BOISE, ID – If any player personified Idaho’s Friday and Saturday night games against the Tulsa Oilers, captain Jefferson Dahl would be your five-foot, ten-inch tall manifestation.
Dahl played his 200th game as an Idaho Steelhead on Friday…and then seemed to celebrate the milestone a day late by scoring the go-ahead (and eventual game-winning) goal on Saturday. Such was life for the Steelheads as a whole, as Idaho was dropped by Tulsa 4-1 on Friday before bouncing back against the Oilers with a 2-1 win on Saturday.
Friday, December 1st
The Tulsa Oilers got behind some hot goaltending from primary goalie Jake Hildebrand in Friday’s matchup, riding the Butler, Pennsylvania native’s 46-save performance to victory. Idaho’s secondary goalkeeper, Ryan Faragher, didn’t fare so well against Tulsa. Faragher stopped half the shots that Hildebrand did (23) and let in three goals in contrast to Hildebrand’s one.
The second of three home games for Idaho against Tulsa had the Steelheads initially kicking off December with some steam, as a couple of early chances in the first minute of play and a big open-ice hit a few minutes later showed signs of the Steelies picking up momentum. The Steelheads’ push paid off after Tulsa defensemen Eric Drapluk was called for interference at 4:30 in the first period; the ensuing man advantage led to Cody Corbett setting up Steve McParland for a one-timer that got passed Hildebrand, giving Idaho the 1-0 lead.
From there, a lack of discipline began to shoot Idaho in the foot. Justin Parizek was called for hooking at 11:45, leading to Tulsa forward Evan Richardson’s power play goal a minute later to tie the game, 1-1. After a power play opportunity for the Steelheads came and went, Idaho defensemen Chris Martenet went to the penalty box for interference at 17:20. Again, about a minute into the power play, was Richardson with his 2nd goal of the night at 18:30 of the first.
The second period had both teams jockeying for position, with Idaho trying to capitalize on numerous deflections in front of Hildebrand. Halfway through the frame, Tulsa winger Kale Kessy earned himself a boarding penalty at 10:51 of the second. However, his two-minute minor penalty should have been five, as Kessy dropped his gloves to the ice in anticipation of a fight. The hub-bub Kessy caused motivated Tulsa forward Charlie Sampair to net his eighth goal of the season at 12:26, extending the Oilers’ lead to two. Multiple chances from both squads rounded out the second period, with Idaho taking 32 shots on goal and Tulsa shooting 23.
Period three is where Hildebrand shined for Tulsa. The first three minutes of the third had the Michigan State alum saving a one-timer set up from behind his net, making another incredible save a minute and a half in, and stone-walling a slap shot just past the two-minute mark. A penalty apiece for Idaho (Henrik Samuelsson, slashing) and Tulsa (Conner Bleackley, roughing) at 3:01 spurred on the physicality of both teams. In spite of this, Hildebrand stood fast: he read Dahl’s two-pass setup like a book, denied Chatham’s breakaway at the 9:30 mark, and stretched out for the pad save after a one-timer came in from his left side (11:15). After a multitude of deflections rejected by Hildebrand, Idaho Coach Neil Graham did his best Patrick Roy coaching impression and pulled Faragher for an extra attacker with three minutes left in regulation. After a few more saves by Hildebrand, Tulsa’s Sampair added an empty-net goal for his second of the night, putting the final nail in the coffin for the Steelheads by a score of 4-1.
Saturday, December 2nd
Idaho Coach Neil Graham decided to mix things up on Saturday night by inserting the Steelheads’ top forwards line (Brady Brassart, Steven McParland, and Justin Parizek) into the starting line-up after not doing so the night before. Beginning with the top guns proved to be a harbinger of success for Idaho, as the Steelheads supported a stellar Philippe Desrosiers in net by eking out a one-goal victory against Tulsa, 2-1.
As with the previous two games against the Oilers, the Steelheads brought energy and speed right out of the gate. The chances that often came in the first period for Idaho were coupled with hard-hitting forechecks, ranging from defenseman Shane Hanna putting the body on to keep the puck in the offensive zone (around 4:00 mark) to d-man Corbin Baldwin getting physical to keep the puck out of Idaho’s zone.
Both goaltenders looked poised to do battle back and forth until McParland charged into Tulsa territory on a breakaway, sliding the puck five-hole and between Jake Hildebrand’s pads for the first goal of the night. The 1-0 Idaho lead caused stuffed animals to rain from the sky, as the Teddy Bear Toss for Tots took place immediately after McParland’s goal. The toss tonight was dedicated to Captain Art Jackson, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient who passed away in June earlier this year. A moment of silence was observed on his behalf before the National Anthem, and his widow came out for the ceremonial puck drop afterward.
