Fresno Falcons at Idaho Steelheads
(35-21-7, 77 pts) (36-21-6, 78 pts)
2004-05 vs. Idaho: 2-1-1


Although it’s still the regular season, this three-game series between the Falcons and Idaho Steelheads is a crucial set of games that will undoubtedly feature playoff intensity from both clubs. The teams haven’t met since a 3-2 Fresno victory on Dec. 17 at Save Mart Center. Prior to that, they squared off in another three-game set in Fresno during the second weekend of the season. The Falcons went 1-1-1 during those three games from Oct. 29-31, which included their initial victory of the year to stem the tide of four straight losses to begin the campaign. This series begins with Idaho holding a one-point advantage in the race to clinch the last of four playoff spots in the West Division. Fresno had been in the fourth spot since Jan. 2 until the Steelheads swept the Texas Wildcatters on Saturday and Sunday of this past weekend while the Falcons were idle. Idaho has been on a tear since early February having gone 15-1-3 over their last 19, which includes an 11-game unbeaten streak coming into the Fresno series.

Fresno arrives in Boise following a 5-0 setback on Tuesday to the Gwinnett Gladiators, the seventh shutout the team has suffered this season. The loss also marked the first three-game losing slide at home since the club’s first three games of the year at Save Mart Center, the third of which was a 5-2 defeat to the Steelheads in the opener of their first three-game series. This week’s three games at the Bank of America Centre kick-off a five-game road trip for the Falcons, which continues next Tuesday and Friday at Las Vegas and Bakersfield, respectively. The team then finishes the regular season campaign with four straight at home. All three games from Idaho may be heard and/or seen live on B2 Networks, which will carry the audio webcast for free and the video webcast on a pay-per-view basis ($6) via the Falcons home page at The video webcast requires a high-speed internet connection.

The Falcons enter the Idaho series with the 4th-ranked power play (18.9%) in the league and the 9th-ranked penalty kill (85.4%), while the Steelheads are 5th (18.1%) and 7th (86.2%), respectively. Fresno’s Shaun Sutter is tied for the ECHL lead with 14 power play goals this season.

While these three games aren’t the playoffs, the implications they could have on the playoff race are about as meaningful a regular season series gets. Fresno and Idaho have met twice in the post-season, during the final two years of the teams’ tenure in the West Coast Hockey League. The Falcons captured their only professional championship in Boise by defeating the Steelheads in double overtime of Game Six of the 2001-02 Taylor Cup Finals. They then won another series-clinching Game Six on Idaho’s home ice the next season to advance to their second straight Taylor Cup Final before eventually losing in seven games to the San Diego Gulls. Assistant captain Jason Weaver is the only Fresno player remaining from either of those two Falcons teams.

Brett Jaeger made his first career start against Idaho on Oct. 31, making 33 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss. Jaeger enters the series with a record of 17-6-6, the ECHL’s 11th-ranked goals against average of 2.30 and the 7th-ranked save percentage of 93.0%...Dan Tessier returned to action off an injury for the first time in 10 games on Tuesday. He begins the series second to Shaun Sutter on the club in points with 50 (21g-29a). Sutter enters Thursday’s tilt with 51 points on 23 goals and 28 assists…Charles Simard begins the three-game set as the sixth highest scoring defenseman in the league with 42 points (7g-35a).

Fresno made one deal at Tuesday’s ECHL trade deadline by acquiring veteran defenseman Brian Stacey from the Texas Wildcatters in exchange for rookie d-man Simon Mangos. Stacey, who is slated to make his Falcons debut Thursday, played 56 games with the Wildcatters and recorded 18 points (2g-16a) and 24 PIM.