High-scoring trio leads Colorado against Steelheads

Idaho dominated its regular-season series against the Eagles.

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comApril 17, 2014 

The Colorado Eagles ended the regular season with three of the top 10 scorers in the ECHL.

It was a fourth player, however, who did the most damage against Idaho, which opens the Western Conference playoffs against Colorado on Friday night at CenturyLink Arena.

Colorado defenseman Kevin Young scored nine points (four goals, five assists) in nine regular-season meetings against the Steelheads. He tallied the first goal in both of the Eagles' victories against Idaho. Young, who finished with 35 points in 56 regular-season games, had just nine goals on the season.

"They shoot pucks very well through traffic. They jump on offense very quick compared to other teams," Idaho goaltender Josh Robinson said. "So it's always a task for everyone to make sure they're coming back and doing all the right things. We always have to be ready. They're going to shoot it from anywhere."

The fifth-seeded Eagles are known for their offensive emphasis, one that helped land two forwards on the All-ECHL second-team. Kyle Ostrow (66 points in 64 games) and Trent Daavettila (66 points in 63 games) finished tied for sixth in the league in scoring.

Kevin Ulanski (63 points in 69 games) is 10th among all scorers in the ECHL. Idaho's top scorer, rookie William Rapuzzi, has 58 points.

"They have a really good offensive team. They move the puck really well," Idaho goaltender Pat Nagle said. "They're very patient and tend to make the right plays at the right time and find the open guy."

Idaho, the fourth seed in the Western Conference, was able to keep the Eagles' offense in check. Ulanski had seven points in nine regular-season games. Ostrow had six points in eight games, and Daavettila had four points (all assists) in seven games.

The Steelheads finished 7-2 against Colorado and won their final six meetings, including a pair of games earlier this month in Boise. Despite Colorado's emphasis on offense and its trio of top scorers, Idaho outscored the Eagles 223 to 211.

All three of Colorado's top scorers played in last year's first-round series against Idaho. The Steelheads won 4-2. In all, eight Colorado players are back on the roster.

Idaho carries four players, including Robinson, who played in last year's playoff run that ended in the Western Conference finals.

"We have a lot of experience in the room, so they'll draw on their experiences throughout their career here," second-year coach Brad Ralph said. "I'm sure they'll be a lot of learning that goes along with each game. I'm confident in this group."

Ralph has good reason. The Steelheads won nine of their last 12 games, including six of their last seven. The strong finish helped them earn home-ice advantage in the first round.

"These guys have really bought in. You can tell the team chemistry has been really good recently. It's a new season for these guys," Ralph said. "Playoffs are a different caliber of hockey."

Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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