Idaho Steelheads celebrate historic comeback
Allen pulled its goalie for an extra skater with less than 2 minutes remaining in regulation, and Idaho made the Americans pay in historic fashion.
The Steelheads scored twice in the final 31 seconds to secure a 4-1 victory over Allen in Game 7 of their first-round Kelly Cup playoff hockey game Wednesday night at CenturyLink Arena.
Only one team in the 30-year history of the ECHL previously had won a playoff series after falling into a 3-0 hole, the 2010 Cincinnati Cyclones. The Steelheads were just the fourth team to even force Game 7 in that situation.
NHL teams are 4-184 all-time in series they trailed 3-0, according to The Puck Report.
"It speaks to the resolve, the resiliency in the locker room," Idaho coach Neil Graham said. "I'm proud of our leadership, proud of everyone. Our message was we really had to get back to thinking small picture and start winning periods at a time."
The Steelheads followed Graham's strategy to perfection in Game 7 as Brady Brassart scored the opening goal at the 10:06 mark of the first period on an assist from Steven McParland.
Tommy Thompson extended Idaho's lead to 2-0 midway through the second period with McParland and Brassart on the assist.
"We had to come out aggressive. We were able to get up two-nothing," Graham said. "But then you have to manage the clock a little bit. You've got to manage the position of the ice and where the puck is. I thought we did a good job of that. We didn't want to sit back too much obviously because they are a very good hockey team, so it was important to make sure we still pushed the pace."
The Americans pulled within 2-1 when Zach Pochiro clinked one in off the post with 13:40 to go in regulation.
The Steelheads remained unfazed.
"It hit two guys and hit the post and went in," Steelheads captain Jefferson Dahl said. "That's going to happen in the playoffs, but I like the way we responded there. We just wanted to keep grinding them and keep playing our game."
Needing a late score to tie the game and force overtime, Allen pulled goalie Jake Paterson with 1:24 remaining. The result was a pair of empty-netters in the final minute from Dahl and Jack Nevins.
"Even when we were down 3-0, we knew we had the guys in the locker room to come back, and it was just a matter of playing our game and playing our structure," Dahl said. "You could see our confidence growing as the series went on. Not that we lost it, but you've got to get the playoff swagger. It took us a little bit to get it, but we've got it."
Steelheads goalie Philippe Desrosiers stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced for his fourth straight win, simultaneously helping Idaho avenge a Game 7 loss to Allen in the first round of the 2016 playoffs.
"Two years ago they ended our season, and we see them so much during the year. It's kind of three years combined just to finish that one off," Dahl said. "It was a nice feeling to send them home. We're just excited for our next challenge here in Round 2."
The Steelheads advance to face the Colorado Eagles in the second round. The series begins Saturday and Sunday in Colorado, with Game 3 on May 2 in Boise. The Steelheads also are home May 3 and, if necessary, May 5.
The Eagles won the Mountain Division during the regular season; the Steelheads finished second.
"You have to adjust pretty heavily when you're down three nothing in a series, and we're going to have to adjust again," Graham said. "That's the nature of playoffs, that's the nature of pro sports. We'll let the guys enjoy their evening here, and then we'll get back to work tomorrow."