The Bucks are perilously close to the point of having nothing left to play for but pride.
Ten games remain for Laredo’s team, which finds itself five games back of playoff consideration.
Due to dropping its two most recent games — one in a shootout to Allen and the other via shutout to the Killer Bees — the Bucks are moving in the wrong direction and it might be too late to right the course.
Luckily, it’s never too late to beat a rival.
“It would be huge (to beat Rio Grande Valley),” Bucks coach Serge Dube said. “We have three games against them before the season ends. We’re still in striking distance of reaching them in the standings. It’s a crucial game for us, like any other game, but this one might be a little more because it’s a team we’re trying to catch.”
When the Bucks face the Killer Bees in the Valley tonight, they have a chance to play spoiler against a bubble team that’s gotten the better of them in their last four meetings.
The overall series between the two is actually close — eight games have been won by the Bees and six games have gone Laredo’s way — but the Bees’ recent domination has left Laredo stinging.
Dube, however, said he isn’t concerned by the recent trend.
“We beat them three in a row before that,” he said. “I’m not making any excuses, (but for) one game we were short-handed (with) only 14 skaters. It’s a time of year when guys are struggling with injuries and they’re tired so we just have to get healthy here shortly and just play hard every night.”
Unfortunately for Dube, he’ll be shorthanded once again in the Valley.
“I won’t have Neil Trimm for (tonight’s) game,” he said. “He has a concussion from one of the hits versus Rio on Sunday.
We’ll miss him and hope he’ll be back for this weekend.
The short-lived Cricket Mayor’s cup may be gone from the rivalry, but bad blood is bad blood and these two teams love nothing more than to beat each other.
A revenge victory for the Bucks would go a long way toward generating some much needed momentum for a team on the ropes.
“It’s going to be a playoff type game,” Dube said. “We have to be ready and show up to play hard. They want those points to get away from Tulsa as well, (so) it’s a big week for both teams. Games will only get bigger for both of us.”
After tonight’s road trip against the Bees, the Bucks’ host Allen Friday, play at the Brahmas’ rink Saturday, and host Arizona Sunday.
The Bucks seemingly had Allen’s number since mid-December, beating the Americans in seven of nine tries.
The luck gave out Friday, however, when the Americans took Laredo through five frames of shootout before emerging with a 4-3 victory.
“Allen’s a good team,” Dube said. “They’re trying to catch Wichita right now (and) they’re getting healthier bodies in their lineup — they’re not second place for nothing.
“We play them hard and smart and we’ve been successful, we just have to continue (to) be successful. One 1-0-1 weekend vs. Allen isn’t a bad feat.”
Friday marks the last battle between the two and offers Laredo its last opportunity to show Allen — and the CHL — how great the Bucks can be.
Arizona inexplicably holds a 4-2 record against the Bucks, despite being the only team behind Laredo in the league’s standings.
Three of Arizona’s victories came in Arizona, so the Bucks will be looking to turn home ice into a winning atmosphere when they play Sunday.
After that, Laredo’s final six games are on the road.
“We obviously don’t want to finish off our home games this weekend,” Dube said. “Hopefully we’ll be blessed with some wins so we can make the playoffs and get more games at home. We have to take advantage of the home ice situations and hope for the best on the road.
“We definitely need to take pride in our game, win the two at home and take pride in our defensive play and our road play after the weekend.”