledo had leads in this contest three times, but Kuffner helped spur the team to victory. Iowa trailed by two early in the first, but Kuffner assisted on back-to-back power-play goals by the Hearlanders that tied the score. Once again, the Walleye took the lead, but Kuffner scored back-to-back goals to give Iowa the lead, 4-3. The second tally was on the power-play. The Walleye took a 5-4 lead before the Heartlanders battled back to win in overtime.
On February 5, the Heartlanders defeated the Wheeling Nailers, 4-1. Kuffner had an assist in the contest, providing a helper on the second goal of the game for Iowa.
On February 9, the Heartlanders welcomed the Utah Grizzlies for the first of three contests. Kuffner helped give Iowa the early lead, scoring one minute into the contest. He later added an assist on a power-play goal by Zach White to make it 3-1. The Grizzlies battled back to tie the score at three, but Kuffner assisted on Bennett’s 17th goal of the season to put Iowa back on top. However, the team could not hold the lead, losing in overtime.
Two nights later, Utah earned a 5-2 victory. The Grizzlies jumped out to a three-goal lead, but Kuffner had an assist on the power-play goal by White that helped the Heartlanders pull within a single goal. However, Utah closed out the scoring with two late tallies to earn the victory. Kuffner added an assist the next night in a 4-3 Utah victory. The game was tied it to win Kuffner provided the helper for Bennett’s 18th goal of the season.
The Heartlanders then welcomed to the Tulsa Oilers on February 16. The team earned a 4-3 victory, the first of six straight victories. The Iowa forward helped spur a comeback victory won in a shootout. After Tulsa jumped out to a 3-1 lead, Kuffner made a great play to steal the puck while the Oilers were on the power-play. His past set up a breakaway opportunity for Kaid Oliver the turned into a shorthanded goal.
On February 18, he added three assists in a 5-2 victory over the Kalamazoo Wings. Iowa jumped out to a 3-1 lead with Kuffner providing assists on each of those goals, two of which were on the power-play. A night later, the Heartlanders defeated Kalamazoo once again, 5-2. Kuffner had a goal and an assist in this contest, providing the helper on the opening goal by Bennett and later sealing the victory with his eighth goal of the season.
The Wichita Thunder came to town on February 23, and Kuffner provided two assists in a 7-3 victory. The Heartlanders took a 4-2 lead thanks to back-to-back power-play goals, the second of which Kuffner assisted on. He later added an assist on an empty net goal by Bennett.
Iowa closed out the month with two games against the Fort Wayne Komets. Kuffner had an assist in the 4-2 victory on February 25, assisting on a power-play goal by Smith that secured the two-goal victory. A night later he added two assists in a 6-2 victory over Fort Wayne. Kuffner assisted on the first goal of the contest.
Kuffner had at least one point in all 12 games during the month. That included seven multi-point games. He had at least one assist in all 12 games.
Kuffner becomes the first Iowa Heartlanders player to earn ECHL Player of the Month honors.
By Robert Pannier