(Ontario, CA) – Michael Neal’s back-hand goal over Jean Francois Berube with less than five minutes to play in the game turned out to be the game-winner as the Idaho Steelheads knocked off the Ontario Reign, 3-2, Tuesday night in Ontario.
It was the first victory in five tries for Idaho (26-29-8) over Ontario and also extended the team’s unbeaten streak to four games (3-0-1).
The Steelheads got on the board first in the opening frame after a five-minute boarding major and game misconduct was assessed to Ontario’s Jason Beemon. On the ensuing power play, Ian Lowe snapped a bullet over Berube’s shoulder at the 9:16 mark of the first period. Lowe’s 9th of the season was assisted by Michael Gergen.
Ontario tied it in the second on Kyle Kraemer’s 22nd of the season from the right-hand circle and the score stayed tied at one into the third period.
The Steelheads took the lead early in the third on a Derek LeBlanc redirection of a Neal shot from the left-hand circle at the 4:21 mark, his 19th of the season, to make it 2-1. The one-goal lead held thanks to a fantastic save with the right leg pad by Jerry Kuhn, denying Kraemer at the right-hand post. The Steelheads extended the lead at 15:42 of the third on Neal’s back-handed shot over Berube, assisted by former Reign blue-liner Steven Tarasuk as well as Gergen, to make it 3-1.
Just moments later, Kuhn’s right leg pad came up big again, this time denying Bill Bagron at the same right-hand post. Ontario would add a goal from Derek Couture with less than a second to go to cut Idaho’s final margin of victory to one goal, 3-2.
Kuhn stopped 38 of 40 shots in the win for Idaho and the Steelheads converted two of five power plays against the league’s top penalty-kill unit.
With the win, Idaho (60 points) moves to within one point of 6th-place Utah (61 points) and five points of 5th-place Stockton (65 points). The Steelheads also reduced their magic number to officially clinch a playoff spot to six points with nine games left in the regular season.
Idaho remains on the road Wednesday night with a contest in northern California against the Stockton Thunder (30-27-5, 65 points) at 8 PM (Mtn).
The Steelheads return home on Friday and Saturday to host the Ontario Reign. Puck drop is at 7:10 PM. 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 – Michael Gergen
AQUA FINA “3 STARS” -
(1) Michael Neal (ID)
(2) Jerry Kuhn (ID)
(3) Kyle Kraemer (ONT)