By Brian Compton
With each passing round, the role of underdog becomes that much bigger for the Idaho Steelheads.
And that’s just fine with them.
After disposing of the Stockton Thunder in six games in the opening round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, the Steelheads rocked the ECHL universe with a thrilling six-game win over the Las Vegas Wranglers, who won the Brabham Cup in 2006-07 for having the best overall record during the regular season with 106 points.
Now, the Steelheads will look across the ice on Monday night at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage and see the defending champion Alaska Aces, who haven’t allowed a power-play goal in the last 283:15 and have notched at least 100 points in each of the last two seasons.
But nobody thought Idaho would find a way to get past Las Vegas, yet it did. The Steelheads really could care less about predictions or what others think will happen. They’ll go to Alaska with most believing they don’t stand a chance, and that’s just the way they like it.
“I think if you ask anybody, they’d rather be the underdog than the team that’s supposed to win,” said Steelheads goalie Steve Silverthorn, who has eight wins, two shutouts and a 1.78 GAA this postseason. “There’s a lot less pressure on you when people aren’t really giving you that big of a chance. You know amongst yourselves how good you are. Right now, the feeling in the room is great. No one wants to go home for the summer yet. That’s all that matters.”
Idaho head coach Derek Laxdal couldn’t help but beam about the way his club is coming together, and how it couldn’t have come at a better time. The Steelheads did not lose in regulation in their final eight games of the regular season and they’ve carried that momentum right into the playoffs. He attributed a lot of it to personnel as Idaho received some help from AHL Iowa down the stretch and also got Lance Galbraith — who leads the ECHL in postseason scoring with 16 points — back from Bridgeport.