Second chance for Steelheads rookie

Chase Schaber's promising young career nearly ended a year before arriving in Boise.

clangrill@idahostatesman.comApril 24, 2013 

Chase Schaber joined the Idaho Steelheads in early March after his college season at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. He scored two game-winning goals in his first three ECHL games.

STEVE CONNER — Idaho Steelheads

  • GAME 3 PREVIEW

    BALDWIN SUSPENDED; CULLITY RETURNING TO IDAHO

    Idaho defenseman Gord Baldwin has been suspended two games for his actions during a 5-0 loss in Game 2 on Saturday in California.

    Baldwin was hit with a 10-minute game misconduct for returning to the ice from the bench. He will miss games Wednesday and Friday in Boise.

    Baldwin played 29 games with Texas of the AHL before returning to Idaho in the postseason. He is one of Idaho's most skilled defensemen.

    Defenseman Patrick Cullity's return could help buffer the loss of Baldwin. Cullity has been loaned to Idaho by St. John's of the AHL, according to that league's website.

    Cullity played 21 games in the AHL this season, seven with Springfield and 14 with St. John's.

    Idaho coach Brad Ralph said Cullity wouldn't be at practice Wednesday morning and declined further comment. It's unclear if Cullity will join the team in time for Game 3.

    SERIES SHIFTS TO IDAHO

    The Steelheads gained home-ice advantage by splitting the first two games at Ontario. That's the good news.

    The bad? Idaho lost the second game 5-0. It was the second time in two playoff series that Idaho has trailed by five goals in a game.

    "I think our inconsistency has hindered us at times," Ralph said. "That's something we need to work on. … It's a little about the youth of the team, and it's a lack of focus, for sure."

    Idaho has made a habit of bouncing back after bad losses.

    "It seems like we need a reason to get fired up, and when we do get fired up we're very good," Ralph said.

    "We weren't good enough in the last game," forward Austin Fyten said. "I think guys are confident, and we're a little ticked off about the last game. … It's coming down to a five-game series now, and I think we have the advantage with the next three at home."

    QUICK HITS

    Idaho went 2-0-1 on its home ice in its opening series against Colorado. … All four ECHL semifinal series are tied at 1-1. … Forward Tyler Gron leads the Steelheads with nine points (five goals, four assists) in eight playoff games. Captain Derek Couture leads Ontario with two goals and six assists in six games.

Chase Schaber attended NHL training camp with the Edmonton Oilers in 2011. He was in his third year with the Kamloops Blazers, and served as the team captain for the latter two of those years. A little more than a year ago, he led the Blazers to the WHL playoffs.

"I was having a great playoff run … and I was playing my best," Schaber said. "I know there were (pro) teams looking at me, and I was going to walk through one of those doors.

"But then the injury happened."

And it was no ordinary injury.

"It was the third game of the playoffs, first shift, not even 10 seconds in," Schaber said. "I go to finish a check … and the other guy kind of spins around and does kind of a roundhouse karate kick.

"As I skated through him, he kicked me in the back of the knee with the heel of his skate blade. I felt something snap in the back of my hamstring, and I was like, 'Uh-oh.' "

Schaber knew he was in pain, but didn't know the severity of the injury.

"I started skating to the bench, and I thought it was an impact hit, like a charley horse thing," he said. "But I go back to the bench and I look down, and I said to my trainer, 'Look.' … We looked down and there was a bunch of blood shooting out of my leg. From there, I don't remember the next, probably 5 minutes. I kind of passed out."

The cut was gruesome, and it was deep. But it could have been worse.

"In surgery, they said I was millimeters away from severing the artery," the 6-foot, 195-pound Schaber said. "Had it got to that point, the doctors said there was a good chance they would have amputated my leg."

He still didn't get the most encouraging prognoses.

"You hear words like, 'Yeah, you probably won't be able to play hockey again, and you'll be lucky to walk with a limp,' '' he said. "That gives you motivation to say, 'You know what, I'm going to play again. I can do this.' ''

And he has.

After playing a season at the University of Lethbridge, Schaber decided to pursue a pro career and joined the Steelheads in early March.

"It's not easy to come in at the time of the year he did, on a good team making the playoffs," Idaho coach Brad Ralph said.

Schaber found a way to quickly win over his new teammates by scoring two game-winning goals in his first three games.

Fellow forward Austin Fyten played with Schaber when they were 8 years old, and he played against him later as the two moved through the junior ranks.

"He was always a top-ranked guy, always right there with the top guys," Fyten said.

Now the two are on the same team, playing against the Ontario Reign in the ECHL Western Conference semifinals. The series is knotted at one game apiece, with Game 3 on Wednesday night at CenturyLink Arena.

After what he's been through, nobody is savoring the playoffs more than Schaber.

"I'm just taking it game-by-game and enjoying every moment," said Schaber, 22. "Some guys, at the end of their career … you look at their record and they haven't been through many playoffs. So you've got to cherish it and go after it."

Schaber hasn't forgotten about the injury, but he doesn't dwell on it, either.

"I thought about it a lot when I first got injured," he said. "You ask why. But I've moved on, and I just have to keep working hard to get to that next step."

His coach wouldn't bet against him.

"He's in great shape, and he's got a great build for a hockey player," Ralph said. "He's a natural skater, probably one of the best skaters on our team. … He's got all the tools."

Chris Langrill: 377-6424

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