Tuesday, January 31, 2012

All-Star broke: Jets slip by Flyers in shootout

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

The Philadelphia Flyers are a proud organization with a long history of tough play at all areas of the rink. But the mysteries of the shootout are apparently on par with the Riddle of the Sphinx.

In the club's first game back from the All-Star break, it was the Winnipeg Jets who managed to escape with another one-goal victory, but this time it was a 2-1 decision in the shootout on Tuesday night.

After five previous shooters came up empty, Bryan Little managed to end the game with the final shot of the third round, slipping a shot between the legs of Ilya Bryzgalov.

“I just decided to give him a little fake and see if it might open up again, so it worked," said Little. "I think you have an advantage when you go third because you get to watch the replay of what the goalie does each time the guy shoots, so I definitely made my decision based on that."

When they find themselves in times of trouble, it falls upon the chief to try and provide some answers, but none were forthcoming as Philly fell to 1-4 this year in the breakaway competition.

"We score a lot of goals every year. We're one of the highest-scoring teams and I'm not sure I have an answer for it," said Philly head coach Peter Laviolette. "I think we have enough talent."

Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr -- all capable hands around the net -- all failed to dent Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec, who stopped 27-of-28 shots in regulation.

"He's generated offense his whole life and I wanted to change it up, try a few different players," Laviolette said about his decision to place the 39-year-old last in the sequence.

Chris Thorburn was the only Winnipeg player to score in the first 65 minutes, but there was enough in the tank to give the franchise its sixth straight win here since January of 2009.

Bryzgalov acquitted himself well and came up one stop short, eventually a game where he halted 23-of-24 shots will go on his ledger despite the loss.

The frantic action and non-stop offense which defined the first two games in this four-contest season series was nowhere to be found early on. No shots on goal were recorded for either team through game's first 10-plus minutes.

A break for the hosts came with 6:28 left in the opening period. Scott Hartnell, fresh off his goal-scoring tear two weekends ago and an All-Star berth of two assists, goaded Thorburn into a retaliation penalty after mercilessly working him over in the right corner.

It led to the game's first score.

Matt Carle swung in from his position at the left point and ripped a shot on goal from near the boards. It hit the left post then the back of Pavelec. All he had to do was lay prone in the crease to stop the puck, but Brayden Schenn keeps digging at the left side of the crease until the puck trickled in with 4:49 to go before intermission.

But Thorburn got his revenge just 2:06 into the middle period, with a sizzling wrister that caught net just inside the crossbar at the near post from the right circle. The tally tied the score and also snapped a 59-game goal drought.

Hartnell could have sent the faithful home happy, but Pavelec slid across to stop his dead-on chance from a Giroux dish with 8:38 remaining in regulation.

The Flyers also survived an ill-advised and ill-timed bench minor taken with 4:18 to play, and received a huge dose of good luck as the clock ticked under one minute to go, as Jets captain Andrew Ladd fell down while staring at a wide open net and his shot caromed off the outside of the cage.

Breath was held once again because of Ladd less than a minute into overtime, but his blast careened off the post and kicked back out into play. Andrej Meszaros also provided a reason to hold it in during the waning seconds, but his open chance from between the circles sailed way high and wide.

Notes: Thorburn's last goal came on March 19 at Buffalo in an 8-2 loss...The last time the Flyers participated in three consecutive shootouts occurred from March 17-24 when they played in four straight shootout-decided games...Jagr picked up an assist in his first action since re-aggravating a groin injury on January 21 at New Jersey...Giroux saw his goal-less streak extended to 12 games...Atlanta/Winnipeg has gone 9-1-0 against Philadelphia since November of 2009, after the franchise snapped a 14-game losing streak to the Orange and Black...Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk took a seat for the Flyers, while Dustin Byfuglien and Evander Kane were out of action for the Jets.

Union lock up Torres

Chester, Pa. (The Phanatic Magazine) - The Philadelphia Union have exercised their option to retain the services of midfielder Roger Torres; completing the transfer of Torres from América de Cali.

Torres had been on loan from the Colombian side for the 2010 and 2011 seasons.   Per Major League Soccer and club policy, terms of the transfer will not be disclosed.

Torres has emerged as one of the league's most exciting young playmakers in his two seasons on loan with Philadelphia. In 46 appearances, including 19 starts, the 20-year-old Colombian has scored three goals and registered eight assists in only 1,889 minutes. All three of Torres' goals came in 2011, including his first MLS goal against the New York Red Bulls in a 1-0 win on April 9.

"We're very happy to keep Roger in Philadelphia and see the benefits of the investment we've made in him," said Union Team Manager Peter Nowak. "Roger has shown the ability to be a valuable playmaker and we look forward to helping him continue his development."

Torres debuted with América de Cali in 2009, starting all 15 games in which he played. In 2008, he played his first professional game with Colombian First-Division-B club Alianza Petrolera.

"I'm thrilled to remain in Philadelphia, where I've become comfortable with my teammates and the coaching staff," Torres said. "I love to play in front of our fans at PPL Park and will continue working hard so I can help the team reach its goals."

Ask Men's Top 99 women of 2012

AskMen.com Top 99 Women

Phillies sign veteran reliever Chad Qualls

The Phillies have signed veteran righthanded reliever Chad Qualls to a one-year deal worth $1.15 million.

The journeyman is an innings eater and has pitched with the Astros, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Tampa Bay Rays and San Diego, toiling in 77 games and going 6-8 with a 3.51 ERA for the Padres last season.

Since 2005, no Major League pitcher has appeared in more games than Qualls (512).

Rutgers tabs Flood to replace Schiano

PISCATAWAY, N.J.  – Rutgers Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Tim Pernetti announced on Tuesday the appointment of Kyle Flood as the 29th head coach at the Birthplace of College Football.

Flood, who served on Rutgers’ coaching staff for the previous seven seasons, assumes the head coaching vacancy created after Greg Schiano resigned his position to become head coach of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

One constant on any coaching staff with Flood is how successful those teams have fared. As an assistant coach, 16 of Flood’s 17 seasons his teams have finished with winning records, including earning a National Championship at Delaware.

The last time Rutgers promoted an assistant coach on staff to the head coaching position was the naming of Frank Burns to replace John Bateman in 1973 — and Burns became the winningest coach in school history.

A highly respected figure in the coaching profession, Flood has served as the assistant head coach of the program since 2008 and has been a key part in Rutgers’ six bowl appearances over his seven-year tenure in Piscataway. In addition to his four years as the assistant head coach, Flood has been in charge of the offensive line since coming to RU in 2005.

Known as an excellent tactician with strong recruiting ties, Flood has served on the coaching staff of the team with the nation’s longest active bowl winning streak at five games. While being part of a program producing victories at a rate unprecedented in Rutgers’ history, Flood has understood the value of academics for the Scarlet Knights. In 2010, Rutgers’ football program ranked first in the nation in Academic Progress Rate and in 2011 the team followed up with the nation’s No. 2 ranking.

During his time 'On the Banks', the Rutgers offensive line has consistently produced top-level talent, including several of which who have gone on to the National Football League. Most recently, Anthony Davis became the highest player ever drafted in Rutgers history as the 11th overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. Davis has started every game of his two-year career with the San Francisco 49ers at right tackle and helped guide the 49ers to the NFC Championship game this season.

In 2011, Flood helped tutor true freshman right tackle Kaleb Johnson into one of the nation’s premier rookie offensive linemen, earning Freshman All-America honors. In addition, senior offensive guard Art Forst collected All-BIG EAST first team honors while senior offensive guard Desmond Wynn was named to the All-BIG EAST second team.

Since arriving at Rutgers, Flood has coached 10 All-BIG EAST first or second team selections on the offensive line, one All-American and two Freshman All-America honorees.

