BOISE, Idaho – The Idaho Steelheads lost to the Colorado Eagles on Wednesday night after blowing a 2-0 lead and allowing four unanswered goals at home. With close to 20 games left in the regular season, their response for Friday night’s game against Colorado would perhaps define the team as they forge ahead in their push towards the playoffs.
Idaho goaltender Philippe Desrosiers recorded his first shutout of the season as the Steelheads cranked down and blanked the visiting Colorado Eagles, 3-0. Second period goals by Brady Brassart (his 17th of the year) and Eric Sweetman (his 4th) were punctuated by a Max French empty-netter at 18:25 of the third period to account for Idaho’s three tallies. The win marks the fourth victory out of five games for the Steelheads against Colorado, with Idaho finishing up the “super series” of three away and three home games against the Eagles on Saturday night at CenturyLink Arena.
Desrosiers found himself out of position a couple times early on, but seemed to settle in more and more as the game went on with almost nonchalant glove saves and a composed demeanor. Backed by 29 of those saves, Desrosiers boosted his regular season record to 19-7-3, not accounting for the 5-1 victory he earned for the AHL’s Texas Stars during a call-up against the San Antonio Rampage on February 3rd.
“It’s always good to get a shutout,” Desrosiers said. “Especially against a good team like this. I got close a couple times this year, (but) tonight was just good timing (and) good luck. I’m very proud.”
Idaho began the game with some great passing and unselfish play. The Steelheads also weren’t afraid to take shots on goal when the opportunity arose. Jefferson Dahl and Justin Parizek (both goal scorers in their own right) facilitated such teamwork with crisp and accurate passing attempts, yet had six and five shots on goal for the game, respectively. Sweetman also wasn’t afraid to share the wealth regarding puck possession, but also took multiple wrist shots from the blue line to score himself.
A common theme for Idaho this season has been to out-shoot their opponents anywhere between two and four times as much in a game. Tonight’s tilt was no different. The peppering of Eagles netminder Joe Cannata came early and often, with the Steelheads leading on the shot sheet 17-4 by the end of the first period and 27-17 through two. Although Colorado would eventually catch up and post a respectable 29 attempts on net, Idaho still maintained their frenetic pace and ended Friday night with 42 shots on goal.
Steelheads Head Coach Neil Graham: “The guys executed our plan perfectly. They bought into it, and ultimately everyone was rewarded with two points. From start to finish, I thought we were vocal on the bench and vocal on the ice, and I thought that made a big difference.”
The Steelheads backed up their vocalized efforts with physical play (as they are wont to do), but tempered the physicality with self-control and utilized it to develop plays. Colorado didn’t seem to put the body on nearly as much as Idaho, and the emphasis on finesse over grit proved costly for the Eagles. The Steelheads learned from the mistakes they made on Wednesday, and adjusted accordingly.
Due to Colorado moving up into the AHL next season, Idaho will have its last regular season game ever against the Eagles tomorrow night in Boise.
News of Note:
– Colorado’s All-Star goalie Joe Cannata was dealt only his third regulation loss of the season Friday night. He still maintains an impressive 16-3-1 overall record for the year.
– The Steelheads are getting the fan support they need here in the home stretch of the season, as fans sold out CenturyLink Arena for the fifth time in six home games, with a Friday night attendance count at 5,228. It was also their 12th sell-out of the year.
– The Steelheads have five players currently recalled to AHL clubs: Ryan Faragher (Stockton Heat), Henrik Samuelsson (Rockford IceHogs), Tommy Thompson, Austin Fyten, and Shane Hanna (Texas Stars, all three). Brady Brassart (Utica Comets), Justin Parizek (San Jose Barracuda), Cole Ully, Max French, Samuel Laberge, and Philippe Desrosiers (Texas, all four) have also spent time in the AHL this season.