By Len Bardsley
The Times of Trenton
TRENTON, N.J. – Titans coach Mike Haviland set his team straight Thursday.
He gave it to them good at practice at Sovereign Bank Arena in preparation for Game 3 of the Kelly Cup Finals against the Florida Everblades, Friday at 7:30 p.m.
In case you forgot, the Titans are leading the best-of-seven series 2-0.
That is exactly what Haviland wants his team to forget.
No, the Titans didn’t have a bad practice, nor were they coming off any kind of sluggish performance in the first two games. Haviland just wanted to make sure his team doesn’t fall into a comfort zone with the next three games at home.
“We are ready to go,” said Haviland. “We had a good video (session) and I kind of put them back in their place. It is about your emotions not getting too high and keeping it on an even keel. I kind of laid into them a little bit so they don’t lose focus on what is at hand on Friday. It is human nature being up 2-0, thinking things will be easy. We have not won anything yet.”
Haviland knows how hard the Everblades are trying not to repeat history.
Last season, Florida dropped the opening two games at home to Idaho before losing to the Steelheads in five games. The Everblades lost Game 3 of that series 1-0 in overtime.
Titans goalie Andrew Allen expects another great effort from the Everblades Friday. They dominated the Titans for the first 10 minutes of Game 2 on Sunday, and only Allen’s play kept the home team from gaining an early two-goal lead.
“This is the biggest game of the year right now,” said Allen. “There is a huge difference from the series being 2-1 or being 3-0. They are going to be gunning and we will have to be gunning to keep them from getting any momentum. They have a lot of veteran leadership on that side. They know it is possible.”
A few Florida players know first-hand about a team climbing out of a 2-0 hole after losing the first two games at home. Everblades defenseman Matt Pagnutti played for the Louisiana Ice Gators when they took a 2-0 lead over the Peoria Rivermen – winning both games in Peoria – in the 2000 Kelly Cup Finals, only to watch Peoria come back to win the series in six games.
While there is a precedent for a team coming back trailing 2-0, no team has managed to climb out of a 3-0 deficit in finals history, making Friday a huge game for both teams.
“There is no tomorrow,” said Haviland. “You can’t look at Saturday (Game 4) or Monday (Game 5, if necessary). You are in the finals, there are only two teams left. It is my job to refocus them and put them where they need to be. You have to play hard for 60 minutes. That is the message we have to keep reinforcing here.”