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Idaho Steelheads top Allen Americans; series tied 2-2

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.

One critical win in the books. A pivotal game less than 24 hours later. Playoff hockey at its finest.

The Idaho Steelheads defeated the Allen Americans 3-1 in Game 4 of their ECHL Western Conference quarterfinal playoff series Friday night at CenturyLink Arena.

The win evened the best-of-seven series at 2-2, with the two teams returning to CenturyLink Arena for Game 5 at 7:10 p.m. Saturday. The final two games are scheduled in Texas.

“It’s a big game for us,” first-year Steelheads coach Neil Graham said. “They’re a very good team. They’re dynamic on offense and they’re dynamic on the power play.”

Graham said his players will have to play mistake-free hockey again if they’re going to gain the edge against the defending league champions.

“We have to be at our best, and (Friday) I thought we were,” Graham said. “The guys really committed themselves to our structure, and we were able to come out on the right side of it.”

Goalie Philippe Desrosiers was a big reason Idaho skated away with a Game 4 win. The rookie stopped 29-of-30 shots, including a few that might have eluded him in the early part of the season. But the Quebec native has become a game-changer — at least he was Friday night.

“He made some incredible saves early, and it kind of let us find our offense and settle in,” Graham said. “Team defense, including Rosy, was very good.”

Desrosiers was one tipped shot away from a shutout. Former Steelhead Tristan King redirected a shot by Americans forward and league MVP Chad Costello in the second period to score Allen’s lone goal.

“The guy made a nice play in front of the net. … It’s hard to make those saves,” Desrosiers said.

He made every other save, not that he’s giving himself any credit.

“I don’t know. I did pretty good, but I was just doing my job,” Desrosier said.

Desrosier’s big night came in a game in which the 2013 Kelly Cup playoffs MVP was in the opposing net. Riley Gill stopped 26-of-28 shots in the losing effort (Idaho’s third goal was an empty-netter).

“I thought their goalie made some incredible saves, too,” Graham said. “At the end of the day it was a goalie battle.”

While Desrosiers was working his magic, teammates provided some timely, much-needed goals.

Less than a minute into the second period, veteran forward Andrew Carroll corralled the puck at center ice and rushed the net. Gill made the stop, but the puck dribbled meekly in front of him. Kyle Jean was trailing the play and managed to quickly net the rebound and put Idaho up 1-0.

“You don’t want to get too aggressive on the penalty kill, but he saw an opportunity and capitalized on it,” Graham said.

After King’s goal tied the game, Idaho forward Joe Basaraba scored what proved to be the game-winner, splitting two defenders and firing a shot past Gill.

Jean closed out the scoring with his second goal of the night, an empty-netter with 1:25 left.

Graham was pleased to see Jean get rewarded with a couple of goals on a night when he did so much else to help Idaho.

“He was so good on the defensive side of the puck,” Graham said. “I thought he was a beast all night.”

More beastly play wouldn’t be a terrible game plan Saturday night.

“Now it’s a best-of-three,” Desrosiers said. “We regroup, take a cold tub, get a good night of sleep and come back here. It will be another battle. … We’ll be ready to go.”

PLAYOFF NOTES

All four games in the series have been decided by a 3-1 score. ... Idaho continues to skate without two key players. Forward Jefferson Dahl, a heart-and-soul player who tied for the team lead in goals (22) during the regular season, hasn’t played in the postseason. Corbin Baldwin, a 6-foot-5 defenseman who led the team with a rating of plus-28 in the regular season, has been out since getting injured in Game 1. Graham said neither player would be able to go Saturday, either.

Idaho Steelheads vs. Allen Americans

ALL TIMES MOUNTAIN

April 14

Idaho 3, Allen 1

April 16

Allen 3, Idaho 1

April 20

Allen 3, Idaho 1

Friday

Idaho 3, Allen 1

Saturday

Allen at Idaho

7:10 p.m.

Tuesday

Idaho at Allen

6:05 p.m.

Wednesday*

Idaho at Allen

6:05 p.m.

*If necessary

▪ Tickets for Saturday’s game are available at the CenturyLink Arena box office or IdahoSteelheads.com.

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