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SERIES PREVIEW: Rapid City Rematch

Thursday, March 17th
SERIES PREVIEW: Rapid City Rematch

After splitting last weekend’s two game-set in South Dakota, the Steelheads prepare for two more contests with the Rapid City Rush this weekend at CenturyLink Arena. The series will kick off a five-game home-stand for the Steelheads, while the Rush will be wrapping up a stretch of six games in nine days.

The Steelheads have been able to rest up prior to this weekend, not playing a game since Saturday night’s shutout win at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. The Rush schedule has been much less forgiving, with Rapid City playing back-to-back, home-and-home games with the Colorado Eagles. The Rush took both games, pulling them within six points of the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.

Ryan Walters and Josh Macdonald have proven to be significant additions for the Rush since they were acquired from the Utah Grizzlies on March 1st, with Walters racking up 11 points and Macdonald nine points in seven games with the Rush. Walters has earned at least a point in five of those seven games.

Lindsay Sparks, whose breakaway goal beat the Steelheads on Friday night, is red-hot for Rapid City, netting six goals and 11 points in seven games in March.

The Steelheads continue to get contributions from Joe Basaraba, who heads into Friday night’s game with a five-game points streak. The Steelheads’ third line has been bringing the offense as well, with goals in five of the last eight games and six in that span.

The Steelheads penalty kill is among the hottest in the ECHL, perfect in the past eight games and successful in 28 of its last 29 kills.

The Steelheads are 4-4-1 this season against the Rush, and 2-1-1 at CenturyLink Arena.

STEELHEAD TO WATCH

Carson McMillan is always happy to see the Rush on the schedule. With his power play goal last Saturday night, McMillan now has six goals and nine points in nine games this season against Rapid City, including a hat trick at CenturyLink Arena on January 27th. And the captain’s strong numbers are hardly reserved just for the Rush, with McMillan putting up 11 goals and 14 points in the past 20 games.

RUSH TO WATCH

The Steelheads have dominated long stretches of play for most of the seasons series’ nine games, and yet the Steelheads have come away from five of those games without a win. Danny Battochio has a lot to do with that, particularly in recent meetings. Battochio has given up just one goal in his last six periods against Idaho, after he shut out the Steelheads in Boise on February 17th and then beat them again last Friday in Rapid City. Battochio is 3-2-0 against Idaho this season and has played well enough to give his team a chance to find a way to win almost every night.

KEY MATCHUP

The Steelheads need to assert themselves in the first period against the Rush. Rapid City is still a minus-30 in first periods this season, the worst mark in the ECHL. When the Steelheads have been successful this year against the Rush, they’ve taken advantage of that weakness. When Rapid City is able to fight for a tie after 20 minutes of play, their ability to stay alive in the game and find a way to win increases dramatically. They are 15-4-3 this year when tied after the first period. When the Steelheads take advantage of the first 20 minutes, as they did on Saturday with Radoslav Illo’s goal on the first shift, the Steelheads have been able to cruise. Particularly with Battochio’s strong play against the Steelheads this year, Idaho needs to get to work right out of the gate to shrink that magic number for a playoff spot.

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