Idaho Steelheads Report: On the Brink Thanks to Clutch Utah Goalie

(Credit: Steve Conner)
John Mulhern returns once again for his immediate reactions to tonight’s Game 5 between the Idaho Steelheads and the Utah Grizzlies.

Utah behind a four goal outburst in the third period and another brilliant outing by goaltender Igor Bobkov won tonight’s Game 5 by a score of 5-2 to take a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 set for Monday back in Utah.

First Period

Not the worse start for the Idaho Steelheads tonight and really outside of having to kill a couple of penalties and one shift, Idaho had the exact start to the game they needed.

Two penalties early in the game gave Utah some 5-3 power play time plus extended 5-4 time as well, but Steelheads goaltender Chris Rawlings, who was getting his first ECHL playoff start, as well as the penalty killers did their job and help Utah off the board on those chances.

Idaho would get the first goal of the game for the fourth time in the series as Colton Beck would finish a nice transition passing play as Martin Lee forced a turnover at the center ice redline and Jefferson Dahl was able find a streaking Beck who was able to bury the shot at 10:48 of the frame.

One issue that Idaho has had in the series is the quick equalizer goal from the Grizzlies and that happened once again as just 17 second after the Steelheads took the lead, Connor Hardowa was able to get loose at the tip of the right wing circle and beat Rawlings to even the game at one goal apiece.

Bobkov also absolutely robbed Jesse Root from the doorstep as after a battle behind the net had the puck found Root at the top of the crease. Bobkov, still looking behind the net, never saw the shot as Root was unable to elevate the puck high enough to get it over Bobkov’s glove. Just the latest example of Bobkov coming up with a spectacular save to keep Idaho from scoring a goal.

That is where we stand after the first. Shots in the period favored Utah by a count of 9-6.

Second Period

This was a good period for Idaho. They continued to apply pressure, were able to limit quality chances against, and will start the third period leading 2-1. Wade MacLeod was able to pick up a long lead pass from Mike Dalhuisen and fired a wrist shot from the left wing circle that beat Bobkov at the 6:10 mark of the frame to give Idaho a 2-1 lead after two periods.

The second period has at times this season been an issue for the Steelheads but not tonight. Solid defense, good offensive zone pressure and the only goal of the period. Chris Rawlings continues to stand tall in net making the needed saves to help keep the momentum with Idaho and the entire team continuing to compete.

Shots in the period were even at 10 apiece and for the game Utah has a 19-16 advantage. Once more solid period to go and Idaho will end up with a 3-2 series lead.

Third Period

Didn’t see that one coming. In my heart of hearts, I was hoping that Idaho would be able to make a 2-1 final score stand up, but knowing the history of this rivalry, that would have been a tough ask, because Utah always seems to find a way to grind out goals and tonight was no different.

Utah got only their second power play goal of the series (Idaho only has one) to equalize the game when a shot from the point hit some bodies in front and dropped right to Michael Pelech who buried the rebound into the open net at 6:11 of the third.

Connor Hardowa would get his second of the night at 12:29 of the period with the assists going to T.J Syner and Ryan Hayes to give Utah a 3-2 lead. Alex Krushelnyski would get his first of the playoffs at the 18:00 mark to extend the lead to 4-2 for the Grizzlies and finally an empty net goal by Syner gave us the final score of 5-2. Utah ended up outshooting Idaho 31-25 for the game after a 12-9 third period.

Some thoughts on this game and the future of the series. Idaho needs to go down to Utah and win Game 6 on Monday. That is the obvious statement. If Idaho can pull that off Game 7 will be back in Idaho on Wednesday.

The Idaho power play has only scored one goal this postseason. This needs to get better. The entire season the power play has been streaky and clearly Igor Bobkov isn’t helping things, but you need to be able to score more than once with the man advantage.

I would expect Olivier Roy to be back in net for Game 6. It was a low to no risk proposition to have Rawlings in net on Saturday and while he played fine, I think you have to go back to Roy and let him have a chance to make his mark on the series.

Let’s try to leave this with some positive thoughts. First Idaho has already taken one game from Utah in their building this postseason as Patrick Cullity scored the game winning goal in overtime of Game 3. Plus Idaho had success in Utah during the regular season winning three game at the Maverick center including two games in the last couple weeks of the season.

The most important game is always the next one and in the case of Idaho if they want to keep playing hockey they have no other options but to win in Game 6 on Monday. Selfishly, I’m not ready to pack up the broadcasting gear for the season yet, so with that in mind check back here for another recap later next week.

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.