BOISE, ID– The Idaho Steelheads will look to use their speed to improve upon last year’s third place finish in the Pacific. Fans in Boise should be excited, as this team is built exactly as Neil Graham wants it. Idaho looks locked in and ready, but now is when the real test begins.
Head Coach: Neil Graham will be entering his third season as Idaho’s bench boss. Graham has a record of 81-46-12-5 thru his first two campaigns.
Captain: Jefferson Dahl will be returning for his second year as the captain of the Steelheads. It will be his fourth overall with the team. Dahl has recorded 149 points (57G 92A) in three seasons with Idaho, an average of almost 50 points a year.
Last Season: The Idaho Steelheads started the 2016-17 season 1-3-1, but were able to quickly turn it around by winning 12 of their next 16 games (12-3-1). The defense would be a strength of the Steelheads all season, as they would finish tied for third in the ECHL with the Colorado Eagles with 206 goals against. The Steelheads would make a bid for the division crown, but in the end, their cross-rock pile rivals were too strong. Idaho would finish 43-22-5-2 for 93 points, good for third in the division.
In the postseason Idaho would take on the Pacific’s second-place team, Colorado. Things started very well as Idaho would take game one at Colorado 4-2, and had a chance to go up two games as the second game headed to overtime locked at one. It would be the Eagles who would score to even the series though, and Idaho would not win another game. Colorado would take the series 4-1 in route to their first Kelly Cup championship.
Speed. That’s the word that came up continuously in our discussion with Steelheads’ announcer Brian McCormack. McCormack raved about the speed that has been on display throughout the preseason and said the team is coming together exactly as Coach Graham wants. Though he stressed it’s only preseason, McCormack said the chemistry in the locker room has been great as well. The Steelheads seem to be coming together very nicely, adding speed and skill to an already stingy defense. Should they get solid netminding from Philippe Desrosiers and Branden Komm, Idaho could be division champs or even more.
- #SpeedySteelheads – Graham has built a fast team in Boise, and he will let them fly. Look for Idaho to play fast and use their speed to try to overwhelm their opponents.
- #UnityOfPurpose – Chemistry is a very important part of winning teams, and Idaho has it. The Steelheads are all of one mind as they look to make a run at a championship.
- #PlayingTheBest – The Pacific Division is home to the last three Kelly Cups. Colorado is the defending champion, and the Allen Americans had won the previous two. Winning the division will be no easy task, but this gauntlet has built champions the last few runs.
- #SweetHits Eric Sweetman is a rookie from St. Lawrence University who will make an impact on fans and opposing players. Steelheads fans will fall in love with the tough defenseman, and his board-rattling hits.
- Talented line – Idaho will have a dangerous line with Dahl teaming up with Henrik Samuelsson and Mitch Moroz. Moroz and Samuelsson both come to Idaho after spending the last three years in the AHL, with the two even swapping teams as part of a trade last year. They have played together already in juniors with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League, and will look to recreate past chemistry. Dahl, meanwhile, is coming off a year in which he tallied 22 goals and 66 points. This is not only the line the Steelheads will be looking to most for their offense, but also to lead the team. Watch for this line to be a major piece of the puzzle.
- Goaltending must hold – Even with a strong team in front, everything can fall apart without a goalie. Landon Bow, who was 19-6-0 with a save percentage of .933 and a goals against average of 2.08 last year, is now in the AHL with the Texas Stars. Idaho will be looking to Desrosiers and Komm to repeat past ECHL success. Komm also had 19 wins for Idaho last year, going 19-13-0 (2.69GAA .917Save%) and will be counted on again to be solid. The wildcard is Desrosiers. He owns the Steelheads’ all-time record unbeaten streak, going 12-0-4 from December 13, 2015-April 8, 2016, but struggled last year in 13 games with Idaho. Desrosiers could be a big piece if he can return to 2015-16 form.
- Eric Sweetman – Sweetman may be small for a d-man, standing 5’11” and weighing 174 pounds, but he knows how to use his body. He will fast become a fan favorite in Idaho.
- Will Merchant – Merchant finished fourth on the team in points in 2016-17 with 48 (21G, 27A). The 6-foot-1 left wing will be looking to score even more in his second campaign with Idaho.
- Shane Hanna – Hanna is another young defenseman Idaho will be looking to for production. He played his college hockey for Michigan Tech, and will be a rookie. He had a career plus/minus of plus-57 for MTU.
- Mitch Moroz – Moroz never had more than 10 points in three AHL seasons, but had 63 points (35G 28A) in his last year in juniors. The Steelheads will be hoping for a return to past scoring ways in his first crack at the ECHL.
Blocked and Reported
- Rob Linsmayer is currently unsigned after four years in Idaho. He had 52 points last year (17G 35A)
- Anthony Luciani, who tallied 61 points in 2016-17 (31G 30A), has left to play for HK Nitra in Slovakia.
- Joe Basaraba scored 46 points last season (21G 25A), he has joined the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.
Idaho will be fast, and extremely fun to watch. This team looks complete, if everything continues to come together they will be serious contenders.