The Steelheads are looking to snap an 0-4-2 skid this week when the Wheeling Nailers make their first ever visit to CenturyLink Arena. The defending Eastern Conference champion Nailers are 7-1-2 in their last ten games but still desperate for points, locked in a tie with the Brampton Beast for the final playoff spot in the North Division.
The Nailers, like the Steelheads, are a well-spread offensive attack, with five players in double-digits in goal-scoring and six players above the 30-point mark. Nick Sorkin, playing his first season in Wheeling, has been helping to lead the way with 37 points, tied for the team lead. That includes two goals and 14 points over his last seven contests, five of which have been multi-point games.
While Sorkin has done a fine job playing the role of set-up man, Jordan Kwas and Cody Wydo have been dangerous finishers. Kwas, a former Colorado Eagle, has 17 goals this season to lead the team, including goals in each of his last two outings and six goals in his last ten. Wydo has netted seven goals in his last nine contests.
The Nailers had one of the league’s best blue-liners last season in Mathew Maione, who led all defenseman in 2015-16 with 54 points. Maione moved on to play in Slovakia, but the Nailers have found another strong defenseman in rookie Kevin Schulze. The rookie has seven goals and 37 points in 40 games this year, along with a plus-19 rating.
The Steelheads are riding their longest winless stretch since a matching 0-4-2 streak last season from November 4th to November 14th. While Idaho hasn’t been finding wins, Kyle Jean has been finding the back of the net again. Jean scored two short-handed goals last week and now has recorded three of his eight goals this year when the Steelheads are a man down. Jean has three goals and six points in Idaho’s last six games.
Anthony Luciani had been held off the sheet for three games after grabbing 17 points during a 12-game points streak. Luciani bounced back with assists in his last two games, along with a fighting major. Jefferson Dahl continues to pile up points as well with three goals and six points in his last seven games.
Landon Bow made his first start in net for Idaho since November 26th when he took the ice on Saturday. Bow stopped 32 of 35 shots in the overtime loss, now 7-1-1 in his last nine ECHL appearances.
STEELHEAD TO WATCH
Joe Faust continued his impressive first season in Boise on Saturday night with his 12th goal of the season. With that goal, Faust is one shy of Idaho’s single-season ECHL record for goals by a defenseman, set by Jarad Bourassa’s 13 goals in 2005-06. Faust’s 12 goals lead all ECHL defensemen and he carries a four-game points streak into Wednesday night’s contest.
NAILER TO WATCH
Kevin Schulze was a teammate of Joe Faust, as well as Jefferson Dahl, for two seasons at the University of Wisconsin. Schulze has certainly been one of Wheeling’s most exciting young players this season, an All-Star this year and ranked sixth among all rookies in scoring. Schulze has a goal and 11 points in his last ten games, including four of his 11 multi-point games this year.KEY MATCHUP
Again, the Steelheads have faced a frustrating trend during their losing streak of failing to secure and build upon leads. The Steelheads led 2-0 entering the third period on Saturday but could not finish the game off. It was the third time in the last six games that Idaho has led a game 2-0 and lost. Granted, the Steelheads have also come back from deficits of two goals or more twice in that span, but haven’t been able to earn two points. The Nailers have a minus-10 goal differential this season in first periods and are plus-15 in third periods. The Steelheads will need to be on their guard again should they get an early lead, and they will need to exploit the league’s worst penalty kill to help cement that lead.