BOISE, Idaho – The Idaho Steelheads took a four-game winning streak into CenturyLink Arena Wednesday night after a five-game road trip split between Orlando and Rapid City. The Rush also made the journey back to Boise, ready to face off versus the Steelheads yet again in the City of Trees in game number 15 of 17 scheduled between the two this season. And, with Idaho boasting an 11-1-2 record against Rapid this year, the Rush had plenty of motivation to change their fortunes around against the Steelies.
With two goals from forward Cedric Montminy and tallies from Dexter Dancs, Brandon Fehd, and Justin Faryna, the Rush put four by Steelheads netminder Tomas Sholl, adding an empty-netter with five seconds left in regulation to down Idaho by a score 5-3 in a pivotal Mountain Division matchup. Rapid City went one-for-two on the power play, with Idaho managing one-for-six on the man advantage for the night.
In spite of only capitalizing on one special teams chance, Idaho Head Coach Neil Graham was still bullish on his special teams unit:
“I thought the power play had a lot of real good chances. We were starting to get some pretty good looks in between the dots there. I’m not going to get caught up on a one-for six. We’re something around 19 percent; special teams have been good. We just have to make sure not to get too high or too low on them. I think some of the looks we generated tonight were very good, and I think that can be very important this time of year.”
The game started out with some smart physicality, with both teams picking spots for aggressive checks carefully. That in mind, Idaho defenseman Ondrej Vala drew a two-minute roughing minor at 10:17 of the first for Rapid City’s first power play of the game. On a resulting three-on-two shorthanded chance by the Steelheads, left winger Mitch Moroz collected a rebound and shot a dribbling chance that trickled into the crease behind Rush goaltender Adam Carlson. The clear by Rapid City led to a breakaway by forward Dexter Dancs. Defenseman Eric Sweetman then laid out, lunging his stick towards Dancs in an effort to stop an attempt on net. The defense was successful, but Sweetman was penalized, awarding a penalty shot to Dancs. Dancs scored on the free chance, giving the Rush a 1-0 lead early.
A little over two minutes later, Idaho forward Will Merchant knotted the game up at 1-1 after contributing to pressure in front of Carlson. Steelies captain A.J. White initially put a shot on net with Merchant on the doorstep. After that shot was turned aside, Merchant gained possession, spun around, and wristed a shot that dribbled behind Carlson for the goal. Video review confirmed the tally at 14:02 of the first.
“It felt great to get one finally at home,” said Merchant. “Things are kind of clicking right now, which is nice going into the postseason. Just have to keep going, firing on all cylinders.”
In the final minute of the first frame, Rush defenseman Brandon Fehd put a shot on net from left-side blue line. A tied-up Idaho defender and Rapid City attacker in front provided a screen for the wrister, going between a pair of legs to get by Sholl at 19:09. The score remained 2-1, Rush, heading into the first intermission.
Period two brought with it increased physical play from both teams, both during active gameplay and after the whistle had blown. Vala and Faryna both went off for fighting at 1:34 to kick the second frame off in a hurry. The rough play continued as Rapid forward Taylor Crunk boarded Moroz between the team benches at 10:20. Idaho d-man Keegan Kanzig dropped the gloves to fight Crunk, but known tough-guy Garrett Klotz intercepted Kanzig before he could engage. Kanzig then wrestled Klotz down to the ice in short order, earning the pair matching double minors for roughing.
Aside from the increased brutality, Idaho ramped up their scoring chances in period two as well. With the Steelheads putting 19 shots on goal, Adam Carlson turned away all of them in a Herculean effort, stretching out and flashing his glove to make save after save in the middle regulation frame.
Montminy potted his two scores off of rebounds, one coming in the second off a Faryna shot while the other came in the third off an initial Dylan Quaile try. In between those two tallies, Idaho forward A.J. White netted his 15th goal of the season after a contested puck in the corner was squirted out in front before being buried past Carlson blocker-side. Eric Sweetman and forward Elgin Pearce were credited with assists on the score.
Rapid City led 4-2 midway through the third until Idaho forward Kyle Schempp deflected a Brady Norrish shot from the center blue line into the net to put the Steelheads within one. Pulling Sholl for an extra skater with about 90 seconds left, Idaho pressed Rapid City for the equalizer until the Rush cleared the puck back into Idaho’s zone with 15 seconds left. Faryna and Montminy raced down the ice, and contested by only one Steelheads skater, Montminy collected the puck behind the net before setting up Faryna in front for the easy empty-netter to seal the victory.
SIN BIN STANDOUTS
- Adam Carlson – The Edina, Minnesota native earned his 20th win of the year with an outstanding effort in net, stopping 45 shots on 48 faced. Carlson is tied for first in the league with four shutouts, boasting a 2.89 GAA and .917 save percentage on the season. He is also fourth in the ECHL amongst goaltenders with 2,428 minutes played.
- Cedric Montminy – Montminy conjured up some rookie magic Wednesday evening, earning three points to lead the team in scoring. His two goals on the night helped keep the Rush in the game when the Steelheads were pushing for a tie, and also earned an assist on the empty-net dagger at 19:55 of the third.
- A.J. White – Idaho’s team captain earned one goal and one assist in the loss. White reached the 15-goal milestone with his tide-turning tally in the third period, bringing the Steelheads within one early in the frame. Before that, he assisted on the first goal of the night for Idaho from Will Merchant. He finished the game with four shots on goal.
- Keegan Kanzig – Not being one afraid to throw punches, Kanzig showed some great fortitude by coming in to fight Taylor Crunk after he boarded forward Mitch Moroz. Sticking up for one’s teammate so fervently after being run by the opposition definitely earns a nod as a standout.
The Rush and Steelheads will meet again on Friday night at CenturyLink Arena in Boise. Puck drops at 7:15pm MT.