At some point, the sublime turned ridiculous -- so many scoring chances, and yet Alaska's Gerald Coleman and Idaho's Josh Robinson would not succumb.
They are hockey's masked men, and Thursday night at Sullivan Arena, both goaltenders committed a string of robberies in the opener of the ECHL Western Conference semifinal series.
They employed their gloves, their blockers, their pads and most of all, their nerve and resolve to time and again snuff the dreams of shooters so thoroughly that regulation would not suffice.
Finally, though, Idaho's Gaelan Patterson crashed a barrier 6 minutes, 9 seconds into overtime, when he roofed a rebound off Coleman's right pad to deliver the Steelheads a 1-0 victory and the opening salvo in the best-of-7 series.
Idaho defenseman Eamonn McDermott started the finishing sequence with a shot from the left point that Patterson, stationed near the edge of the crease, deflected down, and Coleman nonetheless stopped. But Patterson quickly shoveled the rebound, which ticked off Coleman's right pad and ricocheted into the top of the net.
"I tipped the original shot and Coleman made a nice save there,'' Patterson said. "I just whacked at it, to be honest, and I couldn't tell your where it went.''
The 6-foot-5 Coleman said he simply tried to make himself as big as possible on Patterson's rebound shot -- "It was so quick, and in so tight,'' Coleman said.
For the Steelheads, a few minutes of overtime seemed like the snap of fingers. Of course, they were coming off a 3-2 series-clinching win over Colorado on Monday that is the longest game -- four overtimes, 137:18 -- in the 26-season history of the minor-league hockey circuit.
At the other end of the ice, Robinson continued his remarkable run with a 47-save gem that allowed the Steelheads to steal home-ice advantage from the Aces, who won a fourth consecutive Brabham Cup as regular-season champions of the 21-team league. Since giving up a goal to Colorado in the second period Monday, he has gone 169:42 -- nearly the equivalent of three regulation games -- without surrendering a goal.
"He's unbelievable,'' Patterson said. "We're so confident playing in front of him right now.''
The Aces, who were coming off a four-game sweep of the Las Vegas Wranglers in the first round, face their first encounter with adversity entering Game 2 Friday night at Sullivan.
Though the Aces generated a commanding 47-27 cushion in shots on goal, it could easily be argued the veteran Coleman, who backstopped the Aces to the 2011 Kelly Cup, faced as many high-quality, threatening shots as Robinson.
While the Aces outshot the Steelheads, 16-2, in the second period, both Idaho shots proved delicious opportunities. He denied a redirected shot from Idaho winger William Rapuzzi, the ECHL Rookie of the Year from Anchorage, and flashed his left pad to rebuff Justin Mercier's bid from the slot.
In the third period, Coleman stuffed Jason Bast's redirected shot at the right post, again gave Mercier the left-pad treatment, ranged across his crease to deny David de Kastrozza, who scored the game-winning strike Monday, and robbed Mercier with his right pad.
To Coleman, the taut, scoreless game recalled Alaska's 2011 series win over Idaho, when Steelheads goaltender Jerry Kuhn gave the Aces heavy resistance even as Alaska swept the series.
"I was almost channeling the year we won it, when Kuhn was standing on his head,'' Coleman said.
The Aces did not lack for opportunities. They failed to score on three power-play opportunities, marking the first time in five postseason games they have not scored with man advantage.
Among Robinson's stingiest work: Two saves on Aces sniper Peter Sivak in the first period and his smothering of Alex Belzile's redirected shot in the second period. Robinson excelled at controlling his rebounds, which kept the Aces from enjoying second-chance opportunities.
Still, the Aces created enough chances to score, but could only come close.
"That was the whole game - both teams had 'almosts,' " Coleman said.
The Aces will surely try to generate more traffic in front of Robinson in Game 2, following the credo for cracking a hot goalie: Take away his eyes.
Like the Aces, the Steelheads came up empty on the power play, stymied on four opportunities by Aces penalty killers who have allowed opponents one power-play goal on 17 chances in the postseason. Idaho scored on its first power play of the series against Colorado and has not scored on its last 17 power plays since.
Alaska's loss marked just its second 1-0 overtime game -- and just fourth 1-0 game -- in the 132 postseason matches it has played in 11 ECHL seasons. That other 1-0 OT game came in 2007, when the Aces won 1-0 on Kevin Croxton's goal at Bakersfield.
The loss also means the Aces badly need a victory Friday night.
"It's not like we played a bad game,'' Coleman said. "You're not going to walk away from this saying, 'We gave it away.'
"Both teams played hard, both teams played well. That's why it's seven games.''
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog
Idaho 0 0 0 1 -- 1
Aces0 0 0 0 -- 0
First Period -- None. Penalties -- Aces bench minor, served by Findlay (too many men), 3:46; Syvret, Aces (holding), 18:14; Connolly, Aces (roughing), 19:45.
Second Period -- None. Penalties -- Sinkewich, Idaho (roughing), 4:31; Dodero, Idaho (cross-checking), 7:26; Mercier, Idaho (roughing), 16:48; Connolly, Aces (cross-checking), 19:51.
Third Period -- None. Penalties -- None.
Overtime -- 1, Idaho, Patterson 4 (McDermott, Montgomery), 6:09. Penalties -- Belzile, Aces (cross-checking), 2:32; Czarnowczan, Idaho (slashing), 2:32.
Shots on goal -- Idaho 8-2-12-5--27. Aces 16-16-13-2--47.
Power-play Opportunities -- Idaho 0 of 4. Aces 0 of 3.
Goalies -- Idaho, Robinson, 4-2 (47 shots-47 saves). Aces, Coleman, 2-1 (27-26).
A -- 3,347 (6,399). T -- 2:50.
Referee -- Peter Tarnaris. Linesmen -- Steve Glines, Travis Jackson.
By DOYLE WOODY