BOISE — Adam Scheel isn’t about personal accolades.
The Idaho Steelheads goalie says he doesn’t focus on stats or streak. He doesn’t worry about the history he may be making along the way. All he cares about is getting the win.
But when the netminder is perfect, you’re practically guaranteed a win.
Scheel stopped all 33 shots he faced Sunday in Idaho’s 3-0 win against the Toledo Walleye in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, giving the Steelheads a 2-0 lead in the series. He became the first goaltender in ECHL history to post three consecutive postseason shutouts in net, and even Scheel has to admit that he’s playing some of the best hockey of his career.
“No, not like this,” Scheel said when asked if he’s had a streak like this before. “But I’ve said this before, it’s not about personal stats right now, it’s about wins and losses. I’m just happy we came out with the win tonight.”
When the Steelheads take the ice for Game 3 of the best-of-seven series Wednesday in Toledo, Ohio, Scheel will come in having saved the last 100 shots he’s faced, dating back to Game 4 of the Mountain Division Finals against Allen. Since letting up a goal late in the third period of the 9-3 Game 4 win, Scheel has gone 185 minutes, 24 seconds without letting another one in.
If he can go 14:36 into Game 3 without letting one in, Scheel will break the ECHL playoff record for longest shutout streak, currently held by Travis Scott of the Mississippi Sea Wolves in 1999.
“The past few games, I’ve seen the puck pretty well, that’s a credit to my teammates,” said Scheel. “They’re boxing out and not giving up a lot of Grade A chances. They’re coming back and bailing me out a couple of times. There were a couple big blocks, a couple huge efforts by our guys. I’m truly proud of the group.”
As a team, Idaho has been able to take Toledo completely out of their game and control the the pace of play early in the series. The Walleye came into Boise undefeated in the postseason, having swept their first two rounds against Indy and Cincinnati. The defending Western Conference champions scored 39 goals in their first eight games of the postseason, an average of 4.9 per game.
They’ve now gone two straight against Idaho without getting one in.
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“We’re doing a good job of tracking them all the way into their zone,” said Idaho coach Everett Sheen. “We’re shutting down their chances and suffocating their transitions and being really hard in the D zone. They’re still getting their chances, they’re a very talented hockey team. We just got to make sure we’re limiting those.”
Offensively, Idaho put up 38 shots on Idaho goalie John Lethemon, who was getting his first action of the series. The Walleye have been switching between Lethemon and Sebastian Cossa, who started Game 1, throughout the postseason. Idaho scored on Lethemon in every period Sunday.
Wade Murphy got the first one, coming out of the penalty box late in the first period and receiving a cross-ice pass from Jade Miller for a breakaway. Murphy’s first shot was blocked by Lethemon, but he picked up his own rebound in the trapezoid behind the net, skated back out front and fired it in for his 10th goal of the postseason.
“On the breakaway, I was kind of upset I didn’t score,” said Murphy. “So, I came around, tried to put it on net and fortunately it went in.”
Justin Ducharme made it 2-0 late in the second period, taking a pass from Ryan Dmowski in front of the net and making a move to beat Lethemon with a backhand shot. Colton Kehler made it 3-0 in the third, grabbing a rebound of a Ty Pelton-Byce shot and putting it back in net.
Outside of that, it was all Scheel, who made save after save to preserve the shutout. Often times, he had to react quickly to make multiple stops in a row, but he kept a cool head through it all.
“He’s the backbone of this team and we know what he’s got,” said Murphy. “His talent level is so high and it’s the perfect time to play well. We’re very fortunate to have that guy in our place.”
The series now shifts to Toledo for the next three games, if it gets that far. Having won both games at home, the Steelheads have the opportunity to close it out on the road.
At the very least, they know they will be returning to Idaho Central Arena, either for Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals or Game 1 of the Kelly Cup Finals.
“We just got to stick to our game plan,” said Scheel. “We know how to be successful, and we know what works for us. It’s just sticking to our identity.”