Statement Win for Steelheads
Boise, ID - Rob Linsmayer scored twice and the Idaho Steelheads (38-23-10) put forth a stifling defensive effort as they took their first ever meeting with the ECHL's top-ranked Missouri Mavericks (51-15-4), 4-2 in front of 4,510 fans at CenturyLink Arena. With the win, the Steelheads took back first place in the West Division and can still finish as high as second in the Western Conference.
Missouri goaltender Josh Robinson was returned to the Mavericks on Friday morning from AHL Stockton and was thrown right into action. Robinson is the ECHL's leader in wins, goals-against average, and save percentage, but the Steelheads went right after him with 39 shots and became just the fourth team this season to score four or more goals against him and just the second team to hand him a regulation loss.
In a physical, hard-charging game, the Steelheads got on the board first. Tommy Fallen got the offense moving with a wrist shot from the left point that ricocheted off a leg in front of the Missouri net and caromed right to Kyle Jean in the right circle. Jean hammered in his second goal in two games and his 15th of the season to give Idaho a 1-0 lead at 2:23 of the first.
After Missouri defenseman Bryce Aneloski crept down from the left point at 7:55 of the period to tie the game, the Steelheads went to work with their forecheck. With 4:18 to go in the first, the Mavericks failed twice to clear the puck out of the zone. On the second effort, Kruise Reddick collected a clearing attempt and flung it towards the net. Linsmayer was parked in front and deflected the puck through his legs and over Robinson's shoulder for a 2-1 lead and his 20th of the season.
The Steelheads nearly made it 3-1 on the very next shift, when Andre Morrissette was pulled down on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot. Robinson made the save with the right pad to send the teams to the locker room one goal apart. Idaho is 0-for-3 this year on penalty shots.
It wouldn't take long for Idaho to make it a 3-1 game, with Linsmayer again going to the front of the net at 3:56 of the second. After Emil Molin and Linsmayer forced a turnover in the right wing corner, Fallen moved down from the right point. Collecting the puck off the wall, Fallen spun away from traffic on the boards and fired on net, with Linsmayer cleaning up the rebound for his 21st goal and fourth multi-goal game of the season.
Just 1:43 later, Andre Morrissette fired a wrister from the left wing on a 2-on-1 rush through the legs of Robinson for a 4-1 Steelheads lead, his 14th of the season. The Mavericks would answer before the end of the period with a shorthanded rebound goal by Rocco Carzo, but that's as close as they would get.
Philippe Desrosiers made 15 saves on the evening for his 15th win of the year. Desrosiers is 12-0-4 in his last 16 starts.
His best work may have come at the end of the second period, with the Steelheads killing a penalty. A mad scramble at the front of the Idaho net left several opportunities for Darren Nowick and Andrew Courtney, whose 12 power play goals on the season are tied for second in the league. Desrosiers kept the puck out and got the Steelheads to intermission. Idaho would surrender just five shots in the final period.
The Steelheads got significant help around the league as well, with Fort Wayne, Allen, Utah, and Colorado all losing. Heading into the final game of the regular season, the Steelheads lead the West and are one point behind the Komets and Americans. A win or an overtime loss Saturday would clinch the West Division and home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Idaho is guaranteed to finish no worse than fifth.
The Steelheads and Mavericks wrap up the regular season Saturday at CenturyLink Arena. Saturday is also the final night of the Steelheads Booster Club jersey auction. Puck-drop is scheduled for 7:10pm MT, with the game available on ECHLTV and 1350KTIK.
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