Steelheads Begin Receiving Players From Iowa

By Chris Langrill
The Idaho Statesman

BOISE, Idaho – Thursday was the first day of spring, and as the calendar marches onward certain annual rites come to pass.

Plants begin to blossom, birds migrate south and Iowa Stars players get sent to the Idaho Steelheads.

Last season, AHL products such as John Lammers, B.J. Crombeen and Francis Wathier were instrumental for Idaho as it captured the ECHL’s Kelly Cup championship.

Iowa reassigned forward Aaron Gagnon to the Steelheads on Tuesday. On Thursday, Mark Bomersback flew to Boise and the left wing is expected to play Friday and Saturday nights, when Idaho hosts the Stockton Thunder at Qwest Arena. Bomersback played 29 games with Idaho earlier this season and was the team’s leading goal scorer with 16 when he was called up in late December.

It’s a tricky situation between the two teams in the Dallas Stars organization because Iowa’s woes can make for Idaho’s gains. If the Stars are eliminated from the playoffs, that allows players to be sent to Idaho that much sooner, and Iowa appears to be on the outside of the postseason looking in. The Stars sit in eighth place in the West Division with 12 games to play and only the top four teams qualify for the playoffs.

“Iowa has been playing some great hockey the past couple of months, but the teams that are ahead of them from earlier in the season continue to win,” Steelheads coach Derek Laxdal said. “So right now, it looks like they’re going to miss the playoffs.”

If that comes to pass, Steelheads fans can expect to see some AHL players who wore Steelheads uniforms earlier this season return to Idaho. Those players include defenseman Ethan Graham and forwards Richard Clune and Tom Wandell. Additionally, the Dallas Stars signed goalie prospect Matt Climie on Wednesday and assigned him to Iowa. That move increases the possibility that Iowa will send the Steelheads a goaltender, perhaps even last season’s Kelly Cup Finals MVP, Steve Silverthorn.

“We could see two more players, or even three more players, going into the playoffs,” Laxdal said. “That’s a great thing from an organization standpoint but, unfortunately, it’s going to push some guys out. That’s going to happen to every team, and we have a limited number of roster spots.”

That can make for some nervous times in the locker room, but Steelheads forward Lance Galbraith said he sees that as a positive.

“Guys are aware of it, and I think it’s good to have that pressure on guys,” he said. “I think you have to be at your best every night. With guys coming down, everyone has to step up, starting with (captain Marty) Flichel and myself, and we have to push each other to get better.”

After all, just like spring, an infusion of players late in the season is inevitable.

“It creates competition, and everyone knows (players from Iowa) are coming back,” Galbraith said. “It’s no secret.”