By SCOTT FISHER
Home sweet home.
It's been that way through the entire Heritage Junior Hockey League North Division final.
Through the first five tilts, the Airdrie Techmation Thunder and Red Deer Vipers have held serve on home ice.
The Thunder need to keep that trend alive in Game 6 on Friday night (8 p.m. at Ron Ebbesen Arena).
Thunder head coach Derek Stamp said he's confident his squad will come out firing with its season on the line.
“It's been a great series,” Stamp said. “We know if we bring the right effort, we'll have a good chance at success.”
The Thunder trail the best-of-seven affair 3-2 after a 7-1 setback in Red Deer on Wednesday.
But both teams have managed to bounce back from road losses repeatedly in this series.
After dropping the series-opener, the Thunder responded with a 6-4 win. They dropped Game 3 in Red Deer before skating to a 7-4 triumph back home.
“On the bus ride home, and back in our room, we felt good,” Stamp said. “No one thinks we're in trouble.”
If the Thunder are able to stave off elimination, they would force a Game 7 back in Red Deer on Saturday night (8 p.m. At Servus Arena).
Other than both clubs having stellar home records throughout the regular season (Airdrie was 14-3-1, Red Deer went 16-2), Stamp said it's difficult to explain why both teams have dominated in their own barns.
“I don't know,” Stamp said. “We've asked that of ourselves as a coaching staff.
“It may have to do with the comfort of playing at home and the feeling you get from being in front of your fans.”
Having the final change is a tangible advantage but Stamp said this series hasn't been built around line match-ups.
“I think both coaching staffs have tried to get certain match-ups for certain situations in different games.
“But we haven't tried to get specific people out against specific players on their team.”
The Vipers have won 18 straight games at home with their last loss coming back on Oct. 28.
The Vipers would love to take one more crack at snuffing out that streak, but they'll need a big win on Friday to earn that opportunity.
The Thunder have drawn bigger, more boisterous crowds in the post-season, and they'll need every advantage they can get on Friday.
“The last handful of games has been awesome,” Stamp said of the atmosphere at the Ron Ebbesen Arena.
“It helps bring the energy level up and gives the guys that extra boost.”
The winner of the Airdrie-Red Deer series will face the Coaldale Copperheads in the HJHL best-of-three final.