Grueling Cup Run Forges Lifelong Bonds

By Brian Murphy
The Idaho Statesman

Check out the picture. It’s one of sport’s greatest moments. A team, the entire team, gathers one last time after a championship performance.

And it occurs only in hockey, where winning a Cup, be it Kelly or Stanley or one of the dozens of others awarded at various levels, requires a grueling, punishing playoff run.

The process forges lifelong bonds and links those men forever, their names etched together on a Cup.

It’s a team photo. There’s no way to tell who was the MVP or the leading scorer or the last man on the bench. The smiles betray not a hint of selfishness.

The Idaho Steelheads, who captured the 2007 ECHL Kelly Cup championship with a dominant 4-1 victory against Dayton in Game 5 Thursday night, embodied that spirit throughout their glorious title chase.

Nine different players scored game-winning goals in the 16 playoff victories. Eighteen players among the team’s 23-man playoff roster contributed at least one point.

Goalie Steve Silverthorn, the playoff MVP, unquestionably stood out during the seven-week playoff grind. But in front of him, the Steelheads found a spark from everyone.

“You don’t see teams go very far when they count on one guy or one line. We had a bunch of guys step up and score some big goals,” Silverthorn said. “It makes it a lot easier on the rest of the team and makes it much tougher on the opponent.”

Who expected a rookie defenseman with just two regular-season goals to score one of the Finals’ biggest?

Kory Scoran scored two goals in 67 regular-season games. But his double-overtime game-winner in Game 4 of the Kelly Cup gave the Steelheads a commanding 3-1 series lead — and all but ended the finals. It was Scoran’s third playoff goal.

“It wasn’t one guy. It was every single guy on this team coming together as one,” Steelheads’ veteran winger Scott Burt said. “We had guys rise to the occasion every single night.”

Burt had his occasion.

He scored a short-handed game-winner — and series-clincher — in the National Conference Finals against Alaska.

Greg Rallo, who returned from the Steelheads’ AHL affiliate in Iowa during the Las Vegas series, delivered the clinching goal with 1 minute, 3 seconds remaining in a scoreless game in Game 6 against Las Vegas.

Rallo, who along with Francis Wathier was left on the Steelheads’ playoff roster despite an uncertain status, scored four game-winners in 14 games.

“It’s been nice to see every different series, a different guy has stepped up,” said second-year coach Derek Laxdal, who knew his team needed reinforcements for the playoff run.

And the players he broughtin made a huge difference. John Lammers (19 points), Lars Helminen (16), B.J. Crombeen (10) and Jay Beagle (three) joined the team late in the regular season. In the playoffs, their contributions were vital.

Lammers, who had three game-winning goals in the playoffs, was the team’s third-leading scorer behind Lance Galbraith and Marty Flichel. Each had two game-winning goals.

Galbraith, like Burt and defenseman Darrell Hay, earned his second Cup with the Steelheads. They were a part of the 2004 Kelly Cup title team.

Flichel could have been part of that squad, too. But after the 2003 season, he was let go by the Steelheads and missed the ’04 title run. This time, he had the captain’s “C” on his jersey.

Many different paths. Many different stories. The same result.

A team celebrating a title.

A photo that says it all.