Hurricanes get to hoist the Cup


The Associated Press
Carolina’s Rod Brind'Amour holds up the Stanley Cup after they Hurricanes defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup hockey finals Monday, in Raleigh, N.C.

AP National Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. — Thanks to the kid, all those Carolina old-timers finally got to hoist the Stanley Cup.
Rod Brind’Amour cried. Bret Hedican jumped for joy. Even Doug Weight — bad shoulder and all — lifted hockey’s most revered trophy above his head. It tilted slightly to his right, but he held on.
No way the Hurricanes were going to let this one slip away.
Cam Ward made sure of that.
The rookie goalie stopped nearly everything that came his way, finishing off a brilliant playoffs with a rock-solid performance in Game 7. The Hurricanes skated away with their first Stanley Cup title, beating Edmonton 3-1 in the winner-take-all finale Monday night.
Ward, only 22, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the postseason.
“Goaltending wins you championships, make no mistake about it,” said Brind’Amour, the 35-year-old captain, his eyes still red after he left the ice. “I got to raise the cup because of that kid.”
Brind’Amour wasn’t the only member of the 30-something club who finally broke through.
There was Hedican, 35, who lost in his first two trips to the finals. And Weight, 35, who finally made it for the first time in his 15th season. And Whitney, 34, who didn’t reach the finals until Year 14. And the most patient one of all, 37-year-old Glen Wesley, who had played in the eighth-most regular-season games (1,311) in NHL history without winning a championship.
All of them will be getting their names on the cup.
“That was probably the greatest feeling of my life,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “To watch those guys hold the cup over their head — that is what I will remember.”
A couple of defensemen, Aaron Ward and Frantisek Kaberle, staked Carolina to a 2-0 lead through two periods. Justin Williams finished off the Oilers, scoring an empty-net goal with 1:01 remaining after Edmonton playoff star Fernando Pisani broke up Cam Ward’s shutout early in the third.
Oilers defenseman Chris Pronger, a stalwart throughout the postseason, gave up the puck in the Carolina zone and wound up making a helpless dive to block Williams’ gimme into the goal that had been vacated by Jussi Markkanen in favor of an extra skater.
The crowd of nearly 19,000, most of them standing throughout the game, began chanting, “We want the cup!” A minute later, they had their wish. The champions reside on Tobacco Road — territory best known for college basketball and NASCAR — and hockey finished off its promising return from a season-ruining lockout (dismal TV ratings notwithstanding).
“It was just surreal,” Brind’Amour said, explaining his emotions. “It just kind of came to a head when I realized that was it. We were going to win.”
Weight didn’t get to play after injuring his shoulder in Game 5. But he donned his uniform and came out for the ceremony, taking his turn with that treasured piece of silverware. He even managed to get it over his head.
Ward wasn’t even Carolina’s No. 1 goalie at the beginning of the postseason, but he got the call when Martin Gerber struggled in an opening round against Montreal. The rookie wound up winning more games in the playoffs (15) than he did as Gerber’s backup during the regular season (14).
And, unlike all those older teammates, Ward didn’t have to wait very long for his first cup.
“People say it’s your rookie seasons and chances are that it will come again,” he said. “But you just never know. You can’t predict the future. You’ve got to take care of the present.”
Ward did just that, knocking aside Edmonton’s best chance to tie with just under 4 minutes remaining. First, he stopped a shot by Raffi Torres with the left pad. Then, when Pisani got a stick on the rebound, the goalie blocked that one with his skate.
Torres bent over in agony as he rounded the net, as if he realized that Edmonton wouldn’t have a better chance to tie it up.
The Oilers have nothing to be ashamed of, becoming the first eighth-seeded team to make the finals under the current format.
But they failed to bring Canada its first champion since Montreal in 1993, or Edmonton its first cup since 1990, when the remnants of the Gretzky-Messier-Coffey-Fuhr dynasty won the last of its five titles in seven years.
“Certainly, that’s not the way we wanted to end our year,” Pronger said. “It hurts.”
The Hurricanes were born in the old World Hockey Association as the Boston-based New England Whalers, and entered the NHL in 1979 playing out of Hartford. Wanting a new arena, the team headed south in 1997.
The first two years in Carolina were a dismal experience, the team forced to play 80 miles away in Greensboro while the coliseum in Raleigh was being built. So few fans turned up in the beginning that the upper deck was curtained off.
Now, the Hurricanes are champions, capitalizing on their second trip to the finals. Four years ago, they were beaten in five games by heavy favorite Detroit.
Edmonton had 11 fewer wins and 17 less points during this season, but took the favored Hurricanes right to the wire — even without top goalie Dwayne Roloson, who sustained a series-ending knee injury in Game 1.
Markkanen, a third-stringer at the start of the season, took over in the nets and did a remarkable job. He had 24 saves in the finale, including a brilliant pad stop on Mark Recchi when the Carolina player had most of the net to shoot at early in the second period.
Then there was Pisani, an 18-goal scorer during the regular season. He picked up his playoff-leading 14th goal by crashing the net to knock in a rebound at 1:03 of the third.
It wasn’t enough.
“It’s just a matter of a few bounces and that’s the difference,” Markkanen said. “They were just a little bit better.”
Notes: Carolina thought it had another goal with 4 seconds left in the first period. Craig Adams backhanded a bouncing puck off and over Markkanen, who lost sight of it heading toward the net. Defenseman Steve Staios dove into the goal and touched the puck with his right glove, enough to stop play on a delayed penalty call even though the puck appeared to cross the line. ... The home team is now 12-2 when the finals go to Game 7.


