Cung Le wins "Battle of San Jose" over Frank Shamrock, earns Strikeforce Middleweight Title in front of 16,326

Shamrock Le Strikeforce EliteXC mixed martial arts San Jose
San Jose Frank Shamrock mixed martial arts Strikeforce
Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Cung Le mma
Strikeforce EliteXC mixed martial arts Drew Fickett
Drew Fickett submits Jae Suk Lim Guillotine choke

The fight many believed would never happen, happened Saturday night at HP Pavilion. An hour before the start of the show, thousands of mixed martial arts fans streamed into downtown San Jose to see hometown favorite Cung Le take on the self proclaimed "King of San Jose" Frank Shamrock. The "kickboxing capital outside of Thailand", San Jose State's NCAA judo dynasty (take the Montreal Canadiens NHL dynasty, then double it), a boxing legacy that along with SF dates back to the gold rush and the agricultural boom years, and the true U.S. birthplace of martial arts, San Jose is at its heart a fight town. Saturday night, 16,326 fans watched possibly the most entertaining fight in San Jose history as Cung Le wore down and then stopped Frank Shamrock with a broken/displaced wrist after three rounds.

Despite a buzz about Cung Le that has been building locally throughout his wrestling in high school and at West Valley College, during his reign as a San Shou kickboxing champion and his K-1 kickboxing exhibitions that aired on ESPN, Cung Le (6-0) was still considered by many an underdog for this fight against Frank Shamrock (24-9-1). Shamrock proclaimed earlier this week that he was a part of the fight business when it was called "no hold barred", and he is credited as an MMA pioneer and submission master who helped transition the sport into a more complete discipline.

The atmosphere prior to the opening bell was electric. A large swath of fans waved south Vietnamese flags and started a building "Cunggg-Leee, Cunggg-Leee, Cunggg-Leee" chant. Bright red Shamrock-shirt wearing supporters dotted the lower and upper bowl, waving signs by FuelSJ and Vas.tv that said "Spank Cung". Loud Shamrock supporters tried to drown out the chant with a "Shammm-rock, Shammm-rock, Shammm-rock". This was San Jose's version of a Ricky Hatton fight. Despite all of the predictions by the media, and all of the trash talking and internet videos by Shamrock, no one knew what was going to happen next.

The action started early in the first round, as Le landed two kicks and then tried one of his patented spinning right back-kicks. Shamrock, a master tactician, closed the distance before the kick could land. Major warning bells. Shamrock has power with combinations up the middle, and he can submit almost at will on the ground. Any extravagant displays of striking by Le could open the door for Shamrock. Le answered the first test 27 seconds into the opening round, as he gains a body lock and spins out of Shamrock's control.

No easy win for Shamrock tonight. He stated his intention in a pre-fight interview that he wanted to win or lose this fight on his feet, and the crowd roared its approval at those words. Shamrock looked to time Cung Le's kicks, and land hard counter punches if there was an opening. Showtime analyst Stephen "Fight Professor" Quadros said that southpaw Cung Le's right side kick and left roundhouse kicks were dangerous. Shamrock would try to counter with a straight right hand.

EliteXC promoter Gary Shaw noted Cung Le's ability to create distance as a key to the fight. In the last half of the first round, Le kept the seperation needed to land a higher volume of kicks and a few hard right hooks. Le also stuffed a brief Shamrock takedown attempt. After earning a submission win over Phil Baroni last June, Shamrock joked about the damage done to his ACL/MCL. The injury would have to impact Shamrock's mobility, and affect the amount of drive needed to take down a strong wrestler.

Cung Le tried another looping spinning left back kick and fell to the canvas with 1:30 left. Shamrock pressed the action, pushed Le up against the cage, and tried to rain down punches and knees with Le immobilized. Le powers to his feet, and Shamrock backs off. Shamrock not only wants to win the fight, he wants to win it by outstriking a striker on his feet. Two hard series of combinations land by Shamrock, and he finishes the first round pointing, smiling, and mimicking that he is going to put Le to sleep before heading back to his corner.

Showtime and EliteXC took the PrideFC refcam, and labeled it the Showtime cage-cam for first intermission highlights. Go all the way, lose the cage and use ropes, use an oversize white boxing ring that will act as a softbox and better illuminate the fighters from above and below. A cage is horrible for ringside viewing, television viewing, pixelated internet viewing, photography. Showtime used the cage-cam video replay to highlight a hard Cung Le right hook followed by a left roundhouse kick to the body. Early in the first Le reversed that combination with a left roundhouse followed by a right hook. Punishing either way.

A glancing kick by Le at the start of the second knocks Shamrock's mouthpiece to the canvas. Cung Le backs off and lets Shamrock pick it up and put it back in. There is a brief feeling out process. Shamrock is looking to counter a Le sidekick, Cung is trying to land bombs from outside Shamrock's limited range. Le is the more active fighter, piling up the side kicks to Shamrock's midsection. He catches a Shamrock left kick and pushes him down to the canvas. Frank Shamrock remains sprawled on his back, motioning with each hand for Cung Le to join him. Le declines the invitation.

More front kicks to Shamrock's lead left leg from Le, and a pinpoint push kick to Shamrock's left hip. The kind of intermittent fire that wears down a fighter over time. Shamrock is trying to close in the distance to unload from in tight, but he looks wary of eating more side kicks to the abdomen. Counter right from Shamrock lands cleanly, Le nods his head and acknowledges the blow.

Shamrock looks like he is repeatedly trying to duck under a Le punch and charge forward at the end of the second round, but Le is able to back off successfully. The second round ends. There is no mimicking hand signals or smiling from Frank Shamrock as he heads back to his corner after this round.

Lots of buzz from the crowd at the start of the third. A left high kick by Cung Le is blocked with two hands from Shamrock. Le follows with a right head kick that lands flush to the jaw. Le targets another left kick for the head that his blocked with two hands by Shamrock. A second block 30 seconds later leaves Shamrock wincing briefly. Cung Le is a financial supporter and organizer of the annual Born-to-Fight amateur Muay Thai and grappling tournament held in San Jose. Just over two minutes into the third, Cung Le lands a hard Muay Thai spinning backfist that draws blood from the ear of Frank Shamrock. Le follows the backfist by catching a Shamrock kick, and punting his remaining leg out from under him. Le turns his back and circles confidently. In the post-fight press conference, Cung Le said when he turned around Shamrock was still in the air.

Loud Cunggg-Leee, Cunggg-Leee, Cunggg-Leee chant from the crowd. Cung Le throws combinations of kicks as hard, and as fast as some boxers throw punch combinations. Le appears to be targeting Shamrock's right wrist with kicks, and throwing hard combinations to back Shamrock off when he tries to come forward. Hard right hand rocks Cung Le. Shamrock tried to seize on the opportunity, pressing the action forward with a hail of punches. Le ties up Shamrock briefly. Both are pressed tightly up against the cage. Shamrock takes a half step back and lands a hard, downward right cross. Another chopping right hand by Shamrock, savage blow. Frank misses with a knee from the clinch as the fighters seperate.

Another spinning backfist from Le. Less than 30 seconds until the end of the round, conditioning for the final two championship rounds will be critical. Cung Le lands a left high kick that staggers Frank Shamrock with the seconds ticking down in the third. Cung Le lands a flurry of punches, and another high kick to the head as the horn blares. Back in his corner, Frank Shamrock tells his trainer that his arm is broken and he can not continue.

Cung Le wins the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship with a third round stoppage. Frank Shamrock can not continue with what is described as a broken and displaced right wrist. All three judges scored the fight in favor of Cung Le at the time of the stoppage, Richard Bertrand 30-27, Cecil Peoples 29-28, and Nelson Hamilton 29-28. Cung Le declined any talk that he was "King of San Jose" after the fight, instead saying that he would be the gatekeeper and that anyone looking for that moniker would have to come through him. EliteXC Middleweight Champion Robbie Lawler would be an interesting title unification superfight with one event left on Strikeforce and EliteXC's co-promotion agreement. Former judoka and 2006 Pride FC Welterweight Grand Prix winner Kazuo Misaki was also brought up in the post-fight press conference, "That would be a great fight" Le said. One thing is certain, Cung Le answered the critics with a strong performance against his most difficult MMA opponent to date.

On the undercard, a larger Drew Fickett was taken down early by Korean Jae Suk Lim. Fickett gained top position in a scramble. Fickett latched on to a guillotine and cranked on it as "The Korean Icepick" regained his feet. Lim tried to slam Fickett to the canvas, but it only cinched the choke in furthur. Fickett earned a submission by guillotine choke at 1:14 of the first round. In the post-fight press conference, Fickett confronted his original scheduled opponent Jake Shields about an upcoming meeting this summer for the vacant EliteXC welterweight title. San Francisco's Gilbert Melendez dominated Gabe Lemley in a Strikeforce Lightweight title match, dropping him to the mat with a hard right, and seldom letting him back up to his feet to see the light of day. There was a big Melendez ground and pound flurry at the end of the first round, but Lemley was saved momentarily by the bell. Gilbert Melendez immediately took Lemley to the canvas in the second, and the referee stopped the fight at 2:18 due to strikes.

The final two Showtime televised fights provided fireworks. Oklahoma City native Wayne Cole took down American Kickboxing Academy's Mike Kyle. The natural light-heavyweight Cole quickly transitioned to an armbar, forcing the heavyweight Kyle to tap at 0:42. In the post-fight press conference, Cole mentioned that his mother did not know he was was a mixed martial arts fighter. Now with the Strikeforce/EliteXC broadcast on Showtime, she would soon find out. Cole also mentioned training himself in his garage, with future plans of moving to trainer Pat Miletich's camp. EliteXC's Joey "the Dream Smasher" Villasenor took down his Strikeforce opponent Ryan Jensen early in the first. Jensen appeared to gain confidence and started trading with the heavy-handed Villasenor. Two jabs by Villasenor set up a huge right hand that ended the fight with a knockout at 4:45. Earlier in the week when discussing fighting in Japan, Villasenor complimented the atmosphere and the fans at HP Pavilion but said during a fight he phases out the crowd noise and focuses on his opponent. His trainer Greg Jackson said he is louder than the fans anyways.

In the non-televised fights, Redwood City's Jesse Jones earned a quick first round TKO of Jesse Gillespie. San Francisco's Darren Uyenoyama took down Cung Le trained Anthony Figueroa and earned a submission via guillotine choke at 1:27 of the first round. Figueroa is a very talented fighter who will bounce back. In what has to be considered an upset, Tiki Ghosn controlled undefeated Ralph Gracie BJJ black belt Luke Stewart on his feet, and displayed excellent submission defense on the ground. Ghosn did a solid job preventing repeated Stewart take down attempts in the third, and he registered more damage over three rounds to earn a unanimous decision win. Sharkspage-favorite Billy Evangelista KO'd Maron Sims in the third round with a prizefight-worthy uppercut in the final fight of the evening.

A photo gallery from the event is available here. More information on the event is available from the official websites of Strikeforce, EliteXC, and Showtime.

Post-Fight comments from Cung Le:

"I think (I recognized Frank was hurt) in the second round, I kicked him somewhere in the middle of the round he shook it off a hit like it stung his arm. I said I was just going to keep kicking at his head. Usually I teach my students to block with both hands. He kept blocking with one hand like he was rolling with a punch. I just stayed on it and kept kicking. I knew he was dipping and I kept my rhythm in the second round. I said if it goes down it is going to go down, I just had to let go. At first, I was a little gunshy. The it all just came together."

"When he got me with that good solid punch, I thought he was shooting in. I dropped down to stuff a shot and all I saw was a red flash of his gloves. I saw some stars, and I kind of felt like I was breakdancing back to the cage. He came in with a big smirk, and I said ok you want to throw down. I could hear my trainer Javier Mendez telling me to get out of there. I said, one more. I got hit again, and then I said ok I'll get out."

"I did not know (if I won every round). I did not even ask. It was a five round fight. I know the first was real close. I landed some spinnning kicks, he got my back, and we scrambled. I know the second round I won, and the third round I was winning when all of a sudden I got rocked. Then I rocked him. It was crazy. It was a fun fight."

"I didn't let (Frank's taunting or hand gestures) get to me. I said I am going to go have some fun. I was just going to go out there and throw some kicks... I definitely opened up, and I started putting some bad intentions behind my kicks."

"I knew (Shamrock's wrist was broken). I felt the bone snap. They brough in the x-ray after the fight, and it was right in half. I have a lot of respect for frank, he did fight with a broken hand. I kicked his hand, I kicked it again, I kicked his head. My hands were all bruised. (The kick that broke his wrist) was right at the end of the third round. I caught him in the head first, and I was going to kick again as he put up his arm. I caught him and I heard the arm break as he staggered pack. Then I chased him down with punches."

"With the top 10, sometimes you have fighters ranked #1 and #2, and they don't put on a good fight. Me, I don't care about the rankings. I just try to go out there and try to put on a good fight. Just like my previous fights, I would never taunt back or play around... I just wanted to put on a fight and go out with a bang, and that is what fighting is all about".

"I never said I want to fight to be the King of San Jose. That was Frank, he said he owns San Jose. Me, I said I will be the gatekeeper. Let Frank come through me. This time he did not make it through. If there is a next time, it will be another great fight."

Strikeforce/EliteXC Shamrock vs Le results:

Strikeforce/EliteXC Shamrock vs Le Results
March 29, 2008
HP Pavilion, San Jose, California

(Match Winner Loser Method Round Time)

1 - Jesse Jones d. Jesse Gillespie
TKO (Strikes), 1st round 0:35

2 - Darren Uyenoyama d. Anthony Figueroa
Submission (Guillotine choke), 1st round 1:27

3 - Tiki Ghosn d. Luke Stewart
Decision (Unanimous), 3rd round 5:00

4 - Joey Villasenor d. Ryan Jensen
KO (Punch), 1st round 4:45

5 - Wayne Cole d. Mike Kyle
Submission (Armbar), 1st round 0:45

6 - Gilbert Melendez d. Gabe Lemley
TKO (Strikes), 2nd round 2:18

7 - Drew Fickett d. Jae Suk Lim
Submission (Guillotine Choke), 1st round 1:14

8 - Cung Le d. Frank Shamrock
TKO (Arm injury), 3rd round 5:00

9 - Billy Evangelista d. Marlon Sims
KO, 3rd round 0:39

[Update] As has been the case for most MMA events dating back to the late 90's, the bulk of media coverage is available online. Three of the top online MMA-related websites, Sherdog, MMAweekly, and MMA Junkie, all provided significant coverage of the Strikeforce/EliteXC co-promoted event throughout the week. Sherdog.com led the way with online radio coverage and interviews including one with Strikeforce's Mike Afromowitz, news reports chronicling the ever changing fight card, a live fight play-by-play, weigh-in video, and an in-depth prefight video analysis from MMA trainer Javier Vazquez. Founder/photographer Jeff Sherdog posted his Strikeforce event photogallery here.

MMAweekly.com's Ricardo Mendoza posted a Le-Shamrock event recap here, and Scott Petersen posted photo galleries of each individual fight here. Petersen may have taken the best photo from the event of Cung Le's third round foot sweep of Frank Shamrock. Anyone with an extensive background in wrestling or grappling learns how to fall, but Le punted Shamrock's leg with such force it actually accelerated him into the mat. And this photo captures that. A number of video interviews from Strikeforce competitors and EliteXC promoter Gary Shaw are available as well.

MMAjunkie.com, along with content partnerships with Yahoo Sports, Inside MMA, Frank Trigg, and Sean Salmon, has become a Drudge-like resource for breaking mixed martial arts news. In founder Dann Stupp's Le-Shamrock fight recap, he labels this event the biggest ever held for the "surging" Strikeforce organization. Stupp also notes that Shamrock kept his word about a very risky gameplan of remaining on his feet against Le, that the smiles and handshakes between fighters in earlier rounds disappeared in favor of punishing blows in the third, and that Cung Le will be featured prominently on next month's upcoming debut of the late-night "Strikeforce on NBC" highlight program following Saturday Night Live and Poker. According to the Mercury New's John Ryan (aka Morning Buzz), ESPN World Series of Poker announcer and Santa Clara resident Lon McEachern will call the action on the 2AM half-hour Strikeforce highlight show.

David Meltzer of Yahoo Sports notes that the "Battle of San Jose" between Shamrock and Le was well worth the wait, and wrote on his blog that Frank Shamrock joined his pregnant wife at San Jose's Valley Medical Center on Saturday night. Meltzer also reports that Shamrock had a successful 5-hour surgery to repair his arm Monday, and that the original injury may have happened in the second round.

Proelite.com, which owns EliteXC, acquired KOTC, Icon Sport (Hawaii), Cage Rage (British), and has working partnerships with Rumble on the Rock, Spirit MC (South Korea) and Strikeforce, launched a new behind-the-scenes video offering from television analyst and former professional wrestler Bill Golderg. In the initial video, Goldberg goes into the training camps of Cung Le and Frank Shamrock, gets thrown around awhile, and then offers a few Goldberg-isms about the upcoming fight. EliteXC also filled in some of the details of their recently announced broadcast partnership with CBS. "CBS/EliteXC Saturday Night Fights" will air its first live primetime MMA event on broadcast cable May 31st at 11PM (PT) from the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. This could set up EliteXC and Strikeforce, who have one event remaining on their co-promotion arrangement, as competitors for individual talent and Saturday night MMA viewers. But as the last two Strikeforce/EliteXC events show, the two organizations are stronger with a working relationship than they are without one.

There is a lot more coverage available online from combatlifestyle.com, David Singer's MMA on Tap, Fairtex, GracieFighter.com, CungLe.com, FrankShamrock.com, MMA Mania, MMA payout, Bloody Elbow, and the The Fight Network to name a few. San Jose's longest running (9.5 years) sports blog was not cageside or even seated at the event, but it was hard not to be impressed by the legion of online media competing with the MSM and churning out quality coverage. It just reenforces the fact that each individual, each news organization, or each blogger should be evaluated on the quality of the news they produce. Mark Cuban take note.

[Update2] Le Pushes Shamrock to the Breaking Point - Sherdog.com.

After living up to his word Saturday evening, the self professed No. 1 fighter in mixed martial arts will need surgery to repair his broken and displaced right wrist.

Attempting his first defense of the Strikeforce middleweight belt, Shamrock, a master game planner, engaged in an exciting -- and confounding -- toe-to-toe affair with the undefeated kickboxer, who's appeared in just six MMA contests to the venerable champion's 34.

[Update3] Le breaks Shamrock's arm, takes title, Broken arm ends fight, Shamrock's reign in championship bout - San Jose Mercury News.

[Update4] Shamrock Arena - Gary Singh for the San Jose Metro.

[Update5] Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, Frank Shamrock vs. Cung Le co-interview: This one's gonna be brutal, folks - Damon Orion for The Wave Magazine.

[Update6] CSAC's Armando Garcia talks Nick Diaz - MMA Weekly.

The controversy surrounding Nick Diaz's sudden exit from Saturday’s Elite XC and Strikeforce co-promoted fight card continues to swirl even after the event has ended. MMAWeekly spoke to California State Athletic Commission executive officer Armando Garcia about the decision to remove Diaz from the card and the consequent fallout. According to Garcia, it was all a matter of timing with Diaz and his medical testing prior to the fight, and the commission was not given enough time to respond and investigate.

Armando Garcia went on to quote relevant specifics from the California Code of Regulations, with regards to licensing for athletic events by the CSAC:

The following is taken from a statement provided by the CSAC that references medical marijuana as it relates to licensees of the State Athletic Commission:

"Accordingly, the Act grants patients who use marijuana for medical purposes a limited immunity from criminal prosecution. It does not shield patients, who are also licensees of the State Athletic Commission, from the prohibition articulated in California Code of Regulations section 303, which states: ‘The administration or use of any drugs, alcohol or stimulants, or injections in any part of the body, either before or during a match, to or by any boxer is prohibited.’

The Act was enacted by the people of California to address the medical needs of certain people within its population, and to decriminalize behaviors associated with the use of marijuana. However, since any action taken against a licensee by the Commission is not a criminal prosecution according to State law, the Commission will continue to enforce the prohibition against the administration or use of drugs by a licensee, which is consistent with the Commission's mission to protect and serve California consumers."


NCBA Western Region Amateur College Boxing Championships at Santa Clara University

NCBA Western Region Boxing Championships Santa Clara

The NCBA Western Region Amateur College Boxing Championships are being held March 27-29th at Santa Clara University. USF, Berkeley, Santa Clara, San Jose State, the United States Airforce Academy, UNLV, and Reno will combine for up to 12 fights a night through the finals on Saturday night at Santa Clara University's Malley Center 7PM.

Saturday during the semi-finals, the U.S. Airforce Academy dominated the competition winning all 8 of its bouts. As a whole, the USAFA boxers were well conditioned, technically sound, and they provided a difficult test for their opponents. In front of a large number of student spectators, USAFA's Lucas Gagliardi advanced to the 175 pound championship after a tightly contested bout with UNLV's Jason Crocco.

UNLV's Charles Blackwell forced a retirement from CAL's Eric Allen at 185 pounds after landing a series of hard combinations early in the first. Santa Clara's Chris Haley was warned for holding in the 3rd round, and San Jose State's Alan Cheng earned the 3 round decision to via for the 165 poud championship on Saturday. University of Reno-Nevada's Ryan Kotey used a punishing left hook and overhand right to advance past San Jose States David Ly at 156 pounds.

Speaking with several of the students, it appears many of the boxing programs exist at the club level outside of the realm of school sponsored athletics. Many of the groups raise money on their own, or draw from the resources of local boxing or community organizations. Still in its formative stages, college boxing could provide another future link in the chain for boxing development in the Bay Area.

More information on the event, and ticket information for the friday finals Saturday at 7PM is available at 408-554-4063. A photo gallery from Friday's semi-finals is available here.

[Related] Andre Ward earns a 7th round TKO over Rubin Williams at Thursday's Fight Night at the Tank/Best Damn Sports Show Boxing - Sharkspage.


Strikeforce/EliteXC Shamrock vs Le press conference notes and photos

Franck Shamrock San Jose MMA
Cung Le Franck Shamrock San Jose mixed martial arts
Strikeforce EliteXC Shamrock Le complete fighter photo

The two prevailing stories from the Strikeforce/EliteXC press conference Thursday, and the weigh-ins Friday, were adjustments made to balance the turnover in fighters, and the pre-emptive removal of Nick Diaz from the card by the California State Athletic Commission Executive Officer Armando Garcia for Diaz's possession of a California medical marajuana card.

There is currently a catch-22 situation on this issue. California voters in 1996 passed Proposition 215 (the Compassionate Use Act), which allows a physician to recommend the use of marijuana for medical purposes by patients and caregivers. According to the California Department of Health Care Services website, "the Compassionate Use Act exempts patients, caregivers and physicians who recommend the use of marijuana for medical purposes from criminal laws, punishment, or the denial of any rights or privileges". Federal authorities still actively prosecute the use, cultivation and sale of medical marajuana in California, and several legal cases are still working their way through the courts. Diaz spoke candidly to the assembled media, and EliteXC President and CEO lashed out at Garcia for misrepresenting the reason Diaz was taken off the card (late medicals), and for not offering Nick Diaz an opportunity to test clean for drug use. Diaz had a February 24th, 2007 submission win over Pride FC lightweight champion Takanori Gomi overturned after testing positive for THC.

This Strikeforce/EliteXC promotion features a long awaited San Jose superfight between San Shou kickboxing champion Cung Le, and former UFC and current Strikeforce middleweight champion Frank Shamrock, but the ghost of fights that might have been hang heavy over the card. San Fransico's Gilbert Melendez was slated to face San Jose's Josh Thompson in a lightweight superfight, Cesar Grace trained Jake Shields was scheduled to face Drew Fickett for the vacant EliteXC welterweight title, and Stockton's Nick Diaz might have faced the Korean Spirit MC Middleweight champion, Jae "the Korean Icepick" Suk Lim. That would have been the type of fight card that elevates mixed martial arts onto center stage with the mainstream media and causal fans in Northern California.

As the card was adjusted into its final matchups, the reputation of Strikeforce and the stable of competitors at EliteXC really comes into focus. With the loss of Jake Shields due to a back injury, and the loss of Nick Diaz with CSAC issues, Drew Fickett will now face Jae Suk Lim in an interesting stylistic matchup. Pound-for-pound contender Gilbert Melendez will face Pat Miletich trained Gabe Lemley for the Strikeforce Lightweight World Title. Veteran Joey Villasenor and Team Quest trained Ryan Jensen could provide the best striking display of the night if both remain on their feet. American Kickboxing Academy's Mike Kyle returns from an extended suspension against Wayne Cole in a heavyweight fight.

The main card televised on Showtime will be entertaining, but the undercard and walkout bouts also provide a few interesting angles. Undefeated Billy Evangelista (5-0) out of Fresno dominated Clint Coronel on the Strikeforce Playboy Mansion card last September, it was a candidate for fight of the night. Cung Le trained Anthony Figueroa will face San Francisco based Darren Uyenoyama at 135 pounds. Ralph Gracie BJJ black belt Luke Stewart (5-0), an up-and-coming fighter garnering a lot of attention from insiders, will fight the eccentric Tiki Ghosn. Ghosn gave the most bizarre interview of the year on Sherdog.com, calling him unpredictable would be an understatement. Jesse Jones (1-0) and Jesse Gillespie (1-0) open the undercard in a 170 pound fight.

A photo gallery from the press conference is available here.

Strikeforce/EliteXC Shamrock vs Le weigh-in results and photos

Cung Le Franck Shamrock San Jose MMA
HP Pavilion San Jose Ice Hockey rink MMA cage
San Jose Sharks center Curtis Brown

Results are in from today's weigh-ins for the Strikeforce/EliteXC Shamrock vs Le fight card which will be held Saturday night at HP Pavilion.

Strikeforce/Elite XC Shamrock VS Le
March 29th, 2008 - HP Pavilion, San Jose, CA
(RED CORNER VS BLUE CORNER, #rounds/minutes)

1 - 176 lbs, 3 x 5
Jesse Jones (1-0), 173.5 LBS, Redwood City, CA
Jesse Gillespie (1-0), 180 LBS, San Jose, CA

2 - 136 lbs, 3 x 5
Darren Uyenoyama (3-1), 136 LBS, SF, CA
Anthony Figueroa (4-1), 133 LBS, Gilroy, CA

3 - 170 lbs, 3 x 5
Tiki Ghosn (9-7), NO SHOW, Huntington Beach, CA
Luke Stewart (5-0), 171 LBS, SF, CA

Walkout Bout
4 - 162 lbs, 3 x 5
(Time permitting, otherwise following main event)
Marlon Sims (3-2), 162.5 LBS, San Jose, CA
Billy Evangelista (5-0), 160.5 LBS, Fresno, CA

Showtime Main Event Fights:
5 - 3 x 5, 185 LBS
Joe Villasenor (24-6), 185 LBS, Albuquerque, NM
Ryan Jensen (11-3), 186 LBS, Omaha, NE

6 - 3 x 5, 265 lbs
Mike Kyle (9-5-1), 225 LBS, San Jose, CA
Wayne Cole (10-6), 209 LBS, Norman, OK

Strikeforce Lightweight Title Match
7 - 5 x 5, 155 lbs
Gilbert Melendez (15-1), 154.5 LBS, SF, CA
Gabe Lemley (11-6), 153 LBS, New London, IA

8 - 3 x 5, 175 LBS
Drew Fickett (31-5), 175 LBS, Tucson, AZ
Jae Suk Lim (9-3), 170 LBS, Seoul, Korea

Main Event: Strikeforce Middleweight Title Match
9 - 5 x 5, 185 LBS
Frank Shamrock (24-8-1), 185 LBS, San Jose, CA
Cung Le (5-0), 183 LBS, San Jose, CA

More information about the event is available from the official strikeforceusa.net website. Event and broadcast information from Showtime is available here. A photo gallery from the weigh-ins is available here.

Notes and photos from the press conference, and a breakdown of individual fights will be posted soon.

All signs point to San Jose, 2 goals by Joe Thornton, goal line stop by Nabokov propel Sharks to 3-2 OT win over Dallas

San Jose Sharks Dallas Stars NHL hockey
San Jose Sharks right wing Mike Grier

The Sharks were looking to rebound with a tight performance against Dallas on Thursday, after a tumultous 9-goal affair resulted in an overtime loss to Phoenix on Tuesday. Buoyed by the effort against Anaheim, where the Sharks snapped the Ducks 6-game road winning streak at HP Pavilion, the Stars saw their own 6-game HP Pavilion winning streak snapped with a come-from-behind 3-2 overtime win by San Jose. Dallas has been plummeting like a stone in the standings, mired in a 1-8-0 slump as their playoff position plumments. Extended absences from defenseman Mattias Norstrom (knee - 16 games), defensmean Philippe Boucher (shoulder seperation - 44 games), and with defensive leader Sergei Zubov (hand/foot - 28 games) still out, the Stars have had problems overcoming a decimated blueline.

