After early elimination from the junior hockey playoffs, the Windsor Spitfires have a challenging sheet of ice ahead of them as they prepare to host and compete in the Memorial Cup.
The team was knocked out of the first round after a nail-biting game seven against the London Knights, but they automatically earn a shot at the cup as the host city.
Battling it out until the end against the long-standing rival is just the first challenge of this year's junior hockey finale. The Spitfires now go six weeks without a game before the Memorial Cup starts on May 18.
Team staff and players realize how difficult it could be to get game ready for the tournament.
"We have a plan in place," said Rocky Thompson, the team's head coach. "We've talked to people who have been through this before — what worked and what didn't work. We're going to combine those together and come up with our outline for the next six weeks."
Team will be well rested
The team could also benefit from the break, getting much-needed rest as everyone else battles it out for the remainder of the playoffs.
"I think inevitably you want to be playing games, but I think we look at different perspectives," said goaltender Mike Di Pietro. "You have an advantage over your opponents coming to the Memorial Cup because we did have this break and we will be well rested and hopefully we come out harder."
Teams and players are not revealing their training strategy over the next six weeks, hoping to keep a tight lid on how they'll prepare. There is plenty of optimism throughout the roster about their chances of winning the Memorial Cup, which they won in 2009 and 2010.
"Obviously there's some positives to be taken out of this, as weird as this sounds," said centre Aaron Luchuk. "We'll be fully healthy going into a big tournament. I think we'll be ready and I think we have a really good shot to win this thing."