The Thunder lead the best-of-seven series, one game to none, with Game 2 coming up Sunday in Boise. The winner of the series will represent the Western Conference in the ECHL Kelly Cup finals against either the Reading Royals or Cincinnati Cyclones.
Idaho had chance upon chance in the early going against Roy and the Thunder, but could not solve the Stockton netminder. Meanwhile, the Idaho defense kept the Stockton forwards away from Robinson for most of the first period.
The Thunder would score first early in the second period on Andrew Clark's back-hander through a screen from the left circle at 4:03 of the frame. The perfectly-placed shot just got past an outstretched Robinson at the far post to put Stockton up, 1-0. Stockton nearly doubled the lead in the closing minutes of the second on a two-on-one rush, but Robinson robbed Shawn Weller at the left post with the leg pad to keep Idaho within a goal.
Idaho didn't wait long to tie things up in the third. Off the opening draw of the period, Idaho dumped the puck into the Thunder zone. A loose puck found its way to Brett Robinson, who found David deKastrozza all alone in the slot for a quick snap past Roy's glove just 14 seconds into the third period to tie the game at 1-1. The goal was deKastrozza's third of the postseason.
Stockton thought it re-took the lead just 46 seconds later when a Weller shot banged straight down off the crossbar but, after a lengthy conversation between on-ice officials and the goal judge behind the net, it was ruled that Jace Coyle was able to scoop the puck off the goal line before it completely crossed the line to keep the game tied at 1-1. Roy came up with a couple of big saves in the middle stages of the third to keep the game tied before Stockton re-took the lead at 13:18 of the third when Maxime Boisclair banged a puck out of mid-air into the net to make it 2-1.
The Steelheads came with more pressure over the final six minutes, coming inches away from tying the game on a back-door pass from Gord Baldwin to Robinson with less than two minutes left in regulation. Robinson's redirection missed the net by the slimmest of margins, allowing Stockton to jump-start a rush the other way. Stockton's Ryan Hayes fought through contact with Baldwin to sneak a shot past Robinson at 18:33 of the third to give Stockton a crucial insurance goal, securing the win.
Roy was outstanding in the win for Stockton while Robinson was solid despite taking the loss for Idaho. He stopped 19 of 22 in defeat. Neither team scored on the power play in a crisply, cleanly-played game. Idaho was 0-1 on the power play while Stockton was 0-2.
Idaho and Stockton will meet again for Game 2 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday at 5:10 PM at CenturyLink Arena in Boise. Tickets are available online at www.idahosteelheads.com or by calling 208-331-8497.
COORS OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME - David deKastrozza
CENTURYLINK THREE STARS:
1) Olivier Roy (STK)
2) Maxime Boisclair (STK)
3) David deKastrozza (ID)