1. Home
  2. News
  3. Preview: First Place Showdown

Preview: First Place Showdown

Thursday, February 11th
Preview: First Place Showdown

The Steelheads have had a lot of success this season against the first-place Utah Grizzlies, going 6-2-0 this season and at one point winning six in a row. On Friday night, the Steelheads and Grizzlies will square off at CenturyLink Arena in the first of a back-to-back, home-and-home set, with the Steelheads within range to leap Utah and snag first place in the West Division for the first time since October 21st.

The Steelheads have won two straight games, snagging the final two contests in their series with the Alaska Aces before a six day break from game play. The Grizzlies have had equal downtime, with their last game a 3-1 loss to Tulsa last Saturday. The Grizzlies have lost back-to-back games and are 5-5-0 in their last ten. They hold two games in hand on Idaho.

The Steelheads, as a team, have been happy to see the Grizzlies on the schedule. Rob Linsmayer leads the Steelheads with four goals and 11 points in eight games against the Grizzlies. Kyle Jean has been a Steelhead for five battles with Utah this season, putting up seven points. Carson McMillan’s six points against the Grizzlies are more than he has against any opponent except Rapid City.

Andre Morrissette had a strong week against Alaska, a three-game points streak (2-2-4) that he carries into this weekend.

Charles Sarault leads the Grizzlies with 44 points after an explosive month of January. Sarault netted six goals and 18 points in 15 January games, including six multi-point games. He has two goals in three contests in February, and six points this year against Idaho.

Alex Krushelnyski and Matt Berry were major players to watch in the first half of this season series, but the Steelheads clamped down on both with more success in the last few meetings. Berry is currently with AHL San Diego, but Krushelnyski remains a target for Idaho on defense. He is without a point in three February games, but recorded points in ten of 11 games last month (6-9-15).

The Grizzlies added forward Ryan Hayes this week. Hayes spent the first part of this season in England, but put up 55 points in 72 games between Stockton and Utah last season. In five ECHL seasons, Hayes has scored 106 goals.

The Grizzlies’ penalty kill leaves a lot to be desired, but can still be a stumbling block for the Steelheads. Utah’s PK unit ranks dead-last in the ECHL, but their aggressive style has produced 10 shorthanded goals, tied for the league lead. That includes a shorthanded goal in the last meeting between these teams at Maverik Center on January 9th, Ryan Walters’ second shorthanded goal of the season and the eventual game-winner. The Steelheads’ power play units will see some shuffling this weekend without Emil Molin, and the revised units will have to be aware of the Utah scoring threat, as well as looking to capitalize for themselves.

STEELHEAD TO WATCH

Without Molin, the Steelheads need offense from other areas and last week was a heck of a confidence booster in that department. The Steelheads got four points from Andre Morrissette, Jake Rutt’s first pro goals, and two goals from Jake Fallon. But fans will want to keep a close eye on newly-acquired Radoslav Illo, who netted two goals and added an assist in his Steelhead debut on Saturday. That was without any practice time and barely any time to learn his linemates. Illo now has gotten a full week of practice under his belt and may find himself in some more offensive situations with Molin not on the roster. We’ll see what Illo does with the enhanced opportunity.

GRIZZLY TO WATCH

The Utah blue line has dramatically changed since they last met with the Steelheads, with Ryan Misiak, Corey Fienhage, and Jason Binkley all playing in new uniforms. With the Steelheads deep scoring of late, there will be more pressure than ever on Eric Knodel, still a Grizzly and a leader on their blue line. Playing his third pro season, Knodel leads the Grizzlies with a plus-11 rating and leads defensemen with 16 points. A former fifth-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Grizzlies will heap heavy minutes on Knodel this weekend and hope for a shutdown performance.

KEY MATCHUP

This season series, with the exception of one game, has been all about goaltending. After Ryan Faragher made 46 saves in the first meeting of the year between these teams, Philippe Desrosiers rattled off wins in the next five, never surrendering more than two goals and three times holding the Grizzlies to a single tally. Jack Campbell continued that trend with a 1-0 shutout win on January 8th, with Faragher responding with a 3-1 win the following night. Faragher remains one of the league’s best goaltenders, but three of his eight losses this year have come at the hands of the Steelheads. Campbell meanwhile leads the ECHL in goals-against average and save percentage and has surrendered one goal or fewer in eight of 15 starts this season. Expect a battle in the blue paint.

Latest News

More News
STEELHEADS SEASON COMES TO A CLOSE IN OVERTIME LOSS
STEELHEADS SEASON COMES TO A CLOSE IN OVERTIME LOSS
STEELHEADS FACE ELIMINATION TOMORROW AFTER GAME FOUR LOSS
STEELHEADS FACE ELIMINATION TOMORROW AFTER GAME FOUR LOSS
THIRD PERIOD RALLY COMES UP SHORT AS MAVERICKS TAKE 2-1 SERIES LEAD
THIRD PERIOD RALLY COMES UP SHORT AS MAVERICKS TAKE 2-1 SERIES LEAD

Get Hockey Updates

Sign up for our email newsletter to be the first to know about news and upcoming games!