Despite home ice advantage, Tupelo begins on the road
Because of conflicts with both arenas, the T-Rex has to play three road games to begin its series.
By Mark Beason
Tupelo has the best record in the WPHL's regular season, but it's back at zero now.
The T-Rex plays Corpus Christi at 7:05 p.m. today in the first game of the league's Eastern Division playoffs. It's a seven-game series, with the first three games in Corpus Christi.
By winning the Eastern Division title and the Governor's Cup, the T-Rex enjoys home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Because of conflicts with both arenas, the T-Rex has to play three road games to begin its series.
"It's not ideal, but they've still got to beat us at home," T-Rex coach George Dupont said. "If we can go over there and steal one or two, it will put a lot of pressure on them."
Tupelo is no stranger to being on the road. It just came off a five-game road trip, posting an impressive 9-0-1 mark.
The team had its biggest win of the trip against the IceRays, coming back from a 6-2 deficit to win 7-6 in a shootout. Dupont hopes the momentum of the win carries into the playoffs.
"Our guys never believed they were out of it," Dupont said. "We know that if we get down a goal or two we don't have to panic. I hope it will give us the mental edge."
Last year the early rounds of the playoffs were a best-of-three series. With a best-of-seven series, it affords both teams a chance to make up for an early series mistake.
"If you lose a game, you don't have to push the panic button," Dupont said. "You have more time to make moves and adjustments during the series."
The IceRays are a physical team and that will intensify in the playoffs. Their size is a big advantage at home, where they play in a smaller rink to suit their style of play.
"They're going to come out, bump us and be physical," T-Rex captain and former IceRay Reagan Harper said. "We've got to match their intensity and stand our ground and not get knocked around. They have the advantage size wise, but if we don't back down and play our game ,we'll be OK."
No other team enters the playoffs hotter than the T-Rex. The team has won 10 consecutive games and is unbeaten in its last 19 outings. Tupelo hopes the success it enjoyed at the end of the season carries over to the playoffs.
"They're a pretty good team, especially in their barn," T-Rex star Jason Firth said. "We've just got to do what we've been doing and keep working hard. If we work hard on both ends of the ice we'll be fine."