|Emil Molin (Credit: Michael Connell/Texas Stars)|
A new year, another Idaho Steelheads report. When the last report was posted back in December, the Steelheads were ready to hit a very busy part of their schedule as they were staring at 13 games during the month. It was going to be pivotal as the Steelheads had played the most games in the ECHL heading into the month and are currently tied for most games played in the ECHL.
It wasn’t the ideal start as Idaho started out 1-4 in their first five games, but after a bit of player movement, the Steelheads quickly turned things around. Idaho earned points in eight straight games (7-0-0-1) and have earned points in 10 of their last 12 games to end December and start the 2016 part of their schedule. In putting this run together Idaho managed to pull themselves out of the bottom part of the Western Division and Western Conference, and even had a shot of getting all the way up to first place in the division before losing this past Saturday to the Utah Grizzlies (San Diego).
Over this stretch the power play has jumped up to 17th in the league and the penalty kill continued their timely contributions to help turn momentum and keep it going depending on the situation. Along with the point streak the team had, the power play had a consecutive games streak with scoring goals. The man advantage has truly changed from something where you hope Idaho scores into a true weapon, where you almost expect them to score, or at the least gain some offensive momentum.
I could sit here and run off a list of all of the individual accomplishments that Idaho has had over the past month, but that would be a short novel. But as Neil Graham has reiterated on multiple occasions, the Steelheads have been winning as a team during this stretch and I assure you, it would be impossible to find someone who has not contributed to the effort in some capacity. Of course you have players scoring goals, but even small plays that don’t end up on the scoresheet have had huge impacts: blocked shots, strong zone clears, and keeping a puck in the offensive zone for an extra 30 seconds of attack time. It has been quite the experience to watch this turn around and to see that swagger start to ooze out of the locker room.
Let’s look at some numbers from the players that are on NHL/AHL deals:
* - (Missed some time with injury)
^ - (Assigned then recalled to Texas)
In order based on schedule.
vs Florida Everblades (Charlotte Checkers) 1-2
@ Allen Americans (San Jose Baracuda) 0-1
@ Tulsa Oilers (Manitoba Moose) 1-1
@ Allen Americans 1-0
vs Utah Grizzles 1-0
vs Allen Americans 1-0-0-1
vs Utah Grizzlies 1-0
@ Utah Grizzlies 1-0
vs Colorado Eagles (Independent) 2-1
@ Utah Grizzlies 1-1
Idaho has two home games coming up this weekend against the Tulsa Oilers before heading on the road for a three game in three night set in Alaska against the Aces (Independent). The biggest schedule to keep an eye on for this month is the rest of the league as they start to catchup in games played with the Steelheads. With Idaho putting together their point streak in December, this storyline has faded away a little but will still bear watching over the month.
Until next time…
John Mulhern is the host of the Bud Light Idaho Steelheads Hockey show on 1350 AM KTIK in Boise. He is the home game ice-level color analyst for the Steelheads and also hosts his own Two Sports Nuts podcast. You can also follow John on Twitter @mulhern4.