The vaunted trade deadline acquisition Brad Richards has struggled with his transition to Dallas, according to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. Heika also notes that the Dallas Stars are 2-7-1 with Richards in the lineup since the trade, and San Jose has not lost in regulation (13-0-2) since the acquisition of Brian Campbell.

No one doubts the offensive and leadership abilities the former Conn Smythe winning Brad Richards brings to the table, but his addition to the roster added an element to the team they were already abundant in at the time, scoring. The Sharks had several quick, puck moving defenseman, Christian Ehrhoff, Matt Carle, and Sandis Ozolinsh. Craig Rivet and Marc-Edouard Vlasic contribute more on the defensive side of the ice, but each plays a very intelligent game and are capable of contributing offensively if the Sharks are in a hole. That being said, San Jose struggled mightly initiating offense from the blueline 5-on-5 and on the power play. Ehrhoff remoulded his game in a similar fashion to Douglas Murray, both have emerged as elite young shutdown defenseman. Sharks head coach Ron Wilson experimented with centers Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski on the point of the power play, but the Sharks failed to create a consistent offensive threat from the blueline.

The addition of Campbell's speed, his stick handling, and offensive instincts back off the opposition for fear they might be burned. While the puck may be hopping around his stick, his eyes are still up ice looking to make a first pass. The addition of Campbell basically ends the franchise-long search for a puck moving defenseman, one who can also contribute on the power play. The trade deadline moves by general manager Doug Wilson (defenseman Brian Campbell, goaltender Brian Boucher) filled two holes on a deep playoff contending team. In my opinion, they transformed this lineup into a Stanley Cup favorite (one four letter media outlet at the time gave a 9.0 to the Marian Hossa and Brad Richards trades, and a 7.5 for the Campbell trade).

On Thursday night, the crowd at HP Pavilion was extraordinarily loud. There was a building roar midway through an earlier game against Detroit during non-stop action, and approximately 5 "Ducks Suck" chants during the recent 2-1 win over Anaheim, but the noise in the third period and overtime against Dallas was at times deafening. And not all positive, there were several loud negative reactions after missed plays, a long series of boo's after missed calls, and an extended drawn out Tuuurrrr-coo, Tuuurrrr-coo, Tuuurrrr-coo. Turco was the designated villian of the game by the fans, and any time the puck approached him he garnered a healthy round of boo's. The closest comparision I would make to the atmosphere woule be to some of the Mexican exhibition soccer games held recently in the Bay Area, where the fans actively and creativly try to get into opponents heads. There were no 40x60 foot flags, no luchador masks, and no flares lit off behind each goal, but it was an electric environment nonetheless.

Greg Beacham of the AP notes that center Mike Modano has owned the Shark Tank with his past success. With one degree of seperation between SJ-arch nemesis Ed Belfour, two demoralizing playoff wins over the Sharks in 1998 and 2000, and a standout 2-goal effort tying and breaking the alltime U.S.-born point total record at HP Pavilion earlier in the year, fans in San Jose have several un-resolved issues with former Stars captain Mike Modano.

With a 4-minute double minor penalty called on Marty Turco for punching Joe Pavelski, the Sharks had a 3:44 power play in overtime to put pressure on a reeling Stars team. Brian Campbell fell down while trying to keep the puck in on the point, and Mike Modano poked the puck past him and exploded on a short-handed breakaway. Modano came bearing down on goal with speed, made a quick deke to his backhand and slid the puck underneath Nabokov's pads. The puck trickled 2 inches wide of the left post. Modano then gathered the puck behind the net and tried to stuff a wraparound home before Nabokov could react. Evgeni swung his goalie stick up against the post, and stopped the shot with one half of the puck on each side of the goal line. No goal. The crowd was pretty much stunned into silence watching the replay.

Shortly thereafter, Stars defenseman Trevor Daley was called for a penalty at 2:46 in the OT period. With a player already serving Marty Turco's 4-minute high sticking double minor for punching Joe Pavelski, the Sharks had a rare 5-on-3 overtime power play. Joe Thornton tried to feed Patrick Marleau with a hard pass in front of the net, but the puck deflected off of traffic and beat Marty Turco for Thornton's second goal of the game. Thornton tied the game in the third period, when he was caught in between line shifts with Mike Grier and Patrick Rissmiller. After hemming the Sharks in their own zone, Douglas Murray moved the puck up to Rissmiller on the other side. Rissmiller hit a streaking Mike Grier at center ice. Grier took the puck inside the blue line, and cut to his left drawing two Dallas Stars with him. Grier threaded a pass to Joe Thornton, who was wide open on the right side. Thornton had his stick cocked in the air, and then he bombed a shot that beat Turco cleanly. It could quite possibly be the hardest slap shot Thornton has taken at HP Pavilion.

Could it have been a response to ESPN's John Buccigross, who made this statement earlier this week? Probably not, but I for one will not miss an opportunity to take a shot at Buccigross.

I'm sorry, but Joe Thornton is not a great shooter. I've been pushing for Joe to be well over 200 shots a season, but his accuracy and velocity have never been consistent. That doesn't mean he isn't a great player. He is. And it just seems destined that a Cup will rise above his salad. It might be this season. My preseason pick here on ESPN.com was Sharks-Penguins.

Marty Turco was not to be left out of the spectacular, highlight reel save department in this game. With 6 minutes remaining in the third period, Milan Michalek gained several steps on the defense. He initially faked a shot, one that everyone in the building including possibly Michalek himself thought he would take. Instead he took the puck wide left and tried to slide it just inside the post. Turco, sprawled on the ice, dove back to his right to get part of his stick on the shot. The puck slid to a stop 2 inches from the goal line, very loud OOOHHH-aaahhhhhh. from the crowd.

Joe Pavelski also scored for the Sharks on a second period power play. Patrick Marleau fed Pavelski with a long cross-ice pass, and Pavelski buried it up high over a Turco pad stack. Brendan Morrow and Jere Lehtinen scored in the first and second period for the Stars. Dallas pressed the action in the first period, and a give and go with Ribeiro and Modano led to a hard Modano shot from the slot. Nabokov made the initial save, but Brenden Morrow deposited the rebound. Lehtinen's goal came on a Dallas 5-on-3 in the second period. Ribeiro hit Lehtinen with a nice pass, and Lehtinen buried the one timer.

With the win, the Sharks earned their 102nd point, bolstering their Pacific Division lead to 6 points with 5 games remaining. The Sharks also improved their home record to 20-13-6. Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves on 25 shots, earning his league leading 44th win of teh season. Marty Turco made 24 saves on 27 shots.

[Update] Sharks 3, Stars 2, OT - SJsharks.com.

[Update2] Sharks defeat Stars 3-2 in overtime - SJ Mercury News.

[Update3] This photo by AP photographer Tony Avelar captured Nabokov's goal line stick save with a remote camera shot from the rafters at HP Pavilion.

[Update4] Point blank: Dallas Stars lose in OT to Sharks - Dallas Morning News.

Turco claimed responsibility for one of the biggest mistakes of the game. In the middle of overtime, he clipped Joe Pavelski in the head with his stick. Turco was trying to put a stiff arm into Pavelski to force the Sharks forward further around the net and create space for a Stars defenseman to carry the puck. But Pavelski leaned into a turn to go around the net, and Turco hit him square in the face.

"That thing in overtime was nothing short of dumb," Turco said. "There’s no excuse. It was what it was, it doesn’t matter what you were trying to do. I always am trying to help my guys out, but in that case, he didn't really need any help. It was just a reaction – and something that’s easily stopped."

[Update5] The title of this post, "All signs point to San Jose", was a conversation several fans were having as they walked back to their cars in the parking lot. Signs of a good team: Best players turning in the best performances on the ice on a consistent basis, Solid Goaltending, Team Defense, the ability to play bad and still win, the ability to beat teams down in the standings you are supposed to beat, ability to dictate play against tough divisional opponents. Item by item, the Sharks hold up pretty well.


Dallas Stars morning skate notes

Dallas Stars morning practice San Jose
Dallas Stars goaltender Marty Turco

The Dallas Stars had a light practice this morning at HP Pavilion. Unlike all of the other teams practicing in San Jose this year, Dallas broke down their practice into small groups with each practicing a different aspect of the game. On one end of the ice players worked on passing the puck out of the corner for a shot in front of the crease. At the other blueline, defenseman worked on taking an initial stride immediately after recieving a pass. It creates a lane for passing or shooting, very important with the focus on blocked shots in today's NHL. Another small group of 3-4 players worked on faceoffs at center ice.

Other drills included a light shootaround, 2-on-0 breakaways, and goaltender Marty Turco practicing baseball swing saves in front of his own net. I have never seen Turco do that in a game, but recently Edmonton goaltender Dwayne Roloson batted a puck up to a defenseman. A small group of players and 2 coaches ran conditioning drills and a high paced 4-on-3 scrimmage after the rest of the team went into the dressing room.

Notes and photos from the Strikeforce Shamrock-Le press conference will be posted after the Stars-Sharks game tonight.

[Update] David Pollak notes in his Working the Corners blog that the day of game skate today was called off for San Jose. He notes that Nabokov will get the start tonight, and speculates that Brian Boucher could possibly get a start tomorrow against Anaheim. Pollak also mentions that the last San Jose Sharks practice open to the public will be Saturday at 2PM at Sharks Ice (formerly Logitech Ice).

[Update2] Dallas Stars look for solutions in San Jose - Mike Heika for the Dallas Morning News.

There are few places the Dallas Stars like playing more than HP Pavilion. The home of the San Jose Sharks looks a lot like Reunion Arena, with a low, dark ceiling and fans right on top of the play. It is one of the loudest places the Stars play – and the fans there love to hate the team from Dallas. So it makes it even more satisfying for the Stars that they are 3-0-0 there this season, 6-1-0 over the last two seasons and 26-13-2 all time on the road in San Jose.

Max Giese: Sharks prospects on display at the 2008 NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Tournament

NCAA March Madness is upon us, and that includes the NCAA Men's Regional Finals that will be taking place this weekend. Only the top 16 teams in the country remain, and the San Jose Sharks development system will be represented with three prospects playing in the tournament. Each regional has four teams competing for a shot to make the NCAA Frozen Four, which will be held in Denver, Colorado April 10-12th.

The NorthEastern Regional is being held in Worcester Massachusetts, home of the San Jose Sharks AHL affiliate Worcester Sharks. Two Sharks prospects will be on display. Nick Petrecki, the Sharks second 1st-round selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, will be playing large minutes for the Boston College Eagles. Petrecki is a hulking freshman that has made a major impact immediately upon his arrival at Boston College. His mean streak and commanding skating ability make him an impact player. Scouts will be watching Petrecki's hockey sense closely. While his athleticism is unquestioned, some are concerned with his decision making. With that said, multiple NHL scouts this season have had effusive praise when describing Petrecki this season, mentioning that he has been an absolute monster and he is improving with experience.

Joining Petrecki in the North East Regional is Minnesota Gophers center Tony Lucia. The son of Gophers head coach Don Lucia, Tony emerged as key player for Minnesota this season centering the teams checking line. A line that has effectively shut down the opposition's top lines in recent games. Lucia is undersized and lacks speed, but his exceptional hockey sense and tireless work ethic give him a reasonable chance of contributing in the NHL down the line.

The Sharks will also be represented at the East Regional with Clarkson senior captain and leading scorer Steven Zalewski. A fifth round selection at the 2004 draft, Zalewski is regarded in some scouting circles as the next Torrey Mitchell; an Eastern Prep developed center that plays a gritty two-way game. While Zalewski lacks Mitchell's high end top gear, he is the backbone of the Clarkson offensive attack. His goal scoring ability, fearless competitive spirit, and savvy playmaking will be instantly evident to those watching him. It is quite possible he will be signed immediately after this season, Zalewski is a prized prospect in the Sharks development system.

For Sharks fans who want to watch the games, the best place is on the ESPN-U channel where games will be air live and tape delayed (March 28-30th). The Frozen Four will once again be televised on both ESPN-2 (Thursday 04/10 3PM, Thursday 04/10 6PM), and the championship game will be seen on ESPN (Saturday 04/12, 4PM). A full broadcast schedule is available from ncaa.com here.

[Update] Sharks Sign Merrimack forward Matt Jones
The San Jose Sharks' struck gold early in the NCAA Free Agent lottery signing the 6-foot-4, 205-pound right winger Matt Jones out of Merrimack. He is a large forward, with a heavy shot and the ability to shield the puck down low in the trenches. The fact that Jones was able to score 15 goals in his sophomore season on a struggling Merrimack against quality Hockey East competition speaks volumes about his goal scoring abilities.

Rumors suggest that the Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers, and Anaheim Ducks also offered Jones a contract. The Sharks signed Jones to a two-year entry level contract which will begin next year. The Worcester Sharks also signed Jones to an ATO this season so he can begin to play for the Sharks minor league affiliate for the remainder of this season.


Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Booster Club Names Award Winners

Wednesday night at the DCU Center the Worcester Sharks Booster Club announced their Booster Club Awards for the 2007-2008 season.

Voting took place by booster club members over a week long period, and according to Club President Rich Lundin every category was a close race, including a tie for team Most Valuable Player.

The 2007-2008 Worcester Booster Club award winners were:

Best Offensive Player: Mike Iggulden

Best Defensive Player: Patrick Traverse

Tough Guy Award: Brad Staubitz

Fan Favorite: Riley Armstrong

"Seven Hills" Seventh Player Award: T.J. Fox

Best Single Game Performance: Mike Iggulden, for his hat trick against Norfolk.

Rookie of the Year: Derek Joslin

Most Valuable Player: (tie) Riley Armstrong & Graham Mink

Speakers at the event included WorSharks COO David Daniels, WorSharks President Michael Lehr, and AHL President David Andrews. While the ceremony was about this current season, many of the speakers touched on next season when the WorSharks host the AHL All Star Classic.

Andrews also talked about how players in the AHL shouldn't think of it as a "lifetime sentence", but should instead focus on improving their game and taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them to proceed to the NHL.

I was seated with WorSharks head coach Roy Sommer and his family, WorSharks assistant head coach David Conniff, Nate Raduns, and Club President Rich Lundin. I was seated right next to Coach Conniff and we had a great conversation about hockey in general. When I asked him about some of the junior players rumored to be heading to Worcester, I liked his answer about how he only concerns himself with the guys in uniform right now.

For the second year in a row Coach Conniff won the raffle for the team signed stick. And thanks to him that stick will look great hanging in my game room.

For a short while Raduns and I were the only two at our table, and he is easily one of the quietest and most polite people I have ever met. He's itching to get back on the ice and is just waiting to be cleared, which he hopes is very soon.

I spoke to newly signed Matt Jones very briefly. He seemed to be a pretty nice guy with a good head on his shoulders. We'll see how that translates to the ice soon.

For those wondering who I voted for, you'll have to wait until the season is over when I hand out my own "awards".


Local Sports Notes

San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton hat trick

- The Sharks failed to register their second 10-game road winning streak of the season with a 5-4 OT loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, but the point streak remains alive and well at 16 games. After two goals scored by Derek Morris and Enver Lisin in the second, Phoenix captain Shane Doan scored a short handed goal early in the third period that looked like it might put the game out of reach.

Brian Boucher replaced starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who along with his team did not look sharp while making only 22 saves on 26 shots. Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov was not on top of his form either, caught out of position a few times and his reaction speed was several notches below what it has been earlier in the season. His gargantuan size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds), quick glove hand and large leg pads make up for a lot of mistakes.

Then the scoring onslaught ensued. The Sharks and Phoenix combined for 4 goals in the next two minutes and three seconds, with Phoenix holding on to a precarious 4-3 lead. Joe Thornton added the go-ahead goal at 17:14. It was initially listed as Thornton's second goal, until a scoring change on the first goal of the game gave Thornton a hat trick. Another scoring change added assists to Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton on Marc-Edouard Vlasic's goal, giving Thornton a four point night.

A hit in the Phoenix defensive zone opened up the ice for a Coyotes break out in overtime. Martin Hanzal on the half boards fed a streaking Keith Ballard at center ice. Ballard drove just outside the faceoff circle, drawing defenseman Brian Campbell with him. Ballard then slipped a drop pass to Martin Hanzal, who had to put on the brakes to corrall the puck. Hanzal then fired a shot that pinged off the crossbar and into the net for the OT game winner. Phoenix wins in overtime 5-4.

Video highlights from the game are available via Versus here. The official Phoenix Coyotes website has photo gallery and video interviews here. The Arizona Republic's Jim Gintonio notes that the Phoenix Coyotes broke their 5-game losing streak against the hottest team in the NHL, adding that it was a "huge psychological boost" for a team that will not make the playoffs.

- The San Jose Sharks vs Dallas Stars game Thursday at HP Pavilion will have an early 7PM (PT) start time, and will be broadcast on FSN Bay Area not FSNBA Plus as listed in the pocket schedule.

Frank Shamrock San Jose MMA
Cung Le Strikeforce kickboxing

- Attention has been building for the much anticipated San Jose showdown between Strikeforce Middleweight champion Frank Shamrock and former San Shou kickboxing champion and K-1 veteran Cung Le Saturday, March 29th at HP Pavilion. Sherdog.com's Jake Rossen lays out the scenario facing Frank Shamrock, a mixed martial arts pioneer who competes as much for his standing in the sport as he does against an opponent. Proelite.com's senior blogger Sam Kaplan makes the case for why Cung Le will beat Frank Shamrock. Caplan believes Le's athleticism, speed, and power will carry the fight.

The Strikeforce/EliteXC undercard was originally slated to be stacked with an elite crop of mixed martial arts competitors including the veteran Pride FC and UFC submission specialist Nick Diaz against Korean Jae Suk Kim. Cesar Gracie trained Jake Shields (SF) was scheduled to face Drew Fickett (AZ) for the vacant EliteXC elterweight title. A back injury suffered during training sidelined Shields, and today a report was released that Nick Diaz was pulled off of the card as well. Drew Fickett will now face Jae Suk Kim.

Current Strikeforce Lightweight World Champion Gilbert Melendez, originally scheduled to face Strikeforce U.S. Lightweight Champion Josh Thomson in a Bay Area grudge match, will now meet Gabe Lemley. Melendez is coming off of a decision loss to Mitsuhiro Ishida at the Yarennoka MMA event in Japan on New Years Eve, and Lemley owns a five fight win streak and an earlier win against fan favorite Clay Guida. Also added to the Strikeforce undercard are bouts between Mike Kyle vs Wayne Cole, Pride FC veteran Joey Villasenor vs Ryan Jensen, Tiki Ghosn vs undefeated Gracie Jiu Jitsu specialist Luke Stewart, Jesse Jones vs. Jesse Gillespie, and a two solid locals in Cage Combat FC veteran Darren Uyenoyama vs. Anthony Figueroa (Cung Le Martial Arts Training Center).

The matchups have been in flux with numerous pullouts due to injury (Thompson, Shields), scheduling (Diaz) and visa problems (Santos), but the talent pool the promoters are drawing from is deep. This fight card has the potential to be one of the best held in the Bay Area. A more in-depth breakdown of the Le-Shamrock fight, and notes from the press conference and weigh-ins will be posted later this week. For more information, or to order tickets, visit Strikeforceusa.net.

- The April 2008 issue of Maxim Magazine published an in-depth investigative piece by Mike Guy on the death of surfer Peter Davi during the Big Tuesday swell of early December, Ghost Rider. "The swells on December 4th were historic at Ghost Tree. One of the World's most dangerous big wave spots. For one legendary Californian surfer, the ride of his life would turn out to be his last." The 45-year old Davi drowned while trying to paddle surf the giant swells at Ghost Trees near Pebble Beach. Almost all of the other surfers out that day were being towed-in by jetskis due to the tremendous speed of the 30-50 foot waves. Davi's board broke after a large swell, he declined a tow back in to shore and he was never seen alive again.

Reports of heavy methamphetamine use by Davi surfaced after an autopsy, but the picture painted by Mike Guy of Peter Davi's final days offer a glimpse into the darker side of surfing culture.

A few quotes from the Maxim article (that is not available online):

Davi surveyed the scene. Twenty-footers were rolling in at 19 second intervals, and when the swells arrived in the shallows, the earth pushed them upward another 50 feet into the air. Around now the first foursomes at Pebble beach were making the turn onto the 18th hole tee box, and they saw what Davi saw from the water: the gargantuan, vertical mug of Ghost Tree in all its thunderous glory.

"I was saying the day before that someone's going to die on the fourth," pro surfer Grant Washburn said. "That's the kind of swell that kills people for sure. It's that big, it's that heavy, it's coming at a scary angle. When you're near those waves, you're pretty much aware that they will kill you."

A sidebar in the Maxim article lists the world's 6 deadliest waves. Among the six are two from Northern California: Ghost Tree in Monterey, and Mavericks in Half Moon Bay. Also included were Teahupoo in Tahiti, Jaws in Maui, Nelscott Reef in Oregon, and Todos Santos in Baja California. More video and notes from Big Tuesday at Mavericks and Ghost Tree are available here.

- If you have Microsoft Silverlight installed, a replay of the Oakland Athletics 2-game season opening series with the Boston Red Sox in Japan is available for viewing online here. Athletics Nation, one of the first Bay Area sports blogs, has live reports from fans in Japan here.

- The Fight Night at the Tank/Best Damn Sports Show Boxing Period event from HP Pavilion last week will Thursday on FSNBA. BDSSP's Chris Rose will host the boxing special, with Sean O'Grady and Rich Marotta calling the fights ringside. 2004 U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Andre Ward faces Rubin "Hollywood" Williams in the main event, and two local talents in Karim Mayfield and Francisco Santana square off on the undercard. The tape-delayed broadcast will air at 11PM (PT). A report from Sharkspage ringside is available here.

- According to the San Jose Mercury News, the Western Region college boxing championships will be held Thursday through Saturday at Santa Clara University's Malley Center. Eight participating colleges will compete in the quarterfinals on Thursday, semifinals on Friday, and the Finals at Friday (I believe the fights start at 7PM). Admission is $5, $3 for students. More information is available at 408-554-4063.

[Update] Marine aims to add WEC title to Silver Star - USA Today.

Calling World Extreme Cagefighting's Brian Stann battle-tested is misleading. In one way, he isn't. And in another, more profound way, he is. At 5-0, Stann's victories have come in the first round either by knockout or TKO. He hasn't exactly been challenged.

But in his day job, Stann knows what it is like to fight when the stakes are life and death. A former football player at Navy and now a burgeoning mixed-martial arts star in WEC, Stann, a U.S. Marine Corps captain, spent two tours of duty in Iraq.

The WEC event on Versus begins tonight at 6PM. The headline Paulo Filho vs Chael Sonnen superfight is off due to drug and emotional problems suffered by Filho, but Sonnen and Stann alone are worth the price of admission. An updated fight card is available here.

[Update2] ESPN's Terry Frei writes about the race for the Jack Adams coach of the year voting. Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock, Washington's Bruce Boudreau, and Montreal's Guy Carbonneau are the leading candidates named by Frei, but he also mentions Craig MacTavish, Barry Trotz, Brent Sutter and San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson.

Describing Ron Wilson, Frei mentions the 5 game losing streak that preceeded the trade deadline acquisition of defenseman Brian Campbell and the Sharks subsequent 11 game winning streak.

Wilson's friction with Patrick Marleau and the Sharks' 7-7-2 start, among other issues, had the coach seemingly destined to be fired by Christmas … if not sooner. The pieces about his voice getting stale to the Sharks' veterans -- that's one of the story angles taught in Sportswriting and Sports Broadcasting 101 -- were being cranked out.

A five-game losing streak as the trading deadline approached heightened the urgency. Then Brian Campbell's acquisition helped set the table for the run that has the Sharks on the verge of clinching the Pacific Division and the Western Conference's No. 2 seed. Wilson didn't ridiculously overreact, and the Sharks rebounded.

The first two losses in that 5 game losing streak came at home, and they were two back-to-back frustrating performances in front of an anxious fan base. The Sharks let a game they were dominating slip away against Calgary in overtime, and after a 3-2 loss to Edmonton San Jose looked almost relieved to head out for the extended road trip.

Three more losses followed against the Rangers (1-3), Islanders (2-3), and Devils (2-3), bumping the losing streak to 5 games, but in each contest the Sharks were in a position to fight for a win late in the game. The road trip seemed to buoy this team, bring them together, and they won the next 11 games. With only a shootout loss to Edmonton, and an OT loss to Phoenix, the Sharks have earned 30 out of 32 possible points in the subsequent 16 game point streak. Throw in the three close losses at the start of the road trip, and the genesis of the San Jose Sharks streak actually begins with the plane flight out of San Jose instead of the strong third period against Philadelphia February 21st that equaled win #1.

[Update3] Pacific: Stars searching for answers, victories - NHL.com.


Sharks-Coyotes on Versus tonight

Accuscore Versus San Jose Sharks Phoenix Coyotes stat preview

The Sharks and Versus announced that today's 7:30PM San Jose Sharks vs Phoenix Coyotes game would be broadcast exclusively on Versus instead of FSN Bay Area. The Sharks will look to build on a 15-game point streak and extend their 9-game road winning streak without the services of wingers Jonathan Cheechoo and Patrick Rissmiller. Both sustained injuries late in Friday's 2-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks according to the Mercury News.

Losers of 5 straight games, the Phoenix Coyotes are on the outside of the playoff race looking in. A home loss to the San Jose Sharks may put them precariously close to 10 points out of the 8th and final playoff spot with 5 games remaining. Phoenix rookie center Peter Mueller leads all NHL rookies in goals scored with 22, and rookie center Martin Hanzal is 7th in assists with 27. Both were seen on this blog in previous Pacific Division rookie tournament coverage from Los Angeles.

According to the updated Accuscore statistical preview, the San Jose Sharks and Phoenix Coyotes are each predicted to score 2.4 goals. Ilya Bryzgalov will make 25.5 saves on 27.9 shots (91.4%) to Evgeni Nabokov's 29.7 saves on 32.1 shots (92.6%). There is a 52.6% percent chance of a fight, unless Daniel Carcillo is in the lineup. Then there is a 100% possibility. Joe Thornton, Milan Michalek, and Brian Campbell are the most likely to find themselves on the scoresheet for San Jose according to Accuscore. Shane Doan, Ed Jovanovski and Radim Vrbata for Phoenix.

More statistical analysis on tonight's San Jose Sharks vs Phoenix Coyotes game is available from USA Today's Sagarin rankings, the Hockey Forecaster, and a wealth of information is available from behindthenet.ca.

A poll on Versus asks which goaltender would be the best choice for the Vezina Trophy this season. Current results: Evgeni Nabokov 29%, Martin Brodeur 23%, and Henrik Lundqvist 14% are the top 3 nominees.

[Update] Coyotes' Vrbata stuck in slump - Arizona Republic.

Radim Vrbata, the Coyotes' leading-goal scorer, is mired in a slump but he believes he's playing the same way he did earlier in the year when his was scoring key goals. He has set career highs in goals (27) and assists (28) but has not put one in the net in the past 16 games, a streak he hopes to break tonight when the Coyotes host the San Jose Sharks.

"I don't think I've changed my game at all," said Vrbata, a right wing in his sixth NHL season. "I'm playing the same, but earlier in the season I scored goals, and I was like, 'Wow, how did that go in?' I was saying, 'OK, I take it,' and now it seems like there are chances . . . 'How come that didn't go in?' You have to take it, too.

[Update2] The Carcillo Situation - One Fan's Perspective.

For the past few games, Carcillo has been unfairly maligned in the eyes of the officials on the ice. Clearly, Carcillo is not an angel, and I do recognize that. However, he doesn't cause trouble and skate away like some players in the NHL. He takes the heat and by doing so it sparks his team.

Whether there is a conspiracy afoot, or just plain incompetence, remains to be seen (but in this case, I lean to the conspiracy theory), but last night against the Los Angeles Kings was the first time ever I saw a five-minute major penalty called for interference with a game misconduct tacked on for good measure.

[Update3] Another coup for Versus according to ESPN's Dan Rafael. Versus will air the Ricky Hatton (43-1, 31 KOs) vs Juan Lazcano (37-4-1, 27 KOs) May 24th fight live from Manchester, England. Listening to the crowd alone will be reason enough to watch this card. The popular Paul Malignaggi will also appear on the undercard in a title defense against former champion Lovemore N'Dou.


