Friday night was a wild playoff roller coaster ride for the Idaho Steelheads and a fired-up CenturyLink Arena crowd.
It started with a bang as the Steelheads drew first blood.
It built to a roar as Idaho surged to a 4-0 lead with three early second-period goals.
It simmered as the Colorado Eagles slowly chipped away at the deficit.
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It reached an eerie quiet as Colorado scored three times in the final 2:28, tying the game on Matt Register’s slap shot from the point with 9 seconds remaining.
And it ended in silent disbelief as former Steelhead Alex Belzile scored the game winner just 41 seconds into overtime.
The stunning 6-5 loss leaves the Steelheads facing a 3-1 series deficit, with Game 5 set for Saturday night in Boise.
“It’s extremely disappointing — it’s the stuff hockey players’ nightmares are made of,” said Idaho defenseman Aaron Harstad, who scored two goals. “But the game is over with now, and we’re still in the series. We have to come out [Saturday] ready to go.”
The Steelheads came into the third with a 5-2 lead and didn’t surrender a shot on goal for nearly 15 minutes.
But with 2:28 remaining, a centering pass took a strange carom past Landon Bow to make it 5-3.
Just 29 seconds later, Belzile trimmed the lead to 5-4. After Idaho narrowly missed a chance to seal it with an empty-net goal, Register silenced the building with a booming shot from the point.
“We had some defensive breakdowns late,” Idaho coach Neil Graham said. “I thought we played extremely well for 57 minutes, and I’m disappointed for our group because I know how hard they fought. But we didn’t play a full 60, and it’s heartbreaking.”
Belzile has been a thorn in the Steelheads’ side all series. He has eight points through four games after racking up two goals and three assists Friday.
Before the shocking finish, Idaho had played its best game of the postseason. Forward Anthony Luciani had a breakout night, scoring two nifty goals and assisting on Harstad’s power-play tally. Luciani’s second goal came on a breakaway.
A second goal by Harstad and a mini-breakaway by Andre Bouvet-Morrissette made it 5-2. Now, Idaho must win Saturday to keep its season alive.
“We came out flying tonight,” Luciani said. “It’s disappointing we didn’t finish it, but we can’t dwell on it. We have to win three straight now. That’s all. That’s it.”