Alaska puts Idaho's season on the brink
Boise, ID (5/7/14) - The Alaska Aces blitzed the Idaho Steelheads with four, first-period goals Wednesday night and used the early cushion to win Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals, 4-2, at CenturyLink Arena.
The Aces now lead the best-of-seven set, three games to one. Idaho faces elimination on Thursday in Game 5, which will also be played in Boise. An Idaho win would force the series back to Anchorage for Game 6 and, if necessary, Game 7 on Saturday and Sunday.
The trouble began from nearly the opening face-off for the Steelheads with Alaska drawing first blood at 6:22 as Nick Mazzolini collected a loose puck after Evan Trupp fanned on a one-timer near the hashmarks. Mazzolini skated in one stride and snapped a shot past Josh Robinson to give Alaska a 1-0 lead. The lead would grow at 12:17 of the first when a Corey Syvret point shot bounced off a body to Zach Davies, all alone at the left-wing post, for the easy rebound goal to make it 2-0. Mazzolini would add his second of the night at 16:36, unassisted, after his wrap-around attempt was blocked by Patrick Cullity. The rebound rolled back to Mazzolini near the bottom of the right-wing circle and he quickly fired it right back on net, beating Robinson to make it 3-0. Evan Trupp added a fourth marker in the first period off a centering feed from Brendan Connolly at 18:12 of the first and the Steelheads found themselves ina 4-0 hole after twenty minutes.
Head Coach Brad Ralph made the switch from Robinson to Pat Nagle for the second period as the Steelheads tried to find a spark. Alaska seemed content to dump pucks on Nagle from the outside to force Idaho to travel the length of the ice for any scoring chances. The end result was an 18-4 advantage in shot attempts, though Nagle had little trouble with most of the shots. Idaho did get on the scoreboard at the 14:45 mark when Rob Linsmayer found Gaelan Patterson streaking up the left-wing wall. Patterson spotted David deKastrozza trailing the play down the slot and delivered a perfect pass to deKastrozza's tape near the hashmarks for a wrist shot past Olivier Roy's glove, deKastrozza's team-leading sixth goal of the postseason, to make it a 4-1 game after two periods.
Idaho continued to try to fight back into the game in the third period. A five-minute major penalty was called on Alaska's Turner Elson with just over nine minutes left in regulation, giving Idaho life. But, midway through the major power play, Idaho was whistled for a slashing penalty to dilute the advantage. Undaunted, during the ensuing 4-on-4, Justin Mercier drove the net from the right-wing side and shot a back-hand shot off Roy's leg pad and out into the slot where Brett Robinson quickly banged home his third of the playoffs to make it a two-goal deficit at the 13:44 mark.
The Steelheads were unable to come any closer, allowing the Aces to take a second consecutive playoff game on Idaho's home ice to take a two-game lead in the series.
Nagle was a perfect 24-for-24 in relief of Robinson, who stopped 17 of 21, in net for Idaho. Roy got the win with 18 saves on 20 shots. Neither team scored on the power play as Idaho went 0-2 and Alaska was 0-3.
Idaho needs a win in Game 5 in Boise on Thursday to extend the series to a sixth - and possibly seventh - game. Puck drop at CenturyLink Arena on Thursday is 7:10 PM.