Season over: Steelheads lose playoff series to Alaska
Boise, ID (5/8/14) - Gerald Coleman made 26 saves, including three in the final moments against a desperate final push from the Idaho Steelheads as the Alaska Aces moved on to the ECHL Western Conference finals with a 2-1 victory.
Alaska took the best-of-seven series, four games to one, and now lead the all-time playoff series battle between the two, three series victories to two.
With its collective back against the wall, facing elimination, Idaho came out with its best effort since Game 1. Neither team scored in the first thanks to two strong penalty kills from Idaho as goaltender Josh Robinson denied all ten shots he faced in the opening stanza.
The Steelheads came out with jump to start the second frame thanks to some carry-over power play time. Idaho didn't convert on the power play itself but was rewarded at 2:20 of the second when William Rapuzzi threaded a pass from the right-wing wall back-door to Brett Robinson for his fourth goal of the postseason to put Idaho on top, 1-0. Charlie Dodero also picked up an assist on the goal that put Idaho on top. Despite controlling the second period, Idaho saw its lead disappear on a hard-working shift from the Aces as Brett Findlay kept a puck alive near the goal mouth to Alex Belzile, who poked home his second of the postseason at 9:57 to tie the score.
With the score tied at one to open the third, Idaho had just finished killing off an Alaska power play when a terrible break for Idaho put the visitors on top. An Aces cross-ice pass whizzed through the crease with a player open back-door for a possible goal. In good position, defenseman Russ Sinkewich reached out to deflect the pass but the deflection hopped into the net for the go-ahead goal. The goal was credited to Brendan Connolly at the 29-second mark of the third period. The Aces would clang a couple crossbars and Idaho would just miss picking a couple corners as the period wore on, grinding things down to the final minute with Idaho still down a goal.
The Steelheads worked relentlessly over the final 60 seconds to get pucks to the front of the net with traffic, but Coleman answered every challenge to keep Idaho at bay and securing the win for Alaska. The Aces will meet the winner of the other ECHL Western Conference semifinal, either Bakersfield or Stockton, for the ECHL Western Conference title beginning next week.
Josh Robinson turned in a strong, bounce-back performance in net for Idaho one night after being pulled after the first period, saving 30 of 32 Aces shots. For the post-season, Robinson had a .943 save percentage in nine appearances. Coleman was also outstanding in net for Alaska with 26 saves on 27 shots. Neither team would score on the power play, Idaho coming up empty on its only attempt while the team's penalty-kill unit was a perfect three for three.
The crowd of 2,000 fans pushed Idaho over 15,700 for the postseason, bringing the team's cumulative total to 159,643 fans inside CenturyLink Arena to watch Steelheads hockey this season.