The Idaho Steelheads continue to roll after sweeping their back-to-back series with the West Division-leading Utah Grizzlies, now preparing to host the Colorado Eagles for a three-game set at CenturyLink Arena. The Steelheads’ Salt Lake success pushed them within three points of the Grizzlies, but it also moved them into second place and one point in front of the Eagles in the West.
It’s no secret that much of the ECHL has games in hand on Idaho, making the Steelheads furious seven-game points streak even more important as they keep pace in the Western Conference playoff picture. But their one point lead over Colorado comes with only two more games played than the Eagles, meaning that if the Steelheads can take care of business at CenturyLink Arena this week, their recent surge and their position in the standings will be even more legitimized.
The Steelheads are getting offensive contributions up and down their lineup. Kyle Jean’s seven game points streak (3-11-14) is one game shy of the team’s longest of the season, set at eight games by Rob Linsmayer back in November. Linsmayer has a strong streak going himself with points in five straight games (4-5-9), while Jefferson Dahl also has points in five straight games (4-3-7) and six goals in the past eight games. Philippe Desrosiers is also playing his best hockey of the season in nets going 5-0-1 in his last six starts, with a 2.01 goals-against average in that time.
The Eagles aren’t limping into Boise either, winners of two and straight and six of their last eight. Their only losses in that span came at the hands of the Grizzlies. Much of the Eagles success has come at Budweiser Events Center, but away from the nest they have struggled. They are 3-9-0 on the road this season and have picked up wins in just two of their last seven road games.
The Eagles do remain a special teams power, as Steelheads fans may remember from the teams’ three-game set in November in which the Steelheads went 1-1-1. Colorado ranks fourth in the ECHL on the penalty kill and sixth on the power play, with some of the same dangerous characters playing a key role in both phases of the game.
STEELHEAD TO WATCH
Emil Molin has quietly put together a tremendous month for the Steelheads, now with three goals over the past two games, but also with points in seven of Idaho’s past eight games (5-6-11). In those eight games, Molin has also posted a plus-5 rating, raising his season mark to plus-7 to lead all Idaho forwards. Molin is one of the Steelheads most effective defensive forwards and is second in team scoring as part of Idaho’s most potent forward line with Dahl and Linsmayer. There’s still yet another level Molin can reach.
EAGLES TO WATCH
Kyle Kramer and Trent Daavettila gave the Steelheads fits during the first three games between these two teams, with Kramer netting four goals in two contests including one on the power play and one shorthanded. Daavettila had three assists for Colorado as part of their most potent line with agitating scorer Jesse Mychan. Kramer now has seven goals and 12 points in 13 games with Colorado, while Daavattila is second in ECHL scoring with 32 points. Daavattila has six multipoint games in the month of December.
The Steelheads twice were unable to hang on to late third period leads in Colorado, once managing to prevail in overtime and once falling in overtime. This is a much different Idaho team, one that has gotten stronger as games have moved on and one that has been scoring with confidence. A lot of the credit for that goes to the goaltending of Desrosiers as well, as he has held the fort and allowed the Steelheads to mechanically build on momentum throughout games. The Eagles have plenty of offensive weapons and bring their own brand of snarl as well with the likes of Darryl Bootland. The Steelheads can expect a physical game but must impose their will in the third period as they have without fail throughout the teams seven-game points streak.