ECHL Playoffs: Steelheads Drop Game 3 with Game 4 Tonight

Mulhern brings the news of Game 3 in Boise with Game 4 tonight...

“Hard work never takes a night off, talent does” — John Mulhern.

I’m sure someone must have said this before me, but I couldn’t find it on a quick internet search. If one of you, loyal readers, decide to do a bigger search, leave a comment and let me know who has actually said this in the past.

Game 3 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals series between the Idaho Steelheads and the Ontario Reign was decided through hard work and a dedication to a system. The Ontario Reign, in come from behind fashion defeated the Steelheads 2-1 to take a two game to one series lead. Games 4 & 5 will be played in Boise this Friday and Saturday.

There was some good news for Steelheads fans early in the day on Wednesday when it was announced that the Steelheads would use their last available roster opening to add AHL defenseman Patrick Cullity, whom was re-assigned from the St. John’s Ice Caps after their season ended over the weekend. This gave Brad Ralph the ability to simply replace suspended defenseman Gord Baldwin instead of having to juggle his defensive pairings for the game.

In the first period, having Cullity back on the blue line looked to be a genius decision when off an offensive zone face-off win by Chase Schaber, Cullity was able to skate into a slap shot and fire a shot past Reign goaltender Jean-Francios Berube. The Steelheads would hold the 1-0 lead all the way into the start of the third period, when a seeing eye shot was sent past Steelhead goaltender Josh Robinson to knot the game at 1 just 1:49 into the third period. Adrian Van de Mosselaer was credited with his first goal of the playoff season.

It was a shot that Robinson, given another 99 chances at making the save, makes the save 99 times. But on this night, it got past him and allowed the Reign to tie the game. The Steelheads in the first two periods did a great job to carry the play to the Reign. They didn’t necessary physically punish the Reign, but a good offensive zone presence and shooting from quality areas allowed them to play stingy defense during the game. In the third period, especially after the tying goal, it appeared as if the Steelheads were playing for overtime. The Reign attacked wave after wave and if not for Josh Robinson the final score may have been a bigger differential.

As the clock ticked under 4 minutes left to play in the third, a couple of weird puck bounces led to a turnover in the Steelheads zone. The Reign’s, Brady Calla found Mario Lamoureux with a quick pass and with Robinson caught out of position, the ensuing shot would hit far post before going into the net giving the Reign a 2-1 advantage and ultimately the win and series lead.

The big take away from this game, wasn’t that the Steelheads were out played, they got beat by a better team. The Reign were more willing to pay the price both in the defensive zone in terms of getting loose pucks out of the zone, and in the offensive zone by taking hits to make plays and forcing themselves in front of the net.

The Steelheads started to rely on individual talent and skills instead of staying within the prescribed systems Brad Ralph had laid out for the team prior to the game. If you ask me what needs to change, it’s trying to convince the players in the dressing room to stay committed to the offensive system that led the Steelheads to a league best 262 goals scored in the regular season. Defensively they were fine and played well enough to deserve a better fate. Game 4 is Friday and while it is clearly not a must win, it will go a long way to determining the Steelheads possible fate this post season.