The Steelheads are winners of four of their past five games heading back to CenturyLink Arena, where they will welcome the Adirondack Thunder. The Steelheads and Thunder battled often back when the team was in Stockton, but this will be the first set between the two teams since the team moved to New York.
The Steelheads are feeling good about their game after back-to-back wins over the Colorado Eagles, during which they received continued production from some of their big names.
Jefferson Dahl’s points streak continues, now standing at a career-high eight games. Dahl has 13 points during the streak, placing him sixth in the ECHL in scoring. Fellow former-Badger Joe Faust also remains red-hot, with points in four consecutive games and seven of the past eight. Faust’s nine points are tied for first in the ECHL among defensemen, while he leads all blue liners with four goals. Goaltender Landon Bow won both games in Colorado, and he is 3-0-0 with a 1.96 GAA and a .955 save percentage in his last three starts.
The Steelheads had a few more players join the scoring party over the weekend, among them rookie Connor Chatham. The forward had his first two points of the season during the road trip, including his first pro goal on Saturday night that was the game-winner.
The Thunder come to town as the top team in the Eastern Conference, with a 6-1-2 record and wins in four of their last five games. The three games against the Steelheads will be the first leg of their six game road trip that will finish in Utah.
Adirondack has been winning games largely by committee this season, with only three players collecting more than seven points. That includes Ty Loney, who has nine points (3-6-9) in nine games and four in his last two contests, and also rookie Mikkel Aagaard. The young Dane has four goals and nine points, third amongst ECHL rookies, and has scored goals in three of the last four games.
Another rookie, Brian Ward, is tied for the team-lead with five goals in his first season out of St. Lawrence University. Phil Lane also has five goals in his first seven games with the team after spending the past four seasons in the AHL with Portland and Springfield.
The Steelheads felt pretty good during their first home stand, going 3-1-1. The Thunder are equally comfortable on the road where they are 5-0-0 this season.
The series will also feature two strong power plays, with Idaho ranked eighth and with power play goals in eight of ten games this year. The Thunder power play is ranked second in the ECHL and has gone 4-for-10 in the last two games.
STEELHEAD TO WATCH
Je Basaraba might have captured a spark in Colorado over the weekend. The second-year Steelheads struggled in the early going last season prior to an injury, but was one of the hottest players in the ECHL season’s second half. This season was a better start to the year for Basaraba, but he was still looking for his first goal when the team got to Loveland. Basaraba had the shootout-winner on Friday night and then followed it up with a goal and an assist on Saturday. Like last year, that might just be the kind of momentum to give Basaraba some jump heading into the weekend.
THUNDER TO WATCH
The Steelheads have already had their share of goaltending duels this season, and Landon Bow had to outwork Kent Simpson in Colorado on consecutive nights. It won’t get any easier against the Thunder tandem in net, with Ken Appleby and rookie Mason McDonald splitting time. McDonald, a 2014 second-rounder of the Calgary Flames, has had the majority of the workload so far and has put up a respectable 2.61 goals-against average but a less-than-stellar .867 goals-against average. Appleby has appeared in four games, going 2-0-1 with a shutout and a .930 save percentage. Appleby may see more net this week if Adirondack sticks to a steady rotation, and the Steelheads will want to send as much rubber at him as possible. Despite his stronger numbers, Appleby has seen only 57 shots this season and only once has he seen 30 shots in a game, when he gave up three goals on 33 shots.
On Saturday in Colorado, it was the Steelheads jumping out to an early lead and the Eagles that were forced to play catch-up. The Steelheads were on the wrong side of that equation far too much in the first few games of the season, but their solid first period in Colorado allowed them the opportunity to bounce back and re-take the game after the Eagles had battled back to tie. Against the Thunder, a good first 20 minutes will be just as important. Adirondack is 5-0-1 this season when they score first, and as already mentioned are very comfortable playing on the road. The Steelheads will need to use their transition game against a well-spread Thunder attack to keep the puck in the Thunder end and keep pucks at the feet of Appleby and McDonald.