Belief system

CRASH CAMERON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

Whether it's a cliche or a belief system, there really is only one thing you can say when you are down three-games-to-none in a best-of-seven playoff series.

"It was an achievement of ours, it was a goal to make the playoffs," said Brent Raedeke, one of the Edmonton Oil Kings leaders on and off the ice for the second-year franchise.

"But being down 3-0, obviously it's going to be tough to come back, but ... I think we can get some bounces and get wins here in Games 4 and 5."

As teams usually do, the dressing room has bonded through a playoff run that few would have thought at the beginning of the season.

And certainly no one took for granted that they would catch the Hitmen flat-footed. Or that the league's top team would take the Oil Kings for granted.

"When playoff comes around everybody gets tighter, friendships get stronger, a team starts coming together," said Raedeke yesterday.

"When you're down 3-0, I think that's when your team needs to be the strongest - not giving up, not quitting.

"We're going to keep working hard to the bitter end."

Rookie winger Michael Burns admits he had a slow adjustment from midget to the WHL. Earning ice-time was on his mind, making the playoffs too far away to think about. But Burns's game stepped up during the stretch.

"I don't think there was any doubt towards the end of the year that we could be a playoff team," the 17-year-old Edmontonian said yesterday.

"Obviously it's a big step, but everybody's bought in. We all believe, and the main thing is believing."

That the Kings don't match the top-to-bottom skill level of the Hitmen is obvious even without stats.

But - and it's not hometown hype to say it - the Oil Kings have worked as hard as they can against a powerhouse squad.

Head coach Steve Pleau can't say anything about his team's "compete level, their battle level."

He's got to believe, too.

"This team has accomplished a lot of firsts for this organization and we win one playoff game we set another historical mark.

"That's what our goal is (tonight) - to win one game."

Lessons in media mania

Nobody around the Oil Kings is denying that whatever the outcome, this is a great experience for a young team.

"I think we're still establishing a lot of things as far as hockey ops go," said Pleau. "And this is another step in the process of developing where we want to be."

Even beyond the game experience, the players get a serious bump in attention from family, friends and fans. Not to mention an extra helping of us media weasels pointing microphones in their faces.

"With guys at this level, they're young, they're kids, so you've got to make sure they understand the things they say have, uh, possible repercussions," said Pleau. "The market here is very focused on hockey. They have to represent themselves with respect, as well as our organization.

"Especially now you have to be so careful, with (all the media), with blogs," said Pleau. "We talked about that (with the players): 'You never know who you're talking to.'

"Whenever you're talking to someone it's got to be on a professional level.

"To me there is never an 'off the record' situation for these guys. You've got to watch your back.

"That's part of learning how to be a pro. And that's why we're here - to teach these guys about that and for them to learn the process."


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