By Cleve Dheensaw
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2009
VICTORIA, British Columbia – You don’t have to be a Hockey Hall of Fame analyst to figure this one out: Since no team in ECHL Kelly Cup playoff history has rebounded from a 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven series, Wednesday night’s Game 3 at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre is pretty much a must-win for the Victoria Salmon Kings.
The top-seed Alaska Aces lead the third-seed Salmon Kings 2-0 in the West Division final after 3-0 and 8-2 victories Friday and Saturday before a combined two-game attendance of 10,466 at the intimidating and raucous Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
The series, between the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks farm teams, now shifts to Victoria for games Wednesday and Friday in the 2-3-2 format. Game 5, if needed, would be Saturday at the Memorial Centre. Victoria must take at least two games in this middle home stretch just to get the series back to Anchorage.
Without specifically calling out players, Salmon Kings GM and head coach Mark Morrison said his leaders must do what leaders do: That is, obviously, to lead.
“Our best players got beat by their best players up there,” said Morrison.
“I want to see our big guns be our big guns. Those are the players who have to step up in crunch time. And it’s crunch time. Alaska is maybe the most solid team in the league. But they can be beat. We have a real good shot at them. I’m confident we can come back in the series.”
If that is to happen, things much shift dramatically from the way the Salmon Kings opened the series at the Sully.
“We got out-played,” said Morrison bluntly.
“We out-shot them both games, but they had better quality chances than we did. The effort and will to win was there on our part. But we didn’t execute very well. We didn’t make the plays to beat him [rookie-pro and ECHL first-team all-star goaltender Jean-Philippe Lamoureux]. We made him look better than he is.”
At the other end, Victoria’s goaltending was spotty at best.
“But the Aces made plays in front of our net and our players couldn’t make many in front of Lamoureux.”
Morrison remains remarkably upbeat, even when the spectre of a potentially-daunting post-Wednesday scenario is brought up.
“You never want to say you’re out of it, regardless of the situation,” he said.
“You know what? I think we could beat them four straight, if we had to. It’s a matter of getting a couple of bounces and whole thing turns. But I’m not trying to downplay Game 3. Obviously, it is a very important game. We would like to crawl back to 2-2 and take it from there. But you do that one period at a time.”