San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks Rewind, period-by-period review, game notes and media recap

The inter-divisional series between the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks may have been the most physical NHL rivalry in 2006-07. Each team had the size and offensive horses to withstand intimidation, but Anaheim edged a 5-3 regular season record against the Sharks en route to their first Stanley Cup Championship.

In 2007-08, both Pacific Division powerhouse franchises limped out of the gate. The Sharks struggled mightily at home, and rescued defeat out of the jaws of many overtime and shootout victories. Anaheim looked like a shadow of its championship self, and the half-season retirement of Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne handicapped the Ducks offensive creativity on both sides of the ice. One area where the Ducks were strong all season came in games against San Jose. The Ducks dominated the Sharks this season registering a 5-1 series record, with 3 wins coming via overtime or an overtime shootout.

The Sharks earned a 2-1 win over Anaheim at HP Pavilion on Friday, holding the Ducks without a shot in the third period in what may turn out to be a late round playoff preview.


Jonathan Cheechoo fires a breakout pass to Joe Thornton. Thornton drives down the right wing and tries to backhand a pass to Milan Michalek, but it deflects off defenseman Scott Niedermayer. Michalek picks up the rebound as Thornton circles behind the Anaheim net. Four Anaheim Ducks are caught on one side of the crease with Cheechoo setting up a screen in front. Michalek hits Thornton with pass at the side of the net. He takes it to his backhand and buries it far side to open the scoring 40 seconds into the first period. Thornton registers his 21st goal of the season, assists by Milan Michalek (27) and Jonathan Cheechoo (14).

Todd Marchant responds with a hard forecheck, disrupting the Sharks smooth transition up ice. Second shift after the goal and Anaheim responds with another series of hard checks in the Sharks zone. Three Ducks finish checks along the glass. Anaheim is lining up players several strides after they are no longer in possession of the puck, no calls by the referees. The pressure creates a turnover and a scoring chance in front for Ryan Getzlaf.

Television announcers quote Jeremey Roenick from a week or two earlier. Roenick focused on this game well in advance, noting "This is the biggest game of the year for the San Jose Sharks. We have to prove ourselves in non-overtime games."

Jody Shelley responds with two huge hits for the San Jose Sharks, and this may be one of the most physical first periods at HP Pavilion this season. The first Shelley hit pastes Francois Beauchemin along the end boards, the second seperates defenseman Sean O'Donnell from the his stick as he tries to play the puck in the corner.

Penalty on Beauchemin for crosschecking. The Anaheim Ducks are 21-for-22 against the San Jose Sharks killing penalties this season. Excellent puck control by San Jose once they gain possession. Grant spacing allows lanes for them to move the puck. The Ducks kill off the PP, and Kent Huskins executes a perfect shot block to smother a scoring chance in front. Anaheim finishs the first period with 10 blocked shots to San Jose's 12.

George Parros (6-foot-5, 229 pounds) and Jody Shelley (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) drop the gloves at center ice. Parros starts off with several right hands, Shelley creates distance with his left hand collaring Parros' jersey. Shelley tries short jabs while holding the jersey. and then comes over the top with a huge right that lands. Parros finishes the fight with two punches that connect, and the refs step in. Replay shows that the fight started after a hit by Parros upended Shelley at the blueline.

On the forecheck, Jonathan Cheechoo sends Francois Beauchemin cartwheeling with a big check. Followed by a long roar from the crowd. Rush by Marchmant, Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff quick to challenge him with a hit behind his own net. As the Sharks break the play up ice, Ehrhoff drives the net and gets a chop on Jonas Hiller before the referee can stop the play. With the absence of Chris Pronger due to an 8-game suspension for foot stomping, Sharks fans still need a villian to boo on the ice. Former Shark and current Anaheim Duck Teemu Selanne fills that role Friday.

Interesting sequence in the game that happened mostly off camera. Kyle McLaren moves the puck up the boards to Devin Setoguchi. Behind the play a streaking Brian Sutherby checks the legs out from under Joe Pavelski. Anaheim dumps the puck in the Sharks zone, and McLaren again moves the puck up ice to Devin. Setoguchi dumps the puck in the Anaheim zone, and battles for possession with defenseman Kent Huskins. Sutherby comes swooping in, pulls the puck out of the scrum, and accelerates while taking the puck behind his own net and up the other side. Pavelski matches him stride for stride, cuts in front of the Ducks net, and hammers Sutherby into the Ducks bench. Sutherby slides down the bench until running into linesman Dan Schachte. Schachte gets his elbows up to defend himself, and sends Sutherby sprawling on to the ice.

Focused on Marc-Andre Bergeron for a few shifts at the end of the first period. Interesting veteran addition by Anaheim at the trade deadline. With the suspension of Pronger it is a perfect opportunity to work Bergeron into the lineup. He makes high percentage plays in his own zone, and moves the puck up ice with a solid first pass.

Last minute of the first period, Sharks cycle the puck down low in the Anaheim zone. The Sharks can not get a shot on net, but they do force a hook penalty on Bergeron, which will carry over into the second. Sharks dominant Thornton-Cheechoo-Michalek power play unit on the ice for the last few seconds.


Anaheim starts the second period killing off the remaining 1:27 of Bergeron's power play. Once the teams return to 5-on-5 play, look for Anaheim head coach Randy Carlyle to match the Pahlsson line. Except for the one breakdown early in the first, they have been very effective against the Sharks top unit.

Brian Campbell drops another spin move on Todd Marchant while skating the puck out of his own zone. Campbell has 11 points in 13 games since the trade deadline. No regulation losses in that span, only 1 shutout loss to Edmonton. Jody Shelley has a discussion with Travis Moen after a stoppage of play, Moen looks inclined to just talk.

A hard forecheck by Mike Grier on Scott Niedermayer frees the puck at the side of Jonas Hiller. Torrey Mitchell beats 2 Anaheim Ducks on the play, but Hiller hugs the post and stops a Mitchell backhand with an excellent pad save. Anahiem gains possession and instantly transitions the puck up ice for an attack. Niedermayer moves the puck through the neutral zone, and feeds Chris Kunitz on the left wing. Kunitz stalls at the blueline and fires a cross ice pass to a trailing Todd Marchant. Marchant fires the puck inside the right post before Evgeni Nabokov can get over. Kyle McLaren was in front of Marchant on the play, but he did not move up enough to challenge the shooter.

Anaheim continues checking Sharks players 3-4 seconds after they play the puck up ice. They are pushing the boundries, but if the referees are not going to make a call they will continue to use it effectively. sometimes in an attempt to take a shot on a player, they are left out of position. Pavelski-Cheechoo-Campbell tic-tac-toe passing on a rush. Jonas Hiller stuffs Campbell down low as he tries to take a forehand wide. Puck is sitting in front of the crease, but Pavelski is tied up and can not get a stick on it. Ehrhoff hammers a shot from the point, save Hiller. Strong cycle down low by San Jose, Scott Niedermayer trips Joe Pavelski to the ice. No call by the referees, very animated booing by the crowd at HP Pavilion.

Sharks are pressing the action. On a Anaheim turnover, Thornton drives the puck down to the left half boards as Milan Michalek moves into the slot. Jonathan Cheechoo sets up in front. Hard shot by Michalek handcuffs Hiller, but he deflects the puck wide. The Pahlsson line is out again against the Sharks top line, but they are lacking the same intensity in the second.

Anaheim left wing Chris Kunitz hammers Craig Rivet with an elbow up high at center ice. Sharks dump the puck in the Anaheim zone. Jody Shelley grabs Kent Huskins and helps him accelerate into the end boards. Physical play picking up with 5 minutes left in the period.

Anaheim is trying to line up every Sharks player who touches the puck for a hit. It almost appears that creating a scoring chance is a secondary issue. Three Sharks are able to duck checks along the boards, the fourth (Patrick Marleau) is caught by Kunitz.

Todd Bertuzzi checks Joe Pavelski as he drives through the neutral zone. A delayed penalty is called, 2 minutes for hooking on Bertuzzi. Mathieu Schneider checks Pavelski to the ice from behind as he drives to the net. The puck is still live, and Setoguchi controls possession on the far boards. Doug Weight checks him against the glass at the same time as Bertuzzi, who came from 10-15 feet away to deliver what he thought was a free shot with the penalty already called. Referees try to regain control, calling Bertuzzi for hooking, and Schnieder for cross checking. Sharks will have a 2 minute 5-on-3.

Weight could have been called for a penalty on the play as well. A replay shows that Pavelski held Todd Bertuzzi's stick on the initial call. With the help of video review, calls should have been 2 minutes on Scheider for cross checking, 2 minutes on Weight for boarding, and 2 minutes on Pavelski for delay of game.

Brian Campbell, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo are out on the 5-on-3 power play. The Ducks kill the full 5-on-3 with the triangle collapsing down low around Jonas Hiller. The Anaheim Ducks were outshot by the San Jose Sharks 26-13 after 2 periods.


A high-sticking call on Pahlsson (0:30) combined with a delay of game for a puck over the glass on Moen (0:55), will give the Sharks their second extended 2-man advantage of the game.

Brian Campbell pinches in to keep the puck in the offensive zone. The Sharks move move the puck around the perimeter with 4 quick passes down low to the left corner. Jeremey Roenick takes the puck directly to the crease and snaps a shot that sneaks past Hiller. 13th goal of the season for Roenick, and it would turn out to be his 9th game winning goal of the season (with 3 deciding OT shootout goals). The definition of clutch.

After another successful Anaheim penalty kill, the Sharks create another scoring chance off the rush. Roenick dishes to Thornton along the goal line, but Thornton can not get a stick on the play. Marleau fires a cross ice pass to Roenick, who returns it across the ice again to Thornton at the side of the net. Thornton can't pull the trigger.

Sharks are controlling the pace and action of the third period with puck possession. San Jose is also successful disrupting the Ducks attempts to break the puck up ice. A forecheck by Jonathan Cheechoo hurries a clearing attempt by Anaheim. Michalek hurries to the puck first and lasers a pass to Thornton who is driving the net. Quick shot by Thornton, save Jonas Hiller. Cheechoo drives the net after the play and draws the ire of 3 Anaheim Ducks, several of whom get their sticks up. Lare scrum ensues.

Jonathan Cheechoo cross the blueline and uncorks a huge slapshot just outside the faceoff circle. The rising shot hits Jonas Hiller squarely on the forehead. His mask stays on, but Hiller drops to the ice. Jeremey Roenick initiates another scoring chance for San Jose. Roenick feeds Curtis Brown on the doorstep, who has his back to Hiller. Brown snaps a backhand shot that is stuffed down low. Brown takes the rebound and extends out wide, but Hiller slides his leg pad up against post for a highlight reel save. On a replay, the broadcast shows Hiller pushing Brown out of the crease as he pushes off to make the second pad save. Excellent display of coordination for the Swiss netminder.

Jonathan Cheechoo circles with the puck at center ice, looking to kill time while his linemates get into position. Chris Kunitz skates 10-15 in a direct line towards Cheechoo, but he does not see him coming. Kunitz hammers Cheechoo with a hit up high, and it looks like the butt end of his stick may have gotten up on the play. Cheechoo down on the ice for several seconds, and he looks wobbly heading back to the bench. No shots on goal for Anaheim as the seconds tick down on the third period.

There is a mad scramble in front of Evgeni Nabokov as the Ducks pull Jonas Hiller for the extra attacker. Matthieu Schnieder steamrolls Evgeni Nabokov as he drives the net, but the Sharks are able to clear the puck out of the zone. No penalty called. Time expires, Sharks earn a critical 2-1 win and hold the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks without a shot in the third period.


That was an unbelievable job offensively and defensively. We had the puck possession tonight, we must have had the puck about 75% of the time. If they did get the puck in our end, we jumped them. We did not give them any time. It was just a great overall effort.

We took a day off, took a day to rest, and we were rejuvinated and our batteries were recharged. We understood the magnitude of a game like this. Not a do or die game, or anything like that. Just go play our game, and show them how much we changed since the last time we played them. At the end of the night, if we do our job we will be in a good position. We did that.

(Not converting on a 5-on-3) can sometimes be a downer, but you have to give credit to them. They are a great penalty killing team. They are really agressive, they do some things differently. After that, I do not think they got a shot the rest of the night from that point on. It is a pretty positive atmosphere in the room right now, and we just have to keep playing the same way.


I know we have struggled with this team all year, 2 or 3 of the games have gone to shootout. Getting over that hump. We lost one late in their building a few months ago that was really depressing when we played really well. Going into the playoffs we have to prove to ourselves that we can beat these teams. Like we did. When you outshoot a team like this 43-13, it tells you something about what we wanted coming into this game tonight.

They have such a great team. The guys in this room respect the fact that they are Stanley Cup Champions, and that they are as good as they are. We try not to take them lightly no matter how well we are playing. They are a championship team, and they are extremely well coached. We have to make sure to continue this progressive climb that we are doing.

We beat Detroit, we beat Anaheim. Granted they have some injuries, they have Pronger out, they have Perry out. Not saying they would have made a difference, they might of, but come playoff team when they are back in they are going to be a different team. That confidence level is going to be very important for us.

San Jose Sharks team photographer Don Smith featured in Lexar UDMA Media Card advertisement

San Jose Sharks center Curtis Brown

San Jose Sharks team photographer Don Smith, one of two official team photographers along with Rocky Widner, was featured in a full page Lexar Professional Media Card advertisment in this month's issue of Popular Photography Magazine (April 2008). The tag line "Your shots are just as important as theirs", precedes information about the new high speed Lexar UDMA enabled memory cards.

The advertisement also details Smith's camera, a Canon EOS-IDs Mark II using a Lexar Professional UDMA 300x 8GB compact flash memory card. More of Don Smith's photography can be seen on the official SJ Sharks website, and at donsmithphotography.com. On his latest blog entry, Don posts a breathtaking image of a full moon over Yosemite's Half Dome.

[Update] Tips for Photographing Hockey - Don Smith for Lexar Digital Photography.

Michigan Unanimous No. 1 on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

A press release from USA Hockey:

Michigan Unanimous No. 1 on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The University of Michigan received all 34 first-place votes and a total of 510 points to remain atop the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll. Michigan, which is No. 1 for the third straight week, captured the Central Collegiate Hockey Association Championship with a 2-1 victory over then-No. 3 Miami (Ohio) University.

This Week's NCAA Tournament Match-ups

East Regional - Albany, N.Y.
Fri., March 28
Niagara vs. No. 1 Michigan
No. 10 Clarkson vs. No. 8 St. Cloud State

Sat., March 29 - Regional Final

West Regional - Colorado Springs, Colo.
Fri., March 28
No. 12 Notre Dame vs. No. 5 New Hampshire
No. 9 Michigan State vs. No. 6 Colorado College

Sat., March 29 - Regional Final

Northeast Regional - Worcester, Mass.
Sat., March 29
Air Force vs. No. 2 Miami (Ohio)
No. 11 Minnesota vs. No. 7 Boston College

Sun., March 29 - Regional Final

Midwest Regional - Madison, Wis.
Sat., March 29
Wisconsin vs. No. 5 Denver
No. 13 Princeton vs. No. 3 North Dakota

Sun., March 29 - Regional Final

Miami (468) jumped up one spot to No. 2, while the University of North Dakota (416) moved up two to the No. 3 position. Meanwhile, the University of New Hampshire (394) remained at No. 4 and Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff champion University of Denver (380) climbed one spot to round out the top five.

NOTE: The 2007 NCAA Men's Division I Ice Hockey Championship begins on Friday (March 28) with action in the East and West Regionals, while play in the Northeast and Midwest Regionals begins on Saturday (March 29).

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll - #24

(First-place votes in parenthesis, Last Week's Ranking, 2007-08 Record, Weeks In Top 15)

1 U. of Michigan, 510 (34), 1, 31-5-4, 24
2 Miami (Ohio) U., 468, 3, 32-7-1, 24
3 U. of North Dakota, 416, 5, 26-10-4, 24
4 U. of New Hampshire, 394, 4, 25-9-3, 24
5 U. of Denver, 380, 6, 26-13-1, 24
6 Colorado College, 366, 2, 28-11-1, 24
7 Boston College, 321, 7, 21-11-8, 22
8 St. Cloud State U., 249, 8, 19-15-5, 12
9 Michigan State U., 236, 9, 24-11-5, 24
10 Clarkson U., 194, 10, 21-12-4, 24
11 U. of Minnesota, 163, 12, 19-16-9, 16
12 U. of Notre Dame, 119, 11, 24-15-4, 24
13 Princeton U., 117, 15, 21-13-0, 4
14 Minnesota State U. Mankato, 54, 14, 19-16-4, 8
15 Boston U., 35, 13, 19-17-4, 5

Others receiving votes: University of Wisconsin, 26; Harvard University, 15; Niagara University, 13; University of Vermont, 3; Northern Michigan University, 1.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 13th annual USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll is conducted each week in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association. The poll includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the six NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the American Hockey Coaches Association and USA Hockey Magazine, the most widely distributed hockey magazine in the world.

[Update] Inside College Hockey has the NCAA Tournament Brackets released Sunday, capsule previews of the matchups, an updated power ranking and a podcast previewing the tournament selection process and the participating teams.

[Update2] NCAA Tournament Bracket Analysis - Jayson Moy for US College Hockey Online.

Max Giese: Sharks prospect Tony Lucia a clutch performer for Minnesota Golden Gophers

San Jose Sharks left wing prospect Tony Lucia (6-foot, 165 pounds), the 193rd overall selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, is proving to be a clutch goal scorer for the Minnesota Golden Gophers of the WCHA. Lucia scored a pair of critical goals recently in two of Minnesota's biggest games of the season.

The Gophers were the underdog heading into a three game series against Minnesota-Mankato State, with the winner ehading to the WCHA Final Five. After splitting the first two games to force a winner-take-all game three, Minnesota and Mankato entered double OT tied at 2-2. This is when the pugnacious two-way center Tony Lucia began to take the game over.

With a series of hard drives to the net, and suffocating defensive play, Lucia quickly became the Gophers best forward on the ice. He eventually scored the game winning goal, sending the team and the crowd into a frenzy (youtube videos here and here). After hemming Mankato's defense in their own end for a sustained period of time, Lucia went to the goal mouth where he tipped the point shot on net, before whacking the rebound home. The entire play he was harassed by a Mankato defender. It was not the prettiest goal of the season, but it was the Gopher's biggest goal of the year. It is the type of goal that has scouts excited about Lucia's chances of developing into a possible 4th line checking center at the NHL level.

As an encore, Lucia followed that gritty goal with another to open the scoring for Minnesota in their upset victory over St. Cloud State at the WCHA Final Five tournament. This goal was similar to his OT game winner against Mankato, Lucia displayed the willingness to pay the price need in front in order to score. He went to the net hard, and tipped the point shot between the legs of St. Cloud State goaltender James Weslosky.

While these are not the type of goals that make their way on to ESPN's Sportscenter, they are the type of goals that win games, and translate to the NHL. Lucia's ability to fight off defenders and score a hard nosed goal is a promising sign that he may have the intensity and drive needed to be an everyday player in the NHL. For a 7th round selection, Tony Lucia is developing into a fine prospect that should have the Sharks excited about his potential. He is a savvy two-way center, with great hockey sense and a lot of grit to his game. Lucia has been the Gopher's key penalty killing center and has effectively shut down the opposition's top lines all season.

In 2004-05, Lucia made the transition to juniors after registering 63 points in only 24 high school games. The next year with Omaha of the USHL, Lucia finished fourth on the team in points scored (35), third in total assists (23). In his first season with the University of Minnesota in 2006-07, Lucia finished tied for 14th in scoring by a freshman (7G, 12A), tied for second on the team in shorthanded points (2), and registered a +7 +/-.

[Update] Gophers Face Boston College in NCAA Opener in Worcester, Mass. - Gophersports.com.

After just missing each other twice during regular season tournaments, Minnesota and Boston College will finally match up as the two traditional rivals meet in the opening round of the NCAA tournament at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass. The Golden Gophers are 19-16-9 overall and the third seed in the regional. They are making their NCAA record 32nd trip to the tournament, including their eighth straight. Boston College is 21-11-8 and seeded second. The Eagles are in the field for the 28th time and finished as national runner-up the past two seasons.

The first round game in the Northeast Regional is set for Saturday at 6:30 p.m. (central time). Top-seeded Miami (Ohio) and fourth-seeded Air Force meet in the first game on Saturday at 3 p.m. (central) with the winners to play on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. (central) for a berth in the Frozen Four April 10 and 12 in Denver. The first round game will be televised nationally by ESPNU and shown on tape delay on Saturday night at midnight. The regional title game will be shown live on Sunday on ESPNU. Tickets can be ordered through Ticketmaster by calling 617-931-2000 or at ticketmaster.com.

[Update2] 262 minutes, 5 overtimes and 1 goaltending duel - Minneapolis-St Paul Tribune.

"I've been coaching a long time," said the Gophers' Don Lucia, in his 21st season as a head coach. "I've never been part of a weekend like this. I guess when you coach long enough, you get to see a little bit of everything."

What he saw Sunday was a goaltending duel for the third consecutive night between freshman Alex Kangas of the Gophers and junior Mike Zacharias of the Mavericks. Minnesota's third line -- Evan Kaufmann, Ryan Flynn and Tony Lucia -- ended it. Lucia, a sophomore left wing and the coach's son, scored the game-winner on a rebound at 16 minutes, 59 seconds of the second OT.


Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Lose Thriller In Overtime, 5-4

The Worcester Sharks, who managed to turn a third period two goal lead into a two goal deficit, scored two goals in the last 21 seconds of regulation to force the game into overtime, only to lose 5-4 on a last minute goal to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Friday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of an announced crowd of 4,183.

For the first two periods Worcester would dictate the play, having the majority of good scoring chances and consistently keeping the play in the Bridgeport end. Defensively the WorSharks were spectacular, holding the Sound Tigers without a shot until a harmless shot was pushed at WorSharks netminder Dimitri Patzold 11 minutes into the contest.

Worcester would get on the board first at 13:59 on a Derek Joslin one-timer off a clean face-off win by Tom Cavanagh. The goal was the ninth on the season for Joslin.

The first period was not all smiles for the WorSharks faithful as fan favorite Riley Armstrong was injured in a knee to knee hit collision at the Bridgeport blue line with Sound Tigers forward Kip Brennan. Brennan, who has just recently returned after serving a 15 game suspension for a blindside punch to Portland Pirates forward Geoff Peters on February 12, received a major for kneeing and a game misconduct. Armstrong attempted to return to the ice for a shift in the second period, but returned to the bench and limped back down the tunnel.

There was no word from the WorSharks about any plans of sending the game tape to the AHL for possible further discipline for Brennan.

Worcester had several good chances on the ensuing power play, but some nice goaltending by Mike Morrison and a couple bad bounces held the WorSharks scoreless through the five minute man advantage. Worcester would capitalize just as the penalty expired however when Mike Iggulden took a Cavanagh feed at the top of the face off circle to the right of Morrison and beat the netminder with a hard wrist shot through the five hole for a 2-0 lead.

Worcester would hold that lead into the third period, where some of the most mind boggling things began to happen. Just 29 seconds into the period Colton Fretter would cut the WorSharks lead in half by jamming a lose puck past Patzold after a save on a Sean Bentivoglio shot.

Fretter would knot the game at 2-2 after Bridgeport caught the WorSharks standing around in their own end. As Trevor Smith wheeled the net no one picked up Fretter in the slot, and he took a feed at the top of the crease and beat Patzold five hole at 2:53.

With Dennis Packard of for a cross check, one that he fully earned his two minutes for, Bridgeport would have a carbon copy of their first goal. With the puck laying next to Patzold after a save Tyler Mosienko would knock the loose puck into the net for a 3-2 Bridgeport lead.

With Patzold on the bench for an extra attacker Bridgeport appeared to ice the game when WorSharks defender J.D. Forrest turned the puck over at the Sound Tigers blue line after a poor pass which resulted in Tyler Haskins' empty netter at 19:21.

But this is Worcester, and sometimes odd things happen here. With the WorSharks fourth line on the ice and just 17 seconds after the Haskins' tally, Craig Valette threw a blind back hand pass to Ashton Rome, who was all alone in front of the Sound Tigers net. Rome, who hadn't scored in 20 games, beat Morrison cleanly to the glove side to cut the deficit to one.

With Patzold on the bench again for an extra attacker the WorSharks crashed the net with renewed vigor, and with the clock winding down Tom Walsh blasted a shot from the point that was going wide when it struck Sound Tigers defenseman Mark Wotton and into the goal with just 2.4 seconds remaining.

The Sound Tigers would win the game with 35 seconds left in the extra sessions when Matt Keith knocked loose a puck under Patzold and into the Worcester net for the 5-4 final.

Armstrong's injury is initially being called a charlie horse, and he is not expected to play today against Albany.

At the start of the game Worcester's injury list was unchanged, with Mike Morris still on the long term injury list. Patrick Traverse is beginning to walk around without crutches, but is not close to playing yet. Nate Raduns is hoping to be cleared to play shortly. With Sean Hurley being released from his ATO, Brian White and Johnathan Tremblay were the only healthy scratches.

After the turnover late in the third period Forrest did not take another shift.

T.J. Fox was high sticked after a face off early in the second period that appeared to draw blood. At the next stoppage in play linesman Chris Millea informed referee Kyle Rehman of the play. Rehman did not call a penalty.

On four separate occasions WorSharks players skated into each other knocking down at least one player. Twice it was Joslin involved.

The hit of the game happened in the second period when Brennan Evans leveled not one, but two, Bridgeport forwards. With all three players heading to the side boards for a lose puck Evans elected to play the body and cleanly hit Tyler Mosienko, who crumpled to the ice. Evans' momentum carried him forward and squarely into Ben Walter, who was also knocked to the ice.

I don't track hits anymore, but I'd be shocked if Evans didn't have at least ten. It sure seemed like the only player in an orange jersey he didn't hit was either Bridgeport goaltender.

Tom Cavanagh was named the Worcester Sharks Booster Club player of the month for February. The Club's season awards will be announced Wednesday at a banquet to honor the team.

The teams went with the same jerseys as Wednesday, with Worcester going with their black road jerseys and Bridgeport with their alternate orange sweaters.

The three stars of the game were
1. Keith (gwg)
2. Fretter (2g)
3. Walsh (gtg with 2.4 seconds remaining)
Not much to argue about there

Even Strength Lines


Power Play lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Face Offs (offense/neutral/defense = total) (unofficial)
Eizenman 3-2/6-4/2-3 = 11-9
Cavanagh 6-3/7-2/3-4 = 16-9
Armstrong 2-0/0-0/0-0 = 2-0
Fox 4-1/3-0/1-1 = 8-2
Kaspar 0-0/0-0/0-1 = 0-1
Rome 0-1/0-0/0-0 = 0-1
Packard 1-0/0-0/0-0 = 1-0

Bridgeport 0 0 4 1--5
Worcester 1 1 2 0--4

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Worcester-Joslin, Derek 9 (Cavanagh, Tom 28) 13:59.
Penalties: BRI-Mosienko, Tyler (Hooking), 7:11. BRI-Brennan, Kip (Fighting, Major, Game misc.), 16:38. BRI-Wotton, Mark (Hooking), 18:16. WOR-Mink, Graham (Diving), 18:16.

2nd Period
Scoring: 2, Worcester-Iggulden, Mike 24 (Packard, Dennis 14; Cavanagh, Tom 29) 1:40.
Penalties: WOR-Forrest, J.D. (Hooking), 6:50. WOR-Walsh, Tom (Hooking), 9:34. BRI-Kohn, Dustin (Hooking), 10:49. BRI-Desrochers, Jean (Hooking), 15:21. WOR-Joslin, Derek (Hooking), 16:07.

3rd Period
Scoring: 3, Bridgeport-Fretter, Colton 6 (Bentivoglio, Sean 20; Smith, Trevor 13) 0:29. 4, Bridgeport-Fretter, Colton 7 (Smith, Trevor 14; Bentivoglio, Sean 21) 2:53. 5, Bridgeport-Mosienko, Tyler 1 (power play) (Walter, Ben 32; Wotton, Mark 14) 11:49. 6, Bridgeport-Haskins, Tyler 1 (empty net) (Desrochers, Jean 2) 19:21. 7, Worcester-Rome, Ashton 5 (Fox, T.J. 8; Valette, Craig 9) 19:39. 8, Worcester-Walsh, Tom 5 (Eizenman, Oren 1; Kaspar, Lukas 18) 19:57.
Penalties: WOR-Spang, Dan (Hooking), 3:53. BRI-Walter, Ben (Tripping), 8:00. WOR-Packard, Dennis (Cross checking), 10:58.

Scoring: 9, Bridgeport-Keith, Matt 5 (game winner) (Fata, Drew 8; Mosienko, Tyler 1) 4:25.
Penalties: None.

