The Steelheads make their first trip to Atlanta since 2013 for another three-in-three, this weekend with the Atlanta Gladiators. The Steelheads and Glads have already met this season, a three game set at CenturyLink Arena back in early November that did not go the Steelheads’ way. Idaho went 0-2-1 against the Gladiators on home ice and look to return the favor at Infinite Energy Arena.
The Steelheads have won three of their last four games and are coming off a 5-2 win over the Aces, their highest goal total since December 30th. The Gladiators are in the throws of a back-and-forth January, going 6-5-0 but losing back-to-back contests to Evansville and South Carolina. The Gladiators have dropped three of their last four.
The Gladiators are 7-3-0 against the Western Conference this season and 5-1-0 against the West Division, while the Steelheads have had their challenges with the Eastern Conference going 1-6-2 this season.
The Steelheads come to town with a red-hot Emil Molin, with points in six straight games (5-2-7) and four goals in the past three games. Rob Linsmayer has two goals and six points in his last six games. The Gladiators have offensive guns of their own with three players- Derek Nesbitt, Garry Nunn, and Thomas Frazee- above the 30 point mark. Matt Register, who earned Player of the Week honors at the turn of the New Year, had 18 points in 111 games between December 26th and January 16th. He has one assist in four games since.
Friday night’s game serves as a homecoming for two Steelheads. Zack Kamrass grew up in Atlanta and plays his first professional game in Georgia. Zach Yuen was acquired from the Gladiators at the beginning of December after playing 52 games with the Gladiators over two seasons.
STEELHEAD TO WATCH
Hat tricks will make people take notice, and Carson McMillan played one of his best games as a Steelhead on Wednesday with a three-goal performance against the Rapid City Rush. It was McMillan’s first career hat trick and Idaho’s first since March 27th of last season, their first on home ice since April of 2014. McMillan now has four goals in his last three games. His skating has noticeably picked up in January and he’s obviously being rewarded for it. The Steelheads will need secondary scoring to top a Gladiators team that netted 13 goals in three games in Idaho. McMillan’s continued scoring touch would be a benefit.
GLADIATOR TO WATCH
Former Steelhead Derek Nesbitt leads the ECHL with 22 goals and is tied for the ECHL lead with Jefferson Dahl with nine power play goals. Nesbitt forms a formidable one-two punch on the Gladiators’ fourth-ranked power play with Gary Nunn, whose 18 power play points rank second in the ECHL. Nesbitt netted two goals in three games against the Steelheads the last time these teams met, one of them with the man-advantage. For a reminder, Nesbitt tallied 51 assists for Idaho in the 2006-07 season, a Steelheads single-season record.
The Steelheads and Gladiators have both had their fair share of overtime hockey this season, but with vastly different results. The Gladiators are 8-2 in overtime and shootout games this season, including an OT win in Idaho, while the Steelheads have gone 3-5 in overtime this season. These teams played two high-scoring, one-goal games back in November, but this will be a Gladiators team that faces jack Campbell for the first time. Still, 3-on-3 hockey with Nesbitt and Nunn on the ice together is something the Steelheads would like to avoid if possible. The Steelheads want to decide these games in regulation if they can.