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"Mac, Mo, and Boss" driving Idaho Offense

Thursday, March 3rd
"Mac, Mo, and Boss" driving Idaho Offense

If you take a glance at the stat sheet for the Steelheads’ last six games, you’re going to see three names an awful lot. Those six games represent Idaho’s second-longest points streak this season (4-0-2) and it’s been heavily fueled by the offensive production of Steelheads captain Carson McMillan, Joe Basaraba, and Andre Morrissette.

Call it the MoJoe line?

The three first-year Steelheads have been on fire since the start of February. McMillan has 10 goals and 12 points over the last 16 games, with two hat tricks in that time and a current five-game points streak. Morrissette has five points in his last six games, and five goals and 12 points in his last 12 games. Basaraba’s impact has been more recent, netting four goals and ten points in the last six contests.

One of the most lethal elements of this trio has been its ability to produce offense no matter what tenor the game takes.

“You look at a couple of our goals the last few games, some of them stem from the defensive zone,” said Basaraba. “Mac has been selling down there as a low centerman and Mo and I have been coming through with speed. I think with our speed and size, it’s our bread and butter out there.”

That was on display against the Aces on Wednesday night for Basaraba’s goal. McMillan made a sharp stretch pass through the neutral zone that sprung Morrissette on a breakaway. Goaltender Jacob DeSerres made the initial save, but Basaraba was a stride behind Morrissette the entire way and scooped up the rebound for a 2-1 Steelheads lead.

McMillan has scored a number of his goals this season with clean wrist shots in stride, but he’s also dangerous off the cycle. Saturday against Utah, McMillan and Morrissette played a game of give-and-go out of the corner before the captain bulled his way to the front of the net to score his 16th of the year.

For all three players, it’s a matter of winning battles on the forecheck and playing straight-line hockey when the opportunity presents itself.

“I think we’re sticking to the basics, getting pucks deep and using our speed. We’ve got a couple big bodies on our line and when we can hem them in down low and control the puck, that’s a key to our success,” said Basaraba.

The line has been so strong for the Steelheads that Head Coach Neil Graham recently inserted the line as the team’s second power play unit, since which McMillan and Basaraba have both netted power play goals.

“We’re three hard working guys and we try to bring the same energy to the power play. We’re getting good looks. We’d like to score more but that will come with time,” said Morrissette. “We support each other and we skate the puck. It’s funny how it works with three righties, that’s unusual, but I think we’ve found good chemistry.”

It is encouraging for the Steelheads that this offensive outburst is coming at just the right time for all three players, just 14 games from the playoffs.

McMillan was a key penalty-killer to start the season and arguably Idaho’s best face-off man, but had only six goals through the first 40 games. Morrissette leads the team in shots on goal with 161 but wasn’t consistently scoring until mid-Decemeber. Basaraba was in search of his first goal up until an upper-body injury put him on injured reserve in late November, a stint that would cost him 24 games.

Now all three players are playing their best hockey and have become lethal scoring threats. And they are doing it together.

“I had a slow start to the season obviously. But even though the numbers weren’t there, I was doing things the right way before the injury,” said Basaraba. “Luckily enough, when I came back I was able to pop the first one early and got the ball rolling. With a couple new line-mates, it gave me a spark and I’m trying to run with it.”

While this unit is running with it, so are the Steelheads as a team. Idaho is now five points clear of the Utah Grizzlies atop the West Division. Morrissette didn’t know his recent statistics when he came off the ice after Thursday practice, but he knew about that division lead.

“It’s a team effort and it’s fun to get points, but the team’s wins are better for us,” said Morrissette.

“It’s fun to win.”

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