Wild’s backs against the wall
Wenatchee staring down elimination vs. Fairbanks
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
WENATCHEE — With his team’s back against the wall, Wenatchee Wild coach John Becanic is hoping an age-old baseball adage can ring true for his reeling hockey club.
“They say momentum’s only as good as your next starting pitcher, and hopefully for us, Fairbanks will only have the momentum for the first few minutes (today),” Becanic said about the Wild, who dropped the first two of their best-of-five NAHL West Division Finals series against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs last weekend.
The series picks back up with Game 3 at 6:35 p.m. Thursday at Town Toyota Center, which is the first of what could be three straight must-win contests for the Wild.
“We just know we have to come out hard in the next game,” said Wild forward Jerad Tafoya, who scored two of the team’s three goals in the first two games of the series. “We just have to take it one game at a time. We’re not looking at the big picture of having to win three games. We’re just thinking about one game because that’s all we need to focus on right now.”
The scary thing for Wenatchee is that, on paper, it has done everything it needed to do to hold down Fairbanks’ vaunted offense. Its two leading scorers, J.T. Osborn and Gabe Levin, have been kept off the scorer’s sheet, and the Wild kept their penalty minutes down to a minimum and prevented the Ice Dogs from scoring on the powerplay, an area where the they were best in the league.
Even so, Fairbanks took Game 1 by a convincing 5-2 margin, and later escaped Game 2 with a 2-1 overtime victory just moments after a Wild shot attempt clanged off the iron.
“I think we lacked a sense of composure in our zone, and we lacked a sense of urgency in their zone,” Becanic said. “Good teams create those types of problems. A good hockey team makes you look vulnerable in those areas. Those aren’t technical things.”
Tafoya pointed at the Ice Dogs’ efficiency on offense as a reason for their success.
“They’ve got a couple real good players that can make plays, and they just moved the puck a lot,” he said.
The Wild will need to get more shots on goal to keep their season alive. They were outshot 29-20 in Game 1, and 36-19 in Game 2.
“Our defense is doing pretty good right now. We just need to score more goals,” Tafoya said. “We all know we need to bear down on the net.”
“We gotta be in the offensive zone more,” said Wild forward and captain Blake Saylor. “We gotta make sure to do all the little things.”
Another sore spot for Wenatchee is its lack of time on the powerplay — they had just four minutes in Game 1, and none in Game 2.
“That’s the first time in 27 years of coaching I’ve had a team that didn’t get a powerplay,” Becanic said.
Considering how the first two games played out, the Wild are stressing the importance of minimizing miscues for the remainder of the series.
“We don’t have the talent they do, so we have to make less mistakes,” Becanic said. “You’re not going to hold them off the scoreboard or keep them from taking shots, but we’re not gonna beat Fairbanks 6-5. We obviously have to continue to be as strong on defense as possible.”
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