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Steelheads’ ‘Road’ to Success

Monday, February 15th
Steelheads’ ‘Road’ to Success

On December 10th, the Idaho Steelheads were at the bottom of the West Division and just a week and a half removed from a difficult road trip during which they went 2-4-2. The Steelheads were 5-8-2 away from home during the road-heavy start to the season. Fast-forward to February, and the Steelheads are singing a very different tune while battling the Utah Grizzlies for the top spot in the West. That once struggling road record is a big reason why they’ve turned things around.

“I think it’s been our collective game, whether we’re at home or on the road over the last 25 games,” said Head Coach Neil Graham. “We were at a point of almost desperation in our game, where every game felt like, ‘we have to win tonight.’ We needed that urgency and that’s the way our guys play every night whether it’s home or away.”

It’s certainly true that the Steelheads’ performance on Capitol Boulevard has vastly improved as well during the middle third of the season, but for a team whose 28 road games this season are currently tied for the most played in the ECHL, the Steelheads needed an about-face outside of Idaho. Since December 10th, the Steelheads are 10-3-0 on the road, including four straight road wins and seven wins in their last nine games away from Boise.

The Steelheads have consistently been getting the ‘solid road game’, showing the attention to detail that grinds out wins.

“A lot of times you need to get your legs going in the first period and we talk about a hit and a shot. Everyone gets a hit and a shot in the first period to get into the game, get into the rhythm,” said Graham.

“Blocked shots, sacrifices, pucks in and pucks out, they’re all small things. We’re not saying anything crazy. It’s those small details that over the course of 60 minutes will lead to success. Over the last 25 games we’ve been very good at those little details.”

Those small details amount to results like Saturday night’s 1-0 shootout win in Idaho. Jack Campbell has earned four shutouts this season, all against divisional opponents and three of them on the road. Two of them also came at Maverik Center against the Grizzlies, both of them 1-0 wins.

“A 1-0 win on the road, you don’t see that often. And I think it means you grinded. A lot of times on the road you need to grind out games, you need to stick with your structure and our guys have been great at that,” said Graham. “There are a lot of ways to skin a cat, but when everyone is doing things structurally the same way, you’re going to have success whether you’re at home or on the road.”

The Steelheads have just eight road games remaining on their schedule, three of them coming this weekend when the Steelheads visit Wichita for the first time and then head to Tulsa next Tuesday. That obviously means a heavy home schedule, also good news for a team that has gone 10-3-1 in home games in the middle third of the season.

By fighting through a challenging road schedule in October and November, the Steelheads earned this opportunity with a majority of home games heading towards the playoffs. But while the Steelheads took their lumps in that early portion of the season, they did not settle. They battled back against the trend and now have the fourth-most road points in the league.

“As tough as it was losing hockey games, you could still see positives with our character and our leadership. Seeing guys still finding ways to get closer during those tough times, which isn’t easy to do, goes to show you the character of our team,’ said Graham.

“Now that we’re being rewarded for those efforts, we’re that much closer because winning is fun.”

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