(Boise, ID) – Bryan Hince came up with 34 saves and Derek LeBlanc and Jacob Cepis each came up with short-handed goals Saturday night, propelling the Idaho Steelheads to an impressive, 5-1, victory over a home-town crowd of 4,634 fans in Boise.
Idaho (23-21-2-3) took four of a possible six points from the defending Kelly Cup champions in the three-game set and wound up winning seven of the 13 games between the two teams this season.
After surviving an early push from Alaska, Idaho got on the board at the nine-minute mark of the first period on a cross-ice pass from Stephen Schultz from the top of the right-hand circle to the bottom of the left-hand circle, where David Fredriksson flipped home his seventh goal of the season to give Idaho the 1-0 advantage. Idaho extended the lead at 15:57 when Aaron Lewicki picked up a rebound off a Michael Gergen shot, snapping the puck past Alaska goaltender Adam Courchaine to give the home team a two-goal lead.
Late in the first, Idaho caught a big break on an Alaska power-play. A Chad Anderson shot from the right point caromed off the shin pad of Wes Goldie, jump-starting a short-handed, odd-man rush for Idaho. Jacob Cepis picked up the loose puck in the neutral zone and skated up the right-hand side. As Alaska’s Steve Ward slid across the ice to try to break up the play, Cepis lifted a soft pass onto the the tape of Derek LeBlanc at the left post. LeBlanc finished for his 12th goal of the year to make it 3-0 after one period.
Another dagger came in the opening seconds of the second period, moments after Idaho killed off the final seconds of the same man-advantage for the Aces. Fredriksson fed the puck to Schultz in the left-hand circle and Schultz’s wrist shot beat Courchaine to make it 4-0 just 22 seconds into the second, ending Courchaine’s evening.
Alaska tried to make things interesting with two big short-handed scoring chances midway through the frame. First, Bryan Hince robbed Zach Harrison on a 2-on-1 short-handed rush and then, just seconds later, Hince made a pinwheeling pad save to deny Tyler Ruegsegger on a short-handed breakaway attempt to send the crowd into a frenzy.
Idaho would pick up their fifth goal of the night – and second short-handed tally – at the 15:59 mark of the second frame when backup goaltender Drew O’Connell’s clearing attempt hit Jacob Cepis. The puck dropped right in front of Cepis and he was able to skate in for a virtual empty-net goal, giving Idaho a five-goal lead going into the third period. It was Cepis’s team-leading 18th goal of the season.
Hince’s shutout bid was broken up in the third period by Ethan Cox’s tenth goal of the season, but the Aces were unable to mount a serious charge in the game’s final 20 minutes.
Hince, making his first start in net for Idaho, got the win, while Adam Courchaine took the loss after giving up four goals on 13 shots before being replaced in the second period. Both teams were 0-4 on the man advantage.
NOTE: Idaho Steelheads forward Cody Purves played in his 100th professional game Saturday night and received a warm ovation from the CenturyLink Arena crowd when it was announced in the third period.
Idaho hits the road for five games, starting Tuesday in Colorado, before returning home to play 14 of its final 18 games in Boise. The next home game is February 22 against the Utah Grizzlies. Tickets are available by calling the CenturyLink Arena box office (208.331.TIXS) or by logging on to www.idahosteelheads.com.
COORS OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME – Stephen Schultz
AQUA FINA “3 STARS” -
(1) Bryan Hince (ID)
(2) David Fredriksson (ID)
(3) Michael Gergen (ID)