Shots On Goal
Bridgeport 6 10 12 2--30
Worcester 10 12 13 0--35

Power Play Conversions: Bridgeport - 1 of 5, Worcester - 0 of 5.
Goalies: Bridgeport-Morrison, Mike (64:25, 35 shots, 31 saves; record: 21-13-1). Worcester-Patzold, Dimitri (63:31, 29 shots, 25 saves; record: 7-5-5).
A: 4183. Referee: Rehman, Kyle. Linesmen: Baker, Hans; Millea, Chris.


Andre Ward earns a 7th round TKO over Rubin Williams at Thursday's Fight Night at the Tank/Best Damn Sports Show Boxing

Andre Ward Rubin Williams Fight Night at the Tank boxing
Carina Moreno Mayela Perez boxing
Karim Mayfield Francisco Santana Best Damn Sports Show boxing

Andre Ward entered the ring Thursday night at HP Pavilion with a visible snarl. Upset over recent media comments about the progression of his professional career, Ward wanted to silence the critics with a dominant performance against one-time IBF super middleweight title challenger Rubin Williams. According to the SF Chronicle's Nancy Gay, Williams came in to the weigh-ins Wednesday over the limit. Ward agreed to face his opponent at the higher weight.

The feeling out process lasted all of 2 rounds. Andre Ward tried to land from the outside, taking advantage of his movement and blinding hand speed. "Hollywood" Williams tried unsuccessfully to cut off the ring, but he did not let his hands go when he had Ward in the clinch. The problems compounded for Williams after he suffered a large cut over his left eye in the second round, the result of an accidental clash of heads. The deep cut made a 10 round decision unlikely, Williams would have to press the action going forward.

Andre Ward started to find his range in the third round. He landed several lunging straight lefts, and he hurt Williams in the corner with 2 solid punches. In the fourth, Ward buckled Williams with an uppercut. It was hard not to notice Andre Ward's transformation into a bigger, more powerful fighter. 4,588 fans in attendance wanted to see a display of knockout power by Ward, but Williams is known for a granite chin.

For Williams, it was a race against the cut for the remainder of the fight. Andre continued to land pinpoint jabs to the head and the body, and a slower Williams could not match the larger volume of punches. "Hollywood" unloaded with hard body shot, followed by another rib roaster after a clinch. Ward shook his head and smiled. In the seventh round, Williams had difficulty mounting any offensive attack. He remained on his feet, and took tremendous punishment from an animated Ward. After several combinations landed, referee Jon Schorle swooped in and covered a bloody Rubin Williams seconds before the end of the round. Andre Ward (15-0, 10 KOs) earned a 7th round TKO, and registered his 15th win in 15 fights.

"I want to be a breath of fresh air for boxing, and show that you don't have to talk trash to be successful" Ward told Best Damn Sports Show analyst Sean O'Grady after the fight. The Ward-Williams fight will air tape-delayed on an upcoming edition of Best Damn Sports Show Boxing, (Thursday, March 27, 8-10PM PST, repeated 11-1AM PST).

The Sharkspage fight of the night was a 6th round Jr Middleweight bout between undefeated locals Francisco Santana and Karim Mayfield. Santana had a large contingent of supporters from Santa Barbara, and Mayfield had the SFC Boxing crew from San Francisco along with legendary trainer Angelo Dundee in his corner.

The first two Santana-Mayfield rounds established the pace and the action for the fight. Mayfield preferred to move and land punishing blows from outside, while Santana tried to corral his opponent and hammer him in close. Mayfield drew a large gasp from the crowd with a chopping right hand that sent Santana back into the ropes in the second. Santana recovered quickly, landing a hard 2-punch point blank combination. "Hard Hitta" appeared quicker on the attack, with more power after 2 rounds.

A Santana slip to the mat was waved off by the referee in the third, it was a result of water on the mat. Francisco Santana was the much busier fighter in the third round. Karim Mayfield looked to counter, possibly trying to end it with one punch. Mayfield lands a crushing left hook in the 4th round, but Francisco keeps pressing the action forward. This will be a very difficult fight for judges to score, but an entertaining one for the fans. Both fighters trade in the corner, with a left hook by Santana giving him the slight edge. In an opposite corner, a series of left hooks and combinations hurt Mayfield. Santana is going to the well with a hard left hook. In a third corner at the end of the round, a looping left by Santana staggers Mayfield into the ropes at the bell. No knockdown.

The action is measured and intense in the final two rounds. Santana tries to amp up the intensity with power shots in the fifth, as Mayfield continues to work off the counter. In the sixth and final round, both fighters with a combined 14 professional fights trade a series of flurries to a roar from the crowd. Split decision win for Mayfield, 58-56, 58-56, 56-58.

Thursday saw the return of the "You be the Judge" promotion. Fans voted which of the first four fights was most entertaining, and the fighter with the most crowd support won a cash bonus and the AMI Cup. Fans selected WBC minimum weight champion Carina Moreno as the "You be the Judge" winner. Moreno (17-1, 5 KOs) counterpunched her way to a 4-round unanimous decision win over a game Mayela Perez (7-6-1, 6 KOs). Junior featherweight Rico Ramos (1-0, 0 KOs) dominated Sammy Yniguez in his professional debut, earning a 40-36, 40-36, 40-36 unanimous decision. Team Garcia fighter Eric Garcia (0-0-1) earned a majority draw (38-38, 38-38, 39-37) in a difficult Welterweight contest with Marlo Cortez (2-4-2, 1 KOs). Garcia displayed more movement, and a strong left hook early, but Cortez was more agressive in the final round. The opening bout saw Junior welterweight Mike Dallas Jr. (1-0, 0 KOs) pick apart Alejandro Balladares (0-1, 0 KOs) with ease.

More information and video highlights are available from the Fight Night at the Tank website. A photo gallery from the event is available here.

[Update] There was no Fight Night report in my copy of the San Jose Mercury News for the first time in recent memory, but there was a report filed online from Jeff Faraudo and a multimedia slideshow with audio interviews from Andre Ward and his trainer Virgil Hunter.

Bob Hough of Fight News posted an excellent recap of Ward-Williams, noting that Ward dominated the much slower Williams with speed, accuracy, and by mixing up his orthodox stance with regular moves to southpaw. Hough also quoted promoter Dan Goossen, "His quickness allows him to do a lot of things... For him to control Rubin Williams like this, nobody’s controlled Rubin Williams like this".

Fightnews.com updated World Boxing Rankings.

[Update2] Ward Continues Winning Ways - David Kiefer for FightnightattheTank.com.

"When they can't deal with the speed, they're looking for one shot, looking for the young fighter to make one mistake and try to capitalize," Ward said of Williams. The cut opened up for Williams in the second round on an unintentional head butt. And, in the third, Ward confused Williams by switching to a southpaw stance and landing a hard left to the forehead.

In the fourth, Ward landed an uppercut with the left hand and twice swung Williams on the ropes with another series of uppercuts. "I felt he was weakening," Ward said. "I could see it in his eyes. He was looking for a way out and I stepped it up."

[Update3] American Metal and Iron Fight Night results, Thursday March 20th 2008:

Andre WARD (15-0, 10 KO's) def. Rubin WILLIAMS (29-4-1, 16 KO's)...TKO Rd.7

Karim MAYFIELD (6-0-1, 5 KO’S) def. Francisco SANTANA (8-1, 4 KO’s)... Split Decision Rd. 6

Carina MORENO (17-1, 5 KO's) def. Mayela PEREZ (7-6-1, 6 KO's)...Unanimous Decision Rd.4

Rico RAMOS (1-0, 0 KO's) def. Sammy YNIGUEZ (2-2-1, 0 KO's)....Unanimous Decision Rd.4

Eric GARCIA (0-0-1) vs. Marlo CORTEZ (2-4-2, 1 KO)...Majority Draw Rd. 4

Mike DALLAS JR. (1-0, 0 KO’s) def. Alejandro BALLADARES (0-1, 0 KO’s)....Unanimous Decision Rd.4

Attendance: 4,588

[Update4] Ward Wins Step Up in San Jose - 15rounds.com.


Fight Night at the Tank Weigh-Ins, Andre Ward vs Rubin Williams, Santana vs Mayfield, Moreno vs Perez on for tonight

Fight Night Boxing San Jose Andre Ward vs Rubin Williams
Jr Middleweight boxer Karim Hard Hitta Mayfield
WBC Champion Carina La Reina Moreno

The only U.S. Olympic boxer to win a Gold Medal in the 2004 Olympics, Andre Ward, will face his toughest opponent as a professional in Rubin "Mr Hollywood" Williams in a 10 round Super Middleweight contest, Santa Barbara's Francisco Santana will face Karim "Hard Hitta" Mayfield in a Jr Middleweight battle of undefeated local boxers, and WBC champion Corena Moreno will face Mexico's Mayele Perez in a 4 round Jr Flyweight contest Thursday March 20th at HP Pavilion in San Jose. The 6-bout fight card starts at 7:30PM.

For more information visit the official Fight Night at the Tank website. A photo gallery from the weigh-ins is available here.

10 Rd Super Middleweight Bout:
BLUE CORNER: ANDRE "S.O.G." Ward (168 LBS) 14-0, 9KOs
RED CORNER: RUBIN "Mr. Hollywood" Detroit, MI 29-3-1, 16KOs

6 Rd Jr. Middleweight Bout:
RED CORNER: KARIM "Hard Hitta" MAYFIELD (148 LBS) 5-0-1, 5KOs

4 Rd Women's Jr. Flyweight Bout:
BLUE CORNER: CARINA "La Reina" MORENO (106 LBS) 16-1, 5KOs
RED CORNER: MAYELA "La Cobrita" PEREZ (106 LBS) 7-5-1, 6KOs

4 Rd Jr. Featherweight Bout:

4 Welterweight Rd Bout:

4 Jr Welterweight Rd Bout:

[Update] Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward ready for biggest fight yet - International Herald Tribune.

Ward, the 2004 Olympian who won the United States' only gold medal in Athens, will meet former super-middleweight title contender Rubin Williams on Thursday night at the Shark Tank. The fight is the toughest yet in Ward's three-plus years as a pro, and a victory would propel the Oakland native to bigger matchups on the road to a title shot.

Many observers thought such a shot could have happened much earlier, given Ward's stellar performance in Greece. Highlighted by an exceptional quarterfinal victory over two-time amateur world champion Evgeny Makarenko, Ward became the only American in the last two Olympics to take home a gold medal, once considered a birthright for the nation's top fighters.

[Update2] Ward ready for step-up bout, Oakland fighter bristles over rushed expectations - SF Chronicle.

[Update3] The Art of Being Andre Ward - Bob Hough for Fight News.

Minnesota comes from behind in regulation 3 times before Jeremy Roenick ices Wild 4-3 in OT Shootout

San Jose Sharks center Curtis Brown
San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov
Derek Boogaard vs Jody Shelley hockey fight

The San Jose Sharks survived a roller coaster 65 minute regulation and overtime before earning a 4-3 OT shootout win over the Wild. Minnesota overcame three 1-goal deficits on a pair of power play goals by captain Marian Gaborik and a tally by Stephane Veilleux, only to lose on a game deciding shootout conversion by Jeremy Roenick and center Mikko Koivu's failure to equalize against Evgeni Nabokov.

The Minnesota Wild added Chris Simon at the trade deadline to a fearsome roster that already included Todd Fedoruk (79 PIMS), Aaron Voros (137 PIMS), and Derek Boogaard (57 PIMS). Simon and Voros were scratches for the game against San Jose along with defenseman Petteri Nummelion and center Steve Kelley. Curtis Brown returned to the Sharks lineup after missing 25 games, replacing Marcel Goc. Defenseman Matt Carle was given the start in place of Kyle McLaren, who missed several games earlier with a sore knee.

The fireworks kicked off early in the first period. 6-foot-7, 258 pound left wing Derek Boogaard dropped the gloves with 6-foot-4, 230 pound left wing Jody Shelley directly after a first period faceoff. After a short feeling out process, Boogard got his left hand on the jersey of Shelley and started raining down hard right hands. Shelley was shaken after the initial contact, and tried to land a couple of long right hands from outside. Boogard pulled the jersey over Shelley's head with his left hand and the referees stopped the fight.

The San Jose Sharks showed glimpses of fatigue with their third game in four nights. This was compounded by a stretch that saw 24 of 28 days on the road, which ended only a week earlier. As usual Evgeni Nabokov played a steadiying role in net, stoning Pavol Demitra on an early 2-on-1 with Marian Gaborik. Defenseman Matt Carle dropped to the ice to block the pass and disrupt the shot on goal. Minnesota defenseman Martin Skoula was tied up and fell to the ice at the San Jose blueline, creating a Sharks 3-on-1 with Patrick Marleau, Curtis Brown and Jeremy Roenick. Marleau down the left wing dropped the puck to Brown, who gave it quickly back to Marleau. Marleau then found a streaking Roenick on the far side of the crease, who buried his 12th goal of the season. Score 1-0 San Jose Sharks.

A poor habit returned for the Sharks, as they allowed another quick goal at the start of the second period. San Jose can't clear the puck up the boards, and a shot/pass by defenseman Kurtis Foster was deflected past Nabokov by Stephane Veilleux. Score 1-1. Wild captain Marian Gaborik is all over the ice. With the puck at the right side of the Sharks crease, Gaborik tries a quick point blank shot that is stuffed by a Nabokov pad stack up against the post. Gaborik quickly tries to lift the rebound over Nabokov's pads, but he is unsuccessful.

Curtis Brown did the most with his opportunity in the lineup. Jeremy Roenick hit a streaking Brown in the Wild defensive zone. Brown fired a hard backhand shot from the right faceoff dot that beat Backstrom cleanly. Score 2-1 Sharks.

A frightening play took place shortly thereafter. On a chase for a puck dumped in behind the Minnesota Wild net, Sharks rookie center Torrey Mitchell collided with Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster who was already off balance. Foster slammed into the board extremely hard, and he was attended to by the Minnesota and San Jose medical staffs on the ice for 12 minutes. Both teams gathered around, concerned for his saftey, and there were unconfirmed reports that the leg injury may have been a broken femur. After the game, Torrey Mitchell said in the locker room that it was a split second play where both players were off balance battling for the puck. Mitchell asked Foster if he was ok after the collision, and he said he was not. Mitchell also mentioned that he hoped that Foster would be ok.

Kostya Kennedy of Sports Illustrated mentioned a similar injury suffered by former Shark Marco Sturm, who broke his leg crashing into the boards after chasing down a puck behind the net. San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson after the game said it was more evidence that automatic icing should be the rule in the NHL. Torrey Mitchell was given a 2-minute tripping penalty on the play.

Both teams settled into a very hard hitting contest from the drop of the puck in the third period. Joe Thornton took a cross checking penalty at 5:28, and Marian Gaborik tied the score at 2-2 with a hard point shot on the power play 21 seconds later. Late in the third period there is a critical faceoff in the Wild defensive zone between Joe Pavelski and Mikko Koivu. Koivu wins the draw back behind his own net, but Milan Michalek beats two Wild defenseman to the puck. Michalek pokes it out in front to Pavelski, who buries the shot. Mass celebration, Sharks clinch a postseason birth, fans going crazy, very loud celebration after a roller coaster of emotions earlier in the game.

Then Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff took a 2-minute hooking penalty with 40 seconds left in the third period. Minnesota was on the power play, Gaborik was on the ice, and there was another critical faceoff for Wild center Mikko Koivu. This time it was Koivu vs Torrey Mitchell. Koivu won the faceoff, he finished 16-26 on the night, and the puck again ended up on the stick of Marian Gaborik. Gaborik tied the game at 3-3 with a hard slapshot from 50 feet out to score his second power play goal of the game.

Sharks shootout specialist Joe Pavelski and Minnesota Wild defenseman Brent Burns each converted on their first attempts, but Patrick Marleau and Marian Gaborik were stopped. Jeremy Roenick took the third and final shot for the Sharks, skating in on Nicklas Backstrom from his left at a medium pace. Roenick snapped a puck past Backstrom before he made a single move on the play. Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu, who won two critical faceoffs that led to the last goals by San Jose and Minnesota, took the last shootout attempt. He need to score to keep the Wild alive. Mikko carried a lot of speed down the middle, and tried a quick backhand to forehand move. Nabokov stoned him. Sharks win 4-3 after an OT shootout.

Evgeni Nabokov made 21 saves on 24 shots to earn an NHL leading 42nd win. Nicklas Backstrom made 30 saves on 33 shots. After struggling earlier in the season at home, and struggling since the inception of the shootout, the Sharks have bumped their home record to 18-13-6 and their shootout record this year to 6-6. The Sharks matched a win by Anaheim over Dallas, and remain 5 points ahead of the Ducks for 1st place in the Pacific Division.

A photo gallery from the game is available here. Youtube video highlights from the game are available here.

[Update] Sharks Win Thriller Over Wild, 4-3 (SO) - SJsharks.com.

[Update2] Sharks tame Wild to clinch playoff spot - SJ Mercury News.

[Update3] Foster breaks leg, out for season Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster had season-ending surgery at a San Jose hospital this morning after breaking his left leg during the second period of the Wild's 4-3 shootout loss to the Sharks - Michael Russo for the Star Tribue.

Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster had season-ending surgery at a San Jose hospital this morning after breaking his left leg during the second period of the Wild's 4-3 shootout loss to the Sharks.

Foster suffered a displaced fracture in his left femur and was going to have a steel rod inserted to stabilize the leg, director of hockey operations Chris Snow said Wednesday night. A Wild spokesman confirmed the surgery took place this morning.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Chomp Sound Tigers

Despite a slow start and giving up the game's first two goals, the Worcester Sharks rallied for four unanswered goals to defeat the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 4-2 Wednesday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of an announced crowd of 2,587.

In what has become a far too familiar story, the WorSharks came out flat and were totally dominated early in the game by an opponent. And when the puck is in your defensive zone for long periods of time, you are more apt to have a misplay or bad bounce end up in the back of the net. That happened twice last night.

Bridgeport's first goal was the kind that hard working teams score. When the Sound Tigers turned the puck over in the Worcester right corner they continued to press the WorSharks defense, resulting in Marc Busenburg's clearing attempt hitting the side of the net and bouncing right out into the slot and directly on to Jeremy Colliton's stick. With all of the time Colliton had alone WorSharks netminder Dimitri Patzold didn't stand a chance.

The Sound Tigers would make it 2-0 after Patzold made a nice save off a Drew Fata wrister, but the puck dropped just to his left and between Tom Cavanagh's legs, where Trevor Smith collected it and pushed it into the open net.

The WorSharks would cut the lead in half just seven seconds into their first power play when Tom Cavanagh won a draw to Mike Iggulden, who pushed the puck to Tom Walsh at the point. Walsh and Iggulden exchanged passes, and then Walsh blasted a laser that hit the post to the right of Sound Tigers goalie Mike Morrison and deflected up and into the net.

Worcester would tie the game 2-2 just under two minutes later after Joslin fired the puck into a crowd in front of the Bridgeport net. As the puck bounced around it ended up on Dennis Packard stick, who banked it in off a Sound Tigers defender to light the lamp.

Mike Iggulden would give Worcester the 3-2 lead at the thirteen minute mark of the second period when he took a Cavanagh feed at the top of the face off circle to the right of Morrison and fired a wrister that beat the netminder to the high glove side and just into the corner of the net.

Sound Tigers forward Tim Jackman, who had been chirping at Brennan Evans all night, tried to swing the momentum back to Bridgeport by dropping them with Evans. The spirited bout saw both players landing several good shots, with Evans landing the last couple before being taken down by Jackman.

The WorSharks would add an insurance goal with less than a minute to go in the second period when Dan Spang slightly misfired a one-timer off a pass from Lukas Kaspar. The puck skidded along the ice and under Morrison for a 4-2 lead.

Bridgeport would press the entire third period, including skating six on four for the last 88 seconds after newly signed Oren Eizenman was called for hooking in the slot to prevent a quality scoring opportunity. The WorSharks made several nice blocks while shorthanded at the end of the game, and Patzold came up big twice to secure the win.

These same two teams play again Friday night here in Worcester.

There was a scary moment early in the third period when two Bridgeport players collided with each other behind the Sound Tigers net. As they both scrambled to get up the skate of one of the players connected with the head area of the other, who fell back sprawled on the ice. Referee Nygel Pelletier immediately blew the whistle and the Bridgeport trainer was rushed on to the ice, but luckily the player was not seriously injured.

The WorSharks signed minor league veteran defenseman Brian White to a PTO prior to the game, and he skated in J.D. Forrest's place. Forrest was called a "healthy scratch" despite prior to the game taking part in a team skate earlier Wednesday. Worcester's other healthy scratch was Sean Hurley. The injured list remains the same: Morris, Traverse, and Raduns.

Oren Eizenman was signed to a PTO from Fresno of the ECHL to take Raduns spot. Eizenman skated in Sunday's loss against Hartford on Sunday, and saw time with the first line and on the second power play line. He also unofficially went 11-3 on the faceoff against the Wolf Pack, and has gotten same very nice reviews from many fans. Obviously two games isn't enough to really make a good judgement, it it appears Eizenman won't have much trouble landing an AHL job next season.

In the "what are you complaining about?" department, Sound Tigers forwards Steve Regier and Colton Fretter both complained about being called for slashing after breaking the sticks of WorSharks players.

Nothing in recent memory causes more WorSharks' fans hearts to jump into their throats more than seeing Patzold handle the puck. Several times he had to be bailed out by a defenseman because he badly misplayed the puck. Joslin's interference call in the third period was because of a misplay behind the net and all Joslin could do was knock the player over to prevent him swinging the puck around to the empty net.

Watching Lukas Kaspar take face-offs in the defensive zone while on the penalty kill might come in second on that list.

Worcester wore their road jerseys while Bridgeport wore their orange third jerseys. I've always been a fan of the Islanders color scheme, and the Sound Tigers take full advantage of the blue and orange combination for some nice looking jerseys.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Iggulden (gwg,1a)
2. Packard (1g)
3. Patzold (29 saves)
You could have easily had Kaspar or Cavanagh in there, but I have no real argument with the choices made.

Even Strength Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Power Play Lines


Face-offs (offense/neutral/defense = total) unofficial
Armstrong 4-2/2-3/1-2 = 7-7
Cavanagh 4-2/7-3/2-2 = 13-7
Eizenman 2-1/1-3/0-1 = 3-5
Valette 0-1/0-0/0-0 = 0-1
Kaspar 0-0/0-0/0-1 = 0-1

Bridgeport 2 0 0--2
Worcester 2 2 0--4

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Bridgeport-Colliton, Jeremy 8 (unassisted) 5:13. 2, Bridgeport-Smith, Trevor 14 (Fata, Drew 7; Desrochers, Jean 1) 11:07. 3, Worcester-Walsh, Tom 4 (power play) (Cavanagh, Tom 26; Iggulden, Mike 34) 16:21. 4, Worcester-Packard, Dennis 9 (Evans, Brennan 11; Joslin, Derek 19) 18:12.
Penalties: WOR-Joslin, Derek (Hooking), 8:37. BRI-Jackman, Tim (High sticking), 16:14.

2nd Period
Scoring: 5, Worcester-Iggulden, Mike 23 (game winner) (Kaspar, Lukas 16; Cavanagh, Tom 27) 13:01. 6, Worcester-Spang, Dan 8 (power play) (Kaspar, Lukas 17; Staubitz, Brad 13) 19:07.
Penalties: BRI-Regier, Steve (Slashing), 0:49. BRI-Haskins, Tyler (Holding), 8:31. BRI-Jackman, Tim (Fighting, Major), 13:35. WOR-Evans, Brennan (Fighting, Major), 13:35. BRI-Brennan, Kip (Holding stick), 17:41.

3rd Period
Scoring: None.
Penalties: BRI-Fretter, Colton (Slashing), 9:18. WOR-Joslin, Derek (Interference), 12:59. WOR-Eizenman, Oren (Hooking), 18:32.

Shots on Goal
Bridgeport 15 5 11--31
Worcester 7 10 7--24

Power Play Conversions: Bridgeport - 0 of 3, Worcester - 2 of 5.
Goalies: Bridgeport-Morrison, Mike (58:13, 24 shots, 20 saves; record: 20-13-1). Worcester-Patzold, Dimitri (60:00, 31 shots, 29 saves; record: 7-5-4).
A: 2587. Referee: Pelletier, Nygel. Linesmen: Aughe, Chris; Millea, Jack.


Max Giese: Contenders or Pretenders? Breaking down the Eastern Conference playoff race

In a 2-part series Max Giese will take a look at the cream of the crop from each conference, and focus on the playoff hopes for each team. The play-off preview begins with the Eastern Conference, where the Pittsburgh Pittsburgh are expected to bring home some hardware.

Eastern Conference Projected Finish:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Montreal Canadiens
3. New Jersey Devils
4. Ottawa Senators
5. New York Rangers
6. Carolina Hurricanes
7. Boston Bruins
8. Philadelphia Flyers

Montreal Canadiens
Strengths: Maybe the best team in the league that no one knows about, the Montreal Canadiens are a highly skilled team that plays a furious up tempo game that can absolute wear down their opposition. Montreal benefits from two dynamic veteran's capable of lighting the lamp and making the players around them better in captain Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev. Young studs like Sergei Kostitsyn, Andrei Kostitsyn, and Chris Higgins are also explosive scoring talents. In goal, Carey Price may be a rookie but he's an athletic freak with a calm demeanor that has won at some of the biggest stages possible including gold at the World Junior Championships and the Clarkson Cup Finals of the AHL.

Weaknesses: Montreal doesn't have any glaring weaknesses with an underrated defensive corps lead by All-Star Andrei Markov. The only issue the Canadiens may face come play-off time is if their youth begins to wear down. This team is reliant on its young guns and they cave under the playoff pressure, it could be an earlier exit than expected for the Habs.

Projection: This is a deep team with skill and toughness at all positions. They are very difficult to play against and tough to contain offensively. Expect the Canadiens to challenge for the first Stanley Cup Finals birth since 1993.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Strengths: Evgeni Malkin has been the best player in the league this season and now with the addition of Marian Hossa this is the most dynamic team in the Eastern Conferance based on pure offensive fire power. Sidney Crosby will be healthy for the play-offs and Ryan Malone has enjoyed a break out season. The trade dead line pick up of Hal Gill has also helped solve their defensive woes.

Weaknesses: Pittsburgh doesn't have any weaknesses but they do have some question marks. Can Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin carry this team in the playoffs? Will Hossa break out of his playoff scoring drought? Can Mark-Andre Fleury emerge as a true number one goaltender? These questions will ceal their fate.

Projection: Last years early exit out of the playoffs was a good learning experience for these young Penguins. Pittsburgh is a much better team this season and is definitley a contender to represent the Eastern Conferance at the Stanley Cup Finals.

Ottawa Senators
Strengths: Daniel Alfredsson, Danny Heatley, and Jason Spezza make up the most dynamic line in hockey. Ottawa also possesses a lot of skill throughout their entire line-up and are capable of playing any style of hockey. Corey Stillman was a savvy addition at the trade-deadline and should give the Senators two dangerous lines. Anton Volchenkov, Wade Redden, and Chris Phillips are capable of shutting down the oppositions top offensive threats.

Weaknesses: A strength last year has turned into the teams downfall this season and that's goaltending. Ray Emery is a proven playoff performer but he has turned into a head case this season and Martin Gerber has really struggled after a hot start.

Projection: While the team is in absolute disarray including a recent coaching change, you can't count out the Senators from making a Stanley Cup run. This team is too talented and too deep not to turn this thing around come playoff time.

New Jersey Devils:
Strengths With Martin Brodeaur in goal, the Devils are blessed with the top goaltender in the Eastern Conference. Brodeaur gives this team a chance to win every night and maybe no goalie is better at elevating his game in the playoffs. Zach Parise headlines an underrated offensive attack and the Devils are well coached by Brent Sutter.

Weaknesses: This teams core of defenseman simply isn't what it used to be. When you lose Brian Rafalski, Scott Stevens, and Scott Niedermayer your defense will obviously suffer. Paul Martin is now the teams number one defenseman and that could prove costly in the play-offs.

Projection: With strong team defense, exceptional goaltending, and deceptively strong offensive attack, the Devils are a team built for post season success and should duplicate last season playoff performance.

Carolina Hurricanes
Strengths: The 2006 Stanley Cup Champions are a deep team that play a strong puck possession game. Despite a recent rash of injuries the Hurricanes still roll three offensively gifted lines and Eric Staal is a dominant two-way center that has already proven capable of carrying a team to the top. Joe Corvo has added an offensive dimension from the back-end and Cam Ward is one of the better young goaltenders in the league with a Stanley Cup ring already on his finger.

