Last Saturday, the Utah Grizzlies were just 17 minutes away from securing an extended postseason stay into the Western Conference finals.
Now they find themselves dangerously close - 60 minutes to be exact - to extending only their summer vacation.Reeling from two straight losses, the Grizzlies will attempt to finish off the pesky Peoria Rivermen for the third straight time in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. The series finale begins at 7 p.m. in the Delta Center.
After dropping a 4-2 decision in Game 1, the Grizzlies won three straight, including two in Peoria, to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Utah then held a 1-0 lead in the third period of Game 5 with a chance to clinch the series.
That, however, is when the Grizz's killer instinct went extinct.
Peoria scored two unanswered goals in the final 17 minutes to stay alive with a 2-1 victory on Saturday, and then blanked the Grizz 2-0 on Monday to even the series at 3-all.
Utah coach Butch Goring has just one prediction for Game 7.
"It'll be an all-out war," he said of the game that'll decide the opponent of the Las Vegas Thunder in the Conference Finals. "We'll see which team wants it more."
And if the Grizzlies hope to be the team left standing when it's all over, they're going to have to deal with another battle - getting the puck in the net.
Utah, which has played outstanding defense throughout the playoffs, exploded for nine goals in Game 4. Since then, though, the Grizz have netted just one - in 120 minutes.
"It's been a battle to get anything in the net," said Goring. "It's frustrating for everybody involved, the players and the coaches."
Goring's banking on the Grizz to rebound tonight like they did in the final two games against Kansas City in the first round. Utah trailed 2-1 in that series and won the final two games to advance.
The coach said that for some reason, the Grizzlies seem to like that pressure of having their backs against the wall.
"It seems like we play better when we have to go out and win," he said.
"Maybe we got ahead of ourselves, but this is it. It's do-or-die," added Utah defenseman Bob Beers. "We faced this situation twice in Kansas City and came out of it."
If they lose, the Grizzlies will be just the third team in IHL history (in 192 previous seven-game series) to bow out of the playoffs after blowing a 3-1 lead.
The last team to do so was the 1977 Columbus Owls, who lost to the Toledo Goaldiggers.