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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Braves relish underdog role in playoffs


The Spokane Braves will face a tall order when the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoffs begin tonight.

That’s just fine with head coach Mike Bay. He likes the underdog role.

Bay and the Braves will head north today and travel to Nelson, British Columbia, to take on the top-seeded Leafs in the first game of the best-of-7 series to open the KIJHL playoffs.

The Leafs finished with the top overall record in the league through the 52-game regular season, losing only seven games in regulation play with two overtime losses. The fourth-seeded Braves, who had a 23-26-3 record in the regular season, were responsible for two of those losses.

“I keep telling the guys that we’re in a good position here,” Bay said Tuesday after Spokane had its final practice before heading out of town. “We get to be relaxed and for us it’s just playing so it’s a good role for us – being the underdogs.

“There’s no pressure.”

As Bay pointed out, a new season begins tonight – one of the wonderful things about postseason hockey, because anything can happen. The two wins Spokane picked up against Nelson during the regular season could double and the Braves would have a major upset under their belts.

Either way, Bay and his Braves are just looking forward to the playoff experience.

“We’re going to have some fun with it,” Bay said. “(The coaches) keep telling (the players) that there’s no pressure on us. They’re supposed to be the team to beat everybody, so if we can stay calm and just play then I like our chances.

“We can’t win or lose four games in one night.”

The first two games of the series will be in Nelson tonight and Thursday – with the puck scheduled to drop at 7 both nights.

The series returns to Spokane on Saturday and Sunday at 7:45 and 2:15 p.m., respectively, at Eagles Ice-A-Rena.

Ice chips

Connor Olstad led the Braves in scoring through the regular season with 30 goals and 39 assists, and 20-year-old captain Alex Lelwica was second with 19 goals and 32 assists. … Braves goalies Michael Smith and Cash Ulrich split duties through the regular season and tonight’s starter will be a game-time decision, Bay said.

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