Saturday, April 25, 2015

Idaho Steelheads Report: Utah's Bobkov Steals Game 4 from Steelheads

Jesse Root (Credit: Steve Conner/Idaho Steelheads)
John Mulhern is back with his almost live article as the Idaho Steelheads returned home for Game 4 against the Utah Grizzlies in the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Friday night. Coming into the game, Idaho held a 2-1 lead in the series off the strength of a Jason Bast overtime goal in game one and a Patrick Cullity overtime goal in game 3.

The Utah Grizzlies defeated the Idaho Steelheads by a final score of 4-1 on the strength of superb goaltending from Igor Bobkov and timely scoring as the Idaho Steelheads directed 43 shots on net to Utah’s 20. The series is now tied at 2-2 with Game 5 set for Saturday night in Idaho.

First Period

The first period ended well for Idaho, but that’s not how it started. Just 1:20 into the first period, the Utah Grizzlies got in on a solid fore-check and caused a turnover and with the quick transition, Ryan Hayes was able to find himself all alone in front of Olivier Roy and he made no mistake burying the chance into the back of the net for a 1-0 Utah lead.

Idaho would balance things out during the middle part of the period and then really turned it on late in the frame, but Igor Bobkov and the post would deny all Idaho chances and the teams would head to the dressing room with Utah holding a 1-0 advantage.

Second Period

In an interesting twist, Idaho came out in the second period just dominating offensive zone time and shots on net. However, even adding in an extended 5 on 3 power play for over a minute and a half, once again Bobkov and the post (twice more) stood tall and kept Idaho off the board in the period.

Utah was able to capitalize on their limited chances in the period as they were able to put two in the net as Michael Pelech would get his first of the post season as his shot from the top of the left wing circle hit an Idaho defender and left Roy helpless in an attempt to make a save. Then at the 15:16 mark of the period Patrick Weller let a shot rip from center point and beat Roy glove side for a 3-0 advantage heading into the third period. Utah will also start with almost a full power play after a late slashing call went against Levi Nelson.

Idaho has some work to do if they want to get back in this game and extend to a 3-1 series advantage, but right now Utah is playing desperate hockey and it’s paying off. Shots through two periods are 30-13 Idaho with the advantage.

Third Period

Oh the chances. Idaho, even shorthanded to start the period, Idaho managed to get two grade A scoring chances at the start of the period, but Bobkov was able to turn one shot aside and another chance was muted when a pass bounce off a stick. But oh the chances were there. We can only speculate what could have happened if one of those early chances went in, but they didn’t.

Utah ended up with a 4-1 win after all was said and done. A couple of notes from Idaho’s perspective in that third period. The first, is that Chris Rawlings saw his first ECHL action and stopped all shots as sent into his direction (Utah’s goal was an empty netter). I think this was an Olivier Roy protection move. As Brett Robinson told me post game, the entire team especially the forwards needed to play better defense. By getting Roy out of the game, it bought him some time to relax have a little less work and refocus for Saturday night’s game.

Idaho did get a goal in the period and it came courtesy of Alex Belzile at the 11:46 mark of the period, as he was able to crash the net and jam home a loose puck. This is one of those goals that ends up insignificant in terms of the game, but perhaps it could bode well for the rest of the series. If Belzile can get going, that can only be a good thing for Idaho.

The ultimate story from this game is the play of Utah Grizzlies goaltender Igor Bobkov. The Steelheads ended up putting 43 shots on the net and Bobkov turned away 42 of them. According to ECHL gamecentre more than half of Idaho’s shots came from the top of the circles and down, so they weren’t just throwing lob shots at the net.

As far as looking forward to Game 5 of this series on Saturday night, the Steelheads have no choice by to turn the page and get back to business. The series is only tied up 2-2 after this game and Idaho still has the home-ice advantage in the series. Saturday’s game is not a must win, but whichever teams manages to earn the victory, will have a decided advantage heading back to Utah for Game 6 on Monday.

Make sure you check back here tomorrow for Game 5’s recap. Until then…

John Mulhern is the arena emcee for CenturyLink Arena, home of the Idaho Steelheads, and does on-air work for the Steelheads broadcast in addition to his own Two Sports Nuts podcast. You can also follow John on Twitter @mulhern4.

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