WHEELING - At this time of the season there are no secrets in the game of hockey, particularly when you get as deep into a series as the Wheeling Nailers and Greenville Road Warriors have. It's less about personnel and tactics, and more about execution.
Going on the road after losing the first two games of their Best-of-7 Kelly Cup Eastern Conference semifinal series against Greenville, the Nailers had one goal: By whatever means necessary, get this thing home for a Game 6.
Tonight at 7 p.m. inside WesBanco Arena, the Nailers get that chance. However, if they don't win there is no tomorrow because Greenville leads the series, 3-2, and is looking to close it out.
''We accomplished what we wanted to do, which was get back to Wheeling,'' Nailers coach Clark Donatelli said Sunday. ''They're all close games and the difference is mental breakdowns and mental mistakes.
''The way the series is going and the way both teams compete, it's a toss up. We have to execute our gameplan better than they execute theirs.''
This might be the initial encounter with mortality for Wheeling in the postseason, but Donatelli says it's far from the first time the team has had to think in these terms this season.
''I would even go back further. We had to win a bunch of games to get into the playoffs,'' Donatelli said of the sixth-seeded Nailers. ''We're facing elimination here, but we've already faced a lot of adversity.
''This is one more notch.''
The Nailers won Games 3 and 4 in South Carolina to tie the series at 2-2, but a series of breakdowns in Game 5 led to them returning home down 3-2 in the series, following a 4-1 loss.
''Game 5 is in the history books,'' Donatelli said. ''Collectively as a group and individually, it's part of the process.
''These guys ... this group is up for the task.''
Wheeling will have to find a way to slow down a Greenville team that at times has seemed as though it is coming in waves during this series. A classic clash of styles, the winning team in each game to this point has been able to dictate the pace at which the contest is played.
''We want to come out and play a solid 60, obviously want to be a good start,'' Donatelli said. ''They're a transition team and we have to manage the puck better.
''We're not even thinking about Game 7. We've got to get Game 6 or it's over.''
The Nailers will receive a boost with the return of center Derek Army. He played well in the two Wheeling victories in the series, but went back to Providence College last weekend to finish up final exams.
The news isn't as good on forward Denver Manderson. He hasn't returned to skating after being knocked out by Kyle Jean on a blindside hit in Game 2 and won't play the rest of the series.
Jean, who was suspended three games for the hit, returns to the Road Warriors lineup tonight.