Turns out the Steelheads’ offense just needed a little home cooking.
Idaho, celebrating its 20th season, exploded for eight goals as it defeated the Utah Grizzlies 8-4 in its home opener Friday night at CenturyLink Arena. The offensive output was a far cry from the first two games last weekend in Utah, when Idaho scored one goal in two losses.
“It’s a good first step,” coach Neil Graham said. “It’s not a leap. I think the score kind of got away there at the end, but … I was happy to see some of the guys get rewarded for their hard work.”
Eight Steelheads notched goals, the biggest of which might have come from Brandon Anselmini. The rookie out of Ferris State scored his first professional goal, and it turned out to be the game-winner.
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“We worked a lot on the (power play) this week so that work counted, and I was just happy to get the game-winning goal,” Anselmini said. “There’s no better moment, and it’s a pretty good stepping-stone for my career.”
Anselmini’s teammates made sure he had a souvenir to remember the moment.
“To come back in the dressing room after a huge win and (the puck) was sitting in my locker, that was huge,” Anselmini said.
Forward Linsmayer teamed up with Jefferson Dahl for Idaho’s sixth goal of the game. That goal showcased some chemistry between two familiar players from previous seasons. The seven other goals were scored by players in their first year as Steelheads.
Said Graham: “On Monday, we told them we expected more out of them. And then I thought Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday we had really good practices. Tonight, we had three lines going, and I was happy with the effort. Now we’ve just got to carry some momentum.”
Said Linsmayer: “I don’t think there was any worry or any panic (after the first two losses). Now that we’ve had a little bit of time to get used to each other, the chemistry is showing through.
“We’ve got a lot of new talent. … I think we’ve got three, pretty much, first lines right now, and any of them can bury the puck. We’re very deep, offensively. … We’re not going to score eight every night, but I definitely think the confidence from this is going to propel us forward.’’
Rookie goalie Landon Bow earned his first professional win after stopping 20-of-24 shots.
The two teams square off again Saturday night at CenturyLink Arena.
“(Saturday) is another work day,” Graham said. “We’ll regroup and get ready for another game.”
Idaho forward Caleb Herbert opened the scoring in a hurry when he took a nice feed from Dahl and beat Utah goalie Kevin Boyle for the first goal of the regular season on Idaho’s home ice. Less than 4 minutes into the game, forward Travis Ewanyk gave the Steelheads a 2-0 lead after he gathered the puck at center ice, curled around two defenders and made a nifty move to beat Boyle. The game turned into a seesaw battle after that, until Idaho broke through with the final three goals of the game.
THREE FIRST IMPRESSIONS
▪ Standing tall: Bow filled the net with his 6-foot-5 frame, but several of his teammates could see eye-to-eye with him. Returning defenseman Corbin Baldwin is listed at 6-5, as is fellow blue-liner Kyle Bigos. And forward Kellan Lain is especially easy to spot on the ice at 6-6.
▪ Familiar faces: Roster turnover is the name of the game in the ECHL, so the learning curve can be steep for fans at the beginning of each season. This year, however, more than a few players who have worn an Idaho sweater return to the roster. Nine players have previous experience. Linsmayer leads the way among the returning players with 178 regular-season games and 16 playoff contests.
▪ Sweet new suites: The concourse maintains a familiar look, but those who head up to the suites as part of a group outing will notice three of them have had walls removed and been expanded. The names of those three suites: the (Marty) Flichel, (Cal) Ingraham and (Jeremy) Mylymok Suites, all in honor of former players.