Charlie Dodero didn't hold anything back. Anticipating a pass on the power play, he was ready to shoot with his stick high and he blasted a shot past Alaska's goaltender Monday night.
"I knew I had a lane to the net. I wanted to get it hard and get it through," Dodero said after scoring his first postseason goal.
Dodero, a 22-year-old from the Chicago suburbs who played the previous four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, has developed into one of the Steelheads' best defensemen as they play deeper into the ECHL Western Conference playoffs.
Idaho lost 5-2 on Monday and trails Alaska 2-1 in their best-of-seven semifinal series. Game 4 is Wednesday night at CenturyLink Arena. Game 5 is Thursday night.
"He's one of our go-to, shutdown defensemen. He's playing really well. He's a first-year player that is playing like a fifth-year player,'' coach Brad Ralph said.
Ralph spotted Dodero at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Michigan in September. The tournament brings together prospects from eight NHL teams for a weeklong showcase. Dodero was playing for the New York Rangers' team.
The stands were filled with NHL general managers, scouts and coaches from all levels of professional hockey.
"I had a blast. Being able to play in front of that caliber of people and play against that caliber of player is pretty cool, too,'' Dodero said.
Said Ralph, who was immediately impressed: "He could skate and he played nasty." Good attributes in a defenseman, Ralph put Dodero on his list.
Dodero started the season with Greenville of the ECHL, but the Road Warriors were stocked with older, established defenders. Dodero played in 14 of the first 24 games. As a young player, he needed more ice time.
"When I had the chance to get him, I knew we had to do it," Ralph said.
Said Dodero: "I needed to play and develop. That was the only way I'd be able to move on in the ranks of pro hockey."
He joined the Steelheads for their Dec. 28 game at Las Vegas - and has played in all 53 games (44 regular season and nine playoff games) since. Dodero had four goals and 15 assists in the regular season. He's added one goal and three assists in the playoffs. His offense, secondary to his defense, is coming along.
"He works extremely hard to improve his game. I think that says a lot about his drive," Ralph said. "When you're in the ECHL trying to move up, you're drive and motivation is everything. There's no questioning that with him."
That desire is evident when the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Dodero battles opposing forwards for position in front of the Steelheads' net or fights in the corners for pucks. His style seems to infuriate foes and he often takes shots post-whistle from frustrated opponents.
"He definitely likes to grind it out, in the tough areas in front of the net and in the corners. He likes to try and get under guys' skin a bit," said Damon Kipp, who has been playing alongside Dodero on defense this postseason. "He gets under the right guys."
It's part of that "nasty" streak Ralph saw in Michigan. Dodero, like any good defenseman, makes things uncomfortable. He says it's been like that his whole life.
"I've always had to scrap and compete for every inch and every ounce of respect that I had, even through minor hockey. I had to go through a lot from people not believing in me," he said.
"Compete comes with work ethic. I feel if I don't work my hardest, I'm not giving myself the best chance to succeed and if I'm not working my hardest, it definitely shows out there."
Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph