Home-ice advantage

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

The Blue Bombers could enjoy "home-ice advantage" when Winnipeg plays host to the Edmonton Eskimos in tomorrow's Eastern Semifinal.

That was the phrase coined by an Edmonton Sun beat reporter when the Bombers played the Eskimos in a CFL game with part of the field frozen over at what was then called Winnipeg Stadium in 1991.

With the sleet, snow and gale-force winds, the Canad Inns Stadium field was covered in ice and snow last night.

Before it was so covered, the Bombers practised in the wind and ice pellets in their last tune-up for the playoff.

"Looking into the wind, it gets in your eye, it hurts," said quarterback Kevin Glenn. "It's like little pellets or BBs hurting you."

CHALLENGE

Bomber head coach Doug Berry had no intention of moving the practice indoors or even cutting it short due to the inclement weather.

"I don't think we're going to be playing in the field conditions that we practised in (yesterday)," Berry said. "In terms of trying to get something done, I wasn't looking so much for execution as to how we were taking on the challenge of the weather. I really believe that our attitude was really good, with good enthusiasm. I think anything we see the next time will seem balmy compared to what we were practising in (yesterday)."

The main concern in such weather is how rookie kicker Alexis Serna might fare.

"If the wind continues to blow the way it has the last two days, that will be a huge factor," Berry said. "Serna knows he is able to use the swirling wind in the stadium ... He certainly knows how to play the winds in Winnipeg. It's very difficult and unless you've kicked in it, you have no idea how challenging they can be."

Establishing the running game could become even more important if the winds blow even colder.

"We'll have a pretty good gameplan even if the conditions are like they were (yesterday)," Glenn said.

"Even without the conditions, the running game is big," said Joe Smith, who shares the running back spot with Fred Reid. "Especially with the tandem we have, where we can spell each other, keep each other fresh, and be able to tire the defence out and make them stack the box. So, it'll open up the passing game. It's huge."

CHEW RAY: To stop the Eskies, the defence knows it will have to chew up Ricky (Frito) Ray.

"Everything revolves around (Ray)," said veteran defensive back Anthony Malbrough, who returns to action from a hamstring injury. "When he's on, it's not just their offence, their whole team's on. He's one of those quarterbacks where you have to constantly stay after him. You have to move him around. You have to harass him. You have to focus on this end. You pretty much have to be on top of your game when you face a quarterback like him."

HASHMARKS: Both LB Ike Charlton (ankle) and S Ian Logan (turf toe) have also been cleared to play after practising yesterday.

"There was no way I was missing this game," Charlton said. "It's a playoff game. It's a chance to get out there and fight. There was no way I was going to stay on the sidelines and watch this game. It's too important to the city, to the team and also to me."

With Malbrough and Charlton both available, Kelly Malveaux will be able to remain at DB with Jovon Johnson moving to cornerback opposite Stanford Samuels to replace the injured Willie Amos (hamstring) That means that CB Robert Bean will not start ... Although receivers Milt Stegall, Derick Armstrong and Terrence Edwards did not practise again yesterday, all three are expected to suit up tomorrow ... Both OL Garrick Jones and WR Fred Stamps are expected to play for Edmonton ... The Bombers sold 26,200 to tomorrow's playoff as of last night.

PLAYERS OF MONTH: Montreal WR Jamel Richardson was named the CFL's offensive player of the month yesterday. Richardson caught 38 passes for 423 yards and eight touchdowns in five games last month ... B.C. DL Aaron Hunt was named defensive player of the month. Hunt recorded nine defensive tackles and three quarterback sacks in five outings ... Saskatchewan kicker Luca Congi was named the month's top special teams player. Congi made 8-of-11 field goals, including two 50-yarders and two game winners. Winnipeg KR Jason Armstead was the runner-up ... B.C. WR Paris Jackson was named the top Canadian after catching 24 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns in five games.


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