The Tillsonburg Thunder went into Games 3 and 4 of their WOAA AA first-round playoff series last weekend in a hole.
A deep hole. Trailing 2-0 after losing back-to-back 4-3 games in overtime, it was 'do or die' time.
"At this point it could have been over," said Thunder's Brad Martin Saturday night after Tillsonburg had defeated Mapleton-Minto 81s 8-2 at the Kinsmen Memorial Arena, knotting the series at 2-2 on the back of Friday's 4-3 win at Palmerston. "Game 3 was huge."
Martin scored twice Friday and had a hat trick in Saturday's win..
"At the same time, we knew we could beat the hockey club over there."
Now, said Martin, they have to win two of the next three games, starting tonight (Friday, Feb. 17) in Palmerston. The Thunder will be back in Tillsonburg Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and if necessary, Game 7 will be played Monday, Feb. 20 in Palmerston - a winner-take-all Family Day clincher.
After three consecutive one-goal games, Saturday's score 'blew up.'
"Those first few games we found there was a lot of bounces that weren't going our way," said Martin. "The last couple of games we finally started getting a couple bounces. I don't think the effort's changed. I think the disappointment, losing in overtime, was in the outcome, not necessarily our effort in the games."
Martin said his weekend goals 'weren't anything special.'
"There was a couple nice shots that I had, the goalie made some great saves on, then I'd come around and chip one in. So it's just keep putting pucks on net, keep getting bounces."
Mapleton-Minto goalie Jason Hamilton played the first three games in net for the 81s, but Josh Leis was between the pipes Saturday in Tillsonburg.
"Now that we're back even, keep plugging away," said Martin. "It shows that if we don't change anything we can keep winning hockey games. Especially playing teams that you don't play all year and all of a sudden you're in a series with them. Take a couple games, makes some adjustments... now I don't think we have to change a thing."
Usually a puck-carrying team, Martin said one of the team's adjustments was 'getting it deep' first, sending two deep, taking away their options, then working the cycle.
"We're finding some success there."
Even when they were up 7-2 in the third Saturday, the Thunder were not sitting on the lead.
"We didn't want to change anything," said Martin. "You don't want to sit back and wait for them to come at you. We were having success pressing and that's what we wanted to keep doing. 'Here's our game plan and we're going to play 60 minutes with it.'"