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Preview: The Final Frontier

Tuesday, April 4th
Preview: The Final Frontier

The Steelheads’ 2016-17 regular-season campaign comes to a close with one final trip to Anchorage for a three-game set with the Alaska Aces. The Aces are hoping to extend their final season, as the team has announced they will cease operations at the end of the year. Heading into the final series, the Steelheads are locked into third place in the Mountain Division but the Aces are trying to claw their way into the post-season, currently one point out of the final playoff spot.

The Steelheads and Aces have been battling since the WCHL days, and since joining the ECHL they have been two of the most successful members of the Western Conference. The Steelheads have had the regular-season edge since the teams moved to the ECHL, going 84-53-14 all-time against Alaska.

The Steelheads are in good shape heading into the final week after taking two of their three games against the Colorado Eagles at CenturyLink Arena. That includes a 3-0 shutout win for Branden Komm in the home finale. The Steelheads are 7-3-0 in their last ten contests.

Jefferson Dahl leads the Steelheads in scoring with 65 points in 67 games, a total he boosted nicely on Saturday against the Eagles with his fourth 3-point game of the season. Dahl’s strong showing came on the same night that he was named the team’s Most Valuable Player for the regular season. His goal and two assists now give him six goals and 15 points in his last 13 outings.

Will Merchant returns to the Steelheads after a one-game stint with AHL Texas. The Steelheads’ Rookie of the Year has three goals and five points in his last five games for Idaho. The other member of Idaho’s top line, Rob Linsmayer, netted a goal on Saturday for his 17th of the year to give him five goals and 12 points in his last ten games.

Anthony Luciani is one goal away from 30 on the season, a mark reached by only nine other Steelheads during the ECHL era. Luciani has scored four goals against the Aces this season.

Alaska had controlled the final playoff spot in the Mountain Division for much of the season’s second half, but they were overtaken by the Utah Grizzlies last weekend after dropping two of three games on a trip through Fort Wayne and Quad City, and going 2-6-2 overall in their last ten. Making matters more difficult, the Aces lost two of their top contributors to AHL call-ups in Stephen Perfetto and Tim Wallace. Perfetto returns from Milwaukee this week, and the Aces will be depending heavily this weekend on top players like him and Peter Sivak.

With 35 goals on the season, Sivak was an MVP candidate in the first half of the year. An injury kept Sivak out of the Aces’ lineup for a month and a half, with the ECHL All’Star missing 19 games until his return on March 17th. Since rejoining the lineup, Sivak has notched three goals and five points in eight games.

Tim Coffman has been a streaky scorer during his tenure in Alaska, and he would appear to be due to start finding the net again. After recording a hat trick on March 11th against the Rapid City Rush, Coffman has gone ten games without a goal, though he has grabbed six assists in that span.

Former Grizzlies forward Brad Navin has picked up his scoring pace since being dealt to Alaska, with points in four straight games (two goals and two assists) heading into the weekend. Daniel Moynihan has six points in the past five games and has recorded six goals and nine points this season against Idaho.

The Steelheads will look to flip the script from their last visit to Sullivan Arena, when they grabbed just one of six points from January 25th to January 28th.

STEELHEAD TO WATCH

Joe Faust will get his final opportunities this week to join some elite Steelheads company and to set some new bench-marks. Faust was not in the lineup on Saturday night against the Eagles, but he heads to Anchorage one goal shy of setting a new Steelheads single-season ECHL record for goals by a defenseman. Faust currently has 13 goals on the season, tied with Jarad Bourassa’s 13 scored back in the 2005-06 season. Faust also has 39 points this year and can become just the fourth Steelheads defenseman in the ECHL era- joining Darrell Hay, David Cornacchia, and Dan Vandermeer- to record 40 points in a season.

ACE TO WATCH

Alaska will need its best player in Peter Sivak to lead them to a playoff berth and to keep the franchise alive. No one scored at the pace that Sivak did at the start of the season, scoring his 30th goal in his 36th game and never going more than three games without at least one point. The Aces sorely missed Sivak during his absence due to injury. While he has played well since his return, he’s had the added pressure of carrying the offense without Stephen Perfetto. A high-powered scorer for the past five seasons in the ECHL, he has Perfetto back and will be the most important factor for the Aces to make the playoffs.KEY MATCHUP

In terms of the standings, there is no doubt the three-game series this week means more to the Alaska Aces. The Steelheads will be in third place in the Mountain Division whether they sweep or are swept, while the Aces will need to gather points to keep their playoff hopes alive for a chance to right a few last chapters in their history books before they close for good. Despite no mathematical desperation, it’s still a weekend the Steelheads certainly want to win and play their best hockey as it will be their final tune-up before a first-round playoff series against the Allen Americans or Colorado Eagles. The level of desperation the Steelheads will face against a strong skating team in what should be an emotionally-charged Sullivan Arena  can serve as one last test for Idaho before their push for a third Kelly Cup title.

Upcoming Home Games

Full Schedule
Utah Grizzlies
Idaho Steelheads
Friday, October 18th
Utah Grizzlies @ Idaho Steelheads
Puck Drops:
7:10 PM MDT
Idaho Central Arena
Utah Grizzlies
UTA Utah Grizzlies
at
Idaho Steelheads
IDH Idaho Steelheads
Idaho Central Arena
Toledo Walleye
Idaho Steelheads
Wednesday, October 23rd
Toledo Walleye @ Idaho Steelheads
Puck Drops:
7:10 PM MDT
Idaho Central Arena
Toledo Walleye
TOL Toledo Walleye
at
Idaho Steelheads
IDH Idaho Steelheads
Idaho Central Arena
Toledo Walleye
Idaho Steelheads
Friday, October 25th
Toledo Walleye @ Idaho Steelheads
Puck Drops:
7:10 PM MDT
Idaho Central Arena
Toledo Walleye
TOL Toledo Walleye
at
Idaho Steelheads
IDH Idaho Steelheads
Idaho Central Arena

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