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Steelheads getting the word out on the white-out

by Tom Scott

Bio | Follow: @thescottslant


Posted on April 30, 2010 at 7:20 AM


Friday, April 30, 2010.
Is it just me, or does it appear the Idaho Steelheads front office got a phone tree together and encouraged local businesses to plug the ECHL National Conference Finals on their readerboards? It’s everywhere. And it’s important, because it’s tough to re-sell venues from scratch from series to series in the playoffs in minor league hockey. But the Steelheads are workin’ it, and Qwest Arena will be clad in white tonight for Game 1 against the Stockton Thunder. The readerboard campaign would actually be a good idea for Boise State come November, when Leon Rice is making his debut as the Broncos’ new men’s basketball coach. There will be some buzz surrounding Rice, something the hoops program doesn’t usually have late in the fall. Strike while the iron is hot.
One defensive stat and one special teams stat of note to set the table for this series. The Steelheads allowed only 25.1 shots on goal a game during the regular season, tops in the ECHL. They had a huge advantage in shot margin most nights out. And the Steelies were the only team in the ECHL not to allow a shorthanded goal during the season’s 72 games, a streak that has continued in the playoffs. They take care of business in their own zone on their power play.
In the past it’s been called “Junior Day,” when seniors-to-be get to test themselves in NFL-type drills at various college campuses. It’s not restricted to current juniors, though, so the Boise State coaching staff calls it a Mock Pro Day, and that’s this afternoon at the Caven-Williams indoor facility—open to the public. The speed and agility drills will be the same ones used to evaluate NFL Draft prospects, and you may see some draft campaigns launched today. It was at last year’s Mock Pro Day that Kyle Wilson ran a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash, a time that was filed away by any NFL scout aware of it.
If you’re a fan of “Twilight,” you’ll like the 2010 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl. That’s when it will be played—in the twilight on December 18—with a 3:30PM kickoff at Bronco Stadium. It’s the first day of bowl season, one filled with non-Automatic Qualifiers. The New Mexico Bowl will tentatively kick the day off, with the WAC facing the Mountain West. The WAC-MAC matchup in the H-Bowl will be next, followed by the New Orleans Bowl, pitting the Sun Belt against the MWC.
Oregon State’s spring game is tomorrow, and the Beavers go into it with one battle all but settled. OSU may be just a quarterback away from a run at the Rose Bowl this season, and all signs point to Ryan Katz as the guy who going to try to get it done. Coach Mike Riley was asked the other day when he would make it official that the sophomore from Santa Monica will replace NFL draft pick Sean Canfield. “I don’t see any need right now to make an announcement,’’ said Riley in the Oregonian. “OK, but we can,” wrote Paul Buker.  “Katz is No. 1.” By the way, the Beavers have their own way of toughening up for a season that includes a trip to the blue turf in September. Wednesday the entire squad laid down side-by-side on the field at Reser Stadium while the Oregon State engineering school’s robotics team’s $12,000 Mars Rover rolled over them.
Troy Merritt didn’t exactly pick up where he left off last week. The former Boise State star struggled yesterday with a four-over-76 in the first round of the Quail Hollow Championship. Merritt, of course, finished third last Sunday in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Even in his good rounds, Merritt is sometimes struck with bogey-itis. So it was in Charlotte yesterday—he had to take six of them. It’s looking like Merritt will have the rest of the weekend off after today’s second round.
Dontrelle Willis may be the D-Train again after a couple years as D-Caboose. The former Boise Hawk pitched shutout ball into the seventh inning against the Twins yesterday, with the Tigers going on to win, 3-0. They’re saying it’s his best performance with Detroit since signing with the club in 2008. It marked only his second victory with the Tigers in all that time, but the key stats go deeper than that. Willis had six strikeouts, his most since 2007 with the Marlins, and he only walked two. He had been averaging a walk per inning with the Tigers. The team put him on the disabled list last year with anxiety disorder. Willis says now he’s just havin’ fun again.
The WAC Tennis Championships start today in Fresno. And, according to Boise State coach Greg Patton, “It is going to be a savage competition.” The Broncos have had an inconsistent season, to say the least. Yes, BSU is coming off an upset at Arizona in its regular season finale April 18. But the day before, they had absorbed a 4-1 loss to Hawaii, which has earned the top seed in this weekend’s tournament. No matter, says the General, explaining the Broncos’ rebound against ‘Zona. "If you look down, you will fall—if you look up, you will rise and go forward." The Boise State women, meanwhile, are the top seed on their side of the tourney, led by newly-named WAC Coach of the Year Mark Tichenor and WAC Player of the Year Pichittra Thongdach.
It’s already home stretch time in college baseball. The College of Idaho finishes its home schedule with twin bills tomorrow and Sunday versus the University of British Columbia at Wolfe Field. The Coyotes climbed to No. 17 in the NAIA Poll this week, their highest ranking since 2007. UBC is ranked third, so a sweep would be unlikely. But if the Yotes were able to pull it off, they’d be in position to host a game in the first round of the NAIA National Tournament. Also, NNU wraps up the regular season with doubleheaders today and tomorrow against Saint Martin’s at Vail Field in Nampa.
This Day In Sports…April 30, 1961:
I listened to this game on the radio 49 years ago today…Willie Mays of the San Francisco Giants joins another elite club—those who have hit four home runs in a single game. Mays did it against the Braves at County Stadium in Milwaukee, a couple of ‘em going over the head of Hank Aaron. Mays, of course, ranks fourth on the career home run list behind Aaron, Babe Ruth, and now his godson, Barry Bonds.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He’s also handled color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football the last five seasons.)