The Kootenay Ice are down to their last shot.
Trailing 3-1 in their best-of-seven WHL Eastern Conference Quarter-final with the Calgary Hitmen, the Ice face no choice other than to start winning — and keep winning — if they are to remain alive in the 2015 WHL Playoffs.
Each of the first three games of the series was decided by one goal. That all changed Wednesday night as the Hitmen cruised to a 7-2 victory to stake out that 3-1 series advantage.
“You’ve got to put the past in the past, obviously,” said Kootenay Ice alternate captain Luke Philp Wednesday night. “We know anything can happen. I think we have to take it one day at a time, one game at a time. We can’t look too far ahead and look at the big comeback. We’ve got to focus and get ready for our next game Friday.”
“We’re still alive. We’re going to fight to the very end.”
During the 2014 WHL Eastern Conference Quarter-final, the Hitmen took a 2-1 series lead before the Ice rattled off three consecutive wins to upset Calgary 4-2. If the Ice are to advance beyond the 2015 Eastern Conference Quarter-final, it’s going to require three straight wins once again, but with no margin for error.
For the Calgary Hitmen, they look upon their first opportunity to eliminate the Kootenay Ice from the WHL’s big dance.
With last year’s first-round upset, there’s no doubt the Hitmen have no desire to give the Ice any life.
“We know Kootenay is going to push hard. It’s do-or-die for them,” said Calgary Hitmen forward Connor Rankin Wednesday night. “We know we have home ice, but we saw in Game 1 they can beat us on home ice, too. We still have to stay focused and be ready for that game because we know they’re going to be coming.”
Rankin played a big part in the Hitmen’s offensive firing squad in Game 4, tallying three goals for his team.
Between the pipes, Hitmen goaltender Brendan Burke seems to have solidified his role — for the time being — after turning in a 28-save victory Wednesday night in Game 4.
The Calgary goaltending carousel continued to spin throughout the first three games of the series, with both Burke and Mack Shields earning starts, only to be pulled along the way.
Goaltending has been a big question-mark for the Hitmen throughout this series, with Burke’s performance in Game 4 being the best the team has seen yet.
Inconsistency in net has been a regular issue for both Burke and Shields, and heading into Game 5, Ice forward Jaedon Descheneau has faith in his club.
“We start over now. It’s take one game at a time, one shift at a time,” Descheneau said Wednesday. “It’s not over. That’s the beauty of it. Obviously we’ve got a few wins we’ve got to get, but it’s not over. Last year we lost in a series when we were up 3-1, too. It’s always doable and I believe in this group.”
Descheneau references his team’s 2014 Eastern Conference Semifinal defeat at the hands of the Medicine Hat Tigers.
After going up 3-1 in the series, the Ice dropped three consecutive games, falling to the Tigers in a heartbreaking Game-7 loss last season.
The Ice opened this year’s best-of-seven by defeating the Hitmen 4-3 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Game 1. As far as Descheneau’s concerned, home ice for the Hitmen doesn’t bother the Kootenay Ice.
“I’ve got confidence playing there and I think a lot of us guys [do],” Descheneau said. “It’s got to be a full-roster group. We’ve got to all play. We’ve got to play four lines and have everyone playing well — ‘D’ core moving the puck and it’s going to be a long road, but it’s going to be a good test for us.”
Puck drop between the Ice and Hitmen is set for 7 p.m. Friday night at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Game 6 will go Saturday night at Western Financial Place in Cranbrook, should the Ice extend the series.
Video highlights: Game 4 – Calgary Hitmen 7 at Kootenay Ice 2 (April 1, 2015):