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Morrissette: “It’s been a good progression”

Thursday, February 2nd
Morrissette: “It’s been a good progression”

Andre Morrissette played all 72 games for the Idaho Steelheads during the 2015-16 season, as well as all seven playoff games against the Allen Americans. Yet when the Steelheads skated out for their first game this past October, Morrissette was not among them, nor was he skating for any other hockey team as he missed the first half of the year rehabbing from an upper-body procedure in the off-season.

“It was tough to have to sit and watch the scoreboards online and see that the Steelheads were doing so good and I was missing it,” said Morrissette. “I watched a lot of hockey in Montreal watching the Candiens, too. I had a lot of time on my hands so I don’t think I missed a game.”

Now, fully recuperated and back in Idaho, Morrissette no longer has that spare time. Instead he is back into the rigors of an ECHL season and is having an immediate impact for the Steelheads, proving himself to be a valuable mid-season “acquisition”.

Morrissette was always a player the Steelheads had on the radar for this year, having qualified him in July. When the rehab was complete, Idaho was ready and inked Morrissette to another ECHL deal. The fifth-year pro has hit the ground running, with three goals and five points in his first eight games back. That includes a two-goal performance on Wednesday night against the Grizzlies.

“I’ve been very happy with Andre, and it takes a few games to get acclimated after being out for a half season like that. The thing that has impressed me the most has been his game management,” said Steelheads Head Coach Neil Graham. “The first couple of games you could tell that he was keeping it simple and playing a really good north-south game. He’s a very fast skater and he’s chipping pucks in and retrieving them. Now that he has a few games under his belt, you can see his confidence growing and he’s starting to skate pucks down the wall.”

Morrissette’s speed was on display Wednesday night, when a quick burst helped him to break away from the pack for a short-handed breakaway goal. That speed has always been among the most noticeable assets in Morrissette’s game, but it doesn’t come without significant hard work. After missing months on the ice due to an injury above the waist, Morrissette still spent significant time building his legs.

“I had a strength coach back home and we put a lot of emphasis on the legs,” said Morrissette. “It was a lot of jumping and squats and strength drills.”

Morrissette’s was ready to go when he rejoined the Steelheads for his first game on January 14th, having a couple of weeks to mentally prepare and already knowing many of the systems and the culture from last season’s squad. Still, Morrissette was not stepping back into the exact same locker room atmosphere that he left last season.

“At first I was sticking closer to the guys I knew from last year,” said Morrissette. “But we have a good group of guys and I get along with everyone. It’s a good locker room with a great leadership group so that’s been an easy transition.”

It’s been just as easy of a transition for his teammates.

“He’s been excited. He has an infectious energy and is a very good teammate and locker room guy,” said Graham. “To have him back and playing well and enjoying the game, it’s contagious for everyone.”

It’s also been an easy adjustment for the Steelheads on the ice, where Morrissette has been able to line up with some of his partners from last season. Morrissette’s straight-forward style of game makes him an easy addition for a Steelheads team built on speed.

“I know Joe Basaraba loved playing with him last year and Kyle Jean is enjoying playing with him this year,” said Graham. “You know where he is on the ice and what he’s going to do. That makes it very easy to read and react off of him. “

The Steelheads have Morrissette back at just the right time, as he jumps immediately into a playoff race and a battle for the division crown with now just 27 games remaining.

“Every game is important, and we need to be better, but it’s always fun to play those Colorado, Alaska and Utah games,” said Morrissette, who has faced those opponents for six of his eight games back.

“More than anything, it’s good to be back with the fans again and playing at CenturyLink Arena.”

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