The Steelheads spent Monday afternoon on the ice at Germain Arena, taking one last spin in Florida before heading back out west for the final six games of this road-trip. That trip continues with a three-game set against the Colorado Eagles starting Wednesday night at the Budweiser Events Center.
The Steelheads have been in a rut during November, winless since their November 2nd victory in Utah. Still, Head Coach Neil Graham sees the signs that his team is coming around after two hard-fought games against the Everblades.
“I think in the last two games against Florida that even though we came out on the wrong end of the score, we definitely tightened up in some defensive areas,” said Graham. “They’re a high-octane offensive team, and I thought Friday night we pushed the play in the first period and played arguably our best period of hockey this season.”
“We got a 2-0 lead against the best team in the league, and then I think came out a bit flat in the second period and gave up a couple of goals we wanted back. But we rebounded nicely Saturday on the structural side of things. It doesn’t make the loss feel any better but it was nice to see us improve some of our structure.”
No one in the Steelheads room is pleased with a 0-4-2 stretch, and there are no moral victories. Still, their performance against the Everblades reinforced for the players that they are doing a lot of the things necessary to win.
“I think this adversity right now will make us better in the long run,” said Graham. “Once we overcome this little skid we’re on and guys realize we can battle through anything, it will make us stronger down the stretch.”
- The Steelheads power play can hopefully serve as a model for the rest of the team’s ambitions, slumping horribly through October but clicking at about 20 percent for Idaho over the last six games. The Steelheads kept knocking on the door and getting better looks, and pucks have finally started going in. With the improvement in their play this weekend against top competition, they expect their fortune in the win column to improve just the same.
“We’ve been playing some good hockey teams in this stretch and they’ve all been very close games. Unfortunately, we’ve been on the wrong side of them,” said Graham. “If we continue to play hard and play well within our structure, we’re going to be fine.”
“We need to get back to feeling good, getting that enjoyment back in our day-to-day activities. This is our job and pressure isn’t a bad thing, but we need to harness that and turn it into a positive.”
- Despite the Steelheads’ recent struggles, the hardships haven’t set them back too far in the West Division. The Eagles have won only four times in their last ten games and sit last in the division. The Alaska Aces are winless in their past seven games and the Rapid City Rush are 2-4-1 in their last seven. Only the Utah Grizzlies have been winning consistently in November, and their lead over the Steelheads is just six points with one game in hand.
The Steelheads haven’t been winning, but they haven’t been falling far behind in the West either.
“It’s a very important six games,” said Graham of his team’s upcoming series against the Eagles and Rush. “Obviously the most important is Wednesday night. We need to put our foot down, get back to our divisional play, and come up with a good effort.”