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PREVIEW #26: Steelheads @ Americans

Friday, December 31st
PREVIEW #26: Steelheads @ Americans

IDAHO STEELHEADS (16-8-1) @ ALLEN AMERICANS (9-9-3)

FRIDAY, DEC. 31, 2021 | 5:05 P.M. MTALLEN EVENT CENTER | ALLEN, TXRADIO: 95.3FM/1350AM KTIK | STREAM: FLOHOCKEY

Tonight’s Game: The Steelheads open a three-game weekend against the Allen Americans from Allen Event Center as they end the 2021 calendar and ring in the New Year.

Head-To-Head: The Steelheads begin the road portion of their eight-game season series with the Americans after taking two of three games in November to claim the home portion of the season set. The Steelheads and Americans meet five more times in Allen with the remaining two games in early March. Both teams have split their last 12 games since the start of the 2019-20 season with a 6-4-2 record for the Steelheads, who are 20-11-5 overall against the Americans as well as 8-5-2 at Allen Event Center.

Last Game: The Steelheads closed out their long home stretch with a 3-0 shutout win over the Rapid City Rush on December 19 from Idaho Central Arena. The Steelheads held firm defensively until they were able to net the game’s first goal in the middle frame. Forward Colby McAuley (14:00 2nd) created space with a check and finished the attempt with a one-time shot off the right post, netting the difference-maker and the 1-0 lead. Steelheads forward A.J. White (PP, 4:31 3rd) pushed through the first power play goal of the weekend on a net front press to double the advantage, and defenseman Casey Johnson (EN, 19:58 3rd) ensured the game with an empty net goal for the 3-0 win. Matt Jurusik halted all 21 shots in his second shutout of the year.

Home Power: The Steelheads head into their final game of the 2021 calendar year coming off one of the team’s best stretches. Following 12 of 14 games at Idaho Central Arena, the Steelheads posted a 10-3-0-1 record and also won five of six games during their homestand. Statistically, the Steelheads have held opponents to two goals or less in regulation in eight-straight games as well as 13 of 14 games, outscoring their opponents 39-22 with three shutouts since November 17. Overall, the team has points in seven of eight games in December with a 6-1-0-1 record and now has wins in 13 of 18 games since November 7 against Tulsa.

New Faces, New Places: Like the rest of the ECHL, the Steelheads have had a flurry of activity for their roster heading out of the holiday break with the re-introduction of the NHL Taxi Squads. The Steelheads received defenseman Darren Brady from the Abbotsford Canucks following the team’s final game before the break and added forwards Nick DeVito and Conor Landrigan while seeing forward Colby McAuley head to Hershey on an AHL PTO. Forward Kyle Marino remains with the Chicago Wolves on a call-up, and defenseman Michael Prapavessis is also on his PTO with the Ontario Reign.

The White Knight: Steelheads forward A.J. White finished the homestand with back-to-back multi-point games thanks to an assist and power play goal on December 19. The Dearborn, Mich. native has had his strongest start to a season in his career, leading the Steelheads in all scoring categories with 24 points (10-14--24) along with four power play goals and eight power play points. He needs just one assist to reach 100 for his Steelheads career, which would mark the fifth player in the ECHL era to reach that milestone. He would join Marty Flichel (260), Darrell Hay (197), Jefferson Dahl (133) and Lance Galbraith (127) at that plateau.

Crease Crusaders: Steelheads goaltender Matt Jurusik put on another starring performance, stepping right in following his AHL stint to record a 21-save shutout, his second-straight shutout and third in four games across both the AHL and ECHL. This continues to re-enforce the strength of the Steelheads goaltending rotation throughout the season with both Jurusik (1.66) and Jake Kupsky (1.65) owning the top-two goals-against averages in the ECHL with Jurusik also sitting second in save percentage (.935). Along with Colton Point (2.04) and Adam Scheel (2.37), all four would sit in the top-10 in GAA across the ECHL if they all qualified in minutes played.

Oppo Boppo: The Allen Americans have had opposite luck to start the season looking at the home and road portions of their schedule to get to an even record. With their win on Wednesday in Wichita, the Americans have won four-straight road games since November 27 in Idaho as well as points in five-straight road contests. However, the Americans have struggled when playing at home, winning just two of their first nine games: October 24 and December 12 (both against Wichita). The Americans play five of their next seven games at home with a 2-5-2 home record while sitting with a 7-4-1 record away from their home building.

2021-22 MOUNTAIN DIVISION STANDINGS:

TEAM GP W L OTL SOL PTS PCT
Utah Grizzlies 28 18 9 1 0 37 .661
Idaho Steelheads 25 16 8 0 1 33 .660
Tulsa Oilers 24 14 9 0 1 29 .604
Rapid City Rush 28 12 12 2 2 28 .500
Kansas City Mavericks 26 11 14 1 0 23 .442
Wichita Thunder 27 10 15 2 0 22 .407
Allen Americans 21 9 9 3 0 21 .500

Next Game: The Steelheads begin 2022 and play the mid-way game of their weekend against the Allen Americans on Saturday, Jan. 1 at 6:05 p.m. MT from Allen Event Center. Coverage begins at 5:45 p.m. on KTIK "The Ticket" (95.3FM/1350AM) & FloHockey.

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