ShareThis Page
Sports

Bane of Forge's season next in NAHL finals

| Thursday, April 17, 2003

The Pittsburgh Forge lost only nine games all season on the way to playing in the North American Hockey League championship series, which starts at 7:30 tonight at the Neville Island Sports Center.

Three of those defeats came in four regular-season games versus the Texas Tornado, the Forge's opponent in the league's championship series, the Robertson Cup.

Texas coach Tony Curtale doesn't think that has much to do with the best-of-five championship series, mostly because the teams haven't played since Oct. 4, a 4-1 Texas victory.

"That was all early in the season. At this age level, the kids change a lot in five or six months," Curtale said. "I don't think (those games) mean a lot."

Pittsburgh beat Texas in the semifinals a year ago, then lost to Detroit Compuware in the finals. Defensemen Dylan Reese, Brandon Warner and Denis Kirstein, wingers Sean Berkstresser and Andy Brandt and centers Mike Handza and Chris Lawrence are all back from that team.

"I'm sure they will want revenge," Forge coach Jay Varady said. "There are no glaring weaknesses on that Texas team."

Regular season Western Division champion Texas (41-13-2) defeated Detroit in three games in the semifinals, while the Forge (51-9-4), who won the Eastern Division, swept the Danville Wings in two games.

Forward Bill McCreary led the Tornado in scoring during the regular season (27 goals, 33 assists) and leads in the playoffs (four goals, three assists).

Texas goaltender Dave McKee was named first-team All-NAHL, but Eddie Neville has played every game in goal during the playoffs, compiling a 4-1 record and 1.13 goals-against average.

"I think we've been good defensively, which is always a key in the playoffs," Curtale said. "We're known as an offensive team. We're pretty well rounded.

"They are a really good team. The two right teams made the finals."

Lawrence led the Forge in scoring during the regular season with 30 goals and 32 assists, but he has been relatively quiet in the playoffs. His linemates, John Dingle and Jim Gehring, started to find their offensive games in the semifinals. Reese was a standout against Danville even before scoring the winning goal in triple overtime of Game 2.

"Dylan was very good in that series, as he has been all year," Varady said. "Gehring and Dingle came alive. It was exciting to see those guys have a little success."

Pittsburgh does have the advantage of opening the series with three home games, though the fourth and fifth contests would be played in Texas, if necessary.

"We're comfortable playing on the road," Curtale said.

  • Note : Texas was the most penalized team in the NAHL this season, averaging 34.4 minutes per game. Pittsburgh was the least penalized at 21.1 minutes per contest.

    Additional Information:

    North American Hockey League Championship

  • Teams : Pittsburgh Forge (51-9-4) vs. Texas Tornado (41-13-2)

  • Series format : Best-of-five

  • Game times : 7:30 p.m. for all five games.

  • Where : Games 1, 2 and 3 at the Neville Island Sports Center. Games 4 and 5 (if necessary) at Blue Line Ice Complex in North Richland Hills, Texas

  • Notable : The winner of this series advances to the USA Hockey Junior-A national Championships May 2-3 in Sault St. Marie, Mich.

  • Ticket information : Tickets cost $12 for adults, $9 for students (under-18) or seniors. Call (412) 269-4478.

  • TribLIVE commenting policy

    You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

    We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

    While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

    We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

    We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

    We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

    We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

    We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

    click me