Having clinched its opening-round playoff series against Colorado, Idaho turns its focus to the ECHL Western Conference semifinal series against the Ontario Reign.
The series doesn't begin until Friday in Ontario, Calif., and both teams should be well rested. The Reign swept Utah out of the playoffs in a series that ended April 6, and Idaho clinched its series six days later. That means Ontario will have had almost two weeks to prepare for its series against Idaho, and the Steelheads will have had almost a week.
"Who knows, but I expect it will make for better hockey, hopefully," Idaho coach Brad Ralph said.
Idaho, the No. 3 seed, went 5-3-1 against Ontario, the No. 2 seed, in the regular season. Ontario (46-19-7) finished with 99 points, while Idaho (45-20-7) had 97. On paper, at least, it sets up as an evenly matched series.
"Ontario has been pretty consistent all year," Ralph said. "I think they were playing some of the best hockey leading into the playoffs. I certainly think we're seeing one of the best teams in the West."
Idaho eliminated Ontario in the first round of the playoffs last season, but these are two entirely different teams. Idaho has just two players on its roster - defensemen Matt Case and Hubert Labrie - who played against Ontario in last season's playoffs.
Idaho has been eliminated in the semifinals the past two seasons, and Ralph said the Steelheads will have to play their best hockey against Ontario if they want to avoid elimination in this round for the third straight season.
"They're a big, physical team, and they play a passionate, emotional hockey game," Ralph said. "They're just a solid team all around. It's going to test our team in every way, that's for sure."
Chris Langrill: 377-6424