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Losing series hard to swallow
By BOB DICK
Journal Sports Writer
HARTFORD, Conn. -- The Providence Bruins' dressing room remained closed to the media for nearly 20 minutes after last night's heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss to Hartford in Game 7 of the AHL's Eastern Conference finals.
In an instant, the P-Bruins' season was over. Understandably, it took the players a while to compose themselves and gather their thoughts about what had happened.
What probably will bother members of this club is that Providence held a 3-1 lead in the series and could not put the Wolf Pack away. Hartford rallied for three straight victories after losing in double overtime in
Providence last Sunday. It was the fourth overtime game the teams had played in the last two years, and the eighth time a contest had been decided by one goal.
"There's no doubt in my mind we should have won this series," said Providence winger Peter Ferraro. "To have a team like we have and not be able to go to the finals is pretty difficult to deal with. To have a team like this doesn't happen that often. Who knows if we'll ever play again together. When you have a team like this, you have to take advantage of the opportunity. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be."
Agony and ecstasy
Providence coach Peter Laviolette tried to be philosophical about last night's loss, but, deep down, it was obvious that he was hurting. "Any loss is a tough way to go down. We didn't come here to lose, that's
for sure. But it hurts," Laviolette said.
"I told a friend of mine before the game that the two coaches will feel two of the most unbelievable feelings at some point tonight. It was either the greatest joy in the world or the greatest misery in the world. Right now, we're stuck with the misery part of it."
Still, Laviolette noted what a great series it was.
"If you're a hockey fan and you wanted to see good American League hockey, these teams put on a clinic of hockey at this level. I give Hartford credit for playing as well as they did, and I commend our guys for the effort they put in. Only one team can go on, but it's not us," the coach said.
Here and there
Providence again played without its second-leading scorer in the playoffs, Cameron Mann . Mann, with 13 points, hadn't played since he left Game 4 in Providence with either a concussion or a badly bruised tailbone. In either case, Mann hadn't skated since. . . . Also scratched last night were center Jason Krog and defenseman Nick Boynton . . . . Laviolette reunited veterans Terry Hollinger and Aris Brimanis as one of his defensive pairings. It marked the first time they had played together in this series. . . . Hartford defenseman Alex Vaseline sat out his second game. In fact, Vaseline didn't see any ice time in this series after he turned the puck over in his own end in Game 5, which led to a Providence goal. . . .
Providence came into last night's game having scored the first goal in each of its last five contests with Hartford, and had outshoot their opponents in 12 of their 13 postseason games. . . . Wolf Pack goalie
J. F. Labbe is 12-3 in the AHL when his teams faced elimination from a series.
Providence rookie defenseman Duane Harmer appeared in his 10th postseason game last night. He wound up with three shots on goal. Harmer says it has been a terrific learning experience competing in the Calder Cup playoffs.
"I've been just glad to get the opportunity to play with these guys. It has been a great experience for me," Harmer said. "Being here and helping out when I can was much better than going home for a long summer."
Harmer's only playoff goal came in the second game of the Hartford series. It has been a busy season for Harmer, who turns 26 next month. He spent most of the year with Roanoke of the East Coast Hockey League, where he earned end-of-the-season second-team all-star honors before signing with
Providence in late February.
© 2000 The Providence Journal Company