Idaho led the 21-team ECHL in penalty minutes during the regular season and the Steelheads didn't correct the issue in the postseason, leading all playoff teams in penalty minutes entering Thursday's elimination game against top-seeded Alaska.
The Steelheads' final penalty of the season led to the decisive goal Thursday night as Alaska topped Idaho 2-1 at CenturyLink Arena.
The Aces clinched their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series 4-1, winning the last three games.
Alaska scored the game-winner 29 seconds into the third period just as time expired on Charlie Dodero's slashing penalty. The puck deflected off Idaho defenseman Russ Sinkewich's stick and into the net behind goalie Josh Robinson.
"It was kind of fitting that our season ended on the penalty kill. It seemed like we lived there all year," coach Brad Ralph said. "It's certainly an issue that we couldn't solve this year, staying out of the penalty box."
Unlike their sub-par defensive efforts in Games 3 and 4, both home losses, the Steelheads matched Alaska for most of Game 5. Brett Robinson gave Idaho a 1-0 goal off a terrific pass from Dodero two minutes, 20 seconds into the second period.
Alaska, which won the final four games of the series, tied the game on Alex Belzile's rebound with 10:03 left in the second. The second period, Ralph said, was Idaho's best of the entire series. But Alaska goaltender Gerald Coleman was up to the challenge - and he held off Idaho's late-flurry in the final minutes of the third period, too.
"He was strong," Alaska coach Rob Murray said.
Dodero took a slashing penalty late in the second period, and the Aces' man advantage carried over into the third. Idaho had 1,418 penalty minutes in the regular season. No other team had more than 1,329. Six teams, including Alaska, had fewer than 1,000 penalty minutes.
In 10 playoff games, Idaho had 168 penalty minutes.
As Dodero's penalty expired, but before he could rejoin the action, Alaska got the deflection that would prove decisive. Brendan Connolly got credit for the goal.
"It kind of sums it up in a sense," captain Patrick Cullity said. "We're working hard. We're giving everything we have and for something like that to go in, words can't put it together."
Brian Murphy: 377-6444