The North Bay Battalion is hoping the friendly confines of North Bay Memorial Gardens will help them get back into the series against the Hamilton Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs, who are 10-0 so far in the playoffs and unbeaten in the 2022 calendar year at the FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, dumped the Troops 5-2 in game one Friday and then followed that up with a convincing 5-0 shutout win in game two Sunday night, giving the CHL's #1 team a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals over the #2 seed Battalion.
On top of that, Battalionhockey.com is reporting that Troops leading playoff scorer Mitchell Russell is out indefinitely with an upper body injury. Russell, who recently signed a free agent contract with the San Jose Sharks has 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points so far during this impressive Battalion playoff run.
Ryan Oulahen, Battalion head coach, admits it was different for his squad to open the Eastern Conference Finals with two games on the road after having home ice advantage in the opening two rounds.
"It’s a different animal when you don’t have home-ice advantage,” Battalion coach Ryan Oulahen said during Tuesday's media conference.
“You go there with no pressure, and certainly we’ve kind of had that. Would we like to have had better outcomes? For sure. But at the same time, we get two at home right now, so we’ve mentally just got to think of that, that we can hold serve.”
The Battalion hope the 7th man helps make a difference on Wednesday and Friday for games four and five. The Battalion coach hopes the Troops can disrupt the Bulldogs winning momentum and make a memorable comeback in the series.
"There have been lots of stories like that in the past," said Oulahen referring to what a Battalion win would do to the Bulldogs playoff momentum.
"We also went in with the message that in a championship round you sometimes need a comeback win at some point in time. There are so many different variables we could draw upon and I think the big thing is we are looking forward to a home game here.
“I want to see a really loud crowd here. We’re going to make it a hostile environment, and hopefully, that will really help.”
The Bulldogs have gone 4-for-7 on the power play over the two games. Oulahen knows his team needs to be more disciplined if they want to turn this series around.
“The easiest way to kill penalties is to be disciplined,” said Oulahen. “It’s a fine line too, because we want to play hard, we want to be physical, but I think we can keep our sticks on the ice. We can be a little bit smarter in that regard and try not to have them go to that, especially early on so often.”
Battalion forward Kyle Jackson also admitted getting a lead for the first time in the series would be key in game three.
"I think the first goal would be huge," said Jackson, who has 9 goals and 5 assists in the playoffs.
"The last three or four times we have played them they have gotten the first goal and I think that has been kind of the big thing during the game so if we can come out and get the first goal and I think we are going to be prepared and you are going to see a different team."
Oulahen also believes his team has to make life more difficult for Hamilton Bulldogs netminder Marco Costantini who was named OHL Goaltender of the Week after sporting a1.00 goals-against average and a stingy .960 save percentage through the first two games of the series.
"There are some things we can do for sure that can make things a little bit tough on their goaltender," said Oulahen.
"This is not earth-shattering stuff but we have to find ways to get to their net more often, we got to find ways to stay in front of that crease more often and not drift behind the net, all those types of things and that is what video is really good for. There are some things we have clearly identified here and we need to do a better job of."
Game 3 is scheduled at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night with Game 4 taking place at 7 p.m. on Friday also at Memorial Gardens.