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04-20-2004, 06:43 PM
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Baranka takes on role of traffic cop in crease

Baranka takes on role of traffic cop in crease

By Jim Riley
Special to The Seattle Times

Big and physical, the defending Western Hockey League champion Kelowna Rockets love to set up camp in front of the opposing net and flex their muscles.

It will be Ivan Baranka's job to not-so-gently evict them to places where they don't block Everett goaltender Jeff Harvey's view.

Baranka knows that won't be easy when the Western Conference finals, tied at one game apiece, come to the Everett Events Center for Game 3 at 7:05 tonight.

Baranka, a rookie defenseman from Dubnica, Slovakia, and the only Everett player who has been drafted by an NHL team, said the Silvertips remain confident after winning 3-2 and losing 2-1 in the first two games in Kelowna.

"I think we are able to beat every team in this league," said Baranka, who still is learning English. "The series is tied 1-1 and we are able to win, but it's going to be hard. They put the best traffic on our goalie, so we have to keep them out of there."

Everett coach Kevin Constantine said the Rockets walk a fine line in front of the net.

"They have a right to go to the front of the net, but they don't have the right to interfere with our goalie," Constantine said. "They're going to get shots and they're going to get rebounds. We just can't let it become an epidemic."

Harvey, who has stopped 55 of 59 shots in the series, has noticed all the traffic around him.

Top Kelowna camper Troy Bodie, a right winger who is 6 feet 5, has two of Kelowna's goals, with 6-3 Shea Weber and 6-1 Mike Card scoring the others.

"They love to get in front of the net, and i*****oalie can't see a puck, he's not going to be able to stop it," Harvey said. "They have some big bodies and I just have to fight through it, see the puck, hope it hits me and control the rebound."

Harvey isn't about to let the Rockets' goal-crashing tactics affect his game.

"They're coming into the crease at all times, but that's up to the referee to call," Harvey said. "I just have to push them out of the way and try not to worry about it."

Baranka, who stands 6-2 and was drafted in 2003 by the New York Rangers in the second round, has had a point in each of his last six playoff games. Baranka said he hadn't even noticed.

"I don't look at my points," Baranka said. "It just happens. I knew I had a couple of points, but not how many. My job is to worry about defense and win the battles in front of the net. That's what we have to do to win."

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