BOISE, ID — The Idaho Steelheads out on an all-around clinic against the visiting Rapid City Rush Friday night, as the home team found the sweet spot on offense and netminder Tomas Sholl continued to achieve perfection between the pipes.
The first game in this three-game stint nearly went the full 60-minutes before the first tally lit the goal lamp. Idaho made sure its fans didn’t have to wait nearly as long to celebrate in game two of the series.
Justin Parizek took the feed in the slot and drilled a wrister to beat Rush netminder Adam Vay for the early 1-0 edge just 45 seconds into the contest. Idaho doubled its lead when Michael Neville got the puck in the slot and fired it by Vay at 14:26 to give the Steelheads a 2-0 advantage heading into the first intermission. Shots-on-goal through the first 20 minutes were virtually even with Idaho holding a slim 9-to-8 edge and neither team was sent to the sin bin.
Idaho continued to pull away in the middle frame when Will Merchant took the feed from the goal line and fired the puck from the slot to put the Steelheads up 3-0 just five minutes into the 2nd period. Moments later Vay appeared to remove himself from the game and Rapid City brought in Christian Frey for relief. The Rush did have an up-tick in tempo during the middle frame but still had trouble solving Steelheads netminder Tomas Sholl. Through 40 minutes of action the Rush were outshooting the Steelheads 19-to-16 and neither team could capitalize on their powerplay chances.
Idaho continued to flex its muscle in the final frame of regulation, preventing any chance the Rush had of a late rally. Less than five minutes into the period Cole Ully collected a rebound off a shot from Brady Brassart and beat Frey from the right faceoff circle to put Idaho up 4-0. Brassart put the exclamation point on the night with his 22nd goal of the season coming with 1:56 left in regulation to give the Steelheads their lopsided 5-0 shutout victory.
Idaho dominated on shots-on-goal in the final frame and led Rapd City 32-to-22 at the end of regulation. Neither team was able to light the lamp while on the man advantage, though.
Tomas Sholl takes the win, stopping all 22 shots he faced and earned his third shutout in four games. This should surely put him in good standings to earn “Goaltender of the Week”. Adam Vay takes the loss for the Rush stopping 10-of-13 shots faced during 28:25 minutes of play and Christian Frey stopped 17-of-19 shots faced during his 31:35 minutes of relief.
With the win the Steelheads have punched their ticket and earned a spot in the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs. Though they haven’t been mathematically eliminated from earning the top spot in the division they will most likely take the #2 seed into the 1st round of the playoffs.
Both teams will square off for the final time this season on Saturday night at the CenturyLink Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:10pm MT.