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Steelheads Excitement for Opening Day

Wednesday, October 19th
Steelheads Excitement for Opening Day

CenturyLink Arena comes to life Friday night with the return of Idaho Steelheads hockey, the 20th opening night in Steelheads history and a date that has been circled on the calendar for the players and coaches for months.

“We’re really excited. Obviously we didn’t have a whole lot of time to gel before and we were a little disappointed with the outcome of the first weekend, but we’ve moved past it and we put in three good days of work,” said Head Coach Neil Graham. “The energy is better and guys are finding chemistry. To be honest, we have the best fans in the entire league and to be back home to start a new season in front of them has us really excited.”

The Steelheads have already sat through the opening ceremonies for the Utah Grizzlies this past weekend when the two squads opened the season at Maverik Center. Now the Grizzlies will return the favor as they come into Boise for two contests.

To a man, the Steelheads spoke of their frustration in the season’s first two games, both defeats.  They also mentioned how they view Friday night’s first game on home ice as a clean slate.

“We look at it as a fresh start opening up at home, especially with the way things went last weekend,” said defenseman Joe Faust, who scored his first goal as a Steelhead on Friday and is readying for his first home game in Idaho.

“We feel like we have something to prove and we put in a lot of hard work this week.”

Faust mentioned his first taste of a game at CenturyLink Arena, the exhibition game on October 11th that featured more than 4,000 fans. Forward Caleb Herbert was not yet with the Steelheads when that game was played, but he says Idaho fans carry a reputation.

“I’ve heard nothing but really good things about the crowd here and the atmosphere during the games,” said Herbert. “I think we have a good group of guys here that are looking to bounce back after last weekend.”

Herbert had a strong weekend in Utah, not registering a point but playing on a line with Joe Basaraba and Travis Ewanyk that controlled play for long stretches. Herbert wants to bring that same energy level into Friday night’s game to establish consistency, in addition to finding a winning formula.

“I was trying to play with a lot of energy and speed that first weekend. Obviously it takes time to get chemistry with certain line-mates and payers on the team, but I thought there were spurts there where we were clicking and things were rolling,” said Herbert. “Whoever you’re with, you need to bring the same consistency to your game and hopefully other guys can feed off of that.”

The Steelheads have spent the week prior to their opener making tweaks to their lines and addressing some of the mistakes that cost them in Utah.

“It was definitely a similar message, but to a higher intensity. We want to compete harder and execute better,” said Faust. “It’s building off the same stuff we started with in camp, but doing it faster and cleaning up the details.”

That was to be expected following training camp, as players continue to learn their new line-mates. But while the team will gradually become more comfortable in its game plan, they hope their comfort on Front Street will kick in immediately.

The Steelheads’ climb up the standings last season was helped by improved play on home ice in the second half. They were 13-6-3 on home ice last season after New Year’s Day, and they know how important it is to establish a good feeling on home ice early this year.

“You want to enjoy playing hockey and a lot of that stems from winning games,” said Graham. “When you’re at home and winning and it becomes routine, you look forward to those games. It’s important for us to establish a good start on Friday and feed off the energy of the crowd.”

“Obviously you want to start the season on a good note and we’re excited for a chance to hit the reset button here.”

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