The Idaho Steelheads have played two games, and they’ve scored one goal. That’s not a recipe for success.
“Obviously, we were stymied a little bit,” second-year coach Neil Graham said about last week’s season-opening road trip to Utah. “One goal in two games is not going to win a lot of hockey games.”
But Graham, obviously, isn’t ready to look for panic buttons two games into a 72-game season.
“The offense is going to come,” he said. “I know we’ve got a dynamic group, and it’s about building that chemistry and getting to know each other’s tendencies. I think we’re starting to see that happen this week in practice, and it will be important to get off to that good start Friday.”
That’s when Idaho plays its home opener at CenturyLink Arena. The opponent? The Utah Grizzlies, who outscored Idaho 7-1 in last weekend’s games (Utah also swept two preseason contests against Idaho).
“Everyone was trying to do a little too much,” Graham said. “Guys were looking to pass when they should have been shooting, and vice versa. Our timing was off.”
Graham has faith that the roster he built in the offseason will produce goals. “No one’s second-guessing anything,” he said.
Returning to the ice for Idaho are its top two point producers from last season: Rob Linsmayer (21 goals, 36 assists) and Jefferson Dahl (22 goals, 27 assists). Joe Basaraba also returns after notching 32 points in 47 games.
“We have shooters,” Graham said.
One offensive player who has been added to the mix is forward Anthony Luciani. If the past serves as a guide, the sixth-year pro will be an offensive contributor for the Steelheads.
“He’s historically done very well in this league,” Graham said. “Three years in a row he put up more than 25 goals. … He’s a dynamic player.”
Luciani had 49 points in 54 games with Cincinnati of the ECHL during the 2011-2012 season, and he followed that campaign with 53 points in 50 games. During the 2013-14 season with Toledo, he scored 58 points in 52 games.
But through two games in Idaho, Luciani is looking for his first point.
“The last two games obviously showed my frustration,” said the 5-foot-8, 190-pound native of Ontario, Canada. “I expect more from myself, and when it’s not happening I’ve got to become more positive.”
Graham said Luciani will play at his best when he’s playing with confidence — and a little grit.
“The important thing for him is, he’s got to play with some bite in his game,” Graham said. “He’s a physical hockey player, and when he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder, that’s when he’s at his best.”
More importantly for the Steelheads, that’s when the scoring might start happening.
“That’s the goal, to help the team,” Luciani said. “I don’t mind mixing it up. … I just try to be an edge-of-your-seat kind of player. And when I have the puck, I like to make things happen.”
- What: Utah (2-0) at Idaho (0-2)
- When: 7:10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
- Where: CenturyLink Arena
- Radio/TV: KTIK 1350 AM/Cable One channel 72
- Note: The Steelheads remain in Boise for a three-game series against Reading next week (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday).
- Tickets: Available at the CenturyLink Arena box office, by calling 208-383-0080 or visiting idahosteelheads.com
Idaho Steelheads roster
Previous Team (league)
Adirondack (ECHL)/Albany (AHL)
Ft. Saskatchewan, Alberta
Penn State (NCAA)
St. Albert, Alberta
Fort Frances, Ontario
Eau Claire, Wis.
St. John’s, Newfoundland
Michigan State (NCAA)
S. Carolina (ECHL)/Hershey (AHL)
Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
Greenville (ECHL)/Syracuse (AHL)
St. Albert, Alberta