Idaho Steelheads good at goalie juggling

clangrill@idahostatesman.comNovember 27, 2013 

Idaho beat Las Vegas 4-1 Tuesday night in the first of 11 straight home games over the next 27 days.

That should allow players to settle into a routine, sleep in their own beds and eat home-cooked meals.

You’d have to forgive goalie Josh Robinson if he doesn’t buy it.

Robinson’s life has been anything but routine this season as he splits time between the Steelheads and Texas of the AHL.

“I’ve been everywhere,” the second-year pro said. “It’s been up and down, up and down. I think it’s four times up and down now.”

Every season, a few players in the Dallas Stars’ system come and go from Idaho. But to make as many trips as Robinson has 17 games into the season is definitely out of the ordinary.

“It’s very difficult on a player to go up and down like that,” coach Brad Ralph said. “They’re trying to prepare for two different levels and two different teams. You add in the travel, and travel is exhausting. It’s extremely demanding … to make those adjustments on a weekly basis.”

Having Robinson rack up all those frequent flyer miles wasn’t the organization’s original plan. But injuries to Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen and Texas goalies Cristopher Nilstorp and Jack Campbell have forced the teams to reshuffle.

Robinson has had success in Idaho and Texas. He registered a 26-save shutout in his AHL debut and has compiled a 2-1-0 record with the Stars.

“The coaches have been confident in throwing me in there when they need to,” Robinson said. “It’s been good to know the organization is happy with me.”

Robinson was Idaho’s MVP during his rookie season, when he compiled a 27-8-4 record, and he’s been stellar as a Steelhead this season. He came into Tuesday’s game with a 5-1-0 record, a 2.17 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage.

Ideally, Robinson would like to move up the ranks and stick at a higher level. But he said it’s more important for him to log playing time.

“If I’m not going to be playing up there, I’d rather be down here playing in the net every night,” he said.

And maybe, just maybe, he might get a chance to string together a few home games in the next month.

“I haven’t made it a full week here yet,” Robinson said. “Hopefully this time, but you never know.”

ROTATING ROSTER

Robinson isn’t the only player who has been in and out of Idaho’s lineup this season. Defenseman Hubert Labrie has been back and forth between Idaho and Texas. He was returned to Idaho this week, but didn’t play Tuesday night because of an illness.

Two other players made their season debuts with Idaho on Tuesday.

Defenseman Damon Kipp played after being acquired from San Francisco in exchange for forward Tyler Gron.

“We went from nine defensemen to five in a matter of two weeks,” Ralph said. “It’s a roller coaster.”

Kipp heard about the trade at 10 a.m. Monday and was on a plane to Boise six hours later.

“I was excited to come here. I know this program had a great history,” said Kipp, a second-year pro who served as team captain during his senior season at New Hampshire. “I just need to play a simple game until I learn this system.”

In another move, forward Austen Fyten was reassigned to Idaho by Oklahoma City of the AHL. Fyten earned ECHL All-Star honors in his rookie campaign last season, when he tallied 41 points in 46 regular-season games.

STEELHEADS WIN

Defenseman Patrick Cullity scored his first and second goals of the season to help spark Idaho at CenturyLink Arena on Tuesday night. William Rapuzzi and Taylor Vause scored the other goals for Idaho (9-5-3). Robinson turned away 23-of-24 shots to earn his sixth win.

Chris Langrill: 377-6424

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