|Matt Greene leaves the Shell Areo Centre Tuesday after arriving from North Carolina following the Oilers loss to the Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Finals. (Edmonton Sun/Jason Franson)
RALEIGH -- Matt Greene went from being the big man on campus with the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux to within one win of having his name engraved on the Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers.
Suffice to say, Greene's decision to forgo his last year of eligibility at UND and turn pro last summer was infinitely more difficult earlier this season than it felt during a bid for the Cup that ended with Monday's 3-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
"It was a great opportunity," said Greene, who went to the NCAA title game with UND in March 2005 and lost to the University of Denver Pioneers. "I just look at it as that, a great opportunity."
TWO TIMES UNLUCKY
It's been close-but-no-cigar two years in a row for the six-foot-three, 223-pound defenceman from Grand Ledge, Michigan, but he has no regrets about passing up his final year.
Greene, 23, could've stayed in school and taken another crack at the brass ring with the Fighting Sioux, but instead signed on the dotted line with the Oilers and began this season in the American Hockey League with the Iowa Stars.
Selected 44th overall in the 2002 Entry Draft, Greene was summoned from Iowa after 26 games and played 27 games with the Oilers in the regular season, posting two assists and playing just more than 11 minutes a night as coach Craig MacTavish worked him into the lineup.
"He's definitely fit in well," said Chris Pronger, who is at the other end of the experience scale from the hulking Greene.
WARM-UPS ONLY AT FIRST
"He had a number of warm-ups before he got his first game and it was a running joke in the locker-room, but he got a taste of it and started to understand what it takes to play in this league.
"He learned on the job. He made his mistakes and he's learned from them. He's done an admirable job for a kid getting thrown in there in what's not an easy situation."
Greene embedded himself into MacTavish's rotation of defensive pairings as the post-season unfolded. All told, he saw action in 18 of the Oilers 24 playoff games.
"You just enjoy it with all the guys," Greene said. "You kind of pat each other on the back along the way, but it's just kind of been a whirlwind."