Sports

Idaho Steelheads’ unselfish play setting early tone for season

Rob Linsmayer has two goals and three assists this season.
Rob Linsmayer has two goals and three assists this season. kjones@idahostatesman.com

Before each season starts, it’s difficult for the Steelheads to know what kind of hockey team they’ve built.

With turnover each offseason in the ECHL, the team’s identity is always an early mystery.

Eight games into this season, one thing stands out: The Steelheads like to spread out the scoring.

Six Steelheads are tied atop the team’s points standings with six points each. And nine different skaters have scored at least two goals.

“That’s something that was by design,” first-year coach Neil Graham said. “We’ve tried to balance out our attack, and I’m very happy with the way guys are buying into that. … We don’t just have one or two thoroughbreds that we go to the whip for every night.”

Forward Rob Linsmayer has played in four seasons with the Steelheads, and he likes the idea of looking up and down the bench at several players who can contribute.

“It’s nice to know we don’t have that one line with a couple of guys who are going to get the job done,” Linsmayer said. “On any given night, we’re going to get contributions from any number of guys.”

That lack of selfishness will help the team chemistry, Linsmayer said.

“It’s growing every game we play,” he said.

If that’s the case, then it will continue this week, as Idaho enters a stretch in which they will play six games in 11 nights. Idaho plays the Atlanta Gladiators for three home games, starting Wednesday night, and next week embarks on an 18-day road trip.

“For team chemistry, that’s definitely good,” Linsmayer said. “For the body, not so much.”

GOALIE MAKES STRIDES

The Dallas Stars organization certainly wasn’t going to give up on rookie goaltender Philippe Desrosiers after two games. But his last two outings were a welcome sight for the NHL parent club.

Desrosiers, the Stars’ second-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, allowed five goals in his first outing, an overtime loss. He allowed three goals the next time out, a regulation loss.

But in Idaho’s most recent series against Utah, he allowed one goal in each of his two games, both victories.

“I think that’s great for his confidence, and it’s great for the team to have that confidence in him,” Graham said. “It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the pressure. He’s a high draft pick, and I know it can be tough to stay in the moment. But he’s done a good job of that so far.”

Desrosiers’ .937 save percentage leads ECHL rookie goaltenders among those with more than one appearance.

UNFAMILIAR FOE

The Gladiators were previously known as the Gwinnett Gladiators, but made the name change in September. The franchise has visited Boise twice, once in the regular season and once in the playoffs.

While the roster is filled with new faces for most Idaho fans, one name will stick out: Derek Nesbitt. The veteran forward was a key offensive cog on the Idaho team that won the Kelly Cup in 2007.

“He’s a dynamic scorer, and I know his history here in Idaho,” Graham said. “He’s their leading scorer, leading point-getter and their captain. He’s definitely a player we’ll be aware of when he’s on the ice.”

Three games in four nights

Series: vs. Atlanta Gladiators (formerly Gwinnett Gladiators), 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday

Tickets: CenturyLink box office, 331-8497 or IdahoSteelheads.com

Radio/TV: 1350 AM and Cable One channel 72

Records: Atlanta is 3-2-1; Idaho is 4-3-1

Note: Saturday is Military Appreciation Night (jersey auction benefits St. Luke’s Rehabilitation).

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