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Preview: New Year’s Showdown

Tuesday, December 27th
Preview: New Year’s Showdown

After their comeback win in Allen on Friday night, the Steelheads ring in the New Year in Rapid City with a three-game series against the Rush. It’s Idaho’s second trip to the Black Hills this season, having made a one-game stop in early November.

The Steelheads have gone 2-2-0 this season against Rapid City, winning back-to-back games at CenturyLink Arena over the Rush to polish off their last home stand and halt a four-game skid. The Rush are wrapping up a five-game home stand and split two games with the Alaska Aces last week.

Idaho became just the second team this season to overcome a two-goal deficit and earn a win against the Americans, getting goals from Joe Faust and Travis Ewanyk to force a shootout. That win improved the Steelheads’ road record to 5-6-2 on the year.

Ewanyk’s power play goal to tie the game in the third period was his 12th of the season, and his fourth in the past five games. Ewanyk had 15 goals in his professional career at the start of this season.

Anthony Luciani had an assist on Friday night, giving him nine points (4-5-9) in his last eight games. Luciani has not gone more than two games without a point since November 9th.

The Rush are in last place in the Mountain Division and are just 3-7-2 on home ice this season. The Rush lost some scoring punch when Lindsay Sparks was summoned to AHL Tucson in early December, but Brenden Walker still put up big numbers when the Steelheads and Rush last met with two goals and seven points in the three-game series.

The Steelheads won’t have to worry about Walker this time around after the Rush dealt the forward to Norfolk last week. That’ll help the Steelheads concentrate more on Ryan Walters and Josh MacDonald, who have combined for five goals and nine points in four games against Idaho. Walters has goals in two straight games and five goals and eight points in his last seven games.

The Steelheads have the league’s second-ranked power play, while Rapid City has the fifth-ranked penalty kill. Idaho is 3-for-11 on the power play against the Rush this season, all three goals coming in one game.

STEELHEAD TO WATCH

Branden Komm was stellar in net on Friday night to earn his third consecutive win and his fourth win this season in the shootout. Komm made a game-saving stop in overtime on Dave Makowski that allowed Idaho to reach the shootout, and he has now stopped 13 of 14 breakaways. Komm has a .929 save percentage in his last eight outings, and he is 2-2-0 against Rapid City this season.

RUSH TO WATCH

Without Sparks and now Walker, the Rush will need more consistent offensive production out of Brett Perlini. The former seventh-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2010 has eight goals this season, third-most on the team, but only one assist in his last six games. Perlini’s current six-game goal-scoring drought is his longest of the season. The Rush will need him to find the net more often against the Steelheads, with MacDonald and Walters sure to draw tough match-ups.

KEY MATCHUP

The Steelheads of course will have to shut down MacDonald and Walters as best they can, but more interesting may be who Rapid City uses to try to match up against the Steelheads’ offense. Jefferson Dahl and Rob Linsmayer had somewhat quiet games in Allen, but are having fine seasons and also have great numbers against the Rush. Ewanyk is going strong and might be able to get line-mate Joe Basaraba moving, too. Kyle Jean quietly has four assists in his last five games. The Rush have some experienced blue-liners in Riley Weselowski and Michael Young, but also young defenders like Justin Hache and Dysin Mayo. How Rapid City head coach Mark DeSantis breaks up his ice time and chooses to allocate his defense will be a difficult call, especially against a team that scored 11 goals over the last two meetings between the teams.

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