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PREVIEW #66: Steelheads @ Everblades

Friday, April 1st
PREVIEW #66: Steelheads @ Everblades

IDAHO STEELHEADS (34-28-3) @ FLORIDA EVERBLADES (36-18-10)

FRIDAY, APR. 1, 2022 | 5:30 P.M. MTHERTZ ARENA | ESTERO, FLRADIO: 95.3FM/1350AM KTIK | STREAM: FLOHOCKEY

Tonight's Game: The Steelheads open the final month of the regular season with the second of three games against the Florida Everblades from Hertz Arena.

Head-To-Head: The Steelheads slipped in their first meeting against the Everblades with the home side owning a chance to sweep the season series. This is the first series head-to-head since meeting in Estero on Nov. 13-14, 2015 in back-to-back Everblades wins (4-3 OT, 3-0). The Everblades have won five of their last six games against the Steelheads, all games including their current head coach Brad Ralph. Overall, the Steelheads are 5-6-1 in the regular season against the Everblades and are 2-3-1 on the road. The Steelheads are 3-1-0-0 against South Division teams this season after the sweep of the South Carolina Stingrays in December.

Last Game: The Steelheads and Everblades worked through a feeling out process early in the game, but as the first period wore on so did the chances. The first tally came on the lone power play of the frame as forward Jack Becker (PP, 17:25 1st) deflected a shot net-front to nudge ahead 1-0. The Everblades struck back with two goals in 16 seconds early in the second period to spin the game around in their favor, however forward Colton Kehler (6:56 2nd) notched a shot from a knee on a turnover to level the scoring again, 2-2. On their second power play, the Steelheads converted again thanks to forward Will Merchant (PP, 8:33 3rd) to step ahead by one before the Everblades answered again for a 3-3 game. A late power play for the Everblades set them up for the game-winner in the 4-3 decision.

Ides of March: The Steelheads closed the book on a difficult month on Wednesday, the final full month of the regular season. The Steelheads ended up with a 5-7-0-0 record in 12 games during March, the only time this season the team held a sub-.500 record, but the last calendar month was a tale of two halves. The Steelheads dropped five-straight games to open the month with a total season-worst six-game losing skid then rallied for wins in five of seven games, which included a four-game win streak, their second longest of the season. Heading into their final month, the Steelheads have earned three goals or more in five-straight games and six of their last seven contests, an encouraging sign with five of seven contests remaining against the Utah Grizzlies.

Power Surging: The Steelheads power play continued to remain stalwart with another two goals on two opportunities. It’s just the fourth time the Steelheads have had a perfect power play record in a game and their first since going 2-for-2 on January 8 against Utah, and all four times the Steelheads have had a maximum of two power play chances. It’s also the second-straight game that the Steelheads earned a multi-goal game on the man-advantage and third time in their last four games, and now in that stretch the Steelheads are 9-for-19, 31.6%) on the power play. In their last four games, the Steelheads have vaulted their overall season numbers from 20.4% (12th ECHL) to 22.5% (6th ECHL).

Going Streaking: Three Steelheads players find themselves in the midst of hefty scoring streaks heading into April. Captain A.J. White leads the way with a five-game assist and point streak, boasting 14 points (3-11–14) with four multi-point games, and the streak is still two games back of his season-best seven-game stretch with eight points (2-6–8) from November 24 through December 10. Forwards Colton Kehler and Will Merchant each own four-game point streaks with seven points (4-3–7) with Kehler owning two multi-point games and Merchant kicking his off with his first hat-trick.

Another First: Steelheads forward Jack Becker earned his first professional goal in Wednesday’s loss, which was also his first power play tally of his career. The Dellwood, Minn. product now has back-to-back power play points after five games to start his career following a five-year collegiate career between Arizona State University and the University of Michigan. He’s the second-straight player to earn his first pro tally in as many games, joining Austin Alger from Saturday’s win over Wichita in his second pro game. The Steelheads have had six players this season earn their first professional goals.

Blading The Trail: The Florida Everblades followed their leading scorers to the win on Wednesday, and they’ve been chasing the league lead all season. Forwards Blake Winiecki (28-35–63), John McCarron (28-35–63) and Joe Pendenza (25-37–62) factored in on all four goals in Wednesday’s win led by Pendenza on a three-point night, and they’re the only trio in the ECHL this season that has 60 or more points while on the same team. Pendenza leads the team in assists (37) while McCarron and Winiecki share the lead in goals (28) and assists (63).  The Everblades are the only team in the ECHL with four players at 50 points or more with multiple teams coming in with just two skaters.

2021-22 MOUNTAIN DIVISION STANDINGS:

TEAM GP W L OTL SOL PTS PCT
Rapid City Rush 64 33 21 5 5 76 .594
Utah Grizzlies 65 37 25 2 1 77 .592
Idaho Steelheads 65 34 28 2 1 71 .546
Allen Americans 62 29 25 7 1 66 .532
Tulsa Oilers 64 31 28 3 2 67 .523
Kansas City Mavericks 65 29 30 5 1 64 .492
Wichita Thunder 63 24 30 9 0 57 .452

Next Game: The Steelheads and Everblades finish their three-game weekend on Saturday, Apr. 2 at 5:30 p.m. MT from Hertz Arena. Coverage begins at 5:10 p.m. on 95.3 The Ticket & FloHockey.

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