BOISE — Gaelan Patterson picked up an admirer during his first full season in the ECHL. Idaho Steelheads coach Brad Ralph liked Patterson, a forward with the Utah Grizzlies last season, so much that he tried to trade for him before the playoffs.
"He played a little bit of defense and a little bit of forward. He's a tremendous skater, he worked hard and he knew where to go on the size. Those are all great playoff attributes," Ralph said.
After being rebuffed in those trade talks, Ralph signed the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Patterson as a free agent in the offseason. Now Patterson is doing exactly what Ralph imagined - making a difference in the playoffs.
Patterson has four goals in eight playoff games, including an overtime game-winner in Game 1 of the Steelheads' series with top-seeded Alaska.
Game 3 is Monday night at CenturyLink Arena in Boise. The series between the fourth-seeded Steelheads and Aces is tied 1-1 after two games in Anchorage.
Patterson underwent surgery on his right shoulder in the offseason, and it impacted his readiness for the start of the season. He scored just four goals in the first 50 games, a low number even for a defensive-minded forward like Patterson.
"I don't think I was in the best form coming into the season, and that might have hurt me a bit. Things weren't coming together the way I wanted them to be, and I was getting frustrated," he said.
But Patterson, the team's "Unsung Hero" award winner, stuck with it. He scored six goals in his final 18 regular-season games and has continued to score during the postseason. Patterson has a point in five consecutive games and had a four-game goal-scoring streak capped by his OT goal Thursday.
"He's been one of our best players the second half of the season, and I think he's getting the accolades now come playoffs," Ralph said.
Patterson has been playing alongside David deKastrozza and Rob Linsmayer for most of the playoffs, a line that has been highly productive. DeKastrozza leads Idaho with eight points in eight games. Patterson is second with seven, and Linsmayer has four in seven games.
Patterson, a seventh-round draft pick by the Calgary Flames in 2009, is one of six NHL draftees on the Steelheads' playoff roster. Patterson spent two seasons in the AHL before heading to Utah of the ECHL last year.
"It's a small window to get there (to the NHL). The first two years I felt like if I could keep improving I'd have a good chance," Patterson said. "Now I'm trying to open up a new door. It's almost like starting from scratch. Hopefully I can get noticed one way or the other."
He opened Ralph's eyes. With his strong postseason, maybe Patterson can do it again.
NOTES: Idaho goalie Josh Robinson will be in net for Game 3. Robinson, who saved an ECHL record-tying 83 shots in a Game 6 victory against Colorado and followed it up with a 47-save shutout of Alaska in Game 1, did not play in Game 2's 6-4 loss. Robinson has stopped 257 of 266 shots this postseason. Both are the highest totals in the ECHL playoffs. He leads the league in save percentage at .966. . The Steelheads haven't practiced since returning home on a redeye flight Friday night. CenturyLink Arena hosted a gymnastics meet Sunday, so the ice was unavailable.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444; Twitter: @murphsturph