Flood has helped engineer some of the most potent offenses in Rutgers history – evident in a record-breaking 2007 season. The Scarlet Knights' offensive line ranked second in the nation with just 10 sacks allowed in addition to an RU offense that became the first in NCAA history to have a 3,000-yard passer, 2,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers in the same season.

The Rutgers offense was ranked 18th nationally in total offense in 2007. The offensive line featured two of the top tackles in the nation in Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah. Both players earned All-BIG EAST honors and were also invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, with Zuttah becoming a third round selection by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Flood added run game coordinator to his duties in 2007 and his offensive line helped pave the way for All-American running back Ray Rice, who rushed for a school and then-BIG EAST record 2,012 yards that season. Rice went on to become one of the most-recognizable faces in the NFL en route to consecutive Pro Bowl appearances in 2010 and 2011.

In 2006, Flood coached an offensive line that helped Rutgers to one of its most productive seasons as the group relinquished the fewest sacks in the nation with just eight. His unit was regarded as one of the best in the country and featured Cameron Stephenson and Darnell Stapleton, both who played in the NFL. Flood's corps of hard-nosed blockers helped guide Rice to an All-America season, as he finished second in the nation with 1,794 yards.

Flood came to Rutgers after three seasons at the University of Delaware, where he helped the Blue Hens to a 30-11 record, including a 15-1 mark in 2003 en route to the NCAA FCS National Championship and a share of the Atlantic 10 title in 2004. He also served as assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator during his stint.

Prior to his three seasons at Delaware, Flood was offensive line coach at Hofstra from 1997-2001. While at Hofstra, he helped the Pride earn berths in the NCAA FCS playoffs in 1997 and 1999-2001. The Pride were among the top offensive teams in the nation during his tenure, ranking second in total offense, fourth in passing and fifth in scoring in 2001.

Van Gundy vents after latest Magic disappearing act | NBA (AP) | Sports News and Videos on th...

Van Gundy vents after latest Magic disappearing act | NBA (AP) | Sports News and Videos on th...

Union deal Le toux to Vancouver FC

Chester, PA (The Phanatic Magazine) - After a lackluster tryout overseas, the Union's all-time leading scorer Sebastien Le Toux won't be sold to Bolton after all but he also will not be returning to Chester.

Le Toux announced via Twitter that he's been traded to Vancouver.

"Just got traded to Vancouver ! Saddest day for me in my Philadelphia Union story. Still can't believe it," the former All-Star Tweeted.

The Union announced via press release that the trade was for allocation money. Terms of the deal, per MLS rules, were not disclosed.

"While this decision wasn’t easy, we are confident that the allocation money we receive will provide the flexibility for us to compile the best possible roster for 2012 and beyond," said Team Manager Peter Nowak. "Sebastien has been a valuable member of our team for two years and we thank him for his many contributions to the club."

Le Toux scored 26 goals and had 17 assists in 64 games over the Union's first two seasons. He is the second high-profile player to leave the club in as many days after the team allowed All_Star goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon to sign with Colombian team Deportivo Cali.

"We feel that in the best interest of our club these decisions need to be made for our short and long-term benefit," said Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz. "Although we achieved great success making it to the semifinals of the playoffs last year we are not in any way content with that. We operate in a highly competitive and demanding marketplace and we believe the moves we have made and continue to make improve our roster and give us a better chance to advance past the semifinals. We thank Sebastien for his significant contributions both on and off the field and wish him the best in Vancouver."

Video: Blake Griffin's Dunk of the Year

Monday, January 30, 2012

Union officially releases Mondragon

Chester, Pa.  – The Philadelphia Union and goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon announced that the they have mutually decided to part ways, allowing for the veteran to return to his native Colombia and play for Colombian First Division team Deportivo Cali.

The 40-year-old Mondragon made his professional debut with Cali in 1990 at the age of 21.

“It has been an absolute honor and a privilege to be part of the Union family,” said Mondragon.  “My time in Philadelphia has proven to be unforgettable, and I am tremendously proud of having led the team for what proved to be a successful 2011.

"We achieved most of our goals and continued the club's growth into becoming the best club in MLS.  For family reasons, I have requested the club to allow me the opportunity to finish my career where it started.  I am extremely thankful with our fans, especially Sons of Ben, the best fans in MLS, our ownership, technical staff, my teammates and everyone in the city of Philadelphia whom always made me feel at home and made the 2011 season one I will never forget.  I look forward to coming back to PPL Park as an avid fan and part of the Union family.  I wish the club continued success.”

Mondragon signed with the Union on January 20, 2011 on a free transfer from FC Cologne of the German Bundesliga and immediately helped to transform the Union into one of the league's top defensive units in '11.

Given the captain’s armband at the beginning of the season, he started in 27 matches and posted a 62% save percentage with seven clean sheets.  Mondragon became the Union’s second straight All-Star representative, starting against Manchester United in the 2011 midseason showcase.

The 40 year-old fractured his right finger against Real Salt Lake on September 3, sidelining him for seven matches, but returned for the final two matches of the regular season and the Union’s first ever playoff appearance.  Mondragon capped off his stellar season, with a second place finish in 2011 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year voting, behind only Kasey Keller.

“We’d like to thank Faryd for his service to our team and his incredible leadership last season,” said Union Team Manager Peter Nowak.  “We understand that family is important above all else and we decided that it was of the utmost importance to grant him his request of finishing his career with his childhood club.  We wish him the best of luck as he ends his career at Deportivo Cali, the club where he started his career.”

After beginning his professional career with Cali, Mondragon joined several other Colombian teams before landing with Argentinean First Division club Atletico Independiente in 1995. After his time in Colombia and Argentina, he moved to Europe where he starred in Spain’s La Liga (Real Zaragoza FC, 1999), the French Ligue 1 (FC Metz, 2000-‘01), the Turkish First Division (Galatasaray S.K., 2001-’07, won titles in 2002 and 2006), and finally the Bundesliga (FC Cologne, 2007-’10).

The Union open up the 2012 season on March 12th with a nationally televised game against Portland at 9:30 p.m. EST and return home to PPL Park on Sunday, March 18th with a match against the Colorado Rapids at 4:00 p.m.

Report: Union's Mondragon back to Columbia

Colombian soccer league Liga Posotbon reported on its website Monday that Union All-Star goalkeeper Faryd  Mondragon will be returning to Deportivo Cali.

The 40-year-old Mondragon, who began his career with Deportivo in 1990-91,  started 27 games last season, allowing 1.06 goals per game and had a 62 percent save percentage.

If he does in fact leave, second-year goalkeeper Zac Macmath would likely be elevated. The 20-year-old Maryland product was 3--0-3 last year, with a 1.07 goals against average, and a 64 percent save percentage when Mondragon went down with an injury.

Eagles to keep Castillo, hire Bowles

Embattled Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo will return to the team in the same capacity for the 2012 season and will be joined by former Miami Dolphins interim coach Todd Bowles, who will coach the team's cornerbacks.

Castillo made a surprising switch to defensive coordinator last season after 13 seasons coaching the team's offensive linemen and was hardly a success while trying to implement a wide-9 scheme up front with a cover-2 behind it.

Bowles, who coached the Dolphins' secondary before being elevated after Tony Sparano was fired, was 2-1 as Miami's interim coach.

Under Bowles, the Miami defensive backs contributed to a defense that held opposing quarterbacks to a 58.1% completion rate, fifth-best in the AFC and seventh in the league. His tutelage also helped safety Yeremiah Bell earn a Pro Bowl berth in 2009 after reeling in three interceptions.

