Preview: Bear of a Week

It will be a home-and-home of sort this week for the Steelheads, who head on the road for two games against the Grizzlies before returning to CenturyLink Arena for two more against the Grizzlies to round out the week. The four-game series will round out a stretch of seven games in eleven days for Idaho, a run that got off to a good start last week against the Tulsa Oilers.

The Steelheads took two of three from the Oilers in Boise last week, including a comeback shootout win on Wednesday and a 2-1 victory on Saturday for the Teddy Bear Toss for Tots. They head into the Utah series sitting in fourth place in the Mountain Division, six points shy of the division lead.

The Grizzlies took four of an available six points when these teams last met in October, including the Steelheads’ lone shutout loss of the season in the only game at Maverick Center. Wins have been hard to come by for the Grizzlies of late, going 0-3-4 in their last seven games and coming off an overtime loss to the Colorado Eagles.

The Grizzlies have one win in their last eleven games, and one regulation win in their last 12.

Despite trouble winning, Greger Hanson has continued a strong season in his first campaign in Utah. In addition to four AHL games this year in San Diego, Hanson has 16 points in 14 games for the Grizzlies and at least a point in ten of the past twelve outings. Ryan Walters has been an impact acquisition since he was dealt back to the Grizzlies after spending the last year and a half in Rapid City. Walters opened his season with Utah with ten points on a six-game points streak. Walters was then held off the sheet for four games before scoring in his last two outings.

Michael Pelech leads the Grizzlies with 20 points in 21 games. He’s without a goal in his last seven contests, but has five assists during that time.

Just as he was last year in Alaska, goaltender Kevin Carr has been heavily relied upon in Utah. He has appeared in 14 of the Grizzlies 21 games this year, carrying a record of 5-5-4 with a 2.81 goals-against average. Carr has appeared in five of Utah’s last six games.

Steve McParland’s Teddy Bear Toss goal on Saturday gave him goals in back-to-back games and extended his points streak to five games. Jefferson Dahl also scored Saturday on the power play, the fifth straight game in which the Steelheads’ power play has scored a goal. Idaho’s man-advantage is 10-for-28 over that stretch.

The Steelheads only registered 27 shots in their 2-1 win over the Oilers, meaning Philippe Desrosiers had to do some heavy-lifting for the win. He did just that with 36 saves on 37 shots to earn his fifth straight victory. Desrosiers is sporting a .926 save percentage during the win streak, and his nine wins for the season are tied for second in the ECHL.

The series will also offer Ryan Faragher his first opportunity to face his former team, after Faragher spent his first three ECHL seasons with Utah.

The Steelheads have won their last four road games, dating back to their sweep of the Rapid City Rush in mid-November.

 

STEELHEAD TO WATCH

Cody Corbett is proving himself to once again be among the league’s best play-makers from the blue line, especially with the man-advantage. Corbett enters the series with 14 points in his last 14 games, a stretch which includes six multi-point performances. Corbett is tied for seventh among ECHL defenseman in scoring, but is even more effective on the power play where his ten assists rank second in the league behind only Colorado’s Jake Marto.

 

GRIZZLY TO WATCH

Another talented young defenseman, Utah coach Tim Branham has been using defenseman Cliff Watson in every situation. Watson has six goals and 14 points this season for Utah, leading rookie blue-liners in both categories. The former Michigan Tech captain has three goals and six points over the last eight games. Watson notched a goal and an assist in three games against the Steelheads earlier this season. He is a minus-5, however, over the last ten games, during which the Grizzlies have struggled.
KEY MATCHUP

The Steelheads and Allen Americans had a fierce and physical series two weeks ago at CenturyLink Arena, and we may be in for more of the same against the Grizzlies. The last meeting between these teams on October 21st at Maverik Center ended with fists flying, with Utah’s Travis Howe earning multiple game misconduct penalties on one sequence after he went after both Cody Corbett and Justin Parizek in the closing minutes of the game. With a grinding style, the Grizzlies will try to slow down a high-flying Steelheads team. Idaho proved against the Americans that they’re comfortable standing toe-to-toe in a nasty series, but with one of the hottest power plays in the league the Steelheads will also welcome the opportunity to hurt the Grizzlies should they become undisciplined.