LOVELAND, CO – There are some great match-ups in the 2017 Kelly Cup Playoffs, and a perfect example is the series that has pitted the Colorado Eagles against the Idaho Steelheads in the Western Conference Division Semifinals. Two evenly matched teams would face off in Colorado for Game One on Friday night.
Idaho would strike first after a high sticking call to newly crowned ECHL Defenseman of the Year Matt Register. A great keep at the blue line by Steelheads forward Will Merchant kept the possession alive for Idaho, and he found Jefferson Dahl in the left faceoff circle all by himself. Dahl wound up and unleashed a laser that beat Eagles netminder Kent Simpson over the shoulder to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. Colorado would draw even just 71 seconds later as a diving Johnny Lazo got his stick on a loose puck in front a pushed the puck past Steelheads goalie Landon Bow. That score would hold through the rest of the opening frame.
The Steelheads would pull ahead once again on a shorthanded tally from Rob Linsmayer 7:19 into the second period. The Steelheads forward scooped up a loose puck in the neutral zone and fired a quick wrister as he entered the zone that may have deflected off a skate of an Eagles defenseman and past Simpson. Idaho would extend their lead later in the period when Justin Hache got to a loose puck between the circle and wristed a wormburner goalward that snuck through Simpson’s five hole. Once again the Eagles would fight back and pull to within a goal with captain Sean Zimmerman fired a wrister from the point through a ton of traffic in front of Bow that found the back of the net. Idaho’s lead was cut to 3-2 and that’s how the second period would end.
Colorado would get their fair share of chances in the third period, but the rookie Bow looked more like a seasoned veteran. The Eagles outshot Idaho 12-3 in the frame but Bow made several big stops as the Eagles were throwing everything they could goalward. Brian Nugent would add the empty-netter in the final minute to seal the 4-2 victory for the visiting Steelheads.
Bow finished the night with 32 saves on 34 Colorado shots. Idaho’s top line of Dahl, Linsmayer, and Merchant combined for two goals, four assists, and were a combined +6 for the game. The penalty kill was also stout for the Steelheads, killing off all four Eagles man-advantage chances, including two in the final stanza. Game Two is Saturday night in Loveland.