From 2005-07, Bowles was the secondary coach for the Dallas Cowboys. During that span, Dallas compiled 52 interceptions, tied for third-most in the NFC, and were also the NFC’s fifth-ranked defense, allowing 310.4 yards per game. He coached three defensive backs to five Pro Bowl appearances: safety Roy Williams (2005-07) along with cornerback Terence Newman and safety Ken Hamlin in 2007.

Bowles was a four-year defensive assistant for Cleveland from 2001-04 as the secondary coach (2004) and the defensive nickel package coach (2001-03).  In 2004, the Browns held their opposition to just 181.3 passing yards per game, fifth in the league. Cleveland set a franchise record and led the NFL in 2001 with 33 interceptions, 28 from defensive backs and 10 from rookie Anthony Henry. Bowles made his NFL coaching debut as a defensive backs coach with the New York Jets in 2000, when the team was sixth in the league allowing 183.3 yards per game via the pass.

A native of Elizabeth, NJ, Bowles was a four-year letterman as a defensive back at Temple University (1982-85), and went on to play eight NFL seasons with the Washington Redskins (1986-90, 1992-93) and San Francisco 49ers (1991). He recorded 15 interceptions and two sacks in 117 career games. In addition to his NFL coaching and playing experience, Bowles was a collegiate defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach for three seasons at Grambling State (1998-99) and Morehouse College (1997) as well as a member of Green Bay’s personnel department (1995-96).

Time to take the Sixers' temperature - Sports: NBA | Tri-City Herald : Mid-Columbia news

Time to take the Sixers' temperature - Sports: NBA | Tri-City Herald : Mid-Columbia news

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Crosby, Lemieux and dark echoes pulling towards inevitability

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

I'd like to talk about a young player who set the world on fire during his junior days in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Was the savior of a franchise when he was taken with the first-overall pick in the draft. Made an immediate impact by scoring 100 points on a bad team as a rookie. Had to take his lumps to establish his rep, but complained the whole way about how he was treated.

This guy eventually won a championship with top level talent around him, but saw his most productive years cut short by a variety of injuries and bad luck spreading out like ripples on a windswept pond.

Who am I? Mario Lemieux or Sidney Crosby?

The similarities are too eerie to ignore. That old black magic is creeping upon hockey in the Steel City and it's about to rob Pittsburgh of another link in a potential dynasty.

News released Saturday that Crosby apparently suffered fractures to his C1 and C2 vertebrae in addition to his concussions in January and December pretty much clinched it.

Time and rest won't quite cover it for the 24-year-old out of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. We need to get all voodoo up in here. Chicken blood and chanting to save his body and soul from imminent demise.

Where did it all start? Some old heads who put a ton of stock in respect for the game, capricious gods and testing the bounds of karma cite the second Mario was convinced to wear 66, the upside-down equivalent of Wayne Gretzky's 99.

More fuel to the fire was added as the injuries, primarily a debilitating back issue which flared up during the 1989-90 season and continued to plague him, thanks in large part to the emphasis on body contact and slowing down the pace of the action. At the time it was an ominous message from one of the greats:

"The advantage is to the marginal players now. They can hook and grab, and the good players can't do what they're supposed to do," Le Magnifique pontificated shortly before his first exit from the NHL, decrying the decline in play due to the neutral zone trap. "I talked about all the clutching and grabbing, how it was taking away from the great players in the league. It's to the point where it's not hockey anymore. It's like football on skates."

But it soon was framed as the spoiled Prodigal Son ruining the good will he accumulated by rescuing the league from itself by lacing up the skates once more.

"That's not what we're trying to sell to the fans," Lemieux said weeks into his initial comeback in 2001, complaining about Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire and Minnesota's overly defensive style of play.

Or how about this chestnut in the wake of that great brawl back in February between the Islanders and Penguins: “I just don’t know how anyone could participate in a league where the New York Islanders are allowed to play, in public mind you, against a team with the prestige and dignity of my Pittsburgh Penguins."

And let's not forget the flap over his defense of pre-reformed serial hatchet-man Matt Cooke. He just can't get off that high horse and zip his lips, even when it's obvious he should stop.

Now to Crosby, skittering down the same dark and twisted path as his mentor...

“(Derian) Hatcher got away with one, then the next shift I come out and get another one. I was surprised he got away with two. Obviously (the official) didn’t like what I said, so I got two minutes. My emotions got the best of me. It’s not something I’m going to make a habit of," said Crosby after a rude introduction to Philadelphia hockey in November of 2005.

But he didn't keep his promise.

"I'm not going to sit here and complain about playing in Stanley Cup finals and Olympic gold medal games, that's a good problem to have and you've got to deal with it,'' Crosby said after losing a home Game 7 to Montreal two years ago.

Wait for it..."I was stunned,'' Crosby said of his penalty for driving Josh Gorges into the boards 10 seconds into that contest which led to the Canadiens' first goal in that contest. "I don't know how that's a penalty 10 seconds into the game."

And my personal favorite, on "delaying the game" for hat clean-up: "People kept throwing hats," Crosby said after rival Alex Ovechkin posted a trifecta at home in a 2009 contest. "I was just asking if he could make an announcement to ask them to stop. I mean, the first wave came and then I think they were all pretty much picked up, and then more started coming."

It's like they're Arnold and Danny DeVito from Twins, eh?

Seriously, there is something to be said about accumulated debts and paying what you owe, and about history repeating itself.

Mario, I believe, is still having his account raided for his belief that he should be untouchable with his health in question in the latter part of his early career. and the fact that he had not one, but two aborted comeback attempts in the last decade. Sidney, who as I might point out, lived with Lemieux in his rookie season and was shepherded into the NHL by him, is now past that fork in the road but he's pulled himself down the trail with nothing but dark eyes peering out from behind gnarled trees.

This is not to say I wish either of them harm, but that they should be more acutely aware of the gravitational pull one is having on the other now that their words have an unmistakeable echo.

In any case, the Penguins released a statement on Saturday night, attempting to shed light on the situation:

"The diagnosis of Dr. Robert S. Bray, a neurological spine specialist based in Los Angeles, is that Sidney Crosby had suffered a neck injury in addition to a concussion. Dr. Bray reports that the neck injury is fully healed. Those findings will be evaluated by independent specialists over the next few days. The most important goal all along has been Sidney's return to full health, and we are encouraged that progress continues to be made."

OK. So the neck injury is healed? Great. Nonetheless, something else will come along, just as unexpectedly, but just as serious. It always followed Mario around and the shadows are hovering around Sid.

All it takes for this to clear up is for one or the other -- but preferably both -- to clam up when they feel they've been wronged. They've made their opinions as player and owner well known, now it's time to start quietly working for change.

If not, we'll certainly be shaking our heads not long from now at the prospect of another superstar talent gone from the game way too soon.

Phillies agree with Pence, sign Pierre

The Phillies avoided arbitration with outfielder Hunter Pence on Friday, signing him to a one-year deal worth $10.4 million. The team also inked veteran outfielder Juan Pierre to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Pence, who was acquired from the Houston Astros on July 29, hit .324 with 11 home runs, 12 doubles and knocked in 35 runs in 54 games for the NL East-champion Phillies.

He led the club with a .394 on-base mark and .560 slugging percentage following the deal.

All told, the 28-year-old Pence batted .314 and collected 22 homers, 38 doubles and 97 RBI in 154 games.

In a five-game playoff loss to St. Louis, his first postseason venture, Pence hit a paltry .211 and knocked in four runs over 19 at-bats.

Pierre, 34, finished 2011 with a .279 average, two home runs, 17 doubles and 50 RBI in 158 games for the Chicago White Sox. He added 27 stolen bases, bringing his total to 554 career swipes -- most among active players -- along with four triples and 80 runs scored.

