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Laviolette eases pressure by telling team to have fun
|By BOB DICK
Journal Sports Writer
PROVIDENCE -- P-Bruins coach Peter Laviolette said despite all the predictions that his team would easily eliminate Fredericton in the AHL Eastern Conference final, he knew differently and wasn't surprised by the way the series went as Providence fwon in six games.
``Look, you don't get to this point in the playoffs by being a bad team. And their young kids played well and helped them,'' said Laviolette, who did not deliver any motivational speech after yesterday's practice.
``Look, I know my team. I knew they would come out and play hard (last night) so there was really nothing to say except to have fun playing. I told them to forget the pressure and see what happens. I told them not to worry, come to rink and have fun and leave the pressure at home.''
Not used to losing
Peter Ferraro certainly enjoyed himself, scoring two of Providence's three first-period goals against the Canadiens' Jose Theodore. Still, for the first time this season, the P-Bruins, a team that cruised to the New England Division title on its way to the best record in the AHL, went into a game facing the pressure of a must-win situation after losing two straight in Fredericton.
``Just by the tone of the voices of the guys in the dressing room, no one was used to losing that much. No one was happy about it and everyone was pretty disappointed. We tried to stay loose, but this team wasn't used to losing two in a row,'' Ferraro said.
You can't blame Theodore, who was pulled from the game for the third time in this series (all in Providence), if he never wants to see the Civic Center again. It certainly hasn't been his favorite place to play. After limiting Providence to one goal in two games in Fredericton (83 saves), Theodore was blitzed for four goals in 27:10 last night before being removed in the second period.
In Theodore's last four games here, he was lit up for 23 goals in 170 minutes, 40 seconds on 149 shots for an ugly 8.10 goals-against-average.
No place like home
Randy Robitaille , who had a goal and an assist in last night's conference clinching win, said being home made all the difference in the world. ``Fredericton's rink is tough to play in because its small. Having the big crowd cheering us was a big help but, honestly, we weren't going to let anyone stand in our way of getting a chance to play for the Calder Cup,'' Robitaille said. ``It wasn't easy getting here and our goal hasn't been reached. We can relax for a couple of days but whoever we play in the finals (Rochester or Philadelphia) is going to be very tough for us.''
Glad to help
Providence forward Steve King was back in the Providence lineup last night for the first time in this series after having played in seven games against Worcester and Hartford. King produced right away, earning an assist on Antti Laaksonen's first-period goal and later scored a goal.
Even though he sat out five straight games, King appreciates being able to help the team when called on because there was a time when he thought his hockey days were over due to shoulder problems. He had to quit the game last fall because the pain was so severe.
But therapy has resurrected King's career to the point where he's hoping to play next season, preferably with Providence.
``There's been no pouting about not playing,'' King said. ``We're all in this together and we're all pulling on the same rope.''
Rookie forward Andre Savage made his first playoff appearance for Providence last night. Savage played two shifts in the first period and played on Providence's power play in the second period. Savage had not played in a game since suffering a shoulder separation April 10 against Portland. Savage's appearance came as a suprise because trainer Tom Mulligan had said earlier yesterday that he didn't think Savage would play in this series and he wasn't certain Savage could play in the finals ``It felt great to finally get back in there,'' Savage said. ``I think I should be able to play in the finals. I've got a week to get some more strength back in the shoulder. I took one or two hits and I didn't have any problems.''
Veteran defenseman Steve Bancroft returned to the Providence lineup after missing the previous two games due to a sore shoulder.
Defenseman Elias Abrahamsson, who played in Fredericton, was a scratch last night as were forwards Joel Prpic and John Spoltore. Prpic reportedly had a sore hand. Jay Henderson, Roger Maxwell and Bob Beers were Providence's other scratches . . .
Not since '74
Providence's visit to the Calder Cup finals marks the first time a Providence-based AHL team has accomplished that since the Providence Reds lost in five to Hershey in 1974. Prior to that, the Reds lost in the Cup finals to Springfield in 1971 and won the Cup, sweeping Cleveland in 1956.
© 1999 The Providence Journal Company