Idaho Steelheads Report: Alaska Up 2-1 in Second Round Series

Game 1 scorer Gaelan Patterson (Credit: Steelheads)
John Mulhern breaks down the second round series so far against the Alaska Aces...

The Alaska Aces came into Boise on Monday night for Game 3 in their second round series. Behind the steady goaltending of Gerald Coleman and opportune scoring, Alaska defeated the Idaho Steelheads by a score of 5-2 to take a 2-1 series lead in the ECHL’s Western Conference Semi-Finals.

After the four overtime game that the Steelheads used to defeat the Colorado Eagles in their last series, Idaho earned a trip way up North to take on the Alaska Aces in the second round of the Kelly Cup playoffs.

After taking last Tuesday off to recover, the Steelheads took Wednesday as a travel day to get up to Anchorage. On game day, they took pre-game skate but as a team they did their best to conserve as much energy as they could. It paid off as the Steelheads had to go into extra time for the second consecutive game. This time the score was 0-0 after regulation as Josh Robinson was able to continue his stellar play and keep the Aces off the board. Steelhead Gaelan Patterson was able to put home a rebound past a sprawling Gerald Coleman to give the Idaho Steelheads a 1-0 victory and a 1-0 series lead.

Game 2 turned into a battle of the backups as Pat Nagle got the start for Idaho and Olivier Roy the start for Alaska. After a fairly tight first period things opened up in the third with each team scoring three goals, but unfortunately the Steelheads made too many defensive zone turnovers and Alaska was able to come away with the 6-4 victory to tie the series back at one game a piece.

Overall, I just think this is a tired Idaho Steelheads hockey team. With the four overtime game and then the travel to and from Alaska, having to play two games in two nights in Anchorage, there is a lot of external factors working against Idaho. The series is far from over, there is an off day on Tuesday before another set of back-to-back games in Idaho on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Steelheads were in this same exact situation against the Colorado Eagles last series. They won the first game only to lose the next two before winning the next three. It is familiar ground for this team and when you look at this game beyond the results and the score, you really have to tip your hat to the Aces. The Steelheads didn’t play bad, but the Aces played better, and while both teams had good chances, Alaska buried theirs.

Full game 3 recap after the jump. Game 4 in Idaho is Wednesday night.

Period 1

That was fast. After going over 160 minutes without allowing a goal, Josh Robinson finally cracked. The Aces were able to force a turnover at the Idaho offensive blue line and with Jason Bast doing his best as the last man back, Tommy Mele got a couple of whacks at a loose puck and finally beat Robinson just under 2 minutes into the game to take an early 1-0 lead.

The Steelheads wasted no time getting it back. On the ensuing shift, Brock Montgomery did a great job working down the offensive left wing and was able to draw a hooking penalty to put the Steelheads to the man advantage. As time was winding down on the advantage, Brett Robinson laid a nice pass to Charlie Dodero, who blasted a slap shot 5-hole on Aces goaltender Gerald Coleman to knot the game at one.

Notable on power play was the return of Anthony Nigro to the ice for the Steelheads. Nigro hadn’t played at all for the Steelheads during this playoff run and saw limited time in the first period as Brad Ralph started to work him back into game shape.

Alaska had 11 shots in the frame and Idaho had 7 in a fairly evenly-played first period.

Period 2

The Alaska Aces end up leading 3-2 after the second period after they were able to take advantage of a Steelhead losing his stick in the defensive zone and a great faceoff play off the back dasher that left Josh Robinson with no chance to make the save from down low.

The big take away from the period was that the Steelheads had an apparent goal waved off with about eight minutes left in the period. While the goal was waved off, it gave the Steelheads a rallying point and broke them out of a bit of the doldrums of the period. They began to attack with a lot energy and started to get to the front of the net and pick up the physical intensity in the offensive zone.

It would to a goal to cut the lead to 3-2 as Luke Judson had a pass from Jason Bast hit his skate and head right over to William Rapuzzi’s tape and Rapuzzi made no mistake as he buried the puck into the back of the net for the goal.

In the second period Alaska outshot the Steelheads by a count of 11-7 and have outshot the Steelheads 22-14 through two periods.

The Steelheads will have 1:43 of carry over power play time to start the third as they look for the equalizer. If they can carry the momentum they got at the end of the second, I don’t know how they can’t get the game tied up. Just please no 4 OT game tonight.

Period 3

Starting the third period on the power play the Steelheads were able to retain the momentum they captured at the end of the second period with their goal.

Unfortunately for Idaho, the first chance Alaska had to skate up the ice on a line rush Brett Findlay was able to complete the three on two chance and extend the Aces lead to 4-2 and really broke the spirit of Idaho, although they would continue to fight to the end. Idaho would end up taking a couple of penalties back-to-back and with the two man advantage Evan Trupp would get his third goal in two games to make it 5-2 and Idaho despite a great Justin Mercier chance and an Anthony Nigro deflection that went just wide, were not able to close the gap.

In the period Idaho had 8 shots for a game total of 22 while Alaska had 12 for a game total of 34. Both teams only score once on the power play as Idaho went 1 for 5 and Alaska went 1 for 4.