67's coach crying wolf?

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

On a day off during their intense Eastern Conference semi-final stare down, Mike Foligno accused Brian Kilrea of playing a different type of sport.

Head games.

The hot topic was what it had been hours earlier, following a 6-2 win that put the Ottawa 67's up 2-1 on the Sudbury Wolves in their best-of-seven: An attack from behind by Wolves winger Kyle Musselman on 67's star Mark Mancari late in Game 3 that Kilrea -- and his players who watched replays of it again yesterday -- compared to Vancouver Canucks' Todd Bertuzzi's infamous mugging of Colorado Avalanche Steve Moore last year.

"He's going to do what he needs to do," Foligno said of Kilrea, "but to claim that incident was like the Bertuzzi incident was very low. I don't think it was a smart remark. There's no comparison whatsoever. I thought the remark was very, very low.

"There was a lot more emphasis on that (incident) than there should have been, and I think it had a little more to do with Brian Kilrea trying to take away from the emphasis of the next game. Our focus can't be on that. It has to be on what we have to do to win the next game. It's a very important game for us."

Mancari didn't practise yesterday, but said he only had a minor headache.

"I'm going to play (in tonight's Game 4)," he insisted. "Nothing like this is going to keep me out."

For those who missed it, with his team down by four goals and time running out in the third period, Musselman skated 60 feet with Mancari, trying to goad him into fighting. When his attempts to get him to turn around and drop the mitts failed, he reached around and gave Mancari a left hook, with glove on, that left the Ottawa winger face down for more than a minute.

When 67's winger Bryan Bickell jumped in, Musselman started beating on him. Bickell wound up with a broken nose, a black left eye and a cut under his right eye. He did pass concussion tests, however.

"I kinda came in as a saviour and I think I took the worst of it," said Bickell before taking the ice for practice. "(Musselman's hit on Mancari) was a cheap shot ... Foligno put him on the ice for one reason. I didn't want to fight him, I thought the refs were going to step in, but he started throwing punches."

Musselman receives an automatic three-game suspension, because of the match penalty. The case will be reviewed by the league, with initial investigation done immediately as OHL commissioner Dave Branch arrives in town this afternoon for tonight's game.

The 19-year old Musselman, who has just nine points (all this season) in his three-year OHL career, may never play in the league again - although Foligno might bring him back next year as an overager based on glowing comments yesterday.

"I think he was just trying to get something going," said Foligno, who yesterday approached Mancari to see how he was and tell him he didn't condone such actions. "Kyle Musselman is a great kid. Every team in the league would love to have Kyle Musselman. He cares about his teammates. Young players make mistakes. He's an emotional guy and he is upset about the incident."

Despite Foligno's claims, it's difficult not to be reminded of the Bertuzzi incident when seeing the replays of Musselman's sucker punch. Ottawa assistant coach Bert O'Brien figured it was, in fact, worse since Bertuzzi, a good player, was retaliating for a hit on Markus Naslund. Musselman, strictly an enforcer, went after the 67's top scoring winger for no apparent reason.

"It was an uncalled for incident in hockey," said Kilrea. "That's what it is."

Meanwhile, Kilrea hopes to get a repeat performance from this troops tonight. Led by the goaltending of Danny Battochio, the resurgence of Czech mates Jakub Petruzalek and Lukas Kaspar and the forceful hand of defenceman Brad Staubitz, the 67's could put a stranglehold on the series with a win tonight.

"We're a young team, we have to be sure we know what happened (in Game 3) is over and done," said Foligno. "We have to realize what got us here, playing physical, hard working hockey, and that we have to keep that up to stay alive in the series."

They also have one more correction to make, according to Foligno.

"We had trouble with our skate machine before the last game, as stupid as that sounds," he said, with a chuckle. "We're beating it up right now."

TICKET TALK: As of this morning, there were about 1,000 tickets left for tonight's game.


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