Protecting the net: Idaho Steelheads goalies have deep playoff experience

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comApril 18, 2014 

Idaho goaltender Josh Robinson played in 23 games for the Steelheads during the regular season. He also played in 15 for the Texas Stars of the AHL as he made frequent trips back and forth. “You never know where you’re going to be the next day. It’s a lot of traveling. It gets tiring. You have to take care of yourself,” Robinson said. “Whenever coach says you’re playing, whether it’s up there or down here, you have to be ready.”

DARIN OSWALD — Idaho Statesman file

  • IDAHO STEELHEADS VS. COLORADO EAGLES

    Game 1:Fridayat Idaho7:10 p.m.1350 AM/Cable One ch. 17

    Game 2:Saturday at Idaho7:10 p.m.1350 AM/Cable One ch. 17

    Game 3:Tuesday at Colorado7:05 p.m.1350 AM

    Game 4: Thursday at Colorado7:05 p.m.1350 AM

    *Game 5: April 25 at Colorado7:05 p.m. 1350 AM

    *Game 6: April 28 at Idaho7:10 p.m.1350 AM/Cable One ch. 17

    *Game 7: April 29 at Idaho7:10 p.m.1350 AM/Cable One ch. 17

    * If necessary

    • Regular season records: Idaho, 39-26-7 (wins-losses-OT/shootout losses); Colorado, 33-26-12

    • Season series: Idaho went 7-2, including six straight victories.

    • Top scorers: Idaho: William Rapuzzi (16 goals, 42 assists); Mitch Wahl (17 goals, 39 assists); Tommy Grant (23 goals, 27 assists); Anthony Nigro (17 goals, 30 assists). Colorado: Kyle Ostrow (28 goals, 38 assists), Trent Daavettila (22 goals, 44 assists), Kevin Ulanski (23 goals, 40 assists).

    • Road games: The Steelheads will host "watch parties" at the SportZone inside CenturyLink Arena. Admission is free and there will be a limited food/drink menu available. The doors open one hour prior to start time.

One player was his team's MVP last year. The other led his team in wins this season.

The first played 13 playoff games last season, helping his team reach the conference finals. The second played a pivotal role on a Kelly Cup-winning team in 2012.

One of them will be sitting on the bench Friday night when the No. 4 seed Idaho Steelheads begin their quest for a third Kelly Cup at CenturyLink Arena in Game 1 of their best-of-seven Western Conference playoff series against fifth-seeded Colorado.

"That's just the life of a goaltender. There's one net and there's two guys," said goaltender Josh Robinson, who was the Steelheads' MVP last year and played in 13 playoff games for Idaho.

Robinson, who split time between Idaho and the Texas Stars of the AHL this year, went 13-7 with a 2.58 goals against average for the Steelheads in the regular season.

Pat Nagle led the Steelheads with 23 victories and posted a 2.73 goals against average in the regular season. He went 4-1 in the 2012 playoffs for the Florida Everblades, which won the Kelly Cup.

Robinson started five of the final seven games, winning four. Nagle won both of his starts down the stretch.

How do you decide?

"I don't have a good answer for you," coach Brad Ralph said.

So maybe you don't decide.

"It's a great advantage to have two goalies that we have confidence in, we can rely on in any situation. I believe in order to make a deep run in the playoffs, you have to have two goalies that can help you win games," Ralph said. "Whoever gets the first start, it's up to them how long they keep rolling with the ball."

In last year's playoffs, Ralph started Robinson in the first two games and Tyler Beskorowany in the next three. Robinson twice relieved. He started the Steelheads' final nine games.

"I like being the guy and being called on every night to play. That's what I focus on doing and giving the team a good chance to win," said the 24-year-old Robinson, in his second professional season out of Michigan Tech.

Nagle went through a similar situation in Florida in 2012. The Everblades played two goalies en route to the title. He spent last season's playoffs on the bench for the AHL's Syracuse Crunch. Nagle said he learned from both experiences.

"There are no lulls in the game or anything like that. You've got to be aware every time," said Nagle, a 26-year-old in his third professional season. "You can't take any time off in the playoffs because it could just be one goofy goal that ends up costing you."

The playoffs bring extra scrutiny on the goalie, the one player tasked with keeping the other team off the scoreboard. Do it well and a team can ride a "hot" goalie deep in the playoffs. Do it poorly and your team will be sitting home before long.

The Steelheads played 17 playoffs games last season. Eleven were decided by one goal and seven went to overtime.

Goalie play takes on added importance in the playoffs.

"It's a very tense time. Players are playing the best they possibly can," Ralph said. "Typically it's more of a low-scoring affair than the regular season - less penalties, less power plays. It makes it a 2-1, 3-2 game and that's when you're relying on your goaltending."

The difference between a series win and a series loss can be a deflected shot or a fortunate bounce off the crossbar. Confidence can come — and go — quickly.

The job, however, doesn't change. And it won't no matter who is in goal for Game 1 or Game 7.

"Focus on the puck and whatever comes at you, comes at you," Robinson said. "Your job is to keep it out of the net."

Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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