The Steelheads meet both the Allen Americans and Tulsa Oilers this week for the first time, taking to the road for four games in five nights. The Steelheads controlled long stretches of play during their three-game series with the Florida Everblades at CenturyLink Arena, but they’ll look for more than two points as they hop back and forth between Texas and Oklahoma on another challenging road trip.
While the Steelheads shuttle-run between the two cities, the Americans will have three off-days between games with the Steelheads. The Oilers will have had a full week off between games when they meet the Steelheads.
“It’s going to be important to eat well sleep well, important to be a pro,” said defenseman Shawn Boutin of the Steelheads next four games. “We’ll take it one game at a time one shift at a time and go from there.”
The Steelheads begin the trip at Allen Event Center on Wednesday against the Americans, who sit fourth in the Western Conference after back-to-back wins against the Rapid City Rush and Utah Grizzlies. The Americans have been largely hot-and-cold, sitting six games over .500 but going 5-5-0 in their past ten games. The Steelheads will want to lift their offense after managing just two goals or fewer in five of their past seven games. They’ll want to boost that to keep pace with the Americans, who have scored the fourth most goals in the ECHL with 70. Idaho can expect opportunities as the Americans have also given up 65 goals this season, fourth most in the Western Conference.
Thursday and Friday the Steelheads head to BOK Center to meet the Oilers, who have the same 18 points in the standings as Idaho but have played four fewer games. Tulsa has won three of their last five games and are coming off a strong 5-1 win over Utah. That was their only win in their last home-stand, with the Oilers 5-5-1 at BOK Center this season. Yet they’re 2-4-7 in their last seven games at home.
STEELHEAD TO WATCH
Brandon Magee is riding a three-game points streak (1-2-3) into Wednesday night’s game against Allen, scoring the Steelheads’ lone goal Saturday to unleash the Teddy Bear Toss. Magee currently is tied for 12th in rookie scoring and has been a key play-maker on the power play in recent games, particularly working from the point. That also includes the five-forward look that Graham has employed on the 5-on-3 advantage. The three-game streak is the second-longest of Magee’s young career, and longest since his five-game streak to start the season.
AMERICAN TO WATCH
After taking the ECHL scoring title last season with 125 points in 72 games, Chad Costello is back atop the leader board with 30 points and mostly powered by a league-leading 21 assists. Costello is coming off a hat trick and a five point game in Allen’s Saturday over Utah. While he’s an effective set-up man he also leads Allen in goals, giving the Steelheads a conundrum as to whether it’s more important to blanket Costello or focus on taking away his options in the offensive zone. The Steelheads struggled to contain Florida’s Matt Willows last week, but they did a much better job against Ethan Werek as the week went on. They’ll look to play that same physical, bump-and-run style against Costello on Wednesday.
OILER TO WATCH
Emerson Clark joined the Oilers late In November from the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, and he’s fit in just fine in his new home. Clark has points in four of his past five games and six of eight games since joining Tulsa, netting five goals and two assists in that time. He’s also netted two power play goals in his brief stretch with Tulsa. Clark put up a career-high 25 points last season with Greenville and certainly seems well on his way to breaking that mark again this year.
The Steelheads need to finish their chances, plain and simple. They have heavily outshot opponents in five of their past six games and had numerous scoring opportunities, but that only led to one big-output performance on Friday night. The Steelheads are generating offensively both within the zone and off of the odd-man rushes they are creating. They are winning the battles in the neutral zone and along the boards, but they’ll need to win more of them in front of the net, especially those of the 1-on-1 variety with the goaltender.