BOISE, ID – Drive. Grit. Determination.
Call it what you will, the Idaho Steelheads exhibited the will to win Wednesday night after falling behind early at home against the Tulsa Oilers. The Steelheads fought their way back from a 2-0 deficit halfway through the second period to snatch a dramatic 4-3 shootout victory. Center Brady Brassart netted two goals for Idaho on his way to his 10th and 11th goals of the season, now leading the team in both goals (11) and points (22).
“I thought we started a bit slow; we put ourselves behind the eight ball,” Brassart commented. “I think it was a little bit of a wake-up call for us after the first, and I thought we came back and starting playing our game with speed and getting pucks to the net. The more north we play…get pucks in, get them on net, get our cycle going…we’ve got a ton of fast guys that can shoot the puck. That’s our strength, and I think it paid off tonight.”
In the first period, Idaho suffered from too many turnovers in the neutral zone and on the attack to make a dent on the scoreboard. The Oilers didn’t help themselves much, either, as both teams accrued three penalties a piece before the first goal was tallied. Former Alaska Aces forward Charlie Sampair gave Tulsa a 1-0 lead with a shorthanded goal at 16:40. The aforementioned Brassart appeared to knot the game up at 1-1 not even a minute later, but was waved off due to contact with the goalie.
As Brassart alluded to, the first period was a jolt to the Steelheads’ collective system. Idaho came out of the locker room poised, applying pressure in the second period by getting four shots on goal in the first four minutes. Idaho forward A.J. White was called for holding at 6:19 after pinning a Tulsa player against the bench boards, leading to an Oilers power play and subsequent goal from Kale Kessy to make it 2-0 Tulsa.
The Steelheads and Oilers alternated power play opportunities (Idaho, Tulsa, Idaho) over the course of five minutes before Brassart banged home his first goal of the night on the power play, making the game 2-1 at 15:20 of the second. The one-goal margin didn’t last long, though, as Sun Valley native Joey Sides scored his fifth goal of the season to make the game 3-1 and again give the Oilers a two-goal lead. In the final minute of the period, however, White trimmed the Tulsa lead back to one goal before the second intermission.
Heading into the third period, Idaho still trailed Tulsa, 3-2. The Oilers began the session shorthanded due to a Connor Schmidt cross-checking penalty at 19:45 of the second. Both teams had a sense of urgency and fervor about them, combining concerted effort with physicality to maintain a continuous, flowing gameplay. The referees even backed off their whistles for this period, exampled by Connor Bleackley (TUL) serving up an open ice hit to Corbin Baldwin (IDH) and Aaron Harstad (IDH) stapling Sampair (TUL) with a hard hit into the boards around the midway point of the period.
The non-stop action showcased scoring opportunity after scoring opportunity as the period dwindled down to two minutes left in regulation. Suddenly, the whistle blew, and Tulsa was charged with too many men on the ice at precisely 18:00. Seizing the moment, Idaho head coach Neil Graham pulled goaltender Philippe Desrosiers for an extra attacker. Utilizing a 6-on-4 power play, Brassart struck again with 1:33 left in the third to even the game up at 3-3. However, Idaho would then get its own call for too many men on the ice with a mere twenty seconds left, ending regulation with a shorthanded situation looming.
Overtime started with a 4-3 power play for Tulsa, with the Oilers unable to capitalize on the man advantage. With less than two minutes left in the extra period, Baldwin shattered his stick, and was forced to retreat to defense with no stick when Tulsa rushed into Idaho’s zone for a scoring chance. Baldwin then made perhaps the grittiest play of the night, ducking down and taking a puck off the leg in what could have been a game-winning goal for Tulsa.
After two great redirected shots by Idaho couldn’t get pass Tulsa goalie Jake Hildebrand in the final minute of OT, the two clubs headed for a shootout. Captain Jefferson Dahl (IDH) and Sampair were both stonewalled for round one, setting the stage for Idaho defensemen Cody Corbett to skate on for round two and beat Hildebrand five-hole. As the Oilers’ Conner Bleackley tried and failed to end round two, Idaho’s third round shooter Justin Parizek put another goal by Hildebrand, ending the shootout and the game in a Steelheads victory, 4-3.
Idaho Head Coach Neil Graham: “We definitely have a resilient hockey team, but the effort that we showed in the first had to be rectified or we weren’t going to win that hockey game. Phillip Derosiers made some huge saves in the first, (and) gave us a chance to keep it a one goal game. (Tulsa) got a power play goal to make it 2-0, but I liked our second and third periods. Even when they got a couple in the second, I thought we carried the pace of play. Time of possession I though we really elevated…I thought we controlled most of the play, and we stayed with it. Took ‘til the last minute and a half to tie it, but a lot of the 50/50 battles were won, and the guys stepped up hard in the final 40 minutes to earn the win.”
News of Note:
– Sides had a sort of homecoming tonight, as the Tulsa forward (born in Sun Valley, Idaho) scored a goal late in the second period for the Oilers’ third and final goal of the night. Sides’ last game in Idaho was almost five years ago to the day (11/28/2012) as a member of the Colorado Eagles.
– The Idaho Steelheads surprisingly debuted their alternate third jerseys tonight. The solid blue uniforms include Idaho’s new alternate logo, which displays a hockey puck sweeping across an outline of the state of Idaho. According to Steelheads Social Media and Marketing Coordinator Sarah Smith, Idaho Head Coach Neil Graham made the decision to don the new sweaters earlier Wednesday, which explains why there was no fanfare or promotion of the jerseys beforehand.
The win tonight elevated Idaho to third place in the Mountain Division with 24 points, leapfrogging the Allen Americans to take the spot. The Steelheads are now only one point back from the second place Colorado Eagles. With the loss, Tulsa closes out the month of November with a disappointing 2-4-6 record. Idaho will host Tulsa again on Friday and Saturday at CenturyLink Arena in downtown Boise.