Pens' Asham feels elusive Cup is within reach

By Dan Falloon, Portage Daily Graphic

It's been a heck of a year for local boy Arron Asham.

The 32-year-old Portage product has been in the spotlight for much of it, going to the Stanley Cup Finals with the Philadelphia Flyers in the spring before joining the Pittsburgh Penguins in the offseason.

In Steeltown, Asham is a part of the powerhouse Penguins, who hosted the Winter Classic on New Year's Day and are a threat to make a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals for the third time in four seasons.

Asham, who has five goals and 10 points in 35 games this year, was back in town to play in an exhibition game benefitting his charity, Arron's Chance 2 Play.

Thursday's opponent was the Portage Terriers, while Asham and friends will play against the Oakville Seals at Oakville Arena on Saturday (Jan. 29).

Asham was thrilled that the MJHL-leading Terriers took the opportunity to help support the cause.

"The Terriers took it easy on us tonight," said Asham. "They're one of the top junior teams in Manitoba, and possibly the country.

"I'd like to thank them for taking the time to come out and help me with this event."

While exact numbers weren't available at press time, there were only a handful of empty seats to be had inside the PCU Centre. The turnout impressed Asham, who noted that the event came together in less than 10 days.

"I thought the community came out and really did a great job and supported the cause," said Asham. "I'm definitely happy with the turnout."

On a team as strong as the Penguins, Asham hopes that he'll have the opportunity to draw another huge crowd to the arena with the Stanley Cup in tow.

With the Flyers last season, Asham chipped in seven points in 23 games, scoring at a higher rate than during the regular season. He noted that with each passing season, the desire to lift the trophy increases.

"I feel like I'm running out of time here. I don't know how many more years I've got playing in the NHL. I want to win a Stanley Cup. My whole goal is to win it and bring it back home and have a big celebration with Portagers," said Asham.

"I think we've got the team this year. It's just a matter of bearing down this year and making it all happen in the playoffs."

He was close this past season, but the Flyers lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.

"Coming into the first round, we knew we could beat the Devils and we beat them pretty handily," said Asham. "We knew it was going to be a tough series against Boston, and being down 3-0, battling back, we were confident going in against Montreal that we knew we were going to beat them.

"We just had a couple bad bounces against Chicago or the series could have been ours."

Asham added that playing in the Winter Classic on New Year's Day at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field, home of the Steelers, was a memorable occasion, despite the rainy weather and a 3-1 Penguins loss.

"The weather wasn't the best, but it's always nice being outside and playing the game we love in front of 70,000 people," said Asham.

Including the Penguins, Asham has played with five NHL teams, with four of them being in the Atlantic Division. Though he's committed to the Penguins right now, he chuckled that he wouldn't be opposed to completing the sweep of the eastern seaboard with the New York Rangers.

"You never know. If they want me and no one else does, I'll gladly go there," said Asham.

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