The Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars are heading back to the friendly confines of S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium with its best-of-seven semifinal series with the Clarenville Caribous deadlocked at one game apiece.
Saturday night, the CeeBees bested the Caribous 3-2 in the opening game of the series and wrestled home-ice advantage away from Clarenville as the series shifts to Harbour Grace for games three and four this weekend.
The CeeBees got goals from Ray Dalton, Matthew French and Mark Tobin in victory, while Ryan Desrosiers and Andrew Sweetland replied for the Caribous.
It was a surprise start for the team, as many pundits had the CeeBees as the underdog heading into the matchup with the Caribous. After all, Clarenville entered the series as the top seed, while the CeeBees are the No. 4 seed.
"The goal going in was to come out with a split," said CeeBees' assistant coach Peter George. "It left us hungry to get that second win, but we came up short on Sunday."
The momentum from the game one win would not carry over to Game 2, however, as they CeeBees dropped a 6-5 decision.
The CeeBees got goals from Dalton, Keith Delaney, Kyle Doucet, Morgan Warren and Mike Dyke.
Chris Hulit lead the offensive charge for the Herd with two goals, while Matt Bragg, Jordon Smith, Dustin Russell and Andrew Sweetland picked up the others.
CeeBees' head coach Corey Crocker said the key to the success this past weekend was in "matching their intensity."
"It's easy to get caught watching their (Clarenville) skill level, but I think we battled and we took some of that skill level away," he said.
The Caribous jumped to an early lead in the first period, but the CeeBees "showed a lot of heart," according to George, as they fought back.
"Our team certainly could've have folded the tent and gave up but we showed a lot resiliency and battled back. We certainly didn't make it an easy game for Clarenville."
Clarenville head coach Ivan Hapgood said he was not surprised at the results of the first two games.
"They bring some of their best hockey against us," he said. "They're a good team and they match up well against us."
Hapgood thought his team played better on Saturday, in a losing effort.
"I thought we dominated more in the first ten minutes of game one than Sunday and there was a better result Sunday, with a two goal lead," he said.
Evening the series was big step for Hapgood and his squad.
"We don't mind hitting the road tied 1-1, but we didn't want to be down 0-2," he said.
The CeeBees grabbed home-ice advantage with the victory Saturday, something that is not lost on George.
"It's going to be significant," he said. "I think our stadium plays into our style of hockey with the smaller rink size and with our fans in our rink, it gets really loud.
"They'll be like a sixth player out there for us."
For Hapgood, having the home-ice advantage doesn't mean much.
"I've never focused too much on home-ice," he said. "If you look at our team record this year ... it has been better on the road.
"On the road, everyone is together, you hang out together and you're at the hotel together. At home, everyone goes their own way. There are fewer distractions on the road."
George said the key to the CeeBees' future success in the series will be the team's ability to stay on course.
"If we stick to our game plan, we'll be successful," he said. "We have to stay focused. Two wins is the goal."
Crocker echoed George's want for two home wins.
"It's our ice, it's our building and it's our fans. We want two games," he said. "Key will be to play with energy, be physical and stay out of the penalty box."
The CeeBees and Caribous clash in Game 3 at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace on Friday (8 p.m.)Game 4 goes Saturday (7:30 p.m.)
Tickets go on sale Tuesday and Wednesday for seat holders, and Thursday and Friday for the general public.