FORT WAYNE, Ind. – After watching the Toledo Walleye score three goals in the first period in both Friday and Saturday’s routs, the Iowa Heartlanders turned the tables on Sunday afternoon, scoring three first period goals on their way to a 5-1 victory over the Fort Wayne Komets. Kris Bennett continues his dominance since returning to the Heartlanders, setting up three goals, and Hunter Jones had his best start of the season, stopping 31 of 32 shots.
The Heartlanders put the pressure on from the very start, outshooting Fort Wayne 17-11 through the first frame. That helped the team put up three goals in the span of almost 10 minutes. The first came at 6:42 when Iowa unleashed a relentless forecheck that was making it impossible for the Komets to get the puck out of their end. Eventually, the puck came back to Fedor Gordeev, who fired a shot from the point. Yuki Miura tipped the puck past Sean Bonar for his first goal of the year to make it a 1-0 game.
A little less than six minutes later, the Heartlanders were back on the board. Just 10 seconds after Marcus McIvor was sent off for tripping, Iowa won the draw inside the Komets zone. Bennett fired a shot that was tipped by a Fort Wayne player, causing it to drop about two feet from the Komets net. That allowed Bryce Misley to come in and lift the puck into the near-empty net for his fourth goal of the season.
At 16:20, the Heartlanders extended their lead to three. Jake Linhart moved the puck ahead to Bryce Gervais who moved toward the goal line to the right of Bonar, but instead of going behind the net, he decided to fire a shot that hit off the crossbar, then off the back of Bonar and went in to give Gervais his first goal of the year.
The Heartlanders were dominating, but the Komets cut the deficit back to two with 1:32 left in the period. Matt Murphy had the puck along the half-boards, passing it back to Stephen Harper just before he entered the Iowa zone. Harper fired a blast that Jones knocked down, but no one cleared out Will Graber, who put the rebound in for his second goal of the year.
The Komets looked like they were back in this game, but Iowa scored goals in both the second and third periods to put this game away. At 16:36, Adrien Beraldo scored his first professional goal. Ryan Kuffner had the puck to the left side of Bonar, passing it across the crease to Beraldo who blasted the one-timer by the Fort Wayne goaltender to restore the three-goal advantage.
Iowa added one more goal just 43 seconds into the third period. Ben Sokay sped down the boards, then moved in on Bonar, firing a wrist shot that beat the netminder to the far post for his first goal of the year. That made it 5-1, which would be the final.
Besides the big day for Bennett, Kuffner had two assists and Beraldo and Sokay each had a goal and an assist. Nine players had at least one point for Iowa.
The Heartlanders return home to take on the Kansas City Mavericks in a Thanksgiving eve affair. The puck drops at 7:00 pm.
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