BOISE, Idaho – The Idaho Steelheads. The Utah Grizzlies. The two clubs have been battling one another for thirteen seasons and counting, and with about a five-hour bus ride and 350 miles separating the two teams’ home rinks, the proximity has only fueled the fire for the ECHL’s two westernmost franchises. As Idaho hosted its 2018-19 regular season home opener Friday night, the deep-seeded rivalry was primed and ready to deliver.
Boy did it ever.
After being down 3-1 after two periods of play, the Steelheads unleashed their scorers in frantic fury, potting four goals in the third and adding an overtime tally to defeat the Grizzlies by a score of 6-5. Idaho netminder Ryan Faragher stopped 21 of 26 shots in his first win of the early season, while Utah goaltender Joe Cannata blocked 25 of 31 shots to garner his first defeat after being named the first 2018-19 CCM/ECHL Goaltender of the Week for Oct. 12-14.
On the Menu: Peppered Faragher
Utah came prepared to attack when the puck dropped for the first period, attacking Faragher with five shots in the first minute of gameplay and nine shots to Idaho’s zero after the first five minutes. It wasn’t until forward Spencer Naas got a shot in on Cannata that Idaho got on their first shot on goal at 5:59 of the first. Utah finished the period with a lopsided shot total of 17-6, netting one goal apiece from forwards Brendan Harms and Joshua Winquist.
“I wasn’t thrilled in the first intermission,” said Idaho Head Coach Neil Graham. “I thought we came out a little sluggish and were on our heels. We allowed them to make skill plays, and they’re a very skilled team. If you give them that time and space, they’re going to create. I thought from the second period on we played very good hockey. Despite being down 3-1 going into the third, we started playing the right way.”
Full Post-Game Interview with Idaho Head Coach Neil Graham
Just as Naas put the first shot on goal for the Steelheads, so he also put the first goal on the board for Idaho, as well. Second-year Steelhead Justin Parizek had his shot deflected in front of Utah’s goal around the nine-minute mark of the first period. Naas then proceeded to bat the puck out of mid-air and into the net to tie the game at 1-1.
Idaho’s next tally didn’t come until the very beginning of the third period, when forward Connor Chatham exhibited great hesitation on a backhand skate to the net before setting up centerman Kyle Schempp on the left wing doorstep to make it 3-2 and cut Utah’s lead to just one at 0:31 of the third. Steve McParland answered just a minute later for the Steelies, driving home a backhand at 1:31 after being set-up by forward linemates A.J. White and Brad McClure.
Former Steelheads forward Cole Ully answered in short order, sneaking a wrist-shot past Faragher’s right side at 2:58 of the third to make it 4-3, Utah leading yet again. After a Delay of Game penalty on Utah’s Ryan Walters at 15:55, Idaho defenseman Brady Norrish took a Parizek pass and inched to the top of the right wing face-off circle before shooting and scoring a power play goal at 16:01 to tie the game yet again, this time at 4-4.
Utah answered quickly once again, with Caleb Herbert scoring his fourth goal of the year at 16:42 of the third to bring the Grizzlies back up one, 5-4. As the period waned into its final moments, Idaho called timeout with 1:35 left to play in regulation. Head Coach Neil Graham pulled the goalie for an extra skater and a 6-on-5 advantage after the break, and Brad McClure made sure to deliver by netting his third goal of the season at 19:17 of the final regulation frame. Utah couldn’t respond to McClure’s goal, thus sending the game, deadlocked at 5-5, to overtime.
Flourishing in Their First Game
Steelheads forward Joe Pendenza skated his first game with the Steelheads in the home opener, making a big impact with the game-winning goal in overtime and assisting on the game’s first goal from Naas. Pendenza stole the puck early in the overtime period, taking in the length of the ice before burying a forehand shot five-hole on Joe Cannata to win it for Idaho just 43 seconds into the extra frame. Pendenza also had a total of four shots on goal for the evening.
Another new face to the roster was recent acquisition Jeff King. The defenseman had played two games for the Fort Wayne Komets before being acquired by Idaho on October 17, alongside cash and future considerations, for the ECHL rights to forward Justin Kea. King played alongside Ondrej Vala in his defensive pairing assignment, receiving a plus-two rating while getting a shot on goal in his Steelheads debut.
King commented: “Coming in, I didn’t know what I was getting into…it’s a different geography than I’ve ever seen; I’ve never been past the Mississippi River! I only had the morning skate and of course the game today, and I’m still trying to learn the names of (everyone). Seems like there’s good chemistry out here, so it wasn’t hard to click with the guys.”
Full Post-Game Interview with Idaho Defenseman Jeff King
Idaho and Utah will finish their two-game, weekend series tonight at CenturyLink Arena Boise. The game starts at 7:05 pm MT, with live coverage from @SinBinIdaho on Twitter.