Rookie finding his way with Steelheads

Idaho forward Brock Montgomery 'really starting to blossom.'

clangrill@idahostatesman.comDecember 12, 2013 

Idaho Steelheads goalie Josh Robinson watches the puck after losing his stick during Wednesday night's game against the Alaska Aces. Robinson stopped 26-of-27 shots to earn the victory. He was less than 2 minutes away from a shutout when Alaska broke through with a goal.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com

Steelheads captain Justin Mercier has played his fair share of hockey.

He has played more than 200 games in the AHL, one season in Germany and even nine games in the NHL.

So, he has plenty he can teach young players on this year's squad.

Funny thing is, Mercier can also find motivation in a rookie like Brock Montgomery.

"I think back to when I first came into the league and I see a guy like Brock with big, bright eyes and a bushy tail and how much he wants to get out there and play and have fun, and that's good for us," Mercier said. "That's good for the older guys, because we feed off of that."

Lately, the 6-foot-3, 216-pound Montgomery has been bringing more than energy to the Steelheads.

He's making plays.

Coming into Wednesday's 4-1 win over the Alaska Aces, Montgomery had tallied 10 points (four goals, six assists) and a plus-7 rating in 11 games.

"He's really starting to blossom," Mercier said.

Montgomery admitted there's still learning ahead, but he's beginning to feel more comfortable on the ice.

"Everything is different," the 21-year-old said. "You still think the game the same way, but the puck moves a lot faster."

Coach Brad Ralph has been impressed with how Montgomery has adapted.

"He's a first-year player," Ralph said. "He's a young kid. Sometimes it takes years. I think it really took me until my third year to really get what it took to be a pro.

"But he's really developing into a complete player."

Said Montgomery: "That's what excites me right now. I see it coming along, so I've just got to keep working hard."

Speaking before Wednesday's game, Ralph said there was more to Montgomery's game than Idaho fans knew about.

"The thing we haven't seen is that he's a tough customer," Ralph said.

Montgomery showed that Wednesday night, however, as he went toe-to-toe with Alaska defenseman Dustin Molle in what turned out to be the longest fight on the CenturyLink Arena ice this season.

"He's proving to us, and Texas, that he can play, he can put the puck in the net," Ralph said. "With that said, from here on out I think it's a matter of being physical and not losing sight of the fact that that's going to get him to the next level."

STEELHEADS WIN BIG

It was a night of firsts for Idaho.

• Defenseman Etienne Boutet scored his first professional goal.

• Forward Rob Linsmayer scored his first goal as a Steelhead in his second game with Idaho.

• Forward David de Kastrozza scored his first goal of the season.

• Forward Gaelan Patterson scored his first goal of the season at CenturyLink Arena.

The only downer: Forward Mitch Wahl's 14-game point streak came to an end. He was one point away from tying the longest streak by a Steelhead in the ECHL era, but Mark Derlago (2009-10) retains that record.

SMITH GONE; GOOD ADDED

Forward Austin Smith has been loaned to HC Assat, a professional team in Finland. First-year pro Mitchell Good has been called up to Idaho from Pensacola of the Southern Professional Hockey League.

Smith led Idaho in scoring last season with 50 points in 38 games last season as he split time between Idaho and Texas of the AHL.

Smith led the NCAA in goals (36) as a senior at Colgate, but his skills haven't translated at the AHL level, where he has tallied six points in 37 games.

Good led the SPHL with a plus-11 rating. He made his Steelheads debut Wednesday.

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