The Tiger Hills Hockey League semi-finals begin tonight, and the Gladstone Lakers are looking to keep the wins coming. The Lakers are undefeated so far in the playoffs, sweeping both the Carberry Plainsmen and, most recently, the Neepawa Farmers.
"I think our physical play was the key (against Neepawa)," says head coach Dale Evenson. "We laid the body onto them pretty hard, except for the last game, it was pretty tame. They were a little bit of a smaller team than we are, so we used their size and speed to our advantage."
Gladstone will be matched up with the Minnedosa Bombers in this best-of-five series, who also are undefeated in the postseason.
"Minnedosa is a very good team. They have great goaltending. It doesn't matter which goalie they start. They're easily the two best goalies in the league," Evenson explains. "They have one really good line, for sure. So, it's going to be a challenge. We have to find ways to beat those goalies and to be successful."
While the Lakers have won all their playoff games by at least four goals, Evenson says they know what it takes to battle through adversity.
"In Game 2 of the Neepawa series, we faced a lot of adversity. We had four guys in the box at one time," Evenson continues. "We all know what we need to do. If we can stay out of the penalty box and stay aggressive, that's going to be key to our success. Anything that comes our way, our guys are willing to face it. So, I'm pretty confident in the guys going forward."
Both teams are just three wins away from making it to the league final. It's been five years since the last time Gladstone was one of the last two teams standing but Evenson says they still have a lot of players from that season on this roster. He describes what it would mean to make the finals once again.
"It'd be terrific. That's what we shoot for every year. Last year, Minnedosa got in our way. They beat us. So, this could be revenge for us," says Evenson. "It'd be great to get to the finals to play Miniota/Elkhorn (C-Hawks) or Killarney (Shamrocks). Two very good teams. That's the goal but we have to get through Minnedosa first and take it one step at a time."
Evenson adds they plan to come out flying from the opening puck drop. Game 1 of this series goes down tonight in Gladstone at 8:30.