Saturday, April 27, 2013

ECHL Playoffs: Steelheads Respond With 6-0 Win

John Mulhern on the Steelheads...

The Idaho Steelheads had just played a terrible game 4, losing 2-1 to the Ontario Reign to give the Reign a 2-1 series lead. Something changed after that game. Maybe it was the post-game meal, maybe it was the next day’s practice. Most likely it was head coach Brad Ralph calling out Austin Smith, Tyler Gron and others for not performing up to standard for the first 4 games of the series. So the obvious question was would the team respond to the first public criticism off the season.

6-0.

That’s all that is needed. The Idaho Steelheads came out firing on all cylinders Friday night. Austin Smith got the first goal of the night on the power play at the 7:30 mark of the first period and after that, the route was on.

A little over 3 minutes later, Patrick Cullity would get his second goal in as many games as he would go for a dump in from the red line and as the puck was riding the glass it hit a support and redirected right into the middle of Jean-Francois Berube’s vacated net. Just for good measure Tyler Gron would add a third. After the first period the Steelheads held a commanding 3-0 lead.

The Steelheads continued their pressure into the second period as they would tack on 2 more goals. Another one by Gron at the 10:25 mark of the second and then Justin Taylor would slam home a pass from David de Kastrozza with 57 seconds left in the period. That would end the night for Berube as he allowed 5 goals on 18 shots. He would be replace by Chris Carozzi to start the third.

Lost but not forgotten in this offensive explosion was the play of goaltender Josh Robinson. Robinson took the loss on Wednesday night after playing spectacularly in the 2-1 defeat. On this night he decided to leave nothing to chance and turned aside all 29 shots that the Reign directed at his net. The Reign were 0-3 on the power play in large part to Robinson back in net. He played excellent and was well deserving of the shutout and top star designation on this night.

In the third period, Austin Fyten would add one more goal for the Steelheads at the 7:02 mark of the period to give them their 6th and last goal of the night. After that is was more of the same. Great defensive zone coverage and smart plays to just get the puck deep into the Reign zone to protect the lead and get out with the win.

With the series now tied at 2 games apiece, the Steelheads have to hope there is some offense left in the tank as after Saturday night’s game 5 the series will shift back to Ontario for games 6 and 7 (if nec). Obviously it’s better to be leading a series than trailing, but having to go on the road and win two games is a much taller task than just having to steal one. Tyler Gron after the game stopped just short of calling Game 5 a must win, but you could tell from his tone that it might as well be a must win.

If the Steelheads continue to pressure like they did last night with pinching defensemen and continue to pass the puck like Friday night and continue to get great defensive play, I don’t know if there is any team in the west that can stop them.

Playoff Notes: The Stockton Thunder have opened up a 3 games to 1 lead over the Alaska Aces in the other Western Conference Semi-Final. The winner of that series will take on the winner of the Steelheads and Reign series.

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