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Bruins Cup Crazy as Providence Claims Calder
By Brian J. Scully
June 14, 1999
As P-Bruins goalie John Grahame hoisted the Calder Cup, the last measure of restraint was lost, and grown men began giggling happily in the stands.
A sellout crowd of 11,909 literally shook the Providence Civic Center , as fans pounded on the glass, on the seats and on each other, cheering their guys after a 4-1 Cup-clinching victory in Game Five over the Rochester Americans.
The man behind the bench, first year coach Peter Laviolette, couldn't have been happier after turning a last place team into the AHL's best ever with 72 wins this season.
"I've been through the bad times, and now I've been through the good," said Laviolette. "It means everything in the world to me, I don't think there is anyone here who has a longer tenure here than I do and to bring the championship home to Providence is just an amazing feeling."
In the world of New England sports, a championship of any kind, is to be celebrated and cherished. That was the spirit in Providence Sunday night. The crowd noise reached a decibel level that translated almost to an eerie type of silence, as eardrums refused to register any more noise.
From the opening warm-ups, there was an air of confidence that permeated the arena. Crowd favorite and checking forward Aaron Downey (for a small price, they sell pennants with his face and name in the stadium) encouraged the fans by crashing into the boards, and punching and sticking the glass.
And there was action from the drop of the puck. At 1:14, Dennis Vaske took a hooking penalty, when Dmitiri Kalinin of the Americans tried to split Vaske and fellow defenseman Jason McBain. The power play led to some golden opportunities for Rochester. In the early scramble, the defense collapsed around Grahame in net. Dean Sylvester took a Craig Fisher feed and rattled it off the left post, bounced across the crease behind Grahame and then off his left leg on it's way out. Center Joel Prpic then corralled the puck and cleared it the length of the ice, settling the penalty kill as the Bruins prepared to stifle the Americans for the rest of the game.
Providence staked themselves to the 1-0 lead on power play goal at 5:48 by Landon Wilson. After successfully killing 1:56 of a penalty to Mike Harder for crosschecking, the Americans were sent to the box again. An aborted shorthanded two-on-one left only two men back, and in the ensuing melee, Randy Cunneyworth was whistled off for high -sticking. This left a four second two-man advantage that led to the goal.
With the face-off in the zone to the right of Rochester goalie Martin Biron, the puck went into the corner. In the scramble, the puck squirted to about five feet in front of Martin Biron. Biron denied Eric Nickulas' shot, but Wilson made it count with a shot to the top left corner that beat the goaltender only four seconds after the two-man advantage ended. Providence had taken the lead they would not relinquish.
Prpic, Marquis Mathieu, and Downey combined to form the night's most effective line. While shutting out the top American's line that included sniper Domenic Pittis, they added two goals of their own.
Prpic scored at 17:53, as Mathieu got control of the puck in the corner and fed Prpic in the slot for the one-timer that was stopped, but Prpic recovered the rebound and popped in a backhander for the 2-0 lead.
Mathieu added one of his own at 13:18 of the second period to give Providence the 3-0 advantage, but given his efforts, the goal should have belonged to Prpic. He moved up the right side and encountered the Americans defenseman. The burly right winger pushed the puck to the right of the defenseman, and used all of his 6'7" frame to blow by to the left of the rearguard. In an acrobatic move, he took his right arm and stick and stole a page out of a defensive lineman's playbook, using the "swim move" to get his lanky arm and stick over the shoulder of the defenseman and recollect the puck. His backhand shot was blocked but Mathieu was there for the rebound and made no mistake, rifling it over Biron's left shoulder.
Rochester got their goal as Dean Melanson snuck behind the Providence defense coming out of the penalty box, and Mike Harder fed him a pass up the middle for the breakaway. Melanson took a wrist shot from the edge of the right face-off circle and beat Grahame short side.
Momentum did not even get a chance to switch sides, as 17 seconds later, Peter Ferraro, the Jack Butterfield Trophy winner for MVP of the playoffs, took a pass from Brown up the middle for the partial break on the left side. He ripped a wrist shot short side to quell the uprising, and put Providence comfortably out in front 4-1.
When Cameron Mann scored on the empty net in the final minutes, the crowd was well into it celebration. From about 17:00 on, the crowd was on its feet, delivering a crescendo of noise that rose just when it seemed to peak.
"You play this game for so long and to finally have something to show for it," said Bruins Captain Dennis Vaske. "I thank the guys, we finally got what we deserved."
Ferraro echoed his teammates' sentiments.
"It is a tremendous feeling," said the winger. "It is a very comfortable feeling."Brian J. Scully is a SportsCircuit staff writer. Material from wires and other sources may have been used in this report. Questions and Comments are welcome through Feedback.
© 1999 New England Sports Network