Big hits and several fights was the story of the Wheatland Kings' first playoff game, as they hosted the Coaldale Copperheads and didn't look prepared for the physicality they would bring in what became a 4-2 win for the Copperheads.
On home ice, the Copperheads came in and immediately set the tone for the game, landing huge blows and getting under the skin of the Kings from the first whistle. Kings Head Coach Doug Raycroft said if the team wants to survive the first round of the playoffs, they'll have to get back to playing their style of game.
"We played their kind of game in the first period, and we have to be ready to play our kind of game, and our game is moving the puck fast and skating and all the things that we do well."
While the Kings were previously 5-1 against Coaldale (now 5-2) and had enjoyed great success against them this season, Raycroft was quick to give credit to Coaldale for being better than their record and being able to throw the Kings off.
"Like we said all along, they're a good team, they're big and they like to hit."
Coaldale's aggressive nature had the Kings reverting back to early-season habits, such as spending too much time in the penalty box and playing undisciplined hockey. By the time the Kings got settled into the game it was already 3-0 in the second period, which eventually turned into a 4-1 lead.
The Copperheads would hold that lead until the final two minutes of the third when the Kings brought it a bit closer to 4-2.
With the Kings being down 0-1 in the best of three, they now have to travel to Coaldale and are in a must win situation if they want to stay alive in the playoffs. While it's not a great situation to be in, Raycroft hasn't lost confidence in the team and says they'll be able to get the job done.
"We're going to bring everything we have, it's going to be a battle so we told just told the boys 'get ready, take care of yourself, get some sleep because you know it's going to be a war down there.'"
The team is unsurprisingly quite upset about how game one of the series went, but Raycroft said feeling mad can be a good thing, as the team should be disappointed to drop a game the way they did. However, as they head into the next game he said it's important to still play smart and not give in to anger.
"You have to be smart, you have to make sure that you're taking care of your team first. When you're 'team first' you don't take penalties, you're not undisciplined, we preached that all year. It's good to be mad a little bit, it's disappointing right? That will fuel a little bit of the fire for the next game, but we'll have to be more disciplined and smart when we go there."
The Kings now head to Coaldale for game 2 this Saturday at 8:00 p.m. If the Kings win on Saturday to force game 2 they will be back on home ice Sunday at 6:30 p.m.
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