One win and the Tri-City Americans can put the Spokane Chiefs behind them and move on to the Western Conference finals.
The Americans lead the Western Conference semifinal series 3-2 heading into Game 6 tonight at Spokane Arena, but getting that last win won't be easy.
"They are good team, they play hard, and we have to make the most of every opportunity," Americans forward Patrick Holland said after Tri-City's 5-3 win Saturday. "Every game has been really close. Besides tonight, it has been 3-2 or 2-1 every game. You can't let emotions take control of you. You just have to keep pressing --that's what the playoffs are all about."
The Chiefs beat the Americans in six games last year in this same round of the playoffs. Spokane needs to win tonight and Wednesday to move on.
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"Reality is, we are on the brink of elimination now," said Spokane captain Darren Kramer. "We can use that to our advantage. We can look at it as motivation. We have to play our game to have success. If we go to their level and try to play their game -- a skill game -- we aren't going to have any success."
The Chiefs won the first game of the series, while the Americans took Games 2 and 3. Spokane won 3-2 in overtime on Friday to send the series back to Toyota Center on Saturday for Game 5, which the Americans won 5-3.
"We've said all along, we are in a race to four games," Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. "As disappointed as were about Friday, and as excited as were are about (Saturday), Game 6 is the next one on our agenda. It's two great, competitive teams, and the rivalry adds flavor. The kids on both sides are going after it."
Goaltending has played a big part in the series, with tenders on both ends giving their teams a chance to win every night.
Tri-City's Ty Rimmer (7-0-2) has a 1.80 goals against average and a .932 save percentage, while Spokane's Eric Williams (6-3-0) has been equally good with a 2.09 GAA and a .927 save percentage.
The series has been a physical one. No one has been seriously hurt, but every stoppage of play has had a bit of drama.
"It's fun playing them. There's a little hatred between us, but that's good. That's playoff hockey," said Tri-City defenseman Justin Hamonic. "There's a lot of stuff going on out there, but nothing too outrageous. (Brendan) Shinnimin takes a beating, but that comes from being one of the best players in the league. He's dealt with it all year."
Kramer agreed: "It's fun for everyone. It's a rivalry. It's amazing to play Tri-City in the playoffs -- I wouldn't want it any other way. It has been a close series, and that's what we like. Shinnimin is a key guy, and we have to key on him, but we don't want to lose our focus. When he is on the ice, we have to take care of him and Holland and (Adam) Hughesman."
NOTES: Hughesman played his 66th playoff game Saturday, becoming the all-time franchise leader, surpassing Kruise Reddick (65). Shinnimin, who has points in 32 consecutive games, passed Reddick (38) to become the team's all-time playoff assist leader with 39.