Entering his 13th pro season, the native of Mobile, Alabama is a lifetime .296 hitter who has collected 16 homers, 234 doubles, 86 triples and 484 RBI over 1,751 contests for the Rockies, Marlins, Cubs, Dodgers and ChiSox.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mwanga training with EPL's Aston Villa

Chester, Pa.- Philadelphia Union forward Danny Mwanga has embarked for a 10-day training stint with  English Premier League side Aston Villa, the club announced today. He will join his teammates in Orlando on February 6, in time for the start of the Union’s second leg of preseason.

The Union selected Mwanga as a Generation adidas signee with the first overall selection in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, the first draft pick in club history. After starting the first-ever match in Union history in Seattle on March 25, Mwanga finished his rookie season with seven goals and four assists and was a Rookie of the Year finalist. Mwanga battled minor injuries during his sophomore campaign but finished the season with five goals and four assists 28 matches.

Aston Villa sit in 11th place in the Premier League standings and feature USMNT goalkeeper Brad Guzan and striker Robbie Keane, currently on a six-week loan from the LA Galaxy.

Mwanga is the seventh member of the Union to train abroad this offseason. Midfielder Freddy Adu joined La Liga side Rayo Vallecano, goalkeeper Zac MacMath trained alongside Tim Howard at Everton, Amobi Okugo trained with Bundesliga side SC Freiburgand, 16-year-old Zach Pfeffer trained with Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, Michael Farfan spent two weeks with Sunderland and Sebastien Le Toux recently returned from Bolton.

Eagles make changes in personnel department

The Eagles have named Anthony Patch as Director of College Scouting and Rick Mueller as Player Personnel Executive.

“We are very pleased to promote Anthony and add Rick to our scouting staff,” said Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman. “Anthony has been one of our top talent evaluators during his tenure as a college scout, has great relationships throughout football and is an extremely hard worker. Rick brings a wealth of NFL experience while giving us a new and fresh set of eyes to evaluate incoming talent. They will both play a role in helping us prepare for this offseason of free agency and the draft.”

Patch, 33, spent the last 10 seasons in Philadelphia as a member of the Eagles scouting staff. He first joined the team in 2002 as a college scouting coordinator, was quickly promoted to college scout before being named assistant director of college scouting in 2010. In that role, he assisted Roseman and former director of player personnel and current Indianapolis GM Ryan Grigson in all facets of preparing for the college draft, while still scouting top players across the country.

Mueller is a veteran of 15 NFL seasons with New Orleans (2000-08) and Jacksonville (1994-2000). With the Saints, he served as the club’s vice president of player personnel from 2006-08 and director of player personnel from 2000-2006. He worked as the Jaguars director of college scouting (1998-2000) after a five-year stint as a college scout (1994-98). Altogether, his NFL squads have earned six playoff appearances and advanced to three conference title games.

The 44-year old Mueller most recently spent two seasons as an executive in the UFL, serving as general manager of Omaha in 2010 and as vice president and general manager for all four teams in their inaugural season of 2009. Mueller, whose brother Randy served as an NFL general manager with New Orleans and Miami and now works as a senior executive with San Diego, also has spent time in the CFL in 1993 and with the World League in 1992.

Sixers bring back Elson

PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia 76ers announced today that they have signed free agent center Francisco Elson.

Elson (7-0, 240) has appeared in 467 NBA games with 149 starts while averaging 3.7 points (47.8% FGs, 70.0% FTs) and 3.5 rebounds in 15.4 minutes per game.  In 2006-07, he saw action in 70 games with 41 starts for the NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs.

“We are happy to pick up Francisco Elson, a veteran big man who can help bolster our front court,” Sixers President of Basketball Operations Rod Thorn said.

This is Elson’s second stint with the Sixers.  He was acquired via trade from Milwaukee along with Jodie Meeks in exchange for Primoz Brezec, Royal Ivey and a second round pick on Feb. 18, 2010.  The native of the Netherlands only appeared in one game for the Sixers following the trade but played in 62 games for Utah last season.

Union Forms Strategic Partnership With Deportivo Saprissa

Chester, Pa. - The Philadelphia Union and Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa today announced the formation of a strategic partnership that will focus on player development and training methodology, as well as best practices in commercial, stadium and financial operations.

"Saprissa is one of the most successful clubs in our part of the world,” said Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz. “They have won at every level of club competition, developed some big stars, some of which had storied careers abroad and have fueled the national team with many players such as Josué Martinez, who is now a Philadelphia Union player. They have world-class ownership that truly understands the current international football scene and are aligned with our technical and business philosophies. We are delighted and looking forward to our new partnership.”

The agreement aims to grow both the Union and Saprissa brands in their respective markets and around the world through activities such as a youth technical staff and player exchange program, a yearly soccer clinic in both Philadelphia and San Jose, Costa Rica, and an exhibition match played between the club’s first teams. Philadelphia Union and Deportivo Saprissa merchandise will also be available for purchase in each club’s official team store.

"Philadelphia has, in a very short time, proven to be one of the top MLS institutions,” said Saprissa President Juan Carlos Rojas. “We share similar values in terms of how a sports club should be run and this agreement will allow us to collaborate on many fronts. We are excited about the opportunities that this can provide Saprissa in one of the fastest growing soccer markets in the world."

Saprissa is one of the most successful clubs in CONCACAF and Central America, having won three CONCACAF Champions' Cup titles (1993, 1995 and 2005) and five Central American crowns in 1972, 1973, 1978, 1998 and 2003. The squad has also claimed 29 Primera División de Costa Rica championships, the most of any team in history.

Sixers bring classic theme song back

PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia 76ers CEO and Co-Owner Adam Aron today announced that the team will bring back the famous Sixers anthem “Here Come the Sixers” and play it at home games this season, starting with their games this weekend at the Wells Fargo Center on Friday, January 27 against the Charlotte Bobcats at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday, January 28 against the Detroit Pistons at 7:00 p.m.

“Ever since our new ownership arrived just three months ago, fans have asked us to bring back this classic song. And we have pledged that we will listen to our fans,” said Aron. “We are thrilled to further enhance our game night experience with a touch of nostalgia, and hope Philadelphia will clap their hands and stomp their feet with us as we cheer on our Sixers.”

Union set to open preseason camp

Chester, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union will begin preseason training this week ahead of the 2012 Major League Soccer season, as players arrived in Philadelphia on Wednesday night to undergo entrance medical exams before the first official day of training on Monday, January 30 at YSC Sports Complex in Wayne, Pa.

The team will train at YSC through Friday, February 3rd before heading to Orlando, Florida, February 5-19.

The Union made a number of roster changes in the offseason, picking up Panamanian midfielder Gabriel Gomez, Costa Rican forward Josue Martinez and defender Porfiro Lopez.  In addition, the club acquired Nizar Khalfan from the Vancouver Whitecaps, and signed Homegrown player and Malvern, Pa. native Jimmy McLaughlin.  UCLA forward Chandler Hoffman, Creighton midfielder Greg Jordan and former Reading United product and West Virginia graduate Raymon Gaddis were all drafted in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, while UPenn’s Thomas Brandt, Princeton’s Antoine Hoppenot, Marist’s Krystian Witkowski and Santa Clara’s Brandon Zimmerman were all picked up a week later in the League’s Supplemental Draft.

XFINITY Live! to open earlier than expected

PHILADELPHIA – XFINITY Live! Philadelphia, Philly’s new dining and entertainment district under construction on the former site of the legendary Spectrum, will now open in time for the two upcoming Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concerts, coming to the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday, March 28 and Thursday, March 29. Ticket holders will have exclusive access to XFINITY Live! Philadelphia on these nights beginning at 4 p.m.

