Tony Colistro still has first place on his mind.
With the Heartland Division wrapped up and the playoffs a couple of weekends away, the Thunder Bay Chill coach says there’s still some unfinished business for his squad, which has dropped just one game in 12 outings.
The Chill twice take on the Des Moines Menace on the road this weekend, a club fighting for its playoff life, and look to maintain the best record in the Premier Development League. Colistro said he’d like to see his team finish that way, the Chill clinging to a one-point advantage over Michigan and Ventura City.
“We have never accomplished that.” said Colistro, “So it is something to strive for during the remaining four games.”
With 31 goals, the Chill are the second-most prolific offense team in the PDL, and with just five against, they’re tops defensively.
Des Moines will be tough to tackle, he added, noting the host Menace have little choice but to win their remaining contests for any hope of surpassing Real Colorado for the second and final Heartland Division playoff berth.
The Menace (6-5-2) are 4-1-1 at home in 2012 and are five points behind Real Colorado, having dropped a pair of games to the Chill at Chapples Park late last month.
They’ll be looking for revenge, Colistro said.
“It is always tough to beat Des Moines in their own stadium, but it will be much harder this time since they are fighting for that second spot,” he said of the Menace, who in 2009 took first place in the Heartland Division, the lone time in the last six seasons the regular-season title wasn’t claimed by the Chill.
Menace coach Laurie Calloway acknowledged it won’t be an easy task, though Des Moines didn’t do themselves many favours when they took on the Chill at Chapples Park.
They’ll also be hoping for a little help, Calloway said.
“We’ve got to hope Kansas City will turn the tables on Colorado,” he said on the PDL website. “Thunder Bay’s going to be extremely tough, but we’ve got to beat them.”
Calloway is convinced he’s got the team to do it, noting his squad played with 10 men for a good deal of the second loss to the Chill, a period in which his opponent put the game away with a trio of goals. The Chill have also allowed four of their five goals against this season away from home.
“On the road you could arguably say they’re vulnerable,” said Calloway. “It will be decided this weekend. Based on the outcomes of our games and Colorado’s games, we’ll know if we need a win in that last game.”
The Chill, on the other hand, aren’t thinking about letting their foot off the gas for even a second this weekend.
Mental preparedness for the playoffs is what these games are all about, said defender and team captain Sicelo Buthelezi in a release issued by the team.
“You don’t want to go into the playoffs coming off defeats” said Chill captain Sicelo Buthelezi, who is in his third year with Thunder Bay. “We want to end the season focused and as if each one of our last four games was a playoff game,” Buthelezi said.
Thunder Bay wraps up regular-season play next Friday and Saturday at Chapples Park when the Kansas City Brass pay a visit to the city.
The playoffs begin the following weekend, a two-game crossover series that will pit the top two teams in the Heartland Division against the top two squads in the Great Lakes Division. Michigan (10-0-2) and the River City Rovers (6-3-2), who play out of Louisville, Ky. currently hold down first and second, respectively, though Forest City London (5-3-4) is also in the mix.
Colistro is on record stating he wants to host the conference playoffs at Chapples Park, an easier sell to the league if the Chill own the best record in the conference.
The team that emerges from the conference championship will play in one of two national semi-finals on the weekend of July 28, with the PDL final scheduled for Aug. 4.
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