After dropping the first two games in their Western Conference Semi-Final Series on the road against the Alaska Aces this past weekend, the Idaho Steelheads return home this week to Qwest Arena looking to get back in the series. Although the Steelheads find themselves in the 0-2 hole, with victories in the three games at Qwest Arena this week the Steelheads could push the Aces to the brink of elimination as the series would return to Anchorage for a Game 6.
Alaska retained the home ice advantage they earned by being the Western Division Champions, with two close victories over the Steelheads this past weekend at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage. Game 1 on Fri night saw the Aces scratch out a 2-1 victory and take a 1-0 lead in the series. After having a bye in Round One, the Aces came out rested and strong and took the offense to the Steelheads and outshot the visitors 34-14. Steelheads rookie goaltender Jerry Kuhn allowed only a late first period goal to ECHL MVP Wes Goldie to keep his team in the game until Steelheads leading scorer Mark Derlago tied the game midway through the third period. Alaska eventually scored the game winner late in the game with a power play goal that gave the Aces the early advantage in the series.
Game 2 on Saturday started out much like Game 1 with Alaska outshooting the Steelheads 15-4 in the first period. Kuhn once again kept his team in the game and kept his net clean in stopping all 15 shots. Idaho finally found their legs in the second period and dominated much of the offensive play for 18 minutes of the period. The problem for Idaho was that a hockey period contains 20 minutes of playing time.
Alaska scored at 1:07 of the second which seemed to light a fire under the Steelheads and get them going. Idaho dominated the next 18 minutes but couldn’t manage to get any of their 17 second period shots past Aces goalie Gerald Coleman. With the momentum swinging in the Steelheads favor and the game looking to be going to the third period with Alaska holding just a one goal advantage the Steelheads were dealt a devastating blow by a familiar face. Former Steelheads forward and Idaho fan favorite Scott Burt got the final shot of the period past Kuhn with just 25 seconds remaining on the clock and swing the momentum completely to the Aces as the two teams headed to the second period intermission.
A closely defended and scoreless third period set the stage for the Steelheads needing to win at least two of their three home games this week in order to send the series back to Alaska. Game 3 of the series will take place at Qwest Arena on Wednesday April 20 with Game 4 following on Friday April 22. A Steelheads victory in either Game 3 or 4 will require a Game 5 on Saturday April 23. All games will begin at 7:10 and to give the Steelheads the home ice advantage of playing in front of a packed house, tickets can be purchased online at Steelheads.com or by calling 331-TIXS.