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Preview: Streaking Steelheads Face Aces

Wednesday, March 2nd
Preview: Streaking Steelheads Face Aces

The Aces made their first visit of the season to Boise during the first week of February and snapped a four-game Steelheads winning streak in the process. This week, they are back in Boise again looking to snap another streak for Idaho. The Steelheads have earned points in five straight games and look to improve their 5-4-0 season record over the last-place Aces.

The Steelheads snagged three of an available four points last weekend against the Utah Grizzlies, expanding their lead atop the West Division to three points. During that series, the Steelheads saw continued production from the line of Carson McMillan, Andre Morrissette, and Joe Basaraba, with McMillan scoring his tenth goal in 15 games on Saturday and both Morrissette and Basaraba pushing their February point totals to 11 over the weekend.

The Steelheads also maintained their current points streak with a shootout loss that was the product of two comebacks in the third period’s final seven minutes to force overtime. It was just the second time the Steelheads had earned a point when trailing after two periods.

The Aces are coming off four straight losses and are 1-5-0 thus far during their current nine-game road-trip that wraps up this week. The road hasn’t been kind to Alaska this season, with only three teams in the ECHL earning fewer than Alaska’s 20 road points.

While the Aces have struggled to win games, they have gotten solid performances from individuals. Peter Sivak continues to produce at better than a point-per-game pace. Sivak has seven goals and 11 points in nine games. Steven Perfetto has also been effective of late with a goal and five assists in the past seven contests. These two forwards have been looked to more heavily since Tim Coffman was lost to injury during the last series between these teams, with Coffman still not back in the Aces lineup.

Forward Justin Breton leads the Aces with 17 goals but has been fairly quiet of late, with just two goals and six points in February. He has had success against Idaho this season, netting three goals and six points this season.

In net, the Aces have ridden Troy Redmann a tremendous amount this season. Redmann’s 2,304 minutes are third in the ECHL. Lately, however, the Aces have shifted to Jacob DeSerres. DeSerres was acquired from Adirondack in mid-February, and has played in five straight games for the Aces. DeSerres is 1-3-1 in six appearances with Alaska, with a 3.23 goals-against average and a .857 save percentage.

The Aces have suffered other injuries in addition to Coffman, with former-Steelhead Daniel Johnston and defenseman Mitch Jones out long-term. William Wrenn has also been out since February 19th.

STEELHEAD TO WATCH

When Kyle Jean is skating well, he is a dangerous man. Jean has scored empty-net goals in two of three games, but it’s his defensive play on Saturday night that indicates Jean is feeling good about his game. Jean was swarming in the neutral zone, making life miserable for Barry Almeida and Charles Sarault. Expect more room for Jean to work with in the middle of the ice against Alaska, meaning more room for Jean to throw on the jets. Jean has three goals and four points in his last five games, and he can be the driving force behind Idaho’s transition game.

ACE TO WATCH

Wrenn has been effective against the Steelheads, but if he is unavailable for the Aces they can also turn to forward Tommaso Traversa. Traversa had a challenging February, with just one goal and one assist in 12 games, and both points coming in the same contest. But the rookie has done well against Idaho on the year, earning four goals and an assist in the season series. Idaho shut him down in the last series between these teams, and with the Aces spread thin by injury, they should have no trouble keeping track of Traversa again.

KEY MATCHUP

The Aces may be in last place in the West Division, but the Steelheads learned in February that it’s dangerous to let a struggling team stick around in a game. The Aces snapped Idaho’s four-game winning streak at the start of February. The Steelheads were also shut-out on home ice by a Rapid City team that was at the bottom of the West Division at the time, and went to overtime twice with last-place Wichita. This three-game set against the Aces offers important points for the Steelheads, looking to expand their lead over Utah while the Grizzlies trek to Quad City, Indianapolis, and Kalamazoo. The first ten minutes of the first period, particularly on Wednesday, will be critical for Idaho. They will be looking for the same start they got in the first period Saturday against Utah, allowing them both breathing room and momentum against an Aces team that has had a frustrating road trip.

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