The Idaho Steelheads' playoff run will go at least one more round.
Idaho defeated the Ontario Reign 5-3 in Game 6 of the ECHL Western Conference semifinals Tuesday night in California. The Steelheads clinched the series 4-2.
Idaho advances to the Western Conference final, where the hockey club will face Stockton, which eliminated Alaska on Tuesday night in Anchorage. The best-of-7 series begins at 7:10 p.m. Friday at CenturyLink Arena, while Game 2 will be played at 5:10 p.m. Sunday, also on Idaho's home ice.
We go on to the third round, and that's a heck of an accomplishment, first-year Steelheads coach Brad Ralph said. We're really proud of what we've done. Onward and upward. I told the guys to enjoy that victory. We have to take the time to enjoy these moments.
Steelheads players said prior to Game 6 that they expected Ontario to come out with a vengeance in the early stages of the critical game. Facing elimination, the Reign didn't prove them wrong. They notched the first nine shots on goal before Idaho registered one, and Ontario scored 3 minutes, 36 seconds after the puck dropped.
They came hard, Ralph said. But we got through the first 10 minutes and started playing hockey.
After weathering that storm, forward David de Kastrozza kept the Steelheads in the game with a goal 12:18 into the first.
About 2 minutes later, Ontario took the lead again as forward Everett Sheen beat Idaho goalie Josh Robinson to give the Reign a 2-1 lead. The two goals in the first period were more than Robinson had allowed in Games 4 and 5 combined. In the end, Robinson stopped 31-of-34 shots on the night and won his third game in a row.
The back-and-forth scoring in the first period continued as Idaho forward Brett Robinson scored his second goal of the playoffs to make it 2-2.
A little more than 6 minutes into the second period, Idaho took the lead for the first time in the game when Justin Taylor beat Reign netminder Jean-Francois Berube to put the Steelheads up 3-2. To that point, Berube had faced six shots and allowed three scores. Idaho pushed its lead to two goals before the end of the second period when rookie all-star forward Austin Fyten notched his fourth goal of the postseason. Fyten's shot was the Steelheads' ninth of the contest, and it proved to be the game-winner.
Ontario scored with about 6 minutes remaining in the game to make it 4-3 and create a tense finish. Brett Robinson scored his second goal of the game, an empty-netter, to close out the scoring.
It was a great team victory, Ralph said.
Stockton defeated Alaska in their Western Conference semifinal series by scoring with five seconds left in regulation, then producing the game-winniner in overtime. Stockton won the series 4-2.
The Steelheads and Thunder met five times during the regular season with Stockton winning three. Only one game was played in Boise a 4-2 Idaho victory Nov. 14 and each of the five games was decided by two goals or less. The two teams have met twice before in the Kelly Cup playoffs. Idaho defeated Stockton in the opening round of the 2004 postseason and also in the 2010 Western Conference final.
IDAHO VS. STOCKTON
All times Mountain
Game 1: Stockton at Idaho, Friday, May 3 (7:10 p.m.)
Game 2: Stockton at Idaho, Sunday, May 5 (5:10 p.m.)
Game 3: Idaho at Stockton, Wednesday, May 8 (8 p.m.)
Game 4: Idaho at Stockton, Friday, May 10 (8:30 p.m.)
Game 5: Idaho at Stockton, Saturday, May 11 (8:30 p.m.)*
Game 6: Stockton at Idaho, Monday, May 13 (7:10 p.m.)*
Game 7: Stockton at Idaho, Tuesday, May 14 (7:10 p.m.)*
* If necessary
Tickets for Games 1 and 2 in Boise are on sale at the CenturyLink Arena box office or by going online to www.idahosteelheads.com.