Forward tandem Billings and Sokay join Heartlanders
Coralville, Iowa – Forwards Jack Billings and Ben Sokay have signed their first professional contracts with the Iowa Heartlanders, the team announced Friday. They are the second and third players to join the Heartlanders’ inaugural squad as the team prepares for the season opener at Xtream Arena on Fri., Oct. 22.
The two were teammates at Niagara University for two seasons (2018-20) and linemates during the 2019-20 campaign. Billings finished his NCAA career in 2020-21 and Sokay graduated in 2020. Both look to translate a solid amateur career to the pro game; Sokay scored a career-best 11 goals for Niagara in 2019-20. That same season, Billings topped Niagara with a personal-best 12 goals.
Heartlanders Roster Update
Forwards (2): Jack Billings, Ben Sokay
Defensemen (1): Jake Linhart
Ben Sokay: “It’s amazing to sign. I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment in my life [signing my first pro contract]. Jack is a great person and a great player and I can’t wait to reunite with him. Obviously with COVID it was a long year being away from hockey last season but when Iowa offered the contract I got good vibes from Coach Gerry and assistant Derek Damon. It’s a great fit and I’m excited to get going.”
Jack Billings: “When I signed the contract, the first people I told were my little sister and older sister. They were excited and started celebrating on the phone. The big reason I chose to come to the Heartlanders was to be close to family, join a new program and be coached by an awesome person in Gerry.”
Head Coach Gerry Fleming: “We are thrilled to bring two high-character and talented individuals that will help us put the puck in the net this season. Jack and Ben each improved over their time at Niagara and we are happy to bring them to training camp next month and develop their skill sets to fit into the type of system we are looking to play in Iowa.”
- Combined for 19 goals his final two years at Niagara, the most on the team.
- Native of Oak Lawn, IL grew up playing youth hockey in Chicagoland for Chicago Fury. Also skated for NCAA Division III Salve Regina Univ. from 2016-18 before transferring to Niagara.
- Point totals increased every NCAA season.
- 2018-19 AHA All-Academic Team with Niagara.
The Heartlanders officially open the 2021-22 ECHL season on Oct. 22 against Kansas City at Xtream Arena. Tickets are available at ShopHeartlanders.com/collections/tickets. The Heartlanders’ AHL affiliate, the Iowa Wild, will host the Rockford IceHogs for an AHL preseason game Oct. 8 at 7:00 p.m. at Xtream Arena in the first professional hockey game in the new building, presented by the Iowa City Area Sports Commission. Tickets are available for the Fri., Oct. 8 game by calling the Heartlanders box office at 319-569-4625 or by visiting https://bit.ly/XtreamArenaPreseason.