BOISE — On Tuesday, the Idaho Steelheads got everything but the goals.
They got those goals on Wednesday, and so much more.
Idaho scored three times in the first period and goaltender Tomas Sholl had a big third period, as Idaho staved off elimination and beat the Tulsa Oilers 4-2 in Game 4 of the Mountain Division Finals.
“We knew it was do or die, and we have too good of a group, too tight of a group, to end of on that kind of note,” said Reid Petryk, who had a goal and assist for Idaho. “We knew we had to come play our best game and I think we did that.”
Idaho avoided being swept by the Oilers and pushed its season to a Game 5, which will take place Friday night back at CenturyLink Arena.
“The momentum is more, for us, shift-to-shift at this point,” said Steelheads coach Neil Graham. “Then you hope for period-to-period, then you hope for game-to-game. Right now, it’s going to be another 0-0, clean slate, 60 minutes of hockey. We need to be prepared, we need to be focused on winning each period at a time.”
One night after Tulsa goaltender Devin Williams stopped 36 shots in a 1-0 victory, Idaho got on the board on its fifth shot of the game. A.J. White took a rebound off a Kale Kessy shot and put it back into the net to get the Steelheads on the board two minutes into the game.
The Steelheads got the first nine shots of the game before Stephen Perfetto, who scored the only goal on Tuesday night, got a shot on a breakaway that was stuffed by Sholl. Perfetto used his hand to swat the puck into the net, but it was immediately called a no-goal by the ref.
A couple minutes later, Kessy picked up a turnover in the Tulsa zone, and passed it to Petryk, who fired in a slap shot to give Idaho a 2-0 lead.
It was Idaho’s first two-goal lead of the postseason. Just 27 seconds later, Steve McParland made it a three-goal lead firing in the puck in a crowded scrum in front of Williams.
“That’s how you draw it up right there,” McParland said about the start. “We wanted to come out and get pucks to the net. We had 15 shots to the net in the first. We were looking to do that, and that’s what we did. We executed our game plan and we hope to bring that into Friday.”
It was actually 18 shots for the Steelheads, who outshot the Oilers 18-5 in the first period.
“We didn’t want to deviate too much, we wanted to work on a few things and I think we did a good job of execution in a few areas,” said Graham. At the end of the day, we said yesterday was a stepping stone and today was a push in the right direction.”
Tulsa got a goal back on a 5-on-3 power play midway through the second period.
Mitch Moroz extended Idaho’s lead to 4-1 in the third period when he scored on a one-on-one opportunity against Williams. Tulsa got a goal back almost right away, but Sholl was otherwise unbeatable in the final period as he stopped 20 of 21 shots he faced over the final 20 minutes and finished the game with 33 saves on 35 shots.
Perhaps nowhere was he bigger than in the final couple of minutes, when Tulsa was on a two-man power play and pulled Williams for an extra skater, in effect creating a 6-on-3 advantage.
White, Kessy and Charlie Dodero killed off Idaho’s first penalty and McParland raced down to the defensive end to give Idaho a fourth skater and help the Steelheads run out the final 40 seconds of the game.
“You just see a lot of guys and a lot of puck movement and you hope they make a mistake or you block a shot and the puck bounces out,” said White. “That’s all there is to that.
“We have a system that we try to run, but obviously you don’t see too many 6-on-3’s. So you just try to take away as many passing lanes as you can and hope that the shot they do take is not a high percentage shot.”
Idaho will look to extend its season even further in Game 5 on Friday. Idaho is looking to rally from a 3-0 series deficit for the second season in a row. Idaho won four straight last year in the Mountain Division semifinals after dropping the first three games of the series to Allen. Idaho was the first team in ECHL history to win a series after being behind 3-0.
Idaho also won four straight games in its first round series against Utah this year, after dropping Game 1 7-1.