The Steelheads' season began Oct. 12 with a 5-3 home loss to the Utah Grizzlies.
In the ensuing months, Idaho endured its ups and downs, including a complete roster overhaul after the NHL lockout ended in January.
After nearly five months of hockey, including a 2-1 loss against the Colorado Eagles on Wednesday night at CenturyLink Arena, the Steelheads are facing a cold, hard reality.
"It's getting into March, so that means we're coming up on playoff time," captain Ben Ondrus said. "It's only going to get better - this is when the fun really starts."
Said first-year coach Brad Ralph: "We're looking forward to it, but it's still a process. I want us to peak at the right time. That's the important thing, the last few games of the year I want us to be playing our best hockey."
The Steelheads have won six of their past nine games, and have the third-best record in the 23-team ECHL. The club has 11 games remaining in the regular season, including five at home. In other words, the playoffs are right around the corner, so it's time to get serious for a franchise that cranked out Kelly Cup championships in 2004 and 2007.
Here's what you need to know as the Steelheads begin their playoff push.
ALREADY IN THE PLAYOFFS
Idaho clinched a spot in the ECHL Western Conference playoffs in mid-February. It was a foregone conclusion as eight of the nine teams in the conference qualify for the postseason, and Idaho has been one of the top teams in the league throughout this season.
If the season ended today, the Steelheads would be a No. 3 seed and host Colorado in the first round. There are no byes this year, and every league playoff series will be a best-of-7 format.
While the standings can still be shaken up considerably, it seems likely that Idaho will play either Colorado or Las Vegas in the first round. If the Steelheads open against either of those teams, they will begin the playoffs at CenturyLink Arena on April 3. Single-game tickets won't become available until Idaho knows its opponent and dates are set.
THIS YEAR VS. LAST YEAR
Idaho is 38-16-7 after Wednesday's loss, good for the third-best winning percentage in the ECHL. Idaho sits in second place in the Mountain Division behind Alaska (44-12-6), the top team in the league.
Last season, on March 7, Idaho was 23-29-7. It went into the playoffs as a No. 7 seed.
Idaho's home record after Wednesday's loss is 22-5-4, second only to Alaska. Last season, Idaho was 12-15-1 at home on March 7.
ONE-TWO PUNCH IN THE NET
Ralph can't go wrong with rookie goalie Josh Robinson or third-year pro Tyler Beskorowany. Robinson is 22-6-4, while Beskorowany is 16-10-3.
Robinson's numbers are slightly better - his goals-against average of .925 is second in the ECHL - but Beskorowany has the edge in experience.
Beskorowany spent last season with Texas of the AHL, and got called up for backup duty a couple of times this season. It remains to be seen whether he'll stick with Idaho for the postseason.
"I think I will, but you never know," Beskorowany said. "I know we can do really good things with this team. I've been a part of it this whole year, and I want to make a good run with this team."
FIVE GUYS TO WATCH
Austin Smith, forward: Smith has spent his rookie season with Idaho and Texas of the AHL. He is one of the most explosive offensive players in the ECHL when wearing a Steelheads uniform. Smith has played just 28 games with Idaho, yet leads the team with 23 goals.
Tyler Gron, forward: Gron was the second-leading goal-scorer in the CHL when he was signed by the Steelheads in mid-January. Since then, he's been a mainstay in Idaho's offense, averaging more than a point a game (16 goals, 10 assists) in 24 contests.
David de Kastrozza, forward: One of Idaho's most consistent players this season, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound de Kastrozza has 19 goals and 16 assists in 56 games.
Patrick Cullity and Jeremie Blain: Both defensemen have been up and down between the ECHL and AHL this season. Whether they stick with Idaho in the playoffs could go a long way in determining the Steelheads' fate.
Chris Langrill: 377-6424