By Len Bardsley
© 2005 The Times of Trenton
TRENTON, N.J. – It was the same spectacular scenery when the Titans landed in Anchorage, Alaska, on Wednesday, but it didn’t quite have the same effect on the players as it did 10 days ago.
The ice at Sullivan Arena still was 200 by 100, but it probably didn’t seem to big when the Titans practiced on it Thursday.
The crowd will be just as loud Friday when the Alaska Aces host the Titans in Game 6 of the National Conference Finals as it was for Game 1 of the series, but it shouldn’t faze the Titans this time.
The Titans admit they went into this series a little like awe struck tourists straining their necks in Times Square for the first time. That is not the way they plan on going out of it.
The Titans are here strictly for the business of closing out the series and advancing to the Kelly Cup Finals.
The Titans lead the best-of-seven series 3-2. A loss for the Titans in Game 6, which starts at 11:15 p.m. today in Sullivan Arena, would force a deciding seventh game Monday.
“When you first come here. it is like, `Wow,’ ” said Titans coach Mike Haviland. “You look at the mountains, you realize you are in Alaska. It is almost like, `Oh yeah, we have a hockey game.’ This time it is very business-like. We are here for one thing: to win a hockey game.”
The Titans clearly have a totally different focus on this trip to Anchorage compared to Game 1, which resulted in a 6-0 loss.
“In Game 1 we didn’t know a lot,” Haviland said. “We had not been in front of their crowd; we had not been on their ice. We had not played them all year. It is a totally different atmosphere this time. We have played five games. We have been up here before, we have won here and we have seen the crowd.”
Titans captain Rick Kowalsky feels it is nice to have a familiar feeling coming into Anchorage this time.
“With an opportunity to end the series, the guys are feeling good,” Kowalsky said. “No one knew anything about the flights, the arena the first time. It is a more comfortable feeling now. The confidence is different than the first time we came up here.”
Kowalsky feels the Titans need to maintain the same sense of urgency they displayed in Game 5, especially early in the game against the Aces.
“The guys are anxious for (tonight) to come,” Kowalsky said. “Coming off the win the other night, hopefully we smell the blood so to speak and come out with that same intensity and killer instinct. It is the same attitude we took in the other night. We are going to play like it is a must-win situation.”
Kowalsky knows the Aces are a team that can really get rolling once it gains momentum (a perfect example was Game 1). The Titans have proved if they can match the Aces’ intensity early, they can dictate the tempo the remainder of the game.
“They are a momentum team that plays with a lot of emotion,” said Kowalsky. “Once they get going they are a tough team to beat. Obviously in this building it makes it that much more important to score first.”