MONCTON -- At the end of the Peterborough Petes practice yesterday, goalie David Shantz skated off the ice and posed for a picture with his parents and two younger brothers.
Shantz and his teammates hope it was not one of the last snapshots of his junior career. And for the Petes to ensure that it wasn't, they're going to have to be a much different team today in the first Memorial Cup tie-breaker since 2002.
A successful season for the Petes, which included their first Ontario Hockey League title in 10 seasons, comes down to a basic premise -- if they beat the Vancouver Giants today, they move onto the semi-final. If not, their Cup dreams are toast.
The Giants remained alive on Tuesday night and forced a tie-breaker when they beat the Petes 3-2.
"I don't think there is a team in the OHL that played as physical as that," Petes coach Dick Todd said. "We have a big enough team, a strong enough team and an old enough team, and we have prided ourselves all year that we can play any type of game we face, be it skill or physical."
In their three games, the Petes have earned a reputation as a club that starts slowly and never appears to get fully adjusted to their opponent.
They have been tentative, and though they are not the fastest team on the planet, they are quicker than they have shown.
Is it possible the Petes simply are not up to par with the other teams in the tournament? No one said as much a week ago, before the Cup began. Why is it the Petes have spent so much time "feeling teams out," as Todd said yesterday, instead of just going out and playing? This is not a seven-game series where time is affordable.
"It's something you can't really explain," Steve Downie said. "We have to pick up our game a lot if we want to win. I don't want to give them the lead, I want to have the lead. We can't let them outhit us."
The Petes were burned for a couple of pretty goals by Vancouver's Gilbert Brule on Tuesday, but Todd said he has no special plans to cover the multi-talented Brule today.
Shantz, who should get a contract from the Florida Panthers before the end of the month, knows that no team that has won the tiebreaker (there have been five) has gone on to win the tournament.
"We have not been consistent enough to deserve to win a couple of games here," Shantz said. "We can't look at it as a situation where we have to win three in a row. We have to win one in a row three times, and be prepared (today), or this could be the last game on junior ice (for some Petes)."