Manning captures another CNY title

Eric Manning was in familiar territory Monday, in more ways than one.
The assistant pro at Cortland Country Club got hot early in the afternoon round on his home course Monday and went on to win the Central New York PGA Open Championship for the third time in the last six years.
Manning, who also won the event in 2001 and 2002, shot a two-under 70 in the morning session. That left him one stroke behind a group of six players at 69. He then fired a 68 during the afternoon session, which included a rain delay of more than two hours, to finish at 138 and one stroke ahead of Liverpool Golf Club head pro Mel Baum.
Cortland’s Rob Phelps, the assistant pro at Skaneateles Country Club, finished in a three-way tie for fifth overall at 141 (69-72), while Cortland CC amateur Brian Malchak was in a four-way tie for eighth at 142 (69-73). Tying for 12th at 143 (69-74) was amateur Matt Robison of Groton, while tying for 19th at 146 were Elm Tree Golf Course head pro Bruce Martins (72-74) and Cortland CC amateur Matt Porter (65-71).
Walden Oaks head pro Marcus Bernardo (72-76) was one of three golfers who totaled 148 and tied for 23rd, while Jamie Hinman, also an assistant pro at Cortland CC, was in a three-way tie for 35th at 154 (81-73) and Groton’s Steve Volpicelli, representing Dick’s Sporting Goods, totaled 163 (84-79) and shared 41st. Cortland CC head pro Tony Saraceno fired a first-round 76 and withdrew from the tournament, as did amateur Mark Harrington from Cortland CC after a 79 in the morning round.


Billions of reasons for being right

AP Sports Columnist

Mark Cuban knows a lot about a lot of things. If you don’t believe that, just ask him.
He’s also always right. If you don’t believe that, just ask him.
Better yet, read his blog. It’s there that he pontificates on the world as he sees it, smug in the realization that the money he has in the bank gives him an insight into things that no one else possesses.
“Right is its own defense,” he opined recently.
That’s one of the advantages of being a billionaire. You can pretty much say what you want, do what you want, and people generally accept it with little more than a nod that acknowledges you are a much deeper thinker than most everyone else.
Sometimes it’s even entertaining.
Watch Cuban bash Steve Nash on the David Letterman show. Watch him wear a Jerry Stackhouse jersey courtside during Game 5 of the NBA finals.