By Brian Lester
As Idaho prepared for the final four of the Thorne Cup playoffs over the first weekend of April, Steelheads head coach Jon Olver took a moment to reflect on the previous three-game series against Missoula and how much it benefited his team going forward.
Idaho won the opener 2-1 and finished off the grueling and competitive series with a 5-4 victory. Both Western States Hockey League postseason games went to overtime.
“We had a very tough series and I think it really helped us with our playoff mindset,” Olver said. “We won both games in overtime, but we easily could have lost both games and been done with our season. I have a lot of respect for their organization. Being able to win that series gives us a lot of confidence.”
Defense has been instrumental to the Steelheads’ success in the playoffs and it’s hardly a surprise as they gave up a league-low 78 goals in the regular season.
“We continue to play strong defense,” Olver said. “We have done a good job of closing off the middle of the ice. Defense has been our strength all year and you have to be able to play great defense to succeed in the playoffs.”
Olver is thrilled with how his team has handled the challenges it has faced along the way in the postseason as it takes aim at defending its league championship.
One thing is for sure, the team that does win the title will have earned it without a doubt.
“The caliber of play in the league has really risen. The first three rounds have been as competitive as any in the history of the league,” Olver added. “It’s made for really exciting hockey and whichever team wins the championship will feel a great sense of accomplishment.”
Olver is hoping his team will be the last one standing.
“We dodged a bullet in that Missoula series,” Olver said. “We have to continue to find ways to win tight games because that is what it’s going to take to come out on top in the playoffs.”
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