Destiny's child

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:46 PM ET


 Destiny, karma, kismet ... call it what you want but there's definitely something special going on at the 'Dome these days.

 All new to the playoff experience, the Calgary Flames have responded to a rash of injuries with some hocus-pocus of sorts to one-up the best team money can buy.

 Men, women and children all over the city smile, shrug and even chuckle when talk turns to how their hockey heroes keep managing to pull off such shocking efforts.

 Their resiliency, their audacity, their success can be harder to explain than the Bermuda Triangle, the Caramilk Secret, Donald Trump's hair or Michael Jackson.

 But don't say that to any of the Flames who outright refuse to call it magic of any sort.

 "I'm totally unwilling," smiled Andrew Ference, cerebral enough to simplify a phenomenon that has everyone scratching their heads in amazement.

 "It's not magic, it's hockey. There's a puck and a couple sticks. I don't believe in magic. I think that God has more important things to worry about than hockey."

 Granted. But how else does one explain a bunch of banged-up kids with no playoff experience taking a 2-1 series lead against the most experienced team in hockey? In the conference semis no less.

 "I don't think it's luck or destiny or anything fancy like that -- it's hard work and it's a lot of perseverance by different individuals and the coaching staff and a lot of belief in our abilities as a team," said Ference, one of the five (and a half) defensive heroes in Tuesday's win.

 "It's really just the basics of hockey. We know what we're good at and that's playing hard, fast hockey. It's not too complicated and I hope it doesn't get too complicated."

 The improbable situation the Flames find themselves in is best summed up by the injured defensive replacements activated for Game 3. In lieu of veteran Chris Chelios, the Wings dressed 12-year veteran Jason Woolley. Meanwhile, the Flames replaced injured Rhett Warrener with former AHL Lowell Lock Monsters defenceman Brennan Evans for his first NHL start.

 Woolley played on the Wings powerplay -- Evans played 32 seconds. With 76 playoff starts to his credit, not only did Woolley have more playoff experience than Calgary's entire blueline (60) but he's nine years older than Calgary's eldest defenceman, Ference.

 "I think that's ... ridiculous," laughed the 25-year-old when informed he was Papa Flame thanks to injuries to Warrener, Denis Gauthier and Toni Lydman.

 "I'd probably be their youngest defenceman over there."

 Not quite -- Jiri Fischer has you by a year.

 Before the series, few would have denied, on paper, the Wings should be wrapping the series up tonight.

 On the ice, few dispute Calgary deserves the slight series edge.

 "It's nice to be surprising people outside the locker-room and to kind of have that nice story to go along with it. But within the confines of this locker-room, I don't think you're going to go around and find too many surprised faces after the win because we put in a hard effort and everybody thinks we're very deserving of the wins we've gotten," said Ference, who joined Steve Montador, Jordan Leopold and anchor Robyn Regehr as one of four Flames d-men to log more than

 24 minutes Tuesday.

 "There's not too much shock going around here and I don't think we feel the need to take a grander picture of what's going on in here because that's what we're paid to do -- win hockey games. Once we made the playoffs, we expected to win."

 Even without Chris Simon, Dean McAmmond and Steven Reinprecht?

 "You look at the lineup before the game and it does seem a little stacked in their favour, especially on defence when you've got (Nicklas) Lidstrom and (Derian) Hatcher over there," chuckled Sideshow Mike Commodore, 24, whose hair hints of sorcery itself.

 "You've got me who spent most of the season in the minors and Brennan Evans, who has never played a preseason game or an NHL game. I thought Steve (Montador) got thrown into the fire when he got thrown into Game 7 but that was like the hot tub compared to Brennan Evans."

 However, others have picked up the slack, ridden the hot hand of Miikka Kiprusoff and, bingo, we have a series.

 "When it boils down to it, it's all about hard work," said Commodore.

 "We're really excited -- a lot of us haven't been here before. Having the city going crazy doesn't hurt either. I don't really believe in magic but I agree there is something special going on here. Whatever it is, I hope it keeps going and doesn't stop until the middle of June."

 At that point, it would surpass magic and become miracle.


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