BOISE, Idaho – Heading into Game 3 of the Mountain Division Final, the Idaho Steelheads looked to earn a much-needed win on home-ice to bring their series to 2-1. The Tulsa Oilers, on the other hand, could go three games to none and push Idaho to the brink of elimination.
What both sides found was unfamiliar territory.
For the first time since May 3, 2018, the Steelheads were blanked at CenturyLink Arena, losing a close contest to the Tulsa Oilers by a score of 1-0. After not giving up a shutout effort at home for the entirety of the 2018-19 regular season, Idaho yielded one to second-year goaltender Devin Williams on Tuesday night. The Saginaw, Michigan native stopped all 36 shots faced en route to his seventh career shutout, his first in postseason play.
“(Williams) is a reflex goalie,” Idaho Head Coach Neil Graham stated. “He’s not a huge kid, but at the end of the day, he’s finding ways to come up with big saves at big moments. I thought Tomas Sholl had some timely saves, as well. You can nit-pick and look at things, but he’s seeing the puck well right now. We have to continue to get around that paint and continue to make his life difficult; I thought we did a much better job at that tonight. You have to tip your hat off to the kid; he played a good hockey game.”
The lone goal of the evening came from Oilers forward Stephen Perfetto, who netted a wide-open power play chance at 11:33 of the second period. After a shot from the point, Tulsa captain Adam Pleskach poke-checked the puck behind the net after Idaho netminder Tomas Sholl made the initial save. Forward Alex Dostie then corralled the puck from behind the net, dishing it to a waiting Perfetto on the left wing. With Sholl on his side and out of position, Perfetto lifted the puck through two Idaho defenders and into the Steelheads net.
After the game, Perfetto commented on what led to the eventual game-winning goal:
“It was a mad scramble in front. Plus, (Alex Dostie) was battling away like always, ends up finding it and coming around the net. There was a cluster of people there, and I had to find a soft area to get the shot through. Just happened to squeak through a maze of bodies.”
Audio Clip of Tulsa forward Stephen Perfetto regarding his game-winning goal, gameplay of Oilers netminder Devin Williams, his contribution to Tulsa this season, time with the Alaska Aces, and the locker room vibe heading into Game 4.
Postgame, Idaho captain A.J. White admitted there wasn’t too much he could talk with his teammates about being down 3-0 in a playoff series.
“Honestly, there’s not much to say. We’ve been talking about it all game, all series. We’ve kind of been echoing the same message: that we’ve got to stay up, got to find a way to get back into the series. There’s no magical formula to win four games in a row, so it’s just one period and one game at a time. We all have that mindset; we’ll figure it out.”
With the victory, the Tulsa Oilers take a commanding 3-0 series lead into Game 4 on Wednesday night in Boise. Should the Steelheads emerge with the win, Game 5 will also be at CenturyLink Arena on Friday, May 3. The series would bounce back to Tulsa for Game 6 (Sunday, May 5) and Game 7 (Monday, May 6) if necessary.