For the 22nd season in a row, the Idaho Steelheads have qualified for a postseason berth. That counts as the longest active playoff streak in North American professional hockey at all levels. Idaho’s opponent, their geographic rival the Utah Grizzlies, have only missed the postseason twice (2007, 2018) in their 14 seasons of ECHL existence.
Final Regular Season Records:
Idaho Steelheads: 41-25-4-2, 88 points (2nd in Mountain, 4th in Western Conference)
Utah Grizzlies: 37-26-4-5, 83 points (3rd in Mountain, 5th in Western Conference)
Game 1 – Friday, April 12 – Utah at IDAHO 7:10 p.m. MT
Game 2 – Saturday, April 13 – Utah at IDAHO 7:10 p.m. MT
Game 3 – Wednesday, April 17 – Idaho at UTAH 7:00 p.m. MT
Game 4 – Friday, April 19 – Idaho at UTAH 7:00 p.m. MT
*Game 5 – Saturday, April 20 – Idaho at UTAH 7:00 p.m. MT
*Game 6 – Monday, April 22 – Utah at IDAHO 7:10 p.m. MT
*Game 7 – Tuesday, April 23 – Utah at IDAHO 7:10 p.m. MT
*=> If Necessary
Season Series Recap:
Idaho and Utah met 15 times this year, culminating in the two facing off in the final three games of the regular season. The Grizzlies were victorious nine times out of the 15 matchups, with five regulation and two overtime losses. Both teams traded wins back and forth (5-5) until February 8, with Utah winning four out of the five final games played with Idaho.
How Idaho Wins:
Goal support and a strong defensive effort in front of All-Rookie goaltender Tomas Sholl. Eight of Idaho’s top ten goal scorers are on the postseason roster; forwards Brad McClure (call-up to AHL Texas) and Alexander Dahl (injured reserve) are not currently available for Game One on Friday, April 12. Forward Reid Petryk, who returned from a seven-game loan to AHL Chicago on April 10, accounted for 19 goals during the regular season (tied for third on the team with McClure). In nine games against Utah, Petryk has three goals and four assists for seven total points.
Another welcome return for the Steelheads is defenseman Colton Saucerman, who’s leadership helped Idaho to a 7-3-0 record from mid-November to early December before receiving a call-up to AHL Utica on December 9, 2018. Including Saucerman amongst defensive stalwarts Keegan Kanzig, Jeff King, and Nolan Gluchowski, netminder Tomas Sholl can be well protected in order to keep the Steelheads in games late (Sholl went 3-4-0 in seven games against Utah this season, with a .907 save percentage, 3.00 GAA, and five games with 30+ saves).
How Utah Wins:
Rely on the grit of former ECHL Colorado players and keep feeding the puck to their point machines. An Eagles reunion was bound to happen this year after the Grizzlies affiliation changed from Anaheim/San Diego to NHL and AHL Colorado. Captain Teigan Zahn, centerman Jake Marchment, and forward Joey Ratelle are the muscle Utah needs in order to combat Idaho tough guys Kale Kessy and Keegan Kanzig.
With an overtime game-winning goal against Idaho on April 6, forward Caleb Herbert bolstered his goal total to 32 for the season (good enough to finish tied for fourth league-wide). Add in shooters Cole Ully and Ryan Walters with playmaker Josh Dickinson, and the Grizzlies could very well exhibit the same firepower shown in their seven-goal season finale. Throw Taylor Richart and Austin Carroll in the mix for an even better potential showing and effort from the team out of West Valley City.