BOISE — Good things are apparently coming in threes for the Idaho Steelheads.
On Wednesday it was three goals in the first period that helped lift the Idaho Steelheads to their first win of the Mountain Division Finals. On Friday it was three goals in the third period that gave Idaho a 3-1 win against the Tulsa Oilers in Game 5 of the series.
Reid Petryk, A.J. White and Nolan Gluchowski each scored in the final frame after 44 minutes of scoreless hockey, as the Steelheads continued their climb back into the series after dropping the first three.
“We knew they were going to bring their all and I thought we did the same,” said Petryk, who broke the scoreless tie early in the third and then assisted on White’s goal, which ended up being the game winner. “Third period we got after the first one and that’s huge. Then we just kept going.”
Game 6 in the best-of-seven series is Sunday in Tulsa with the Oilers leading 3-2. Idaho will be looking to win a series it trailed 3-0 for the second year in a row after the Steelheads did so in the first round last year against Allen.
If the Steelheads win Sunday, Game 7 will be Monday in Tulsa.
“It’s just about the next day, we just want to earn our next day,” said Idaho coach Neil Graham. “Right now we earned an opportunity to travel, we earned an opportunity to go on the road. We’re excited about that, and we’ll try to earn another day.”
Tomas Sholl made 34 saves on 35 shots to help secure the victory.
Both Sholl and Tulsa goaltender Devin Williams stole the show through the first two periods as the pair combined to stop all 45 saves they faced in the first 40 minutes of the game.
Idaho got a huge 5-on-3 penalty kill late in the second period. With Nolan Gluchowski and Ondrej Vala both in the penalty box, Idaho played roughly 30 seconds of the two-man advantage and then the remaining 1:30 on the Vala tripping penalty to keep the game scoreless.
“We had to get a big stand,” said Graham. “We went over our 5-on-3 today because we had three 5-on-3’s on Wednesday. We made a big stand and that was important for us.”
Idaho had a flurry of opportunities to score with a minute left in the second, including a Henrik Samuelsson redirection of a Colton Saucerman shot, which got past Tulsa goaltender Devin Williams, but went wide of the net.
The flood gates opened in the third.
“We kind of fell off a little bit in the second,” said White. “They kind of took the play to us, and that’s why we took those penalties, I think. The penalty kill definitely energized our bench as a whole and then those last two and a half minutes we had a lot of Grade A chances, and everyone fed off of that. Our locker room was really energetic and we’re playing for our lives here, so it was really easy to be motivated to come out in the third period.”
Petryk broke the tie a little more than four minutes into the third period, taking a pass from White on the right side of the net and firing it past Williams to break the scoreless tie.
The Steelheads didn’t let off the pedal after getting the lead. Petryk returned the favor to White with 11:27 left in regulation, finding the Steelheads captain open on Williams’ glove side. White put the puck past Williams to extend Idaho’s lead to 2-0.
It was the fourth time in the past two games the White-Petryk-Kale Kessy line had scored.
“I think our line’s getting some good chemistry together right now,” said Petryk. “My goal, it was a nice play by Whitey. He hit me with speed, the defender was flat footed and I went around him and shot it top glove. The other we were just cycling, we had a good cycle going, and I heard Whitey calling for it back door, so I just kind of threw it there and luckily hit him.”
Seventeen seconds later, Gluchowksi beat Williams from the blue line and extended the lead to 3-0.
“The big key for us is scoring first, it changes their game plan,” said White. “They like to slow down the pace of play and play a little trap. So if we score first, it changes their game plan and we’re able to play more of our game plan and we’re able to play more of our game plan, which is to play on our toes fast and get pucks deep.”
A Scott Henegar shot trickled by Sholl to cut the lead to 3-1 with just under eight minutes to go, but any momentum the Oilers might have got from that was negated in the aftermath of the goal. While Tulsa players were celebrating, Mike McKee cross checked an Idaho player and was assessed a two minute penalty.
Idaho has now staved off elimination two games in a row and will look to get two more wins in Tulsa. If the Steelheads get those, they will advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2013 to face either Toledo or Cincinnati. Toledo has a 3-1 series lead in the Central Division Finals.
“Every game, we play like it’s a Game 7,” said Petryk. “It’s a do or die (situation). I know for a fact none of us want to go home right now, so we bring our A game every game and I think we’ll be fine.”