Players and coaches cringe at the words, but every competitive sports team goes through a rough patch.
For the Idaho Steelheads, the last two weeks have been brutal, with the hockey team going winless in six contests (0-4-2). With three home games this week, the Steelheads are determined to get back into the win column.
“It’s a long season, and there are ebbs and flows. But it’s not coming easy for us right now, and when things aren’t going your way, it’s usually about paying attention to the little details,” captain Jefferson Dahl said.
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Idaho’s slump is littered with close losses. Four of the games have been decided by one goal, including two overtime defeats. But in the franchise’s 20-year history, long losing streaks have been a rarity. So what will it take to turn things around?
STAY THE COURSE
Professional athletes are about routine. So many times, the key to breaking out of a slump is to continue practicing, preparing and playing the same way in hopes that better execution or luck will turn your fortune.
“The biggest thing is just sticking together and sticking with it,” defenseman and alternate captain Zach Bell said. “We have great guys and great coaches, so if we just stick to our systems and keep pushing in the same direction, we’re bound to be successful.”
Idaho endured a six-game skid last season before rallying to play its best hockey down the stretch. That’s another memory this year’s team can lean on.
“A lot of these guys went through the same type of thing early last year,” Dahl said. “It’s coming at a different time this season, but we know what it takes to bounce back and start putting together some wins.”
Hockey, in particular, can be cruel when it comes to wins and losses. Bad bounces, puck luck and hot goaltending often swing games in favor of a team that’s otherwise been outplayed. But when the losses pile up, Dahl says it’s up to players to create their own luck.
“It’s frustrating when the results don’t go your way, but all you can do is work harder on your next shift, in the next practice, in the next game,” Dahl said. “If you keep grinding, something will eventually break your way. Usually, that one little thing is the confidence boost that puts you back into a rhythm.”
Perhaps the most important element of making sure a short losing streak doesn’t become a long one is positivity. When things go south, the locker room can turn ugly in a hurry.
Fortunately for the Steelheads, the team has remained unified through its recent swoon. Thanks in part to this season’s overall success — Idaho is within striking distance of first place in the Mountain Division — and in part to veteran leadership, the Steelheads have thus far avoided a truly damaging collapse.
“It hasn’t come to that point — and I don’t think it will,” Bell said. “We have a group that’s very competitive, but also helpful and constructive. We know if we all do our jobs, we’re going to be alright.”
Idaho home for three games
- Who: vs. Wheeling (West Virginia) Nailers
- When: 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday
- Where: CenturyLink Arena
- Radio/TV: 1350 AM/ Cable One channel 72
- Tickets: CenturyLink Arena box office or idahosteelheads.com
- Notable: This is the first-ever series between Idaho and Wheeling (West Virginia). … Idaho is 6-2-1 against Eastern Conference opponents this season. … The Steelheads will wear custom jerseys Friday and Saturday nights. They will be auctioned off to benefit pediatric medical care and research through the Jayden DeLuca Foundation and St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital.
Going streaking: Hockey’s Longest Winless Streaks
- NHL: 17 games (1974-74 Washington Capitals and 1992-93 San Jose Sharks)
- ECHL: 20 games (2004-05 Victoria Salmon Kings)
- Steelheads: 10 games (0-8-2 in 2011-12)