Boise, ID (12/13/13) - Justin Mercier's backhander from the top of the crease just 37 seconds into the overtime session lifted the Idaho Steelheads to a gritty, 4-3 win over the Alaska Aces Friday night at CenturyLink Arena in Boise.
Mercier's winner improved Idaho's overall record to 13-6-4, good for 30 points in the ECHL's Western Conference. The back-and-forth affair was played in front of 3,917 fans.
Alaska struck first on a Peter Sivak re-direction on the power play at 10:37 of the first period, but Idaho answered quickly - also on the power play - at 14:21 of the first when Anthony Nigro snapped home his team-leading 12th goal of the season from the slot off a nice feed from Mitch Wahl, evening the game at one goal apiece.
The Aces re-took the lead immediately in the second period when Nick Mazzolini intercepted an Idaho pass on the power play, triggering a short-handed rush up the ice where Mazzolini fed David Eddy at the 23-second mark of the period to make it 2-1 in favor of Alaska. Idaho would again answer, again on the power play, as Wahl and Nigro teamed up to bring the puck up the left wing and play it across to the right wing for a one-timer from Tommy Grant just inside the near post at 12:48 of the second to even the score at 2-2. The Aces struck again short-handed at 18:54 of the second when Eddy intercepted a pass across the blue line on another Steelheads power play. He carried it in on a breakaway and was able to tuck the puck just past the outstretched leg of Idaho's Josh Robinson to give the Aces a 3-2 lead going into the third period.
Holding a one-goal lead midway through the third, the Aces strung together three consecutive shifts that resulted in good scoring chances. Twice, Robinson denied the Aces at point-blank range to keep the Steelheads within one. Finally, at 12:33, the ice tilted the other way on a rush into the offensive zone. Mitchell Good slammed on the brakes on the left wing near the half wall and waited for trailer Dan DeLisle to join the rush in the high slot. DeLisle, signed earlier in the day by Idaho, slammed the puck past Alex Kangas for his first pro goal to tie the game, 3-3.
Idaho didn't wait long in the overtime session to end the game. Defenseman Patrick Cullity chipped the puck deep down the left wing for Idaho and Brett Robinson won a race to the puck near the edge of the trapezoid. He quickly centered the puck out front to Mercier who battled through contact before lifting a backhand past Kangas inside the right-wing post 37 seconds into the extra session to win the game for Idaho.
Robinson, Wahl and Cullity all had two assists in the game for Idaho. Robinson's assists extended his point streak to seven consecutive games. Nigro had a goal and assist as well for the Steelheads.
Josh Robinson got the win in net for Idaho, battling for 35 saves on 38 Alaska shots. Kangas took the loss for Alaska, allowing four goals on 26 shots. Idaho finished the game 2-6 on the power play while the team's penalty-kill unit went 5-6.