By Cleve Dheensaw
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2009
Welcome to the firm of Labelle, Leavold and Landolt.
They were on the case Saturday for the Victoria Salmon Kings, as the ECHL club scored three times in the final 13 minutes and 46 seconds at Boise to defeat the favoured Idaho Steelheads 3-1 in the first game of their best-of-seven Kelly Cup opening-round playoff series.
Victoria overcame a 1-0 Steelheads lead on those third-period goals by Olivier Labelle, Brady Leavold (pictured) and Shaun Landolt, the latter into an empty net with Idaho pressing to send the game to overtime.
Idaho goaltender Matt Climie concluded the regular season in the NHL by going 2-1 in three games with the parent Dallas Stars. The Salmon Kings, however, weren’t intimidated. They laced 39 shots at Climie, and while the game’s third star was strong, he couldn’t fend off the pressure for the entire night.
“We took the puck to the net and got traffic in front of him,” said Leavold, who scored the winning goal at 14:30 of the third period.
“Whatever it took, we got it done.
“I banked it off his back, but it’s all good. We were trailing in the third period but we never got down. It was a team effort. I’m just the guy who got the winner because of everybody else’s effort.”
Forward Adam Taylor said the Victoria skaters never lost faith that they would eventually get to Climie.
“We just had this feeling that it had to come sooner or later,” said Taylor, who assisted on Leavold’s winning goal and then provided the decoy as Landolt scored into the empty net on a two-on-one break.
“We kept shooting and shooting and didn’t get down even though we trailed in the third period.”
The early swings in the game, however went against Victoria.
That was especially so in a classic showdown between Climie and Victoria’s 48-goal scorer Wes Goldie.
With Goldie awarded a penalty shot, the two men stared each other down from half the ice at 13:49 of the first period with the game scoreless. Climie won the confrontation by denying Goldie a series-opening goal that would have been huge for Victoria at that moment.
It was Idaho that got the first goal at 8:32 of the second period through centre Matt McKnight, a rookie pro out of the NCAA. The goal was assisted by forward Mark Bomersback, a key addition for Idaho who returned from Binghamton of the AHL in time for the playoffs.
The Salmon Kings finally solved Climie when Labelle pulled Victoria level at 7:14 of the third period.
Although not as busy as Climie, Victoria goaltender Todd Ford was there when needed in stopping 28 of 29 shots.
“We really came out hard and showed that the two weeks off [Victoria had a bye during the final week of the regular season] were good for us,” said Ford.
“We had a lot of jump and really took it to them. Our defence played great. Our D-men stood up on the rush and didn’t let them get opportunities. We kept hitting and working hard. We were down by a goal, but kept our heads because we knew we were getting lots of shots and could come back.”
It was Victoria’s first win in Boise after dropping all three regular-season games there.
Idaho went 44-24-4 in placing second in the tough West Division of the ECHL National Conference. Victoria was third at 38-27-7.
Game 2 is tonight at 4:10 Pacific in Boise, followed by the third and fourth games Wednesday and Friday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. The fifth game, if required, is Saturday in Victoria.
The sixth and seventh games, if needed, are in Boise.
“We created chances and it was a terrific effort by everybody,” said Victoria GM and head coach Mark Morrison. “But we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves. This was only one game. Idaho has lots of firepower. If we let up for even an instant, they will get to us.”