KALAMAZOO, MI – The Kalamazoo Wings, proud ECHL affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks, announced Tuesday the signing of two former Western Michigan University forwards, Justin Kovacs and Matt Iacopelli to the 2019-20 roster.
Kovacs, 27, returns to Kalamazoo where he started his pro career in 2015-16. The Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. native appeared in eight games for the K-Wings at the end of his senior season at WMU. He also spent his first full professional season in Kalamazoo, where he posted 29 points (6g, 23a) in 63 games.
“My family and I are very happy to be back in Kalamazoo,” said Kovacs. “It’s a great organization surrounded with great people, and it was an easy decision. I can’t wait to get back on the ice with some of the guys I have played with before, and I hope to help the K-Wings have a strong year and make a run in the playoffs.”
The 5-foot-11, 194-pound forward spent parts of two ECHL seasons with the Quad City Mallards, before heading overseas. Kovacs finished the 2017-18 campaign with HK Nitra in Slovakia, and spent the entire 2018-19 season with the Nottingham Panthers of the Elite Ice Hockey League, where he put up 43 points (13g, 30a) in 53 games.
“Justin has played for us before and understands the commitment we ask of our players,” said K-Wings Head Coach Nick Bootland. “He is a highly-skilled forward who makes a team’s power play better.”
Iacopelli, 25, joins the K-Wings for his third season as a pro, after splitting the 2018-19 campaign between the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs, and ECHL’s Indy Fuel and Manchester Monarchs. The Chicago Blackhawks drafted the Woodhaven, Mich. native in the third round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and signed him to his first pro contract in 2016-17 after his sophomore seasons at WMU.
“I’m excited to be back on the west side of the state,” said Iacopelli. “I already know what the city has to offer, having played two years here at Western Michigan, and I’m really ready to contribute to and represent the K-Wings this season.”
The 6-foot-3, 207-pound winger comes to Kalamazoo with 116 games of pro experience. He had 27 points (14g, 13a) in 85 games with Rockford and 19 points (15g, 4a) in 31 ECHL games.
“Matt is a huge pickup for us,” said Bootland. “He is a powerful skater with a great shot, and we love that he is still driven and hungry to move up and play at the highest level.
Both players enjoyed success at the collegiate level for the Broncos. Kovacs recorded 76 points (23g, 53a) in 129 games over four seasons at WMU, helping the Broncos to the CCHA Conference Championship in 2011-12 as a freshman. Iacopelli compiled 43 points (21g, 22a) in 67 college games over two seasons, including a very productive sophomore season in 2016-17, where he posted 36 points (20g, 16a) in 40 games.
The K-Wings’ 46th Home Opener is Saturday, Oct. 19 against the Cincinnati Cyclones at 7:00 p.m. at the Wings Event Center, following Fan Fest leading up to the game.
2019-20 K-Wings season tickets, partial plans and 5-packs are on sale now! Visit KWings.com for details.