BOISE, Idaho – While Wednesday’s match-up between the Rapid City Rush and Idaho Steelheads contained a good amount of aggression and tempers flaring, a much more level-headed game graced the ice on Friday night in the second game out of three for the two Mountain Division rivals this week.
Bolstered by three points from newly minted captain A.J. White, the Steelheads killed all six penalties the team incurred, adding two power play goals in a special teams showcase that netted Idaho a 3-2 win after losing three straight. Defenseman Colton Saucerman, starting in his second game for Idaho after being acquired from Manchester on Tuesday, scored a go-ahead, power play goal late in the second period that would stand as the eventual game winner.
“It’s a full team effort,” said White regarding his goal and two assists on the night. “For me, I think it was the guys I was out there with that gave me the points. I mean, Saucerman with that unreal, backhand five-hole goal…I really can’t complain about it too much tonight.”
The first period began with what appeared to be a goal scored by Rapid City forward Andrew Radjenovic, after the puck appeared behind Idaho netminder Tomas Sholl. However, no goal was signaled either from the goal judge or referee until seconds later, prompting the play to go under video review. The supposed goal was then waved off, cleaning the slate after the original Rapid City credit.
With the score back at zero apiece, Idaho drew first blood on a Steve McParland wrister from the right wing, placed perfectly above the glove-side of Rapid City netminder Michael Bitzer at 10:05 of the first. It was McParland’s eighth goal of the season, and his fourth in seven games. Another video replay review took place for the Rush at 18:41 of the first, after a shorthanded breakaway chance from Rapid City’s Michael Turner clanked off the post. For the second time tonight, the refs declared a no-goal for Rapid City after review.
The second period brought with it a solid glut of scoring, starting with Rush captain Riley Weselowski scoring while falling down after Radjenovic threaded a pass onto the doorstep of Sholl. The even-strength goal at 3:27 of the second would turn out to be the last 5-on-5 tally, as the rest of the scoring took place on special teams. Turner avenged his missed scoring opportunity in the first after Sholl misplayed the puck out in front of his crease, potting the second Rush goal of the night at 8:40 of the second segment.
Idaho responded thusly.
Already on the power play from an Adam Marsh slashing minor, the Steelheads pushed back into the Rush zone to start generating some offense. After forward Connor Chatham had a shot turned aside by Bitzer, fellow forward Elgin Pearce lobbed a shot on goal that was deflected just to the right side of the goal crease. White proceeded to tap in the puck with one second remaining on the power play, tying the game at 9:47 with his second power play goal of the year.
Nine and a half minutes later, on another power play chance, the Steelies took the lead for the second and final time. Saucerman found himself in the left wing faceoff circle with one defender to beat, switching to backhand as he was driving on Bitzer. A quick flick of the stick yielded Saucerman’s first point in an Idaho uniform, a power play goal at 19:17 of the second.
“We were just trying to create shots on the power play,” Saucerman admitted. “By doing that early in the game, it allowed me to walk in (On goal). So, I kind of just faked the shot, grabbed it, and tried to make a play while holding the guy off. I ended up seeing five-hole, slid it there, and it was kind of lucky to go in.”
Idaho killed off three penalties in the third period and staved off an extra attacker from Rapid City in the final 1:15 of regulation to win their 13th one-goal game of the season. The Steelheads are now 5-5-3 in games decided by one goal, moving to 6-7-3 overall on the season. Rapid City bumps down to 7-6-2 on the year, but maintains fourth place in the Mountain Division with 16 points, just one point ahead of Idaho in the divisional standings.
Idaho Head Coach Neil Graham on the Steelheads’ one-goal games: “It just means how good our division is; every game is close, every game is a grind. The fact that we’re learning some of these lessons early and we’re staying with it is going to make us that much better down the road.”
Idaho finishes up their three-game home set against Rapid City Saturday night at CenturyLink Arena Boise. Puck drops at 7:10pm MT.