Weaknesses: Losing Rod Brind'Amour really smarts and the Hurricanes are finesse team that could possibly be out muscled in a series. They do have a good group of defenseman but that lack that true stud most Stanley Cup Champions possess.

Projection: Carolina will win the weak South East division and receive home ice advantage in the play-offs. They have a lot of proven winners on their team and thanks to the recent acquisitions of Tuomo Ruutu, Patrick Eaves, and Joe Corvo, this is a team primed for a long playoff run.

New York Rangers
Strengths: It all starts with goaltending for the enigmatic Rangers, as Henrik Lundqvist has been arguably the top net minder out east this year. New York also possesses a nice blend of top end skill and pugnacious grit up front. This is a team that is very difficult to beat at home.

Weaknesses: Scott Gomez, Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan, and Chris Drury are all exceptional talents that have struggled to produce to their potential this season. New York also lacks toughness on the back end.

Projection: If the Rangers can finish sixth overall out East, they will stand a good chance of advancing past the first round because they are just as good if not better than who ever will win the Southeast Division.

Boston Bruins
Strengths: The Bruins' have been the beneficiaries of good goaltending from either Alex Auld or Tim Thomas all-season. They are also a stingy defensive team with clutch goal scoring. Zdeno Chara has been a monster for them all season and their talented youth is beginning to blossom. Head coach Claude Julien has also been a brilliant mastermind behind the bench all year.

Weaknesses: Boston is still a young team with a lot of unproven playoff performers. They also lack any dynamic game breakers up front which may hurt their ability to score in the playoffs.

Projection: A frustrating team to play against, the Bruins will surely make the playoffs and give one of the higher seeded teams a tough time in the first round.

Philadelphia Flyers
Strengths: The Flyers are an underachieving team with plenty of talent. Their strength lies in their talent down the middle with three talented and young centers in Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, and R.J. Umberger.

Weaknesses: Coming into the season it didn't look like the Flyers had many, but with the injuries of key players like Simon Gagne and the underachieving play of such stars as Daniel Briere,the Flyers now are a team littered with weaknesses. Theier goaltending is simply not getting the job done and their defense has been horrible down the stretch.

Projection: The Flyers are beginning to get healthy again and they seem to be able to in the big games. Those traites will get them into the playoffs as the eigth seed but they won't advance in the play-offs past the first round because their defense is just too brutal.

Buffalo Sabres
Strengths: Even after losing Daniel Briere, Brian Campbell, and Chris Drury to free-agency and trades, the Sabres still boast a potent offensive attack that is built around speed and creativity. When the Sabres play an up tempo game they are very difficult to contain and with Ryan Miller between the pipes, they stand a chance at winning on any given day.

Weaknesses: There defenseman lack size and besides recently acquired Steve Bernier, the Sabres don't have much for a physical presence. They are too easily pushed around and this should be even further exposed down the stretch.

Projection: Despite their offensive fire power and strong goaltending, the Sabres are to small and defensively inept to make the playoffs this season.

Washington Capitals
Strengths: Washington is blessed with immense skill at all positions and amongst the most talented teams in the NHL. Lead by the NHL goal scoring leader Alexander Ovechkin, the Capitals boast dynamic offense talent in both their forwards and defenseman.

Weaknesses: The Capitals defenseman are young and the teams overall defense leaves much to be desired. Their goaltenders are left hung out to dry on most nights and even their top defenseman Matt Green, has a game filled with defensive holes.

Projection: Washington will not win the Southeast division, as Carolina is really picking their game up at the right time. Despite the boat load of offensive talent and the newly found strong goaltending they possess, the Capitals youth will likely come back to haunt them and cause them to miss the playoffs again.

Michigan Stays at No. 1 on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

A press release from USA Hockey:

Michigan Stays at No. 1 on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The University of Michigan received 28-of-34 first-place votes and a total of 500 points to remain atop the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Poll. Michigan, which is No. 1 for the second straight week, swept the University of Nebraska at Omaha in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association quarterfinals over the weekend.

This Week's Top-15 Match-ups:

Thursday, March 20
No. 12 Minnesota vs. No. 8 St. Cloud State*

Friday, March 21
No. 11 Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Miami (Ohio)#
No. 7 Boston College vs. No. 4 New Hampshire+
No. 6 Denver vs. No. 5 North Dakota*

* WCHA Final Five
# CCHA Championship Semifinal
+ Hockey East Championship Semifinal

Colorado College (466), which garnered four first-place votes, jumped up one spot to No. 2. Meanwhile, Miami (Ohio) University (420), which collected the remaining two first-place votes, moved up two positions to No. 3. The University of New Hampshire (418) remained at No. 4, while the University of North Dakota (404) slipped three spots to No. 5.

Princeton University returned to the poll after a two-week hiatus.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 13th annual USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Poll is conducted each week in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association. The poll includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the six NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the American Hockey Coaches Association and USA Hockey Magazine, the most widely distributed hockey magazine in the world.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll - #23

(First-place votes in parenthesis, Last Week's Ranking, 2007-08 Record, Weeks In Top 15)

1 U. of Michigan, 500 (28), 1, 29-5-4, 23
2 Colorado College, 466 (4), 3, 28-9-1, 23
3 Miami (Ohio) U., 420 (2), 5, 31-6-1, 23
4 U. of New Hampshire, 418, 4, 25-8-3, 23
5 U. of North Dakota, 404, 2, 25-9-4, 23
6 U. of Denver, 331, 8, 24-13-1, 23
7 Boston College, 285, 9, 19-11-8, 21
8 St. Cloud State U., 262, 10, 19-14-5, 11
9 Michigan State U., 244, 6, 24-11-5, 23
10 Clarkson U., 196, 7, 21-12-4, 23
11 U. of Notre Dame, 173, 12, 24-13-4, 23
12 U. of Minnesota, 107, 15, 17-15-9, 15
13 Boston U., 93, 13, 19-16-4, 4
14 Minnesota State U. Mankato, 90, 11, 19-16-4, 7
15 Princeton U., 33, NR, 19-13-0, 3

Others receiving votes: Harvard University, 23; University of Wisconsin, 20; Ferris State University, 4; U.S. Air Force Academy, 4; Niagara University, 4; Northern Michigan University, 2; University of Vermont, 1.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 13th annual USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Poll is conducted each week in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association. The poll includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the six NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the American Hockey Coaches Association and USA Hockey Magazine, the most widely distributed hockey magazine in the world.

[Update] Boston College Hockey To Face New Hampshire In Semifinals Of Hockey East Tournament Friday At TD Banknorth Garden, No. 4 seed BC to face No. 1 UNH at 5 p.m. - Boston College.

[Update2] It's Just Reality, College hockey needs big name schools in the NCAA tournament - CSTV.com.

In college hockey, the teams that drive the meter are the traditional powerhouses like (but not limited to) Minnesota, BU, BC, UNH, Maine, Wisconsin, Denver, North Dakota, CC, Harvard, Cornell, Michigan and Michigan State. Former powers like Michigan Tech, enjoying a resurgence, also bring back good memories, as does Lake Superior State. Clarkson has always been good and schools like Yale and Northern Michigan have had their share of success.

You want to talk about Kyle Turris and James VanRiemsdyke, about Kevin Porter and Nathan Gerbe, about rookie goalie sensations like Jordan Pearce, John Muse and Richard Bachman. I admire Luke Flicek and Eric Ehn, Ryan Cruthers and Matt Climie, but first round draft choices and future NHL'ers grab headlines. The point being, while RIT is a good team, and Mercyhurst has a nice track record of success and a great coach in Rick Gotkin (who also might be the funniest man in college hockey), those schools don't drive interest on a national level. They are followed passionately on a local level and that is great for them and their loyal fan base. However, I see those schools more at Eastern Junior Hockey League showcases than I do on TV.

[Update3] College Catch-22 leads to defections - TheHockeyNews.com.

If you're a fan of the Denver University Pioneers, today is a perplexing day. That's because your leading scorer is gone, joining the American League’s Hamilton Bulldogs.

Brock Trotter, third in the entire Western Collegiate Association conference in scoring with 31 points in 24 games, has departed the Pioneers after reportedly being suspended and signed an entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens, who then assigned the former free agent to their top farm team.

This comes just a month and a half after a more high-profile defection rocked the college hockey world when Minnesota Golden Gopher Kyle Okposo signed with the New York Islanders and proceeded to tear up the AHL for Bridgeport.


Sharks win streak ends at 11, Edmonton Oilers down Sharks in OT Shootut 2-1

San Jose Sharks center Torrey Mitchell
San Jose Sharks Evgeni Nabokov Edmonton Oilers Dwayne Roloson
Edmonton Oilers hockey photos

San Jose put the heat on Edmonton trying to extend their NHL leading 11 game winning streak on Sunday, but the Oilers penalty kill and a spectacular individual performance by goaltender Dwayne Roloson downed the Sharks 2-1 in an overtime shootout. The statistics stacked up against Edmonton after the game. San Jose outshot Edmonton in each of the first three periods (19-6, 16-6, 12-7), finishing with a lopsided 49-23 margin. Combining shots, blocked shots and shots that missed the net the Sharks increased that margin to an eye popping 83-41..

Defenseman Douglas Murray sent a message early in the first period. After Ladislav Smid stickhandled around Jeremy Roenick, Murray hammered Smid into the boards along the bench for the biggest hit of the game. Edmonton was able to survive the initial onslaught which sank St Louis on Friday, allowing one 5-on-3 goal to Joe Pavelski on 19 shots. Evgeni Nabokov was business as usual in the first, stoning a point blank attempt from Robert Nilsson down low, and a second rebound attempt up high. Dustin Penner fed Nilsson touch airborne passes in the pregame warmups, and Nilsson's stick should have been checked for stickem given his ability to stop and re-direct pucks before they hit the ground.

The second period saw the Sharks ratchet up the intensity level in front of, and on top of Dwayne Roloson. An early scoring chance resulted in a pile around the Edmonton crease, and one Oiler defenseman tried to pull the net off its moorings to freeze the play. Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi broke in on a 2-on-1, and Pavelski snapped a hard shot up high. Save Roloson, 1 of 48 saves he made on the night. Roloson has been on the shelf of late, as Mathieu Garon registered a 11-6-0 record in 17 straight starts for the Edmonton Oilers. Dwayne Roloson was given the start Saturday night against Phoenix, and he responded with his first win since January 20th. Technically, Rolson was quick and focused, and at 38 years old he is still one of the most athletic goalies in the NHL. He takes up more surface area in the set position instead of crunching down low as he has in years past.

The Oilers capitalized on their 5-on-3 power play opportunity with a point shot by Ales Hemsky. The Oil's leading scorer (20G, 41A, 66GP) switched positions on the point, with a Edmonton's tight 5-man umbrella pushing the Sharks penalty kill triangle deep in into the defensive zone. Hemsky let loose with a shot down the middle, it deflects off of traffic in front and beats Nabokov. Score tied at 1-1.

Edmonton inexplicably took a trio of late third period penalites (13:00 Gilbert tripping, 15:17 Stoll hooking, 18:31 Roloson delay of game), affording a dangerous Sharks power play several opportunities to win the game in regulation. It may be a small leap, but compare the potential of the Sharks top power play unit to the meat of the Murderer's Row 1927 New York Yankees lineup:

1927 NY Yankees Murderer's Row:

CF Earle Combs .356, 6 HR, 64 RBI, 231 H
SS Mark Koenig .285, 3 HR, 62 RBI
RF Babe Ruth .356, 60 HR, 164 RBI
1B Lou Gehrig .373, 47 HR, 175 RBI
LF Bob Meusel .337, 8 HR, 103 RBI, 47 2B
2B Tony Lazzeri .309, 18 HR, 102 RBI.

Compare that to the 2008 Sharks top power play unit; one with a perennial regular season Art Ross contender, the 3-year playoff goal scoring leader, a former Rocket Richard goal scoring champion, the NHL's second highest scoring defenseman, Wisconsin's version of Chris Drury manning the point, and the NHL's alltime leading power play goal scoring netminder.

2008 San Jose Sharks Murderer's Row:

C - Joe Thornton: former NHL MVP, perennial Art Ross scoring title contender, current NHL assists leader (64). Thornton with the puck on the half boards at times makes the Sharks power play look like the Harlem Globetrotters, and opponents penalty kill look like the Washington Generals.

RW - Jonathan Cheechoo: former Rocket Richard NHL goal scoring leader (56 - 2005-06), came into his own launching 28 goals in 2003-04 on the Sharks third line with Mike Ricci and Scott Thornton. Cheechoo's hard shot and quick release make the Moose Factory, Ontario native a deadly sniper from any area on the ice. And if you are a moose, a few areas off the ice as well.

LW - Patrick Marleau: The Sharks captain was the target of many trade rumors heading into the trade deadline this year, but acquiring Brian Campbell without losing Marleau is a huge move for general manager Doug Wilson. One that may result in a Stanley Cup. The 6-foot-2, 220 pound Marleau was close to taking home the fastest skater award at the NHL Allstar Skills competition. His move from center to the left wing gives him more speed and leverage with a quick first step, and he is starting to impose himself more in front of the net. Marleau is tied with Calgary Flames captain Jarome Ignila for the Stanley Cup Playoff scoring lead over the last 3 years with 20 goals.

D - Brian Campbell: It is hard to underestimate how much the addition of Campbell impacted the Sharks power play and the offensive attack 5-on-5. One telling thing about this lineup is the fact that Campbell's offensive flair and risk taking maneuver's have not detracted from the overall tight defensive play and San Jose's ability to shut down opponents in close games. Campbell's 360 spin-o-rama against Montreal, his end-to-end rushes, and a willingness to fire shots from the point have rejuvinated the Sharks power play. His contributions have helped the Sharks win 9 straight games with him in the lineup. Brian Campbell is tied for 3rd in the NHL in points by a defenseman (54), and tied for second in assists (47).

D/C - Joe Pavelski: I will defer to Sharkspage's Wisconsin authory, Max Giese, on Plover Wisconsin native Joe Pavelski. Pavelski has a knack for winning at almost every level of hockey he has competed: a Stevens Point High School (SPASH) tournament championship, a USHL rookie of the year nomination and a USHL Clarkson Cup title, a NCAA Hockey National Championship with the U of Wisconsin Badgers... The 5-11, 195 pound center could be considered a poor man's Chris Drury. If he was afforded more opportunities to play for the national team, and with several opportunities to make a run at an NHL Stanley Cup with a deep Sharks team, a more direct comparison with Drury could be applicable later in Pavelski's career.

G - Evgeni Nabokov, the current NHL ironman leader with 41 wins and 68 games played, is also the only goaltender on the planet to register a power play goal. On March 10, 2002 with his defenseman being pressured Nabokov lofted the puck up ice. The puck had enough on it to sail into the Vancouver Canucks goal with 47.2 seconds remaining, giving the Sharks a 7-4 win. Nabokov is much improved handling the puck, and should be a serious contender for the NHL's Vezina Trophy this season.

The Sharks power play unit was a dominant force last season. This year with the addition of Brian Campbell on the blueline, and the resurgence of Jonathan Cheechoo and Patrick Marleau on the wings, it could have more of an impact in the playoffs where it matters most. The 2008 version of Murderer's Row has started imposing itself on the NHL, pardon me Larry Beil, with authority.

The San Jose Sharks had several quality scoring chances in the third period, with excellent puck movement down low in the corners and high at the point on the power play. Edmonton Oilers goaltender Dwayne Rolson made the biggest save of the game in overtime. Center Kyle Brodziak turned the puck over to Jeremy Roenick in the neutral zone. Roenick quickly hit Joe Thornton with a pass, creating a 2-on-0 breakaway. Thornton skated down the right side and snapped a shot that Roloson deflected wide. Defenseman Brian Campbell followed with a second scoring chance shortly thereafter, and Rolson swallowed up the puck to send the game to a shootout.

In the overtime shootout, Joe Pavelski and Jeremy Roenick missed their initial attempts. Robert Nilsson wristed a shot by Evgeni Nabokov. After misses by Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky, Patrick Marleau scored the neutralizer to send the shootout into extra rounds. Rolson stopped Jonthan Cheechoo, and Fernando Pisani used his patented backhand five-hole shot to beat Nabokov and earn the win.

The Sharks 11-game winning streak, the longest in the NHL, was snapped but the 12-game point streak remains. With the overtime point, the Sharks stretch their Pacific Division lead to 3 points, with 10 games remaining and 2 games in hand on 2nd place Anaheim and 3rd place Dallas. Dwayne Rolson stopped 48 of 49 shots, and 3 of 4 overtime shots to earn his 10th win of the season.

Post-game comments from San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson:

We had more chances tonight than probably I can remember. (Roloson) made a ton of saves. Its not like they were bad shots, or just shooting for the sake of shooting. He made glove saves, stretch saves, split saves, I mean he just had one of those nights. You thought he would be a little tired, but he has not been playing much in the last month. He was sensational.

(About the streak) It is just one game at a time. One period. We wanted to establish a good pace and tempo, and I thought we did. We played pretty much, except for a double penalty, we dominated the game. They had a few chances obviously, but when you have them hemmed in as long as we did, you run the risk of a team getting a counter attack started. We were all over him.

Referees call the penalties, so I guess there was a penalty. You have to try to kill them. We deflected it in our own net. We scored on our 5-on-3, we had plenty of opportunities towards the end. Sometimes I wish we would get a little more basic, get it to the point and pound it instead of trying to pass through people, but that is something we have to get better at going forward.

I hate (our playoff position). It is all over now. Points in 12 straight games, we are in great position. An extra point tonight, with a little bit of luck we might be able to reel Detroit in. You want to just keep on plugging and win the games in hand. Next we have to focus on Los Angeles, that is the only game we can think about.

A photo gallery from the game is available here. Youtube video highlights from the game are available here.

[Update] Win streak ends at 11 for Sharks - San Jose Mercury News.

The season-high 49 shots showed their offense was in gear. The 34 hits indicated they played a strong, physical game. They won 61 percent of the faceoffs, usually a key statistic. But none of that helped Sunday as the 11-game winning streak that carried the Sharks to the top of the Pacific Division ended in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers at HP Pavilion.


Sharks streak at franchise-best 11th straight with 4-1 win over the St Louis Blues

San Jose Sharks center Marcel Goc photos
San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov
San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau

The San Jose Sharks 4-1 win over the St Louis Blues on Friday night was a tale of two road trips. The Sharks returned home after spending 24 of the last 28 days on the road, with 8 wins in the 10 game game unbeaten streak coming away from HP Pavilion. St Louis is a team in crisis mode, far outside of the playoff race the Blues dropped the first 4 games of a 9-game road trip and registered a 1-8-2 overall record in the last 11 games.

The St Louis radio announcer loudly practiced one of his calls repeatedly before the game, "St Louis visited nearby Alacatraz Island during an off day yesterday, today they will try to break out of jail against the San Jose Sharks." In a pre-game interview on the bench with FSNBA's John Schraeder, defenseman Brian Campbell said the Sharks can keep rolling if they "Keep good habits in check, stay on their game and don't get too loose."

The Sharks first shift of the game set the tone for the entire contest. Joe Thornton takes possession of the puck and sets up behind the net as Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek bang bodies trying to gain position in front. Blues captain Eric Brewer sends the puck around the boards, but a Sharks defenseman beats Jamal Mayers and keeps it in at the point. A long pass/shot from the point creates a point blank scoring rebound opportunity for Cheechoo, and the Sharks keep the puck in the zone a second time. Cheechoo checks Keith Tkachuk off the play on the opposite corner. Brian Campbell on the opposite point hits a cutting Milan Michalek with a cross ice pass, and Michalek buries a one-timer over the glove of goaltender Hannu Toivonen for his 23rd goal of the season.

With a 2-minute hi-sticking penalty on Andy McDonald expired, but while he was still in the penalty box, Craig Rivet unleaseh a point shot that was tipped in quick succession by Devin Setoguchi and Jeremey Roenick in front of the net. The hard shot that was deflected high over the right shoulder of Toivonen was initially credited to Setoguchi, but later changed to Roenick. The second goal of the game later turned out to be the game winning goal, Roenick's 8th of the season.

The Sharks continued to steamroll the Blues in the first period. Milan Michalek drove the puck down the left wing and hit an unchecked Joe Thornton with a drop pass. Thornton held on to the puck, before hitting a pinching Brian Campbell with a hard pass on the right side of the crease. Campbell buried the shot, score 3-0 Sharks. Patrick Marleau finished the Sharks scoring in the first period, after he was hooked to the ice at 13:25 and awarded a penalty shot. Marleau skated slowly down the right-center of the ice with his head up and the puck on his stick. As Hannu Toivonen edged to his left, Marleau snapped a quick shot high over the blocker. Marleau's 15th goal of the season, his 5th goal in the last 6 games, pushed the score to 4-0 after 20 minutes.

St Louis Blues right wing David Backes scored his 11th goal of the season less than a minute into the second period, assisted by Paul Kariya and Eric Johnson. The Blues tightened their game significantly, but both teams showed considerable fatigue in the waning minutes of the third. Brian Campbell and Jody Shelley each earned a round of applause as the large video board noted they were playing in their 400th NHL game. With 2 assists Joe Thornton took over the NHL assists lead from Marc Savard with 64, and Evgeni Nabokov earned his league leading 41st win.

A photo gallery from the game is available here. Youtube video highlights from the game are available here.

[Update] Sharks 4, Blues 1 - SJsharks.com.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks, Staubitz Knock Out Devils

The Worcester Sharks, led by Brad Staubitz's "Gordie Howe hat trick" and some timely goaltending by Dimitri Patzold, defeated the Lowell Devils 6-1 Friday night at the Paul E. Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Massachusetts in front of an announced crowd of 2,004.

The WorSharks would start the scoring just over a minute into the game when Lukas Kaspar wristed a knuckle ball from just inside the blue line that somehow snuck through Devils netminder Dave Caruso for a quick 1-0 lead. Riley Armstrong picked up the assist on the goal.

Marc Busenburg would put the WorSharks up 2-0 just after the seven minute mark when he blasted a bouncing puck wide of the Lowell goal that deflected off of a Lowell defenseman and found the back of the net. The goal was Busenburg's first of the season, with assists going to Staubitz and T.J. Fox.

Lowell picked up the pace in the later parts of the first stanza but Patzold stood firm, making several spectacular saves in what was one of his best games played in a WorSharks jersey. Lowell would get their only goal at 15:36 after Stephen Gionta wheeled the net and the rebound landed on the stick of Ryan Murphy, who beat Patzold over the left shoulder to cut the lead to 2-1.

It was a close as Lowell would get as Worcester scored three times in the second. Tom Cavanagh scored on the power play at 9:10 of the period after a Caruso save of a Mike Iggulden shot. Graham Mink had a chance at the rebound, but it was Cavanagh's backhand that found the wide open net that lit the lamp. Mink would make it 4-1 on a nice deflection of an Iggulden pass behind Caruso at 12:22. Mink's goal was also on the power play.

Staubitz would make it 5-1 by firing a bad angle shot after wheeling the net. Caruso didn't make it to the post on time, and the puck deflected off of him and into the net.

With Staubitz having a goal and an assist entering the third period all that was needed for the Gordie Howe hat trick was a fight, and after a high hit on Nate Raduns by Pierre-Luc Leblond Staubitz wasted no time in dropping them. He also wasted little time in dropping Leblond to earn the knockout. Leblond needed assistance getting back to the Lowell bench, and then needed further assistance getting to the locker room.

The WorSharks would close out the scoring with a single goal in the third period after a Staubitz steal just in front of the Lowell net. Staubitz found Armstrong all alone, who tapped the puck into the yawning net for the 6-1 final.

The game was played for the most part with just two officials after linesman Bob Paquette fell awkwardly in front of the Devils bench late in the first period. Referee Nygel Pelletier assisted the other linesman Jeremy Lovett for the remainder of the game. Despite just having two officials the game was managed fairly well.

The WorSharks are wearing their St Patrick's Day jerseys this weekend, and those jerseys will be auctioned off during Sunday's game at the DCU Center against Hartford. Reviews of the jerseys from Lowell fans were, to be polite, mixed.

Worcester's scratches were the same as recent games with Morris and Traverse still on the injured list. Sean Hurley, who was recently signed to an ATO, has yet to play for the WorSharks.

Nate Raduns did not return to the game after being cross checked in the head by Leblond. There was no official word from the WorSharks to his condition.

The three stars of the game were:
Busenburg (1g,1a)
Staubitz (Gordie Howe hat trick)
Mink (1g,1a)
Not sure what game the Lowell folks were watching, but Staubitz; Patzold; Armstrong should have been a no-brainer.

Worcester 2 3 1 - 6
Lowell 1 0 0 - 1

1st Period
Scoring - 1. Worcester, L. Kaspar (15) (R. Armstrong) 1:06 2. Worcester, M. Busenburg (1) (B. Staubitz, T. Fox) 7:08 3. Lowell, R. Murphy (7) (S. Gionta, G. Marshall) 15:37
Penalties - D. Packard Wor (high-sticking) 4:01, B. Mills Low (holding) 9:10, B. Staubitz Wor (hooking) 11:40

2nd Period
Scoring - 4. Worcester, T. Cavanagh (15) (G. Mink, M. Iggulden) 9:10 PP 5. Worcester, G. Mink (21) (M. Iggulden, D. Joslin) 12:22 PP 6. Worcester, B. Staubitz (3) (M. Busenburg, R. Armstrong) 13:57
Penalties - D. Packard Wor (hooking) 0:33, O. Magnan Low (boarding) 8:36, I. Khomutov Low (hooking) 11:16, R. Armstrong Wor (hooking) 14:58, Served by P. Leblond Low (bench minor - too many men) 16:55, T. Walsh Wor (interference) 19:22

3rd Period
Scoring - 7. Worcester, R. Armstrong (14) (B. Staubitz) 16:19
Penalties - B. Staubitz Wor (slashing, fighting) 7:11, P. Leblond Low (fighting) 7:11, B. Tallackson Low (holding) 17:40

Shots on Goal
Worcester 10 13 7 - 30
Lowell 14 11 3 - 28

Power Play Conversion: Worcester - 2 for 5, Lowell - 0 for 6.
A: 2004. Referee: Nygel Pelletier; Linesmen: Jeremy Lovett, Bob Paquette


Korean Anyang Halla right wing Song Dong Hwan dubbed the "Asian Rocket", Oji Paper vs Nippon Paper Cranes ALIH Finals start Saturday

Anyang Halla right wing #96 Song Dong Hwan was lighting it up in the Asia League Ice Hockey, at least he was in 2005-06 clinching the league scoring title with 32 goals. Unfortunately Dong Hwan was called up to serve in the Korean army for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 ALIH seasons. Compulsory service of just over 2 years is mandory for most adult males in South Korea over the age of 18.

Will the "Asian Rocket" pick up where he left off when he returns next season, to help his Korean squad challenge the dominant Japanese Oji Paper, Nippon Paper Cranes, Seibu Price Rabbits or Nikko Ice Bucks teams? Anyang Halla is one of two teams based in South Korea, along with High1 (named after a newly developed series of ski and golf resorts). Anyang Halla, formerly Halla Winia (a refrigerator company), won 5 Korean Hockey Championships before moving to the Asian Hockey League and finishing 3rd in 2003-04. Based in Anyang City an hour south of the capital Seoul, Anyang Halla finished the 2007-08 ALIH season in 5th place registering a 14-14-2 record (30 game season). Anyang Halla was swept by the Nippon Paper Cranes 3-0 in the best-of-five first round of the playoffs (4-3, 2-1, 2-1).

According to the offical website, the Nippon Paper Cranes defeated regular season champion Seibu to advance to the finals against Oji Paper. Current Cranes goaltender and former Calgary Flame and St Louis Blues goaltender Jamie McLennan said of the finals berth, "We knew it would be the toughest game in this series. SEIBU is an elite team being on a higher level than us, so I have conditioned myself well to be in top shape for the series. Oji Paper is one of the best teams I've seen, but we have a chance to win as we did win over SEIBU. With humility, I'll try to be well prepared for the finals."

The ALIH Championship Finals begin on Saturday, March 15th in Tomakomai, Japan. Follow the ALIH Finals on the official Oji Paper and Nippon Paper Cranes websites.

The San Jose ALIH affiliate China Sharks struggled this season, finishing last in the 7 team league with a 3-26-1 regular season record. The C-Sharks were the only team that did not qualify for the postseason. Foreign import Jason Beeman was a bright spot with his 16 goals ranking 4th overall, and 28 points ranking 16th in the league. The China Sharks struggled with problems in goal, Kelly Guard (2GP, 3.00GAA, .899SV%), Yang Yu (18GP, 6.00GAA, .817SV%), and Ming Xie (8GP, 7.35GAA, .805SV%) registered forgettable seasons. It was a rough outing this season for China. GM Chris Collins and head coach Derek Eisler should benefit from more time to work on recruiting and development in the offseason.

