Idaho Statesman Staff Report
LONG BEACH, Calif. – There will be a full weekend of playoff hockey at the Bank of America Centre.
The Idaho Steelheads beat the Long Beach Ice Dogs 3-2 on Friday night in Long Beach, Calif., to even their first-round ECHL West Division playoff series at a game apiece.
Game 3 of the best-of-five series begins at 7:10 Saturday at the B of A, and Game 4 is at 7:10 p.m. Sunday.The Steelheads expect a big crowd tonight. The upper-bowl tickets are sold out and 24 percent more season-ticket holders bought playoff tickets this year than last year, when the team won the Kelly Cup.
Both teams travel to Boise today. Idaho is scheduled to leave California at 9 a.m. MDT and arrive about 11 a.m.
“I hope it’s not just a big crowd, I hope it’s an energetic crowd,” Idaho coach John Olver said. “Both teams are going to be a little bit tired. We’re looking for the crowd to be our seventh man.”
Game 2 followed the same basic pattern as Game 1 (a 3-2 Long Beach win), only reversed. Long Beach took a 1-0 lead at 1:25 of the first period, then surrendered three straight goals.
The Ice Dogs scored once in the third period, but couldn’t beat goalie Frank Doyle (pictured) down the stretch. Doyle made 29 saves as Idaho uncharacteristically allowed more shots than it took.
“Frank was very sharp,” Olver said.
Tim Verbeek, Ben Keup and Mike Stutzel scored for the Steelheads.
Keup’s goal was unassisted and shorthanded. He intercepted a pass and beat goalie Sebastien Centomo on a breakaway.
Idaho outscored Long Beach 2-0 in special teams situations. The Ice Dogs outscored the Steelheads 2-1 in those situations in Game 1.
“When you have two teams as evenly matched as these two, goaltending and special teams are usually the difference,” Olver said.