The Steelheads are fresh off back-to-back wins over the Allen Americans, and now prepare for their first ever meeting with the Kalamazoo Wings. The Wings come to Boise playing strong as well, winning four of their last five games and taking four points in Wichita from the Thunder.
The Wings will be the third team this season to make their CenturyLink Arena debut, following the Norfolk Admirals and Wichita Thunder. Both Norfolk and Wichita earned splits in two-game sets.
Prior to arriving in Idaho, the Wings did the Steelheads a favor by limiting the Thunder to just one point over the weekend. That coupled with Idaho’s 5-0 win over the Americans on Saturday pulled the Steelheads into a statistical tie in the standings with the Thunder, both teams with 45 points. Kalamazoo has also helped their own case in the Central Division playoff picture, now within four points of the fourth-place Kansas City Mavericks with five games in hand.
Ryan Faragher stopped all 22 shots he faced on Saturday for his second shutout of the season, and he got plenty of offensive support as well. Jefferson Dahl posted a three-point night, his second in a row, giving the Steelheads’ captain nine goals and 17 points in his last ten contests. Goals for Dahl and for Steve McParland extended each player’s respective goal-scoring streak to four straight games, matching the longest by a Steelhead this season.
The Steelheads’ lead shutdown defensive pair of Charlie Dodero and Corbin Baldwin had a strong weekend, holding Olvier Archambault without a point and limiting Casey Pierro-Zabotel to one assist. The pairing was a plus-5 for the weekend and produced a Dodero goal and three assists.
The Wings enter this series already having played four straight on the road, with another game in Quad City on the other end of this series. The team’s road success in the New Year has offered a boost, now with a 7-8-1 road record after starting the trip at 4-7-1 away from Wings Event Center.
Former Steelhead Justin Taylor is in his eighth professional season, having spent parts of all eight with the Wings, and he may be having his best campaign. His 20 goals and 32 points in 32 games are well ahead of his best pace, currently tied for second in the ECHL’s goal-scoring race. He has 12 goals in his last eleven games. Wednesday’s game will be Taylor’s first at CenturyLink Arena since May of 2013 when he played for Idaho in the Western Conference Final against Stockton.
Kyle Bushee has been Kalamazoo’s most productive defenseman this season, tied for eighth among ECHL blue-liners with 24 points and not having gone more than two games without at least a point this season. Eric Kattelus has been stepping up his scoring from the back end as well in recent weeks, the seventh-year Wing with a goal and 13 points in his last 11 games.
Rookie Aaron Irving has a four-game points streak with three goals and six points, moving him into the top-20 in the ECHL in rookie scoring with 21 points in 29 games. Second-year Wing Josh Pitt is riding a six-game points streak with five goals and eight points.
The Steelheads can assume they will see Joel Martin in net at some point for the Wings, the 35 year-old goaltender ranking second in the ECHL in minutes played and fourth in appearances. Martin is 12-8-3 this season.
The Wings are Idaho’s first opponent from outside the Mountain Division since facing the Quad City Mallards on October 28th.
STEELHEAD TO WATCH
Justin Parizek was named to the 2018 ECHL All-Star Classic last week and spent the rest of the week justifying the decision with three goals and four points in two games against the Americans. Two of those goals came shorthanded, Parizek’s first two shorthanded goals and Idaho’s fifth and sixth of the season. Parizek has four goals and nine points in his last eight games. Parizek has ten goals and 17 points in 17 games at CenturyLink Arena this season.
WING TO WATCH
This series has the potential to be a battle of first-round picks, with Henrik Samuelsson entering the series with 14 points in his last ten games and Tyler Biggs in the lineup for the Wings. Biggs, the 22nd overall pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011, is in his second full season with Kalamazoo. He has ten goals and 22 points in 27 games for the Wings, fourth on the team in scoring. Biggs has five goals and ten points in ten games for a team that has no trouble scoring goals. The Wings are ranked fourth in the league at 3.59 goals per game.
The Steelheads did a masterful job against an Allen team with limited roster options last weekend, taking control of the game early and grinding down the Americans over the first 40 minutes. Allen had little energy left for third periods, when Idaho outscored them 4-0 and outshot them 23-9. The Wings also may be a bit thin heading into the series, as of Tuesday only having ten natural forwards on the roster. If the Wings are going to be playing with limited numbers, or possibly using defensemen up front, the first period again becomes critical for the Steelheads to control the pace and use their speed to wear down the Wings. The Wings have a plus-13 goal differential in first periods, but a minus-11 in second periods.