Steelheads win in overtime, take reins in series

Idaho leads Ontario 3-2 as series shifts back to California.

clangrill@idahostatesman.comApril 28, 2013 

The Steelheads celebrate their 2-1 overtime victory over the Ontario Reign on Saturday at CenturyLink Arena.

OTTO KITSINGER — For the Idaho Statesman

With the game on the line, Steelheads forward Chase Schaber has a knack for scoring game-winning goals.

And the reason is simple.

"I love to win," Schaber said. "That's basically it. I love to win."

Well, then Schaber loved Saturday night. Because his goal 9 minutes, 36 seconds into overtime lifted Idaho to a 2-1 victory over the Ontario Reign in Game 5 of their ECHL Western Conference semifinal series at CenturyLink Arena.

Idaho leads the best-of-7 series 3-2 as it shifts to Ontario for Game 6 and, if necessary, Game 7. Game 6 is Tuesday and Game 7 would be Wednesday.

"It's certainly not going to be easy," coach Brad Ralph said. "We'll probably enjoy this for a day or so and then regroup. But it was a great team victory."

And it was a great individual effort by Schaber to produce that victory.

Gord Baldwin, returning from a two-game suspension, sent a pass from the blue line to Schaber.

Schaber skated across the ice and sent a backhanded shot that sailed over Reign goalie Jean-Francois Berube's right shoulder.

"Chase was just patient with the backhand and then found a good spot and put it away," Ralph said.

Schaber finished a season of college hockey at the University of Lethbridge in early March, and then decided to turn pro. He scored the game-winning goal for Idaho in his pro debut, and then scored another game-winner two games later.

Schaber also produced a game-winner in Idaho's opening-round series against Colorado.

"He works so hard," Ralph said. "He doesn't put up the offensive numbers that some guys do, but his work ethic and his determination, I think that shows in tight games and overtime."

He might be a rookie, but Schaber's been around hockey long enough to know how big Idaho's win was.

"We knew coming into this game, tied at 2-2, whoever got the win tonight was going to have a huge stranglehold on this series," Schaber said.

Perhaps that thought was weighing too much on the Steelheads' minds as they took the ice.

The Reign seized control of the game early, and broke through with a score 4 minutes, 33 seconds into the first period. "We had a little bit of a lull there in the first 10 minutes, but the guys dug in," Ralph said.

The game turned into a grind-it-out affair for the rest of the first period and most of the second.

But Idaho veteran Adrian Foster broke through for a goal 16:21 into the second period tie the score at 1-1.

From there, it was all about the two teams' goalies, as Idaho rookie Josh Robinson and Berube turned away shot after shot.

"You've got to give both goalies credit," Ralph said.

Upon reflection, Ralph said he also had to give both teams credit.

"It's great hockey," Ralph said. "It's fun to watch and it's exciting."

Saturday's game was the fifth overtime contest of the playoffs for Idaho. The Steelheads went 3-1 in its first four, including a 3-2 victory over Ontario in the first game of the series.

NOTE: Stockton leads the other Western Conference semifinal series 3-1 over Alaska. Stockton, the No. 4 seed, can eliminate the top seed in the conference with a win Sunday.

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