Back to the in-game action, the last two minutes of the first period brought with it Idaho’s firepower. The Steelheads brought everything to the net, with a wraparound opportunity denied by Hildebrand at 18:30 and Hanna’s unsuccessful backhander shortly after. Things were exacerbated for Tulsa when defenseman Chris Joyaux was called for roughing with about 20 seconds left in the period. The Steelheads seized the power play with gusto, executing a crisp passing sequence from Aaron Harstad to Samuelsson to a shooting Dahl for a quick PP goal with three seconds remaining in the first.
“I thought our line was good all week,” Dahl commented regarding his eventual go-ahead tally. “We definitely had our chances, and to finally get one was nice, especially on the power play. We only had one tonight, and that was a big momentum change for us. Especially our unit… to finally capitalize, it was good for us. It was good to get off to a good start.”
Neither team scored in the second period, but to say it was uneventful would be unfair. Idaho and Tulsa both maintained their heavy-hitting tactics, with both clubs using the body to create their scoring chances. The Steelheads and Oilers both had exactly 11 shots in the first period, but the second period had a drop off for Idaho, as Tulsa outnumbered the Steelies in shots on goal 11-7. Desrosiers was tested most halfway through the frame, making a save (followed by a sprawling poke check to clear the puck) at about 9:50. A minute and a half later, “Rosie” faced a 2-on-1 rush coming his way, but flashed his glove to stop the puck for the save. Tulsa forward Conner Bleackley became a one-man wrecking crew in the final minute of the second, plowing through two defenders on his way to a shot on goal and getting turned aside by Desrosiers.
Period number three showed why Steelheads captain Jefferson Dahl wears the “C” on his chest. He was an integral part of making solid tape-to-tape passes to his teammates, touching the puck almost every time Idaho ventured down into the Tulsa zone. Dahl’s leadership was overshadowed at 4:13, however, when a Joe Faust tripping penalty put the Oilers on the power play. Just about thirty seconds into the said power play, the aforementioned wrecking ball Bleackley beat Desrosiers glove-side for a PP goal. Idaho responded a minute later, with Eric Sweetman launching a rocket from the blue line…but was turned away by Hildebrand’s blocker. Hildebrand flashed the blocker yet again a couple of minutes later at 7:45 on a Connor Chatham breakaway opportunity.
Things began to get a tad chippy after this, with open-ice hits and group stand-offs occurring more frequently as the period went on. Around the 15:40 mark, Baldwin stapled Tulsa captain Adam Pleskach to the boards with a solid hit. Not twenty seconds later, Idaho’s Harstad was hit by an errant stick from Tulsa forward Mike McKee. Harstad began bleeding from his mouth, but no penalty was assessed since McKee was in the shooting motion while accidentally striking Harstad. Tulsa was on the man advantage for pretty well the last three and a half minutes of regulation: Samuelsson smothered a Tulsa Oiler into the ice to earn a two-minute cross-checking call at 16:33, and Hildebrand was pulled for an extra skater shortly after Samuelsson’s penalty ended. The Steelheads warded off the effort with good defense and puck clearance, sealing the victory with a final score of 2-1.
News of Note
- Idaho is in the middle of playing 11 out of 13 games at home, with the only two road games coming against the Utah Grizzlies next Monday and Wednesday. The team faces a quick turnaround after Saturday night’s game with Tulsa, as Sunday will be used for travel instead of practice, leading to Monday’s showdown against the Grizzlies in West Valley City.
- The Steelheads finished the month of November with an 8-3-1 record after going 2-2-3 in October. They also picked up four out of a possible six points available in this recent series against Tulsa, which helped keep Idaho fourth in the Mountain Division at 26 points, trailing the Wichita Thunder (32 points), Colorado Eagles (29 points), and Allen Americans (27 points).
- The Steelies opponent for the next four games, the Utah Grizzlies, have a 6-9-6 record, yielding them 18 points and sixth place out of seven in the Mountain Division. Idaho and Utah, division rivals as they are, have faced each other three times already this season – twice in Idaho, once in Utah. Idaho defeated Utah 3-1 at home on October 18th, Utah retaliated with a 4-3 win at Idaho on October 20th, and both teams made a quick trip down to Utah for the Grizzlies to shutout the Steelheads 3-0 on October 21st. In short, Idaho is 1-2 against Utah this season.
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