BOISE — This time the Idaho Steelheads didn’t have to wait until the third period to solve Adam Carlson.
Two nights after Idaho’s late push on the Rapid City Rush goaltender came up short, the Steelheads figured out a way to put three goals past Carlson in the second period, and Steve McParland and Henrik Samuelson added goals in the shootout, as Idaho took a 4-3 win on Friday at CenturyLink Arena.
The win gives Idaho a three-point lead on second-place Tulsa, which lost 3-1 to the Wichita Thunder Friday, in the Mountain Division standings. Idaho has four games left in the regular season, including tonight’s series finale against the Rush, while Tulsa has six games left.
“Playoffs is always a time to raise our intensity,” said Samuelson, who secured the win in the shootout with his goal in the third round. “So throughout this next week I think we’re going to keep building on that and mentally prepare for the playoffs.”
Rapid City, which came into this week trying to rally for a playoff spot, beat Idaho 5-3 in the series opener on Wednesday. Carlson stopped 45 of 48 shots he faced in that game, with Idaho scoring a pair of goals in the third period.
On Friday, he stopped 36 of 39 before the shootout, with all three goals he allowed coming within a 12-minute span during the second period.
“We have to play the same way, and keep putting pucks on net and getting those rebounds,” said Ondrej Vala, who had Idaho’s second goal of the game. “It’s going to be really important for us in the future getting those dirty goals. It’s tough to get them. So we just have to put them on the goal and go hard to the net.”
Rapid City picked up an overtime point in the standings and sits four points behind the Kansas City Mavericks, who lost their seventh straight game Friday, for the fourth and final playoff spot from the Mountain Division.
“It’s a good learning opportunity for us to see those through, especially when you’re playing a team under that desperation,” said Idaho coach Neil Graham. “It’s the same desperation you’re going to see night out and night in in the playoffs. So it’s a good lesson to learn for our group.”
Rapid City carried the momentum over from Wednesday, as Tyler Poulsen fired a shot in four minutes into the game to put the Rush ahead 1-0.
Idaho put 11 shots on Carlson in the first period, but the Rapid City goaltender turned aside every one of them. It didn’t take the Steelheads long to put one past him in the second period.
Spencer Naas tied the game at 1-1 42 seconds into the second period, after finding himself on a 2-on-1 along with Elgin Pierce. Pierce but the first shot on net and the bounce off Rapid City goaltender Adam Carlson went straight to the stick of Naas, who had a clear shot into the net.
After Vala’s goal six minutes into the second, Idaho extended the lead to 3-1 with 7:54 left in the period. Pierce put a shot on net from the corner and the puck took a weird bounce to go past Carlson.
“We collapsed their D-zone a few times and got some real good looks,” said Graham. “You just got to stay with it. When you got a good goalie, you got to stay the course with the plan. You’re going to see good goalies every night in the playoffs.”
Cedric Montminy, who had two goals for Rapid City on Wednesday added his third goal of the series early in the third period and Rapid City tied the game with just more than two minutes left in regulation on a Dylan Quaile goal.
But Idaho goalkeeper Tomas Sholl stood strong the rest of the way, making three saves in overtime, then stopping shootout shots by Alex Rauter and Montminy before Samuelson gave the Steelheads a 2-0 win in the shootout with his goal.
“He’s a big part of this team, Sholly,” said Samuelson. “He makes saves that he shouldn’t, which is huge as a goalie. We’re definitely going to need him here down the stretch.”