XFINITY Live! Philadelphia will then have its grand opening celebration, featuring a live concert with a national headlining act (to be named), on Friday, March 30. It was previously announced the district would open on April 5, however the project will now be completed earlier than anticipated.

“It is exciting to see the finishing touches put on XFINITY Live! Philadelphia,” said Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko. “We’re looking forward to a special three-day celebration which coincides with two incredible nights of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Wells Fargo Center. It’s going to be fantastic and we’re looking forward to opening our doors to the public on Friday, March 30.”

“To have our inaugural events occur when Bruce Springsteen, a performer that has such a rich history with this site, performs at the Wells Fargo Center is a great honor and incredibly meaningful for us," said Reed Cordish, a Vice President of The Cordish Companies. "We are extremely excited for the festivities that will mark the districts Grand Opening on March 30th.”

Tickets to see Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, which includes exclusive access to a preview night at XFINITY Live! Philadelphia on Wednesday, March 28 and Thursday, March 29, will go on sale on Saturday, January 28 at 9 a.m. exclusively though ComcastTIX on line at ComcastTIX.com, by phone at 1-800-298-4200 or in person at the Wells Fargo Center box office.

XFINITY Live! Philadelphia’s dining and entertainment district includes six unique venues and over a dozen entertainment choices.

Philly MarketPlace

The heart of XFINITY Live! Philadelphia that serves as a central gathering place for groups and grant guests access to each of the venues. The Philly MarketPlace at XFINITY Live! Philadelphia will showcase many local institutions including The Original Philadelphia Cheesesteak Co., Chickie’s & Pete’s, and Old Original Nick’s Roast Beef, with more to be announced shortly. The largest open area inside XFINITY Live! Philadelphia, the Philly MarketPlace will feature a VIP lounge, custom draft tables, a raw bar, and world-class sports viewing.

Spectrum Grill

Created in the essence of the Spectrum itself, this sleek venue will provide a sophisticated, intimate atmosphere and an extraordinary dining experience. The Spectrum Grill, the crown jewel of XFINITY Live! Philadelphia, will feature prime steaks, chops, and seafood, and will host one of Philadelphia’s finest cocktail parties nightly.

Broad Street Bullies Pub

A timeless neighborhood pub featuring authentic memorabilia from the legendary Broad Street Bullies team of the 1970’s. Classic tavern meets gastro pub, Broad Street Bullies Pub specializes in gourmet burgers and classic pub fare as well as an expansive variety of beer including 48 drafts on tap. Bullies Pub will serve lunch and dinner and often feature live acoustic entertainment at night.

NBC Sports Arena

The NBC Sports Arena will offer fans a one-of-a-kind sports viewingexperience, featuring a 32-foot diagonal, 6mm, Sony LED HD television, highimpact LED Rings displaying the CSN Sports Ticker, and in-game promotions that will rival any live sports experience in the world, making for a true fourth stadium experience at the Philadelphia Sports Complex.

PBR Bar & Grill (Professional Bull Riders Association)

Country cool meets urban chic in the most stunning western themed venue to be unleashed to Philadelphia. Born from the toughest sport on dirt, Professional Bull Riders restaurant will duplicate this powerhouse concept that has proven wildly successful in other markets, including Las Vegas, Houston, Baltimore, and Kansas City. With authentic Tex-Mex cuisine served during the day and a country & southern rock party at night also featuring a mechanical bull.

Victory Beer Hall

In partnership with Philadelphia’s Victory Brewing Company, the Victory Beer Hall will be an unrivaled social experience, featuring elongated, beerhall style tables, a stage for live indoor entertainment, and a 2,000 square-foot patio complete with a fire pit. The Victory Beer Hall's signature will be its celebration of craft beer, featuring an eclectic selection of regional Philadelphia brews as well as national brands.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Phillies trade Valdez for P Horst

The Phillies have traded utility infielder Wilson Valdez to the Cincinnati Reds for left-handed pitcher Jeremy Horst.

Horst, 26, made 12 relief appearances for the Reds last year and went 0-0 with a 2.93 ERA.  He spent most of the season with triple-A Louisville, where he posted a 1-4 record and had a 2.81 ERA in 36 games, while holding opposing hitters to a .219 batting average.  On six occasions for Louisville, Horst pitched at least 3.0 innings and had a 0.83 ERA (2 ER, 21.2 IP) in those games.

Originally selected by the Reds in the 21st round of the 2007 draft, Horst will be a non-roster invitee to major league spring training for the Phillies.

Valdez spent the last two years with the Phillies, hitting .249 this past season with one home run and 30 RBI in 99 games.  The 33-year-old played second base, shortstop and third base for the Phillies and went 1-0 in one pitching appearance on May 25 against the Reds.

Flip flopped in D.C.

Flip flopped in D.C. - KansasCity.com

Union single game tix on sale

Chester, Pa. – A limited amount of group and individual tickets to all 2012 regular season matches at PPL Park have been made available and went on sale Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.  Some of the best remaining available seats are still being held for full and partial season ticket plans for fans looking to receive the best possible value and attend multiple matches. 

To purchase full or partial season tickets call 877-21-UNION (877-218-6466) or visitwww.philadelphiaunion.com.  For individual tickets, please call ComcastTix at 1-800-298-4200 or visitwww.philadelphiaunion.com.

Groups of 15 or more can receive a savings of $5 to $10 per ticket by calling 877-21-UNION (877-218-6466).

Individual tickets range from $25 for the Endline sections through $150 for Field Level seats, while group tickets range from $20 for the Endline sections through $45 for Midfield seats. For full pricing information, go to www.philadelphiaunion.com or call 877-21-UNION.

Full Season Ticket Benefits Include:
· Union Season Ticket Card per seat and access to an exclusive Loyalty Rewards Program
· Guaranteed seats for 18 Philadelphia Union matches (17 Regular Season matches and 1 bonus match)
· Save up to 33% off of single game ticket prices!
· Access to the Philadelphia Union Ticket Marketplace to re-sell tickets to games you cannot attend
· Ability to forward your game tickets through an online Account Manager
· Post-game access to the Stadium Club
Partial Season Ticket Benefits Include:
· Guaranteed seats for nine (9) Union matches 
· First right to graduate into a full season ticket plan in 2013
· Avoid per game ticket fees
· A dedicated service representative to assist you with your ticket experience

Springsteen returns to WFC

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will perform two shows at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia  on Wednesday, March 28 and Thursday, March 29, as part of the first US leg of the 2012 ‘Wrecking Ball’ World Tour.

Springsteen’s 17th studio album ‘Wrecking Ball’ will be released on Columbia Records on Tuesday, March 6.

Tickets will go on sale on Saturday, January 28 at 9 a.m. exclusively through ComcastTIX on line at ComcastTIX.com, the Wells Fargo Center box office or charge by phone at 800-298-4200. Tickets are $98 and $68.

Springsteen last performed in Philadelphia during the Final Farewell Shows at the legendary Spectrum on October 13-14, and October 19-20, 2009.

“We Take Care Of Our Own,” the album's first single, is “classic Springsteen” with “anguish and challenge [that] run thick and fast” (Rolling Stone); a “richly orchestrated Wall of Sound... that nods to the ‘Born to Run’ era” (Billboard).

The E Street Band’s members are: Roy Bittan - piano, synthesizer; Nils Lofgren - guitar, vocals; Patti Scialfa - guitar, vocals; Garry Tallent - bass guitar; Stevie Van Zandt - guitar, vocals; and Max Weinberg - drums; with Soozie Tyrell - violin, guitar, vocals and Charlie Giordano - keyboards.

UFC sells out Chicago

The Ultimate Fighting Championship has announced that its event on Saturday, Jan. 28 at the United Center in Chicago is officially sold out.

