Duelling d-man knuckles down

SCOTT FISHER -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:37 PM ET

 Cory Stillman was just an undercard tune-up.

 Andrew Ference is fully prepared to take on more accomplished pugilists if it'll bring the Flames closer to capturing hockey's biggest prize.

  "Throw Mike Tyson out there," Ference said. "I'm sure anybody on this team would fight him for the Cup."

 With the Flames trailing 3-0 early in the third period of Thursday's Game 2, Ference dropped the gloves and then dropped Stillman with a flurry of heavy right hands. Asked if the beating was payback for Stillman's vicious elbow on Marcus Nilson in Game 1, Ference pleaded the Fifth.

 "Well ... well ...," he said with a smirk, refusing to confirm he sought out the former Flame.

 The late-game fisticuffs ensured the two teams now have a healthy dislike for each other and that's just fine with the Flames blueliner.

 "The rivalry is there's two teams fighting for the Cup," he said. "I know what our team's willing to do to win the Cup.

 "We want it. When you dangle that in front of somebody's nose, it'll take a lot to take it.

 "Hockey's a game of emotion. It's not premeditated or anything.

 "Tempers flare, frustrations get high. When there's a lot on the line, people's emotions run high and that's a good thing."

 As they have throughout the post-season, the Flames' refusal to lie down and take a beating on the scoreboard was evident in the third period. Every time the Flames appear destined to take a loss, they've come out swinging, setting the tone for the next game.

 Some have called them poor losers.

 Ference agrees.

 "We're a team of sore losers. Really. We hate losing," he said.

 "Right from our captain down. Jarome hates losing. He's not the only one but our team feeds off our captain.

 "We have a lot of pride and hate to see someone else be victorious. If our team doesn't play with emotion, we lose."

 Ference has been more valuable on the ice than sitting in the sin bin during the playoffs.

 Especially in the Stanley Cup final, where he has led the club in ice time in each of the first two games (27:02 and 25:02).

 When asked about taking his game to the next level, Ference preferred to give credit to his coach, who has shown increased confidence in the 25-year-old rearguard.

 "You hate to kiss the coach's butt," he said. "But we've all learned a lot from Darryl's work ethic and his philosophy of being prepared every day and not accepting any less than what you're capable of.

 "We've learned to demand the most from ourselves and each other. That's why he's nominated for coach of the year."


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