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Preview: Rocky Mountain Rebound

Thursday, November 3rd
Preview: Rocky Mountain Rebound

The Steelheads suffered a disappointing loss on Wednesday night in Rapid City, and they’ll try to right the ship in a two-game series against a Colorado team looking to straighten itself out after losing a third period lead and ultimately the game on Wednesday night against the Reading Royals.

Colorado currently sits tied atop the Mountain Division with the Utah Grizzlies (who have played one fewer game), while Idaho sits three points behind.

The Steelheads were riding a two-game winning streak that stopped abruptly in the Black Hills, where the struggling Rapid City Rush defeated Idaho 5-3 after jumping out to a 2-0 first period lead. The Steelheads got strong games from some of the usual suspects, with Jefferson Dahl netting two goals to extend his points streak to six games and climb to fourth in the ECHL with 11 points. Rob Linsmayer added two assists after missing the previous game.

Joe Faust remains a hot hand offensively, as well. The first-year Steelhead scored his fourth goal of the season to lead all ECHL defensemen. His seven points are tied for second in the league among blue liners.

The Eagles’ loss on Wednesday was their third consecutive game without a win, following an overtime defeat and a shootout loss to Utah to close out October. After winning four of their first five games on the season, the Eagles look to recover from their current stumble on home ice, where they’re 3-2-0 this year and were 24-8-4 last season.

The Eagles are missing some of their familiar scoring threats from last year, with Trent Daavettila and Kyle Kraemer moving on. To fill the void, Colorado brought in former Allen American Casey Pierro-Zabotel, who has responded by winning the ECHL’s Player of the Month honors for October with four goals and 12 points in eight games to rank third in the league.

The Eagles do bring back familiar faces like Darryl Bootland and Jesse Mychan, and on the blue line Jake Marto, Sean Zimmerman, and Teigan Zhan. Adding some offense to the blue line is another former American in Matt Register with six points in eight games.

The Steelheads were 3-4-3 against Colorado last season and finished the season in second place in the West Division behind Colorado, tied in points but separated by the total wins tie breaker.

STEELHEAD TO WATCH

Kellan Lain played one of his best games as a Steelhead on Wednesday night in Rapid City, earning an assist on Joe Faust’s goal and playing a physical game. Lain was an imposing presence below the goal line, forcing turnovers for linemates Connor Chatham and Kyle Jean to create five shots on goal for the line. The Eagles will likely play the grittiest style the Steelheads have seen to this point, and when Lain is dominating the game between the dots in those physical altercations, it will open up opportunities for Jean and for the point men sinking down.

EAGLE TO WATCH

If Lain is going to be the focus for Idaho below the dots, Jesse Mychan will earn the title across the way for Colorado. Mychan had a breakout season in 2015-16, his 32 goals ranking second in the ECHL while also collecting 55 points and 169 penalty minutes. Mychan already has five goals and 11 points for Colorado in eight games this season, and did damage against Idaho last year with four goals and five assists. He’s currently riding a seven-game points streak.

KEY MATCHUP

Obviously winning physical battles will be a key in this two-game series, but you can’t win those battles if you don’t arrive on time. The Steelheads on Wednesday night knew they’d have to handle the speed of Rapid City’s top line of Josh MacDonald, Ryan Walters, and Lindsay Sparks, but that speed game didn’t manifest itself in the neutral zone. Rather, it was foot-races to the corners in the Idaho zone, where the Steelheads are usually in control, which led to chances and ultimately goals for the Rush. Against Colorado, the Steelheads will need to better anticipate the movement of the puck in their zone and then win the races. Those won’t just be the races going the length of the ice, but also the short bursts in the defensive zone from the middle of the ice to the corners.

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