It’s been one of the most consistent aspects of the Steelheads’ game this season. The Idaho Steelheads have had the proper personnel from the get-go to have a dominant penalty killing unit, and with the team now preparing for a playoff run, that part of their game plan is among the league’s strongest.
The Steelheads have given up just one power play goal in the last ten games, and none in the past eight. Over that stretch, they have successfully negated 28 of 29 shorthanded situations.
“I think it’s a team concept,” said Andre Morrissette, who skates up front with Carson McMillan on the team’s top PK unit. “We work extremely hard and we have a lot of trust in each other.”
Shot-blocking stands out in any Steelheads’ game and is certainly an important element of the Idaho penalty kill. Yet the Steelheads have had the benefit of multiple methods when attacking power play puck-carriers. Certainly the shot-blocking exploits of Corbin Baldwin, Andrew Carroll, and McMillan are important, but the Steelheads have also brought speed to the equation.
Jake Fallon and Morrissette earn significant time killing penalties because of the pressure they can provide, not just within their own zone but also in the neutral zone. That’s where the Steelheads’ killing units have made the greatest strides this season, using speed in the neutral zone to challenge opponents at the blue line.
“I love being able to use my speed,” said Morrissette. “It enables me to win races to recover pucks and to put pressure on opponents when they try to enter our zone.”
The less time you spend in your own zone killing penalties, the better you’re doing. The Steelheads aggressive work between the blue lines has made it extremely difficult for power play puck-carriers to break into Idaho territory with control.
When other teams have been able to set up in the Idaho zone, the Steelheads have had the benefit of standout play from their most important penalty killers, the goaltenders.
Branden Komm has won four of his last five starts for Idaho. Philippe Desrosiers, a major player in Saturday night’s 5-for-5 PK performance, earned his first professional shutout on Saturday and is 8-0-2 in his last 10 starts for Idaho.
The Steelheads will face decent power play teams over the final weeks of the season- 10th ranked Utah, 11th ranked Colorado, and 12th ranked Missouri. Teams that go far in the playoffs need reliable penalty killing, and the Steelheads will have the opportunity to test theirs against some playoff-bound teams before the season winds down.