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Let’s Look Back: Playoff Barrage

Sunday, August 21st
Let’s Look Back: Playoff Barrage

The Steelheads’ first-round playoff series with the Allen Americans this past spring was a tooth-and-nail battle nearly every step of the way, with even 60 minutes in Game 7 not enough time to decide a winner. But in Game 5 at CenturyLink Arena, the team’s final performance in front of the home fans last season, the Steelheads had their most convincing performance of the year and one of their most dominant performances in team playoff history.

With a 7-1 win over the Americans on home ice, the Steelheads claimed a temporary 3-2 lead in the series.  The six-goal margin of victory was the team’s largest of the season and largest in the playoffs since 2013, the two most decisive playoff wins for Idaho in the ECHL era.

It didn’t take long for the Steelheads to get on the board, with Kruise Reddick opening the scoring just 2:31 into the first period. Reddick joined the Steelheads at the end of the season, signing as a free agent out of the University of Alberta in late March. He’d been held off the sheet in the series’ first four games, but showed his top-notch skill to give Idaho a 1-0 lead.

Carrying the puck through the neutral zone and down the left wing wall, Reddick attacked 1-on-2 against defenseman Dave Makowski. Reddick slipped the puck through Makowski’s feet, side-stepped around him, and flipped a shot through Riley Gill to put the Steelheads in front. It wouldn’t take long to build on that lead and end Gill’s evening.

“Kruise competes hard and digs. He was rewarded tonight for competing throughout the series, but it was good for him to get that first one,” said Head Coach Neil Graham following the game.

Just 1:44 later, the Steelheads were again buzzing in the offensive zone. With a suffocating forecheck, Emil Molin forced a turnover deep in Allen ice and slid a feed to the slot for Taylor Peters. Peters, who missed most of the season’s second half due to injury, buried his first goal since November 20th to make it 2-0 Idaho. Allen coach Steve Martinson decided he had seen enough, lifting Gill for rookie goaltender Jake Hildebrand after Gill had stopped just one of the first three shots he’d faced. Things would not be easier on Hildebrand.

Working with a two-goal lead, Reddick again attacked down the left wing wall. This time, as he crossed the blue line, he flipped the puck into open space in the left wing circle. Radoslav Illo skated into the soft pass, rifling a one-timer over Hildebrand’s shoulder for a 3-0 lead just 6:36 into the game.

Every facet of the Idaho game was working on this night, including the penalty killing. The Allen power play was lethal in the series, posting a 32.0% success rate in the seven games and logging their only goal of Game 5 with the man-advantage. That lone tally on this night would not come until the game was well out of reach, in part because of a power play mistake that sent Andre Morrissette off to the races.

With just over a minute left in the first period and the Americans up a man, Chad Costello tried to send a pass out to the Idaho blue line. Morrissette used his long reach to poke the puck out to center, chased down the loose puck, and rifled a shot from the top of the right circle that beat Hildebrand’s blocker and sent the Steelheads to the locker room with a commanding 4-0 lead.

“A big part of our game plan was the start,” said Graham following the game. “I didn’t expect us to come out and score four goals in the first, but I thought the guys played extremely hard and were rewarded.”

Carson McMillan had a strong series for the Steelheads, tying for the team scoring lead with seven points. He got his only goal of the series in the second period of Game 5, however, with help from another Steelhead having a big offensive series.

Skating into the Allen zone with a power play, McMillan dropped the puck behind him, touching it off the wall to the left point and Tommy Fallen. Fallen, who had a breakout series with six points, hammered a low shot that Hildebrand tried to fight off. The Allen goaltender kicked it right back out to McMillan, who buried the rebound with 5:38 to go in the second.

The Americans would get on the board with a Greger Hanson power play goal before the period closed, but two Steelhead power play tallies in the third period would close the scoring.

First it was Fallen again, taking a feed from Joe Basaraba entering the zone and walking into open ice in the high slot. His shot ricocheted off of Morrissette standing right in front for Morrissette’s second of the game and third of the series at 7:35 of the third. Just over two minutes later, Shawn Boutin released a shot from the right point. With his back to the puck, Basaraba reached out and redirected the knee-high shot through Hildebrand to cap off the night and send the Steelheads on their way to a 7-1 win.

“We just kept putting pucks on net, and some nights are like this,” said McMillan. “Nights like tonight, they just seem to go in.”

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