The Idaho Steelheads faced their share of adversity through the first 30 games of the season.
The ECHL hockey team endured a 19-day road trip that began in Florida and continued to Colorado and South Dakota. Idaho went 2-5-2 during that stint. The Steelheads have also ridden out a pair of three-game losing streaks.
But Idaho gave its fans some reason for optimism as it came out of a short Christmas break with an 11-14-5 record. The Steelheads provided more reason with a 5-2 victory over Utah on Saturday night at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, giving them 11 of a possible 12 points in their past six games.
Forward Rob Linsmayer has done his part in the recent resurgence with four goals and four assists in the past four games, including three assists Saturday.
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First-year coach Neil Graham appreciates those numbers. But in this up-and-down season, Graham might appreciate Linsmayer even more for the effort the third-year pro regularly brings to the rink.
“He grinds hard every night, and he’s just a consistent hockey player,” Graham said. “The more consistency you get from everyone, the more success you’re going to have. He’s had success this year, and I think it’s because ... ultimately, he’s ready to go every night.”
That hasn’t been lost on forward Jefferson Dahl.
“He’s definitely one of those guys who sets the tone, night in and night out,” Dahl said. “I think the biggest thing with him is his ability to work for pucks down low and battle. You see one guy doing that and everyone else kind of falls in line.”
Linsmayer has played more games in a Steelhead uniform than anyone else on the roster. He played his 100th game with Idaho on Dec. 16, a wild affair in which he scored two of eight unanswered goals in an 8-5 victory.
But Linsmayer hasn’t earned his time in Idaho with flashy play.
“I certainly didn’t get here because I was a superstar or anything like that,” the right-shooting forward said. “I’ve just tried to always be one of the hardest-working guys on the team and try to show the guys how to come to the rink every day ready to work.”
Graham said that work has paid off for the 5-foot-11, 220-pound Linsmayer.
“He has a broad frame and he uses that size extremely well,” Graham said. “He’s very good at winning battles and coming out with the puck.”
Linsmayer didn’t win as many battles as he would have liked last season, when he was sidelined for much of the season with an injury and played just 17 games. This season has been a different story: Linsmayer has played in every game except for two he missed this month because of a suspension.
“I dealt with injuries last season, so playing pretty much straight through has been great,” he said. “It helps with the momentum.”
Meanwhile, the Steelheads’ schedule is starting to shift in their favor. Idaho will play five of its next eight games at CenturyLink Arena. Looking further down the road, Idaho plays 12 of its final 17 regular season games at home.
“We’ve played our toughest stretches, as far as travel and games back-to-back and that stuff,” Linsmayer said. “So now we can put some of that behind us and really dial it in. ... I think it will be a really good second half. It’s coming together.”
▪ This week: Colorado visits Idaho on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday
▪ Radio: 1350 AM
▪ TV: Cable One channel 72
Steelheads 5, Grizzlies 2
Defenseman Zach Yuen scored two second-period goals about four minutes apart as Idaho rolled past Utah on Saturday at CenturyLink Arena. Forward Rob Linsmayer added three assists, and Jefferson Dahl, Carson McMillan and Emil Molin each added a goal apiece for Idaho, which plays at West Division leader Utah on Monday.