Veterans Have Steelheads On Brink Of Title

By Chris Langrill
The Idaho Statesman

DAYTON, Ohio — Marty Flichel is one of four veterans on the Idaho Steelheads roster.

The other three veterans hoisted the Kelly Cup in 2004, when Idaho won the ECHL championship. Even though he played for Idaho in the 2002-03 season, Flichel didn’t get a chance to lift that coveted Cup in 2004.

But tonight, he might get that chance.

The Steelheads are one win away from clinching the 2007 Kelly Cup Finals. With a 3-1 lead in the seven-game series, Idaho plays the Dayton Bombers in Game 5 at Dayton’s Nutter Center at 5 p.m. MT on Thursday. If Dayton pushes it to Game 6, that contest would be played at 7:10 p.m. Saturday at Qwest Arena. Game 7 would be played Tuesday at Qwest Arena.

“I guess I would like to get my name on (the Kelly Cup) like theirs is already on it,” Flichel said.

With such a big game on the horizon, Wednesday wasn’t really the day for him to think about the past. Flichel has come to accept the fact that he didn’t fit into former Steelheads coach John Olver’s system. That’s why he went to play in Michigan with the Kalamazoo Wings of the UHL the season that Idaho won it all.

But Flichel had a lot of friends on that 2004 team, and while he was happy for those friends, he admits it wasn’t easy seeing them take the title.

“It was great to watch them,” said the 5-foot-11, 195-pound forward. “But at the same time, it was a little sour watching from the outside in.”

That’s why this run to the Kelly Cup Finals has been especially sweet for him.

“It’s great to come back and do the same thing they did a couple of years ago,” the 31-year-old Flichel said. “Just the opportunity to be in the finals has made it a great year.”

Flichel and the rest of the Steelheads spent Wednesday away from the rink. They played almost five periods of hockey in Game 4 in a 2-1 double-overtime win Tuesday, so coach Derek Laxdal didn’t even consider putting the guys through practice the next day.

“It was time for these guys to rest, physically and mentally,” Laxdal said.

Some of the players napped Wednesday, while others went to a nearby mall.

Flichel saw two movies with about five of his teammates (His mini-reviews: ” ‘Pirates’ wasn’t as good as the first two,” he said. ” ‘Shrek’ wasn’t as good as the first two.”).

Flichel said the down day was much needed.

“We’re a little fatigued, like Dayton is I’m sure,” he said. “But obviously, we’re pretty happy to be up three games to one.”

And to be one win away from the Cup that he can all but grasp — as the captain of his team.

“We had rotating captains at the beginning of the year,” Laxdal said of Flichel, Scott Burt and Darrell Hay. “I thought Marty’s play, individually, stepped up when he was wearing the ‘C.’ … I just wanted to have some stability with that ‘C,’ so I gave it to Marty down the stretch drive going into the playoffs.”

Burt said Flichel is the kind of captain a championship team needs. He was fourth in the ECHL in points scored with 87. In the playoffs, he has 22 points, ranking him second on his team (behind Lance Galbraith with 26) and third in the league.

“He’s a great leader,” Burt said. “He goes out every night and plays hard and the young guys see that and want to play hard, too.”

One more hard-fought victory over Dayton and Flichel will have his wish. His name will be etched on the Kelly Cup, just like those of the 2004 Steelheads.