By Chris Langrill
The Idaho Statesman
DAYTON, Ohio — Idaho Steelheads trainer Dennis “Moose” Brogna didn’t believe.
And who could blame him?
Who would have thought at the beginning of the playoffs that the Steelheads would go on a magical run and win an ECHL championship?
But that’s exactly what they did, capping off the run with a 4-1 win over the Dayton Bombers in Game 5 of the Kelly Cup Finals at the Nutter Center. Idaho goalie Steve Silverthorn, who started every one of Idaho’s 16 playoff wins, was voted the ECHL playoffs MVP.
Idaho won three consecutive games in Dayton to close out the series 4-1, and with the win Brogna lost the mustache he’s worn for 32 years. He made a bet with Steelheads veteran Darrell Hay. If Idaho won it all, Brogna would lose the facial hair.
“Now, I believe,” Brogna said after having his beard and mustache trimmed off in the middle of a raucous, beer-soaked locker room.
He’d better believe it.
Indeed, the Steelheads did it.
They came into the playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the National Conference and proceeded to knock off the No. 5 seed (Stockton), the No. 1 seed (Las Vegas) and the No. 2 seed (Alaska).
The Dayton Bombers were the last obstacle, and now the Steelheads, who also won it all in 2004, are only the fourth team to win the league championship at least twice.
“It’s been incredible,” Steelheads coach Derek Laxdal said. “This group of guys has been unbelievable. … To beat Stockton, to beat Las Vegas, to beat Alaska, and then to come in here and win three games and win the Kelly Cup is a tribute to these guys in the dressing room.”
Among the players in the dressing room were Hay and fellow veterans Scott Burt and Lance Galbraith. Those three were on the 2004 team and they will become the 13th, 14th and 15th players to have their names etched on the Kelly Cup two times.
“It was exciting the first time to do it with that bunch of guys,” Galbraith said. “And then to do it again with a second bunch of guys, it’s just an unbelievable feeling.”
Galbraith said he knew how special it was to be part of an ECHL organization that was able to win two titles in four years.
“This Cup might be the toughest one to win (again), because you never have the same team every year,” Galbraith said. “I’m fortunate to be in the same situation the second time around. To win it again in the same organization is unbelievable.”
“I was thinking that in four years that I’ve been here I’ve won the national championship twice,” Hay said. “If that was a college career, that would be a pretty damn good college career.”
Before Idaho could celebrate Thursday night there was the little matter of a game to be played.
The Bombers threw everything at Idaho in the first period of Game 5. Silverthorn stood tall as Dayton outshot Idaho 13-3 in the first 15 minutes.
Then, 15:36 into the opening period, the Steelheads found themselves on a delayed penalty. Silverthorn made his way to the bench, and with six skaters on the ice Idaho got the first score of the game.
Idaho went up by two goals 3:57 into the second period when center Greg Rallo gathered a Lammers rebound and swept the puck back into the net.
But Dayton wouldn’t go away. Dayton forward Tim Konsorada set up a tense third period with a Bombers goal with 1:10 left before the second intermission to make it 2-1.
After playing half of the third period without a score by either team, Galbraith through with a shot from a tough angle from the right side of the ice to make it 3-1 with 9:10 left.
“The third goal certainly broke our back,” Dayton co-coach and co-owner Don MacAdam said.
It was just a matter of time for the Steelheads after that, and Lammers added one more goal before the Steelheads watched the clock tick down. Even before it reached 00:00 the players were off the bench and rushing Silverthorn, where a mass of sweaty, happy Steelheads gathered in hugs.
All of those Steelheads names will be etched on the Kelly Cup, and maybe no one appreciates that more than captain Marty Flichel. He played with Idaho in 2002-03, but wasn’t with the team when it won the Cup in 2004. Now, he too is a champion.
“It was a great ride,” said Flichel, who disclosed after the game that he partially tore the MCL in his knee in a collision with an Alaska player during the third game of the National Conference Finals.
“How many times have you watched the guys win the Stanley Cup on TV, and they say, ‘I don’t know what to say?’ ” Flichel said. “That’s exactly right. You don’t know what to say, you don’t know what to do. It’s hard to describe.”
Well, not that hard. Just ask Brogna.