The UFC’s return to the Windy City is headlined by a light heavyweight No. 1 contender fight between former champion Rashad Evans and unbeaten Phil Davis, a former Penn State wrestling star.

In addition, middleweight contenders Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping collide for the right to fight champion Anderson Silva later this year, while Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Demian Maia meets red-hot 185-pound prospect Chris Weidman.

This tripleheader airs live on FOX at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

“The fans in Chicago have wanted us to come back there for a long time and they proved why it’s a great sports town by selling out the United Center,” UFC President Dana White said. “Get ready Chicago! We’re bringing a night of fights that you won’t forget!”

PPL Park to host 2012 MLS All-Star Game

For the first time in a decade, Philadelphia will host an All-Star Game.

Major League Soccer announced on Tuesday that Philadelphia will be the stage for the 2012 MLS All-Star Game on July 25 at 8 pm ET, bringing the summer’s showcase event to PPL Park, where the Sons of Ben will welcome a yet unnamed opponent to take on the best MLS has to offer. In the most recent edition held in 2011, Manchester United took on the MLS All-Stars at Red Bull Arena.

The 2012 event will be broadcast on ESPN2, Galavision or TeleFutura and TSN and RDS, while ESPN International will provide live coverage of the event in more than 100 countries around the world and ESPN3 and WatchESPN carry the game online in the United States.

Joining MLS Commissioner Don Garber for the announcement at City Hall were Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz and City of Chester Mayor John Linder. The last All-Star game held in Philadelphia was the NBA’s in 2002.

“Philadelphia has become a destination for hosting major soccer events in recent years, and we are pleased to bring the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game to a region with incredibly passionate soccer supporters,” Garber said. “The Sons of Ben and the rest of the Union fans will provide an enthusiastic home-field advantage at PPL Park, and we look forward to celebrating our sport with this vibrant soccer community.”

For the ninth time in league history, the game with feature an international opponent. While the opponent has still not been determined for 2012, previous editions have featured Manchester United (2010 and 2011), Everton FC (2009), Chelsea FC (2006) and CD Guadalajara (2003). The MLS All-Stars are 5-2-1 in those matches. Manchester United won last year's game 4-0 in front of a sellout crowd of 26,760 at Red Bull Arena.

Since joining MLS for the 2010 season, the Union have enjoyed success both on and off the field, making the playoffs in their second season and selling out the majority of their games at PPL Park. The club has also hosted six international matches at Lincoln Financial Field, averaging attendance figures of more than 40,000 in those games. Last season, the Union averaged 18,259 fans at PPL Park, just shy of the stadium's official capacity of 18,500.

All of which makes them an ideal candidate to host the MLS All-Stars, according to Sakiewicz.

"Since Philadelphia Union came to the region two years ago, the soccer fans in this area have shown that they are among the most passionate and authentic in the country,” he said in a statement. “It's a tremendous honor for us to host the MLS All Star game and reward the fans with yet another memorable experience at PPL Park.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hartnell finally an All-Star

Despite scoring 25 goals in just over half a season, Scott Hartnell was about to be locked out of the All-Star Game, on January 29 in Ottawa.

But then, a slew of refusals and injuries popped up, and it was only a matter of time. That time is today, as everyone's favorite forward who has trouble staying upright on the ice will be headed to Canada's capital this weekend.

Adam Kimelman was the first to officially report the news, here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jameson signs on for Wing Bowl

The descent of the Wing Bowl into the lowest common denominator of male-driven and marketed entertainment has continued.

According to a Daily News piece on Philly.com this morning, renowned adult film star Jenna Jameson has agreed to be a Wingette for the gluttonous February 3 bacchanal.

Read more here.

Rutgers' Greg Schiano on JoePa's passing

“Joe Paterno embodied the way college football was supposed to be. He educated young men by using the game of football, along with all of its challenges, in preparation for the real world. He was a great thinker, who was never afraid to say and act on what he believed. He leaves a tremendous legacy with the thousands of players and coaches he worked with. I will miss him deeply. My prayers are with Sue and the entire Paterno family.”

Temple's Addazio on JoePa's passing

“I am very sad to hear the news of Joe Paterno’s passing," Temple coach Steve Addazio said in a statement. "He was someone that I had a great deal of respect for, both growing up as a young man and as a football coach. He did so much for college football, athletics as a whole, and education.  The positive influence he had over so many people and what he’s done for collegiate football and athletics will never be duplicated. He will be greatly missed. Our deepest sympathies go out to the entire Paterno family and the Penn State community.”

Penn State release on the passing of Joe Paterno

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Pennsylvania State University and college athletics mourns the passing of Joseph V. Paterno, the winningest coach in the history of major college football.

Paterno, who turned 85 last month, passed away today (Jan. 22) surrounded by his family at Mount Nittany Medical Center, near the University Park campus. The legendary teacher, mentor and humanitarian had been diagnosed with lung cancer last November and recently had been hospitalized.

A member of the Penn State coaching staff for 62 seasons, Paterno tremendously impacted the lives of thousands of current and former Penn State students, student-athletes and staff, Nittany Lion fans, State College community members and followers of college athletics. The Nittany Lions' head football coach for nearly 46 years, he was among the first three active coaches to be inducted into the National Football Foundation's College Hall of Fame, in 2007.

Paterno passionately and vigorously served the Penn State football program and the university with principle, distinction and success with honor since matriculating to State College in 1950 as a motivated and enthusiastic 23-year-old with Rip Engle, his head coach at Brown University. After 16 years as an assistant coach under Engle, Paterno was named Penn State's 14th head football coach on Feb. 19, 1966, when Engle retired.

Head coach of the Nittany Lions since 1966, Paterno is the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) leader in career victories, earning a 409-136-3 career record, a 74.9 winning percentage. The iconic Paterno is one of just three coaches in NCAA history to post 400 career wins, passing legendary Grambling coach Eddie Robinson for second place with the Nittany Lions' win over Illinois in Beaver Stadium on Oct. 29, 2011.
Paterno also was college football's all-time leader in bowl victories (24) and appearances (37). His post-season record of 24-12-1 gave him a winning percentage of 66.2, good for No. 3 all-time among coaches with at least 15 bowl visits. The Nittany Lions were 12-5 in contests that comprise the Bowl Championship Series under Paterno.

Paterno's career was marked with distinction, glorious accomplishments and immeasurable contributions to Penn State. As a young head coach, he created the "Grand Experiment," boldly stating that his teams would be comprised of young men able to play football at the highest level, graduate and make significant contributions to society upon their graduation.

The NCAA's 2011 graduation data revealed that Penn State and Stanford, at 87 percent, posted the highest Graduation Success Rate (GSR) among teams ranked in the final 2011 Associated Press and USA Today Coaches' polls and Bowl Championship Series rankings. Penn State and Stanford were tied for No. 10 overall among the nation's 120 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) institutions. Penn State's 87 percent GSR was significantly higher than the 67 percent FBS average and was second to Northwestern (94) among Big Ten institutions.

Penn State football student-athletes earned a nation's-best 15 CoSIDA Academic All-American® selections from 2006-10, bringing to 47 the number of Academic All-Americans under Paterno (37 first team). The Nittany Lions' 49 all-time Academic All-Americans® are No. 3 nationally among FBS institutions.
Paterno's coaching portfolio included two National Championships (1982, 1986); five undefeated, untied teams; 23 finishes in the Top 10 of the national rankings; an unprecedented five American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Coach-of-the-Year plaques, and more than 350 former players who signed National Football League contracts, 33 of them first-round draft choices. Eight Penn State football student-athletes have been NFL first-round selections in the past eight drafts.

His teams registered seven undefeated regular-seasons and he had 35 teams finish in the Top 25. Penn State won the Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy, emblematic of Eastern football supremacy, 24 times under Paterno, including in 2008 and '09.

