For much of this season’s first month, the Idaho Steelhead power play wasn’t doing much to help them win games. The Steelheads relied heavily on their penalty kill, which was ranked top-5 in the league at one time, while the power play struggled to gain traction. In fact, It was just a couple of weeks ago that the Idaho Steelhead power play ranked 27th out of 28 teams in the ECHL.
That was then, and this is now. The Steelheads’ offensive explosion that has fueled their current six-game unbeaten streak has gotten a huge boost from their power play units. Of their 28 goals scored in the past six games, 12 have come with the man-advantage.
“Scoring kind of goes in that up-and-down flow state, and we’re riding it right now,” said Steelheads’ forward Jefferson Dahl. “It’s about out-working them. You see (Rob Linsmayer) and (Emil Molin) are great at forechecking pucks and retrieving them and it starts from there.”
Possession has been key for that first unit of Dahl, Molin, and Linsmayer. Dahl’s eight power play goals are tied for the league lead, and he has scored power play goals in four straight games heading into Monday night’s contest. Linsmayer and Molin have played the role of set-up man well, combining for nine power play assists on the season. Two newcomers to the team, working the points on that unit, have also had a huge impact.
Kyle Jean and Zach Yuen man the blue line and have had a big offensive impact. Yuen has two power play goals and 5 power play assists in 11 games since coming over to Idaho, while Jean has earned seven of his 12 points during his six-game points streak via the man-advantage.
“I think it starts with the guys up top. You can see more movement out of our power play,” said Dahl. “Guys are moving it better and it just comes down to taking advantage of the opportunities if you get them. Right now, they’re going in.”
That includes the second unit where Zack Kamrass has been arguably the team’s most consistent offensive blue liner, earning eight of his 16 points this season on the power play. Tommy Fallen has three power play assists in the last four games.
Both Dahl and Carson McMillan have also been dominant on face-offs, in all phases of the game. But on the power play, in the offensive zone, the ability to establish possession and set up in the offensive zone is key.
“A lot of them are 50/50s and the wingers are battling and getting pucks free,” said Dahl. “Possession off the get-go is huge especially on the power play.”
The Steelheads power play is clicking at 34.7 percent over the last six games, a tremendous boost for a team that is playing just as well at even strength.
“Confidence is the funniest thing. You always want to have it, but sometimes when you’re in a tough spot you feel like things won’t go your way,” said Jean, whose power play production went a long way in earning him ECHL Player of the Week status last week. “Right now things are going our way, and every time we get on the power play we feel like we’re going to score. That mindset translates to us doing well.”
That timeliness of the Steelheads man-advantage has been crucial. The Steelheads hadn’t scored more than one power play goal in a game all season up until December 16th’s 8-5 win over the Grizzlies in which they scored four. They now have two or more power play goals in three of their last four games, but it isn’t just how many they’re scoring but also when.
The Steelheads four power play tallies in the second period of their December 16th game against Utah helped to erase a 4-1 deficit and fuel eight consecutive goals. Yuen’s power play goal on Saturday was part of a double-barreled response to turn back the Grizzlies’ comeback effort and Dahl’s late third period power play tally iced the game. In Idaho’s 4-2 win over Tulsa on December 11th, the first win of their current streak, Kamrass’ 5-on-3 blast in the third period put the Steelheads in front for good.
The Steelheads’ power play is finding the back of the net at the right times to punctuate games and cement their recent climb in the standings.
“I think that’s guys staying with it, knowing we’re playing well and that we’re going to win,” said Jean. “And that confidence goes through the whole game, not just the power play. I think no matter what type of game it is, if it’s 2-2 or 5-0, I think we’re in a good mindset where we think we can score at any moment.”