Two teams who are playing solid playoff hockey after enduring the ups-and-downs of a tough regular season will meet tonight (8 p.m.) in game one of the South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League's best-of-seven final.
The Carman Beavers host the Altona Maroons.
The Beavers, who won four of their last five games and finished in fourth place, eliminated the Portage Islanders and Warren Mercs on their way to the final while the Maroons swept the Morden Redskins and then ended the Notre Dame Hawks reign as SEMHL champions.
"I think anytime you get to play for a championship you're excited, especially against a team like Altona," said Carman coach Brett Dow. "We expect to see the team that knocked off the #3 (Morden Redskins) and #1 (Notre Dame Hawks) teams in this league and they can't be taken lightly. We fully expect our guys to be ready for game one and take the first one in our barn."
The Maroons, who finished in sixth spot, started the season with five straight wins and then lost 11 in a row.
The streak lasted just over two months.
"We knew how to play the right way and that's kind of how we were able to find ourselves," said Altona captain Craig Neufeld. Then playing that way all series against Notre Dame really solidifies that we do have a good team and if we do play the right way we can beat anyone as we showed beating the first place team in the league."
The big test for the Maroons will be finding a way to get enough pucks past one of the SEMHL's best goaltenders in Carman's Steve Christie.
"We need to get shots on net, we need to find a way to get traffic in front of the net and find a way to capitalize on opportunities," said Neufeld. "That's very easy to say at the time but obviously we'll try to find a way to get on a roll. Hopefully if Christie can't see the puck, he can't save it, but I think he's found a way to do that too so we'll have to find a way."
The Beavers won the SEMHL championship two years ago.
The last time the Maroons captured the league title was in the spring of 2013.