NHL rivals u-Knighted by college

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

EDMONTON -- Craig Conroy's ties with Erik Cole go way back.

All the way back to their college days.

Conroy, the Calgary Flames forward, was at Clarkson University when news surfaced the Golden Knights had recruited Cole, a young hotshot and also a product of New York state.

With Conroy in his senior season, the Knights had a replacement for their star.

"Oh, I don't know about that," Conroy said of his status with his hometown college team. "He was definitely a star, though. I remember him coming up -- he was a big recruit, and they were excited about him.

"For Clarkson to land him, that was a big deal. I used to watch the games, and he dominated."

Since then, he and Cole, one of the Edmonton Oilers' key off-season acquisitions, have kept in touch sporadically.

"We're not best friends, but I like him. He's a good guy," Conroy said. "I'm not going to like him anymore, though, because he's playing in Edmonton.

"I'll hold that against him."

Flames fans won't likely be too enamoured with Cole, either. In the Battle of Alberta, a potent weapon such as the 6-foot-2, 205-lb. left winger can be a big deal.

Cole showed that during his first game against the Flames, too, neatly deflecting a point shot for his first goal in Oilers silks in Edmonton's 4-3 victory Friday night. He was also named the game's first star.

Having spent his career in relative anonymity with the Carolina Hurricanes, Cole's abilities will certainly become more noticed on this half of the continent.

He's already getting a taste of what it's like being in a hockey hotbed and likes it.

"It's a good thing. Maybe sometimes in Carolina, it's easy for some things to go unnoticed," said the 29-year-old in his seventh NHL season.

"If you're not playing well, it slides a little more than it needs to. Here, and a lot of other traditional hockey cities and hockey markets, no detail goes unnoticed. The people are more knowledgable, and with so much media coverage, you're bound to find something to talk about.

"It makes you pay a lot more attention to detail. You have to stay focused."

Cole arrived in Edmonton with a Stanley Cup ring from 2006 and having compiled 129 goals and 151 assists in 418 NHL contests with the Hurricanes.

He'd potted one goal and one assist in three games this year heading into last night's clash with the Flames -- the second half of the back-to-back Battle of Alberta series. It's a rivalry unlike anything Cole has seen at the pro level.

"It's exciting. For a regular-season game, it's these games that really get you up," he said. "You don't need extra motivation from anybody to compete and work hard. You know you have to bring your best effort."

Throw in the fact the clubs faced each other on consecutive nights, and the intensity really ramps up.

"Everything you do (in the first game) carries over," Cole said. "You finish every hit, always try to make sure you're not just working a guy down for the first match, but the second, too. You want him to be a little tired and a little sore."

Besides, there's a little more on the line when he and Conroy catch up after the season.

"Oh yeah," Cole said. "We'll see who has the bragging rights at alumni weekend."


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