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Idaho Steelheads doomed by slow start, fall 3-1 to Allen Americans

Take a Zamboni ride at CenturyLink Arena in Boise

Zamboni driver Paul Homola answers a few questions about driving everyone's favorite ice resurfacer between periods at the Idaho Steelheads ECHL playoff hockey game Wednesday night.
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Zamboni driver Paul Homola answers a few questions about driving everyone's favorite ice resurfacer between periods at the Idaho Steelheads ECHL playoff hockey game Wednesday night.

The Idaho Steelheads played two periods of great hockey in their 2016 home playoff debut.

Unfortunately for coach Neil Graham’s club, 40 inspired minutes weren’t enough to overcome a slow start and some tough luck.

Defending ECHL champion Allen built an early lead with a dominant first period Wednesday and then held off hard-charging Idaho for a 3-1 victory in Game 3 of the ECHL Western Conference quarterfinals.

The Steelheads peppered the Allen net with 38 shots — 31 in the final two periods — and saw three more attempts ring off the posts. However, they couldn’t solve Allen goalie Riley Gill, who helped the Americans grab a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Games 4 and 5 are set for Friday and Saturday at CenturyLink Arena.

“I think we were a little too fired up for the first period,” said defenseman Tommy Fallen, who scored the lone Idaho goal. “We were off our game a little bit, but we stuck it to them for 40 straight minutes in the second and third. If we can do that again Friday and Saturday, we’ll win some games.”

The first period belonged to the defending Kelly Cup champs. Idaho had several quality chances in the opening minutes, but the Americans drew first blood on a shot from the high slot by Greger Hanson, last year’s playoff MVP.

Allen made it 2-0 late in the period, capitalizing on a dubious tripping call against Idaho’s Taylor Peters. The Americans set things up on the power play, and David Makowski’s big drive from the point beat a screened Philippe Desrosiers.

“I thought the first was obviously good for us,” Allen coach Steve Martinson said. “We got a little bit away from our game in the second, which was frustrating, but we had a good start.”

After being outshot 17-7 in the first, the Steelheads flipped the script with an 18-5 advantage in the second. Fallen finally got Idaho on the board, blasting a shot past Gill during the waning seconds of a power play.

The Steelheads continued to carry the play, but they couldn’t net the equalizer. Kruise Reddick and Radoslav Illo both rang shots off the post at the tail end of odd-man rushes, leaving the door open for Allen to restore a two-goal cushion on Matt Register’s power-play drive from the point.

“We had lots of chances,” Idaho captain Carson McMillan said. “We hit some posts and we missed some nets, but we know we can compete with these guys. We just have to put together a full 60 minutes.

“When you have an off period, this is the way it goes in the playoffs.”

The third period brought more Idaho pressure. The home team held a 13-8 advantage in shots, and defenseman Zach Bell’s backhander deflected off Gill and then the post for yet another near miss. Derosiers kept the deficit at two, but Gill stood tall as the Steelheads were left lamenting their missed opportunities.

“You’ve got to create your own bounces,” Graham said. “I liked the way we kept pushing, but the way we fell in a hole early, we were really playing catchup all night.”

The weekend promises to bring more fireworks in what has been a physical, sometimes nasty series. The teams combined for 34 penalty minutes Wednesday, including a fight between Dyson Stevenson and Bell, who dropped the gloves for the second time in three games.

But for Graham — whose team looked like a playoff longshot after a 7-14 start to the season — facing a little adversity is nothing new.

“Not once did I expect us to sweep the defending Kelly Cup champions,” Graham said. “I expected this to be a hard-fought series, and I still do.”

Idaho Steelheads vs. Allen Americans

ALL TIMES MOUNTAIN

April 14

Idaho 3, Allen 1

April 16

Allen 3, Idaho 1

Wed.

Allen 3, Idaho 1

Friday

Allen at Idaho

7:10 p.m.

Saturday

Allen at Idaho

7:10 p.m.

Tuesday*

Idaho at Allen

6:05 p.m.

April 27*

Idaho at Allen

6:05 p.m.

*If necessary

▪ Tickets for this week’s games are available at the CenturyLink Arena box office or IdahoSteelheads.com.

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