After four consecutive games against the Utah Grizzlies to start the season, the Steelheads will get a look at someone new this week, very new in fact. The Reading Royals come to town for the first time since 2009, ready for a three-game set that will close out Idaho’s first home stand of the season.
The Royals are coming off a loss to Manchester, but won two of their first three games. Boise is the first stop on one of their most difficult road trips of the season, spanning 18 days and including eight games in Idaho, Rapid City, Colorado, Cincinnati, and Wheeling.
The Royals bring back ten players from last year’s squad the made it to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Olivier Labelle, back for a fifth season in Reading after playing in France last year, already has four points in three games. He collected 71 points in 72 games two seasons ago in his last ECHL campaign. Steelhead fans will remember Michael Pelech, who scored 30 goals for the Grizzlies two seasons ago and has three points in three games so far this year.
Reading also brings back goaltender Martin Ouellette from last season, when he was third in the ECHL in goals-against average and seventh in save percentage. He’s joined by former AHL All-Star Mark DeKanich
The Steelheads found some of their offensive touch this weekend, netting 13 goals in two games while going 1-0-1. Kyle Jean has goals in two consecutive games heading into the weekend, his goal Saturday coming on the power play to extend Idaho’s streak of games with a power play goal to three.
The Steelheads also have some members of the blue line chipping in offensively. Joe Faust is tied for second among ECHL defensemen with four points and Zach Bell had a goal and two assists on the weekend, as well as his second fighting major. Charlie Dodero scored the tying goal to force overtime against Utah on Saturday night.
STEELHEAD TO WATCH
After being held off the sheet in each of the season’s first two games, Jefferson Dahl erupted on home ice. Dahl collected five points on the weekend, including a three-point performance on Friday against the Grizzlies. Dahl and linemate Rob Linsmayer both had career years last season skating with Emil Molin. This past weekend with Caleb Herbert, the two combined for two goals and nine points. With Herbert’s recent call-up to AHL Texas, it will be interesting to see if Linsmayer and Dahl can continue their strong play with a new face to the left.
ROYAL TO WATCH
The Royals welcome in rookie scorer Steven Swavely, a teammate of Will Merchant’s last season at the University of Maine who finished last season with AHL Lehigh Valley and had three goals in 15 games. Swavely netted 33 goals and 81 points in four seasons at Maine. He has two goals in three games already this year.
Without question through the first four games of the season, the Steelheads have looked stronger in third periods than in any other part of the game. Idaho blew open Friday’s game with five goals in the third period and they used four goals in the third period on Saturday to come from behind and force overtime. The Steelheads have outshot opponents 59-28 in third periods and outscored them 10-5. The challenge for the Steelheads is finding that intensity and jump earlier in games, something they accomplished in the one game they have won this season. Playing against a team they are not used to seeing, and who is not used to playing against them, a hard-hitting first period would serve the Steelheads well. The Steelheads strong play to finish games has been encouraging, but they need to start games that way and avoid the early hole.