BOISE — Everett Sheen said he learned during the 2017-18 season the importance of always having contingency plans for the goalie position, when the Idaho Steelheads lost both of its goaltenders to AHL call ups on the same day.
That’s why when the Idaho Steelheads lost both their goaltenders this week, the coach didn’t panic. He already had a plan in place.
“You know you’re always at risk of losing one goalie with contract stuff,” said Sheen, who was an assistant coach under Neil Graham on that fateful day in 2018. “That day I remember Grahmer and I were like ‘we always got to have two on the radar, just in case this happens.’”
Jake Kupsky was in net for the second game in a row for Idaho in Friday’s 2-1 overtime win, making 28 saves on 29 shots faced for his first ECHL win. Brett Supinski scored the overtime winner for the Steelheads.
“It was was a lot of solid play, we got our chances all night long,” said Kupsky. “It took a little extra time to get our last one, but we got it done and that’s all that matters.”
Kupsky was signed earlier this week, along with Arthur Brey, as the Steelheads found themselves suddenly in need of two goaltenders.
The duo had to replace Tomas Sholl, who came to Idaho on that fateful day in 2018 and earned a call up to the AHL’s Texas Stars this week, and Colton Point, who is day-to-day with an unspecified injury.
“It’s kind of interesting, but that’s the way hockey works,” Kupsky said about the situation. “It’s always weird bounces and you just have to take the opportunity. We’ll see what happens.”
Kupsky got his first career ECHL start in Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to Tulsa, where he made 30 saves on 30 shot attempts. He came to the team from the Pensacola Icy Flyers, where he posted an 8-1-1 record and led the SPHL with a 1.78 goals-against average at the time of his callup.
A rookie out of Union College, he was in ECHL training camp with the Fort Wayne Komets this fall, but did not begin the season with the team.
“Obviously, starting the year in the SPHL wasn’t where I wanted to start,” said Kupsky, who was a seventh-round draft pick by the San Jose Sharks in 2015. “But you just got to put it behind you, go to the rink every day and work as hard as you can. You just wait for that opportunity and I feel like I’ve been doing that.”
Brey played five games in the ECHL last season, signing with the Adirondack Thunder after completing his college career at St. Lawrence. He posted a 3-1-0 record and a 3.39 GAA.
He signed with the Birmingham Bulls during the offseason and appeared in 22 games for them before earning his call up. Brey was leading the SPHL with 637 saves on the season and had a 7-10-4 record and a 3.09 GAA.
“I just want to come in and do my best to help out,” said Brey. “Obviously, we’re in need of some goaltending right now. For me to get the call, I’m honored and it’s a privilege at the same time. I’m going to come in, do my best, do my job and hopefully give us a chance to win.”
With Sholl on an AHL contract with the Texas Stars and Point on a NHL contract with the Dallas Stars, any goaltender injury in the Dallas Stars organization has a ripple effect in Idaho. When Texas’ Landon Bow was injured earlier this week, it set those ripples in motion. Point getting injured didn’t help matters. But Idaho was ready.
“You always have a plan in place, just in case that happens,” Sheen said. “We already had two on the radar, so it wasn’t bad. I just made a couple call and got the guys we wanted.”
Sheen said he had been looking at Kupsky and Brey for about a month, watching them from afar, and getting input from some of his former teammates who are currently in Idaho.
Brey was college teammates at St. Lawrence with Steelheads defensemen Eric Sweetman and Nolan Gluchowski and also played junior hockey with forward Tony Calderone with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL. Kupsky lived in the same house as Supinski last year, during their senior season at Union. He was also teammates with Matt Ustaski — who Idaho signed last month — in Pensacola, Florida.
“I’m super excited for him, he’s played great these first two games,” Supinski said. “He’s come in with a weird shakeup of goalies this week and I think he’s done a great job. He’s positive in the room and I can’t say enough good things about him coming in here.”
Kyle Schempp got Idaho on the board with 14:32 left in the second period, poking a pass from Spencer Naas into the net for the goal.
Four minutes later the Oilers got the equalizer when Cam Knight fired one past Kupsky on a four-on-four.
The game remained tied until Supinski took a pass from Gluchowski at the top of the offensive zone, and put it in to end the game 1:34 into the overtime period.
“We really needed those two points, especially with teams coming up and catching us,” said Supinski. “We’ve struggled to defend here a little bit all year, and the fans were great tonight, they helped us out a lot. It was a gritty play to get those two (points), it was huge.”