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PREVIEW #68: Steelheads vs. Grizzlies

Wednesday, April 6th
PREVIEW #68: Steelheads vs. Grizzlies

IDAHO STEELHEADS (35-29-3) VS. UTAH GRIZZLIES (38-26-3)

WEDNESDAY, APR. 6, 2022 | 7:10 P.M. MTIDAHO CENTRAL ARENA | BOISE, IDTICKETS: CLICK HERETV: SPARKLIGHT CH. 72RADIO: 95.3FM/1350AM KTIK | STREAM: FLOHOCKEY

Tonight’s Game: The Steelheads begin their final five game stretch of the regular season against the Utah Grizzlies starting at Idaho Central Arena.

Head-To-Head: The Steelheads and Grizzlies meet in back-to-back months for the first time after splitting their two-game weekend in Boise. Their last win gave the Steelheads the one game edge over Utah in their first 11 games this season, going 6-5-0 with wins in three of four in Boise. This is the third stretch with more than five games head-to-head in-a-row, including the opening two weekends and two weekends in January. The Steelheads are 114-56-26 against the Grizzlies all-time as well as 63-25-13 at home.

Last Game: The Steelheads could not hold off the Florida Everblades in a 3-1 loss on Saturday night from Hertz Arena. The Steelheads and Everblades went back and forth in a scoreless first period, and it took until the back end of the second period for either team to push a tally through. Forward Will Merchant (15:56 2nd) converted during a 2-on-1 rush with a back door one-timer for the first tally of the night, 1-0. However, the Everblades rallied back in the third period to take control of their fortunes. Two goals for the Everblades in just over one minute gave them the one-goal lead, and a later tally sealed off the 3-1 result.

Final Five: The Steelheads enter into the final two weeks and five games of the regular season in a tight race for postseason spots in the Mountain Division. All seven teams are mathematically in contention for the four postseason positions, and the division is the only one across the ECHL without a team yet to clinch a playoff spot. The Steelheads are not in a clinching scenario heading into tonight’s game but are in a heated race between three teams for two positions. The Allen Americans (84) have the most maximum points followed by the Steelheads (83) and Tulsa Oilers (82) despite the division standings putting the Steelheads in third place. The Mountain Division will be determined by win percentage, not points, at the end of the regular season.

Home Cooking: The Steelheads return to Downtown Boise with the advantage in the next three games thanks to their season-long work at home. The Steelheads are 24-8-1-0 at Idaho Central Arena this season, giving them a share of not only the most wins at home across the ECHL but also the best win percentage (.742), sharing the exact same record with the Atlanta Gladiators. In their time at home, the Steelheads have either split or won 10 of their 11 home series lasting two games or more with outright weekend wins in eight of those 11 series (72.7%) including two weekend sweeps of three games. The Steelheads have won four-straight games at home and have outscored opponents 25-8 since their last meeting with Utah on March 19.

Cashing In: Steelheads forward Will Merchant has been on fire over the last three weeks of play thanks to another goal on Saturday in Florida. The Eagan, Minn. native is on a three-game goal streak for the first time this season and for the firs time since Dec. 13-18, 2019, posting one goal in each game last week. The scoring also extends his point streak to six-straight games, marking the longest point streak of his career and overtaking his five-game streak record set three different times, most recently from Mar. 17-27, 2019 when he earned six points (4-2–6). His most recent run began with his first-career hat-trick on March 23 and currently has nine points (6-3–9) in his streak.

Bulking Up: The Utah Grizzlies enter their final five-game stretch a bit on the back foot following losses in two of three games last weekend in Rapid City. Though the Grizzlies have split their last four games, the tem has dropped five of their last seven contests including their last meeting with the Steelheads, going 2-5-0 while allowing four goals or more in all four losses to Idaho, Tulsa and Rapid City. The Grizzlies are averaging just 2.86 goals per game, which is below their season average of 3.31 goals per game. Four of their last six losses have all come at home, and the Grizzlies have dropped four of their last five home series dating back to the start of February, going 6-8-0 at Maverik Center in that time thanks to a three-game sweep of Kansas City in early March, and the Grizzlies are also 3-4-1 in their last eight road games since the end of February.

2021-22 MOUNTAIN DIVISION STANDINGS:

TEAM GP W L OTL SOL PTS PCT
Utah Grizzlies 66 38 25 2 1 79 .598
Rapid City Rush 65 33 22 5 5 76 .585
Idaho Steelheads 66 35 28 2 1 73 .553
Allen Americans 63 30 25 7 1 68 .540
Tulsa Oilers 65 32 28 3 2 69 .531
Kansas City Mavericks 66 29 31 5 1 64 .485
Wichita Thunder 64 24 31 9 0 57 .445

Next Game: The Steelheads return to Idaho Central Arena on Wednesday, Apr. 6 at 7:10 p.m. to open the final five games against the Utah Grizzlies. Tickets are available by going to idahosteelheads.com or by calling 331-TIXS. Coverage begins at 6:50 p.m. on 95.3 The Ticket as well as 7:00 p.m. on Sparklight Ch. 72 & FloHockey.tv.

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