Steelheads enforcer stuck behind the boards

Jeremy Yablonski's 'fluke' hand injury will sideline him for at least two more months.

clangrill@idahostatesman.comDecember 15, 2013 

  • ALASKA HANGS ON

    The Alaska Aces defeated Idaho 5-4 on Saturday night at CenturyLink Arena.

    Alaska led 4-0 before Idaho forward Anthony Nigro scored his team-leading 13th goal late in the second period to make it 4-1.

    Alaska pushed the score to 5-1 in the third period before Idaho answered with three goals in 1 minute, 22 seconds. Nigro scored his second of the night to pull the Steelheads to within one goal at 5-4, but Alaska (14-7-1) held on.

    Goalie Pat Nagle (5-5-2) took the loss after stopping 35-of-40 shots. It's the first time he's lost back-to-back games this season.

    It was the second time in two weeks Idaho won the first two games of a series, only to lose the third and final contest (went 2-1 vs. Stockton, Dec. 4-7).

    Idaho has gone 5-2-1 in the first eight games of an 11-game homestand. Up next: Bakersfield, in a three-game series that begins Wednesday night.

— Jeremy Yablonski is used to being in the middle of the action during hockey games.

Primarily an enforcer, Yablonski's toughness has allowed him to play more than 500 games as a professional. He has had stints in the ECHL, AHL, Russia - and even one game, and one fight, in the NHL.

But after appearing in three games with the Steelheads this season, the 33-year-old Yablonski was sidelined by a hand injury.

"Whenever you can't play, it's frustrating," Yablonski said. "It's really frustrating to not be a part of this right now."

After exploring his options this past offseason, Yablonski decided to stay home and play for the Steelheads.

"This is my team, and I'm here for the year," said Yablonski, who has called Boise home for seven years and has spent those summers here with his wife and daughter.

Yablonski played 69 games with Idaho in 2000-01, when the Steelheads were in the WCHL. He returned to play 44 games between 2005 and 2007.

"To be back playing with the Steelheads is an honor," said Yablonski, who has also fought as a boxer and in mixed-martial arts events. "I know that guys are lucky to play here."

So Yablonski was excited to be back on the CenturyLink Arena ice as this season started. But before he knew it, he suffered a fluke injury. He has been sidelined since early November.

"It was kind of a freak accident," he said. "It was a body check, and I caught my hand on the boards, where the glass meets the boards. It tore a couple of ligaments."

Yablonski had surgery on the hand and hopes to start rehabbing it in a few weeks. He is hopeful to be back playing in about two months.

"Injuries, they're frustrating," coach Brad Ralph said. "You want to contribute."

That's why Yablonski has been a fixture at games and has tried to pass along some of his experience to the younger Steelheads.

"That's part of the game, whether you're playing or not playing," he said. "Guys did it for me when I was young, and hopefully I can pass some stuff along to the younger guys.

"That part of it never stops."

Chris Langrill: 377-6424

Chris Langrill: 377-6424

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