Sunday, December 16, 2007

Special Report: Energy on Ice

December 2, 2007

Raymond Bourque, Valeri Kamensky, and Igor Larionov: these names are engraved on the Stanley Cup that greets hockey fans here at The Edge Sports Center in Bedford, Massachusetts.

The talented triumvirate and a host of other prominent players are here tonight at the brand new arena to raise awareness for Hockey Fights Cancer, USA Hockey, Toys for Tots, and Colonel Daniel Marr Boys & Girls Foundation. The contingent of North American and Russian players is here to foster friendship and bolster business relationships, too. And they’re here because they still love to play hard; they still crave competition, especially when a Cup is on the line. Not that cherished chalice in the lobby but rather the AspenTech Cup.

Never heard of it? A little background while the standing-room-only crowd watches the Zamboni work its magic and the players put on their game faces.

Bourque will wear green and gold for Aspen Technology, a company that helps process manufacturers transform the way they design and run their operations. His teammates include former Bruins Don Sweeney, Ted Crowley and Marty McInnis; joining them are Bob Sweeney and Scott Young, who both once called Valley Sports Arena in nearby Concord their home ice. Also eager to play for the AspenTech All-Stars are Harvard’s Hobey Baker winners: Lane MacDonald and the Fusco brothers, Mark (now CEO at Aspen Technology) and Scott (now General Manager of The Edge Sports Arena) are hoping to do Harvard—and North America—proud.

Kamensky will sport a blue sweater with and edgy design for Gazprom Export, the world’s leading exporter of natural gas. His comrades include Sergei Starikov, Ravil Yakubov, and Maxim Mikhaylovskiy. All played in the NHL and/or in the minors as well as in their native Russia. Add to mix former Spartak players, such as head coach and defenseman Sergey Makarov and right wing Evgeny Chizhmin, who averaged just shy of a point per game last season with Team Gazprom.

And Larionov?

Team AspenTech acquired his rights when the stalwart center, born forty-seven years ago tomorrow, decided to work for Aspen Technology.

How does it feel to play for the Green and Gold?

“Feels good, actually,” Larionov says, smiling as he exits the locker room for the pre-game skate.

“At least give us someone who can pass,” jokes a new teammate.

Larionov, who won three Stanley Cups with the Detroit Red Wings and posted 475 career assists, is an adroit passer. But he’s not amused as the first period closes. The scoreboard shows :46.7 when Kamensky scores on former Rensselear Polytechnic Institute goalie Bobby Farrelly. (Yep, flick fans, the director of Dumb and Dumber, Fever Pitch, and The Heartbreak Kid is no ringer, but he’s no slouch either.) Kamensky’s wrist shot from the far circle is the only one to beat Number 00, and it prompts the sound system’s operator to play the Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out.”

Farrelly’s counterpart, Mikhaylovskiy, meanwhile, has closed the door on would-be scorers.

Referee Paul Stewart assesses the first period, “You can see the level of play, even with some rust. It’s important for kids to see how good these guys are…the prime thing is that they can all skate, shoot quick…the puck never gets tired.”

When Chizhmin scores on a two-on-one two minutes into the second period, Gazprom lengthens the lead to 2–0.

More music, this time a classical piece by John Williams.

“Hey, Star Wars!” a kid recognizes the score from a movie first released three decades ago.

AspenTech continues to battle, scoring at 6:59 to cut the deficit, but Igor Romashin counters for Gazprom. Bobby Carpenter scores on a wrist shot from the point but then Chizhimin scores on a penalty shot with less than two minutes remaining in the second period to stake Gazprom to a 4–2 lead.

“(Those) boys can move,” comments one fan to another between periods.

The third period provides the crowd more fervent action. Gazprom’s empty-net goal secures a 5–3 victory but also may bolster the AspenTech All-Stars’ commitment to practice more often; chances are they’ll face Team Gazprom here again next year.

“We hope that this will be an annual event,” Scott Fusco comments via e-mail. He adds, “I think Gazprom won because they play together three times per week and have an extensive game schedule together whereas we play probably once per week in separate pickup situations. This makes it tough to finish as we should.”

Even so, you can bet your last dollar (or ruble) on this: The next time they play, Bourque, Kamensky, Larionov, and company will provide fans lots of energy on ice.
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