This is Idaho Steelheads Power Rankings, where we at IdahoSteelheads.com will see where the Steelheads and their players rank among the best of the best in the ECHL.
With seven games remaining in the regular season, the Steelheads are quickly closing in on their 21st consecutive playoff berth. Defensive hockey and strong goaltending have gone a long way towards putting the Steelheads in their current position, and Tomas Sholl’s play has only strengthened Idaho’s argument as one of the stingiest teams in the ECHL. Let’s see where the Steelheads rank among the ECHL’s best defensive teams.
ECHL Goals-Against per Game
5) Reading Royals – 2.80 Goals-Against Per Game
After finishing the 2106-17 season ranked eighth in the ECHL defensively, the Reading Royals have been even stronger this season. The Royals have surrendered 179 goals this season with eight games left to play, compared to the 217 given up last year. Part of the Royals’ success has been a strong penalty-kill and a penchant for playing at even-strength. The Royals have the ECHL’s fifth-best power play at 85.9 percent and have totaled 606 minutes in penalties, the lowest total in the league. The Royals also benefited from strong goaltending from John Muse for much of the season, with a .930 save percentage in 24 games before going up to AHL Lehigh Valley in early February. The Royals have taken a step back in recent weeks, giving up 20 goals in their last six games but still going 3-1-2 in that stretch as they look to cement a playoff spot in the North Division.
4) Idaho Steelheads – 2.71 goals per game
The Steelheads have been in the top-5 of this category for most of the year despite Philippe Desrosiers, Ryan Faragher, and now Tomas Sholl all getting significant time between the pipes. Desrosiers and Faragher are both currently in the AHL, but despite his absence Desrosiers still ranks ninth in the league with a 2.51 goals-against average. Sholl has certainly made his presence felt with back-to-back Goaltender of the Week awards and just four goals against in five appearances. Perhaps the key to Idaho’s strong numbers is just how few shots have made their way to the Idaho goal. The Steelheads have dominated the possession game this season, on average out-shooting their opponents by a 37-29 margin and placing them in the top-three in shots for and against. As a team the Steelheads have earned six shutouts this season.
3) Florida Everblades – 2.49 goals per game
Former Steelheads coach Brad Ralph is running a tight ship in his second season in Florida, and All-Star goaltender Martin Ouellette is a big reason why. Ouellette is putting up a campaign worthy of Goaltender of the Year consideration, currently ranked second in wins (27), third in goals-against average (2.14), and sixth in minutes played (2,157). Ouellette also plays behind a defense that allows 27.29 shots per game, the lowest figure in the ECHL. The Everblade penalty kill ranks among the best as well, listed third in the league at 86.6 percent. In eight of their last nine games, the Everblades have held opponents to two goals or less. The lone exception came in an 8-2 loss to Orlando.
2) Toledo Walleye – 2.33 goals per game
Another man with Steelheads ties is leading the way in Toledo between the pipes, putting together an MVP caliber season of his own. Pat Nagle leads the ECHL with 33 wins in net, ranks fourth with a .924 save percentage, and fifth with a 2.19 goals-against average while appearing in 44 games and playing the most minutes of any goaltender in the league. Meanwhile the Walleye surrender 29.11 shots per game, fifth-lowest in the ECHL, and they boast the league’s second-best penalty kill at 87 percent. Nagle also has three of Toledo’s five shutout wins this season, and the Walleye have held opponents to just one goal on 13 other occasions.
1) South Carolina Stingrays – 2.17 goals per game
You have to be prepared to shutout the Stingrays this season to come away with two points, and that’s just what the Steelheads did in their two games at North Charleston Arena last week. The Stingrays have the league’s best penalty-kill (89.8 percent) and give up the second-fewest shots per game. Parker Milner leads the ECHL with a 1.94 goals-against average and ranks third with a .928 save percentage, and his battery-mate Jeff Jakaitis ranks fourth and sixth in those categories, respectively. The Stingrays have held opponents to one goal or fewer 22 times this season.