Prior to the opening game of the Mountain Division Semifinals in Loveland, Steelheads forward Kellan Lain said something that certainly fits in with the mood of his teammates following Thursday morning’s practice, the morning after the Colorado Eagles grabbed a 2-1 series lead with a 4-2 win over Idaho in Game 3.
Lain said, “We have to take each game at a time because it’s a seven-game series. We can’t get too strung up on the results of the first couple of games because it’s a long road to get where we want to be. We want to stay focused on one game at a time and I think we’ll be all right.”
That ‘turn the page’ attitude was necessary after the Steelheads won Game 1, and it is even more necessary as the Steelheads look to get the series back on track heading into Friday night’s Game 4.
The Steelheads saw most of their mistakes on Wednesday night end up in their net, including a turnover behind their own net on the first Colorado goal and a turnover at their own blue line late in the first period leading to a short-handed tally. The Steelheads twice surrendered goals in the final minute of periods.
In the playoffs, each game is its own chapter. The message for the Steelheads on Thursday was to leave Game 3 behind and get back to the detail-oriented hockey they showed in the opening weekend of the series.
“We need to forget about it. We know we didn’t play well and we can’t think about it,” said Will Merchant, who has three assists in the series thus far. “We have to make sure we bounce back hard and play the game that we know we can play.”
One aspect of Wednesday night that the Steelheads will gladly carry over to the weekend is their power play production. Lain and Jefferson Dahl both scored with the man advantage in Game 3, improving Idaho’s power play to 3-for-9 in the playoffs. The Steelheads have scored seven goals in the series, three with the power play in addition to a shorthanded goal and an empty-netter in Game 1. The Steelheads know they’ll need to generate more scoring at 5-on-5 going forward against the Eagles.
“Obviously yesterday we weren’t very happy with how we played,” said forward Andre Morrissette. “It’s going to start with putting more pucks on net and testing this goalie to see what he’s got.”
Morrissette had one of Idaho’s better chances late against Eagles’ goaltender Lukas Hafner on Wednesday night, a breakaway in the third period that Hafner fought off with the glove. Anthony Luciani also had an opportunity for his first goal of the playoffs in the third, only to see a low wrist shot at the back door kicked away by Hafner.
Luciani and Morrissette have combined for more than seven odd-man attempts against Hafner thus far in the series with no luck. Hafner has gone 3-0-1 against the Steelheads this year, regular season and playoffs combined, with a .934 save percentage. The Steelheads are getting their chances at even-strength, and while they want to see more pucks getting behind Hafner they aren’t about to overthink their approach in the offensive zone.
“We need to keep it simple. There’s no need to do anything crazy in playoffs,” said Merchant. “If you keep things simple and put pucks on net, good things will happen.”
The Steelheads have the benefit of having the next two games on home ice where they won 23 games during the regular season, friendly confines as they look to start fresh in Game 4.
“It’s a seven-game series,” said Morrissette. “We need to put this game in the past and treat today like a new day.”