BOISE, ID – Coming into their first game of 2018, the Idaho Steelheads probably had a straightforward New Year’s Resolution concerning the Allen Americans on Friday night: Get. The. Win.
Idaho tallied three unanswered goals in the third period to power ahead and defeated the Allen Americans at CenturyLink Arena by a score of 6-3. The Steelheads took a 2-1 lead after the first period, but Allen’s persistent play evened up the score at three a piece by the end of the second. It was then in the final frame that Idaho pulled together for three unanswered goals which put the game out of reach for the Americans.
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak that Idaho had accumulated on the road against Rapid City and Utah. Idaho’s last game against Utah (December 30th) was especially disheartening, as Idaho blew a 4-1 lead in the third period that ultimately led to a 5-4 shootout win for Utah. Idaho Head Coach Neil Graham stated that the Utah experience helped how the team handled itself tonight in the third period.
“There’s a couple moments throughout the year where you feel like you’ve learned something,” Graham elaborated. “After the defeat last Saturday at Utah…it was important for us to show some resolve today and get back to what we wanted to do in the third. I was proud of the resiliency in that group to dial it back in, and the results obviously went our way.”
The buzz heading into this game was most definitely palpable. When these two teams last met on November 25th, 2017, 152 penalty minutes were handed out, mostly after a massive brawl that culminated in Idaho captain Jefferson Dahl coming to blows with Allen goaltender Stephon Williams. Allen placed Jeremy Brodeur in net tonight, but the physicality amongst both team’s skaters was undoubtedly going to remain.
Idaho decided to jump out early in scoring chances, with the Steelheads accumulating nine shots on goal in the first five minutes of the game. The Steelheads also set the tone on the forecheck, with defenseman Joe Faust providing a big hit behind Philippe Desrosiers not even a minute into the first. Eric Sweetman then gave what was eventually dubbed the hit of the game to Allen’s Gary Steffes at around the four-minute mark.
The Steelheads were also the first to get on the board at 6:46 of the first period. Calgary native Cole Ully backhanded a pass to Jefferson Dahl, who dropped the puck back to Zach Bell at the blue line for a slap shot which Henrik Samuelsson redirected into the net. The lead was short-lived, as a Charlie Dodero hooking penalty led to an Allen power play goal from Eric Roy at 8:02 in the first. Dodero decided to redeem himself on the scorecard. After two saved slap shots just minutes before, he drove home a slapper from the blue line at 18:22 of the first to help Idaho regain a one-goal lead.
Idaho continued forging ahead in the second period in spite of another power play opportunity awarded to Allen. After clearing the puck out of the zone, Idaho’s Justin Parizek forced a turnover from Joel Chouinard in Allen’s end. Parizek’s setup pass to Jefferson Dahl for a slap shot was turned aside by Brodeur to a waiting Parizek, who scored the shorthanded goal on the doorstep to give Idaho a 3-1 lead at 2:13 in the second.
After Parizek’s goal, the Steelheads, unfortunately, let off the gas defensively. Allen drove into Idaho territory with Steffes to the right of Desrosiers, who threaded a backhand pass to Alex Schoenborn. Schoenborn netted his fifth goal of the year at 9:50 of the second to bring Allen within one. About five minutes later, Schoenborn scooted the puck to the far right of Desrosiers, leaving the goaltender slightly out of position to face Bryan Moore, who was perpendicular to the goal line as he tallied the game-tying goal at 15:30 in the second.
Tempers began to flare after a stoppage with three minutes remaining in the second. A scrum behind the net of Desrosiers concluded with two roughing penalties (Allen’s Olivier Archambault and Idaho’s Dodero) and an unsportsmanlike conduct minor (Idaho’s Corey Durocher). The resulting 5-on-4 for the Americans was fruitless, however, as Idaho killed off the penalty and finished the precarious second period on a positive note.
The third period yielded a buckled-down performance from the Steelheads’ primetime players when they needed it most. Parizek skated down the right side in Allen’s zone, dumping it off to a cutting Steven McParland up the middle. McParland deked Brodeur with a backhand move, then bringing it back to his forehand to score Idaho’s fourth goal of the night at 2:19 of the third. Following two Allen penalties, the Steelheads capitalized on a long pass from Dodero to McParland, landing a tape-to-tape pass to Will Merchant that was placed up high past Brodeur for Steelheads goal number five at 9:46 of the third. Dahl provided the nail in Allen’s coffin at 14:10, tipping in Merchant’s wrist shot to give Idaho a comfortable three-goal lead in the closing minutes of regulation and through to the final horn.
News of Note
- Idaho’s win over Allen places them in sole possession of third place in the Mountain Division. Both teams were tied for third with 41 points heading into tonight’s game, behind first-place Colorado (50 points) and second place Wichita (42 points). With Wichita gaining two points tonight in a 6-3 victory over Quad City, the Thunder improves to 44 points. Idaho is close behind with 43 points after tonight’s win; Allen remains at 41 points and moves to fourth in the standings.
- Tonight’s victory marked the 100th win of Neil Graham’s head coaching career. Graham, 32, is the second-youngest head coach in the ECHL (behind South Carolina Stingrays Head Coach Ryan Warsofsky, 30). Graham played eight games for the Steelheads in 2012-13 before his playing career was cut short due to injuries. He joined Idaho as an assistant coach that same year, serving under then-Head Coach Brad Ralph for three seasons. Graham then took the head coaching reins in the 2015-16 season after Ralph’s departure to coach the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.
- Idaho forward Justin Parizek was named to the ECHL All-Star Classic Team on January 4th. Parizek will represent the Mountain Division squad as the only player from the Steelheads, playing in his first professional All-Star Game as a rookie.
“I’m very excited,” Parizek said. “It’s an honor to be voted by the coaches, the captains, and the media members. It means a lot to me to get picked to go to the All-Star Game, but most of the credit goes to my teammates and coaches. Sheener (Assistant Coach Everett Sheen) and Grammer (Head Coach Graham) have done an excellent job with the team. My teammates have been very supportive and a great group of guys. There’s a handful of guys that could’ve got picked, so I’m just blessed to get this opportunity, and very fortunate.”