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Charron, others opt for shield

By MIKE ZHE, Telegraph Sports Correspondent

LOWELL, Mass. – Lock Monsters center Craig Charron has played professional hockey for nine seasons, but even he took the ice Wednesday night with a new piece of equipment for his on-ice wardrobe.

A visor.

With defenseman Jeff Libby lying in a Boston hospital Wednesday night – four days after a freak accident that saw his face slashed with the blade of an opponent’s skate – four Lowell players took the ice for their game with Saint John wearing the protective, see-through pieces.

Charron, a 5-foot-10 center who was playing with the U.S. Select Team in Austria when the accident occurred, said Libby’s horrible mishap played a part – but not the only part – in his decision.

"Being a player of my size, I’m pretty much in the line of fire for a lot of things," he said. "I was going to wear it at the start of the season but neglected to do so – I just put it off. It kind of impedes your vision. What guys have realized is that after what happened to Jeff Libby, things can happen. Whether it’s freakish or not, things can happen."

The trip to Austria was a successful one for the 30-year-old Charron (wish him a happy 31st Sunday), who teamed up with some former U.S. Olympic team players, AHL players and Americans playing in European leagues to vault the U.S. to the top of their three-team group. Finishing third or fourth would have relegated them to more misery.

It wasn’t his mess – the disappointing showings in the Winter Olympics and ensuing World Championships put U.S. hockey in this predicament – but he did a nice job helping clean it up.

"People don’t realize just how big it is," Charron said. "It means a lot for USA Hockey. We’re a prominent country as far as the world of hockey goes. There’s no way we should even have to play in that pool. But circumstances warranted it, so we had to go and make sure we got our country back to where it belongs."

Libby update

As of Wednesday night, Libby was still under the care of physicians at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, undergoing tests to see if his right eye can be saved.

Libby, who took a skate to the face in Saturday’s 4-2 win over St. John’s, flew to Boston from Newfoundland Tuesday with his parents and Lock Monsters general manager Tom Rowe. According to team spokesman Randy Sieminski, doctors are still trying to determine whether or not Libby’s eye can be saved, and if it can’t, whether or not it needs to be removed entirely. A decision is likely to be made in the next day or so.

"I don’t think there’s a lot of optimism, per se, for him to see (out of that eye)," Lowell coach Frank Anzalone said. "The optimism is that the eye can stay in place and not affect the other eye. I don’t think we can soft-shoe it – he’s probably going to lose vision in that eye."

Rowe was in Lowell briefly Wednesday before catching a flight to Montreal to be with defenseman Mike Gaul, whose father was killed in a car accident Saturday night. Anzalone said Gaul’s status would be re-evaluated in a few days.

Game notes

Center Mike Peron, who was called up from Roanoke during Charron’s absence, was reassigned to his ECHL team Tuesday.

Mark Lawrence, called up to the New York Islanders last month, was back at Tsongas Arena Wednesday. He did not dress for the game but is expected to practice today. 

Heading into Wednesday’s game, the Lock Monsters still ranked near the bottom of the AHL in average attendance, with 2,969. Of the 19 teams in the league, only Fredericton (2,673) has drawn poorer.

Wednesday’s attendance – against a team battling the Lock Monsters for first place – was 2,273, prompting Anzalone to issue a post-game challenge: "The fans apparently have not responded yet to what we’re doing," he said. "When a visiting team comes in, they look at the situation and say, ‘We can play a good road game here – it’s a quiet building, there’s not a lot of people.’ It would be a delightful joy if a lot of people could find their way here Friday night."