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Excitement and Energy Bleeds Into Steelheads Camp

Tuesday, October 2nd
Excitement and Energy Bleeds Into Steelheads Camp

There is a sense of excitement and energy that’s nearly palpable in the Steelheads locker room that transcends the traditional training camp vibe. It’s not Boise-exclusive, and it’s been building for a while from top to bottom.

“There are good vibes and good energy coming right from the parent club in Dallas,” said Neil Graham, Steelheads Head Coach. “I just spent a week with the group in Austin and felt that same jump in their step.”

All three organizations in the Dallas Stars pipeline have momentum. Dallas is coming off of a largely improved season and the hire of former University of Denver head coach Jim Montgomery paired with security in the form of Tyler Seguin. The Texas Stars made the Calder Cup Finals last year and pushed the series to a decisive game seven in their second appearance since 2014.

The Steelheads rode into the Kelly Cup Playoffs hot, finishing the season 9-0-1-0 before making a thrilling comeback in the Mountain Division Semifinals over the Allen Americans and became just the second team in ECHL history to erase a 3-0 series deficit. Let’s not forget the Steelheads also haven’t missed a playoff appearance in 15 ECHL seasons.

“It’s important that it translates into our game as well. Energy like that can be very contagious, and it’s important to hop on that and use that to funnel us through the start of the year here.”

With the departure of the Colorado Eagles to the AHL, the Steelheads are the active leader in the Mountain Division ahead of the 2018-19 season, placing them in the driver’s seat for potential success. Pace and speed  were core building blocks transferred from season-to-season, and maturity grew as a result of postseason adversity and the final few weeks of the regular season, all of which naturally bleeds into the following season in the form of positivity and enthusiasm. That, along with another increase in wins at points at season’s end and the first second round appearance since 2014, adds to the build-up.

Still, despite the positive strides, Graham and the Steelheads aren’t content with just improvement.

“We looked over a lot of things over the summer. We’ve made some tweaks in our game, we’ve made some tweaks in the personnel that ultimately is to push us over that threshold, but right now it’s day one. We need to keep chipping away.”

The Steelheads opened training camp yesterday morning at CenturyLink Arena with 25 players taking the ice for the first organized practice, and nearly half (12) of those players played in Boise last season. Nine players in Steelheads training camp and eight on ECHL contracts were also invited to participate in Texas’ training camp beginning last week.

The only returner on the blue line is Steelheads’ Defenseman of the Year Eric Sweetman, but the depth of returning talent up front and in net is strong.

Both Ryan Faragher and Tomas Sholl begin camp in net with the Steelheads after combining for a 24-7-4 record with a 2.17 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in 2017-18. Two of the team’s top-three scorers from last year also return: ECHL All-Star Justin Parizek (27+33=60) and Steve McParland (31+26=57). Three-year veteran Connor Chatham, A.J. White and Alexander Dahl are among the cast of familiar faces on the offensive side.

That familiarity plays well both during the season but also during camp when trying to preach systems and schemes to newcomers both in rookie and veteran form.

“It’s nice to get those returners, especially for camp. There’s a lot of teaching, a lot of new structure for some of the guys including guys who played in our league. To have those returners help bridge the gap and some of that learning curve is huge.”

There is going to be a lot of talk about predictions, expectations and where the Steelheads will fare this season over the next two weeks. Roster additions and subtractions will continue throughout camp and into the regular season. The focus remains long-term with patience and chemistry at a premium. Fans and players alike are going to be riding the roller coaster of energy, but momentum is best when it’s channeled.

For the Steelheads, they'll channel that energy and use it day-by-day.

For Graham, opening day was simply a step in the right direction.

“I thought it was a good first day.”

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