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SHEBEST: Iacopelli Enjoying Familiar Stomping Grounds as a Pro

Thursday, December 19th
SHEBEST: Iacopelli Enjoying Familiar Stomping Grounds as a Pro

Iacopelli Enjoying Familiar Stomping Grounds as a Pro

BY PAM SHEBEST

Joining the Kalamazoo Wings was a homecoming of sorts for 25-year-old Matheson Iacopelli.

The forward played two years with the Western Michigan University hockey team before turning pro and is enjoying revisiting old haunts.

“I never had Two Fellas (Grill) before (living in Kalamazoo),” he said. “It’s like the big thing on campus.

“We’d always go there Saturday nights. When we had an off day, we’d go to Two Fellas.”

Another favorite is Chick-fil-a. “We don’t have one of those Downriver,” he said. I’m a pretty big food fanatic. I go out of my way to get some good food.” ‘Downriver’ is an area of several different towns, including Iacopelli’s hometown, Brownstown, south of Detroit.

Although he enjoys food, Iacopelli said he just cooks “basic stuff” at home — and for good reason.

“My girlfriend never eats my food,” he said. “She got food poisoning and I food poisoned myself a couple years ago.” However, breakfast is his specialty: “I can cook eggs.”

As a K-Wing, Iacopelli discovered his roommate, defenseman Cory Dunn, is also a hometown neighbor.

“He’s from Trenton (MI) and he actually lives three or four miles from me back home,” Iacopelli said. I always knew who he was growing up. We never played together. We skated drop-ins. It’s just coincidental that we ended up being roommates. He’s a really good guy and a good friend as well.”

Iacopelli also had a connection of sorts to another K-Wing, although he did not know it at the time.

The forward was taken 83rd overall in the 2014 NHL entry draft in Philadelphia, two spots after current K-Wings forward Dylan Sadowy was chosen by the San Jose Sharks.

“I had no clue he was drafted two people before me,” Iacopelli said. “I was just hoping my name would pop up and when it did nothing else really mattered.”

Iacopelli did not travel to the draft, but watched it on television with family and friends. “My name popped up on the TV and said Chicago Blackhawks,” he said. “Everyone was excited and I was ecstatic. We lit a couple fireworks off in the back yard. It’s something I will never forget.”

Iacopelli’s pro career got off to an auspicious start with the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs at the end of his sophomore season at WMU.

“We played against the Texas Stars my first game,” he said. “I actually netted the game-winner on my first American Hockey League game so it was a pretty crazy experience. I was obviously excited. My family was super excited. My teammates at Western were all texting me, all my former buddies.”

In his rookie season, Iacopelli played 50 games with Rockford and 10 with the ECHL Indy Fuel, where K-Wings coach Nick Bootland got his first look at him.

“He played against us and he hurt us a lot a couple years ago when he was in Indy when he was on his NHL contract,” Bootland said. “He was one of the hottest players in the league at one moment when we were having a playoff push against Indy and he was a factor in that. He scored some big goals.”

Last season, Iacopelli split time between Rockford, Indy and the ECHL Manchester Monarchs, which folded after last season. When he became a free agent, Bootland signed him.

“He’s got tremendous speed,” Bootland said. “He’s got an unbelievable first step and has the ability to be elusive and has a great shot.

“He had that Western connection with (head coach) Andy (Murray) and (associate head coach Dave) Shyiak. Those guys have always helped us and been honest with us about players.”

Iacopelli said speed is one of his assets but he realizes he still has some areas that need work.

“I want to bring a presence out there,” he said. “I can shoot the puck, take pucks wide. Obviously there’s parts of my game I need to work on as well, and I’ve been working on them this year: the physicality, playing down low with the puck, possession. I know I’m a bigger body on the ice and I need to use that aspect of my playing style which will help me better.”

Although the team is in a bit of a funk, Iacopelli said he can see things turning around.

“We’ve got to come together as a team and draw the line where everyone’s buying in and listening to the coach and doing what we’re supposed to be doing,” he said. “It’s not too late. We can still bounce back. I have faith in my teammates. We ‘re all a pretty close team off the ice and once we bring that on the ice, we’ll be all right.”

Injuries have not helped the situation. In their 24 games so far, the K-Wings have lost 114 man games to injury.

“It’s a difficult time but we can’t use that as an excuse,” Bootland said. “I feel there are things getting better in our game even though the results aren’t there yet.”

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