So it comes down to this. Tonight is Southern Stampede’s most important game in three years.
They face champions Canterbury Red Devils in the second game of the New Zealand Ice Hockey League finals.
And after losing the first game in a thrilling battle in Christchurch, it’s win or bust. But captain cool Bert Haines says he’s sure that home advantage and a squad stacked with talent means they can overcome the deficit.
“Come Friday night there’s no worries,” Haines says earlier in the week.
“We’ve got a heck of a good amount of talent and experience in our team.
“Big credit to Canterbury for the way they played on Saturday - on their ability to stay disciplined in their rink.
“They had home advantage and they used it but it’s still game on.”
Stampede enjoyed an almost perfect league season, winning 15 of 16 games, but came unstuck last Saturday losing 5-3.
“We know we’re a better team than what we showed on Saturday. It’s a three-game series and we’re back on our home rink, where we’re very comfortable.
“We know the bounces, it’s a tight rink which is good for our physical hockey, and the crowd will be full on - full noise.”
Haines says the mood in the camp is good despite the loss. His leadership team is focused on keeping the squad relaxed but competitive.
“We’re not going to sit here and punch it down everyone’s throats, so to speak.
“We don’t need to stress the importance of the game, everyone knows that, it’s just about working on stuff we can execute.
“As long as the boys let the nerves settle and go about our game plan we’ll be right.”
Should Stampede win, a decider for the Birgel Cup will immediately follow tomorrow night at the Queenstown Ice Arena.
Haines’ message to fans: “Bring the noise! We’re going to deliver.”