BOISE, ID – It is said in some circles that a two-goal advantage is the most dangerous lead in hockey. Complacency is more likely to set in when up by two scores as opposed to one, and if the margin is narrowed by the team trailing, panic can begin to set it for the one in the lead. This stress can often allow a second and game-tying goal, thus erasing what was previously considered a comfortable lead, and often shifting momentum to the opposing squad.
The Idaho Steelheads found themselves in such a position Saturday night against the Colorado Eagles, initially trading goals back and forth for a 2-2 tie before scoring two straight and securing a 4-2 lead early on in the third period. The previously mentioned two-goal lead mentality crept in, however, allowing Colorado to net two goals in a minute to tie the game at 4-4 towards the tail end of regulation. A five-minute overtime period yielded no sudden death winner, but a Max French shootout goal and a stop by Philippe Desrosiers on Cliff Watson in the fourth round reclaimed the game for Idaho, snatching back victory by a score of 5-4.
Colorado jumped out to an early lead after Gabriel Verpaelst netted a wrist-shot from the right wing by Desrosiers. The goal was just 20 seconds into a power play caused by Idaho defenseman Eric Sweetman, the result of a hooking minor at 2:27 of the first.
“You don’t want to spot a team a goal early,” Idaho Head Coach Neil Graham commented. “But, I thought we handled ourselves well and stayed composed.”
That composure Coach Graham spoke of lead to a Connor Chatham goal just five minutes later at 7:42 of the first, placing a shot top shelf past Colorado keeper Joe Cannata. The tally was only Idaho’s second shot on goal for the game; Colorado’s deflections on defense allotted the Steelheads only eight shots on net for the period after garnering 17 in last night’s first frame.
The back-and-forth tallies continued as Colorado’s Emil Romig took full advantage of two Steelheads skaters on the ice and in Desrosiers’ crease, placing a rebound into the back of the net to make it 2-1 Eagles at 2:04 of the second. Idaho showed resolve and continued on the attack after Romig’s goal, with Alexander Dahl feeding it to Chatham deep in Colorado territory before a centering pass from the corner to an open A.J. White in front. White drove his shot beyond Cannata’s right pad at 3:17 of the second, making it a 2-2 tie.
Later in the second period, Aaron Harstad collected a rebound off of a Brady Brassart shot that was deflected to the left wing by Will Merchant. Cannata was caught off guard by the puck bounce, leading to an Idaho goal from Harstad at 10:38 of the second. The Steelheads were finally able to get more shots on goal in the second period, closing in on Colorado’s shooting lead, 23-20.
Colorado could not get any developing offense at the beginning of the third period, as Idaho quickly forced turnovers whenever the Eagles pushed into the Steelheads zone. Such vigilance allowed a speedy Steven McParland to drive down the right side of the ice uncontested for a wrist-shot goal (his 23rd of the year) at 3:12 of the third. The Eagles continued to be neutralized offensively until about halfway through the third period, as the Steelheads began to allow more and more scoring opportunities in front of Desrosiers. Colorado’s Joey Ratelle scored from one knee on a centering pass from Michael Joly at 17:18, and former Utah Grizzlies forward Ryan Olsen tallied the game-tying goal just a minute later at 18:27.
Overtime yielded many great scoring chances from Idaho in the form of odd-man rushes and breakaway chances, applying the pressure on Joe Cannata up to the final ten seconds when a Joe Faust chance in front was miraculously turned aside. The resulting shootout produced no scorers from either team after three rounds, leaving French’s tally in the fourth as the deciding goal when Watson failed on his attempt.
News of Note:
– Aaron Harstad took only one shot on Saturday night, but he made it count with the initial go-ahead goal for Idaho in the second period. He also achieved a game-high plus-four rating for the Steelheads, as he was on-ice for all four Idaho goals in regulation. Harstad has two goals and eight assists in 29 games this season.
– The Steelheads closed out their final regular-season series against Colorado with five wins in six games. Idaho collected ten points out of twelve available, while the Eagles nabbed two in Wednesday’s win and one in the overtime loss tonight. The surge of victories puts Idaho just four points out of first place in the Mountain Division: Colorado has 70 points; Idaho now has 66.