By Chris Langrill
The Idaho Statesman
FAIRBORN, Ohio — The Idaho Steelheads won Sunday night, but you wouldn’t have known it by talking to them after the game.
A long road trip and some late-game altercations will do that to a hockey team.
Still, the Steelheads will wake up today knowing that they defeated the Dayton Bombers 4-2 in front of 4,447 fans at the Nutter Center and they have a 2-1 lead in the Kelly Cup Finals.
Steelheads captain Marty Flichel (pictured) scored twice in the win, but he was also charged with a game misconduct with .5 seconds left on the clock for responding to a hit by a Bombers player with a cross-check.
He was one of five players who drew penalties in the last 8 seconds of the contest.
“They’re trying to set the tempo for Game 4, I guess, and we fell into it,” Flichel said.
Then he was interrupted by veteran teammate Darrell Hay.
“OK, I fell into it,” Flichel said. “You’ve got to be able to take a shot in the playoffs, and being one of the older guys, I should do that.”
Idaho’s victory means that if the Steelheads don’t win Game 4 (Tuesday in Dayton) and Game 5 (Thursday in Dayton), the series will return to Qwest Arena on Saturday night for Game 6.
“We got the win we needed,” Hay said. “It pushes the series back to Boise (if necessary) and now we’re looking for another, and we’ll go from there.”
The start of Sunday’s Game 3 looked eerily similar to Game 1, which Dayton won 2-1. The Bombers like to play a slower, deliberate game and that was how Sunday’s contest started. More than halfway through the first period, Idaho had just three shots on goal and Dayton had two.
But Idaho veteran Scott Burt started to turn the tide with the first of three second-period goals 2 minutes, 52 seconds into the frame.
The score was 3-0 after Greg Rallo tipped in a shot by Flichel. Not only that, but Idaho was outshooting Dayton 27-12 at that point, a clear indication that the style of the game had turned in the Steelheads’ favor.
“We didn’t have our legs in the first 12 minutes,” Steelheads coach Derek Laxdal said, noting a long travel day that included a late bus ride from Cincinnati on Saturday. “But from that point on I thought we carried the game.”
Dayton cut Idaho’s lead to 3-1 early in the third period on Paul Kelly‘s ninth score of the playoffs, but Flichel answered with help from Galbraith and Nesbitt to make it 4-1.
Petr Pohl scored another goal for Dayton with a little more than 6 minutes left in the game to make it 4-2, but that goal was inconsequential.
The extracurricular activity at the end of the game might have some consequences, but the Steelheads were hoping after the game that Flichel’s penalty wouldn’t result in any more action from the league.
“At that point, we just want to get off the ice,” Hay said. “This time of year the frustration level can be very high and things can get blown out of proportion very quickly.
“There’s no quit in that team over there,” he said. “They’re going to keep coming.”