The deeper a team goes in the playoffs, playing within its system and doing the little things can be the difference beween winning and losing.
The Tri-City Americans and Kelowna Rockets share that philosophy as their Western Conference semifinal series shifts to Prospera Place tonight for Game 3. Game 4 will be Wednesday in Kelowna, while Game 5 will be at Toyota Center. The best-of-7 series is tied at one game apiece.
"We just have to focus on our game," said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller. "We need to be aggressive on our forecheck, cause turnovers and get to the net."
Kelowna, which won Game 2 on Saturday night at Toyota Center, is happy to be playing at home. But the Rockets know they can't ease up just because they are on home ice. The Americans were 2-0 during the regular season at Prospera Place.
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"For us to have success, everything has to fall into place," said Rockets coach Ryan Huska. "We have a group of guys working together, but just because we are home doesn't mean we can take it for granted that we will win. Our guys will have to play hard."
The first game of the series was a hard-checking affair, and while the second had its fair share of physical play, it didn't match that of Game 1.
"You always see that on back-to-back nights," Huska said. "Guys who play a lot don't have as much jump. It's not easy keeping that pace every night."
Tri-City captain Jarrett Toll wasn't pleased with how the Americans played in Game 2, and he's looking for better things tonight and Wednesday.
"I think it's personal," Toll said. "We are expected to come out and play at full strength, and when we don't the loss is the result. Home is a good place to play, but we have done this to ourselves. There are a couple of things we have to correct. We have to move our feet, we need to use our speed and we have to be ready for the physical play."
Solid goaltending played a big part in the first two games, with Tri-City's Drew Owsley having a stellar night in the first game, and Kelowna's Mark Guggenberger stealing the show in the second with 35 saves.
Owsley had a 1.25 goals against average against the Rockets during the regular season, winning all four games and allowing just five goals. But Kelowna, which was missing several key players early on because of injuries, is a different team than it was four months ago.
"In every series, the goalie plays pivotal role," Hiller said. "Drew has had a tremendous season, and we know he will be there for us."
Owsley is up for the challenge, but said a few changes have to be made.
"I need to talk to my D-men more," Owsley said. "They are coming quicker and we need to find a way to limit second chances."
Guggenberger missed most of the regular season with a sports hernia and hadn't faced the Americans since last season when he set up shop in net Friday night.
"They've really stepped it up this year," Guggenberger said of the Americans. "They have some tough guys over there. We just have to bring our work ethic every night. We found success in the first round (against Everett) at home. Hopefully we put together another solid effort."