The Checkers head to Hershey this week with their season on the line.
It’s not the first time they’ve had their backs against the wall in this playoff run - they fended off two elimination games in their first-round triumph over Lehigh Valley - but the Checkers are facing a formidable battle, down 2-0 in a best-of-five series.
The mindset for the team this week is simple: one step at a time.
“Our focus is solely on Wednesday night and getting the result that we want,” said alternate captain Riley Nash. “Playing the way that we want, and hopefully the chips fall in our favor. That’s strictly what we’re focusing on.”
The Checkers ended up in this hole after a pair of tough losses on home ice to the Bears last week, dropping Game 1 by a 5-2 score and Game 2 by a 5-1 final.
“I thought the last game we played fairly well,” said Nash. “Our mistakes ended up costing us in a big way. It was a step forward in the right direction, but you have to get results this time of year. Hopefully we’ll eliminate those big glaring mistakes that they can capitalize on.”
How the Checkers proceed from here will determine how much longer their postseason run will last. With a few days between Games 2 and 3, the Checkers are surveying the delicate balance between making tweaks and sticking to their guns.
“There’s always little adjustments that you need to make throughout the series,” said Nash. “You see the same teams so many times over and over again, it’d be silly not to. But at the same time you don’t want to take a step away from the foundation that got you here to the postseason and what you’ve had success with in the past.”
“We talked about a good recipe for success,” said Kinnear. “Just because you don’t get the results, you have to stick with that recipe because you know it works. Once you get the results, you start building some confidence from there.”
They may be on the brink, but this Checkers team isn’t ready to just roll over.
“I think it’s just going to the foundation of what got us here,” said Nash. “We’ve had success throughout the course of the regular season against various teams. We’ve been a really good team. Getting back to those fundamental things that we do and trying to impose our will more and make them respond to us.”
Facing down a strong Hershey squad that just missed capturing a division title on the last day of the season, Charlotte knew this Atlantic Division Semifinal wasn’t going to be a cake walk.
“We talked before that you have to prepare for a long series,” said Kinnear. “We’re prepared for a long series.”
The road to coming back in this series is a process, and one that begins on Wednesday in Hershey.
“You just look at it as one game,” said Nash. “We win, we’re playing another one, we lose and we’re going home. Just win one hockey game.”