The Steelheads continue their six-game home stand this week when they welcome the Tulsa Oilers to CenturyLink Arena for their first meetings of the season. The Steelheads are coming off a fight-filled fling last Saturday with the Allen Americans, a 5-1 win that fought off Allen’s attempt at a sweep. The Oilers hope to get back in the win column after an overtime loss in Rapid City, the Oilers having won just two of their past ten contests.
The Steelheads play a lot of home hockey, playing eight of the next ten games at CenturyLink Arena after already having played their previous series in Boise. The Oilers are in the midst of a 14-game road trip that won’t see them play another game in Tulsa before December 15th. That road trip has posed more than just the conventional challenges.
Oilers Head Coach Rob Murray, formerly of the Alaska Aces, was hospitalized after suffering a medical emergency on the bench during a game in Quad City on November 17th, a game that was ultimately suspended. Murray was thankfully said to have suffered only from dehydration and exhaustion, rejoining his squad in Rapid City a few days later.
The Oilers have gone 1-4-3 thus far on their trip, averaging 2.00 goals per game and surrendering 3.63 goals per game over that span. With goals hard to come by, several big Oiler names have struggled to put up points.
Oiler captain Adam Pleskach has been one of the offensive leaders for Tulsa since his 71 point season in 2014-15. Yet after a down year last season putting up 26 points in 50 games last year, Pleskach has been quiet in recent weeks. His goal on Saturday in Rapid City snapped an eight-game goal-scoring drought during which he had just three assists. Christophe Lalancette, another returner from last season’s team, has no goals and five assists in 15 games after putting up 11 goals and 32 points a season ago.
Conner Bleakley leads the Oilers with 16 points in 19 games, and former Colorado Eagle Joey Sides has two goals and five points in his past seven games.
Jake Hildebrand and rookie Devin Williams have had an even split of the work between the pipes, with Williams having the better resume thus far with a 4-2-2 record and a .912 save percentage. Hildebrand is 2-5-3 with a 3.35 goals-against average.
The Steelheads got solid goaltending on Saturday from Philippe Desrosiers, who continued a strong start to the season with 25 saves for his seventh win in ten appearances. Desrosiers is 5-0-1 on home ice this season.
The Steelheads’ offense did the rest, even without a suspended Justin Parizek who will carry an eight-game points streak into Wednesday’s contest. Henrik Samuelsson got the Steelheads going with his first three-point night of the season on a night when the power play had ample opportunity. The Steelheads set a season-high in penalty minutes for and against on Saturday, and they matched a season-high with four power play goals.
The Steelheads have converted on the power play in ten of the last 13 games, going 18-for-79 over that span. The Idaho man-advantage is now at 20.2 percent, good for fifth in the league.
Several Steelheads enjoyed firsts in Saturday’s matchup. Alex Dahl netted his first pro goal to cap the evening and Chris Martenet earned his first pro point with an assist and his first two fighting majors. Corey Durocher earned an assist in his Steelheads debut.
The Steelheads begin the series five points ahead of the Oilers in the standings, sitting in fourth place eight points back of first place Wichita.
STEELHEAD TO WATCH
Henrik Samuelsson had one of his most dominant performances of the season on Saturday, helping the Steelheads power play open the game up early. On a night when Idaho’s power play converted four times, Samuelsson set up the game’s first goal by Aaron Harstad on a power play feed from the corner. He then scored twice himself on the man-advantage, once walking out from behind the net and again on a rip from the high slot. Samuelsson leads the Steelheads with five power play goals and is tied for second on the team with seven power play points. He heads into Wednesday’s contest with five points in his last five games.
OILER TO WATCH
Some of Tulsa’s bigger offensive names haven’t found the net regularly in recent weeks, but Charlie Sampair comes to Idaho with a hot hand. Sampair, who had three goals and 13 points in 44 games during his rookie season with Alaska last year, has hit his scoring stride in his second season. His six goals and nine points are already close to surpassing last year’s points total, and he faces the Steelheads with four goals and five points in his last eight games. Sampair was held to two assists in eight games against Idaho last year as an Ace.
Get ready for a lot of rubber! The Oilers and Steelheads are the top two teams in the league in shots on goal per game, with the Oilers averaging 39.39 shots per game and the Steelheads right behind them at 38.11 per game. It’s not surprising to see a Rob Murray team at the top of the list after his Aces teams ranked sixth, second, eighth, and first in the category over the last four seasons. The Steelheads also give up the second-fewest shots per game at 27.39, but we should still expect both goaltending duos to have their work boots on. Philippe Desrosiers has held opponents to two goals or fewer in three of his last four outings. In Devin Williams’ last five outings, he has given up four goals on three occasions and held opponents to just one goal twice. Jake Hildebrand appeared in the Oilers’ last three games and stopped 81 of 85 shots against.