For Jon Calvano, every game in the B.C. Hockey Leagueâ€™s round 2 of the playoffs has a home feel to it.
The associate coach and assistant general manager with the Langley Rivermen witnessed his squad turn the tables on the Coquitlam Express in game 3 of their best-of-seven series Monday with a convincing 5-0 victory at the Poirier Sports Centre.
Then the Express 5-3 in game 4 on Tuesday evening making the series 3-1 for Coquitlam and forcing the Rivermen into a do-or-die contest for Thursdayâ€™s game 5.
Calvano, who served three years behind the Poirier rink bench as the Express head coach and general manager, said it was imperative that Langley put its best skate forward.
â€œFor us, we knew our backs up against the wall and nothingâ€™s been accomplished yet,â€ said Calvano. â€œYou donâ€™t want to get down 3-0 with the offence [Coquitlam] has. We got off to a good start, obviously to get a goal first shift, it put them on their heels. We had a really good first period but the rest of the game was really kind of blah on both sides.â€
In game 3 the Rivermen charged out and pressured the Express right from the opening shift and took the lead just 22 seconds in when Jacob Reichert put a wrap-around behind Coquitlamâ€™s Gordy Defiel.
The Express struggled through the first 20 minutes and Defiel, who entered the game with a 1.80 goals against average and .948 save percentage, gave up three goals on the first six shots. Former Coquitlam grinder Will Cook netted his first goal of the playoffs to make it 2-0 just four minutes later.
Keeping Coquitlam off balance and back on their heels worked well, but Calvano said the leagueâ€™s top scoring club likely wonâ€™t be shut down indefinitely.
â€œ[Coquitlamâ€™s] puck movement is great. Whenever [Adam] Rockwood has the puck, something negative could happen to our team. He had some good looks, but we tried to take away some of their shooters and it worked for us tonight,â€ he said.
The two teams square off in game 5 at the Langley Events Centre on Thursday (tonight). A sixth game, if necessary, would be played in Coquitlam on Friday and game 7 would be in Langley.
Calvanoâ€™s dismissal a year ago caught the youthful bench boss by surprise, coming just as he and wife Melissa were adjusting to being parents for the first time. After three years behind the Express bench, Calvano admitted his pride needed some suturing following the firing.
The opportunity to join Langley as the associate head coach to coach and general manager Bobby Henderson, who like Calvano brings a youthful view of the game, was a great opportunity, he said.
â€œThe transition has been good for me, the responsibilities are still there, working with Bobby and (assistant coach Kurt Astle) have been great,â€ said Calvano. â€œWe have a good group of guys in the room and it helped having Will Cook come over at the beginning of the year â€“ having someone I knew well [on the team].â€
The Rivermenâ€™s regular season BCHL title â€“ behind a 37-13-3-5 record â€“ carries little weight in the postseason. He said any benefit from finishing first was tested severely when Coquitlam swept the opening two games of the series. Momentum from Mondayâ€™s win could be shortlived if the squad does not maintain its focus.
â€œObviously our expectations are high but we know the other teams are out to get us,â€ said Calvano. â€œWinning the league you need a bit of luck here or there, but this is the playoffs and it doesnâ€™t matter. That just puts a target on you, and we played like that the first two games and Coquitlam took advantage of it.
â€œTonight they came out like they were the league champs and we were the underdogs and we took full advantage of it. Hopefully its the making of a good series and I know where Iâ€™ll be at on Thursday night.â€
â€“ Dan Olson is a Coquitlam Now reporter.