[Update] Stockton-Beijing connection helps Thunder acquire player - Stockton Record.

(China Sharks head coach Derek Eisler) and Beeman also had to get acquainted with living in Beijing, a city of 17 million people that currently is preparing to host the Summer Olympics in August.

"We had small crowds in the beginning, but by the end of the season they were getting bigger, maybe about 1,500 fans who were waving flags," Eisler said. "You have to understand that when the Sharks play the Nippon Paper Cranes, it's China playing Japan, and that's a big deal. And the city was something else, with amazing people."

[Update2] Jamie McLennan's Blog: The Chinese experience plus some unique off-ice officiating - The Hockey News.

Secondly, in 17 years as a pro hockey player I'd like to claim I've had many experiences and would say I’ve seen it all when it came to what this game has to offer. But I broke out laughing in amazement six minutes into the game when I spotted the goal judge behind the net, smoking, with an ashtray on the boards and carrying on like he’s watching the game from his living room couch.

It was awesome. I'm not condoning the smoking issue, but it was a very unique sight to see someone involved in a sport actively lighting a dart while the play is on. There were plumes of smoke everywhere around him, like he’d actually see a goal if it went in. It was so crazy; I thought it was worth mentioning. It was one of those things that if you didn’t see for yourself, you wouldn't believe.

More notes from the Asian League, photos and videos are up on Jamie McLennan's personal blog here.

[Update3] Cranes oust Rabbits, advance to AHL finals - Daily Yomiuri Online. More here.


Fight Notes - March 12th

Samuel Peter Oleg Maskaev Cancun boxing

- It may not rank as fight of the year, but hard hitting Nigerian Sam Peter brought a little order back to the Heavyweight division Saturday night at the Plaza de Toros bullfighting ring in Cancun, Mexico. Peter earned the WBC heavyweight title with a 6th round TKO over Russian-born Sacramento native Oleg Maskaev. Forced to wait 16 months for a title shot after Maskaev previously pulled out of a fight with a back injury, Peter wasted no time pressing the action with a persistent jab and hard left hooks.

HBO announcer Jim Lampley offered a perfect description of the fight in the early rounds, slow pace but with a very high intensity. Peter may be unrefined, but the "Nigerian Nightmare" is one of the hardest hitting heavyweights in boxing, and his movement and accuracy are much improved. The 39-year old Maskaev is an intelligent and technical boxer, who could exploit a flaw and make adjustments to punish Peter.

The fireworks began in the third round as Samuel Peter connects and sends Oleg Maskaev back into the ropes. Peter tried to end the fight with a series of punches that looked like he was attempting to chop down a tree. Maskaev survived, got his feet under him, and stunned Samuel Peter with a hard left at the end of the round. Maskaev held it together until the 6th round when another long right hand by Peter buckled his knees. Peter landed a quick succession of hard punches. A hard right landed after Sam Peter held Maskaev's head up with his left hand, then a savage downward right and a solid left hook sent Maskaev reeling back into the corner. Maskaev was out on his feet, and referee Guadalupe Garcia stopped the fight.

After the fight, Peter said he would take on anyone including both Klitschko brothers in the same night. Wladimir Klitschko defeated a young Sam Peter with a unanimous decision in 2005 after being knocked down 3 times. Wladimir recently united the IBF and WBO (+IBO) Heavyweight Titles with a 12 round decision over Sultan Ibragimov in February.

It was the worst title fight held in recent memory, Wladimir did not land a right hand until the 4th round (5th according to Sharkspage), and he swatted down Ibragimov's punches about as often as he jabbed. After the fight, instead of apologizing for a poor performance Wladimir Klitschko expressed interest in his next fight being on PPV instead of HBO. Uninspiring effort to say the least. A Samuel Peter vs Wladimir Klitschko unification fight would solve many of the division's problems, but a late ruling by the WBC last year named retired former champion Vitali Klitschko as the mandatory #1 contender. Only in boxing.

- Plaza de Toros bullfighting ring provides unique setting for title fight - Associated Press. More photos of the Plaza de Toros are available on Flickr here.

- On the Peter-Maskaev undercard was another excellent televised fight between Nate "Galaxxy Warrior" Campbell and IBF, WBA, and WBO Lightweight champion Juan Diaz. Campbell is a veteran boxer who may possess the most spectacular knockout loss in boxing history, after he offered Australian Robbie Peden an uncontested opportunity to hit him in 2005. Peden took the opportunity, and flattened Campbell with a textbook power left uppercut. Nate Campbell went a long way towards erasing that mistake with a strong 12 round performance against the heavily favored Juan Diaz. Campbell kept his punch count high, and took advantage of a cut over the eye of Diaz in the later rounds.

- The first weekend in March was a good one for Northern Californian fighters. Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero of Gilroy earned an 8th round KO over featherweight Jason Litzau at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore. Litzau was a game, but inexperienced competitor. Guerrero used solid movement, power in both hands, and an aggresive gameplan to register one of the top knockouts of the year so far. Litzau started to land more quality punches in 6th and 7th, but a hard left uppercut by Guerrero in the 8th stopped him in his tracks, and a followup straight left dropped him. Litzau tried to hang on for the remainder of the round, but a hard 3 punch combination by Guerrero sent Litzau sprawling several feet to the canvas.

Robert Guerrero moved to the #1 position at Featherweight in the Ring Magazine's March rankings. The IBF featherweight title holder also was a guest on ESPN's Friday Night Fights last week. Guerrero told ESPN analysts Teddy Atlas and Joe Tessitore, "Preperation was everything, studying fight films, doing a lot of studying of Jason Litzau" helped him earn the 8th round KO. Guerrero also said a half step back and an uppercut was the gameplan to take advantage of Litzau's reckless punching. Atlas noted Robert's hard work, and said that he was the steadier and stronger fighter on the night. More information and videos from Robert Guerrero are available on his Yardbarker blog.

- Gilroy boxer Robert Guerrero inspired by wife's bout with cancer, In fight of their young lives Guerrero's are taking charge - Mark Emmons for the San Jose Mercury News.

- The March 1st UFC 82 "Pride of a Champion" card from Nationwide Arena in Columbus also saw two Welterweight out of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose earn wins, Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck. Jon Fitch earned a unanimous decision over Chris Wilson on the main card, his 8th straight win in the UFC. UFC President Dana White said that the Purdue wrestling alumni earned a Welterweight title shot with the winner of the upcoming UFC 83 Georges St. Pierre vs. Matt Serra title fight April 19th in Montreal. GSP gets his title shot on home ground in Montreal, will Fitch's fight be held outdoors at SJSU's Spartan Stadium in front of 32,000+ San Jose fans?

On the UFC 82 undercard, Welterweight Josh Koscheck scored an entertaining second round TKO over Dustin Hazelett. Koshcheck, a former NCAA Division I wrestling champion, was stunned by an early Hazelett head kick. Koshcheck answered with a flurry of hard punches, and scored a takedown at the end of the first. Koshcheck opened the second round with a hard left, and high kick of his own dropped Hazelett. Josh finished the fight with several punishing punches, and referee Herb Dean stopped the fight.

For more information on either fighter, visit their official websites at fitchfighter.com and kos-check.com.

- Simply The Best - Sherdog.com.

Dan Henderson made it a little longer with Anderson Silva than anyone else has lately. His meeting with the UFC middleweight champion on Saturday before 16,431 fans at a sold-out Nationwide Arena almost moved into the third round, but the result was the same regardless: another decisive victory for the most dominant fighter in mixed martial arts.

- In addition to the Cung Le vs Frank Shamrock superfight on Strikeforce's March 29th card in San Jose, top-10 ranked Welterweight and BJJ black belt Jake Shields will look to extend his 9 fight winning streak against Drew Fickett, top-3 ranked Lightweight Gilbert Melendez will fight Gabe Lemley for the Strikeforce Lightweight title, Stockton's own Nick Diaz will look to pound his way back into the top 10 after a string of recent setbacks (win over Takanori Gomi at Pride 33 ruled a no contest due to positive drug test, split decision win over hard punching journeyman Mike Aina, and a TKO loss to KJ Noons after suffering a vicious cut in November), and two Pride FC veterans will face off in a Middleweight bout between Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos and Joey Villasenor.

Andre Ward

- A press release from FightnightattheTank.com:

"Mr. Hollywood" promises Andre Ward will see stars on March 20th, Rubin Williams plans to bring "Best Damn" star power to the Tank in San Jose

Los Angeles, CA (March 11, 2008) - Anybody who thinks that veteran boxer Rubin "Mr. Hollywood" Williams will be the slightest bit intimidated when he takes on Bay Area and US Olympic hero and undefeated super middleweight Andre Ward in front of a packed house of Ward's loyal fans at San Jose's HP Pavilion on Thursday night, March 20, had better think again.

There is no lack on confidence in the 31-year old Detroit native, who is scheduled to meet the 2004 US Olympic gold medalist seven years his junior, in the scheduled 10-round main event of the 2008 "American Metal & Iron Fight Night at the Tank" series opener, presented by Goossen Tutor Promotions and HP Pavilion and televised on FSN's "Best Damn Fight Night Period" on a delayed basis (Thursday, March 27, 8-10 pm PST, repeated 11-1 am PST).

"I'm coming to fight," insists Williams (29-3, 16 KOs). "Stylistically I tend to box with my jab and then go for the bombs, but there will be no boxing that night. I am coming to knock Andre Ward out!"

Williams, who is in his ninth year as a pro, feels that he will benefit from the higher level of competition he has fought - including a world title challenge loss to then-IBF super middleweight champion Jeff Lacy three years ago, a draw with former top world contender Antwun Echols last year and a decision loss following a 14-month layoff to current world contender Allan Green two months ago.

"I've got a lot of ring savvy and experience," Williams offered. "I think I have the best jab in the business. I think I have a very sneaky right hand that's to be really looked out for. I haven't really watched Andre that much. What I did see makes me believe its not going to the scorecards. I think he is biting off more than he can chew right now.

"Definitely I am his toughest challenge by far. It's going to be a real good step up for Andre taking this fight. I'm fighting him at his home, but it really doesn't matter to me because I am a fighter. I'm an old school kind of dude. You know I'll fight anywhere. It doesn't matter to me. On the 20th we'll see what happens."

Many inside observers - including Ward's camp and promoter -- feel that Williams will indeed be the toughest opponent to date for their undefeated future world title hopeful (14-0, 9 KOs).

"We've said since Andre's first fight, that each one was going to be test and with a victory, one that keeps elevating Andre to a different level," said promoter Dan Goossen. "This is the next step for him, and it's a big one. Anyone that saw the Lacy-Williams fight would see how tough of a fight he gave to the champion. Up until the end it was a back-and-forth slugfest. A Ward victory here, and he immediately jumps to the head of the class of the top, young super middleweights in the world.

Since turning pro in December 2004, Ward's legions of fans have come to expect an improved performance culminating in victory each time out. Williams has other ideas as to what they can expect to see in their upcoming confrontation. "They can expect 'Hollywood' to bring the stars out. And Andre's going to see the stars."

Individual tickets, starting at $25, to the March 20 edition of "American Metal & Iron Fight Night at the Tank" are on sale at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office, Ticketmaster Ticket Centers located in Wherehouse Music stores, Tower Records and Ritmo Latino locations throughout the Bay Area; online at ticketmaster.com; or charge by phone at (408) 998-TIXS, (415) 421-TIXS or (510) 625-TIXS. Doors open at 6:30 pm. First bout at 7:30 pm.

[Update] UFC lines up blue-chip sponsor, Bud Light - Yahoo Sports.

White also said that Brock Lesnar, whose debut on Feb. 2 led the company to one of its most successful pay-per-view events in its history, losing to Frank Mir, will have his second UFC fight in August. No opponent has been named but the leading candidate appears to be Justin McCulley. He also said the most anticipated WEC match thus far, a featherweight title defense by Urijah Faber against Jens Pulver, will take place this summer from Sacramento as a live special on Versus.

The UFC mentioned last year that an agreement with the Maloof brothers would result in two UFC events at Arco Arena per year. This 2007 article from Melody Gutierrez in the Sacramento Bee reported that there may be up to 6 fights at Arco Arena per year, but a poor performance for UFC 73 "Stacked" last year in Sacramento may result in a more conservative schedule. With the UFC's purchase of World Extreme Cagefighting, it remains to be seen which of the two promotions will make regular visits to Arco.

[Update2] CBS punches up primetime, Clinches mixed martial arts deal with EliteXC - Hollywood Reporter.

CBS will air at least four live ProElite EliteXC fights a year in primetime on Saturdays, becoming the second broadcast network -- after MyNetworkTV -- to televise mixed martial arts events. Financial terms of Thursday's deal weren't announced, but Showtime, another CBS Corp. unit, already airs ProElite's EliteXC matches live, and CBS is an investor in ProElite.

The deal calls for four two-hour primetime specials. It also includes an online component that has not been announced but could include streaming and an online community. The first match will air in the spring.

My advice to the upcoming EliteXC-CBS partnership is simple, look at what is working and what is not working at MMA events now. Look at some of the excellent UFC pay per view fight cards, and listen to the near constant booing from many of the audiences. Hardcore fans appreciate the intricacies of the ground game and applaud technical submission defense, but most casual fans like to see a quick standup format that provides fireworks instead of the increasingly common lay-and-pray, grind out a win at all costs style. The second there is any lack of movement, stand it up and let them trade on the feet. At the worst, it would result in more takedowns.

Also, the concept that cage fighting is neccessary to promote the sport to American fans is a myth. Use an oversized boxing ring with ropes, which will improve visibility for fans, improve the photographic coverage of an event, and make for a much better television broadcast. Also use a white canvas so the overhead lights will reflect off the mat like a 23x23 foot softbox, and provide a better illuminatation of the competitors.

Last bit of advice, the more professional you can describe the action and break down the individual fighters, the more respect and attention you will garner from the mainstream press and the public. A few of the MMA announcers have gotten a little out of control with their commentary (25 centimeter pole?), instead of focusing their comments on the fighters. Call the fights straight up, and move mountains to get a local AM/FM station to pick up the radio play-by-play. The more the audience can listen to and understand the fights, the more they will enjoy the experience. The best sports promotion attendance giveaway item in the Bay Area over the last 30 years was a Golden State Warriors mini-basketball radio after they won an NBA championship in 1975.

[Update3] As part of ESPN's celebration of Black History Month, Boxing Monthly and FightWriter.com contributor Graham Houston published an excellent article on turn of the century Heavyweight contender Sam McVey: Tough McVey was 'game to the core'.

Houston not only writes about Oxnard, California native McVey's struggle to fight the best competition, many white champions preferred to avoid him due to his punching power instead of the "color line" drawn by the famous James J. Jeffries, but Houston also offered a well researched mini-history lesson on the boxing legacy of San Francisco. Of McVey's punching power, Houston quoted a 1910 British weekly Boxing report by F.H. Lucas, "Sam's stock-in-trade is very limited. His guns are few enough, but they are of large caliber." On San Francisco, Houston references several news reports from the now defunct San Francisco Bulletin, and notes a no holds barred challenge between James Jefferies and Jack Johnson at a well known SF "boxing saloon".

It is a great look back at the history of boxing, and if you drink enough in San Francisco at the right dive bars and pubs you will run across a number of black-and-white boxing photos that time forgot. SFC Boxing organizes small amateur boxing events with the indefinite hold of the SF Golden Gloves, and Manny Pacquiao recently packed the Titanium Gym for an open workout session, but San Francisco and boxing today are rarely mentioned in the same sentence.

An enterprising boxing fan slowed down an archive video reel of a 1910 fight betwen Sam McVey and Jim Johnson in Paris. The video was uploaded to youtube here. Many more classic fights from Joe Louis, Jack Johnson, Sugar Ray Robinson and several others are also up on Youtube, and hopefully they remain there. Researching early hockey photos in the U.S. Library of Congress photography collections, I ran across many classic photographs from boxing champions of years past. Start with the term "boxing" at the Library of Congress collections photo search page, and be prepared to scroll.

[Update4] NBC and Strikeforce to Announce Partnership - MMAjunkie.com Exclusive.


Joe Thornton media conference call transcript, Thornton named "Third Star" of the week by NHL

San Jose Sharks Joe Thornton hockey photo

Early Monday Joe Thornton was named "Third Star" of the week by the NHL after registering 2 goals and 5 assists for 7 points in his last 4 games. The win helped extend the San Jose Sharks winning streak to a franchise best 9 games. The NHL held a media conference call with Thornton this afternoon.

DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department and I'd like to welcome you to today's call. Our guest today is San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton. Thanks to Joe for taking the time today to answer your questions, and thanks to Ryan Stenn of the Sharks' public relations department for arranging this call.

Earlier today Joe was named as the Third Star for last week after tallying seven points in four Sharks victories. Winner of the Art Ross and Hart Trophies in 2006, Joe leads San Jose and is tied for third in overall NHL scoring with 81 points on 19 goals and 62 assists. The 62 assists tie him for the league lead with Boston's Marc Savard. With a record of 40-21-8 for 88 points, the Sharks rank second in the Pacific Division and third in the overall NHL standings. On a nine-game winning streak, they visit the Nashville Predators tomorrow night, followed by home games against St. Louis Friday and Edmonton Sunday.

Thanks again to Joe for joining us. We'll open it up for questions now.

[Q] Joe, could you describe the confidence level right now in your dressing room with a franchise-record nine-game winning streak? Sort of I guess you guys wanting to play like this all year long, I suppose, and it's finally happening.

[JT] Yeah, well, our confidence level is as high as it possibly could be right now. And just really everybody is just playing real good hockey. We don't have necessarily one thing that's going incredibly well. We're just playing every game real solid. Good defensive hockey. You know, we're getting production out of our second, third and fourth lines. And, obviously, the acquisition of Brian Campbell really helped, as well. You know, we're playing simple hockey, playing good defensive hockey, and things are going our way.

[Q] You talk about the importance of trying to win your division, Joe. Obviously, there's three real contenders there battling for the division. I guess whoever doesn't win it, might be a pretty tough 4-5 matchup in the Western Conference. Does that weigh in on what you're thinking?

[JT] Yeah. We want to get up as high as we can. Obviously we'd like to start at home, get a home series hopefully. But, obviously, you want to get up as high as you possibly can. We know it's going to be tough. Anaheim has been playing great. So has Dallas. It's just a real, real tough division we're in. But, yeah, we want to get up as high as we can. You know, at least get a home series, for sure.

[Q] Joe, a lot of people were puzzled about the Sharks not scoring for most of the year, but lately the offense has been there. What turned it offensively? Does it just kind of come and go?

[JT] Yeah, I think that's what happens. Sometimes you're dry and sometimes you explode. Right now Patty Marleau is putting the puck in the net. We have Jonathan Cheechoo. We have so many different guys that are running with hot streaks right now. It is exciting. But we really like to think of ourselves as a good defensive team. That's what we pride ourselves on. We feel comfortable in those 2-1 games. We know that's how we're going to have to play in the playoffs to be successful. We don't really take pride in scoring a lot of goals; we take pride in keeping the goals out of our net. So that's how we win hockey games.

[Q] That was going to be my next question, to talk about your goaltending. It starts there, obviously. You've had a rock solid goalie all year. How much do you feed off his play?

[JT] Oh, that's the backbone of our whole team. He's been playing unbelievable. He plays every game for us. He's just a workhorse. When he's in net, we really do feel like we have a good chance of winning that night.

[Q] Do you like your team? You should like it obviously on this streak. In its total form, do you think this is a team that really can make noise in the playoffs?

[JT] Most definitely. I love our team. With getting Brian Campbell, we added something that I think we all thought we needed a puck-moving defenseman. He can play a lot of minutes, plays good defensively, plays the power play. But I really do like the makeup of this team. We've got some guys coming back from injury that are going to help us as well. We can play any style, and that's what we're going to have to do in this year's playoffs. We've got to beat a lot of good teams. But I think we got the makeup to do that this year.

[Q] The three-team race for the Pacific, obviously Dallas and Anaheim both bulked up at the deadline, Anaheim a little before. Your team as well. You've had a little bit of trouble beating those teams, especially at home. How much better do you feel about your chances down the stretch against those teams?

[JT] Well, yeah, it's been funny, especially with Dallas this year. We go into Dallas and we beat them in their building, and they come in our building and beat us. But, yeah, like I was saying, I love the makeup of our team. Getting Brian Campbell, I think that was huge. And I think he can teach our young defensemen by just -- they just watch him play and how he moves the puck and how he skates. I think it's just contagious. It is a battle in that Pacific Division. I do like our chances. I think we play Dallas twice more and Anaheim twice more. Those are going to be huge games for us. I believe we're going real good right now and it's a good time to play those good teams and see how actually good we are.

[Q] Do you feel, too, maybe with the addition of Brian, that you have been able to change your style just a little bit in terms of being a little bit more up the ice, not taking too much away from your defensive play, but seems with Brian you've been able to do a little bit more of what Doug Wilson wants from this team?

[JT] Yeah, he pushes the pace of the team. He's the kind of guy that makes our offense tick. He skates so well, he pushes the defenders back so far. He just opens up a little bit more space for us offensive players to do what we're supposed to do. He's making a huge difference for our offense, too.

[Q] Do you kind of sense something in the locker room that this year's team might be different than the previous two you were with in San Jose heading towards the playoffs?

[JT] Yeah, I feel like we're peaking at the right time. We've been playing some good teams. Our record, really after the second period, if we have a lead, we really do, you know, shut it down. The other team really doesn't have a chance to come back and get that W on us. I think our mindset's different. We know what it takes to get over that hump that we couldn't get past in the past two years. I love our toughness. I love our speed. I love our goaltending. Our confidence is high at the right time of year. We just really have to focus in on the next 13 games, the post-season. But I really do like this team a lot and I'm really looking forward to the post-season this year.

[Q] What does the road record really mean? Mentally for you guys and perhaps even the opposition, is it a mental thing heading into the playoffs that you've done so well on the road? Do you feel it's going to play a big part in the playoffs? How do you view it?

[JT] Yeah, obviously we have to win on the road in the playoffs, just become comfortable going on the road. We have a great group of guys that like to hang out together. I think that definitely adds to our record. We enjoy hanging out, going to dinner with each other. But, yeah, we know we're going to have to win on the road. Having this record and feeling comfortable going on the road, I think that definitely is going to help us in the long run.

[Q] Back in 2001 you were quoted as saying, Every No. 1 has a franchise player written all over him. He has expectations to live up to and some of those expectations are too big. Can you now at this point in your career point to a particular coach or player that kind of set you on the right track, on the right path to the player you are today?

[JT] Well, I've had some real, real good coaches. But I think probably Mike Keenan, as soon as he started coaching me, he turned on a switch, I guess you would say. Really after that I decided I was going to be a good professional and try to be the best player I could be. So probably Mike Keenan. I think it was my fourth year in the league, kind of turned on that light bulb and got me going and realize my potential. It probably would be Mike.

[Q] Last off-season you were pretty instrumental in getting some of the guys to sign. What do you think are the chances of getting Brian Campbell to sign during the off-season and what role do you see yourself playing?

[JT] Well, right now he's my roommate so I'm trying to get him to sign right now (laughter). No, obviously things didn't work out in Buffalo for him. I'm not sure what his plans are, to be honest. But obviously we'd love to have him back. He's a great defenseman. He's a top-end defenseman that we need. So hopefully he comes back.

But we're not talking too much about it right now. We're just kind of letting the season play out. But he knows California is nice and warm, weather's beautiful. Yeah, I hope he signs back here. He loves San Jose. He likes how laid back it is. So hopefully he'd like to stick around and play with us for some more years.

[Q] Could you talk about Jonathan Cheechoo. You have rediscovered the magic, the chemistry you had last couple years. I guess a lot of that is him just getting healthy. Do you feel like things are as good there as they've been?

[JT] Yeah. He's playing awesome. He was injured. Yeah, he had two hernias. He was real tight at the start of the year. He had problems moving. But now he's skating with so much confidence and shooting the puck. So I think, yeah, we have as much confidence, you know, as we did as a pair when he won the Rocket Richard. Confidence is everything in this sport. You know that. He has a ton of it right now. And we just feed off of each other. He's playing the best hockey he's played all year right now.

[Q] You're obviously playing outstanding, as well. It's funny because when I talked to you in September I think you were kind of giving yourself a hard time and saying, I'm not getting off to a slow start this year, and you didn't. You do seem to be still putting up more second-half points this year.

[JT] I don't know why that happens, but it always seems to happen that way (laughter). Yeah, like I said, I didn't want to get off to a slow start, and I didn't. But for some reason I like to kind of pour it on the last 25 games of the year. I'm not sure for what reason, though.

[Q] I guess that's when it matters.

[JT] Hopefully it will matter in the post-season. That's when you want to win it. That's when you want to play good, I guess.

[Q] you talk a little bit about your playoff heroes growing up and why they were an influence for you.

[JT] My playoff heroes? I loved the Oilers growing up. So obviously Kurri, Messier, Gretzky, Coffey, Grant Fuhr. Those were my guys. That was my team. After winning so many Stanley Cups, they were the dynasty that I always followed. Obviously a little bit later with Mario and Ron Francis, guys like that.

But, yeah, big Oiler fan growing up so I remember all those good years.

[Update] Sizzling San Jose Sharks gearing up just in time for playoffs - Canadian Press.

"We've got a lot of players that have really picked up their game," Sharks GM Doug Wilson told The Canadian Press on Monday. "We think we didn't play up to our expectations for the first two-thirds of the year and I think our guys have a lot of pride and a lot of experience with the seven playoff rounds the last three seasons and I think they know and feel if we play our game we're as good as anybody in this league."

[Update2] Sharks getting everyone's attention - John Devine for the Monterey Herald.

Michigan Takes Back Top Spot on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

A press release from USA Hockey:

Michigan Takes Back Top Spot on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The University of Michigan (483) received 15-of-34 first-place votes and reclaimed the top spot on the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll. Michigan, which was idle last weekend, returned to the top spot for the tenth time this season.

This Week's Top-15 Match-ups:

Friday, March 14
No. 14 Wisconsin @ No. 10 St. Cloud State*
No. 15 Minnesota@ No. 11 Minnesota State*

Saturday, March 15
No. 14 Wisconsin @ No. 10 St. Cloud State*
No. 15 Minnesota @ No. 11 Minnesota State*

* - WCHA Tournament, First Round

The University of North Dakota (457), which garnered nine first-place votes, slipped one spot to No. 2, while Colorado College (451), which also claimed nine first-place votes, jumped up two spots to No. 3. Meanwhile, the University of New Hampshire (417) dropped one to the No. 4 spot and Miami (Ohio) University (405), which collected the remaining first-place vote, fell one spot to round out the top five.

Boston University returned to the poll this week for the first time since Oct. 8, coming in at No. 13.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll - #22
(first-place votes in parenthesis, Last Week's Ranking, 2007-08 Record, Weeks In Top 15

1 U. of Michigan, 483 (15), 2, 27-5-4, 22
2 U. of North Dakota, 457 (9), 1, 23-8-4, 22
3 Colorado College, 451 (9), 5, 26-9-1, 22
4 U. of New Hampshire, 417, 3, 23-8-3, 22
5 Miami (Ohio) U. 405 (1), 4, 29-6-1, 22
6 Michigan State U., 324, 6, 23-9-5, 22
7 Clarkson U., 304, 8, 20-10-4, 22
8 U. of Denver, 258, 7, 22-13-1, 22
9 Boston College, 207, 9, 17-11-8, 20
10 St. Cloud State U., 196, 11, 17-14-5, 10
11 Minnesota State U. Mankato, 194, 10, 18-14-4, 6
12 U. of Notre Dame, 126, 12, 22-12-4, 22
13 Boston U., 86, NR, 17-15-4, 3
14 U. of Wisconsin, 80, 13, 15-14-7, 19
15 U. of Minnesota, 45, 14, 15-14-9, 14

Others receiving votes: Princeton University, 16; University of Minnesota Duluth, 12; Harvard University, 6; Ferris State University, 5; Niagara University, 3; University of Vermont, 3; Army, 2.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 13th annual USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll is conducted each week in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association. The poll includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the six NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the American Hockey Coaches Association and USA Hockey Magazine, the most widely distributed hockey magazine in the world.

[Update] Pairings Set for First Round of WCHA Playoffs - Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

[Update2] Yost Ice Arena is Michigan's hockey hot spot - USA Today.

"What I tell kids is that if you want to go to the school with the nicest rink, go straight to Grand Forks, because (North Dakota) has the nicest rink," says Berenson, 68, former NHL player and coach. "But if you want to play in a rink with a great environment and a lot of history, then you should come to Michigan, because Yost is a player's rink."

