By Chris Langrill
The Idaho Statesman
BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Steelheads center Greg Rallo was the poster child for positive thinking Friday.
“I felt great all day,” he said.
Before the night was over, he felt even better. His hat trick propelled the Steelheads to a 5-2 win over the Dayton Bombers in Game 2 of the Kelly Cup Finals at Qwest Arena. The win evened the series 1-1.
Even he couldn’t have dreamed up a day like that.
“I rolled out of bed and thought it was going to be a good day,” Rallo said. “I don’t know about the hat trick.”
Rallo’s three goals helped swing the momentum in Idaho’s favor as the series shifts to Dayton, Ohio, for Games 3 (Sunday), 4 (Tuesday) and 5 (Thursday). If necessary, Game 6 would be played at Qwest Arena next Saturday.
“They came in and beat us in Game 1,” Steelheads captain Marty Flichel said. “We battled back and played a good game in Game 2 and now we just want to carry that into Game 3.”
From the drop of the puck, Friday’s contest looked a lot different than Game 1, a 2-1 Idaho loss.
After putting just seven shots on goal in the first period of Game 1, the Steelheads picked up the pace against the defensive-minded Bombers on Friday night.
“We kind of played into their hands in Game 1,” Flichel said. “We ran into their trap.”
The Steelheads set the tempo in Game 2.
About halfway through the first period, Idaho forward B.J. Crombeen charged the net and flipped the puck to Rallo at the last second. Rallo had managed to get ahead of his defender and sent the puck into an open net for a 1-0 lead.
Idaho was given a bit of a gift with 4:14 left in the period when rookie defenseman Kory Scoran skated down the left side of the ice and put a shot on goal from near the blue line. Dayton goalie Adam Berkhoel went to stop the puck with his glove and whiffed, just like a shortstop missing a baseball. It was not the kind of goal you’d expect to see from the ECHL goaltender of the year, but it was one that Idaho was certainly happy to have, along with its 2-0 lead.
Less than 2 minutes later, Idaho went up 3-0 as Rallo notched his second score, power-play goal that finished off the Steelheads’ first-period barrage.
The Steelheads said after their Game 1 loss that they needed to get more traffic in front of Berkhoel and take more shots.
They certainly achieved that goal in the first period, finishing with 15 shots — and a 3-0 lead.
“Shots and going to the net, that’s what has worked for us all year,” Rallo said. “If we get shots and we get in on the forecheck and we get in front of the goalies, we’re going to win.”
But the third period was all Idaho, as the Steelheads scored two more goals to put it away.
Rallo got his hat trick 5:45 into the final frame when a bouncing puck settled in front of the goal with Berkhoel sprawled on the ice. Rallo was in the right place at the right time and his easy shot put Idaho up 4-2.
Idaho outshot Dayton 43-26 and improved to 6-0 in the playoffs after a loss and 4-0 in Game 2s.
They go to Dayton with a 6-2 record on the road in the postseason.
“Hopefully we can build off this,” Steelheads coach Derek Laxdal said. “We need to take this momentum into Dayton. It’s going to be a tough place to win, but we’ve got to go on the road now.”