By Chris Langrill
The Idaho Statesman
BOISE, Idaho — Before the Kelly Cup Finals began, Dayton Bombers left wing Justin Maiser (pictured) characterized his team as the underdog.
“People don’t give us enough credit. We did win our division, the North Division, and did finish off the conference last week,” Maiser said. “But that’s fine. We’re perfectly willing to be the underdog or whatever they want to say about us.”
Whoever “they” are, they are certainly changing their tune after Wednesday’s Game 1, which Dayton won 2-1. Game 2 starts at 7:10 MT on Friday at Qwest Arena.
The Bombers didn’t look like underdogs as they came into Qwest Arena on Wednesday and performed exactly as advertised: They played solid defense, they worked hard and they got good goaltending.
The Steelheads insisted they didn’t take the Bombers lightly.
“There’s no such thing as an underdog when you get to the finals,” Steelheads coach Derek Laxdal said. “You don’t get to this point by being lucky.”
No, Dayton got here by coming back from a 3-1 deficit in its North Division finals series against Cincinnati. The Bombers won a Game 7 on Florida’s home ice in the American Conference Finals against an Everblades team that had the best regular-season record in the conference.
“They beat some good teams along the way to get here,” Idaho veteran Scott Burt said. “We know they’re a heck of a hockey team and they’re here for a reason.”
The Steelheads will try to get the split at home tonight before the series shifts to Dayton, Ohio, for Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary).
“We want to even this series up at 1-1,” Laxdal said. “If we don’t, we’re down 0-2 and we’re in deep cow manure up to our knees.”
If Idaho does lose tonight, it would be the first time in the postseason it has lost back-to-back games. But even then, Steelheads defenseman Darrell Hay said his team wouldn’t get too down.
“(Laxdal) has tried to instill a workmanlike attitude in us all year,” Hay said. “That’s just the right attitude to have in the playoffs. You can’t get too high, and you can’t get too low.”