BOISE, Idaho – With the 2019 ECHL All-Star Classic just a little over a week away in Toledo, the only Idaho representative at the annual mid-season showcase decided to show everyone why giving him the nod wasn’t an ill-advised decision.

In front of an over-capacity CenturyLink Arena crowd (5,095 — 101.86% of the billed 5,002 seats), Steelheads netminder Tomas Sholl delivered a standout performance in the final four minutes of regulation, overtime period and shootout rounds as he helped lead Idaho to a 4-3 shootout victory on Friday night against the visiting Toledo Walleye.

“(There was) just a lot of heart,” Sholl stated. “We were battling penalties all night, but when you can get big kills, it really boosts the morale of the team. When you hear the boys getting excited on the bench, it makes you want to battle that much harder for them, and they want to battle that much harder for whoever’s in net. We had the mentality that there was no way we were going to let this one get away. I think it showed in the way we played.”

The game started off with the anticipated return of Walleye forward Bryan Moore from his one-game suspension. Just at the 3:30 mark of the beginning period, the Toledo enforcer began getting scrappy with Idaho’s rough-and-tumble winger Kale Kessy before a faceoff in the neutral zone. Moore then thrusted his skate blade into Kessy’s shin, earning himself a five-minute kicking infraction – a match penalty that constituted an early exit from the game. Moore has been given a four game suspension by the ECHL, and has been fined an undisclosed amount.

The subsequent five-minute power play for the Steelheads proved unfruitful, as did the rest of the first period in regards to Idaho scoring. The only tally of the opening frame came from defenseman Matt Register, who potted his second goal in two nights against the Steelies with a wrister from the blue line at 16:03. It was also precisely as Idaho killed off a Nolan Gluchowski slashing minor, making the goal even-strength instead of a power play tally.

The second period warranted much more scoring, as Idaho evened up the game about five minutes into the middle frame. Steelheads center Robbie Payne drove into Toledo’s zone along the left side, putting the puck on net as he closed in on Walleye netminder Kaden Fulcher. The following rebound left the Detroit Red Wings prospect sprawling, leaving a wide-open net for Elgin Pearce to drive home his fourth goal of the season at 5:06 of the second period.

Steelheads center Kyle Schempp answered the call on the score sheet two and a half minutes later, intercepting a pass deep in the Walleye zone before centering the puck off of a defender’s skate in front of Fulcher and into the cage at 7:44 of the period. Spencer Naas made it three in a row for Idaho later in the frame, after a brilliant passing sequence. Jeff King passed from the right wing to A.J. White on the left wing, leading to a feed to Naas in between the two faceoff circles before his eighth goal of the year at 16:39 of the second stanza.

On one of three 5-on-3 power play chances for Toledo on the night, forward T.J. Hensick set-up centerman A.J. Jenks from the trapezoid for a one-timer goal at 19:40 of the second. The only power play goal of the night between either club earned Hensick his second assist of the evening and a secondary assist for forward Greg Wolfe, his 21st helper of the year.

To even up the score at three goals apiece in the third period, Walleye forward Dylan Sadowy started a chance in Idaho’s zone with a behind-the-back pass to Samuel Thibault, who then found a waiting Hunter Smith on the right doorstep of Sholl for the score at 4:30 of the third.

In a scary moment of the final regulation period, Toledo forward Tyler Spezia boarded Idaho’s Robbie Payne in the corner just over eight minutes into the frame. Spezia was likely retaliating from Payne’s boarding call that he drew at 18:19 of the second period. Spezia left his feet to make the likely vengeful hit, drawing the ire of Steelheads defenseman Keegan Kanzig as he angrily dragged the Walleye forward off of Payne after the hit. 

Back in net, Sholl finished regulation with three saves against Toledo, and probably his save of the night came in that triad of chances. After an initial shot from Spezia rebounded off Sholl’s pads to the left wing, forward Jordan Topping put a shot on net that saw Sholl stretch out amazingly and save yet again with his pad at 16:51 of the third.

Sholl honed in during the overtime period, as well, making four saves against a tough Walleye onslaught, including one breakaway chance masterfully turned aside by the Hermosa Beach, California native. Allowing only one goal in the eventual five-round shootout, the firepower of defenseman Brady Norrish (round one) and forward Steve McParland (round five) helped the Steelies earn the second point available on the night with a 2-1 shootout round success.

POLARIZING PENALTY CALLS

With ten minor penalties called on the Steelheads Friday night, fans at CenturyLink Arena became more and more incensed as the game went on, booing loudly into the final period with a fervent “Ref, you suck!” chant towards the end of regulation. In contrast, Toledo was only served three minors for the contest, a fact that was not lost on Head Coach Neil Graham.

“They got one (goal) in almost six minutes of five-on-three hockey,” Graham reflected. “We had a lot of guys blocking shots and selling out, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a game where there was three five-on-threes. We had three power plays, and one of them, the guy kicked us. It’s a frustrating one, but obviously we have to push through that. We’ve got to be smarter in some areas.”

Idaho Head Coach Neil Graham discusses the intensity levels between Wednesday and Friday nights

REGISTER-ED GOAL SCORER

Toledo defenseman Matt Register doesn’t score often. He’s more of a facilitator, and receives most of his points via assists. There must be something about playing in Idaho during the regular season, however, as the reigning ECHL Defenseman of the Year has five goals in his last eight games played in Boise over the past two seasons with Colorado and Toledo. Two of those goals came on this current road trip with the Walleye.

“It was nice to come back and guide the guys a little bit around town for some spots to eat,” Register commented on his return to Boise. “So far this week, it hasn’t been easy hockey for us. But, we’re lucky to get a point tonight, and we’ll move forward into Saturday.”

Idaho and Toledo will have their fifth and final match of the 2018-19 regular season on Saturday night, as the Steelheads finish their homestand against the Walleye before serving host to the Allen Americans for three games on January 16, 18, and 19 next week.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It was reported in the article covering the Wednesday, January 9 game of Toledo at Idaho that Steelheads forward Mitch Moroz would be returning from suspension Friday night. That information was incorrect. Moroz will be returning from his five-game suspension on Saturday, January 12. We apologize for the misinformation presented in the previous article.

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