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Bitzy-Cat Bit the Panthers

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
Boston, MA -- Cornell's Lynah Rink is the home of some of the most rabid fans in College hockey. However, everyone knows that the fans in the Hub of Hockey are something to behold, too. And after former Cornell Big Red standout Byron Bitz scored twice during last night's contest with the Florida Panthers and paced the Bruins to a 6-1 lead in the third, the Garden erupted with chants of "We want Bitz!"

You see, the Black & Gold faithful wanted a hat trick for the big forward.

"I didn’t know what they were saying at first," said Bitz, postgame. "I made it out after awhile, and it was pretty cool."

The B's winger, who has impressed the Bruins coaching staff with his strong play on Stephane Yelle's line, couldn't really remember the last time he had a hat trick, and admitted it wasn't really important.

"Yeah I was waiting up there [near the point]," said Bitz of his final moments on the ice. "But it was more important to cover the D man."

Clearly, the Bruins newest big man has made great strides since being recalled from the P-Bruins earlier this year and has outlasted many people's expectations in terms of his lengthy stay in Boston.

"I’ve said it for a long time," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien to the press. "Not only does he bring his size and strength along the boards -- he’s been solid -- but I think he’s a guy that with confidence and with experience you are going to see him probably score more goals.

"He demonstrated a little bit of that tonight...[and] he’s still here because he deserves to be here.

"Right now he’s shown us that he belongs in our lineup and as long as he does that, he is going to stay there," said Julien.

It might be the simplicity of the forward's game -- skating straight ahead to the goal, and, if necessary skating through or over opponents -- that has made him an integral part of the B's lineup.

That's especially so when he is putting himself in the way of the opposing goalie.

"Yeah, with my size it’s my advantage to get there; a big body in front, [to] get in front of the goalie and take his vision away is a big part of my game," said the soft spoken Bitz.

Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien was in complete agreement.

"It’s a little bit like what we talked about -- guys going hard to the net and doing the right things and getting rewarded," said Julien of Bitz's big night. "I think that’s what Byron did tonight.

"He got rewarded for doing the things that we’ve been preaching for the last while."

The Saskatoon native said he has not felt any undue pressure to score, but was certainly looking forward to contributing on the scoreboard.

"It’s natural when you play the game you want to score, you always trying to score," said Bitz. "So, I’ve been working in practice on getting to the net as everyone has.

"It’s something that we’ve really stressed because we haven’t been scoring. 
"Tonight again I was able to get there and get lucky on a couple," he said.

In many ways, the young man's "aw-shucks" checking power and easygoing off-ice demeanor has made him a very popular man in the B's dressing room. That was evidenced by the reception Bitz got when he scored and by the chorus of "We want Bitz" coming from his left and right on the Bruins bench.

"It meant a lot, everyone on the bench [was chanting also] and  it was a lot of fun," said Bitz.

And the importance of the win was lost on nobody, particularly Boston's newest fan favorite.

"It’s big," said Bitz. "I think it’s been two weeks now since we’ve been was a long road trip, a tough road trip obviously.

"It’s good to get back and our fans were great tonight and it’s fun playing for them."

And the reception: Was it as good as the ones he got at Cornell?

"There were a few at Lynah Rink," said Bitz, who smiled wide at the mention of his alma mater. "But not as loud as that one."

Imagine if he actually got the hat trick!

Shawn Thornton, Bitz's linemate and mentor, was impressed as well.

"When's the last time you guys have heard that?" asked Thornton of the media. "Big Bitzy-Cat, good for him.

"That's unbelieveable."

But as Bitz passed Thornton on his way to the shower, Thornton joked that he had inspired the offensive breakout.

"He was all fired up because I invited him over for dinner after the game."

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