Idaho Steelheads Report: Growing Pains Evident Despite Point Streak

Tommy Grant (Credit: Allen Picard/Idaho Steelheads)
The overnight low in Boise last night was 36 degrees. John Mulhern braves to cold to bring you this week's Idaho Steelheads Report...

The Steelheads finished up a six game home stand this week against the Ontario Reign (Manchester, St John’s) before they headed out to San Francisco to take on the Bulls (Worchester) on Friday and Saturday. Between wins and overtime losses, Idaho finds itself on a four game point streak to end the week.

The first game of the week was the last of an extended three game series from two weeks prior where the Reign and Steelheads split shootout wins. In this game, the Steelheads were coming off a great game against the Alaska Aces (Abbotsford) the previous Saturday and had things rolling right along with the addition of Mitch Wahl back from Utica of the AHL and combinations of Tommy Grant and Anthony Nigro along with David de Kastrozza and Justin Mercier finally starting to click.

The Steelheads got out to a 3-0 lead after a fast-paced first period. In the second period however, the tempo would grind and with that style of play favoring the Reign along with some Steelhead breakdowns defensively, the Reign got the score back to even as the teams headed into the 3rd period. Ryan Button would connect on a power play goal before Mitch Wahl would add an even strength goal to give the Steelheads a 5-3 lead, but before all was said and done, the Reign would tie the game back up with ten second left in the 3rd and then win the game at the 1:38 mark of overtime to steal two points out of the game.

When you go back and look at this game, you start to see the Reign imposing their will to get to the front of the net. It didn’t take much to do that either, as there was not a lot of resistance by any Steelheads to deter Ontario from setting up screens and getting to scoring areas around the top of the crease. The game winner would be scored as Zach O’Brien weaved his way through a couple of Steelheads for an easy goal as he beat Pat Nagle for the win. The offense showed up ready to play, but the defense thought it could take a night off. In the end, it cost the Steelheads a point.

In Friday’s game in San Francisco, the Steelheads got back off to their customary slow starts as Josh Robinson returned to net for the team. In the first, the Bulls got a quick 1-0 just over a minute into play and that score would hold until Justin Mercier scored a goal in the period’s final minute to tie the game at 1 after the first.

In the second, Mitch Wahl would continue his assault on the power play with his first of the night to give the Steelheads the lead, but the Bulls would answer back with 2 straight, one at the end of the second and one in the beginning of the third to take a 3-2 lead. In an odd quirk, the shoe was on the opposite foot from Wednesday’s game where the Steelheads needing a goal late would get one as once again Wahl would convert another power play opportunity to tie the game up at 3. After no scoring in the overtime period, the Steelheads would get the bonus point winning the shootout 4-3 for a 4-3 game victory.

Robinson was back in the net for Saturday’s game and again the Steelheads allowed a goal in the first 5 minutes to go down 1-0. This score would hold up until just past the halfway point of the game before once again Mercier would tie the game at 1 and just over a minute later William Rapuzzi would get his second of the year to give the Steelheads a lead they would not relinquished. After Carl Sneep got his first goal later in the period, the Steelheads would take the win and get out of town with four points.

We’re going streaking!!!
Since getting his first two goals of the year two Saturday’s ago against the Alaska Aces, Justin Mercier has five goals in four games and now carries a four game goal streak into Wednesday’s game against the Utah Grizzlies. He’s not the only streak going on right now so with that in mind here is a list of some other current streaks on the Idaho Steelheads
  • Justin Mercier, 4 game goal streak (4G,0A)
  • William Rapuzzi, 4 game point streak (1G,4A)
  • Ryan Button, 5 game point streak (1G,6A)
  • Mitch Wahl, 5 game point streak (4G,5A)

League Leaders
Here is where the top Steelheads are in terms of points and goals amongst the league’s best
  • Anthony Nigro (12GP, 7-7-14) tied for 9th overall in the league scoring.
  • Ryan Button (12GP, 2-8-10) tied for 1st overall in defensemen league scoring.
  • William Rapuzzi (12GP, 2-11-13) tied for 2nd overall in rookie scoring.
  • Josh Robinson (4GP, 2.45 GAA) ranks at 14th best goals against average in the league.

What’s Next?
The Steelheads start a rough stretch of games as they get set to play six games in nine days to finish out the month of November. It starts on Wednesday at home against the Utah Grizzlies (Norfolk). The team then travels back to San Francisco for a game Friday, Nov. 22nd. After that a trip down to play the Stockton Thunder (Bridgeport) for two games on Saturday the 23rd and Sunday the 24th. Then it’s back to Idaho for a pair of games against the Las Vegas Wranglers (Independent).

With a tough stretch coming up, we’ll have to wait and see how things shake out. In these next six games, I would expect Idaho to get at least eight points.

Until next week…