BOISE, Idaho – The Idaho Steelheads returned to CenturyLink Arena on November 7 for the first time since October 20 and with a three-game losing streak in tow. The Steelies had only managed two wins out of six straight games on the road, notching wins against Utah on October 17 and Indy on October 30. Coming off of two losses to Toledo and a loss to Kalamazoo, Idaho looked to turn their fortunes around against another team with a three-game losing streak, the Tulsa Oilers.
Simply put, one streak had to give.
Idaho quickly scored two goals from forwards Joe Pendenza and Spencer Naas in the first five minutes and 24 seconds of gameplay Wednesday night, holding on for the remaining 55 minutes to give Tulsa their first regulation loss of the season by a score of 3-2. Rookie defenseman Brady Norrish added another tally for the Steelheads early in the second period before Tulsa notched two goals of their own halfway through the second (from d-man Kyle Rhodes) and midway through the third (from veteran forward Peter Sivak) before conceding defeat after sixty.
As aforementioned, the Steelheads came out hot from the opening faceoff, with two quick scores in the first five minutes of the match. The first Idaho goal came when defenseman Jeff King passed the puck ahead to forward Steve McParland, up the right wing and into the Oilers’ zone. McParland found a streaking Pendenza up the middle, splitting the two Tulsa defenders and netting the Steelies first official shot for a goal at 1:37 of the first period.
After a couple of shots on net from the Oilers, Tulsa’s Rhodes was whistled for a minor tripping call at 3:48 of the first. Idaho defenseman Eric Sweetman joined him in the adjacent penalty box a little over a minute later after sending Tulsa forward Charlie Sampair end-over-end with a hip check for a Clipping minor at 5:01. The resulting 4-on-4 ice time had Norrish finding Naas deep along the left wing goal line. The St. Louis Park, Minnesota native then lobbed a shot towards Tulsa goaltender Devin Williams from a sharp angle, bouncing the puck off Williams’ back and into the net for his fourth goal of the season at 5:24 of the first.
Idaho’s third goal of the night came in similarly freaky fashion, with Norrish backhanding a half-hearted attempt on Williams before watching the puck bounce over his leg pad and beyond the goal line at 6:34 of the second period. Norrish finished the night with the one goal on his only shot on net for the game, earning an assist on the Naas goal as well.
Letting their foot off the gas defensively, Idaho let Tulsa creep back into the shots on goal lead in the second period. A flurry of shots on Idaho rookie goaltender Colton Point halfway through the frame led to Tulsa d-man Kyle Rhodes wristing one past Point at 11:29 of the second to bring the Idaho lead to two. Continued pressure from the Oilers in the third period led to the Sivak tally from the high right wing side, cutting the Steelheads’ lead to just one with less than eight minutes left in regulation. Tulsa went on to out-shoot Idaho 5-2 to finish out the game, with the Steelies surviving a last-minute push from the Oilers as they pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker.
Norrish Trophy Candidate
Idaho rookie defenseman Brady Norrish, coming off of an injury-shortened senior year at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), has had a brilliant start to his professional career in 2018-19. Norrish is currently tied for first amongst league defensemen with four goals, and is second in the league among d-men with ten points. Not surprisingly, he also leads all Steelheads defensemen in scoring, and is second on the team in points behind Steve McParland (11).
Goalie Debut on Point
Steelheads rookie netminder Colton Point made his ECHL debut against Tulsa, saving 28 of 30 shots and earning a 2.00 GAA and 0.933 save percentage for his first victory in an Idaho uniform. Point, 20, went 1-3-0 for Texas in five games played, posting a 3.96 GAA and 0.854 save percentage before being re-assigned to Idaho on November 5.
The Steelheads have struggled in the beginning of games thus far this young season, came into Wednesday’s game with only 97 shots forced (8.81/gm) and 130 shots allowed (11.81/gm) in the first period of eleven games played. Only the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, with 146 shots allowed through 11 games, have averaged more shots allowed. Idaho led Tulsa in shots, 9-8, after the first period Wednesday night. It was only the third time in twelve games Idaho has led on the shot sheet after one period.
Five for Blue-Lining
Only five defensemen were dressed for the Steelheads on Wednesday night, as d-man Nolan Gluchowski was placed on injured reserve on November 3, retroactively effective back to October 27. In spite of the divided defensive duties, all but one defenseman earned a plus-one rating in tonight’s game: rookie d-man Clint Lewis finished the night even.
Idaho Head Coach Neil Graham stated, “It is what it is. We had five defensemen, we dressed them, and I thought we executed that well. It’s one of those situations where you have to play the game smarter. There’s points where you have to manage your shifts and the way you’re playing the game. But, with eleven forwards and five d-men going, we got the points.”
Post-Game Interview with Idaho Head Coach Neil Graham: