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Idaho Steelheads defenseman can play a little offense, too

Idaho Steelheads defenseman Joe Faust has scored two goals in four games this season.
Idaho Steelheads defenseman Joe Faust has scored two goals in four games this season. Courtesy photo provided by Idaho Steelheads

Prior to coming to the Steelheads, Joe Faust had three goals in 83 games as a professional hockey player.

Through four games with Idaho, the defenseman has two goals.

What gives?

“Hopefully, it’s not an anomaly,” Faust said. “You take opportunities where you can get them. … Hopefully, I can keep that going, but if not I know there are other areas where I can contribute.”

That would seem to be a certainty. Faust has played 34 games in the American Hockey League, the level above the ECHL, where the Steelheads play. And New Jersey’s fourth-round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft has already shown he’s not a one-dimensional defensemen.

“The nice thing is, he’s so versatile,” coach Neil Graham said. “So he can play the power play at times and he can play in different combinations on five-on-five. I like the way he skates. I like the way he can join a play.”

One of Faust’s goals came on the power play.

“It’s a fun opportunity,” Faust said. “You get some chances to handle the puck and some chances to create some offense.”

Idaho forward Jefferson Dahl isn’t surprised to see Faust contribute right away. He knew what kind of player Faust was after being teammates with him for four years at Wisconsin.

“He’s played in all situations,” said Dahl, who was roommates with Faust for two years. “He’s going to make reads and bring a hard game and get shots through and play that all-around style.”

Faust played his first two pro seasons on the East Coast, but Dahl played a role in luring Faust out West.

But Graham said Dahl doesn’t get all the credit.

“He was a name that was on our list, obviously, coming off an NHL deal with New Jersey,” Graham said. “There was no mystery about him, but having a good friend in Jefferson helps.”

And while Faust has contributed on offense, a quick look at the stat sheets reveals he’s not alone: Idaho defensemen have combined for five goals through the first four games.

Graham said that’s by design.

“It’s something we’re talking a little more about this year,” Graham said. “It’s important for our D-men to get pucks through and get them through hard, and then they’ll get their points.”

And while the offensive production is a positive, the flipside of the coin is this: Idaho has allowed 4.25 goals per game, a rate has them tied with Rapid City for second-worst in the ECHL.

Graham wasn’t shy about putting some of that blame on his goalies.

“They need to get better,” he said. “And we need to get better in front of them. We scored 13 goals in two games last weekend and we gave up 10. That’s way too many goals to give up.”

But Graham wasn’t ready to give up on his offense after it mustered one goal in the first two games, and Faust isn’t ready to quit on his fellow defensemen after a high-scoring weekend.

“You just try to build that chemistry as quickly as you can,” Faust said. “There’s going to be mistakes that happen … but the more we go through reps in practice, the more we talk on the bench, the more we watch film we can straighten some of these things out.”

NOTES

Reading last visited Boise in 2009, when the teams split a pair of games. … Rookie forward Coltyn Sanderson signed with Idaho on Tuesday. Sanderson, 25, spent the previous four seasons at the University of North Dakota. … In another roster move, Travis Ewanyk was called up to Texas of the AHL. The forward had a goal and three assists in Idaho’s first four games.

Steelheads home for three games

▪ Who: Reading Royals (2-1) at Idaho (1-2-1)

▪ When: 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, 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 331-8497 or visiting idahosteelheads.com

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