By Chadd Cripe
The Idaho Statesman
BOISE, Idaho – The goaltenders will be in the spotlight this week as the Idaho Steelheads open their Kelly Cup defense against the Long Beach Ice Dogs.
The best-of-five, first-round series begins Wednesday in El Segundo, Calif.
Idaho goalie Frank Doyle (pictured) was named to the ECHL All-Rookie Team, and he owns a 1.49 goals-against average in seven appearances against the Ice Dogs.
Long Beach goalie Sebastien Centomo rescued the Ice Dogs after the league’s best goalie, Chris Madden, went to the American Hockey League. Centomo was stingy against Idaho this season as a member of the Las Vegas Wranglers.
“(The Ice Dogs) are a well-coached team, they’re defensive-minded and they have great goaltending,” Idaho coach John Olver said. “I know it will be a great series, and I know one of the keys to having success in this series is finding an answer for Centomo.”
Long Beach finished second in the West Division and might have won the title if Madden had stayed. The Ice Dogs are 25-6-3 with Madden or Centomo in goal.
They are 18-14-6 with backup Olivier Michaud.
The Dogs rank 21st in the league in shots allowed, but fifth in goals allowed. The Steelheads, conversely, rank first in shots allowed but sixth in goals allowed.
“They definitely have been a team that has relied on goaltending,” Olver said.
Long Beach coach Malcolm Cameron made a shrewd move last month to make sure he could count on goaltending in the playoffs. Madden hadn’t played for the Dogs since Feb. 12, and was expected to stick with Providence of the AHL the rest of the season.
He also had indicated that he would not return to the ECHL next year, Cameron said.
So Cameron traded Madden’s rights to Las Vegas for Centomo, whom Cameron judged the best available goalie.
Las Vegas traded Madden’s rights to Florida, but the Everblades left him off their playoff roster.
Centomo is 6-1-1 since joining the Ice Dogs. The team was 1-4-3 in the previous eight games — and at risk of missing the playoffs.
Now the Dogs, like the Steelheads, are among the hottest teams in the league. Long Beach closed with an 8-2-1 stretch.
Idaho, which finished third in the West, and Long Beach own almost identical league rankings in everything from special teams to scoring.
“It should be an awful lot of fun,” Cameron said. “… We know Idaho’s the champs, and they’re the champs till someone says they’re not.”