Sports

Idaho’s Dahl on eight-game scoring streak for Steelheads, playing like a captain

Idaho forward Jefferson Dahl is four points shy of 100 for his ECHL and Steelheads career.
Idaho forward Jefferson Dahl is four points shy of 100 for his ECHL and Steelheads career. Statesman file photo

Jefferson Dahl is accustomed to being overlooked. Throughout his hockey career, he’s often been typecast as too undersized to be an impact forward, if not written off entirely.

But there’s nothing small about Dahl’s game. The third-year pro has blossomed in Boise, making a name for himself as a scorer and leader. Idaho coach Neil Graham recently named Dahl team captain, and he has responded with a career-best, eight-game scoring streak. His 13 points rank sixth in the ECHL.

“Jefferson has stepped up to meet every challenge we’ve ever given him,” Graham said. “He’s an excellent leader in terms of his work ethic, his consistency and his commitment to a team concept. It’s not just the scoring — he does things the right way, and we are very lucky to have him.”

Dahl never scored more than seven goals in a season during his four years at the University of Wisconsin. After joining Idaho midway through the 2014-15 season, he made a quick impact with 34 points in 41 games.

Dahl continued to thrive last season, tying for the team lead with 22 goals. And with the “C” on his chest, he continues to raise his level of play.

“It’s a huge honor to be named captain,” Dahl said. “But it hasn’t changed the way I play or act. I’m going to continue to go out and lead by example. If the captain is one of the hardest workers on the team, people will follow.”

Many smaller forwards score because of superior speed and skill. Dahl earns many of his points by battling around the net — an area usually reserved for larger “power” forwards.

“He’s definitely not scared to go into the dirty areas of the ice,” linemate Will Merchant said. “When you’re not scared to go in there and battle, you get rewarded with points. And Jefferson always seems to be in the right spots to win those battles.”

So how does a guy generously listed at 5-foot-10 do his damage amongst hulking defensemen?

“It’s all about body positioning,” Dahl said. “If you’re in the right position, you can use your speed and quickness to score goals and win pucks.”

At college in his native Wisconsin, Dahl was used as a defensive, penalty-killing forward. But the Steelheads saw his offensive upside, and their decision to make him a franchise cornerstone is paying off.

“Sometimes guys get slotted into a certain role,” Graham said. “Jefferson is a guy who will never complain about a role. But once we gave him the opportunity to produce more offensively, he embraced it and ran with it. He’s a very skilled and dangerous scorer, in addition to his all-around game.”

After enjoying a career year in 2015-16, Dahl suffered a tough break when a late-season injury kept him out of the playoffs. Idaho lost a seven-game series to eventual champion Allen, leaving Dahl with some unfinished business.

“It definitely adds some fuel,” he said. “We have half of our team coming back this year, and the sky is really the limit. We want to, and think we can, contend for the Kelly Cup.”

Steelheads open three-game homestand

  • Who: vs. Adirondack Thunder
  • When: 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday
  • Where: CenturyLink Arena, Boise
  • Radio/TV: 1350 AM, Cable One channel 72
  • Tickets: CenturyLink Arena box office or idahosteelheads.com
  • Notable: This will be Idaho’s first-ever meeting with Adirondack. It is Military Appreciation Week for the Steelheads, who will wear custom patriotic jerseys Friday and Saturday nights. Partnering with St. Luke’s and The Speedy Foundation, the team will auction off the jerseys after Saturday’s game.
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