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PREVIEW #48: Steelheads @ Thunder

Wednesday, February 16th
PREVIEW #48: Steelheads @ Thunder

IDAHO STEELHEADS (27-17-3) VS. WICHITA THUNDER (19-21-7)

WEDNESDAY, FEB 16, 2022 | 6:05 P.M. MTINTRUST BANK ARENA | WICHITA, KSRADIO: 95.3FM/1350AM KTIK | STREAM: FLOHOCKEY

Tonight's Game: The Steelheads open a three-game road trip while closing the road portion of their season series with the Wichita Thunder from INTRUST Bank Arena.

Head-To-Head: The Steelheads have earned three of a possible six points so far in the series with the Thunder but have dropped two of three games, all of which came in Wichita earlier in February. This will be the final game in Wichita this season before the seven-game set comes back to Boise in late March. The Steelheads broke a six-game point streak against the Thunder in their last meeting but still have earned points in six of seven since the 2019-20 season. The Steelheads are 9-5-5 against the Thunder all-time as well as 5-3-4 on the road.

Last Game: The Steelheads closed their season series with the Tulsa Oilers in a 5-1 win on Saturday night from Idaho Central Arena. The Steelheads came out fast in the first period, and forward Matt Tugnutt (12:10 1st) capitalized on an unassisted turnover in the offensive end and take the first goal of the night. Momentum continued into the next frame with two goals in the opening five minutes starting with defenseman Mitch Versteeg (2:26 2nd) on a wrist shot from the blue line followed by the second from Tugnutt (4:16 2nd) on a backdoor play across the offensive end to take a 3-0 lead. The Oilers earned one back later in the second period, but the Steelheads pushed further ahead in the final period with rebound goals from forward Chase Zieky (2:05 3rd) and forward Luc Brown (4:23 3rd) within the first five minutes to put the game out of reach, 5-1.

Just Keep Swimming: The Steelheads have started coming into their own over the last three weeks and performing with strong results. During their last 10 games overall since January 26, the Steelheads have points in nine of those contests, boasting a 7-1-2-0 record while also going 6-0-1 at home. In that time, the Steelheads have only lost one regulation game (February 6 in Wichita, 5-2 L) but have posted three goals or more in seven of those contests, averaging 3.80 goals per game and holding opponents to two goals or less in six of those games. This is the team’s best 10-game stretch of the season, overtaking their previous best from November 24 through December 17 when they went 7-2-0-1 leading toward the holiday break.

Boise’s Best: While their overall streak is high flying, their home streak continued to nine-straight games with points in Saturday’s win. The Steelheads are 8-0-1-0 at Idaho Central Arena since January 7, only falling on Friday in overtime, and in that time they held a season-best six-game home win streak while taking down the top team in the South Division (Jacksonville) and Mountain Division (Utah) as well as the team chasing them (Tulsa). The Steelheads have 19 home wins this season, the best in the ECHL, and hold the second-highest win percentage (.780) only trailing the Reading Royals (.806). However, the Steelheads have only won a single road weekend from November 10-13 in Rapid City (2-1-0 record) despite earning three of six points in Wichita their previous trip.

Big Tugs: Steelheads forward Matt Tugnutt had a career game on Saturday, not only earning multiple goals but also leading the team’s scoring efforts. His three-point night (2 goals, assist) is the most points in a game of his rookie season, overtaking his only other two-goal night on December 4 in Kansas City when he recorded his first two professional goals. It was also the first two goals scored at home for the Portland, Maine product as well as just the sixth time he’s recorded points in Boise with now three occurring in his last seven home contests. Tugnutt now has 14 points (5-9–14) in 37 games.

Battery Charged: Steelheads goaltender Jake Kupsky helped lock down a strong week for the team while also keeping his own individual successes rolling. For Kupsky, it’s his fourth win over five contests since January 28 while holding opponents to two goals or less in four of six starts, improving his win total to 12 and now sits with the fourth-best GAA in the ECHL (2.24). This pairs with the performance of goaltender Colton Point, who held the Oilers to just two goals in two games while earning his team-high third shutout on Wednesday. The three-combined goals is the fewest since their season-low two goals in three games allowed against South Carolina from December 8-11 in a three-game sweep. As a pair, the two have a combined 18-12-2 record with a 2.31 GAA and .918 save percentage and five shutouts.

Storm Surge: The Wichita Thunder remain one of the hottest teams in the ECHL, boasting an eight-game point streak heading into tonight’s game. The Thunder are 6-0-2-0 in their last eight games while scoring three goals or more in all eight games despite breaking a four-game win streak on Saturday in Rapid City. Their 9-1-2-0 record since January 23 has vaulted them to two games under .500 for the first time since December 18 and moves them within one win of jumping into sixth place in the Mountain Division.

2021-22 MOUNTAIN DIVISION STANDINGS:

TEAM GP W L OTL SOL PTS PCT
Utah Grizzlies 47 29 15 2 1 61 .649
Idaho Steelheads 47 27 17 2 1 57 .606
Tulsa Oilers 45 24 19 1 1 50 .556
Rapid City Rush 48 23 19 4 2 52 .542
Allen Americans 44 20 18 5 1 46 .523
Kansas City Mavericks 47 22 23 2 0 46 .489
Wichita Thunder 47 19 21 7 0 45 .479

Next Game: The Steelheads meet the Kansas City Mavericks on Friday, Feb. 18 at 6:05 p.m. MT from Cable Dahmer Arena. Coverage begins at 5:45 p.m. on 95.3 The Ticket & FloHockey.

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