|(Credit: Allen Picard/Idaho Steelheads)
The Idaho Steelheads turned in their best defensive effort of the series as Josh Robinson returned to the net stopping 27 of 28 shots. Brett Robinson and Gaelan Patterson each got their second goals of the series as the Steelheads win 2-1 to took a 3-2 series lead in the best-of-seven opening round.
Brad Ralph ran a a one game experiment in game 4. Pat Nagle, after turning in a winning performance in game 4, found himself back on the bench for game 5. However, the changes that the team made in front of Nagle during game 4 carried over to game 5 with Josh Robinson back in net. Idaho was finally able to outshoot the Eagles by a count of 31 to 28, but the number of shots that were forced wide or blocked by the Steelheads defense went up considerably.
The Colorado Eagles made a couple of lineup changes. The most significant change was starting their season-long number one goaltender, Marc Cheverie, in place of Dustin Butler. Cheverie had been injured over the last month of the regular season. The Steelheads wanted him to make up for lost time as they peppered him with 14 shots in the first period, a majority of them of high quality. Unfortunately for Idaho, after a period that could have had them up three or four, they had to settle for a 1-0 lead after the first period.
Brett Robinson would get the first goal of the game for Idaho after an outstanding sequence in the offensive zone. Rob Linsmayer and Patrick Cullity made great plays to keep the puck alive in the offensive zone. When Robinson was able to get control of the puck, the tired Eagles defenders allowed Brett Robinson to find a soft spot at the bottom of the right wing circle and pick his corner to put the Steelheads up 1-0.
Despite allowing the one goal, Cheverie was outstanding the remainder of the period. He was able to turn aside a William Rapuzzi breakaway opportunity as well as robbing Mitch Wahl on a chance later in the period. The most important stat from the first period besides the goal was that the Steelheads were able to pressure the Eagles while only allowing three shots.
In the second period, neither team was able to score despite the Steelheads having an extended 5-on-3 penalty kill during the later stages of the period. Also it looked like Rapuzzi scored a goal late after Cheverie appeared to slide back into his net on his own after making a save, but with the puck underneath Cheverie and Pierre Lambert still working on his x-ray vision, Lambert had no choice but to not credit a goal as there was no clear view of the puck crossing the goal line. For the second straight period the Steelheads would outshoot the Eagles 12-8 in the period.
Josh Robinson had his best period of the night in the third. The Eagles came out pressing knowing that they needed a goal to tie the game. However it was a faceoff win by David deKastrozza and a nice finish by Gaelan Patterson that put the Steelheads up 2-0 just 5:13 into the period. While the breathing room was nice to have, there was still a lot of time left in the period.
The Eagles would make the most of the third period by directing 17 shots on Robinson during the period. The team defense was outstanding as they kept the majority of the chances to the outside and when the Eagles found a good scoring area, Josh Robinson was able to make the stops. The only flaw on the game and period came with three seconds left in the game as Brock Nixon would find himself all alone in front of Robinson and was able to redirect a shot past the goaltender to spoil the shutout.
- Idaho outshot Colorado 31-28
- Idaho Power Play 0-for-6
- Colorado Power Play 0-for-4
Game 6 is set for Monday back in Boise. The Steelheads will have a chance to close things out and advance to the second round where the Alaska Aces wait for the winner of this series. Top-seeded Alaska swept the Las Vegas Wranglers four game to none. If Colorado wins on Monday, there will be a game seven on Tuesday, also in Boise. Expect to see Josh Robinson and Cheverie back in net for their teams as both of them played well enough to win in game 5.
One of the most impressive things to me during the length of this series, is that for two teams that love to get up and down the ice and put pucks in the net, both the Steelheads and the Eagles have turned an eye towards defense, and because of that, this had been of the most entertaining series of the playoffs so far.
Elsewhere, the Bakersfield Condors advanced past the Utah Grizzlies four games to one, and they will play the Stockton Thunder who got past the Ontario Reign four games to none.