ABRAM-VILLAGE – It’s crunch time for the Island Junior Hockey League finalists.
The Sherwood-Parkdale A&S Scrap Metal Metros and Arsenault’s Fish Mart Western Red Wings are tied 2-2 entering a crucial Game 5 on Tuesday. Puck drop at the Evangeline Recreation Centre is slated for 7:30 p.m. Game 6 will be played at the Cody Banks Arena in Charlottetown on Thursday at 8 p.m. If necessary, a seventh and deciding game will be back in Abram-Village on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“We obviously had a 2-0 lead and it would have been nice to get better outcomes in Games 3 and 4, but we are excited,” said Red Wings head coach Nathan DesRoches. “It’s a good opportunity now, it’s a best-of-three and we have home ice. We’ll take it.”
The Red Wings won the first two games 4-0 and 4-3, but the Metros responded with back-to-back 4-3 wins on Friday and Sunday to pull even.
“It’s been a great series so far,” said Metros head coach Alex Smith. “We are awful happy we had the opportunity to tie it up the last two games. We are looking forward to another big one (Tuesday).”
With the Red Wings advancing to Game 7 of the league final the last two years, the 2016-17 league champions are not lacking big-game playoff experience.
“I like to say our room has a lot of winners in it, and we are very fortunate that way,” said DesRoches. “Even a lot of our kids that are playing have a lot of experience at different levels in a championship series.
“At this point of the game everybody has to come together and do their own job.”
Smith says playing “a strong aggressive game” will be a key for the Metros.
“We have done very well off the rush,” explained Smith. “One area we would like to improve is whenever Western has been getting into our zone they have been having some sustainable zone time, where they will be in our end for 30 seconds to a minute at a time.
“We have done a great job of keeping guys to the outside, but at the same time it would be nice to see us get on them earlier, get pucks out of our end a little bit quicker. Pucks out and pucks in is basically the motto to this series.
“Once we are getting pucks in we are banging bodies, and that’s when we are the most effective. We have to keep that up.”
Smith confirmed Sam Walsh, who stopped 81 of 87 shots in Games 3 and 4, will get his third straight start after Alex Kelly was between the pipes for the first two contests.
“We have a lot of confidence in both of them,” said Smith. “If you look at our playoffs this year, it will be close to even playing time (for Kelly and Walsh) after this next game.
“They have both been phenomenal for us. It certainly wasn’t the fault of Kelly we lost the first two games, but we felt it was time to switch it up to see if we could get another spark. Sam has been great, just as Alex was great beforehand.”
The Red Wings, DesRoches said, will come back with Luke Oliver in goal. Oliver won the first two games, and was relieved by Bronson Banks at the start of the third period of Game 3 with the Metros leading 4-2.
“From Day 1 I’ve had the utmost believe in the guys in our locker-room,” added DesRoches. “I fully believe we are going to have our best game of the year on Tuesday night.
“I feel very fortunate to coach these players. They are a great group of kids and I feel Tuesday night, when push comes to shove, we are going to be at our very best.”