BOISE — Following an overtime loss to the Wichita Thunder on March 9, Idaho Steelheads forward Steve McParland returned to the locker room to find a text from his agent.
The text was to congratulate McParland for putting 10 shots on net during the game.
McParland wasn’t in a celebratory mood, however
“I think ‘Well, I didn’t have any goals,’” he said. “That’s not a very good shooting average.”
He’s been raising his shooting average ever since then.
McParland was held off the score sheet in Idaho’s 5-3 loss to the Rapid City Rush, the first time he had been held pointless since that game against Wichita. It ended a five-game points streak for McFarland, who had four goals and four assists in that time. Add in an assist he had on March 8 against Rapid City and McParland has nine points since returning from a one-game stint with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls earlier this month.
“My linemates have been good, they’ve been giving me the puck and we’ve been playing really well together,” McParland said. “Nothing special, nothing in particular, I just figure I’ve been getting the right bounces.”
Will Merchant, A.J. White and Kyle Schempp scored for Idaho, as Rapid City goaltender Adam Carlson stopped 45 of 48 shots he faced. Merchant scored with just under six minutes to go in the first period, grabbing a rebound off a White shot.
Idaho trailed 3-1 in the third period when White collected a loose puck in front of the Rapid City net and flipped a backhand past Carlson to cut Rapid City’s lead to one with 15 minutes left.
Cedric Montminy put another goal in net with 10 minutes to go for his second score of the night for Rapid City, and Kyle Schempp answered by scoring off a redirected a Brady Norrish shot, but Justin Faryna put in an empty netter with five seconds left to secure the win for the Rush.
“(Carlson) has had some success this year, especially as of late,” said White. “For us we strive on having bodies in front of the net and we lacked that early on. He made good saves, but we made it easy on him.”
Dexter Dancs, who started the year with Idaho before being traded to Manchester, then Rapid City, put the Rush ahead 1-0 on a penalty shot in the first. It was the first professional goal for Dancs, a rookie out of the University of Michigan.
The loss ends Idaho’s four-game win streak.
McParland, who leads the Steelheads with 25 goals and 55 points, has been a model of consistency this season. He had a point in six of Idaho’s first eight games, had a streak where he had points in six of seven games in November, a stretch where he had five points in three games in January and then the streak that ended Wednesday.
In fact, outside a four-game stretch in February where he was held without a point, he hadn’t gone more than two ECHL games this season without either a goal or an assist.
But that type of consistency is nothing new for the Steelheads, who saw McParland score 31 goals and tally 26 assists least year in his first season after coming over from the South Carolina Stingrays.
“He’s been consistent for two seasons,” said Idaho coach Neil Graham. “If you look at his year he put up last year as a first-year Steelhead, he had a great season. He picked up where he left off and he’s a guy that is very consistent. He plays the game fast, he plays the game heavy, he’s always a danger when the puck’s on his stick. When you have a guy like that with that explosiveness and game-changing possibilities, it’s always an asset.”
Idaho’s hoping that consistency can continue into the Kelly Cup Playoffs, which start in two weeks. Idaho has clinched a spot in the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive season.
McParland’s latest streak began during the first-game of a five-game road stand. He scored goals in each of the first four games — three in Orlando and one in Rapid City — then added an assist in Saturday’s game in Rapid City to cap the road trip. He also had three assists against Orlando on March 19.
“It’s very important, we’re dialing in before playoffs,” McParland said. “Playoffs is a whole different season, so if we can do our best to create the right habits as a team and create the right mindset, starting with Game 1 of the playoffs, we’ll be ready to go.”