The Idaho Steelheads and Utah Grizzlies will be at it again on Tuesday night for the final dress rehearsal for the regular season, this time in front of the fans at CenturyLink Arena. The Steelheads made a late push for the equalizer at the Utah Olympic Oval on Monday night, but ultimately fell in their preseason opener, 3-2. Kyle Jean and Will Merchant both scored for Idaho, while Branden Komm and Troy Redmann both split time in the net. New Grizzlies forward Brandon McNally netted the eventual game-winner on a short-handed break in the second period.
More New Blood
Expect a few more players to work their way into the second exhibition game Tuesday night as Head Coach Neil Graham gets his last look prior to the start of the season. Players like Joe Basarba, Rob Linsmayer, and Charlie Dodero returned from AHL camp over the weekend and did not dress in Utah. They are expected to lace up in Idaho. Likewise, other recent returners like Zach Bell and goaltender Henri Kiviaho will likely see game action.
Will Merchant stood out in his first pro action on Monday night, using his speed to create scoring chances throughout the night. His goal in the final two minutes was again the result of him being around the front of the net and having a sense for the puck. Merchant is coming off his best offensive season in 2015-16 at Maine where he set a career-high with 13 goals. and 22 points, and that confidence appears to have carried through the summer.
Building Good Habits
Preseason hockey rarely looks perfect. Players are learning to play with new teammates and adjusting to different X’s and O’s, all while auditioning for a job. Yet simple discipline can go a long way in securing that job, and that’s an area the Steelheads will want to improve on before the season opens on October 14th. The Steelheads were shorthanded five times on Monday, including a considerably lengthy 5-on-3. To their credit, they were perfect on the kill, a reminder of last year’s stout second-ranked PK. Still, the Steelheads negated two of their own power plays in the early moments with penalties as well. These are things that you’re meant to clean up in the preseason, and the Steelheads will want to do so on Tuesday.