By Chris Langrill
The Idaho Statesman
DAYTON, Ohio — After 93 games — including a grueling double-overtime victory Tuesday— it has come to this: One more win and the Idaho Steelheads will be champions of the ECHL.
Idaho rookie defenseman Kory Scoran (pictured) scored 14 minutes, 20 seconds into the second overtime to lift the Steelheads to a 2-1 win over the Dayton Bombers in Game 4 of the Kelly Cup Finals at the Nutter Center. The win gave the Steelheads a 3-1 lead in the seven-game series.
Idaho put 22 shots on goal in the two overtime periods and its playmakers had several chances to close out the win. But after almost five periods of play it was Scoran, who had all of two goals during the regular season, who came up with the game-winner with a shot from the left boards that found its way through traffic.
“I just ripped it,” Scoran said. “And luck was on my side.”
The Steelheads have three more chances to nail down the final win. The first comes in Game 5 at 7 p.m. ET Thursday in Dayton. If Dayton forces Game 6 it would be played at 7:10 Saturday night at Qwest Arena in Boise. If the series goes the distance, Game 7 would be played next Tuesday night at Qwest Arena.
Idaho forward Lance Galbraith said it would be nice to win the Kelly Cup in front of his home crowd, but he figured Steelheads fans would understand if Idaho closed it out on the road.
“I’m not really worried about our fans, because I know they want us to win,” Galbraith said. “We’re not going to play to win it in Boise, we’re going to play our hearts out to win it here in Dayton. We wouldn’t be anywhere without our fan support, but I’m pretty sure they just want to see us win.”
Idaho improved to 4-0 in overtimes this postseason while Dayton, which won a three-overtime marathon against Florida in its conference finals, dropped to 1-1 in extra periods in these playoffs.
Tuesday’s Game 4, which was the second-longest in ECHL Finals history, was scoreless after the first period.
Idaho broke through for the first score with a power-play goal 9:06 into the middle frame. Defenseman Lars Helminen took a shot from the right side of the net that went just wide. But the puck bounced at a 90-degree angle behind the net and out to forward B.J. Crombeen, who buried his shot from left side of the net before Bombers goalie Adam Berkhoel could cover.
“I was just trying to creep into the slot … that’s where I’m going to score my goals,” Crombeen said. “I was just trying to get there, and it took a lucky bounce and came right out to me and I was lucky to get a stick on it before (Berkhoel) could get across.”
The 1-0 lead looked like it might hold up for the rest of the period when Idaho almost killed off two penalties. Close to the end of the second power-play opportunity for Dayton, the home crowd of 2,371 booed their Bombers a little when they were unable to muster much offense.
After that, the contest became a battle of wills. First the third period went by without a score, then the first overtime.
Players were obviously conserving their energy and trying to play smart, and neither team took a penalty in the first overtime.
The teams battled into the second overtime, and just when fans were starting to think about a third extra period, Scoran’s goal ended it in an instant. Idaho finished with 53 shots on goal, compared to 42 for Dayton.
Scoran may have had just two goals in 67 games during the regular season, but he now has three in the playoffs, including two in the Kelly Cup Finals.
Maybe Scoran, who also notched an assist on Crombeen’s goal, is ready to turn into a scoring machine?
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Silverthorn said as Scoran laughed nearby. “He played a hell of a game defensively, though, so it’s nice to see him score.”
Both teams know that a 3-1 lead doesn’t guarantee a series victory.
Idaho led Las Vegas 3-1 in the first round of the playoffs last season only to see the Wranglers eliminate the Steelheads.
For the Bombers, it was just two series ago that they trailed Cincinnati 3-1 and then rallied to defeat the Cyclones in Game 7.
But Dayton co-coach and co-owner Don MacAdam said he knows that his team faces some long odds as the Bombers go into Game 5 facing elimination for the fifth time in the playoffs.
“Cincinnati was a very good team, but not as good as Idaho,” MacAdam said. “… But our guys have been very resilient all year and I can’t imagine our guys not leaving everything on the ice.”