|(Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)|
In a critical game five, the Idaho Steelheads would get goals from seven different players to skate away with a dominant 7-1 victory over the Allen Americans, to take a 3-2 series lead in the best of seven Western Conference Quarterfinals.
At no point during Saturday night’s game did it feel like Idaho was going to let their foot off the gas and give the Americans any chance to get themselves back into the game. From the first goal just 2:31 in, all the way through the final horn six goals later, Idaho played a stifling style of hockey that kept a lot of the chances to the outside.
If we are going to be honest (and why not, right?), Allen did have some pretty good looks. They hit a post early in the second and had a few other chances where Philippe Desrosiers had to be sharp moving around in his crease. They also had a couple of shots and deflections that just snuck past the posts. If some of those chances go in, does it change the game? Sure, but this was one of those nights were one team was just missing chances and the other was finishing just about every chance they had.
At the end of the day, Idaho would skate away with a 7-1 win and a 3-2 series lead as both teams get ready to travel down to Allen for game six on Tuesday.
- Depth scoring. Idaho got goals from seven different players tonight and for four of them, it was their first of the post-season. Kruise Reddick, Taylor Peters, Radoslav Illo and Carson McMillan led the change tonight. Idaho now has 10 different players that have scored one goal in the series, and 10 players with two points or more, which over a small sample size of five games, I think is fairly impressive. Just for contrast, Allen has six players with a goal and eight players with two points or more.
- Solid 60 minute defensive effort. How many times do you see in hockey games where a team jumps out to a quick lead, only to eventually see the other team work their way back and either get back to a tie, or at least make the game more nerve wracking than it needed to be? More than you’d probably like it to be I’m sure. However, on this night, Idaho got a quick 2-0 lead and Allen started to push back a bit. But Idaho was able to maintain composure and actually would end up 4-0 after the first period. Allen, may have even had better possession in the second period, but Philippe Desrosiers and the entire Idaho bench kept composed and didn’t lose the defensive zone discipline that a team needs against the offensive fire power of the Americans. Full marks to Head Coach Neil Graham and Assistant Gord Baldwin for continuing to stress that message all game.
- Gill or Hildebrand? Allen head coach Steve Martinson has a crucial decision to make for game six. Does he go back to Riley Gill who got pulled 4:15 into game five? But played well in games two, three and four? Or does he go back to Jake Hildebrand who started and played effectively in game one, but allowed five goals in game five after coming on in relief? In all honesty, there could even be a third option, if he wanted to bring Joel Rumpel off of the reserve list and give him, his first start in the playoffs for game six. The other question that is hanging out there is what happens to Vincent Arseneau after getting his match penalty tonight. The league will go through their process of review and we’ll find out what happens in the next day or so, but if he is unavailable for even a game, that would be a big physical and scoring threat, out of the Americans line-up.
I don’t think you could have scripted a better first period for the Idaho Steelheads. Idaho got a power play just 15 seconds into the game, and after not really doing all that much with it, the flood gates opened.
At the 2:31 mark of the period, it was Kruise Reddick picking the puck in his own zone, skating down the left wing, making a move around an Americans defender and beating starting Allen Americans goaltender Riley Gill to make it a 1-0 game.
Just 1:44 after that, Taylor Peters got his first of the playoffs, after Emil Molin forced a turnover on a fore-check in the offensive zone. That goal at the 4:15 mark of the period, signaled the end of the night for Gill, and signaled the start of the night for Jake Hildebrand, who started game one for Allen.
Hildebrand’s fate wasn’t much better as at the 6:36 mark of the period, Radoslav Illo would finish off a nice give and go play down the left wing, to extend the Steelheads lead to 3-0 early in the game.
Idaho would cap the scoring at the 18:50 mark of the period when Andre Bouvet-Morrissette would score a shorthanded goal. Morrissette, would read a pass in the defensive zone, deflect it out to center ice and about two strides into the offensive zone, would snap a shot far corner of the blocker of Hildebrand to give Idaho a 4-0 lead after the first period of play.
Allen did find some offensive zone time after Idaho went up 3-0 and they had some very good looks in the period, but once again, Philippe Desrosiers was able to make all the stops in the period and Morrissette’s goal, took the wind out of the advance from the Americans.
Allen had eight shots in the period and Idaho ended up with 10. Neither team scored on the power play, but Idaho did have a shorthanded goal. With as physical as this series this has been, the question has to become, do we see two more periods of hockey, or do things start to devolve at the beginning of the second? Either way, Idaho has to maintain defensive zone discipline and not give Allen any life in the next 20.
I left you with a question at the end of the first period about would we see hockey or extracurricular activities . As it turned out, we got a little bit of both. First things first. We did have 20 minutes of hockey played and with that we had a couple of goals scored as well.
Idaho was able to get on the board with a power play goal at the 14:22 mark of the period as after Carson McMillan fed a puck back to Tommy Fallen to fire onto Hildebrand, McMillan kept driving towards the net and was able to hammer home the rebound chance to extend Idaho’s lead to 5-0.
Not to be outdone, Allen answered with their own power play goal of their own at the 18:15 mark of the period to try to grab some momentum heading into the dressing room. It was a Costello shot that bounced around before finding Greger Hanson on the doorstep. The score after two periods is 5-1 Idaho.
Now on to the fun stuff. There were a total of 18 shots in the period, but the excitement came from a wide open style of hockey that dominated the period. At time Desrosiers would slow things down by freezing the puck, but for the most part, it was one line rush after the other. Most of the 18 shots came in the back half of the period, but at no point was there a lack of entertaining hockey.
The post whistle stuff has started picking up. Allen was called for interference for running into Desrosiers after he made a save and got a whistle on a shot from the point. A couple of matching roughing minors as well mixed in after one play.
Heading into the third period, again, the message to Idaho has to be, maintain composure on the ice, and continue to be disciplined with regards to getting back defensively. Allen have had some real good chances, but have missed wide a couple of times, and caught one post, when the shot was blocked, or stopped by Desrosiers.
For Allen, the question once again becomes, how hard are they going to push to get this game back to even? Game six is slated for Tuesday next week I’m sure they would rather have a 3-2 lead than be trailing by the same. At some point, especially if the spread stays four goals, the question has to be asked about messages being sent for game six. Only the next 20 minutes will tell.
Hard to really put into words what happened in the third period. Idaho took advantage of the opportunity presented to them as they were able to score two goals in the period. It was Tommy Fallen on the power play at the 7:35 mark and Shawn Boutin got credit for his second of that playoffs at the 9:46 mark of the period, also on the power play.
Allen did come out with a bit of aggression, but Idaho was able to do a good job of keeping Allen at bay. Where Idaho could, they played a puck control style of hockey. They were pressing to make passes, and when it doubt they just put the puck deep into the offensive zone and went off for a change.
The tenor of the period changes after Vincent Arseneau took a match penalty for an illegal check to the head of Radoslav Illo. That five minute major, lead to both of Idaho’s power play goals in the period and once that penalty ran out, both teams were content to have the clock continue to run and there wasn’t a whole lot of extra pushing and shoving post whistle.
Idaho had 12 shots in the third period for a game total of 29, while Allen had three for a game total of 21. Allen was one for four on the power play while Idaho ended the game three for eight.
John Mulhern is the host of the Bud Light Idaho Steelheads Hockey show on 1350 AM KTIK in Boise. He is the home game ice-level color analyst for the Steelheads and also hosts his own Two Sports Nuts podcast. You can also follow John on Twitter @mulhern4.