The Portage Terriers are fighting for their playoff lives tonight.
The Dogs are welcoming the Virden Oil Capitals to Stride Place for the winner-take-all Game 7. Portage is coming off a crushing loss on Sunday, dropping Game 6 7-1 and now find themselves on the brink of elimination. Forward Mike Stubbs says, as weird as it may sound, they prepared like it was a regular game.
"It's hard to say it but I think you try to prepare the same way every game you play," Stubbs explains. "It's just another game, obviously, we know it's a massive one. It's do-or-die but we have a lot of older guys in our room with experience, and I think we'll be ready to go."
While the Terriers have plenty of veterans on the roster, only one player on the team actually has played in a Game 7.
"This is actually my first (Game 7). I've played quite a bit of playoff games and been in quite a few series but never a Game 7. I think the only guy on our team that's had an opportunity to go to a Game 7 was Kian Calder," Stubbs continues. "He was successful. Hopefully, he knows what it takes, and he can lead us down that road."
Stubbs has been the team's leader in goals throughout the playoffs with seven but in the locker room, he says Calder is definitely the leader.
"He's been great throughout the playoffs. He's our real vocal leader in the room. There's no doubt about it. He's our guy we lean on when we need that support as a squad. He's been keeping us in check and keeping us accountable. He's going to have us ready for Game 7."
The Oil Capitals had goals from seven different players in Game 6 and have shown that they are not afraid of this Terrier team, despite the regular season record. Portage will have to watch out for all four lines in Game 7 but Stubbs says they know how to beat Virden.
"This group we're playing has no quit in them. They work extremely hard," Stubbs explains. "If we want to beat them in Game 7, it's going to come down to effort. I think we have enough guys in that room to win the game. If we go out there and give our number one effort, we'll be fine."
Even though they are preparing like it's any other game, the season is on the line for the Portage Terriers. If they lose, they would still be a part of the Centennial Cup tournament as the host team, however, the players have said all year that they want to earn their way to the tournament.
The team knows what's at stake tonight, and Stubbs talks about how he'll keep the nerves in check.
"I think, for the most part, throughout the postseason, it's all about getting that first shift in. It's all about starting the game off hot and everybody getting their feet into it early. It always starts with that first good five minutes and weathering the storm."
The Terriers have let up the first goal of the game in four consecutive contests against Virden. Through eleven playoff games, Portage has only been able to open the scoring three times. The Dogs will be looking to make that four times tonight.
The Terriers and Oil Capitals will face off in their biggest game of the season tonight at Stride Place. Puck drop is set for 7:30.