Whats a guy have to do to earn a call-up?
Steelheads defenseman Matt Case couldnt be blamed if that thought went through his head at times in the past month.
Case, in his third season playing for Idaho, has developed into one of the teams steadiest performers. His plus-minus rating of plus-23 ranks second in the ECHL. On top of that, he is having his best season on the offensive end of the ice, with 20 points (four goals, 16 assists).
In the past month, Case has watched as 10 of his teammates got the call to the AHL. Case is still waiting for that call this season (he did play nine games with Texas last season).
Some people wouldnt blame Case if he felt a little cheated. Those people dont know him.
Im an Idaho Steelhead, Case said. Obviously, my goal is to get up to the higher leagues, but Im here and this is my team and Im doing everything I can for them. Thats my team, so Im not going to worry about anything else other than that.
Sounds like the kind of attitude a coach might like.
You lean on those players that have experience, and you lean on them to lead by example, coach Brad Ralph said. Were leaning on him right now.
Case was the only one of the eight defensemen on Idahos opening-night roster who was on the ice Saturday night during the Steelheads 4-3 loss against the Alaska Aces at CenturyLink Arena.
That leaves Case the leader of a young, inexperienced defense.
Hes got to take the reins in the back end and show those guys how to do it, Ralph said.
Fellow defenseman James Isaacs said Case is worthy of that role.
I ask a lot of questions, but he handles all of them, no problem, said Isaacs, who played his 10th game with Idaho on Saturday. Hes been here a couple of years, and hes just a calming influence back there. You know you can put him out there for the last minute of every period and hes going to get the puck out.
With all the change that Ralph has endured this season, he said its nice to know he can count on Case on defense.
I would say consistency is one of his strengths, Ralph said of Case, who is one of two Steelheads to appear in every game this season. He knows the game, and hes just solid. I understand hed probably like to move up, and he might get his chance yet, but were fortunate to still have him in our lineup.
Call-up or not, dont expect Case to report to his job with a bad attitude.
I wouldnt do this if I wasnt having fun, he said. Its always a great time for me to come to the rink.
NOTES: Idaho (24-10-5) lost in regulation at home for just the third time this season. Case, Brett Robinson and Tristan King scored Idahos goals. Josh Robinson (14-3-2) took the loss after allowing four goals on 34 shots. Fellow goalie Tyler Beskorowany was reassigned to Idaho from Texas of the AHL Saturday.