Get up for Game 3: The Steelheads and Colorado Eagles bring the Mountain Division Semifinals back to Boise for the next three contests, starting with Game 3 on Wednesday night at CenturyLink Arena. The teams split the first two contests of the series at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, with the Steelheads taking Game 1 but the Eagles taking Game 2 the following night. In seven of Idaho’s last eight playoff series dating back to the start of the 2013 playoffs, the Steelheads have won the first contest but lost the second. In the six prior series in which the Steelheads have split the opening contests, the Steelheads have won Game 3 twice, but they have gone on to win the series three times. The Steelheads are hoping to move to the second round for the first time since 2014, while the Eagles have never moved beyond the opening series of the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Driving the Offense: Through two games, Idaho’s top line from the regular season has been the most productive line in the playoffs. Of the five playoff goals the Steelheads have scored, at least two members of the Jefferson Dahl-Rob Linsmayer-Will Merchant line have been on the ice for four of them, with the lone exception being Brian Nugent’s empty-net goal in Game 1. Linmsayer leads the series with two goals, while Merchant has three assists in his first two professional playoff games. The trio has combined for 14 of Idaho’s 47 shots on goal in the series.
Special Teams Swing: Specials teams have been the difference in both games thus far. The Steelheads’ Game 1 victory was fueled by Jefferson Dahl’s goal on Idaho’s only power play opportunity, as well as a Rob Linsmayer short-handed goal, while the Steelhead penalty-kill negated all four Colorado power play chances. Linsmayer’s shorthanded goal was his second of his career, the other coming in the playoffs in 2014 against the Eagles. In Game 2, former Steelhead Alex Belzile tied the game late in the third period by converting on Colorado’s 5-on-3 power play chance, helping send the game to overtime where the Eagles would ultimately win. Idaho was 0-for-3 on the power play in Game 2.
Home Ice Advantage?: The Steelheads can prevent the series from ever having to go back to Colorado if they can win three straight against the Eagles. Idaho went 4-2-0 this season at CenturyLink Arena against the Eagles, and have won four of six playoff games against the Eagles in Boise all-time. The loss in Game 2 snapped a streak of five consecutive wins for the Steelheads dating back to the regular season, Idaho’s longest winning streak in two seasons under Head Coach Neil Graham.