Friday, January 10, 2014

Idaho Steelheads Report: Steady Play Despite Roster Changes

Pat Nagle (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
John Mulhern brings us the update from the Gem State. That's Idaho, in case you didn't know...

Happy New Year! I took a bit of a break for Christmas and New Year’s as well as some family time to just recharge the batteries. But 2014 is here and almost a week in, I’ll go back and give some series recaps as well as where the Idaho Steelheads stand currently in terms of contracted players with Texas as well as maybe a couple names that might be on the radar in a pinch.

When we last left our heroes, they were five games in to an eleven game homestand facing a tough Alaska (Abbotsford) team who had been sliding just a bit in the standings. As it turned out, the Steelheads continued to help them slide backwards a bit as Idaho took two out of three games including a 4-1 win in regulation and a 4-3 come from behind win in overtime.

After that weekend, the Steelheads welcomed the Bakersfield Condors (Oklahoma City) into CenturyLink Arena on a bit of an odd schedule with a Wednesday-Saturday-Sunday series. On Wednesday, goaltender Laurent Brossoit shutout the Steelheads and, in the process, tied an ECHL record for most consecutive shutouts with three. The Steelheads finally got one past him on Saturday to end his shutout streak. After a couple more tallies, Idaho got the win. On Sunday the team fell flat in the first period, trailing 3-0, before coming all the way back to tie the game at three after two. The Condors would get the only goal in the third on a bad turnover and win 4-3.

The Steelheads would end their home-stand with 13 out of a possible 22 points. While not spectacular, a deeper look into the team in terms of having to play some games shorthanded, having to move defenseman up to a forward line, in addition to some call-ups that were made during the stretch, overall I would call it successful run of games at home.

After the holiday the Steelheads would be blessed with a three game in three night stretch that saw the team take two games from a struggling Las Vegas Wranglers (Independent) team, before once again falling at the hands of the Bakersfield Condors. The Condors once again shutout the Steelheads on the back of Brossoit as he turned away 23 shots. Not to be overshadowed on the weekend Pat Nagle made over 100 saves during the 3 game stretch as Josh Robinson remains up in Texas for the moment. The Condors also had a bit of schedule luck as they did not have to play Saturday and the Steelheads had an overnight bus trip from Las Vegas to Bakersfield.

Finally this past weekend the Steelheads sort of split a two game set with the Aces up in Anchorage. The Aces got three points for a win and OT loss compared to the Steelheads two points for an overtime win. Friday’s game saw the Steelheads have to battle back from three down again, but they were not quite able to climb that hill they were only able to get 13 shots over the first two periods. In Saturday’s contest, the Steelheads got three goals on 15 shots in the first two periods which led to a 3-3 tie after two. The Steelheads got the win in a shootout. Once again, Nagle is the only permanent goaltender at the moment and he stopped over 70 shots during the weekend.

What’s next?
The Steelheads continue on the road this week as they head to Colorado (Independent) to take on the Mountain Division-leading Eagles. The Steelheads are currently three points behind the Eagles for the division lead, so a couple of wins will help them pass the Eagles in the standings.

Standings
The Steelheads are currently in 3rd place in the Mountain Division, two points behind the Aces and three points behind the Eagles. The Aces also currently have two games in hand. In the conference, the Steelheads sit 5th with a comfortable nine point lead on the San Francisco Bulls. They are currently tied with the Stockton Thunder (Bridgeport) who hold the 4th spot. For what it’s worth, the Ontario Reign (Manchester/St John’s) are running away with the conference as they currently have 52 points, which is good for best in the conference by eleven and best in the league by one over the South Carolina Stingrays (Providence).

Contracts
Here are the list of players that did/do have contracts with Texas or Dallas and their current point production in the ECHL:

  • Brock Montgomery: Called up to Texas
  • Etienne Boutet: Called up and suspended by Texas (Went back to school)
  • Taylor Vause: Called up to Texas
  • Ryan Button: Called up to Texas
  • Josh Robinson: Called up to Texas
  • Austin Smith: Called up and loaned to Finland league
  • Hubert Labrie: Called up to Texas
  • Pat Nagle: 17 GP 8-7-1-1 including 1 SO 2.96 GAA and a .916 sv %

I make this list to show that just about every contract that the Stars organization has with Idaho this year is no longer in Idaho with the lone exception of Pat Nagle who has played outstanding after a couple of rough starts of the beginning of the season.

There are also some other “on the radar” players that could move up into the AHL or have seen time in the AHL this year, and we can dive into that list next week. For the moment, however, the Steelheads are doing two things exceptionally well so far this year:

  1. They are getting players ready for the AHL to the point where the majority of the players that have been called up have had a long period of time with Texas during the season.
  2. Their record while reflecting how well the team has been doing, is also reflecting how good of a job Brad Ralph is doing at getting players that fit with the team and his system three months into a season.

Until next time…

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