|Jason Bast in a file photo (Credit: Idaho Steelheads)|
Below is John Mulhern’s "live" reaction to last night’s game one as after each period he sat down and gave us his impressions and recap....
The ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs got off to the typical close checking start you would expect in the first period of Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. There wasn’t a feeling out period as you would typically see because these teams have played 13 times this season including last Wednesday April 8th.
Both teams were locking things down in the defensive zone that period, and nothing made that point more clear than when after a good minute plus of offensive zone time only generated one shot for Utah early in the game.
Idaho was able to score the first goal of the game off a turnover at center ice, when Jason Bast picked up a loose puck and played give-and-go with Colton Beck who did a great job to corral an elevated pass to beat Igor Bobkov right underneath the crossbar for the 1-0 advantage just 9:36 into the first.
The Steelheads would extend their lead just under three minutes later when after Brett Robinson had a shot blocked, he was able to get the puck to Jake Rutt, who then found Wade MacLeod on the right wing, and once he had the puck and with Bobkov moving from his right to left, the ECHL’s second leading scorer made it 2-0 at the 12:30 mark of the period.
Utah would get the first power play of the game, and they would capitalize on a well-executed zone entry play as Brenden Walker beat Olivier Roy high glove to make it 2-1 after the first period of play.
The second period ended the same way as the first, with the Idaho Steelheads leading by a score of 2-1. Idaho dominated the period as they outshot Utah in the period 19-10 and lead the shot count overall by 34-14. Multiple Steelheads had chances punctuated by Jason Bast who found himself all alone in front of Bobkov, but the puck jumped over his stick as he tried to go for a shot and was unable to get anything on net.
The post whistle activity has picked up a bit as well, with both teams making sure they clear the crease area after saves, and some gloves are finding their way to faces as we have a lot of boys-being-boys activity. The only reason this game is not out of reach for Utah right now is the play of Bobkov. 32 saves on 34 shots will do that. Heading back to the bench for the third period. Buckle up it should be a good one.
For all of the territorial dominance the Steelheads had in the second period, Utah had that same dominance for the majority of the third period. Utah trailing by one came out with all sorts of pressure aided by a couple of power plays, but their continued hard work in the offensive zone lead to a hard luck goal for Idaho as a centering pass from Danick Paquette was tagged for Corey Fienhage, but it never got there as William Wrenn tried to clear it out of the crease and when the puck bounced and hit the heal of his stick, instead of clearing, it went into the back of the net for the tying goal at the 7:31 mark of the third period. It was a rather unfortunate bounce for a guy that overall had a very solid game for Idaho on the blue line on this night.
Just like Bobkov in the second period, Idaho goaltender Olivier Roy was able to stand strong in net and keep Utah off the board for the rest of regulation, and with Idaho only mustering five shots in the frame, we head to overtime in the first game of the series.
What a great finish for the Idaho Steelheads, as Jason Bast received a long lead pass from Zack Kamrass and streaked into the offensive zone down the left wing. Bast who had two or three great chances earlier in the game, made no mistake on this one, as he snapped off a quick shot from the bottom of the left wing circle that beat Igor Bobkov for the game winner just 5:49 into the extra session and sent a crowd of just short of 2,500 home happy and it sent Idaho into games two and three in Utah with a 1-0 series lead.
If this game is any indication of the types of games that this series will see, I have a hard time believing this will be the last overtime game in this series. Two evenly matched teams, and both with outstanding goaltenders. This one is going to be a long series that the team that wins, is going to be the one that pays the price to go to the front of the net and capitalizes on their chances the best. Good game one from both teams, and even better that the Good Guys ended up with the win. After games two and three in Utah this Friday and Saturday, games four and five (if necessary) will be back in Idaho on Friday April 24 and Saturday April 25.
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.