The Tri-City Americans have the Vancouver Giants trapped in a corner.
The Americans, who lead the best-of-7 Western Conference final series 3-2, need only a win tonight in Game 6 at Pacific Coliseum to advance to the Western Hockey League finals. But they know it won't be an easy task.
"Every game has been outstanding hockey," said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller. "(Today) will be no different. We will have to have our best game. Everyone has had an impact in this series. Against a team like Vancouver, you don't have success unless you get it from everyone."
The winner of the Tri-City-Vancouver series will move on to play the Calgary Hitmen for the Ed Chynoweth Cup. Calgary beat Brandon 4-1 in the Eastern Conference finals Friday.
If necessary, Game 7 of this series will be Tuesday at Toyota Center.
Vancouver has struggled with its penalty kill (67.2 percent, 15th among playoff teams) and has had trouble getting the puck past Tri-City goalie Drew Owsley in the series. But the Giants have been in this situation before and come through.
Spokane held a 3-2 lead over Vancouver in the second round last year before the Giants won a pair of overtime games to advance to the Western Conference finals, where they dropped a six-game series to Kelowna.
Neither team will be dwelling on the past tonight. All that will matter is what they have to work with at the present, and for the Americans, that is a surprising mix of players.
"Looking at our team on paper at the start of the year, we had no draft picks, just guys who are willing to work hard," said Tri-City forward Brendan Shinnimin, who leads the Americans with 20 points in the playoffs. "We are a team that could contend for the championship with no big names and no big draft picks. The hard work has gotten us here."
As has the stellar play of Owsley, who leads all playoff goalies -- who have made it past the first round -- with a 2.15 goals against average and a .931 save percentage. In 16 games, he has been named the No. 1 or No. 2 star eight times. The Americans have allowed just 37 goals in the playoffs and just 10 to the Giants in five games.
"It's great to have a goalie like Drew to back you up when you make mistakes," Shinnimin said. "We have total confidence in both of our goalies (including Alex Pechurskiy). They have gotten us here so far."
Giants forward Brendan Gallagher has 11 goals in the playoffs, but has only been able to beat Owsley twice.
"He's a good goalie," said Gallagher, who has 21 points in the postseason. "He's put up some good numbers. We need to make his job a little tougher and hopefully have some success against him."