Steelheads looking for offense in Tuesday's Game 3

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comApril 22, 2014 

Brad Ralph is looking for his veteran players to make a difference when his Idaho Steelheads visit Colorado for Game 3 of their ECHL Kelly Cup Western Conference quarterfinal Tuesday.

“Your leaders, the guys who have been in this situation before, it’s when they’ve got to rise up and we’re not getting it right now,” Idaho’s second-year coach said after the Game 2 loss in Boise on Saturday night.

Colorado outshot Idaho 79-45 and generally controlled the action during the series’ first two games in Boise. Only Idaho goalie Josh Robinson’s stellar play helped earn the Steelheads a split.

The next three games are in Colorado.

“You’ve got to give Colorado credit. They’re executing their game plan very well. They’re making it difficult for our guys,” Ralph said. “But we’ve got to push through it. We’ve got to take on checks. We’ve got to get pucks deep and get to the net and grind away. We’re not doing that collectively.”

Forward David de Kastrozza, a fourth-year pro, has all three of Idaho’s goals in the series.

Idaho lost leading goal scorer Tommy Grant to an apparent hand injury early in Game 1. Anthony Nigro (17 regular-season goals, tied for third on the team) is on the playoff roster, but has not played in the series.

Ralph said both are unlikely to play in Game 3. In their absence, Ralph said veterans like Mitch Wahl and Justin Mercier have to produce offensively.

“Guys that have been around the block, those are the guys we’re going to have to lean on right now,” Ralph said.

Wahl, in his fourth professional season, has an assist and five shots through two games. Mercier, in his fifth professional season, has no points, five shots and was minus-2 in the Game 2 loss. Mercier had seven goals and 11 points in the Steelheads’ final six regular-season games.

“They are obviously an older team and they brought the physical play,” captain Patrick Cullity said. “We need to get pucks in deep, use our speed and our age against theirs and go aggressive on the forecheck. They’re a smart, skilled team, but hopefully we can wear them down as the series goes on.”

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