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Story by Jordan Ramsay
The Island Storm is looking for a strong start tonight when they open their first-round best-of-five playoff series on the road against the Saint John Riptide at Harbour Station in Saint John at 7 p.m.
“In the playoffs the intensity and the physicality is heightened,” said Joe Salerno, Island Storm head coach. “Game one is the most important.”
“We’ve got a few guys on the roster with playoff success and experience to help.”
Finishing second in the Atlantic division, the Riptide (22-18) bring a better regular season record into the series than the Storm (16-24), but the third place Storm fared better in the head-to-head matchup this year with a 5-3 record against the Riptide.
The series may come down to which team can step up their defensive game as the top three scorers in the NBLC will suit up.
The Storm will rely on guard Jahii Carson, who averaged 20.7 points per game during the regular season, while Saint John guard Anthony Anderson averaged 23.6 points and forward Gabe Freeman put up 23.2 per game.
“It’s going to be a high scoring series,” said Salerno. “You’re not going to shut down Freeman and Anderson, but if we can limit them to their season averages, it should be a good series.”
Home court will be a big factor as both teams finished the regular season with identical 13-7 records at home while also sitting below .500 on the road.
“We’re playing back-to-back nights, but we’ve done really well at home and if we can win on the road we’ll take back home court advantage.”
The Storm is also the only team that was able to steal a win on the road between the two teams in the season series.
“We haven’t had much time to prepare [the Storm ended their regular season on a five-game Ontario road trip], but we’ve spent the last two days on how to defend.”
Both teams appear ready for a long playoff series battle. The last time they met in the playoffs the Storm pulled out a 3-2 Atlantic Division semifinal victory in 2015.
After games tonight and tomorrow in Saint John, the series will shift back to the Eastlink Centre on Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the Eastlink Centre box office, online at eastlinkcentrepei.ca, or by calling 902-629-6625.