BOISE — Through most of the regular season, Idaho Steelheads fans knew who to watch when a big offensive play was needed.
There was Austin Smith, a dynamic goal-scorer. Or Tyler Gron, who was tied for second in the ECHL in goals scored before coming to Idaho and continued to make plays as a Steelhead. Rookie Austin Fyten earned all-star honors for his offensive ability.
But when it came time for Idaho to play Game 6 of its semifinal series against the Ontario Reign on Tuesday, it was the unsung heroes of the third line who lifted the Steelheads to a series-clinching victory.
Forward David de Kastrozza scored the first goal of the game in the first period. Linemate Brett Robinson scored Idaho's second goal. The third goal? You guessed it. Justin Taylor scored that one, as Robinson and de Kastrozza notched the assists.
By the game's end, Robinson had two goals and an assist, and Taylor and de Kastrozza each finished with a goal and an assist in a 5-3 victory. That's a lot of production from even a top line.
"That's the playoffs," coach Brad Ralph said. "You need different lines stepping up and contributing. We certainly got that."
Ralph can only hope for more of the same as the Steelheads open the Western Conference Finals against the Stockton Thunder at 7:10 p.m. Friday at CenturyLink Arena.
"Every year in the playoffs, the team that goes the furthest is the one with the most depth," said Robinson, who played for the Cincinnati team that defeated Idaho in the 2010 Kelly Cup Finals.
"We're really proud of that line, for sure," Ralph said. "It's good to see, because those guys work hard and they don't always get the credit they deserve."
The timing of the line's offensive production couldn't have been better.
"(Ontario's) style smothered and stalled some of our top-end players," Ralph said.
Taylor said Idaho can expect other teams to try to do the same.
"When it comes down to it, our top guys are going to get keyed on," said Taylor, who will be playing in his third ECHL conference finals. "That's when our secondary scorers need to step up."
Robinson and de Kastrozza have each been healthy scratches in the postseason. Neither player enjoyed watching from the stands, but both said there may have been a positive end result.
"It definitely lit a fire under my butt when (Ralph) held me out of that game," said de Kastrozza, who played more games than any other Steelhead in the regular season (66). "It was a good decision by him. I really wasn't playing that well, and I wasn't producing."
Said Ralph: "We took him out of the lineup, but when he came back he was a difference-maker. When he's going, he's a force."
Robinson said the message was clear for him, too.
"Coach had been, not calling guys out, but saying that everyone has got to contribute," he said.
After a 72-game regular season and a few playoff series, that's becoming increasingly obvious.
"It's a grind, no doubt," he said. "We just finished an emotional, physical series, and a few days later we're starting another emotional, physical - even harder - series. That's why we need different guys stepping up."
The way Robinson sees it, it might as well be him and his linemates.
"We feel good as a line, and we're really clicking right now," Robinson said. "So we've just got to bring that into the next round."
Chris Langrill: 377-6424