Idaho Steelheads lose third straight; season in jeopardy

The Steelheads give up four goals in the first period; goalie Josh Robinson benched.

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comMay 8, 2014 


    Game 1: Idaho 1, Alaska 0 (OT)

    Game 2: Alaska 6, Idaho 4

    Game 3: Alaska 5, Idaho 2

    Game 4: Alaska 4, Idaho 2

    Game 5: at IdahoToday

    *Game 6: at AlaskaSaturday

    *Game 7: at AlaskaSunday

    *If necessary

    Idaho home games start at 7:10 p.m.; Alaska games at 9:15. All games on 1350 AM and broadcast on Cable One 17.

Former Idaho Steelheads star Scott Burt, a member of the franchise's two Kelly Cup-winning teams, dropped the ceremonial first puck before Wednesday's Game 4 with Alaska, drawing cheers from the home crowd.

That's probably where the Steelheads should have ended the night.

Top-seeded Alaska scored four goals in the first period and overwhelmed Idaho 4-2 to take a commanding 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven ECHL Kelly Cup Western Conference semifinal series.

Idaho faces elimination in Thursday night's Game 5 at CenturyLink Arena in Boise.

"We're making poor decisions up ice and it's costing us, giving the odd-man rushes and we've played the price for it in the first period," Idaho coach Brad Ralph said. "We have to play better defensively. It was pretty disgusting coverage there in the first period."

Alaska, which has won three straight hockey games by a combined score of 15-8, scored six minutes, 22 seconds into the first period with Nick Mazzolini weaving through several defenders and beating Josh Robinson between his legs.

Then the Aces poured it on.

A wide-open Zach Davies put home a rebound 12:17 into the period.

Mazzolini scored his second of the game on another rebound 16:36 into the period. Mazzolini wraparound was stuffed by defenseman Patrick Cullity, but Mazzolini scored off a tough angle on the rebound.

Evan Trupp made it 4-0 by finishing Brendan Connolly's crisp crossing pass with 42 seconds left in the period.

"We kind of let them skate around, move the puck. When an offensive team is feeling good like that, they're going to make plays," Idaho forward Brett Robinson said.

Alaska outshot Idaho 21-5 in the first period and 45-20 for the game.

"When we had the opportunity to get the puck to the net, we did it," Alaska coach Rob Murray said. "Four-nothing is one thing, but 21-5 in shots, too. You could really see we controlled the period."

Josh Robinson, who blanked Alaska in Game 1's overtime victory and was brilliant in Idaho's quarterfinal series with Colorado, was pulled for the start of the second period in favor of Pat Nagle. Nagle took the Game 2 loss, allowing six goals, but he was solid Wednesday night in keeping Alaska from scoring in the final two periods.

David deKastrozza scored his team-high sixth goal of the playoffs to get Idaho on the scoreboard late in the second period. The Steelheads played stronger in the third period and closed to within two goals on Brett Robinson's putback with 6:16 left.

The Steelheads were stronger in the third period, playing with the type of desperation they'll need in whatever games remain. Idaho's season ends Thursday night, or the series switches to Anchorage for Games 6 and/or 7 on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

"We're on home ice. We should be ready to go from the drop of the puck and we weren't," Brett Robinson said.

The Aces — who own a pair of Kelly Cups, including the 2011 title with Burt on their roster — are 7-1 in the postseason and have gotten stronger as this series has progressed.

The Aces have scored 14 goals in the last three games, pushing Idaho to the brink of elimination. Alaska has been the crisper squad, capitalizing on every Steelheads' miscue and creating many opportunities on its own.

"Give Alaska credit," Ralph said. "They're imposing their will on us and forcing us to make poor plays."

Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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