Idaho Steelheads Report: First Place and Trending Up at All-Star Break

Henri Kiviaho (Credit: Glenn Smith/Idaho Steelheads)
John Mulhern returns with the monthly Idaho Steelheads Report...

As the Idaho Steelheads hit the ECHL All-Star break, they currently sit in a tie for first place in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference with the Ontario Reign. Both teams have 52 points, but the Steelheads have a better winning percentage at the moment so they take the top spot. There have been 16 games since the last Steelheads update was posted and in those 16 games, Idaho has managed to get points in 13 of those games, including 11 wins and an 8 game point streak, for an impressive 11-3-2 record over that span of time.

If you remember that last Steelheads update where I talked about the depth on this team, you’ll know where most of the scoring is coming from. You’ve got your usual cast of characters putting pucks in the net (Jason Bast, Alex Belzile, and Brett Robinson) but you’ve also gotten contributions from the likes of Ludwig Karlsson, Patrick Cullity, Troy Vance, Matt Case and even new addition Jefferson Dahl.

First of all, think of these as representatives of the team. There have been contributions up and down the lineup over these 16 games, so don’t forget about the likes of David deKastrozza, Gaelan Patterson, Steve Qualier and Wade MacLeod. The biggest thing to notice about the listed contributors, are that three of them are defensemen.

Coming into this stretch of games the Idaho defense was most notable for their ability to set-up goals vs scoring them. The defensive corps heading into the All-Star break will have cumulative totals after this run of games that read 11 goals and 64 assists. That is an astonishing 75 total points from defensemen in only 39 games played, that’s almost 2 points per game! Just for the heck of it, throw Olivier Roy’s lone assist of the year into that total and you’ve got 76 points.

The scoring from the forwards have been outstanding all year long, but the fact that the defensemen are starting to take an active role in putting the puck into the net, re-establishes the idea of defensemen being able to take on some of the scoring load in Brad Ralph’s offensive system.

One last note on overall scoring for Idaho; they have seven players that have 20 or more points and then another eight that have 10 or more points, balanced scoring does not appear to be a problem at the moment for the Steelheads.

The next item to take note of, is that the defense is continuing and improving its strong play over the past month as well. Over the same 16 games the Steelhead have only allowed 38 goals against with 2 of those being the “team goal” for a shootout loss. Even including those goals, puts them at 2.375 goals allowed per game. Their season average for goals against sits at 2.65 so it’s nice to see the team trending in the positive direction with regards to letting the other team score.

For the record the Steelheads have scored 126 goals on the season, which is good for 3.23 goals per game. The other distinction the Steelheads have is that they are currently tied atop the ECHL for most one goal victories as that total stands at 14. This is clearly a team that will be comfortable in tight games come playoff time.

The goaltending tandem of Olivier Roy and Henri Kiviaho have also helped contribute to the team’s success as of late. Roy has been steady and what you would expect out of a top flight goaltender at this level. He has given Idaho a chance to win just about every game he has been in and will in fact be the All-Star representative for the Steelheads this week.

Kiviaho has turned into a nice surprise. After starting off the season as a relatively unknown assets, Kiviaho took some time with Dallas Stars goaltending coach Andy Moog back in November and since that meeting, things have taken a positive step forward for him and the team. His goal against has continued to go down, and his save percentage has continued to tick up. In his last three appearances he has only allowed a total of four goals while facing 73 shots. From watching him on the ice, you get the sense he is getting more comfortable with the North American game and because of that is gaining in his confidence as well.

Team Leaders:

  • Points: Jason Bast/Wade MacLeod (35)
  • Goals: Jason Bast (21)
  • Assists: Wade MacLeod (22)

Upcoming Schedule:
The Steelheads just finished a six game in nine night home-stand which led them to a 4-1-1- record over that stretch, but they still end up tied with the Ontario Reign (Manchester Monarchs/St John’s Ice Caps) for 1st place in the Pacific Division lead at the All-Star break. Idaho comes right out of the All-Star break by having to head up to Alaska to take on the Aces (Iowa Wild) for three games in three nights before heading back south for three more games against the Ontario Reign in Ontario.

So another six game in nine night stretch but this time on the road with a tough travel schedule included. Look for Kiviaho to get at least the first start on Friday since Olivier Roy will be meeting the team in Alaska after the All-Star game on Wednesday. After the three against Ontario, the Steelheads will play three home games against the Utah Grizzlies over the next 11 days.

News and Notes:
The defense will continue to be tested over the next bit of the schedule as Patrick Cullity (Springfield Falcons) and Charlie Dodero (Syracuse Crunch) have been loaned out to the AHL for the foreseeable future. Good Luck to them. Also Mike Dalhuisen returned to Idaho last week and got four games under his belt and was able to notch his first point of the season with an assist in Saturday night’s win against the Ontario Reign.

If there is anything or anyone you want to know about in the next Idaho Steelheads update, leave it in the comments or send me a message on twitter @mulhern4.

Until next month…