Coach Brad Ralphs tenure with the Idaho Steelheads began with disappointment Friday night a 5-3 loss to the Utah Grizzlies at CenturyLink Arena.
Ralph, however, was optimistic that he wont be waiting long for his first win.
It was a loss, a tough loss, but there were a lot of positives from my end, Ralph said. Our guys worked hard and competed and stuck up for each other, and that can go a long way.
Last season, Idaho opened with a road win at Utah and then came home the next night and lost. The Steelheads will try to reverse that Saturday as they go to Utah for the second game of the season.
Thats the plan, rookie defenseman Scott Todd said. Were going to go in there with fresh legs off the bus and hopefully take it to them.
Todd hit a jackpot of firsts in the early stages of Fridays contest. In his first pro game, Todd was involved in the first fight of the season and later scored Idahos first goal all in the first period.
Definitely, it was the start I was looking for at the beginning of the game, Todd said. But it was not the outcome I was hoping for.
The game was a physical, back-and-forth affair, as Utah scored first and Idaho answered with Todds goal. Utah scored again in the second and Idaho answered with Jeremie Blains first pro goal. Utah made it 3-2 before the end of the second period, but Idaho tied the score again in the third on an Andrew Carroll goal.
We worked hard and we fought back, Ralph said.
Trailing by one goal late in the contest, the Steelheads came close to tying the contest with a shot that clanged off the goalpost. About a minute later, Riley Armstrong somehow created a turnover in Idahos end. He gathered the puck and skated through a host of Steelheads, turned around and fired the game-deciding bullet.
Armstrong scored three goals, including two in the third period to break a 3-3 tie.
Ralph said his players were setting up a play and were going to pull goalie Tyler Beskorowany when the puck crossed the blue line.
But we got caught with our pants down, Ralph said. That was a heartbreaker. We had a few lapses, and thats to be expected with a young team. But theyll be corrected.
Utah coach Kevin Colley doesnt doubt that Ralph will do so.
Hes really organized, Colley said. Ive known Brad a long time. We played juniors together for a couple years. Hes always been very intelligent. For being the first game, they were very organized.
After one game, Ralph is convinced that he has a group of players that can be successful.
There was just so much uncertainty going into this game, Ralph said. But I was really pleased with a lot of the players we brought in.
Idaho outshot Utah 41-30. Jacob Cepis, Idahos leading scorer last season, left the game in the first period and didnt return. The announced opening-night crowd was 4,296.
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