By Chris Langrill
The Idaho Statesman
If the pace is fast and furious, the Idaho Steelheads will win a high-scoring game.
If the pace is slow and steady, the Dayton Bombers will win a low-scoring game.
It might be a simplistic approach, but if the first two games of the Kelly Cup Finals are any indication, it might just be that easy to figure out this ECHL championship series.
Dayton was able to play its style for much of Game 1, and the result was a 2-1 Bombers win.
Idaho controlled the action for much of Game 2, and the result was a 5-2 Steelheads win.
Both of those games were played at Qwest Arena. The series now shifts to the Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio, where Games 3 (Sunday), 4 (Tuesday) and 5 (Thursday) will be played.
“I think you saw more speed out of our team in Game 2,” Steelheads coach Derek Laxdal said. “I think you saw a little more tenacity out of our team and you saw us win more one-on-one battles than you did (in Game 1).”
Idaho was limited to seven shots in the first period of Game 1, but came out firing on all cylinders in Game 2, notching 15 shots on goal in the opening period Friday night. Idaho led 3-0 at the first intermission. After totaling 31 shots in Game 1, Idaho finished with 43 shots in Game 2.
Should Steelheads fans expect Idaho to continue to try to keep that pace up? “Oh, for sure,” said Steelheads goalie Steve Silverthorn. “We want to get a lot of shots.”
As for the Bombers, don’t expect them to change their strategy much. They will still try to grind out victories like they have all season. Dayton is a team that likes to get a lead and protect it — it scored first in 10 of its 12 playoff wins.
“If we score three goals, we’re pretty confident we can win,” Dayton coach Derek Clancey said.
Even though the momentum might be on the Steelheads’ side, don’t expect the Bombers to be hanging their heads as they return to Nutter Center, where they are 6-3 in the postseason.
“We’ve been down 3-1 to Cincinnati (in the North Division Finals),” Clancey said. “A bump in the road is not going to hurt us.”
Going to Dayton down 0-2 would have hurt Idaho, however, so winning Game 2 was crucial for the Steelheads, even if they are 6-2 on the road in the postseason.
“You don’t want to go anywhere down two games,” Silverthorn said.
Steelheads veteran Lance Galbraith has played short stints with the Bombers in two different seasons (eight games in 2002-03 and four games in 2003-04), and captain Marty Flichel played in Dayton in his first season as a pro (28 games in 1996-97). But several of the players, including Silverthorn, said they had never been to Dayton, not that he’s expecting to see much of the Ohio city on this business trip.
“I don’t care if I don’t get any sightseeing in right now,” Silverthorn said. “I want to focus on other stuff.”