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PREVIEW #1 - Steelheads vs. Grizzlies

Friday, October 22nd
PREVIEW #1 - Steelheads vs. Grizzlies

IDAHO STEELHEADS (0-0-0) VS. UTAH GRIZZLIES (0-0-0)

FRIDAY, OCT. 22, 2021 | 7:10 P.M. MTIDAHO CENTRAL ARENA | BOISE, IDTICKETS: CLICK HERETV: SPARKLIGHT CH. 72 | RADIO: 1350 KTIK-AM | STREAM: FLOHOCKEY

GAME NOTES: CLICK HERE

Tonight’s Game: The Steelheads open the 2021-22 regular season with the first in a three-game, three-day weekend set against the Utah Grizzlies starting at Idaho Central Arena.

Head-To-Head: In their last season of play, the Steelheads won nine of 11 meetings with the Grizzlies with their only losses coming on Nov. 1, 2019 (5-4 L) and Jan. 20, 2020 (2-1 SOL), and it’s the second time in three seasons that the Steelheads have taken the season series. The Steelheads also breached the 100-game win mark against a singular opponent for the first time in team history on Nov. 2, 2020 in a 3-2 overtime win in Utah. The Steelheads are 106-52-26 all-time against the Grizzlies in the ECHL era.

2020-21 Season Recap: The ECHL completed the 2020-21 season through the pandemic with 14 teams across two large conferences with an approximate 72-game schedule beginning in December 2020. The Fort Wayne Komets joined the other six Mountain Division teams to form the Western Conference, while the Eastern Conference consisted of teams from the South and Central Divisions. The Komets earned their first Kelly Cup Championship in four games against the South Carolina Stingrays in a best-of-five series.

A Long Time Coming: Though it won’t count towards the standings, the Steelheads have returned to play for the first time since Mar. 7, 2020 against the South Carolina Stingrays, the final game before the ECHL cancelled the remainder of the 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization opted-out of the 2020-21 season due to pandemic constraints, one of 12 teams to do so and the only Mountain Division team not playing last year. The Steelheads finished the 2019-20 season with a 36-18-7 record with 79 points, sitting tied for second with the Grizzlies prior to the shutdown.

School of Fish: The Steelheads bring 23 players into the regular season with just six returning from the 2019-20 season: forwards Zack Andrusiak, Colby McAuley, Will Merchant and A.J. White; defenseman Evan Wardley; and goaltender Jake Kupsky, who only played two games in loan from the SPHL. The roster has 12 rookie players to the professional ranks though only two played at the NCAA level last year.  13 players played at least at the ECHL level while four appeared in European leagues.

New Blood, So Soon: The Dallas Stars sent three players to the Steelheads from the Texas Stars (AHL) yesterday afternoon prior to the start of the regular season: Yauheni Aksiantsiuk, defenseman Dawson Barteaux and goaltender Adam Scheel. Aksiantsiuk and Barteaux become the first players in Steelheads history to be born in the 21st Century (2000 or later) with Akriantsiuk (2001) being the younger between he and Barteaux (2001) though both have professional experience. Sheel, 22, holds the record for best career GAA (1.95) at the University of North Dakota and holds spots in most major statistical categories.

No Hibernation: The Utah Grizzlies played during the 2020-21 pandemic season and finished with a 35-26-5-6 record, good for 81 points and a playoff berth for the second-straight season with opportunities though bowing out in the opening round. They finished in the top-half of the league on special teams and owned one of the best shot ratios in the ECHL (32.40 shot for to 29.10 shots against). Forward Matthew Boucher led the team in goals (25) and scoring (52) while forward Trey Bradley owned the most assists (37) and forward A.J. White led the power play (9) efforts and rounded out the top three scorers.

Bear Hunt: The Utah Grizzlies bring back only five players from their 2020-21 roster with many that year joining from ECHL teams that opted-out of the season. Among the returning staff are goaltenders Garrett Metcalf and Garrett Jones, who played a combined 27 games for the Grizzlies last year. Leading scorers Matthew Boucher and Trey Bradley return to the team along with Mason Mannek, who spent a majority of last season finishing his junior career with the Portland Winterhawks. The Grizzlies were assigned 11 players by the Colorado Eagles, making up nearly half of their 23-player roster.

Around The ECHL: The ECHL brings back all but one of its members after only 14 teams played last season with two additions: the Trois-Rivieres Lions and Iowa Heartlanders. Trois-Rivieres opened the 2021-22 ECHL season last night at home with a 6-3 loss against the Newfoundland Growlers. There will be nine Mountain Division games throughout the weekend with Idaho and Utah joining Wichita and Allen as the only four teams to play on all three days. Tulsa will meet Rapid City for two games, and the Kansas City Mavericks will go out-of-conference to take on the Heartlanders.

2019-20 MOUNTAIN DIVISION STANDINGS:

TEAMGPWLOTLSOLPTSPCT
Allen Americans6240146288.710
Idaho Steelheads6136183479.648
Utah Grizzlies6234177479.637
Tulsa Oilers6329267166.524
Rapid City Rush6029255164.533
Wichita Thunder6224308056.452
Kansas City Mavericks6124334153.434

Next Game: The Steelheads continue their three-in-three opening weekend on Saturday, Oct. 23 at 7:10 p.m. from Maverik Center in West Valley City, Utah. Coverage begins at 6:50 p.m. on 1350AM KTIK & FloHockey.

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