|Tommy Grant (Credit: Allen Picard/Idaho Steelheads)|
In game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, the Idaho Steelheads did a better job at reducing the shots the Colorado Eagles were able to put on net, but in the end, the Eagles were able to find the back more often than the Steelheads. The Eagles took a 2-1 series lead with a 4-1 win.
The Steelheads finally got some offense beyond David deKastrozza, who had scored all of Idaho’s goals in the series previously. Brett Robinson was able to give Idaho the lead towards the end of the first period, but that was all the scoring in the first period. Colorado would then proceed to score the next four goals to finish off the scoring.
Honestly when it comes to game action there really isn’t a whole lot to go over. Colorado played great defense and continued to shut down just about all of the Steelheads offense. Idaho did a better job of trying to play the game in the offensive zone but was only able to muster 21 shots for the game. Only six of those came in the third period. But a bigger look at the third period shows a lot more shots headed in the direction of the goal, but a lot of them missing just wide, or blocked by Eagles defenders as they continue to pack in around the net and sacrifice the body to keep the pucks away from goalie Dustin Butler.
A quick look at the Steelheads also shows a lot of solid defensive play. Colorado only put 29 shots on net, and the goals that they scored were primarily on chances where they were just able to outwork, get better position and find a way to beat Josh Robinson. While on the topic, Robinson continued to play well. The problem is that he no longer Super Goalie. He is playing well enough to win games when the offense for the Steelheads is clicking. Unfortunately that is just not happening at this point.
Overall, the Steelheads only trail in the series 2-1. While all Steelheads fans would prefer the series to be 2-1 with Idaho in the front, one good sixty minute effort could truly turn the series in the other direction. Either way, one more win gets the series back to Idaho for at least game six. This team has too much talent and Brad Ralph is too good at pulling the right strings for this series to not make it back to Idaho.
The turning point of the game three loss was a five minute major and misconduct called against Steelheads forward Andrew Conboy in the second period. He was assessed the penalties for a cross check. Idaho was able to kill off the major penalty, but there was a momentum shift. From there on, the Steelheads had to play the rest of a game without a full complement of forwards.
The ECHL plays a three official system, even in the playoffs. The assigned referee for the game was Andrew Wilk; however, it was not Wilk that made the penalty call. It was linesman-turned-referee Butch Mousseaux. Wilk was caught up in a collision along the half wall about halfway through the first period and left the ice leaving just the two linesmen to officiate the remainder of the first period without orange arm bands.
During the first intermission, Mousseaux came out with the arm bands and would officiate the remainder of the game. Herein lies the issue I have with the set-up for this game. Will Hoenike and I have been in agreement for at least the past couple of years that in an optimal scenario each ECHL game would have four officials (two refs and two linesmen). Of course for one reason or another that hasn’t happened and I can offer reasons as to why that hasn’t happened but that would all be conjecture. However, when it comes to the playoffs, why can’t the league provide two referees to all of the playoff games? It would take adjustments from the teams come playoff time, but it would make for a better product.
Short of that, why not have an extra ECHL official available in case the assigned referee gets hurt? It is my understanding that Mousseaux has been a referee at other levels, but to the best of my knowledge he has not been the referee during an ECHL game this year.
There was no video available on the broadcast to show whether or not the major and misconduct were warranted, but I would be more confident and accepting of that call if it was a regular ECHL official. That one call definitely changed the complexion of game 3 and may have changed the complexion of the entire series. Where things go from here has yet to be determined and if the call isn’t made, that doesn’t automatically mean the Steelheads win that game.
The overriding point of the last couple of paragraphs is to point out that the playoffs are where you figure out your champion. You get more attention in the playoffs than you would get for just about any single regular season game. Why not put a little more money and treat the playoffs games with just a little more respect than the regular season? Make sure that whether you have 3 officials with 1 in reserve, or go to 4 officials for a whole game, you do your best as a league to put your best foot forward to make sure you have a fair and equitable outcome to every postseason game.
Until next time…
[Ed. Note: The AHL uses four officials in all playoff games, a change they made a few years ago. Over the past few years, the league has been phasing in four officials in all regular season games. That is why some games have two refs while others have one.]