By Chadd Cripe
Long Beach Press Telegram
BOISE, Idaho — The Ice Dogs withstood a 30-minute barrage from the Idaho Steelheads and an energetic crowd of 4,569 fans Saturday night at the Bank of America Centre, then sent all of them home with their heads hanging.
Defenseman Dan Watson (pictured) scored at 12:32 of the third period to give the Ice Dogs the lead and they hung on for a 4-2 victory in Game 3 of the ECHL West Division playoff series.
Long Beach leads the best-of-5 series 2-1 and can close it out Sunday at the Bank of America Centre. Game 5, if necessary, is Wednesday in Long Beach.
“It’s going to be a heck of a war (today),” Long Beach coach Malcolm Cameron said.
The Steelheads, who hadn’t played a home game in three weeks, outshot the Ice Dogs, 21-8, in the first period yet led just 2-1.
Goalie Sebastien Centomo made 19 saves in the period and finished with 34 saves.
“We just had to weather a storm in the first period and find a way to get through it without getting too far behind, and we did,” Cameron said. “We had to chip back, and our patience was rewarded there with our second goal.”
Evan Cheverie tied the score, 2-2, at 15:53 of the second period as the Ice Dogs gathered momentum. He scored in transition off a feed from Christian Larrivee. Cameron said his team lacked focus in the first period and he got “under their skin’ at the intermission. “About the 10-minute mark in the second period, we got a real good shift and a good hit and guys decided our game plan, when we execute, really works,” Cameron said. Centomo made a brilliant save early in the third. He stopped what looked like a sure goal by sticking his left leg straight up in the air while sprawled on the ice to block Andrei Vasilyev’s shot. Then the Ice Dogs put themselves in a serious bind. They took three straight penalties, including a delay-of-game penalty on Centomo for shooting the puck into the stands, giving Idaho a 5-on-3 chance. The Dogs, however, finally looked like one of the top penalty-killing teams in the league they were during the regular season and killed all three power plays. Watson’s game-winner came off a draw in the Idaho zone set up by a frozen puck along the boards. Marco Rosa won the draw to Watson, who carried the puck down the left-wing boards. He found an opening from the edge of the faceoff circle and whipped a bad-angle shot at Idaho goalie Matt Yeats. The puck deflected off Yeats’ left pad and sneaked into the net. Chris Kenady added an empty-netter to seal the win. Yeats is Idaho’s backup goalie, but coach John Olver decided to rest rookie starter Frank Doyle. Olver said Yeats should have made the save. “That third goal was a weak goal,” Olver said. “(Yeats) lost sight of it, and it went in from a bad angle.” Idaho didn’t seem to have any energy left at that point. Both teams were out of bed before 6 a.m. Saturday to fly to Boise. “I felt any team that could get a lead,” Cameron said, “it would be tough for the other team in the third period to come back after a day of traveling and a tough, physical series. Boy, two good teams just put their heart and soul into it.” Despite its slow start, Long Beach actually scored in the first two minutes for the second straight night. Joe Cardarelli couldn’t beat Yeats on a breakaway attempt, but the rebound came right to his feet. The puck hit Cardarelli’s skates as he slid to a stop, redirecting the puck into the net. Idaho answered with goals by Vasilyev, whose pass hit Long Beach’s Steeve Villeneuve’s skate and went in the net, and defenseman Darrell Hay.