Say what you want about the Chilliwack Chiefs scratching many of their top players in Thursday's 3-0 loss to the Battlefords North Stars – the fact is the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League champions played by far their best game of the tournament and really should have won by more.
Now, they'll need a similar effort with more finish in their do-or-die third versus fourth playoff game at the Western Canada Cup against the host Penticton Vees.
"It's going to be a quick game," North Stars head coach Nate Bedford said on the eve of the team's second elimination game in three days. "We've got to make sure that we don't turn pucks over in bad areas and we've got to get pucks on net and make sure that we're physical in front of their net. It's a winnable game if we want it to be."
The North Stars snuck into the playoff round with a 1-2-1 record.
The Vees went 2-1-1 and helped Battlefords advance by defeating the Portage Terriers in regulation on Thursday night 5-3.
Turning pucks over at blue lines was a problem for the North Stars in their 4-1 loss to Brooks on Tuesday.
It wasn't on Thursday, when they did a commendable job of keeping the Chiefs to the outside of the ice.
Bedford said a lot of their strong play from the 3-0 win – which happened at both ends of the ice – had a lot to do with the fact that they were on the brink of elimination.
"We're playing with confidence now and I don't think we were before," Bedford said. "I think we got close to the season being over and I don't think guys wanted the season to be over and did everything they could to make sure it wasn't.
"Now I feel like we're actually thinking that we have a shot here. I think before we were just happy to be here. Our team has been great over the last 48 hours."
The North Stars will have to shut down Nic Jones of the Vees, who has been a standout player at the tournament and was named top forward at the awards gala on Friday night.
Jones had six points in four round robin games and had two assists in Penticton's 2-1 overtime win over Battlefords on the first day of the tournament.
"I'm not worried about line matchups or anything like that," Bedford said, as the Vees will have last change because of home ice. "If you look at top players from every team that we've played, top players don't do great against us because we play such a good team defensive game.
"We'll be aware of when their top guys are on the ice and you just play a little bit safer on those shifts and wait for your opportunities."
"We need to chip pucks out and not make dumb plays," added North Stars forward Ben Allen. "Make safe plays."
Goaltender Joel Grzybowski is the expected starter for the North Stars, as he has had a fabulous tournament.
He leads all goaltenders with 115 saves through four games and has a .920 save percentage.
Up front, Bedford wouldn't say if any line would be changed from Thursday's win but did hint that if needed late in the game, some shuffling may occur.
"It's do-or-die so we'll have to make sure that we're cognizant of the fact that if we don't win tomorrow, we're done," Bedford said. "So we'll do whatever it takes to move on."
The Ultra Print pre-game show will get you all teed up for the game beginning at 2:30 p.m. with puck drop set for 3 p.m. Saskatchewan time.
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