Home-ice advantage could prove crucial

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:48 AM ET

MOOSE JAW -- The Calgary Hitmen were holding an ace up their sleeves.

They were hoping it would never have to be played.

Thanks to last night's 3-1 loss in Moose Jaw, the Hitmen are coming home to play for all the marbles.

Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinal goes Wednesday night (7 p.m. at the Saddledome, Shaw TV), with the winner facing the Medicine Hat Tigers.

Centre Ryan White his club's stellar regular-season record is about to pay dividends.

"We wanted to close things up tonight," White said.

"But we played 72 games to get home-ice advantage so we'll take it."

The sophomore pivot was a part of last year's squad, which blew a 3-1 series lead against Brandon and lost 3-1 in the deciding game at the Keystone Centre.

"Anything can happen in a Game 7," White said.

"We saw that last year, up a goal in the third and they shoved it down our throats."

This is the third straight post-season the Hitmen will play in a winner-take-all showdown.

And recent history isn't on their side.

The club's season came to an end the last three times a series has gone the distance.

Prior to bowing out to the Wheat Kings, the Red Deer Rebels (2004) and Swift Current Broncos (2002) gave Calgary the boot.

All three games were on the road.

If the Hitmen are looking for a silver lining after last night's lacklustre performance, they'll like the franchise's perfect Game 7 record on home ice.

The Hitmen beat the Broncos in 1998 and the following year tripped up Kootenay en route to the WHL crown.

Captain Brett Carson has played in two Game 7s and, while both ended in heartbreak, he said he can draw upon those experiences for Wednesday's big showdown.

"It's a one-game shot," Carson said. "Whoever comes out and plays their game is going to win this series.

"Obviously, both teams are going to be pretty desperate.

"One game means the difference between going home and moving on.

"Having played in those games and knowing how to handle yourself, it's a bit of an advantage but it'll come down to who is the better team Wednesday."


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