The Steelheads welcome the Rapid City Rush to Boise for the first time, kicking off the 2015-16 regular season tonight at CenturyLink Arena. After sweeping both ends of a home-and-home with the Utah Grizzlies in preseason action, the Steelheads made a couple of transactions this week before finalizing their roster. Joe Basaraba joined the forward group and Tommy Fallen was added to the defense corp. Both players add to the speed element that Head Coach Neil Graham stresses, an element that will come in handy against a Rapid City team that has some decent scoring threats of its own.
Tonight will be the first of six meetings between the Rush and Steelheads, as ECHL realignment has moved the Rush into the new West Division alongside the Steelheads. The Rush will look to spoil the party for Steelheads fans and win their second straight ECHL road-opener. The Steelheads are 4-3-2 in their past ten home openers at CenturyLink Arena.
STEELHEAD TO WATCH
Andre Bouvet-Morrissette put everyone on notice during the preseason that if he is healthy, he can have a tremendous impact offensively. Injuries have hampered the Morrissette in the past, limiting him to just 49 games in his first two pro seasons. He’s healthy this season, and got off to a promising start in training camp with three goals in two preseason games, and another in the preseason’s mock overtime periods. Morrissette has speed and a solid release that he has put to use in camp skating alongside Jefferson Dahl and Andrew Carroll. Those two play gritty in the corners and around the net and can create space for Morrissette to skate through. A strong Morrissette is a difficult matchup for any coach in a second or even third line situation.
RUSH TO WATCH
Rapid City has brought back last year’s second-leading scorer in Kale Kerbashian (62 points in 65 games), but another high-flying forward deserves equal or greater attention. Cody Ferriero had a tremendous, albeit brief, rookie campaign last season. The 23 year old sniper racked up 20 goals and 45 points in just 39 games and averaged 1.2 points per game, finishing second in the league among rookies. A fifth-round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2010, Ferriero has solid offensive tools that will have the Steelheads defense aware of him at all times.
Youth vs. Experience
Graham will make his head coaching debut up against a man who has been around the block a time or two. While Graham has three years of experience as an assistant, Joe Ferras is entering his eighth season behind the bench in Rapid City and his 17th season in coaching in general, including two seasons in the AHL. It’s a good challenge for Graham right off the bat, knowing he has the skill and speed on his roster to play the up-tempo style that he likes. If Ferras is able to slow the pace of the game down into a trench battle, it will be interesting to see what adjustments the young coaching tandem behind the Steelheads bench can make. Graham has packed a lot of information into the minds of his players in the past two weeks. In a game that will likely still have its share of mistakes, we’ll see which team adjusts the best on the fly.