Eagles even score with Steelheads as series shifts to Colorado

Idaho's offense sputters, Steelheads fall behind early in 3-1 loss Saturday.

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comApril 20, 2014 

The Idaho Steelheads are going to need more than just Josh Robinson and David de Kastrozza to win their first-round playoff series against Colorado.

That much was evident in Saturday's Game 2.

Despite strong play from Robinson and another goal from de Kastrozza, the Steelheads' heroes in Game 1, fifth-seeded Colorado topped fourth-seeded Idaho 3-1 at CenturyLink Arena to tie the best-of-seven series in the ECHL Kelly Cup Western Conference quarterfinals.

The next three games are in Colorado, including Tuesday's Game 3.

"We've got Robinson and de Kastrozza playing right now, and we're looking for other guys to step up and show us how to play hockey," Steelheads coach Brad Ralph said. "I'm not pleased, and our group is not happy."

Idaho has been outshot 79-45 through two games. Only the oft-spectacular work of Robinson - who saved 42-of-43 shots in Friday's Game 1 win - has kept the Steelheads in the series.

Robinson stopped 33-of-35 shots Saturday night, but allowed two second-period goals that proved decisive. The first came on a power-play blast from the blue line by defenseman Kevin Young at 2 minutes, 30 seconds into the period.

Trent Daavettila scored on a backhand 5:56 into the second to give Colorado a 2-0 lead.

That would be enough against the Steelheads' struggling offense. Playing without injured forwards Tommy Grant (23 goals in 64 regular-season games) and Anthony Nigro (17 goals in 54 regular-season games), Idaho has failed to generate many scoring opportunities against the older, more physical Eagles.

"To win this series, our checking has to dictate our play. Our play has to be one of checking if we expect to win," Colorado coach Chris Stewart said. "Finishing our checks is really very important against this team."

Said Ralph: "We're getting outplayed. They're a bigger more experienced team, and I think that's showing right now."

De Kastrozza, the only Steelhead to score so far in the series, notched his third goal of the series when he fired a wrist shot past Colorado goalie Dustin Butler in the second period. De Kastrozza was the only Steelheads player with more than three shots on goal.

Idaho showed more offensive life in the final 10 minutes of the game, but could not find the back of the net. The Steelheads pulled Robinson for the final 90 seconds and had several shots in the frantic finish. Colorado added an empty-net goal with 11.3 seconds remaining to seal the victory.

"That was one of our best periods. To end on that is a minor victory," captain Patrick Cullity said.

Very minor.

Now the Eagles have home-ice advantage. And Idaho is searching for productive play from someone other than Robinson and de Kastrozza.

"We're not happy with our game right now. We're not playing the right way," Ralph said, "and I think we were fortunate to get a split here at home."

Brian Murphy: 377-6444; Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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