Idaho Steelheads vs. Wheeling Nailers
Date(s) - Wed Mar 22, 2017
5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
The Steelheads make their first ever visit to Wheeling, West Virginia and WesBanco Arena this week for their second series this season against the Wheeling Nailers. The Steelheads are coming off a 3-2-0 home stand and sit third in the Mountain Division, their magic number to reach a playoff spot now sitting at six points (gained by Idaho or lost by the Missouri Mavericks). The defending Eastern Conference Champion Nailers are outside the playoff picture, five points behind the Manchester Monarchs with eight games left on their schedule.
The Steelheads earned a 5-3 win to wrap up their home stand last Saturday against the Rapid City Rush, fueled by two-goal games by both Rob Linsmayer and Jefferson Dahl. Andre Morrissette opened the scoring for Idaho, and Branden Komm made 28 saves for his fifth win in his last six appearances.
Feast on the East…
This week against the Nailers will serve as Idaho’s final set of the season against an Eastern Conference opponent. The Steelheads have fared well against teams in the East, winning two of three contests against the Nailers in early February when they visited CenturyLink Arena and going 9-4-1 overall this season against Easter Conference teams. Despite that success, the Steelheads have only played five games against Eastern Conference opponents since mid-November, all coming at CenturyLink Arena with a split against the Cincinnati Cyclones and the series win over the Nailers. Idaho’s only other series in an Eastern Conference city this season came in November when they went 2-0-1 in Norfolk against the Admirals.
Tandem Taking Off…
Jefferson Dahl and Rob Linsmayer powered the Idaho offense on Saturday night, but it wasn’t an isolated incident for the long-time linemates. Dahl is in the midst of a seven-game points streak, his second-longest of the season, with four goals and eight points over that span moving him into the scoring lead on the Idaho roster. Linsmayer has been an even more efficient finisher of late, entering Wednesday’s contest with four goals during his current three-game goal-scoring streak and with seven goals and 14 assists in his last ten outings.
About the Nailers…
It’s becoming make-or-break time for Wheeling, sitting outside the playoff picture and having gone 2-0-2 on their four-game road trip, coming off consecutive overtime losses in Adirondack and Elmira. The Nailers averaged 4.75 goals per game on that road trip, but surrendered 4.25 goals per game as well. The Nailers have one of the best young blue liners in the league in Kevin Schulze, whose 56 points rank second among all defensemen and fourth among all rookies. Cody Wydo enters the week with a six game points streak and with points in 11 of his last 12 contests overall, grabbing seven goals and 15 points in that span. Wydo is also tied for the league-lead with 14 power play goals. The Steelhead power play is 2-for-22 over the last five games but will hope to reboot against a Wheeling penalty-kill that is ranked last in the league at 75.8 percent.
Goals: Luciani (27)
Assists: Dahl (39)
Points: Dahl (58)
Plus/Minus: Glen (+14)
Power Play Goals: Merchant (11)
Goals-Against Average: Komm (2.88)
Goals: Wydo (28)
Assists: Schulze (44)
Points: Schulze (56)
Plus/Minus: Hilbrich (+25)
Power Play Goals: Wydo (14)
Goals-Against Average: Maguire (3.24)
Steelheads drop series-opener in Wheeling
Play of the gameDaniel Leavens was effective in his professional debut for the Nailers, and his goal late in the third period would give the Nailers the insurance to put the game away. Nick Sorkin won an offensive zone face-off for the Nailers, and then Sorkin, Leavens, and Cody Wydo went on the forecheck. Sorkin forced one turnover to feed Wydo in front, a shot that missed the net. The Nailers retrieved the puck again quickly, with Wydo feeding a puck from the near corner to Sorkin alone behind the Idaho cage. The Steelheads couldn’t recover their positioning before Sorkin fed Leavens for his first goal in his first game, giving Idaho a two-goal hill they could not overcome.
Wheeling, WV (3/22/17)— Will Merchant netted his 12th power play goal of the season but it wasn’t enough on Wednesday night at WesBanco Arena, as the Wheeling Nailers (32-25-8) skated past the Idaho Steelheads (36-21-7) by a 4-1 score in Idaho’s first ever visit to Wheeling.
Tyler Currier scored twice for the Nailers and Nick Sorkin had three assists to drive the Nailer offense. Wheeling, protecting a 2-1 lead, tacked on two third-period goals against Branden Komm to put the game away and extend the Nailers’ points streak to five straight games (3-0-2)
The Nailers opened the scoring at 10:02 of the first period on a 3-on-2 rush, when Kale Kerbashian’s drop-pass between the circles found Currier for his 17th of the season and a 1-0 Wheeling lead. The Steelheads responded 1:30 later on the power play when Rob Linsmayer skated below the right-wing circle and fed Merchant between the hash-marks for Merchant’s 19th goal of the year to tie the game. Jefferson Dahl also earned an assist on the goal to extend his points streak to eight games.
Wheeling took the lead right back 4:20 after Merchant’s tally with a power play goal of their own. Komm made an initial save on a one-timer from Sorkin at the right face-off dot, but the rebound kicked right out to Cody Wydo in the slot for his 29th goal of the season, and league-leading 15th on the power play, for a 2-1 Wheeling lead.
The score remained 2-1 until 15:14 of the third period, when the Nailers expanded their lead off of strong forecheck work. Sorkin received a pass behind the net from Wydo and wrapped it to the front of the Idaho net, sliding a pass through the crease to Daniel Leavens on the back-door for the tap-in.
Leavens played his first professional game after finishing his college career at Robert Morris University, and he buried his first career goal to make it a 3-1 game. Currier would finish off the scoring with an empty-net goal with 12 seconds remaining.
Sean Maguire made some of his best saves in the first period, including a 2-on-0 stop on Anthony Luciani. Maguire stopped 20 of 21 shots to earn his 12th win of the season, while Komm’s record fell to 16-13-3.
The Steelheads and Nailers continue their series on Friday night at WesBanco Arena, with puck-drop scheduled for 5:35MT. The game is available on 1350AM KTIK and on ECHLTV.
Photo: Zach Rawson
Goals: Merchant (19)
Braden Komm: 30 saves on 33 shots
Power Play: 1-for-3
Penalty Kill: 1-for-2
CENTURYLINK THREE STARS OF THE GAME
- Daniel Leavens WHL
- Cody Wydo WHL
- Tyler Currier WHL
COORS LIGHT OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME
Nick Sorkin: 3 assists, 3 shots, plus-2 rating