Xtreme faces divisional rival Lethbridge in first round of playoffs
The Airdrie Xtreme locked up second place in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League’s (AMBHL) Ram South Division with a win and a tie last weekend, and will now face the Lethbridge Golden Hawks in a best-of-three first-round playoff series.
Game one was at the Ron Ebbesen Arena on Feb. 16, after the City View went to press, with game two scheduled for Lethbridge on Feb. 18, with game three, if necessary, set for 1 p.m. in Airdrie on Feb. 19.
Airdrie swept the season series over Lethbridge, with a 5-3 road win on Sept. 25, a 3-2 home win on Dec. 11, and a 7-4 win on Jan. 29, also at home.
Xtreme head coach Terry Keogh knows Airdrie and the Golden Hawks have a fierce rivalry, but said his team has been playing the type of hockey he wants to see heading into the post-season
“We have been on a pretty good run lately,” he said. “But with the short series, we definitely need to come out flying. We’ve done fairly well against them five-on-five, but in the last game, they got a few goals on us on the power play. They’ve got a couple of set plays that work well, so if we shut that down, I’m confident we’ll have some success. We’ll make some adjustments and try to play disciplined.”
Airdrie is 5W-2L-3T in its last 10 games, but in a short three-game series, the importance of winning the opening game is amplified, Keogh said.
“It’s huge, as you want to get out in front and have some breathing room,” he said. “If you don’t get that win in the first game, anything can happen. The pressure builds into game two if everybody knows it could be your last game. It can make it that much more difficult to execute.”
Game two, in Lethbridge, and game three, if necessary, are scheduled to start only 18 hours apart. Playing at the Ron Ebbesen Arena on Feb. 19, Keogh said, could be essential as well.
“It will be a late night for us coming back, but it would be a very early morning for them having to sit on the bus for more or less three hours that day,” he said.
Airdrie’s final regular season game was a 3-3 tie with the Calgary Northstars on Feb. 12 in Red Deer. Chad Harrison, Ryan Barrow and Kris LeClair each had goals, while Ryan Ternes made 35 saves in net.
“We didn’t play very well in the first and second periods,” Keogh said. “Ternes held us in. But we turned it on in the third period and we’re able to dominate. As long as we can continue that into the playoffs, we’ll be alright.”
Leif Undseth, Dillon Dube, Zach Giroux and Harrison scored in a 4-2 comeback road win over the Red Deer White Rebels on Feb. 11. Ternes made 19 saves for the win.
“Our maturity has developed throughout the season, as we don’t let things get us down anymore,” Keogh said. “We continued to pressure for the next two periods and were rewarded for it.”