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BLOG: Recapping a #MidsummerChristmas

Saturday, August 2nd
BLOG: Recapping a #MidsummerChristmas

Not a bad week, eh?

In a five-day stretch dubbed “Midsummer Christmas” (with the requisite hashtag for social media purposes), Idaho Steelheads head coach Brad Ralph stocked his coffers for the coming season with five players.  Not just any five players.  Five returning players that have been key contributors in past successes for the Good Ship Steelhead.

Gaelan Patterson.  Jason Bast.  Eamonn McDermott.  Patrick Cullity.  And, to wrap things up, Matt Case.   All signed, sealed and (mostly) delivered by August 1.

For fans who have been following the Steelheads through the ECHL era, you know that it’s a little unusual to have five “names” like that signed this far out, let alone the consideration that forwards Rob Linsmayer and Luke Judson had previously agreed to terms with the team before the Midsummer Christmas.  That’s seven returning players.

Seven players who know Ralph’s systems, cultures and expectations.  Seven players that can help set the tone once October 17 (season-opener at Utah) rolls around.

More returnees are likely on the way.  However, most importantly, Ralph has set himself up for the rest of the offseason recruiting period by getting these players taken care of now.

With two months to go until training camp, Ralph can focus on filling roles.  He can target specific needs and address them because he’s already got some vital pieces on his depth chart.  He knows what these players can do.  There’s no unknown with them, so he can rest easy and look to supplement their skills with new faces.

He’s got Case and Cullity, two defensemen who are as solid as you’ll find in the ECHL.  In fact, they’re the last two players to be selected as the team’s defenseman of the year and, two seasons ago, Case was runner-up for the ECHL’s defenseman of the year award.

He’s got McDermott and Quinn Sproule, a pair of rookies (even though McDermott tied for the team lead in plus-minus rating in the playoffs last spring after joining the team in late March) on the blue line.

He’s got Patterson who, from February 1 on through the playoffs, was arguably the team’s most-consistent forward.  He’s got Bast who was about as explosive offensively as any player in the ECHL in the last month of the regular season.  And he’s got Linsmayer and Judson, a pair of right wings who weren’t necessarily flashy but were both very effective in doing some of the dirty work and providing key goals in big games (Judson scored the game-winner in two of his first three games with the team).

Best part for me?  I won’t have to spend the first two days of training camp asking athletic trainer Thomas Gillespie, “so, who’s that guy?”

Best part for fans?  You know these guys.  You’ve watched them, cheered for them and met them.

Other teams have brought back key pieces as well.  Bakersfield re-upped former Steelhead Chase Schaber.  Channing Boe and Mathieu Aubin are both headed back to Utah.  High-scoring Trent Daavatilla has committed once again to Colorado.  All underscoring the value of the known quantity in a league that is probably more well-known for its roster instability with transactions, AHL callups and European teams always looking to poach a player on a hot streak.

So enjoy it, Steelheads fans.  There’s always a new fan favorite waiting to be born.  Until then, the MidsummerChristmas made sure you’ll recognize plenty of faces and names when the season rolls around in October.

Blog Written by Voice of the Steelheads, Will Hoenike.  You can follow him on Twitter at @WillHoenike

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