Familiar faces return to Idaho Steelheads

clangrill@idahostatesman.comNovember 30, 2013 

There was plenty of rough stuff between the Steelheads and the Wranglers on Friday night, and Idaho's Austin Fyten was in the middle of much of it. Fyten earned a five-minute major for fighting in the first period, and was later assessed a four-minute double minor for roughing.

KYLE GREEN — kgreen@idahostatesman.com

Austin Smith would rather be in the American Hockey League.

Goalies across the ECHL would probably concur.

Smith led the Steelheads in goals (27) and points (50) in 38 games last season. The playmaking forward returned to Idaho on Friday after beginning the season with the Texas Stars of the AHL.

Smith was a wildly effective offensive player in Idaho last season, but that success has not translated at the next level. He has played in 38 games with Texas over the course of three seasons and has tallied two goals and four assists. He has not registered a point in 10 games this year.

“I have had pretty bad puck luck so far this season,” Smith said. “It took me a solid period to get into (Friday’s) game, because I was a little rusty.”

Steelheads coach Brad Ralph will give Smith plenty of opportunities to knock that rust off.

“I was all over (in Texas). I was second, third line, sometimes I was out (of the lineup),” Smith said. “In college, I was playing 23, 24 minutes a night. So, I’m obviously capable of doing it.

“I’ve just got to get back in that rhythm, and when I do start playing a lot of minutes I usually put up big numbers.”

ANOTHER AUSTIN ADDED

A second player who had his share of success with Idaho last season returned to the team this week.

Austin Fyten, who was loaned to Idaho by Oklahoma City of the AHL, was named an ECHL All-Star while tallying 41 points (14 goals, 27 assists) in 46 games as a rookie last season.

The forward found himself on a roster loaded with players in the AHL.

“It was kind of a numbers thing,” Fyten said. “There was no room, and so they sent me here. … It does me no good to sit in the stands there, and I was real comfortable coming back here.”

Ralph was happy to welcome Fyten back.

“He brings size and physicality. He goes to the net hard,” he said. “He’s a contracted player with the Edmonton Oilers and the Oklahoma City Barons, so we don’t know how long he’ll be here. But while he’s here … he brings another element that I think the first line will really benefit from.”

IDAHO LOSES SHOOTOUT

After a pregame scuffle, Idaho (9-5-4) and Las Vegas (6-11-1) played a spirited, physical game Friday at CenturyLink Arena. Idaho took the lead three times (with goals by Brett Robinson, Brock Montgomery and Mitch Wahl), and Las Vegas answered each time.

Las Vegas defenseman Jeff May scored the deciding goal in the seventh round of the shootout. It was the seventh time this season an Idaho game went to overtime (tied with Ontario for the league lead). The Steelheads are 4-3 in those contests.

FAMILIAR FOES

Las Vegas spent most of the week in Boise as they played the Steelheads twice.

Six Wranglers are former Steelheads: Adam Huxley, Geoff Irwin, Bryce Reddick, Matt Tassone, Chad Nehring and Cody Purves.

Huxley is largely responsible for the reunion in the desert.

“Hux had been in Las Vegas for a couple of years,” Irwin said. “He got in contact with a few of us, having known the way each other played.”

Irwin played his rookie year in Boise during the 2010-11 season.

“I scored my first goal as a pro here, and there were a lot of firsts in Boise,” Irwin said. “So I have some great memories from that season, for sure.”

He admitted it’s a little unusual to return to CenturyLink Arena as an opponent.

“It’s a little different going in the other dressing room,” Irwin said.

Las Vegas forward showed Friday night that old habits die hard. After getting called for a delay of game penalty, the former Steelhead skated to Idaho’s penalty box before being redirected to the Wranglers’ box by an official.

Chris Langrill: 377-6424

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