Perhaps it was the chicken.
Peninsula Chinooks goaltender Daren Tracey, an admittedly superstitious athlete, changed up his game-day meal for the Chinooks final regular-season game against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs Tuesday, ditching his usual spaghetti for a hearty serving of chicken strips.
The result? Tracey led the Chinooks to their first win in two seasons against the Ice Dogs.
The Chinooks open a best-of-five playoff series with the top-seeded Ice Dogs in a Western States Hockey League Junior B game tonight in Fairbanks, and they'll need more than some lucky poultry to bring the series back to the Soldotna Sports Center.
"The kids really showed enormous pride and heart, and played with a lot of guts," said Chinooks coach and general manager Paddy Flynn. "They're going to have to play that way, and play with more discipline. But they know they're good on a penalty kill against a good power play."
The Ice Dogs went 29-3 in WSHL play to draw the top seed and the home-ice advantage through the playoffs, while the Chinooks were 10-21 with one shootout loss to capture the fourth and final playoff spot.
Peninsula's strong showing against the Ice Dogs in the season finale bodes well for the series in Fairbanks, but the Chinooks will be playing without their top two players in team captain Dan Fagan and forward Dustin Curley.
The puck is scheduled to drop tonight and Saturday night at 7; Sunday's game is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Fagan, sidelined with injured ribs, will be calling the play-by-play action on KZXX 980 AM.
While the Chinooks' finish against the Ice Dogs will certainly boost the team's confidence heading into the playoffs, it won't count for much once the teams take the ice at the Big Dipper arena in Fairbanks.
"It's a big win, but it doesn't mean much in the playoffs," said Chinooks forward Dustin Every. "We need to keep the ball rolling."
In the other postseason matchup, the Alaska Sinbad Sailors of Wasilla will host the Yukon Claim Jumpers.
The Sinbad Sailors finished second in the WSHL Northern Division at 23-7 with two shootout losses, while the Claim Jumpers were 17-13 with two shootout losses. The Sinbad Sailors got the better of the Claim Jumpers in the final regular-season series for both teams, posting 4-2 and 6-4 wins last weekend.
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