The Alaska Aces and Stockton Thunder each went through a light morning skate today in preparation for tonight's Game 6 at Sullivan Arena in the ECHL Western Conference semifinals, where the Aces again must win to avoid elimination and the Thunder are just one win away from the conference finals.
Gee, nothing much at stake, eh?
Stockton leads 3-2 in the best-of-7 series.
"Every game from here on out is do or die,'' said Aces defenseman Corey Syvret. "You've got to be positive. You can't be looking back. There's nothing to do now but win.''
Aces winger Alex Hudson, who furnished the game-winning goal in Alaska's 4-2 Game 5 win Sunday in Stockton to keep the season alive, said his club needs to duplicate its performance tonight.
"Everyone on board, play your best game, play your hardest and have all the hard work we've done pay off,'' Hudson said.
Stockton in the first round was in the same position the Aces find themselves, trailing 3-2 with Game 6 on home ice. Stockton won Games 6 and 7 at Stockton Arena in the first round to eliminate Las Vegas.
"We've been in the situation they're in, and we know how we played,'' said Stockton coach Matt Thomas. "Both teams have a lot of pride.''
Thomas pointed out how quickly things can turn in a playoff game. He cited Game 5, which the Aces led 2-1 with about four minutes to go, when Alaska goaltender Gerald Coleman got the paddle of his stick down along the goal line to deny a terrific scoring chance by Ryan Hayes. About a minute later, Hudson scored off the rush to furnish the Aces a 3-1 lead.
"That's playoff hockey -- a big save, a missed opportunity on one end and cashing in at the other end,'' Thomas said.
Aces coach Rob Murray, who said he'll dress the same lineup tonight that he used in Game 5, said monumental games like these are hockey at its finest.
"It's nerve-racking, but it's fun too,'' Murray said. "I don't want to say winning easy isn't fun. But when you have to scratch and claw to get the wins, you almost feel better about it.''
Doyle Woody, email@example.com