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Bennett OT Game-Winner Propels Iowa

TOLEDO, OHKris Bennett scored the game-winner 4:28 into overtime to give the Iowa Heartlanders a 6-5 victory over the Toledo Walleye on Friday evening. It was a game dominated by special teams as the Heartlanders recorded three power-play goals and Toledo added two. Bennett finished with two goals and an assist and Ryan Kuffner had two goals and two assists to lead Iowa, Dereck Baribeau earned the victory in his first start for the Heartlanders.

Toledo jumped out to a 2-0 lead less than eight minutes in the contest. Mitchell Heard gave the Walleye the lead 3:27 into the contest with his fifth goal of the year. With Toledo on the power-play, Josh Dickinson took a shot from the left face-off circle that was saved by Baribeau, but the rebound bounced off the boards back to the point to Brandon Hawkins, who lifted a shot that Heard deflected past the Iowa netminder.

Just before the eight-minute mark, Toledo extended its lead to two. The draw was won back to the point inside the Heartlanders end. Cole Fraser wrapped the puck around the boards to Conlan Keenan behind the net. He quickly passed it in front to Brett Boeing who put the puck past Baribeau for his 12th goal of the year.

The Heartlanders remained cool, however, using a pair of power-play goals scored 21 seconds apart to tie the score at two. Hawkins had taken a penalty at 9:19 for tripping and Boeing followed with a tripping penalty right at the 10-minute mark. Seven seconds later, Bennett cut the deficit in half. Bennett won the draw to Kuffner, then broke for the net. Kuffner sent the puck into the slot where Bennett redirected it past Max Milosek for his 14th goal of the season.

Jake Smith tied the score at 10:28. Kaid Oliver dumped the puck into the corner where Kuffner collected it, moving behind the net before making a feed to Smith at the right face-off circle. Smith blasted the one-timer just inside the far post to tie the score at two. That was the 12th goal of the year for Smith.

Toledo retook the lead 7:05 into the second period on their second power-play goal of the contest. It was a perfect backdoor feed from Brandon Schultz that allowed Gordi Myer to tee-up, blasting the one-timer through Baribeau to put the Walleyes back on top, 3-2.

However, the 10-minute mark proved to be the friend of the Heartlanders, as they tied the score at 10:21. Bennett made a great hockey play, looking like he was going to head behind the net, but then noticed Kuffner standing alone at the side of Milosek. Bennett dropped the backhand pass to Kuffner who lifted a wrist shot into the upper corner to tie the score at three.

At 12:10, Iowa used the power-play to take their first lead of the contest. Zach White sent a pass from the left face-off circle back to the point to Kuffner, who lifted a wrist shot that beat the Toledo goaltender for his second goal of the game.

Toledo responded, however, scoring two goals in the span of 30 seconds in the final two minutes of the period to put the Walleye back on top the first came at 17:54 when Heard scored his second goal of the game. A scramble for a loose puck in front of the net allowed Heard to gain control and fire a quick wrist shot that beat Baribeau.

Boeing put his team back on top 30 seconds later. Myer moved the puck out of his end to Boeing in the neutral zone, who battled through to Heartlanders defenseman before swooping in on Baribeau. He moved across the slot, getting the Iowa netminder to open his legs before tucking the puck in for his second goal of the contest.

Once again, Iowa was down, but Austin McIlmurray made his presence known right away. McIlmurray had been acquired by the Heartlanders earlier in the day, and he scored 7:49 into the third frame to tie the score at five. Jeff Solow moved along the boards toward the corner, then fed the puck in front to McIlmurray, who blasted the one-timer past Milosek for his third goal of the year.

Neither team could find the back of the net over the remaining 12 minutes of this contest, sending it to overtime. Moments after Baribeau made a spectacular glove save, Bennett swept into the Toledo end, made a great fake with the puck before lifting a wrist shot past the Walleye netminder to give Iowa the 6-5 victory.

Iowa finished 3-4 on the power-play. Baribeau stopped 39 shots to earn the win in his Iowa Heartlanders debut. White and Billy Constantinou each had two assists and Smith had a goal and assist for Iowa. Boeing finished with three points per Toledo. Keenan and Myer each had two points.

Iowa continues on the road as they travel to Wheelings to take on the Nailers on Saturday evening. The puck drops at 6:10 Iowa time.

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    Robert Pannier covers the Iowa Wild for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @FPHWild.

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