The Gillette Wild junior hockey team limped home to Gillette after dropping the first two games of the Lewis & Clark Cup semifinals to the Yellowstone Quake over the weekend in Cody.
In fact, it's the defensive end the Wild have to shore up if they expect to live to see another day in the American West Hockey League playoffs. The next three games are on the home ice at Spirit Hall Ice Arena at Cam-plex.
"We're disappointed in coming back in the situation that we're in, but we have no one to blame but ourselves," Wild coach Tom Winkler said. "We were just bad in the defensive zone and it cost us. It didn't matter who we had in net, they weren't getting the support they needed.
"It's hard to win when you're spotting teams like that two-goal leads all the time."
The Wild went 3-4-1 with the Quake during the regular season. A win in an overtime loss Saturday could have evened the series. But the reality is, the Wild have given up 10 goals and scored three, and that math isn't going to work.
"It comes down to we didn't compete and we didn't execute," Winkler said. "It's about not understanding that you have to work a little harder and pay the price to win in the postseason. That's clearly the difference."
With the five-game series set up the way it is, the Wild still retain home ice advantage. Playoffs are designed to win at home and get one on the road. Gillette can still win at home to advance to the Lewis & Clark Cup finals.
But it's down to one game now. That's all Cody has to win to advance.
It all starts Friday night at Spirit Hall.
"We have not played anywhere close to our potential against this team in the last two games," Winkler said. "We're not answering to what they're doing to us. We're reactive and not proactive.
"We need to come out and play the way we're capable of playing. If we do that, we'll be fine."
Gillette will have to play with a sense of urgency to survive. Unlike last season, where three teams advanced to the national tournament, only the Lewis & Clark Cup winner will move on.
"It doesn't matter. Until they win three or we lose three, it's not over," Winkler said. "We need to play with a little big more desperation. The guys believe they can do it. We have a little bit of time to regroup before game three.
"We need to come out and compete at another, just win and keep playing."