Idaho Steelheads season preview

By Jeff Dahlia






steelheadspreview

After winning last year’s Kelly Cup Championship
in their 2003-04 inaugural ECHL season, the Idaho Steelheads head into their sophomore campaign with familiar
faces, yet a changed team.

The Steelheads will look to defend last season’s title under a new affiliation with the Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL.
Their AHL affiliate, the Utah Grizzlies, remains the same.

Steelheads fifth-year Head Coach John Olver returns a core group of players from last year’s roster. Idaho will also add some talented fresh faces from the Coyotes
organization. With the current lockout in effect, their relationship has proved to be fruitful already.


Goaltending



After losing a proven champion in Dan Ellis, the Steelheads will now look to former Maine Black Bear goalie Frank Doyle to guard their net. He ended his college career last season leading all
goaltenders in NCAA Division I hockey last year with a .826 winning percentage. It will be a formidable task to match the success Ellis had, but he is poised to live up to the challenge.

In Doyle, the Steelheads get a competent up and coming goaltender that went overlooked in his youth because he blossomed late in his amateur career. He knows what it is like to be a part of a successful and demanding program and it should
benefit Idaho.

Colin Zulianello will backup Doyle this year. Zulianello comes to the Steelheads after spending last season with Long Beach and San Diego of the
ECHL. His performance is hot and cold at times. 




Defensemen

Led by last season’s team captain Jeremy Mylymok, the Steelheads return a core group of last year’s defensive
unit including Dan Vandermeer, David Cornacchia and Darrell Hay. After spending the last season with Muskegon in the UHL, Petr Suchanek returns to Idaho. The huge defensemen was a member of the 2001-02 and 2002-03 Steelhead squads. Peter Metcalf rounds out the starting six. Metcalf split time between Providence (AHL) and Trenton (ECHL) last season.
Hay, Cornacchia and Vandermeer should be the standout, go-to defensemen this year.


Forwards

Even with the departure of Zenon Konopka (signed with Anaheim), the Steelheads will still return many capable and proven faces this season. Players like Ben Keup, Scott Bert, Warren Peters, Brett Darney and Lance Galbraith are all returning. Idaho also went out to fortify their roster by adding David Morisset,
who spent 2002-03 with San Antonio of the AHL, David Brisson, who spent last
season with Grand Rapids of the AHL and Muskegon in the UHL, Bobby Russell, who
spent last season with Norfolk of the AHL and Florence and Trenton of the ECHL, and Greg Keith,
who spent last season with University of Denver. Marty Flichel will start his second tour in Boise after spending the 2003-04 season with Kalamazoo of the UHL.

The Steelheads will also get some help up front from the Coyotes this season. Frantisek “Frank” Lukes, Ladislav Kouba, Landon Bathe and Darren McLachlan all join Idaho for their title defense.

Lukes, an eighth round pick of the
Coyotes in 2001, played all of last season with the AHL Springfield
Falcons.  The 5’9 winger posted only eight goals in 63 games last year and
needs to prove that he can score more at the pro level.  Lukes is 22.

Kouba,
21, a seventh round pick of the Coyotes in 2002, spend time in the AHL, UHL, and
WHL last season, playing a total of 29 pro games. The 6’3 winger has good hands
and is a solid skater.

Bathe is a new
acquisition by the Coyotes, signed as a free agent after this summer’s rookie
tournament.  He spent most of last year with the ECHL Toledo Storm, with 10
points and 182 penalty minutes in 56 games.  He got in six AHL games with
the Milwaukee Admirals as well. The 22-year-old Maine native is 6’0, 220 pounds.

McLachlan,
signed as a free agent out of the WHL in the summer of 2003, spent most of last
year with the Adirondack IceHawks of the UHL where he had 10 points and 166
penalty minutes in 39 games.  He had one point and 39 penalty minutes in 11
AHL games for Springfield as well.  The 6’2 215-pounder is 21.  



Overall, the Steelheads are extremely gritty up front. Galbraith will add some life to the squad between his frequent stops in the sin bin.
Last season he had 353 PIMs in 63 games. After he settles in at anchoring one of the top two lines, Lukes should prove to be a big time producer. Veteran leadership (Burt, Russell and Flichel) will definitely add some consistency and fire to the group.

Outlook

After the Steelheads raise their banners from last year’s championship season, a new chapter begins for Idaho. Even though netminder Frank Doyle has not tested the
pro waters, he should make a solid contribution. Idaho returns an experienced and successful defensive unit and that will be the key in helping Doyle make a
smooth transition.

Head coach John Olver has this squad poised to make an honest title defense this season. The majority of the team has played under Olver at some point in their careers. They are familiar with his system and style of play. There isn’t an over abundance of over the top talent, but the chemistry, grit and determination will keep them buzzing. The team has a couple of spark plugs who will be able to give the team a good face lift.

Quick Notes

  • Frank Lukes, Scott Burt and Marty Flichel will all start the season the on the injured reserve. Lukes and Burt are out for seven days, while Flichel
    is out for 30 days.

  • If the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks reassign Zenon Konopka to the ECHL, he will be donning a Steelheads jersey during his stay. Idaho owns Konopka’s ECHL rights for the season.

  • David Morisset returns to pro hockey with the Steelheads after missing the entire 2003-04 season due to a shoulder injury.

  • After spending well over a month with Phoenix, Utah and the Steelheads this summer, forward prospect Lance Monych has been returned to his junior team in the WHL (Brandon Wheat Kings).

  • Idaho’s preseason exhibition games with the Victoria Salmon Kings marked the first time a ECHL contest was played on Canadian soil. The Steelheads host the Kings next month before heading back up to Victoria, B.C., for a two-game series during February 7-8, 2005.

  • A number of Steelheads games can be heard live over the internet on KTIK 1350 (The Ticket) or they can be viewed for a fee on the b2 network.
    More information is found at the Steelheads web site.

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