There really wasn’t a building in the ECHL where Steelheads goaltender Philippe Desrosiers didn’t feel dominant during the second half of last season. In fact, Desrosiers had a run of success not seen in Idaho during the ECHL era, going 16 consecutive appearances without a regulation loss. That 12-0-4 stretch was the longest unbeaten streak of any Steelheads goaltender since the team joined the league.
Yet there was something about the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center that brought out a bit more in Desrosiers, with the rookie goaltender earning his first professional shutout in Rapid City against the Rush on March 12th. Desrosiers then repeated the feat in the same building less than a month later, this time under much more pressure.
After falling the previous night to the Rush, Desrosiers’ first career shutout got the Steelheads back on track, supported by goals from Radoslav Illo, Rob Linsmayer, and Carson McMillan in a 3-0 win. Desrosiers didn’t see a ton of action that night, stopping 22 shots, but he was a critical component of a solid penalty killing night in which the Steelheads went 5-for 5.
On April 5th the Steelheads were back in the Black Hills for their final road game of the regular season, still battling in a neck-and-neck race for the West Division crown with the Utah Grizzlies and Colorado Eagles, while the Rush looked to play spoiler. Desrosiers would be back in net with a much slimmer margin for error, and he rose to the occasion.
Kyle Jean’s power play goal midway through the second period on a shot from the high slot gave the Steelheads a 1-0 lead. That was the lone marker in an intense goaltending duel between the Idaho rookie and veteran Danny Battochio in the Rapid City cage. At the end of two periods Desrosiers had 19 saves to Battochio’s 16, but Desrosiers’ toughest work was yet to come.
The Rush came out in the third period and threw everything at the Steelhead net, totaling 19 shots in the final frame. Desrosiers stopped them all, with limited prime opportunities for the Rush despite their heavy shot total.
Desrosiers’ rebound control was on point, steering dangerous shots away from the likes of Ryan Walters and Lindsay Sparks who were storming the Idaho net. It was an aspect of Desorsiers’ game that improved greatly as the season progressed, and his positioning was on full display as he marched towards pro shutout number two.
With 56 seconds remaining, McMillan would solidify the win for Idaho with an empty-net goal. That tally was set-up by a terrific defensive play by Andrew Carroll, stepping up to force a turnover just inside the Idaho blue line and turning the play back up the ice for McMillan.
McMillan, like Desrosiers, saved some of his most impressive statistical nights for the Rush. The Steelheads’ captain finished the season with eight goals and 13 points against Rapid City.
With the win, the Steelheads grabbed sole possession of first place in the division. Desrosiers unbeaten streak would survive for one more win over Missouri, before ending on the final day of the season on April 9th. Should Desrosiers ever take the ice in Rapid City again, he should feel right at home in the blue paint where he’s stopped his last 58 shots in a row.