During Paterno's remarkable tenure, there were 888 head coaching changes among Football Bowl Subdivision programs, an average of more than six changes per I-A institution.

Paterno passed his long-time friend and colleague, Bobby Bowden, on Sept. 20, 2008, for the lead in all-time victories among FBS coaches. His 46 seasons as head coach are the most in FBS history and he is second all-time in games coached (548) among major college coaches. Entering the 2011 season, Paterno's winning percentage of 74.7 ranked No. 4 among active Football Bowl Subdivision coaches (10 or more years).

Penn State is one of just eight teams with 800 wins all-time and Paterno has been a member of the Nittany Lion staff for 513 of them -- 62 percent of the 827 all-time total. Penn State posted a record of 513-184-7 since Paterno joined the staff in 1950, the nation's third-highest winning percentage.

Since 1966, Penn State has had 79 first-team All-Americans, with defensive tackle Devon Still being selected a consensus All-American and the 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Under Paterno, the Nittany Lions counted 16 National Football Foundation Scholar-Athletes, 37 first-team Capital One/CoSIDA All-Americans® (47 overall) and 18 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winners.
Paterno directed the Nittany Lions to 15 seasons with at least victories and 12-0 campaigns in 1973, 1986 and 1994. The '94 team captured Penn State's first Big Ten Championship and became the first Big Ten team to earn a 12-0 mark. Penn State also earned 21 seasons with at least 10 victories and 13 Top 5 finishes in the polls under Paterno's dedicated and enthusiastic leadership.

Paterno was the only coach to win the four traditional New Year's Day bowl games -- the Rose, Sugar, Cotton and Orange bowls -- and he owned a 6-0 record in the Fiesta Bowl. He was selected by the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame as the first active coach to receive its Distinguished American Award. Paterno also was the 1986 Sports Illustrated Sportsman-of-the-Year.
A member of the Nittany Lions' coaching staff spanning the administrations of 13 U.S. presidents (starting with Harry Truman), Paterno passed Paul "Bear" Bryant for the lead in career Division I-A wins on October 27, 2001 when the Lions secured his 324th victory by rallying from a 27-9 deficit to defeat Ohio State, 29-27, at the time the greatest Beaver Stadium comeback under the legendary coach.

On Nov. 6, 2010, Paterno saw his resurgent and determined squad erase a 21-0 deficit to score touchdowns on five consecutive possessions and beat Northwestern, 35-21. The victory was No. 400 in Paterno's career as he became the first Football Bowl Subdivision coach to reach the milestone. The 100,000-plus fans in Beaver Stadium reveled as the Hall of Fame coach was honored in a post-game on-field ceremony. Not only had they witnessed win No. 400, but also the greatest Nittany Lion comeback at home under Paterno.

Paterno always concentrated on seeing that his student-athletes attend class, devote the proper time to studies and graduate with a meaningful degree. He often said he measured team success not by athletic prowess but by the number of his players that go on to be productive citizens and make a positive contribution to society.

In an exceptional display of generosity and affection for Penn State, Paterno, his wife, Sue, and their five children announced a contribution of $3.5 million to the University in 1998, bringing Paterno's lifetime giving total to more than $4 million. The gift was believed to be, according to Penn State Vice President for Development Rod Kirsch, "the most generous ever made by a collegiate coach and his family to a university."

The Paterno gift endowed faculty positions and scholarships in the College of the Liberal Arts, the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, the University Libraries and supported two building projects -- a new interfaith spiritual center and the Penn State All-Sports Museum, both on the University Park campus.

The museum opened in 2002 and the spiritual center was dedicated in 2003.

He and Sue were actively involved with the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Summer Games, held each June on the University Park campus. In 2008, the Paternos were inducted into the Special Olympics Pennsylvania Hall of Fame.

The Paternos announced a $1 million pledge in 2009 for the Mount Nittany Medical Center. Their gift helped support a three-floor, 42,000-square foot expansion of Centre County's primary health facility, which was completed in 2010.

In December 2007, Patrick and Candace Malloy honored Paterno's contributions to the University by committing $5 million to create the Malloy Paterno Head Football Coach Endowment at Penn State.

"All of Penn State has benefited from Joe's commitment to success with honor," said Patrick Malloy, a 1965 alumnus of the University. "He is so much more than a coach -- he's an educator. He teaches his players how to win in life as well as in football, and he teaches every Penn State fan how to make the world a better place through integrity, honesty, and excellence. We are also fortunate enough to know Sue Paterno, and we have the deepest admiration for her volunteer and philanthropic leadership at Penn State and beyond."

The Nittany Lions' capped 2007 by defeating Texas A&M in the Valero Alamo Bowl in Paterno's 500th game as head coach.

In January 2011, NCAA President Mark Emmert presented the Gerald R. Ford Award to Paterno at the NCAA Convention. The award honors an individual who has provided significant leadership as an advocate for intercollegiate athletics on a continuous basis throughout his or her career.

In 2007, Paterno was inducted into the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame. He received the NFF's Gold Medal in 2006. The American Football Coaches Association presented Paterno with its highest honor in 2002, the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award. The award honors those "whose services have been outstanding in the advancement of the best interests of football."

Paterno has five children - Diana, Mary Kay, David, Jay and Scott - all of whom are Penn State graduates - and 17 grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family requests that donations be made to the Special Olympics of Pennsylvania or the Penn State-THON (The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon).

Arrangements are to be announced.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Feisty Flyers throw kitchen sink at Bruins, still come up short in shootout

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

While the headline won't do much to encapsulate all the drama and excitement at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday afternoon, the final analysis comes down to this: Tyler Seguin scored the winner in the shootout as Boston got past an injury-riddled Philadelphia Flyer squad, 6-5.

Seguin's decider came at the end of round two, when he forced Ilya Bryzgalov to the ice and slid a shot inside the right post. Tim Thomas then made a blocker save on a rather uninspired Wayne Simmonds chance to end the contest.

"Obviously, guys who go in shoot outs have different choices on what they are going to do or if they pick their move before. On [Ilya Bryzgalov], I did want to go on glove side," Seguins said of his shot choice. "I saw [David Krejci] go down and shoot there and I thought it was open. So, I just tried to make a couple more moves."

Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Seguin each posted a goal and an assist for the Bruins, who recovered from an overtime loss to the Rangers on Saturday.

Thomas won despite allowing an atypical five goals on 38 shots as the Northeast Division leaders forged a virtual tie atop the Eastern Conference standings with the Rangers.

Scott Hartnell recorded a hat trick and Claude Giroux added three assists for the Flyers, who had posted a road win against the Devils on Saturday.

Bryzgalov finished with 32 saves in the loss but acquitted himself well on back-to-back days against potential playoff foes.

"These were two very good two teams we played and it's a good two games because we got three points," Bryzgalov said about a successful weekend against the Devils and Bruins. "I think we played real well but unfortunately we couldn't win today. Lots of fights, goals, emotions."

Playing without regulars Danny Briere, James van Riemsdyk and Chris Pronger due to concussions and Jaromir Jagr because of a groin injury, the hosts were able to erase the memory of an ugly 6-0 defeat to Boston on December 17, but still failed to earn a victory against the defending champs on friendly ice.

The Bruins have won five straight games in Philadelphia and nine of 10 here since November of 2007.

A feisty affair began when Boston netted the game's first goal at the 50-second mark as Bergeron backhanded a Brad Marchand centering attempt. Max Talbot equalized for the hosts at 2:05 when he tapped a Kimmo Timonen feed through Thomas' pads.

Despite surviving a Boston 5-on-3, the Flyers found themselves down 2-1 on another Bruins power play when Seguin stashed a Bergeron feed to the short side at 9:01.