Built in 1923 as a field house and converted to an ice arena in 1973, Yost offers one of the most stirring hockey experiences in the country because of the intimacy and charm of its 6,637-seat rink and the zaniness and zealousness of its fans.


How to win friends and influence people Buffalo style, Avery-Bernier trade rejected at deadline, Sharks OT shootout win over Minnesota...

- San Jose's trade dealine acquisition of offensive defenseman Brian Campbell from the Buffalo Sabres for a late 2008 first round draft pick and right wing Steve Bernier addressed longstanding issues for each team. Unfortunately post-trade comments reported by the Buffalo media irritated many fans in San Jose.

This post-deadline article from Buffalo News reporter Bucky Gleason gets the bashing started:

The first thing that struck Steve Bernier after he stepped off the plane and began making his way through Buffalo Niagara International Airport was the people. It wasn't how many there were, but how warm they were. He hadn't even reached baggage claim when he was stopped by fans offering encouragement and wishing him luck.

Yes, his new home was a long way from San Jose.

Bernier quickly learned that Buffalo is a true hockey city, a drastic change from his two-plus seasons in the Silicon Valley. The right winger could have gone a decade in San Jose without anyone greeting him in public. Here he was, a new face in a foreign place, recognizable and enjoying his first taste of Buffalo.

This is an odd statement. Members of the Hammerhead Booster Club have greeted Sharks players at the airport many times, not to mention a significant number travel to every road game at significant expense. Downtown San Jose fills up with fans at a number of bars and restaurants on Santa Clara street or in San Pedro Square for Sharks games. So much so, the last mayor of San Jose Ron Gonzales wrote a letter to Gary Bettman and the NHLPA asking them to resolve their differences during the NHL lockout for the sake of many U.S. and Canadian hockey communities.

Many hockey fans would place Buffalo alongside Minnesota and Detroit as the three top hockey markets in the United States. The fervor surrounding Buffalo's run to the Conference Finals in 2006 and 2007 was hard to ignore. The Winter Classic between Buffalo and Pittsburgh brought a wave of nostalgia back to the NHL, and the largest media coverage of the sport in recent memory. Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller also has decent bilingual Yo Mamma skills.

Back to the San Jose bashing, Bucky Gleason continues:

"Every player relishes the fact that you're coming to a really good hockey town," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "I guarantee, if our guys stepped off a plane in San Jose or San Francisco, there isn't going to be anybody standing there. It's nothing against them. They have great hockey fans up there, but we have better ones."

Great fans on both sides it would seem. A recent poll of NHL players by Sports Illustrated asked the question, which team has the best fans?

Montreal was overwhelmingly named the city with the best fans garnering 35% of the votes. Minnesota was second with 13%, Calgary third with 11%. Only California team to make the top ten... also the second best U.S. based fans according to NHL players... the San Jose Sharks in a 6th placed tie with Toronto at 5%. (Players could not vote for their own fans)

Players appreciate a loud and full building at HP Pavilion in San Jose. Hockey may not be as deeply ingrained in the Bay Area as it is in Buffalo, but as The Hockey News noted at the start of last season; hockey is on the rise in California. That rise equalled a Stanley Cup Championship for Anaheim last season.

A few notes about hockey in Northern California for reference:

Grassroots ACHA college hockey is growing in the Bay Area, with Santa Clara University joining club teams from San Jose, Cal, Stanford, and Palmer this season. Northern California hosted 2 of the last 4 ECHL Allstar games, with Stockton also garnering the ECHL regular season attendance record each of the last 2 seasons. The Sharks and Ducks have created a Battle of California rivalry many consider to be one of the best in the National Hockey League. San Jose is home to the largest hockey/skating complex on the West Coast, the 4-rink Sharks Ice Center, and another new roller/ice hockey complex in San Jose was completed at Silver Creek. At the 2007 USA Hockey Womens/Girls Championships hosted in San Jose last year, many parents and players who traveled to the tournament from Buffalo were very complimentary of the upgraded facility. They were kind enough to break down a little of the Eastern Conference, and many attended a Sharks game while they were here.

The point is that the hockey market in the Bay Area or San Jose might not be the largest, but it is enthusiastic and growing. And based on personal experience it stretches out to Reno, Oregon, and large chunks of the central valley. As for contributions online, San Jose brought the NHL the first hockey blog (1998), the first team website (1995), and the first hockey messageboards (1991). Not to mention much of the underlying technology, and many of the new media companies responsible for recent partnerships with the NHL.

Back to Bucky Gleason:

Of course, enthusiasm has its flip side. In other towns that are less excited about hockey, a poor season means getting kicked off the front pages and dismissed on the 6 o'clock news. In Buffalo, especially if the Sabres aren't giving an honest effort, players can become the center of attention for all the wrong reasons. And at times it can be difficult.

That is the crux of the problem. Media attention does not equal excitement about hockey. This may be one of the reasons the San Jose market is a little different from other markets. One of the largest radio personalities in the Bay Area, Gary Radnich, was also one of hockey's biggest critics locally. Radnich regularly attacked fans and the sport, instead of offering the usual self referential noise that comprises his coverage of other sports. Knowledgable hockey opinion columnists in the Bay Area are almost non-existent. A checking line could be a bank reference as far as many were concerned. San Jose did have a bright spot in two of the best beat writers in the NHL, Ross McKeon of the SF Chronicle, and Victor Chi of the Mercury News. Unfortunately on the same day in July last year, both were laid off (bought out and fired).

If excitement is measured by media coverage, then the local hockey market is in trouble. But travel to numerous local sporting events. Travel to the Mavericks Big Wave Surfing competition in Half Moon Bay, to the Tour of California cycling race, the San Francisco Bay-to-Breakers quarter marathon, or volunteer with youth athletics in the South Bay. You will find a few hardcore hockey fans, a larger number of casual fans, and almost a complete absence of the disdain exhibited by aging sports reporters that allegedly speak for the entire community.

With media consolidation and declining traditional coverage, local hockey fans have many years ago made the leap to online radio, Canadian newspaper and media websites, blogs, podcasts, messageboards, online streaming and archived games. Utilizing new media sources to fill in the gaps of traditional coverage, this market may foreshadow what will happen elsewhere.

- The New York Post's Larry Brooks unloaded with a hot hockey gossip column today. Not exactly page 6 worthy, but Brooks "reports" that New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather rejected a trade deadline deal of left wing Sean Avery to San Jose for 22-year old power forward Steve Bernier.

According to Brooks, the Avery rejection preceeded a San Jose Sharks deal with Buffalo for the top offensive-defenseman available, Brian Campbell. San Jose then turned their attention to Buffalo, and the Pittsburgh Penguins allegedly turned their interest from Bernier to Marian Hossa. Thus, unnamed sources confirm to Larry Brooks that the Bernier-for-Avery rejection created a domino affect resulting in 2 of the 3 largest trade deadline moves.

A pending free agent, Avery has been on fire with 9 goals in his last 14 games. Steve Bernier scored two goals and an assist in his opening game with Buffalo against Nashville. Defenseman Brian Campbell has a goal and 5 assists in his first 7 games as a San Jose Shark, helping the team to a franchise best 9-game winning streak. Marian Hossa injured his knee 13 shifts into his first game with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and could sit out a few more games before being cleared to play.

Brooks reports that Sean Avery's salary demands could be in the $2.75M a year range.

- The San Jose Sharks stretched their wining streak to a franchise best 9 games with a 3-2 OT shootout win over Minnesota this afternoon. Sharks captain Patrick Marleau continued to build on his strong play after the expiration of the NHL trade deadline. In his last 7 games, Marleau has 4 goals, 3 assists, and 1 NHL save. Against Minnesota, Marleau knocked a puck out of the air at the goal line to prevent a late game winning goal by the Wild, and then iced the game with the deciding OT shootout tally.

Joe Pavelski also scored in the overtime shootout for the Sharks, but Minnesota answered with a 360 spin-o-rama shootout goal by Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Bouchard had a weird hitch at the end of his 360, where he spun, stopped and then shot. It was an incredible move. In the future if a players stops forward momentum on a shootout, blow the play dead. Brian Campbell tried another 360 to break the puck into the Wild defensive zone late in the game. It created a scoring chance, but no goal. Fellow Czech Republic natives Milan Michalek and Tomas Plihal each finished with a goal for the Sharks, Plihal's coming on a first period period penalty shot. Kurtis Foster and Brian Rolston were credited with goals for Minnesota. Rolston's goal came on a hard shot with less than 30 seconds left in the third period. The shot bounced off of a pair of Sharks defenseman to tie the game at 2-2.

Evgeni Nabokov finished with 21 saves on 23 shots, earning his NHL leading 39th win. Nicklas Backstrom made 24 saves on 26 shots for Minnesota. The Sharks are making the most with games in hand. The 9-game winning streak has moved San Jose within 1 point of the Dallas Stars for the Pacific Division lead, and 8 points within the previously unreachable Western Conference leading Detroit Red Wings.

- Eric Duhatschek on the Globe and Mail blog calls the Western Conference 4th and 5th playoff seeds the potential NHL bracket of death. A reference to the most difficult grouping in the World Cup of Soccer.

- If you missed it in an earlier post, local San Jose television station NBC-11 is airing online video webcasts prior to every Sharks home game. Previews from the Ottawa and Montreal games are available here and here.

- Interesting chat between Scott Burnside and Damien Cox for ESPN: Will Red Wings, Sens rebound and become a Cup threat again?

Damien: Ahh, now you're on to something. See, the West has been the stronger conference for what, five seasons? Yet the Ducks broke an Eastern stranglehold on the Cup itself by winning after the Devils, Lightning and Hurricanes had won the previous three. The toll on the Western teams in terms of travel and the grind seems to be significantly greater than on the Eastern clubs, which gives the East an advantage when the Cup finals roll around in, oh, what is it now, mid-August? So yeah, I wouldn't rule out an Eastern winner just yet.

Scott: I think you're right and it'll be interesting to see if we ever get to a situation where the playoffs feature 2-3-2 playoff patterns instead of the 2-2-1-1-1 that can be a killer when teams get into six- and seven-game series. Of course, it didn't really hurt Anaheim last season, when the Ducks flew back and forth to Detroit during the conference finals. Do you really subscribe to the notion that the style of hockey is dramatically different in the West? It wasn't all that long ago the East had the reputation as being the rough-and-tough conference with the West being more wide open. Now with Ovechkin, Crosby, Vincent Lecavalier et al, the theory seems to be the East is more free-flowing. Maybe we spend too much time trying to spot trends.

Damien: I think there are small differences -- more crease crashing in the West, some more individual, explosive players in the East, more solid goaltending right now in the West. But that changes over time, and I don't think there's a major philosophical difference. In fact, these days, with everyone focusing on keeping young players for competitive and financial reasons, it's as though the entire league has become a draft-and-develop operation. Whatever happened to the crazy old days when the St. Louis Blues traded all their picks and spent money they never had in the first place?

There has been a not so subtle change in the Western Conference towards a physical, pound-out-a-win style of play. Sharks radio analyst Jamie Baker suggested there may be as many as 40 fewer practices for Western Conference teams due to travel days. That has to impact the cohesion and gameplan for a team looking to emerge from a difficult 82 game season, and 4 grueling playoff rounds.

Anaheim established a "hit first, offense later" mentality that was not as successful with the agile Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selane out of the lineup. San Jose and Dallas are the two most versatile teams in the Western Conference, able to adapt on the fly with a blistering transition attack, or to emerge with a win after a 60 minute playoff slugfest. The Calgary Flames seem to match the intensity of Dion Phaneuf, but in a conference with little room for error Calgary can dig itself a hole quickly. The Detroit Red Wings are the exception to the rule, but few teams can match their team speed and skill level. Riding an aging Dominik Hasek, and a horrible spat of blueline injuries are two hurdles the best team in the National Hockey League will have to overcome.

[Update] Last-minute reprieve earns point, The Wild didn't create much excitement against the Sharks, but Brian Rolston's third-period goal kept it from being a complete disaster - Minneapolis Star Tribune.

For most of Sunday afternoon, the Wild's famed "Team of 18,000" could best be described as 18,568 mutes. With the Wild's season in catastrophic danger, the fan's silence had to do with watching their favorite team fall behind the hottest team in hockey, the San Jose Sharks, only 46 seconds in.

A photo gallery from the game is available from Minneapolis Star Tribune photographer David Brewster is available here. Minnesota Wild team photographer Bruce Kluckholn, one of the best in the NHL, posted a photo gallery on the official website here.

[Update2] Pouliot attacked; Wild's 3-2 shootout loss to San Jose - Russo's Rants.

[Update3] Sharks win ninth in a row - San Jose Mercury News.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Stumble Against Lowell

The Worcester Sharks, in front of an announced crowd of 4,429 at the DCU Center in Worcester Massachusetts, lost 3-2 to the Lowell Devils in a shootout.

Worcester would get on the board first when Lukas Kaspar picked up a loose puck in face off circle to the left of Devils' goaltender Dave Caruso and fired a bad angle wrister that snuck through and found the twine at 17:42. It was Kaspar's first goal since January 29th in Springfield.

Worcester would commit the hockey sin of giving up a goal in the last minute of the first period when Petr Vrana beat WorSharks netminder Dimitri Patzold. Patzold, who has had issues going from post to post all season, went across the goal and stacked the pads against the right post. But for some reason he didn't have his pads along the ice and Vrana pushed a weak shot under them to tie the game. The power play tally knotted the game 1-1 after 20 minutes.

After an uneventful--and very boring--second period Lowell would grab the lead in the middle of the third period after several questionable calls by referee Terry Koharski left the teams skating four on three. With just one second remaining on Dan Spang's minor for checking--errr, cross checking--Lowell defender Rosario Ruggeri beat Patzold cleanly with an absolute laser for the 2-1 lead.

Worcester did not fold, and continued to pressure Lowell and Caruso made several huge saves, including two with the puck bouncing along the goal line. The WorSharks would knot the game at 2-2 with just less than three minutes remaining when Graham Mink deflected a Tom Walsh blast after a clean faceoff win by Tom Cavanagh. The goal was Mink's 20th of the season.

The OT period was all Worcester as Team Teal outshot the Devils 4-0, but couldn't get one past Caruso for the game winner. Lowell would get two in the shootout, while Iggulden had the lone tally for Worcester.

Mike Iggulden was not on the bench to start the game, and did not arrive to the bench area until coming on to the ice to start the power play after Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre's tripping minor. No explanation was available.

Worcester's scratches were unchanged from Friday night as Morris and Traverse are both still injured.

The "Great Icing Investigation" continues; Worcester had three, Lowell had one. Good thing icing is easy to count, because it certainly isn't showing what I thought it would.

Linesman Bob Paquette buys 50/50 raffle tickets from booster clubs each game at the various arenas he works games at, and there's nothing funnier than watching him check his tickets during the stoppage in play the numbers are announced. Players even will wait for him to finish before they line up for faceoffs. And if I had to pick a linesman to work a must win game, I'd want Paquette. The same can't be said about Terry Koharski.

The game's three starts were:
Caruso (27 saves)
Mink (game tying goal)
Ruggeri (1g)
I would have given the third star to Riley Armstrong.

Even Strength Lines


Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Faceoff (offense/neutral/defense = total) UNOFFICIAL
Cavanagh 10-1/4-1/3-4 = 17-6
Armstrong 1-0/3-3/1-4 = 5-7
Fox 3-3/1-0/0-1 = 4-4
Raduns 6-2/1-1/2-1 = 9-4
Packard 0-0/1-0/0-0 = 1-0
Kaspar 0-0/0-1/0-0 = 0-1

L: Marshall: deke 5 hole, GOAL
W: Iggulden: deke low glove, GOAL
L: Murphy: lost control
W: Fox: shoot glove, wide
L: Pandolfo: shoot glove, GOAL
W: Mink: shoot low glove, save
L: Tallackson: shoot low glove, SAVE!
W: Armstrong: poke checked
L: Gionta: shoot low glove, save
W: Rome: shoot low glove, save
Lowell wins, 2-1

Lowell 1 0 1 1--3
Worcester 1 0 1 0--2

1st period
Scoring: 1, Worcester-Kaspar, Lukas 14 (Walsh, Tom 25; Spang, Dan 19) 17:42. 2, Lowell-Vrana, Petr 12 (power play) (Marshall, Grant 27; Murphy, Ryan 14) 19:10.
Penalties: LOW-Grand-Pierre, Jean-L (Tripping), 7:59. LOW-Zimmerman, Sean (Cross checking), 15:31. WOR-Raduns, Nate (Hooking), 18:10.

2nd period
Scoring: None.
Penalties: LOW-Vrana, Petr (Hooking), 3:10.

3rd period
Scoring: 3, Lowell-Ruggeri, Rosario 4 (power play) (Magnan, Olivier 12; Bergfors, Nicklas 12) 8:55. 4, Worcester-Mink, Graham 20 (Cavanagh, Tom 25; Walsh, Tom 26) 17:02.
Penalties: WOR-Packard, Dennis (Tripping), 0:24. WOR-Spang, Dan (Cross checking), 6:56. LOW-Tallackson, Barry (Unsportsmanlike Cond), 8:29. WOR-Kaspar, Lukas (Holding), 8:40. LOW-Zimmerman, Sean (Interference), 10:51.

Scoring: None.
Penalties: None.

Shots on Goal
Lowell 5 4 10 0--19
Worcester 8 8 9 4--29

Power Play Conversions: Lowell - 2 of 4, Worcester - 0 of 4.
Goalies: Lowell-Caruso, Dave (64:57, 29 shots, 27 saves; record: 5-1-1). Worcester-Patzold, Dimitri (64:53, 19 shots, 17 saves; record: 5-5-4).
A: 4429. Referee: Koharski, Terry. Linesmen: Paquette, Bob; MacDonald, Brian.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Chomp River Rats, 5-3

The Worcester Sharks, behind the quickest goal in franchise history, defeated the Albany River Rats 5-3 at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts Friday night in front of an announced crowd of 3,688.

The WorSharks wanted to come out strong after blowing a 2-0 lead against these same River Rats last Saturday in Albany in a 3-2 shootout loss, and on the game's first shot just 11 seconds in they did just that when Tom Walsh fired a lose puck from the left point that was deflected in the slot by Graham Nash and past Lowell netminder Justin Peters for the quick 1-0 lead.

Unfortunately for Worcester, Thomas Greiss didn't have one of his best periods in the first, and the River Rats notched a couple goals on him that he normally would have had little trouble with. The first was by Jeff Hamilton, who fired an easy wrister from the left face off circle that snuck between Greiss and the post. The second was by Jamie Johnson, who kept poking at a lose puck that Greiss thought he had in his glove but was in fact in front of him, while the WorSharks defenders stood there without putting a body on Johnson.

The WorSharks would tie the game on the power play early in the second when Derek Joslin blasted a shot from just inside the blue line that went through several bodies and into the top corner after Worcester had crashed the net and missed two golden opportunities.

Worcester would get a five minute power play after Steve Ward accidentally high sticked Dan Spang deep in the Worcester zone, and were it not for several great saves by Peters and a couple bad bounces this game would have quickly turned into a blow out. The Sharks did manage to grab a tally during the penalty, with Riley Armstrong streaking down the right side and flipping a pass that landed right on the stick of T.J. Fox in the slot, who redirected passed a frozen Peters for a 3-2 lead.

Fox has scored a goal in all three games between the two teams.

Later in the second while skating at even strength Dennis Packard scored on what was almost a carbon copy of the Fox goal, with Mink taking a Joslin feed and streaking down the right side, hitting Packard in the slot for a yawning open net.

Mired in a goal scoring slump that has been going on since late January, Kaspar was placed on the 4th line for the first time in recent memory. He responded with the game's biggest hit when he blasted Albany's Marc Cavosie early in the third period. Cavosie obviously took exception to the hit, but with Brennan Evans on the ice next to Kaspar, thought better of it.

Worcester would score for a fifth time on an odd goal on the power play when Kaspar hit Mike Iggulden with a pass just outside the far post that Iggulden fumbled not once, but twice. But with all four Albany defenders tied up and netminder Peters badly out of position Iggulden still had plenty of time to tee it up and fire a laser of wrister. What happened next is a little uncertain as the puck went past Peters--who was facing into the at this point--and hit the crossbar and post and dropped into the crease where Mink pushed it over the goal line.

The goal was originally given to Mink, but then after the game changed to Iggulden on the belief the puck went in and out while hitting the posts, and then Iggulden gave the goal back to Mink after an apparent video review.

Albany would get the game within two goals while on a five on three power play when Joe Jenson connected from the slot to make the game 5-3, but the Rats could get no closer despite having a power play for the games last minute.

Worcester had no healthy scratches. Mike Morris is still on the long term injury list, and Patrick Traverse has a broken left foot. Jonathan Tremblay is not on Worcester's Clear Day list so is not eligible to play unless the Sharks get below 17 skaters.

Referee Brian Pochmara missed two obvious penalties in the game's last minute after a Nate Raduns lost his stick after a check along the right side boards. When Raduns went to pick up his stick an Albany defended flipped it away from him in full view of Pochmara, who decided to not call the unsportsmanlike conduct minor. Pochmara also did not call a penalty when that same stick was shot a WorSharks forward that had possession of the puck.

For about 30 second during the second period I was transfixed by a battle in front of the net by WorSharks defender Marc Busenburg and Albany center Marc Cavosie. As a lover of "old time hockey" it was good to see two fairly equally matched players--both are in the six foot, 180 pound range--battle for position in the slot as the puck was moved around on the outside. They both slashed each other, interfered with each other, held each other, and probably broke a half dozen other rules as they fought to gain an advantage. It was nothing that would end up in a box score, but it was a hockey purist's dream.

There's no stat to look for this, but for the last few games it seemed like there was an awful lot of icings against the WorSharks and many waived off in favor of their opponents. So I decided to keep track in the Albany game. Worcester iced the puck six times, Albany three. None of the waive offs were even close to borderline. So much for that thought.

After watching him for a handful of games it's obvious that J.D. Forrest is the player the Sharks wanted Dan Spang to become. Is the organization sending Spang a message in the Forrest acquisition? Time will tell.

The three stars of the game were:
Joslin (1g,2a)
Mink (2g,1a)
Hamilton (1g,2a)
Not much to argue about there.

Even Strength Lines


Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Faceoffs (offense/neutral/defense = total) UNOFFICIAL
Cavanagh 1-9/4-4/2-4 = 7-17
Raduns 0-1/0-5/0-3 = 0-9
Fox 3-3/0-4/3-0 = 6-7
Valette 0-0/0-0/1-1 = 1-1
Rome 0-0/0-0/0-1 = 0-1
Armstrong 0-1/0-1/0-1 = 0-3
Kaspar 1-0/0-0/0-0 = 1-0

Albany 2 0 1--3
Worcester 1 3 1--5

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Worcester-Mink, Graham 18 (Walsh, Tom 24) 0:11. 2, Albany-Hamilton, Jeff 2 (Murray, Chris 2; Johnson, Jamie 32) 3:48. 3, Albany-Johnson, Jamie 17 (Hamilton, Jeff 5) 17:18.
Penalties: ALB-Dwyer, Pat (Hooking), 12:14.

2nd Period
Scoring: 4, Worcester-Joslin, Derek 8 (power play) (Forrest, J.D. 4; Cavanagh, Tom 24) 4:23. 5, Worcester-Fox, T.J. 11 (power play) (Armstrong, Riley 16; Joslin, Derek 15) 8:40. 6, Worcester-Packard, Dennis 7 (game winner) (Mink, Graham 23; Joslin, Derek 16) 14:36.
Penalties: ALB-Gillies, Trevor (Slashing), 3:24. ALB-Ward, Steve (High sticking, Major), 3:33. ALB-Jensen, Joe (Holding), 12:06. WOR-Spang, Dan (Diving), 12:06.

3rd period
Scoring: 7, Worcester-Mink, Graham 19 (power play) (Iggulden, Mike 31; Kaspar, Lukas 15) 13:59. 8, Albany-Jensen, Joe 6 (power play) (Johnson, Jamie 33; Hamilton, Jeff 6) 16:26.
Penalties: ALB-Murray, Chris (Roughing), 12:30. WOR-Raduns, Nate (Cross checking), 15:36. WOR-Greiss, Thomas (Hooking), 16:17. WOR-Evans, Brennan (Holding), 19:08.

Shots on goal
Albany 6 3 13--22
Worcester 11 16 8--35

Power Play Conversions: Albany - 1 of 3, Worcester - 3 of 5.
Goalies: Albany-Peters, Justin (59:08, 35 shots, 30 saves; record: 5-2-0). Worcester-Greiss, Thomas (60:00, 22 shots, 19 saves; record: 16-12-4).
A: 3688. Referee: Pochmara, Brian. Linesmen: Cherrey, Scott; Whittemore, Todd


Blackhawks vs Sharks, simultaneous bi-coastal liveblog from San Jose and Chicago

From Sharkspage headquarters in San Jose, and from Max Giese at the United Center in Chicago, we will be live blogging tonight's San Jose Sharks (38-21-8, 2nd Pacific) at Chicago Blackhawks (33-28-6, 3rd Central) contest.

The Chicago Blackhawks honored greats Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita in a length pre-game ceremony. Former teammates Reg Kerr and Clif Korell were on hand, along with a Blackhawks jersey wearing Doug Wilson, and Chicago Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz and president John McDonough. Television analyst and former Blackhawk Ed Olczyk introduced Bobby "the greatest left wing of all-time" Hull (#9) and 2-time Hart Trophy MVP, and 4-time Art Trophy winner Stan Mikita (#21).

Hull mentioned upon returning to Chicago "If you hang around long enough, you get a second kick at the cat." Stan Mikita welcomed the new younger Chicago Blackhawks with the new Blackhawks motto, "We are with you, win or tie". Jeremy Roenick and Jonathan Toews participate in the ceremonial puck drop with Mikita and Hull.

The Sharks are hot on a 7-game winning streak, vaulting over the potential first round playoff opponent Anaheim for 4th place in the Western Conference. The Sharks (38-21-8) are 3 points behind the Pacific Division leading Dallas Stars (41-24-5) with 3 games in hand. The Chicago Blackhawks (33-28-6) are on the outside of the playoff hunt in 11th place with 72 points. Chicago has a game in hand on 9th place Nashville (76 points) and 10th place (73 points) Phoenix, and they remain only 4 points behind 8th place Vancouver (76 points).

Starting lineup for San Jose: Michalek, Thornton, Roenick, Campbell, Murray, Nabokov. Starting lineup for Chicago: Sharp, Bourque, Barker, Williams, Hendry, Lalime. Scratches for San Jose: Matt Carle, Alexei Semenov, Sandis Ozolinsh, Tomas Plihal. Scratches for Chicago: Brent Sopel, Martin Havlat, Andrei Zyuzin, Dave Bolland, Nikolai Khabibulin.

3:35 - The offensive fireworks start early. After a scramble for the puck on a Blackhawks power play, left wing Patrick Sharp gains possession behind the Sharks goal line. Sharp drives to the front of the net and tries to stuff home a shot. Puck off of Nabokov's pads, rebound in front. Defenseman Brent Seabrook hammers home a goal to open the scoring for Chicago, 1-0 Blackhawks.

3:52 - Less than 20 seconds later, Jonthan Cheechoo answers for the San Jose Sharks. Joe Thornton with the puck behind the Chicago Blackhawks net, finds Cheechoo in front of the net. Cheechoo's hot streak, 7 goals in the last 9 games, can be directly attributable to Jonathan's ability to find open spaces on the ice. It took time for him to fully recover from double hernia surgery in the offseason, and he is starting to peak at the optimal time for the San Jose Sharks.

12:45 - Even strength goal by Kyle McLaren gives the Sharks their first lead of the game at 2-1. McLaren scored on a wrist shot from 30 feet out, assists by Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo.

14:14 - Too many men on the ice penalty for San Jose, Chicago is starting to ramp up the pressure with the man advantage. 6-foot-3, 246 pound defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was a force during the Blackhawks last visit to HP Pavilion, hitting everything that moved. Hard to concentrate on the action on the ice, famed organist Frank Pelico is providing background music. Been a long time since I have heard an actual organist instead of a recording.

17:32 - Big hit by Kyle McLaren on left wing #55 Ben Eager. Eager limps off the ice, and then is directly helped into the lockerroom by the Chicago staff.

18:09 - Defenseman Duncan Keith ties the game at 2-2 for the Chicago Blackhawks with a low point shot. Scratch that, officials give Jonathan Toews the goal on a deflection in front. Low point shot from Keith is deflected by Toews past Evgeni Nabokov's just inside the left post. Toews (#19) and Andrew Ladd (#16) drove to the front of the net, while the two Sharks covering the play were caught on the outside. The goal for Toews was his 19th of the season.

