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PREVIEW: Game #17 – Steelheads vs. Solar Bears

Wednesday, November 20th
PREVIEW: Game #17 – Steelheads vs. Solar Bears

PREVIEW: IDAHO STEELHEADS (8-4-4) VS. ORLANDO SOLAR BEARS (4-7-2)

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 20, 2019 | 7:10 P.M. MTCENTURYLINK ARENA | BOISE, IDTV: SPARKLIGHT CH. 72 | RADIO: 93.1-FM KTIK | STREAM: ECHL TV

Tonight’s Game: The Steelheads begin their four-week, 12-game home stand with their only game of the season against the Orlando Solar Bears from CenturyLink Arena.

Head-To-Head: This is the only meeting of the season against the Orlando Solar Bears for the Steelheads following a three-game series last year in Orlando, where the Steelheads won two of three games in March while clinching a playoff spot during the process. The Solar Bears take their first trip in franchise history to Idaho after all five games over the last three seasons have come in Florida. The Steelheads are 2-2-0 overall against the Solar Bears.

Last Game: The Steelheads finished their road trip with a 3-1 loss to the Allen Americans from Allen Event Center. The Americans notched goals in each of the first three periods thanks to forward Alex Guptill (9:16 1st), defenseman Alex Breton (8:03 2nd) and forward Jordan Topping (5:19 3rd) to stretch ahead 3-0. On their lone power play, the Steelheads struck late thanks to forward Will Merchant (PP, 17:59 3rd) to take away the shutout bid, 3-1. However, without another answer following the pulled goaltender, the Steelheads slipped by that scoreline. Zach Sawchenko (3-1-0) saved 28 of 29 shots in the win, while Tomas Sholl (6-2-3) halted 31 of 34 shots in the loss.

Road Warriors: The Steelheads ended their longest road trip of the 2019-20 season as well as the longest extended road stretch on Sunday afternoon in their loss. In their eight-game stint, the Steelheads earned a 3-3-2 record with points in five of eight games while also earning three of six points in their three-in-three set. On the year, the Steelheads are 6-3-4 (.615) in road games with points in 10 of their league-high 13 games. Their road record sits only behind three ECHL teams: South Carolina (7-1-0, .875), Allen (3-1-1, .700), and Florida (6-3-0, .667). The Steelheads now play a 12-game home stand over the next four weeks, and the Steelheads are 2-1-0 in three home games so far.

Powered Up: The Steelheads only had one power play opportunity in Sunday’s loss and made the best of it to help extend their man-advantage scoring streak to three-straight games. This comes after not having back-to-back games with goals through their first 13 games, but a 4-for-8 (50.0%) effort last weekend has ballooned the Steelheads up five percentage points from 14.6 percent to 19.6 percent. The team has also climbed from 17th to 11th in the ECHL on the power play during that stretch. Last year, the Steelheads’ longest power play goal streak was five games from Dec. 22, 2018 through Jan. 5, 2019 when the team went 11-for-24 (45.8%).

Slimmed Down: While the Steelheads have been able to consistently collect points during their opening road stretch, consistent scoring has been more difficult to come by during their eight-game road trip. During their first eight games, the Steelheads averaged 3.13 goals per game (25 goals) with three or more tallies in six of those eight games. However, in their eight-game road trip, the Steelheads tallied only 1.88 goals per game (15 goals) while hitting that three-goal mark in three of eight games. The good sign is that the Steelheads hit two of those three-goal marks last weekend and they’re averaging 3.67 goals per game at CenturyLink Arena.

The Merch Man: Steelheads forward Will Merchant once again cashed in with his power play tally on Sunday afternoon, marking the longest goal streak of the season at three games. The Eagan, Minn. native has been hot as of recently, scoring twice on the power play last weekend and netting goals in five of his last seven games since November 3 in Utah. Merchant has points in 11 of his 16 games (68.8%) and leads the Steelheads both in overall goals (8), power play goals (4) and power play points (6). He is now three goals and three points from cracking the top-10 Steelheads ECHL All-Time career goals and career points categories, amassing 114 points (50-64–114) in 168 games.

Hibernation: The Orlando Solar Bears are on the hunt for a turnaround to their early struggles this season after a win in Jacksonville on Saturday night for just their fourth win on the year. The Solar Bears are in a road stretch with seven of eight games coming away from Amway Center, and thus far the Solar Bears are 1-3-1 in those games while being held to two goals or less in all four losses. Much of their troubles have come from scoring with 10 of their first 13 games posting two goals or less and going 1-7-2 in those contests and an overall 2.23 goal-per-game clip. The Solar Bears have three more games remaining until a six-game home stand beginning next week.

MOUNTAIN DIVISION STANDINGS:

TEAM GP W L OTL SOL PTS PCT
Allen Americans 15 11 3 1 0 23 .767
Idaho Steelheads 16 8 4 2 2 20 .625
Rapid City Rush 16 9 5 2 0 20 .625
Wichita Thunder 15 8 4 3 0 19 .633
Tulsa Oilers 17 7 9 1 0 15 .441
Kansas City Mavericks 15 6 8 1 0 13 .433
Utah Grizzlies 14 4 7 2 1 11 .393

Next Game: The Steelheads open their five-game season series against the Kansas City Mavericks on Friday, Nov. 22 at 7:10 p.m. from CenturyLink Arena. Tickets are available by calling 208-383-0080 or going to idahosteelheads.com. Coverage begins at 6:50 p.m. on 1350 KTIK-AM "The Ticket" as well as 7:00 p.m. on Sparklight Ch. 72 & ECHL.TV.

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