By Cleve Dheensaw
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2009
VICTORIA, British Columbia – The Victoria Salmon Kings realize theirs is the kind of playoff-series lead one acknowledges on bended knee.
That’s why the team is anything but cocky as the first-round ECHL Kelly Cup series swings into Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre for Games 3 and 4 Wednesday and Friday, with West Division third-seed Victoria leading second-seed Idaho 2-0 in the best-of-seven.
“We’re quietly confident but we also know we’re fortunate to be up two games because Idaho played very well in that second game and it could very easily be 1-1,” said Salmon Kings GM and head coach Mark Morrison.
Idaho, farm team of the Dallas Stars, has a strange but defined post-season history. The franchise doesn’t tend to have playoff runs of moderate length. The Steelheads either go all the way, as they did in winning the 2004 and 2007 Kelly Cup titles, or they bomb out early as they did last season in being swept in the first round.
Both scenarios, at either extreme, are still possible this year for the Steelheads, listed among the 2009 Kelly Cup favourites when the post-season began. Game 3 looms huge for them. Another Kelly Cup run, or another early exit, may hang in the balance.
“We’ve got to keep it real — a 2-0 lead against these guys is good but it’s also very dangerous. We can’t give them life,” warned Morrison.
The Salmon Kings have a playoff history of their own, which is why this season’s team was constructed the way it was. Victoria, a 2008 Kelly Cup favourite, was pushed around by the more physical Utah Grizzlies and eliminated in five games in a second-round shocker last year.
“We felt we were not gritty enough last year in the playoffs and that’s why this team was built with grit and physicality in mind,” said Morrison.
That was much in evidence in the Salmon Kings’ tight wins in Games 1 and 2 over the weekend in Boise — neither of which was decided until Victoria scored empty-net goals.
“We’re not going to do anything different at home,” said Morrison.
“We’ve got to keep playing our game. Everybody has to keep doing their jobs and playing their roles.”
Game times Wednesday and Friday are 7 p.m. Game 5, if required, is at the Memorial Centre on Saturday. Games 6 and 7, if needed, would be back in Boise.