Sports

Idaho Steelheads have three goalies and mixed feelings

Idaho Steelheads head coach Neil Graham takes a shot on goalie Branden Komm during practice at CenturyLink Arena.
Idaho Steelheads head coach Neil Graham takes a shot on goalie Branden Komm during practice at CenturyLink Arena. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

The phrase says two is company and three is a crowd.

That’s the case at Steelheads hockey practices these days, where goalies Landon Bow, Henri Kiviaho and Branden Komm are trying to stay busy.

Coach Neil Graham said all three will be on hand as Idaho opens its ECHL home schedule with Friday and Saturday games against the Utah Grizzlies at CenturyLink Arena.

“The nice thing about it is we have three goalies with exceptional attitudes,” Graham said. “They push each other in practice, and there’s no sense of entitlement or second-guessing.”

Bow and Kiviaho are affiliated with the NHL Dallas Stars, which means either one, or both, could get called up to the AHL Texas Stars at any time. That’s why Graham feels safe keeping Komm as a third goalie on his roster.

It’s not an ideal situation. The ECHL is a development league, and the Stars organization would prefer their young goalies to get all the playing time they can handle.

“I don’t think there are many people that like it, to be honest with you,” said Mike Valley, the Stars’ director of goaltending development who was in Boise this week. “I don’t think the goalies are going to say, ‘Yeah, let’s have three.’ But the reality of it is there are three, and there’s nothing they can do about it.”

And so the message is this: Play so well that Graham can’t help but start them.

“There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Nobody likes it,” Valley said. “(Graham) may like it because there’s a little bit of security in it, in case there is movement. But there’s a lot of teams in this situation, and there’s a lot of teams in the American (Hockey) League that have three guys. … So they have to make the best of it and make sure you do your job better than they do their job.”

BOW

The first-year pro is the youngest of the bunch — he turned 21 in August. He was traded midway through his final season of junior hockey and helped the Seattle Thunderbirds make it to the WHL Finals while posting a 16-6 record.

“He had a tremendous season last year,” Valley said. “He’s a guy that has that pro frame on him.”

Bow, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, said he’s learned how to use his size to his advantage. “I’m not just a tall, lanky kid with his arms flailing all over,” Bow said. “Because I’m bigger, I’m able to make different plays. I can change my angles, compared to what a smaller guy would do.”

Bow started the opener at Utah last week and allowed four goals (30 saves) in a 4-1 loss.

KIVIAHO

The 22-year-old native of Finland is in his second stint with the Steelheads. He played 21 games with Idaho in 2014-15 and compiled a 10-6-2 record.

“He went back to (Finland last season) because he had a great opportunity to develop. We got him playing in the top league,” Valley said. “The last time he came here, it was an opportunity to get acclimated to the United States. Now it’s like, ‘It’s your time to perform.’ 

Kiviaho, in the final year of his contract with the Stars, didn’t see any action in the first two regular-season games.

KOMM

The 25-year-old Bentley University product joined Idaho midway through last season and won over Graham with his work ethic.

“He’s a leader,” Graham said. “If he were a position player, he would probably have a (captain’s) letter on his jersey. He’s a pro. He does his work.”

The amount of playing time Komm gets could depend on how the Stars organization handles its goalies in Idaho.

“When you’re dealing with affiliates and stuff, that’s pro hockey,” said Komm, who went 4-4-1 while playing in 10 games with Idaho last season. “But I know what’s expected of me, and I know what (Graham) expects.”

Komm allowed three goals (31 saves) in a 3-0 loss in Idaho’s second regular-season game, also at Utah.

Home-opening weekend

  • 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
  • Tickets: Available at the CenturyLink Arena box office, by calling 208-331-8497 or visiting idahosteelheads.com
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