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Jean and Merchant score, but Steelheads drop preseason opener

Tuesday, October 11th
Jean and Merchant score, but Steelheads drop preseason opener

Salt Lake City, UT (10/10/16)—Will Merchant’s goal with 1:48 left in regulation brought Idaho within a goal, but the Steelheads could not find the equalizer as the Grizzlies (1-0-0) took the first of back-to-back preseason meetings with the Steelheads (0-1-0), 3-2 at the Utah Olympic Oval.

Merchant, a rookie who arrived with the Steelheads over the weekend, was impressive in his first professional action creating scoring chances throughout the night and finally being rewarded in the closing minutes with his first goal of the preseason. Taylor Love released a shot from the right point that was blocked on its way to Utah’s rookie goaltender Kevin Boyle, the puck instead ricocheting out to the slot where Merchant was all alone to tuck the puck into an empty net and pull Idaho within a goal.

The Steelheads pulled their goalie in the final minute and buzzed the Grizzlies’ net, but could not even the score.

With the Steelheads trailing 2-0 in the second period, Kyle Jean cut the deficit in half with a power play tally at 12:24 of the period on a 5-on-3 set-up. Rookie defenseman Travis Walsh, signed by the Steelheads on Sunday, slid a pass from the point down into the left-wing corner for Jefferson Dahl. Dahl immediately fired a pass across the top of the goal-mouth for the waiting Jean, who beat Boyle to the glove side.

Branden Komm started the night in the Steelheads’ net, a game he split with Troy Redmann between the pipes. After a scoreless first period that featured eight saves by Komm, the Grizzlies opened the scoring with two goals in the first five minutes of the middle frame. Carlos Amestoy struck first for Utah, tapping in a 2-on-1 pass at 1:39 for a 1-0 Grizzlies lead.

At 4:38 of the second, Jon Puskar added to the lead for Utah when he capitalized on a bad bounce for the Steelheads. With Komm behind his own net to play the puck swinging around the wall in the Idaho zone, a strange carom allowed the puck to bounce through Komm and right to Puskar, who curled the puck into the open net.

Still trailing by a 2-1 score with 12:01 to play, the Steelheads had a chance to pull even when Kyle Bigos drew a cross-checking penalty on Utah’s Evan Stoflet. Instead, the Grizzlies would expand their lead when Anthony Luciani’s shot off the ensuing face-off was blocked, sending the Grizzlies’ Brandon McNally back the other way. McNally’s wrist shot from the left wing beat Redmann, and the Grizzlies led 3-1.

Even in preseason, it was a feisty match-up that saw the Steelheads earn 24 minutes in penalties, while Utah earned 26. That included fighting majors for Steelheads rookies Mike Moran and Kailum Gervais in their first pro action.

The Steelheads and Grizzlies head back to Boise for Tuesday night’s preseason finale at CenturyLink Arena, with puck-drop scheduled for 7:10. Tickets for the game are reserved for season ticket holders, and the game will not be aired on TV or radio. Fans can follow the Steelheads’ social media accounts for updates throughout the game.

Tickets are available for the Steelheads’ regular season home-opener on October 21st against the Grizzlies. For information, call 383-0080 or visit idahosteelheads.com.

STEELHEADS  STATS:

Goals: Jean (1); Merchant (1)

Branden Komm: 11 saves on 13 shots; Redmann: 18 saves on 19 shots

Power Play: 1-for-6

Penalty Kill: 5-for-5

CENTURYLINK THREE STARS OF THE GAME

Not Awarded For Preseason

COORS LIGHT OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME

Will Merchant: Goal

PLAY OF THE GAME:

The Steelheads have a lot of weapons they can use on the power play this season, and Kyle Jean’s 5-on-3 goal proved why the Steelheads can be dangerous. Idaho moved the puck around the perimeter quickly, taking advantage of the extra ice to get the puck deep and create a 2-on-1 down low. Dahl was one of the Steelheads’ best power play performers in 2015-16, and he put a perfect pass across that gave Jean all the time he needed to finish. The preseason is about trying new things and working out kinks, but it was encouraging to see a glimpse of two of Idaho’s offensive leaders clicking on the advantage.

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