After sweeping through the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Charlottetown Islanders, the QMJHL's second best team during the regular season, now find themselves on the brink of elimination.
The Islanders return to the Eastlink Centre for game five Saturday afternoon, trailing the Blainville-Broisbriand Armada 3-1 in their best-of-seven semifinal series.
"It's a little bit of adversity for the first time and it's the old adage adversity reveals character and we really believe in the character in our dressing room," said Islanders head coach Jim Hulton.
"Right now the focus is just win a game. It's not about being down 3-1, it's just win a game, play our best hockey and move on."
'First goal is paramount'
Winning three straight games is a tall order indeed, but not impossible.
Two weeks ago, Blainville-Broisbriand erased a 3-1 Acadie-Bathurst series lead their quarter-final. The Armada reeled off three consecutive wins to advance to the semifinals to face the Islanders.
If the Islanders are to win, they'll have to do it without their leading scorer.
Daniel Sprong was suspended for game five after a hit near the end of game four on Wednesday.
"The start is the key for us," Hulton said.
"We're a team that started really on home ice all season. I think we have to do that. We actually had a really good start last game in their building, but we were down 2-0, so I think the first goal is paramount for us. That's not always in your control, but I think shots and traffic in front of their goaltender and that will be at least a start for us."
'Don't want this ride to end'
"The goal right now is to not look too far ahead," he added. "If you look at the mountain sometimes it can be overwhelming. Just win a game, win your first shift, get something positive to happen and carry on from there."
"Hockey is a game of inches," added defenceman Carl Neill. "They've been getting the bounces lately. We've got to work a little harder and hopefully the bounces will go our way. It's a big elimination game, so it's going to be up to us."
Hulton said the Islanders have been a resilient bunch all year, and he expects they'll be ready to battle in front of their home fans.
'This is the reason you fight for it'
"You battle all season for home ice for exactly these reasons," Hulton said.
"A lot of times home ice gets overused and cliche, but this is the reason you fight for it, so when your backs are against the wall, you have the comfort of being at home, you have the support of the hometown crowd, and our building has been electric in the playoffs and we expect a wild atmosphere tomorrow."
"It's a mature group, they know what's at stake and they don't want this ride to end."
The first puck drop is scheduled for Saturday at 4:00 p.m. If the series goes to game six, it would be played Sunday afternoon in Blainville-Broisbriand, Que.
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