Stockton takes down Idaho 3-1 in conference finals series opener

clangrill@idahostatesman.comMay 4, 2013 


    No. 3 Idaho vs. No. 4 Stockton

    Friday: Stockton 3, Idaho 1

    Sunday: Stockton at Idaho, 5:10 p.m.

    Wednesday: Idaho at Stockton, 8 p.m.

    May 10: Idaho at Stockton, 8:30 p.m.

    x-May 11: Idaho at Stockton, 8:30 p.m.

    x-May 13: Stockton at Idaho, 7:10 p.m.

    x-May 14: Stockton at Idaho, 7:10 p.m.

    x-if necessary

The Idaho Steelheads took shot after shot after shot.

By the end of the game they had outshot the Stockton Thunder 36-22.

But the final score favored Stockton, and the visiting team defeated Idaho 3-1 in Game 1 of the ECHL Western Conference Finals on Friday night at CenturyLink Arena.

"We scored one goal," Steelheads coach Brad Ralph said of his team, which had the ECHL's highest-scoring offense in the regular season. "We didn't get it done offensively."

Thunder coach Matt Thomas said his goalie had a lot to do with Stockton's series-opening win.

"I thought he was the best player on the ice," Thomas said of Olivier Roy. "He was the best player on the ice, and like all good goalies, he was a calming influence."

Game 2 of the series is at 5:10 p.m. Sunday at CenturyLink Arena.

"The only positive we can take out of today is that it's a best-of-7 series," Steelheads forward David de Kastrozza said. "There's plenty more hockey to be played."

It was clear from the drop of the puck that the action in this series was going to move at a faster pace than Idaho's conference semifinal series against Ontario.

"They play with a lot more speed," Idaho coach Brad Ralph said. "They're a relentless team."

Stockton has made a habit of producing dramatic comebacks in the playoffs, having won six times when trailing after the first period and four times when trailing after two periods. But that theme didn't play out in Game 1, as the Thunder got on the board first.

Forward Andrew Clark notched the first goal of the series with a pretty backhanded shot that beat Idaho goaltender Josh Robinson 4 minutes, 1 second into the second period. Idaho had a 26-16 shots-on-goal advantage through two periods, but Stockton had the 1-0 lead.

That lead didn't last long in the third period, however, as De Kastrozza beat Roy 14 seconds into the middle frame.

It was the only time that Olivier would be scored upon.

"I thought he played really well," de Kastrozza said. "We were getting a lot of pucks through, but we could have done a better job of screening him. All-in-all, I thought he had a good game."

Ralph agreed.

"You've got to give their defense and goaltending credit," he said. "We didn't find a lot of rebounds. We've got to get traffic on their goalie, pound pucks a little harder."

With the scored tied 1-1 and the fans still cheering, Stockton was credited with a goal 46 seconds after de Kastrozza's. But after the officials huddled, they waved off the goal.

There was no doubt about Maxime Boisclair's goal with 6 minutes, 42 seconds remaining. The Thunder forward batted a rebound mid-air and swatted the puck into the right side of the net to make it 2-1.

Then, with 1:27 remaining in the game, Ryan Hayes scored to give Stockton a 3-1 lead and send the fans to the exit doors.

"We've got to believe in ourselves," Ralph said. "It's disappointing losing Game 1 at home, but we've just got to make sure we don't give them any chances to hang around on Sunday."

Game 2 can't come soon enough for de Kastrozza and his teammates.

"That's the good thing about the playoffs," he said. "You can't really dwell on this game too much, because we're back at it in two days."

NOTES: The announced attendance was 3,556. It was the largest - and loudest - crowd of the playoffs. … The series is a rematch of the 2010 Western Conference Finals that Idaho won 4-2 in 2010.

Chris Langrill: 377-6424

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