The Chicago Wolves take their next step in pursuit of their third Calder Cup by taking on the Texas Stars in the Western Division Finals at Allstate Arena on Friday night.
But in order to move on, the Wolves need to play 60 minutes every night, especially against a Texas team that swept the Rockford IceHogs and outscored them 15-5 in their opening round series.
Wolves' head coach Don Lever liked the effort he saw from his team, but he didn't see enough of it from start to finish..
"We were inconsistent, lost our focus and took Milwaukee lightly," he said.
Goaltender Peter Mannino, who recorded two shutouts in the first round against Milwaukee, knows he and his teammates need to stay sharp against the Stars.
"We all need to have strong individual efforts," said Mannino. "We can't take a play off for a second because the smallest mistake can lead to the biggest change."
The Wolves' struggle to close-out Milwaukee might have been the lesson they needed.
"We learned from Milwaukee to fight until the end," Mannino said.
The Wolves have home-ice advantage in thus playoff series but their regular season series went 4-3-0-1 against Texas. Neither team, however, took advantage playing in their building during the regular season. The road team went 3-1.
The Stars are a "tough, defensive minded team," according to Lever, and it all starts with goalie Brent Krahn, who leads the AHL playoffs in save percentage and goals against average.
On offense, 20-year-old Jamie Benn (3 goals, 3 assists) and center Travis Morin (7 assists) lead the Stars.
The Wolves expect a long, tough series but need to be patient and stick to their system by taking care of their zone first.
Mannino is focused on taking game one at home and knows the significance of jumping out to a 1-0 series lead.
"(Game 1) sets a tone for the rest of the series. You show the other team what they're in for and that it's going to be a long series."