Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Idaho Steelheads Report: Steelheads Out to a Fast Start

Jason Bast is top 4 in league scoring.
(Credit: Idaho Steelheads)
John Mulhern is back for another year of Idaho Steelheads Reports. This week he talks about the very hot start the Steelheads have had to their 2014-15 campaign.

The month of October was pretty good for the Idaho Steelheads this year and they have sprinted out of the gates to a 6-1 record to start the season. It started inauspiciously enough as Idaho split their first two games against the Utah Grizzlies (Norfolk Admirals), but after the first two games, the Steelheads have yet to taste defeat a second time.

When looking back at the schedule for the first seven games and the way the schedule was set up from a travel perspective, it would not have been odd to have seen this team with at least a second loss and perhaps a third just based on how difficult it is for teams to sweep 3-game sets in the ECHL.

The first two games were a home and home on back-to-back nights against the Grizzlies which ended with a 1-1 record. Then the following weekend there was travel to take on the Bakersfield Condors (Oklahoma City Barons) before having to overnight a bus ride to play the Ontario Reign (Manchester Monarchs/St. John’s Ice Caps) the next night. Again I don’t think a split in this scenario would have been unexpected considering how well the Condors and Reign finished last season and started this season.

To complete the first seven games of the season, the Steelheads had three tough games against the Stockton Thunder (Bridgeport Sound Tigers), where not only did the Steelheads allow four goals in the second period on Friday night and have to win it late in the 3rd period, but they trailed to start a game for the first time all season after giving up the first two goals on Saturday and managed to bounce back for the win and a sweep.

The schedule won’t get any easier as the Steelheads will now have to play seven games in the next 11 days as they travel to take on the Colorado Eagles (Adirondack Flames) for three games next week, followed by two games against the Alaska Aces (Iowa Wild) and the Condors the next week. The depth on the Steelheads team will be tested.

Now how about that depth? The first thing to point out is that through seven games of the season only seven players have dressed for all of the games. On top of that only four players have dressed for less than four games; David deKastrozza (3 games) was injured to start season. Brett Robinson (3 games) has a few nagging injuries keeping him out of the lineup. Branden Troock (2 games) was just assigned by the Stars organization in the middle of last week, and Henri Kiviaho (2 games) is the back-up goaltender.

To me that previous paragraph is the biggest indicator of the depth that is currently on this team. On any given night Brad Ralph has had the option to maneuver his lineup to make sure that everyone is getting a decent amount of ice early in the season as they adjust not only to the ECHL, but also to the system that Ralph wants to run with the Steelheads. One final number to drive the point home. Of the 20 skaters that are currently on the roster, all but one of them have at least a point. Troock is the one exception, but again, he just arrived this week.

A word of caution about the Steelheads so far this season. They are 6-1. That’s the caution. Anyone who has followed the ECHL with any kind of regularity understands that when teams get off to a hot start, the AHL and the affiliations start to take notice and the inevitable call-ups will start to occur. Or the injury bug starts to affect teams, whether through trickle down (NHL-AHL-ECHL) or directly to a team. When these things begin, the roster will obviously start to change and whatever chemistry that was there, could start to change for the better or the worse.

This is what makes the Steelheads start all the more important. By getting out to a 6-1 record to begin the season and with only four of the seven teams in the Pacific Division making the playoffs, creating as most distance as early as possible allows for a big of wiggle room should there be some massive call-ups or injuries the force the Steelheads to strive for .500 hockey for a period of time. If you were to write a script as to how I would have liked to see the season start, I think I would have hoped for 6-1, but perhaps realistically expected 4-3 or 5-2. I like what I am seeing on the ice from the Steelheads so far and hope that it can continue for the next 7 months, because if can go that long, it will be one entertaining season.

Who’s Hot?

A look at some of the Steelheads off to a great start of the season:
  • Jason Bast -  7GP 7-2=9p
  • Jesse Root - 5GP, 3-5=8
  • Wade MacLeod - 7GP, 2-6=8
  • Olivier Roy - 6GP, 5-0, 1SO, 1.28 GAA, .949SV%
But in all seriousness, I could have picked from just about anyone on the roster and placed them into this section.

Unlike previous seasons, I’m not even going to try to attempt to make this a weekly update, but will strive for at least two updates per month and perhaps a bit more if something warrants the update. If there is anything you would like to see in the Idaho Steelheads updates, let me know and I will try to include it in future articles.

Until next time…

Authors Note: After the writing of this article Levi Nelson was place on the 21 day IR.

John Mulhern is the arena emcee for CenturyLink Arena and does on-air work for the Steelheads broadcast in addition to his own Two Sports Nuts podcast.

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