0:39 - On his first shift of the second period, Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook registers two hits on Sharks forwards Milan Michalek and Joe Pavelski.

5:54 - Duncan Keith and Torrey Mitchell skate hard towards a puck shot at the net. Lalime freezes the puck, but Mitchell runs Keith into the boards. Duncan Keith responds with two gloved lefts, and both teams converge behind the net for an extended tussle. Byfuglien and Grier pair off, but there are no fights. Brent Seabrook is awarded a 2 minute Roughing penalty, drawn by Patrick Rissmiller. Sharks will skate on the power play.

6:14 - 18 seconds into the power play, Milan Michalek is called for holding defenseman Jordan Hendry. Hendry is skating behind his own net with position to clear the puck up the boards, and Michalek grabs his far shoulder from behind in a pretty obvious manner. Not a good penalty. 4-on-4 for a minute 42.

7:36 - Video drops out on my online feed of the game, but the audio does not. Two Sharks try to hit a defenseman James Wisniewski but are knocked to the ice instead. Several other hits follow, Cam Barker hits Ehrhoff, Grier hits Wisniewski, Byfuglien hits Rivet, Bickell hits Goc. Have to take a look at the hit totals during a break in play. Video back, but each hit registered a notible thump via the audio.

11:21 - Sharks 6-foot-3, 240 pound defenseman Douglas Murray drops the gloves with 6-foot, 200 pound defenseman James Wisniewski. Both players shed their gloves and helmets at center ice, circle around, and Murray proceeds to try to shove Wisniewski over the boards and onto the Blackhawks bench. He releases his grip, and lands a huge right hand on Wisniewski. Each player trades a few shots, but Murray finished using his size and reach advantage to land a couple long rights while Wisniewski is still tied up. Loud cheer from the crowd as both players head to the box.

14:31 - Even strength goal by Sharks captain Patrick Marleau. Marleau has 4 goals in his last 3 games, including a 3-game goal scoring streak. Patrick Marleau took an entry pass into the Blackhawks defensive zone, cut to his left and snapped a shot home from 40 feet out. Marleau's 14th of the season, assists by rookie Devin Setoguchi and NHL sophmore Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Sharks lead 3-2. Soft goal allowed by Lalime.

16:35 - Blackhawks television crew breaks down the Sharks offense with the telestrator. Chicago blocks a direct pass in the neutral zone, so Patrick Rissmiller banks a pass off of the side boards for Torrey Mitchell. Mitchell accelerates to catch up to the puck, and he registers a shot on Patrick Lalime.

19:36 - Chicago right wing Adam Burish crashes into a mass of humanity to get a shot on net, and loses his helmet in the process. Save mass of bodies. Jonathan Toews wins the last faceoff of the second period against Joe Thornton, but the Blackhawks can not get a shot on net before time expires. Both teams head into the locker room with the Sharks up 3-2 after 2.

3:00 - Strong forecheck by the Chicago Blackhawks pressures the Sharks as they try to carry the puck up ice. Eventually results in a turnover by San Jose in the neutral zone.

3:35 - Sharks answer with a strong forecheck of their own after losing a offensive zone faceoff. Jonathan Cheechoo pastes a Blackhawk up against the glass with a solid hip check, and Joe Thornton took control of the puck and skated back behind the Chicago net. #19 Thornton, 6-foot-4 235 pounds, is futily checked by #19 Jonathan Toews 6-2 200 pounds. Toews tries to reach around the much larger Thornton and poke the puck free. Does not work, Thornton holds on to the puck for 20 seconds behind the Chicago net, before passing it out wide.

7:50 - Playing the puck, Evgeni Nabokov sends it two feet from the goalline through the crease. Loud ooohh from the United Center crowd.

11:03 - After several minutes of end to end action, good speed on display up front for Chicago, solid defensive zone coverage on display from San Jose. First stoppage of play in 6 minutes and one second.

12:00 - Announced crowd of 21,908 fans at the United Center in Chicago. Chicago is 21st in NHL home attendance, averaging 15,739 fans (76.8%) through 32 home games. Blackhawks averaged 12,727 fans at home in 2007, and 13,318 fans at home in 2006. The Sharks are 14th in NHL home attendance, averaging 17,393 fans (99.4) through 34 home games. The United Center is listed at a 20,500 maximum capacity for attendance, 1,408 less than the number of fans in attendance for tonight's game. HP Pavilion in San Jose holds a maximum of 17,496 fans.

17:00 - Rene Bourque intercepts a pass in the neutral zone and instantly accelerates on the attack. Center Jason Williams and left wing Rene Bourque battle to maintain possession of the puck down low in the corner. A pass to a 3-person umbrella up top results in a point shot that rebounds off traffic. Williams and Bourque can not get a stick on the loose puck before play is whistled dead.

18:45 - Time running out on Chicago, San Jose intercepts a pass in the neutral zone and dump it in the opposite corner.

19:28 - Chicago Blackhawks head coach Denis Savard pulls Lalime for the extra attacker. Sharp and Bourque are controlling the puck in the corner, where Chicago outnumbers the Sharks 4-to-2 along the boards. The puck is moved out in front, and Dustin Byfuglien wrists a shot that will sail about a foot wide left of the net. Rene Bourque punches the puck past Nabokov from the side of the net, and the goal horn starts a raucous celebration by the fans on Mikita-Hull night. Several camera shots of fans going wild, Blackhawks head coach Denis Savard jumps off the bench and pumps his arms facing the crowd behind him.

But wait, there is a flag on the field metaphorically. A referee skates in from the corner waiving his arms, and then skates directly for the phone to signal a video review from the Toronto head office. After a very long review, referees waive off the goal and Chicago huddles around their bench trying to regroup with 30 seconds left in the game.

19:30 - With Lalime pulled, the Sharks stuff three breakout attempts by Chicago in the neutral zone to end the game. Sharks defensive forward Mike Grier almost creates a breakaway opportunity with a hard challenge at the blueline. The Sharks earn their 8th straight win, the NHL-leading 38th win for goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, the 200th win of his NHL career. Sharks win 3-2.


Sharks stretch win streak to 7 games, Patrick Marleau scores twice in 3-2 OT win over Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators goaltender Martin Gerber hockey photo
San Jose Sharks defenseman Brian Campbell
San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau Ottawa Senators Antoine Vermette

The two top teams in the Northeast Division are getting a rough introduction into what it means to play in the rough and tumble Pacific. Montreal (36-22-9, 1st Northeast) threw caution into the wind and decided to trade offensive blows with the San Jose Sharks. The Canadiens were effectively "posterized" in the loss, and they will have to re-live Brian Campbell's 360 spin-o-rama goal and Jonathan Cheechoo's undressing of Josh Gorges for many years to come in hockey highlight videos.

The vaunted Ottawa Senators (37-24-7, 2nd Northeast) faired no better. After being manhandled by Anaheim in a Stanley Cup Finals rematch on Monday, losing captain and leading scorer Daniel Alfredsson to a lower back injury in the process, the Senators failed to hold on to a late third period lead in a 3-2 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks.

Dropping like a stone in the standings losing 9 of 13 games in February, Ottawa fired head coach John Paddock last Wednesday and replaced him with former coach/current general manager Bryan Murray. On NHL Live radio, TSN analyst Bob McKenzie said inconsitent play and the mishandling of goaltender Ray Emery were two major factors in the decision. Emery has been a distraction to the team showing up late for practices, also creating an avalanche of negative press outside of the rink.

The Sens needed to regroup and come out with a solid road win against San Jose. Ottawa dictated the play for the first five minutes of the game according to Sharks head coach Ron Wilson, but then San Jose began to assert itself on both sides of the ice. A second period turnover in the defensive zone by Douglas Murray lead to the first goal of the game for Ottawa. Before the Sharks could even reverse direction, Dany Heatley hit a driving Jason Spezza at the side of the net to make the score 1-0 Ottawa. No chance for a sprawling Evgeni Nabokov on the play.

The Sharks outshot Ottawa 18-13 after two periods, and started the third period on the man advantage after a carryover hooking penalty on Mike Fisher. Brian Cambpell drove the puck deep down the left wing, and hit Patrick Marleau with a hard pass in the slot. Marleau beat Martin Gerber with a one-timer high gloveside to tie the game at 1-1. The Senators were given a key power play opportunity of their own late in the third period. Left wing Nick Foligno dropped to the ice after incidental contact with Christian Ehrhoff. The crowd roared its displeasure after the big video screen replayed the phantom tripping call. The Sens wasted no time, Jason Spezza tipped a point shot by Cory Stillman past Nabokov to give Ottawa a 2-1 lead with 7:10 remaining in the third period. A win would have stopped the Sharks streak at 6 games, and taken a little heat off of the intense media scrutiny surrounding the team.

A confident Sharks team kept pressing the action forward. With less that 3 minutes remaining in the game, the Sharks top line of Milan Michalek, Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo breaks into the Ottawa zone. Michalek dishes the puck on the left wing to Thornton but the Sens outnumber the Sharks 4-to-3. Thornton snaps a pass through traffic to a streaking Jonathan Cheechoo. Cheechoo extends his stick and deflects the game tying goal by Gerber high gloveside. The crowd at HP Pavilion explodes after the goal. The Sharks continue the offensive pressure for the remainder of the period, outshooting Ottawa 11-5 in the third.

Fans at HP Pavilion are a little wary of opposing teams stealing games in overtime, or with OT shootout wins, but the Sharks look like a completely different team with Campbell on the blueline. Campbell has shown versatility in his first few games as a Shark, quickly moving the puck up ice with a hard first pass, leveling Gilbert Brule with an open ice check, or repeatedly skating end-to-end to distribute the puck from behind an opponents net. It almost seems as if he is showing the coaching staff, his teammates, and fans the range of what he can do on the ice before settling into a consistent role. Or he could be a defenseman like Sandis Ozolinsh, where you never know what is going to happen when he touches the puck.

On an overtime rush into the Ottawa Senators zone, Joe Pavelksi jumps on a loose puck, takes it behind the net and pulls up. Pavelski hits Marleau in front as Gerber sets up at the post for a wraparound. The Sharks captain Patrick Marleau buries the shot for his second goal of the game, extending the Sharks winning streak to 7 games. Evgeni Nabokov (37-20-7) made 17 saves on 19 shots, earning his 37th win of the season. Ottawa Senators goaltender Martin Gerber (24-12-3) stopped 27 of 30 shots.

A photo gallery from the game is available here. Youtube video highlights from the game are available here. This post was written while listening to Scary by Japanese metal band The Mad Capsule Markets.

[Update] Updated the media and blog links from the Montreal game.


Brian Campbell and Carey Price post-game interviews

San Jose Sharks defenseman Brian Campbell spoke with reporters in the locker room after a 6-4 win over the Montreal Canadiens in his first home game at HP Pavilion. Campbell talked about a spin-o-rama he dropped on Montreal defenseman Mike Komisarek before backhanding a shot on net for a late third period goal. Campbell also mentioned a missed opportunity shooting the puck directly into the goaltender's body on a 5-on-3 power play.

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price discussed Campbell's spin-o-rama, being run over by Sharks captain Patrick Marleau, and Jody Shelley's seeing eye deflection which deflected off traffic and found an opening top shelf.

Brian Campbell's post-game comments to the media after his HP Pavilion debut:

It is not something I am going out there and trying to do. It's a move that is successful in getting away from traffic. Either coming up the ice, it depends, it has to work right. Guys have to come at me right, and I have to have a little time. It's the first time I scored on it though. I will usually do it sometimes in my own end. Joe gae me a nice hard pass, so I had a little more time.

I love (playing at HP Pavilion). The crowd was loud. It was almost like a playoff atmosphere. I have been really, really surprised, in a good way. I am very happy with the situation right now.

The 5-on-3 really frustrated me that we did not get one there. We had a couple good chances, I had a couple good chances. We have to find a way to get those goals. All in all, I just have to go out and play my game... It's nice to win, and it's nice to score, but we have to keep rolling. We have some games in hand.

[Update] Regarding Campbell the San Jose crowd chanted "sign him, sign him, sign him" after the game. The Montreal Canadiens fans in attendance attempted to get a "Lets go Habs" chant going at the end of the second period, and again at the start of the third, but they were met by a hail of boo's.

[Update2] Video of Brian Campbell's 360 spin-o-rama goal in the final minutes of the third period is available here. Thanks to James Mirtle for the link.

Sharks hammer Eastern Conference leading Montreal Canadiens 6-4 in one of the most entertaining games of the year

San Jose Sharks defenseman Brian Campbell
Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price

The Sharks 6-4 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night may outshine the offensive wizardry displayed by the Detroit Red Wings in January, and Evgeni Nabokov's Stonewall Jackson impersonation February 8th against Columbus for the title of the most entertaining game played at HP Pavilion this season.

The fireworks between two of the top teams in their respective conferences started early. Patrick Marleau streaked down the left wing and gave the puck to Matt Carle at center ice. Marleau beat Montreal defenseman Mike Komisarek wide left, took the pass in stride, and beat Carey Price with a short backhand from the top of the crease. Tomas Plekanec answered with the first of two goals on the night with a strong individual effort. Plekanec won the faceoff and drove to the front of the crease. Plekanec buried a pass by Andrei Kastsitsyn.

Joe Thornton gained possession of the puck behind the Montreal net after a wide Craig Rivet shot bounced off of the boards. Thornton thought a little bit, waiting for Price to cover the post, and banked one off of his back a la Wayne Gretzky for the Sharks second goal of the game. With traffic in front of Evgeni Nabokov, Montreal defenseman Ryan O'Brien tied the game at 2-2 on a point shot 17:27 of the first.

The Sharks fans in attendance at HP Pavilion were louder in bursts than at possibly any other game this season. A shot by Thornton deflects off of Price and drops on the goal line. The Sharks outnumber defenseman Roman Hamrlik 2-to-1, but Hamrlik pokes the puck wide at the last second. Marleau runs over Carey Price in net, and he picks himself off of the prone Canadiens goaltender and sets up in front of the crease. Price gets to his feet, and does not have time to get set before a second point shot by Thornton finds the back of the net.

The physical play picks up as Thornton levels Maxim Lapierre with an elbow, only to receive a hard check on the other side of the ice in front of the Sharks bench. The next 2 shifts, San Jose head coach Ron Wilson answers the physical play by putting Jody Shelley on Thornton's line. The crowd gets very loud in anticipation of a fight, but during the faceoff the talking is mostly from the Montreal side. Shelley stood there silently taking notice, but everyone in the arena was waiting to see if Lapierre would step up to the Sharks 6-foot-4, 230 pound enforcer. It did not happen. Later in the game Lapierre took a run at Evgeni Nabokov only to be shoved aside by a combination of Rivet, McLaren and Shelley. No teammates came to the defense of Lapierre, and he noisly skated back to the bench. Plekanec and Jody traded goals at the end of the second period to make the score 4-3 Sharks.

Not to be left out of the highlight reel play from San Jose, Jonathan Cheechoo undressed former teammate Josh Gorges with a beautiful move in the Montreal zone. Cheechoo pushed the puck passed Gorges on the right, and pulled up to pass Gorges on the left. A quick acceleration and Cheechoo beats Carey Price up high over the glove for the game winner. Crowd goes simply beserk on the play. Both teams are trading numerous offensive chances, but the Sharks kill off 7-of-7 power plays for the game (Montreal scored shortly after 1 expired). Montreal has a 2-on-1 that turns into a 2-on-0 after Brian Campbell falls down. Maxim Lapierre scores, with assists by Mark Streit and Bryan Smolinski.

Then for the offensive coup de grace, Brian Campbell awed the fans at HP Pavilion with a 360 spin-o-rama goal to give the Sharks a 6-4 win over the Eastern Conference leading Montreal Canadiens. Joe Thornton hit Campbell at center ice with a hard pass from the side boards. Campbell accelerated into the Montreal zone to the left of Mike Komisarek. Campbell spun a complete circle to his left, and Komisarek was caught flat footed. Campbell fired a backhand by Carey Price far-side. Amazing goal in his HP Pavilion debut for San Jose.

A photo gallery from the game is available here. Youtube video highlights from the game are available here.

[Update] Habs Inside Out notes that many Montrealers were asleep prior to the late West Coast start time, but that many Canadiens appeared in dreamland on the ice. Pat Hickey follows that with Canadiens lose their way in San Jose for the Montreal Gazette, and reports on the strong game by Montreal center Tomas Plekanec. The Globe and Mail published an AP recap from the Montreal loss, Habs fall victim to the Sharks. A read of the post-game comments on TSN show a similar theme, the defense and Carey Price looked shaky in the loss.

Sharks win sixth in row, 6-4 over Montreal, Campbell dazzling in his home debut, San Jose makes it six wins in a row - San Jose Mercury News.

Post-game video reports from RDS are available here, here and here (in French). San Jose has its own version of RDS in local station NBC-11. It was announced recently that NBC-11 sports host Raj Mathai and reporter Daryl Hawks will air a Sharks pregame webcast prior to every home game. Raj's Montreal-Sharks pregame webcast is available here.

And finally, Canadiens Magazine catches up with Calgary-born, Montreal-raised actress Elisha Cuthbert. Cuthbert mentions being a season ticket holder when living in Los Angeles, 24 co-star Kiefer Sutherland ordering NHL Center Ice on the set, that she is impressed with the play of Canadiens forward Alexei Kovalev, and that her favorite player is Joe Sakic.

[Update2] Sharks 6, Canadiens 4 - A Theory of Ice.

- The Sharks PK is a thing of beauty. They didn’t just kill our advantages, they assassinated them. Like ninjas. Huge, hulking, turquoise ninjas.

[Update3] Thoughts on the signing of Brian Campbell from Max Giese:

Just What the Doctor Ordered

San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson hit a home-run with the trade deadline acquisition of Brian Campbell from the Buffalo Sabres. Much like the trade for Joe Thornton, Campbell immediately paid dividends by not only creating much needed offense from the back-end, but by also making players around him better. It is truely a testament of his abilities that Campbell has been able to join the offensively challenged Sharks and provide an instant offensive spark 5-on-5 and on the power play.

Before the Sharks paid the hefty price of young power forward Steve Bernier and a first round selection in the deep 2008 draft, the Sharks might have been considered a pretender in the Western Conference. A team with an impressive record, but inconsistent play on the ice. The Sharks defensive core were doing a steady job in their own end, but were struggling to make plays happen with the puck. Even a first pass out of their own end appeared to be a daunting task. The power play was anemic and predictable, with no offensive production from the back-end. The Sharks were a team thirsty for offense, and they seemed incapable of finding it from within, even with Ron Wilson juggling lines on a nightly basis.

Brian Cambpell is the first legitimate #1 defenseman, and the first creative power play quarterback the Sharks have possibly ever had. His skating is phenomenal, with lightning quick feet and the ability to accelerate effortlessly. Highly skilled with the ability to turn on a dime, Campbell already flashed his offensive creativity with his brilliant 360 spin-o-rama goal against Montreal. Campbell sees the ice extremely well, and is capable of generating offense in transition or while working the point from the passing game. Cambell is a proven-playoff performer capable of surprising the opposition with a bone jarring open-ice hit (just ask R.J. Umburger, or more recently Gilbert Brule).

The most vital attribute that Campbell brings to the Sharks line-up is his ability to make players around him better. Since his arrival, the Sharks have been able to find secondary scoring and the ice has opened for forwards up front. Other defenseman such as Craig Rivet, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Chritian Ehrhoff can focus on what they do best, shutting down the opposition. Much like Joe Thornton instantly transformed Jonathan Cheechoo into one of the games most feared snipers, a similar transition will take place with Campbell pressing the offense forward.

The Sharks are no longer a team that relies too heavily on goaltending and stingy defense, now they are a more versatile team. Brian Campbell put the Sharks over the top as a legitimate Stanley Cup Finals contender coming out of the Western Conference. Team Teal is more capable of hanging with Dallas, Anaheim, and Detroit, instead of serving as second or third round playoff fodder. Now all that Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has to do is re-sign Brian Campbell long-term before the offseason bidding war for him in the offseason begins in earnest.


Montreal Canadiens pre-game practice photos

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price
Montreal Canadiens pre-game practice photos
San Jose Sharks goaltender Brian Boucher

After the trade of starting goaltender Cristobal Huet to Washington at the trade deadline, Montreal's Carey Price (15-9-3, .914SV%, 2.67GAA) stormed out of the gate as the team's new #1 netminder. Price reeled off three consecutive wins against Atlanta, Buffalo and New Jersey, stopping 88 of 92 shots in the process. The streak has helped boost the Canadiens into a tie with Pittsburgh for the Eastern Conference lead, one point behind the faltering Ottawa Senators. Talented Jaroslav Halak, two years removed from a stint with the now defunct Long Beach Ice Dogs of the ECHL, will serve as the backup to Price in Montreal.

At practice this morning the Montreal Canadiens started with a brief skate, and 3-man 3-puck breakaways on each goaltender. The Canadiens focused on breaking the puck into the zone with 2-on-0 breakaways, pressing the puck up ice after turnovers at the blueline, and criss crossing 2-on-1's into the zone. Montreal finished with half speed royal rumble drill. 3 players tried to break in and create a scoring chance on 7 opponents. A large goalie at 6-foot-3 226 pounds, the 20-year-old Carey Price looked sharp and focused during the morning drills.

David Pollak posts about the San Jose Sharks morning practice on his blog Working the Corners. Pollak notes that defenseman Douglas Murray and Kyle McLaren, who sat out the game against St Louis with the flu and a sore knee, were on the ice at practice this morning and prepared to play tonight against Montreal. It will be a game time coach's decision.

[Update] Kevin Mio of Habs Inside and Out previews tonight's contest against the San Jose Sharks, noting that Montreal is among the top 3 NHL teams in scoring averaging 3.11 goals per game. Dave Stubbs adds that it has been a remarkably normal week for Price after taking over the #1 role for the Canadiens. In the Montreal Gazette, Stubbs covers the weight of expectations laid on Price this week by the media in Montreal.

Canadiens' visit special for Sharks' Mitchell, Greenfield Park native adored Habs. Forward's parents are in San Jose for game - Montreal Gazette.

[Update2] Toute une commande a San Jose - RDS (video report from outside HP Pavilion in French).

[Update3] Vlasic satisfait de sa deuxième saison - La Presse (link to Google english translation, translated title "Vlasic satisfied with his second season").

[Update4] Sharks have blue-ribbon player on the blue line, Sharks' Campbell makes home debut - San Jose Mercury News.

At last week's NHL trade deadline, Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson looked to the 28-year-old defenseman as the missing piece needed to jump-start a struggling offense and power play. Tonight, the HP Pavilion crowd gets its first look at Campbell in teal when the Sharks face Montreal in their first home game in nearly three weeks.

The San Jose Mercury News is facing another round of layoffs (LA Times registration required) this Friday. Make sure to send an email, or leave a comment for an author/editor and thank them for their coverage of local sports.

[Note] Publishing on Sharkspage has been limited due to server problems with Blogger. This is a test post. Once we can make sure things are back to normal, posts in the queue from me in San Jose and Darryl in Worcester will be published. Thanks for your patience.


Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Defeat Manchester, 2-1

The Worcester Sharks, behind the solid goaltending of Thomas Greiss, crept back into the playoff race with a 2-1 win against the Manchester Monarchs Friday night in front of 7,048 boisterous fans at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Unlike previous games between these two division rivals, the first period started off slow as both teams felt each other out. Just shy of the midpoint of the period, WorSharks seldom used forward Jonathan Tremblay and Manchester winger Paul Crosty introduced themselves to each other just outside the WorSharks zone. Crosty may have landed the first clean shot, but it was the only one he got as Tremblay landed blow after blow until Crosty took him to the ice.

For the first time in nine meetings this season between the two clubs the score remained scoreless after one period.

That would change midway through the second period when Tom Cavanagh was whistled for a high sticking major while attempting to lift the stick of John Zeiler off the puck, and connecting with the blade of his stick just under Zeiler's visor. Jeff Likens would connect on a 40' blast that went just over Greiss' glove and just under the crossbar for a 1-0 Manchester lead.

Less than a minute after the Likens' tally Ashton Rome would be called for hooking, giving the Monarchs a full two minute five on three. The WorSharks played an almost flawless penalty kill for those two minutes, making timely blocks of long range shots and taking advantage of several miscues to ice the puck relieving pressure.

For the shots that did make it through, Greiss made several nice pad saves and controlled every rebound, not giving the Monarchs a second chance.

Worcester would tie the game at 1-1 on their next power play chance when Derek Joslin blasted a loose puck wide of the Monarchs net, off of a Manchester defenseman, and past a sprawling Jonathan Quick at 17:23.

Early in the third period, Tremblay would return to the ice for his third shift of the game, and he re-introduced himself to Kevin Westgarth. The battle was their third of the season, and like the previous battles the two were pretty evenly matched. "Home town" scoring called the battle a draw; this writer gives the edge to Westgarth.

The game winner would come from Cavanagh 75 seconds after the Tremblay/Westgarth scrap when he redirected a J.D. Forrest from the point and just inside the left post.

The WorSharks would hold on through the remaining 16+ minutes, including 95 seconds with Manchester skating with an extra attacker, for the 2-1 final pulling them within nine points of Springfield (with four games in hand) for the final playoff spot.

Worcester scratches were Marc Busenburg (healthy), TJ Fox (flu), and Mike Morris (long term injury).

Worcester announced their Clear Day roster Thursday, which is a list of the players that are eligible to play for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs. Because of the ease of adding players to this list it is one of the silliest things the AHL does each season. The players on the Clear Day roster are: Thomas Greiss
Dimitri Patzold
Riley Armstrong
Mark Busenburg
Tom Cavanagh
Brennan Evans
J.D. Forrest
T.J. Fox
Mike Iggulden
Derek Joslin
Lukas Kaspar
Graham Mink
Mike Morris
Dennis Packard
Nate Raduns
Ashton Rome
Devin Setoguchi
Dan Spang
Brad Staubitz
Patrick Traverse
Craig Valette
Tom Walsh

The opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics Massachusetts Winter Games were held prior to the start of the game, and the WorSharks wore commemorative jerseys that were auctioned off during the game. Several more jerseys will be auctioned off starting March 9 on sharksahl.com.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Greiss
2. Cavanagh
3. Likens
My vote would have been Greiss; Armstrong; Forrest.

Even Strength Lines
Rome skated with the 2nd and third lines.
Tremblay played three shifts


Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Faceoffs (offense/neutral/defense = total) (unofficial)
Armstrong 2-1/1-1/4-2 = 7-4
Cavanagh 4-1/2-4/5-5 = 11-10
Valette 3-0/3-3/8-1 = 14-4
Raduns 0-1/0-0/0-1 = 0-2
Rome 0-0/1-0/1-0 = 2-0
Kaspar 0-0/0-0/1-0 = 1-0
Packard 0-0/0-0/1-1 = 1-1
Iggulden 0-0/0-0/0-1 = 0-1

Manchester 0 1 0--1
Worcester 0 1 1--2

1st Period
Scoring: None.
Penalties: WOR-Evans, Brennan (High sticking), 1:54. MCH-Crosty, Paul (Fighting, Major), 9:05. WOR-Tremblay, Jonathan (Fighting, Major), 9:05. MCH-Boyle, Brian (Hooking), 14:45.

2nd Period
Scoring: 1, Manchester-Likens, Jeff 1 (power play) (Hersley, Patrik 6; Cliche, Marc-Andre 3) 10:59. 2, Worcester-Joslin, Derek 7 (power play) (Iggulden, Mike 28; Forrest, J.D. 2) 17:23.
Penalties: MCH-Crosty, Paul (High sticking), 2:34. WOR-Forrest, J.D. (Hooking), 5:02. WOR-Cavanagh, Tom (High sticking, Major), 9:54. WOR-Rome, Ashton (Hooking), 11:54. MCH-Kanko, Petr (Hooking), 16:30.

3rd Period
Scoring: 3, Worcester-Cavanagh, Tom 14 (game winner) (Kaspar, Lukas 14; Forrest, J.D. 3) 3:35.
Penalties: MCH-Westgarth, Kevin (Fighting, Major), 2:20. WOR-Tremblay, Jonathan (Fighting, Major), 2:20.

Shots On Goal
Manchester 10 10 9--29
Worcester 6 5 6--17

Power Play Conversions: Manchester - 1 of 4, Worcester - 1 of 3.
Goalies: Manchester-Quick, Jonathan (58:07, 17 shots, 15 saves; record: 1-2-1). Worcester-Greiss, Thomas (60:00, 29 shots, 28 saves; record: 14-11-4).
A: 7048. Referee: Smith, Jeff. Linesmen: Low, Chris; Millea, Chris.