Steel have won 9 straight
NEW ULM — The New Ulm Steel are the hottest team in all of the NA3HL after winning both games at Willmar Friday and Saturday to extend their winning streak to nine consecutive games.
That has allowed the Steel (23-11-2-1) to build a comfortable 14-point lead over Alexandria for third place. The Steel play a make-up game Wednesday in Alexandria before playing at home Friday and Saturday night against Granite City and Breezy Point respectively. Both home games start at 7:10 p.m.
“Our guys are in good spirits right now,” Steel coach Zach Stepan said. “They are coming together as a team. There have been games where we have been down but they have played until the final whistle.”
One of the reasons that the Steel are on a roll is their first line — Jacob Halvorson, Keegan Bauman and Michael Savelkoul — have been laying waste to opponents.
Halvorson has 26 goals and 26 assists for 52 points. Bauman has 20 goals and 28 assists for 48 points with Savelkoul 11 goals and a team-high 34 assists for 45 points.
“What they have done over this nine-game stretch is nothing short of incredible, “Stepan said. “One game in the winning streak they had all five goals. You need your veterans to be your best players and they have proven to be that.”
Stepan said that what the line of Halvorson, Bauman and Savelkoul does carries down to the rest of the team.
“When your top line goes out every shift and plays the game the right way, it trickles down especially to the younger players,” he said. “They feed off of that energy.”
That has also led to both the Steel defensemen and goalies to step up their play
“Our goalies have had some big saves and the defense have made shot blocks,” Stepan said. “They are making plays long enough to allow us to score and pull away.”
After Wednesday’s game in Alexandria, the Steel play two home games that range on the opposite side of the spectrum.
Friday, which is “Hy-Vee Night” at the New Ulm Civic Center, the Steel host West Division-leadng Granite City who comes in at 31-7.
Saturday night, which is “$1 Hot Dog Night” the Steel host 7-30-1 Breezy Point.
“I am excited for that Granite game,” Stepan said. “We have not beaten Granite this year but they also have not played us since we have been on this streak. We seem to struggle with their style of play more than we do with (second-place) North Iowa.”
The Steel lost goalie A.J. Cohen, who was called up to the NAHL Chippewa Fals Steel last week. They also lost defenseman Tommy Broten, who was called up to Chippewa Falls over the weekend.
“We have to figure things out by Friday for Chippewa,” Stepan said. “February 6th is trade deadline and February 7th is add/drop deadline. And we have until February 10th to finalize our 25 man roster. This week we will see a lot of telephone calls to teams who are out of playoffs and may want to trade their older players for draft picks.”
Stepan said that the Steel depth showed up when they lost Broten over the weekend.
“We threw Nick Wieben into that spot and he ended up with 4 points.”