By Dave Werstine
Long Beach Press-Telegram
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – For the 501 fans who came out to HealthSouth Training Center in El Segundo on Wednesday night for the Ice Dogs’ playoff opener, they couldn’t have asked for more.
They were treated to the up-close sights and sounds of the game sticks cracking against each other, bodies smashing into the boards and pucks whizzing all over that they wouldn’t have gotten had Game 1 of the first-round ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs been held at the Long Beach Arena.
And the best part about the night for the partisan crowd, they got what they came for an Ice Dogs victory.
In the playoffs for the first time in three years, the Ice Dogs rallied, then held on for a 3-2 win over the defending champion Idaho Steelheads to record the opening salvo in their best-of-5 series.
Game 2 will be played Friday at the Long Beach Arena, which couldn’t host the opener because the ice surface couldn’t be readied in time, forcing the Ice Dogs to find a home away from home.
“It was fun. It was awesome,” Ice Dogs coach Malcolm Cameron said of the atmosphere in the small rink. “It was so loud. It seemed like every hit was magnified 10 times. The guys had a blast.”
By winning Game 1, the Ice Dogs took early control the short series, putting the Steelheads in a hole that will require them to win three of the next four games to advance. “Obviously, you want to get off to a good start, set the tone and ease the pressure,” said Cameron, who isn’t about to relax. “They are the champs. I think the pressure is on us to beat the champs.”
It’s a common belief that experience is key in the playoffs. However, Cameron figures that the Ice Dogs’ youthful enthusiasm might be the difference in the series, and possibly the series to come.
“Sometimes experience is the key, and there’s a certain about of truth in that,” he said. “But it’s hard to beat young, hungry enthusiasm.”
But not in Game 1, as the most veteran of Ice Dogs proved to be the difference.
Bill Lindsay (pictured), who helped lead the Florida Panthers to the NHL Stanley Cup Finals in 1996, scored twice in a pivotal three-goal second period by the Ice Dogs.
After giving up a power-play goal to Bobby Russell, on a deflection, midway through the first period, the Ice Dogs got even on a power-play of their goal of their own. The 33-year-old Lindsay came crashing down the ride side and batted in a rebound from an Evan Cheverie shot at 9:56 of the second.
That youthful enthusiasm that Cameron talked about came through at 14:16, when rookie Michael Lambert’s wrist shot found the top corner against All-Star Game MVP Frank Doyle to give the Ice Dogs the lead.
Four minutes later, Lindsay struck for the second time on the power play, again crashing down the right side. Chris Kenady’s pass from the corner landed right on Lindsay’s stick and he popped it into the net to make it 3-1.
The Steelheads battled back in the third period, getting a goal from Lance Galbraith against Ice Dogs goaltender Sebastien Centomo just 1:32 in.
From there, the Ice Dogs managed to hold on.