Idaho won a hard-fought semifinal series over the Reign, four games to two, to reach the conference finals for the fourth time in the ECHL.
Ontario, needing a win to force Game 7, came out bursting with energy early and it resulted in a 1-0 lead when Kyle Kraemer knocked home his own rebound at 3:36 of the first period. The Steelheads tied it up at 12:18 of the first when a faceoff win led to a David deKastrozza shot over the shoulder of J. F. Berube, knotting the score at a goal apiece. Ontario quickly regained the lead on an Everett Sheen shot from the left circle at 14:33 of the first as the Reign and its home crowd buzzed with energy.
Moments later, Ontario took a penalty to put Idaho on the power play. The Steelheads, one for 16 on the man-advantage to that point in the series, didn't wait long to capitalize. Seconds into the power play, Brett Robinson intercepted a clearing attempt in the slot just above the hashmarks and ripped it home at 15:29 to thwart Ontario's momentum and tie the game, 2-2, after one period.
Idaho took control with a strong second period, despite getting just six shots on net in the frame. The Steelheads would take the lead on a tough shot from the bottom of the left circle from Justin Taylor at 6:08 of the second to give Idaho a 3-2 lead. The Steelheads doubled the advantage at 14:38 of the period when Tyler Gron's pass from the right-wing wall found Austin Fyten in some open space. Fyten patiently cut across the top of the crease, waiting for Berube to commit, before snapping a shot over his leg pad to push Idaho's lead to 4-2.
The Steelheads nearly extended the lead on multiple occasions in the third period, but were unable to get the puck in the net. That opened the door for an Ontario rally as Jake Hauswirth, a former Steelhead, scored from the slot at 13:55 to cut Idaho's lead to 4-3. Then, in the final minute, with Ontario in desperation mode, Justin Taylor delivered a puck ahead to Robinson, who out-raced two Reign defenders to the loose puck for an empty-net goal with 30 seconds to play to seal the victory.
Josh Robinson got the win for Idaho, stopping 31 of 34 shots. Berube took the loss, surrendering four goals on 18 shots for Ontario. Idaho's power play was 1/4 while the penalty-kill unit was a perfect three-for-three.
The Steelheads will host Game 1 of the ECHL Western Conference finals at CenturyLink Arena on Friday against either the Alaska Aces or Stockton Thunder. A full schedule and ticketing information will be released soon by Idaho and the ECHL.
COORS OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME - Brett Robinson
CENTURYLINK THREE STARS:
1) Josh Robinson (ID)
2) Brett Robinson (ID)
3) David deKastrozza (ID)