Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Idaho Steelheads Report: Idaho Pushes Colorado to the Brink

Chase Schaber has three goals, all game
winners, in his short time with Idaho. 
(Credit: Idaho Steelheads)
John Mulhern looks back at the week for the Steelheads, who lead their playoff series 3-1 and could close out the Colorado Eagles tonight in game five.

In playoff hockey, they say that each series develops its own personality and that no two series are ever the same. I think for Idaho Steelheads fans, they would be OK with that as long as the Steelheads come out on the other side victorious in their first round Kelly Cup playoff series against the Colorado Eagles (St Johns Ice Caps).

The Steelheads have the ability to do just that if they can maintain their re-found commitment to defense for just one more game, as they currently hold a 3-1 games advantage over the Eagles with game 5 set for Tuesday night down in Loveland, Colorado.

With that in mind, let’s take a (hopefully) brief look back at the first 4 games of the series.

Game 1: Steelheads win 4-3 OT
In a game where, for the first two periods, it appeared as if the Steelheads were going to get run out of the rink, they were able to get rid of some nerves and keep the game close just waiting for something to bounce their way. In this game, it certainly did.

The Colorado Eagles “scored” the first 3 goals of the game, however, the Steelheads managed to only be down 2-1 after two periods. In what would be a harbinger of things to come later for the Eagles, the Steelheads, who trailed after the first 1-0, would create a little forechecking pressure, which forced Eagles Aaron Schneekloth to rush a breakout pass into the skate of Collin Bowman and through goaltender Adam Brown to knot the game at 1 just 7:32 into the second period. The Eagles would later score and take the lead 2-1 after two periods.

In the third period, Idaho’s Justin Taylor picked up a loose puck at center ice, and from just inside the center ice logo (about 4 feet past the left wing off-side faceoff dot) ripped a dump in that Brown misplayed and found the top corner to give the Steelheads a bit of momentum as they tied the game at two.

Colorado once again would re-take the lead at the 11:39 mark of the 3rd as Kyle Ostrow would net his second goal of the night. However, not to be outdone, David de Kastrozza would charge into the offensive zone and win a battle at the side of the net to tie the game up at 3 with 4:20 remaining in the 3rd period. The Eagles would have the better of the chances to finish out regulation, but Steelheads goaltender Josh Robinson would stand tall and allow his team to get back to the locker room to make a couple of adjustments for the overtime period.

In this case, if you were stuck in a particularly long bathroom line and unable to make it back to your seat, there is a good chance you missed the game winning goal as only 26 seconds in, Tyler Gron would get his first playoff goal of the year and the Steelheads, who had no reason even being in overtime, end up coming out of overtime as winners and with a 1-0 lead in the series by virtue of a 4-3 win.

Game 2: Eagles win 6-5 OT
The best way to describe this game, would be a mirror image to game one. Less than 24 hours after an overtime thriller game the Steelheads a 1-0 series lead, a second one, would allow the Eagles to tie at 1 game each.

This time, the Steelheads came out and looked to be the better team as the nerves from the previous night were gone (having a series lead will do that). Matt Case gave the Steelheads a 1-0 lead with a nice shot from the point on the power play. Colorado would tie the game up at one as Aaron Schneekloth would get the power play goal with less than minute to go in the first to salvage their worst period of the playoffs.

In the second, Schneekloth would strike again, also on the power play to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead. The Steelheads would strike back with 3 goals in 2 minutes and 54 seconds to stake them out to a 4-2 lead heading in to the third. Rylan Galiardi, Austin Fyten and Brett Robinson would get credit for the tallies. After Fyten’s goal, Colorado would pull Adam Brown and replace him with Kyle Jones.

With the Steelheads up two and heading into the third, most thought that the final frame would be about just killing time until the celebration of a 2-0 series lead. Apparently that script never got to the Eagles as they would come back with three of their own (1 on the power play) to re-take a 5-4 lead with 5:44 to go in the 3rd.

The Steelheads would not be denied in regulation as Austin Smith would get his first goal of the post-season just 2:37 later (3:07 remaining in game) to send game two into an extra session. The Steelheads picked up where they left off creating chance after chance. They even were given a power play after a high sticking call was made against Michael Forney. However, it was the Eagles and Kevin Ulanski who scored with just 2:23 left in the first overtime session, that gave the Eagles the 6-5 win and knotted the series at one game apiece. This was a game that the Eagles probably should have lost. But if you think about it, the series is where it should be regardless.

Game 3: Steelheads win 1-0
Game three brought about a shift in scenery as both teams would take the same flight down to Colorado on the travel day between games two and three. Prior to the game, the Steelheads announced that defenseman Gord Baldwin (Texas) and forward Andrew Carroll (Connecticut Whale) were assigned and added to the Steelheads playoff roster. This used up 2 of the 3 available spots the Steelheads had available. The Steelheads still have the option to add one additional AHL player to their roster later in the playoffs.

Both players paid immediate dividends. Carroll allowed the lines and players to settle into more comfortable positions and also forced Colorado to adjust their defensive pairings to cover the additional Steelheads scoring depth. Baldwin paid off in as much as the Steelheads won a 1-0 game and allowed only 20 shots and blocked or deflected at least double that in terms of shots and passes.

The only Steelheads goal was scored in the second period as Adrian Foster capitalized on a great backdoor pass from Tyler Gron with the Steelheads on a 5-on-3. Foster’s goal would hold up as game winner as the Steelheads locked down the Eagles offense and only allowed five shots in the third period. Tyler Beskorowany earner the shutout in his first professional playoff start (2nd ever appearance). The Steelheads went into Colorado and took game three and took the lead in the series two games to one.

Game 4: Steelheads win 5-3
The rare Sunday night game also brought an even rarer television appearance for the Eagles and the Steelheads as they played the only game in the ECHL on the Altitude television network. The Steelheads made the most of the spotlight and jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first as Tyler Gron and Adrian Foster scored the goals.

The Eagles would finally solve Beskorowany 6:47 into the second and once again at 8:37 to tie the game at two. The Eagles had all the momentum and appeared to have taken a lead, but the Eagles goal was waved for goaltender interference. The Steelheads took advantage of the break as Austin Smith put the Steelheads out in front for good with 1:21 left in the second period. After two, the Steelheads took a 3-2 lead. With the Eagles pressing in the third, the Steelheads would give them three power play chances but were able to kill all of them off.

Chase Schaber would ultimately get the game winning goal, and Tyler Gron tacked on his second of the game before the Eagles would get a “window dressing” goal with 42 seconds left in the game. The Steelheads head into game 5 with a chance to close it out on the road in Colorado Tuesday night.

Notes:

  • The Steelheads penalty kill went 6 for 7 on Sunday night including killing off a 5 on 3 with the game ties at 2. 
  • Ben Ondrus, Matt Case and Gold Baldwin played yeoman minutes killing of the penalties in addition to another strong game from Tyler Beskorowany. 
  • Chase Schaber only scores game winners. His goal Sunday night turned into the game winning goal late in the game after Colorado got their 3rd goal. Schaber has 3 goals in a Steelheads uniform including the regular season and all 3 of them have been game winners.

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