Chances are if you've seen a Blues game in the past two years, you've seen a Worcester Icecat in action. During last year's mysterious goalie-injury fest, Reinhard Divis and Curtis Sanford stepped between the pipes for the Blues; this season, Icecat Aris Brimanis made the long flight from Massachusetts to St. Louis to suit up for the big leagues, and Tom Koivisto and Sergei Varlamov are just a phone call away. And then there's fan favorite Eric Boguniecki, who was slated to be an Icecat last year but was just too damn good to be sent down.
Boguniecki's case encapsulates the appeal of minor-league hockey; sometimes all a player needs is a chance at the NHL level to prove he belongs there. Many of the younger minor-leaguers have the talent and the drive to make it but not the opportunity to play. Conversely, the minor leagues are also staffed with former NHLers whose skills have eroded slightly, or who were injured and replaced by the young man called up to fill in while said big-leaguer rehabbed. The result is that the minor leagues are full of talented young players and canny older players, both of whom are fighting to prove they deserve a shot at the big time. See for yourself at 7 p.m. at Savvis Center (1401 Clark Avenue, 314-241-1888) when the Worcester Icecats take on the Utah Grizzlies (affiliate team of the hated Dallas Stars). Tickets are $5-$20. -- Paul Friswold
Not quite yet
Sometimes teams have to take a tiny step back before taking a giant step forward. Such appears to be the prognosis for this year's Saint Louis University Billikens men's basketball squad. The loss of leading scorer and all-conference guard Marque Perry to graduation leaves a gaping hole in the bucket for a team that was offensively challenged even with his presence.
That said, the Bills are not without an X factor: ex-Villanova Wildcat Reggie Bryant, a dy-namic guard who held his own against Perry in scrimmages while sitting out his obligatory transfer year. Should Bryant pick up right where Perry left off, then the '03-'04 Bills can plan on a return trip to the NIT or better. The quest begins tonight at 7:10 p.m. at Savvis Center (1401 Clark Avenue, 314-977-4SLU, $8-$22) against Eastern Kentucky. -- Mike Seely