It was 3-1 for the visitors when Lucic ripped a high shot home from the inner edge of the right circle with 7 1/2 minutes left in the first.

The scene was set for Hartnell, who teamed up with Giroux to get the Flyers back in the contest.

First, he cut the Philly deficit to one on the power play at 3:23 of the second when he ripped a one-timer from the left circle, seconds after being denied by Thomas on the doorstep.

Then, he struck on a knuckler from the slot for a 3-3 tie at 7:25, and finally capped the trifecta on a similar shot and location as his first tally on a power play with 46.5 seconds remaining for a 4-3 lead.

"He's worked very hard this year with Giroux and Jagr. He's a key factor as to why that line has been successful," Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette said of Hartnell, who is five goals away from matching a career high. "Tonight his game was excellent. Obviously he did what he had to do offensively, but he also made his presence known all over the ice."

A Krejci deflection of Rich Peverley's offering at 1:19 of the third period pulled the Bruins even at 4-4, then Boston moved ahead at 4:59 on a bit of bad luck.

Adam McQuaid cycled the puck behind Bryzgalov to Daniel Paille, whose failed wraparound at the right post instead caromed off Gregory Campbell's stick and in as he fell through the crease.

But the Flyers responded on the power play as Talbot redirected a Matt Carle point blast in mid-air with 9:22 remaining for a 5-5 deadlock. They failed on two successive chances late.

Timonen was sent off for holding with 1:40 left in OT but Philly survived that 4-on-3.

"We played some really good hockey for the great majority of this year. We're having some of these awkward games lately," Thomas admitted. "We're finding ways to get points and come out with wins in a lot of them, but its not Boston Bruins hockey. I don't think we're happy with our effort."

Notes: Thomas, who improved to 20-9-0 on the year, allowed the most goals in a win in any of his starts this season...The Bruins played without defenseman Andrew Ference, who was suspended three games by the National Hockey League earlier Sunday for boarding Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh...Hartnell notched his sixth career hat trick and first since December 20, 2008, in a 7-1 win over the Capitals...He also picked up the 13th natural hat trick in franchise lore and the first accomplished in a single period since Mikael Renberg at San Jose in a 6-4 win on February 15, 1994...Jeff Carter was the last Flyer to score a natural hat trick, in an 8-1 decision at Carolina on November 11, 2010...McQuaid picked up two helpers...Talbot posted his first multi-goal effort since Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals at Detroit...There were six fighting majors handed out among 68 penalty minutes.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Temple's Boyle to play in NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

PHILADELPHIA – Temple OL Pat Boyle (Towson, Md.) has been selected to play in the inaugural AstroTurf NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on January 21.

The left tackle joins teammate DB Kee-ayre Griffin (East Orange, N.J.) as one of 100 draft-eligible players competing at The Home Depot Center on the campus of California State University Dominguez Hills in Carson, Calif., hosted by the NFL Players Association.

Standout coaches, both active and former, will come together under the direction of Super Bowl-winning coaches Tom Flores and Dick Vermeil. The staffs will spend a week preparing the 100 draft-eligible players to showcase their talent on the NBC Sports Network and in front of 25,000 fans and scouts.

A 2011 first-team All-MAC honoree, Boyle was cited on the 2011 Athletic Director’s Honor Roll and the 2011 Philadelphia Inquirer Academic All-Area Football Team.  Boyle started all 13 games at left tackle last fall, helping Temple to the most rushing touchdowns and yards in a season.

Boyle joins fellow seniors OL Derek Dennis (Peekskill, N.Y.), Griffin, DB Kevin Kroboth (Nazareth, Pa.), TE Evan Rodriguez (North Bergen, N.J.), and OL Wayne Tribue (York, Pa.) to participate in All-Star games this month.  Kroboth and Tribue competed in the Casino Del Sol All-Star Game on January 16, while Dennis and Rodriguez will play in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 21.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bobrovsky left out to dry as Islanders snap long skid in Philly

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor
Nearly five years have passed since the Islanders tasted victory in Philadelphia. On a night where they snapped that streak, you'd expect that the home team would have put up more of a fight.

But it was not to be as New York's road losing skid here ended at 13 games with a 4-1 victory over the Flyers on Thursday.

Sergei Bobrovsky was largely left to fend for himself against a swift set of forwards who are not afraid to use their speed or exploit gaps in the defense. He acquitted himself well, stopping 23-of-26 shots -- many of those wide-open chances.

“We just left him hung out to dry too many times,” a stone-faced Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette said. “We didn’t support each other well for the first two periods. We left one man to figure things out for himself. It’s unacceptable. We weren’t good enough the first two periods.”

Michael Grabner, Matt Moulson, Josh Bailey and Mark Streit provided the offense and Evgeni Nabokov turned in a 40-save performance.

Matt Read took over the rookie goal-scoring lead with his third-period tally, but Philly suffered a potentially debilitating loss heading into a huge back-to-back situation.

New Jersey is on the menu first, on Saturday afternoon in Newark, then the defending champion Bruins come to call on South Broad Street on Sunday afternoon.

After several shifts of pressure in the opening minutes, the visitors appeared to have scored first, as a Tavares centering pass redirected off Moulson's skate in the slot and hit the back of the net at the 6:44 mark. But, upon closer inspection, Moulson clearly directed the puck forward with his back skate and it shouldn't have taken as long as it did to wave off the goal.

It had a galvanizing effect on the Islanders, who sprang into action and took the play to an increasingly listless home club.

Tavares was the first to really test Bobrovsky, as he just hung out a stride shy of the Flyers' blue line then broke in alone before putting an uninspiring shot into the goaltender's chest with 1:50 to play in the first.

Philly was lucky to escape with a scoreless deadlock, but the luck began to run out at the 28-second mark of the second, as a Tavares pass from behind the goal line missed Kyle Okposo, but found Moulson for an open wrister from between the circles.

Things began to unravel further after Nino Niederreiter was sent off for a high stick at the three-minute mark, and Grabner picked the cherries but was stoned on a breakaway seconds into advantage.

Later in the power play, Jakub Voracek found the best chance of the game sitting at his feet, but Nabokov flashed his pad at the right post to shunt away that shot.

Then, it was Tavares again, sitting on a great opportunity with Streit in the box for tripping and seconds after an elbowing minor to Andrej Meszaros expired. He was unable to slide the disc through Bobrovsky, who gave him little at which to shoot.

A third opportunity arose with 7 1/2 minutes remaining for Tavares, as he deked multiple times while trying to decoy a pass on the left wing, but Bobrovsky fell backwards and turned away the shot with his pad.

The luck finally ran out as Dylan Reese cooled off with a holding penalty shortly thereafter, as a cheating Bailey smartly waited until the last second to lift the puck under the crossbar for a short-handd breakaway goal at 12:58.

And then, something snapped in Claude Giroux, who threw down with Reese with 2:19 left in the second to the hoots and hollers of the suddenly-interested throng. It still wasn't enough of a shock to the system.

This time on the advantage, Streit's shot from the right circle slipped between the arm and body of Bobrovsky and it was all but academic at 7:07 of the third period which made it a 3-0 game for New York.

But consolation -- and precedent -- existed for a comeback. On March 6, 1999, the Flyers were down 3-0 to a weaker Isles club than this and pumped home three goals in the final 3:02 of regulation to escape with a 3-3 tie.

You can bet nobody with any control of the game knew it, but somehow, that three-goal margin jolted the current crop to life. Each successive shift got them closer and closer to Nabokov until Sean Couturier's floater from the left circle hit Read in front and caromed into the net with 9:12 remaining.

It seemed a comeback was in the offing as Danny Briere roared in with an odd-man break and narrowly missed tucking the puck inside the right post while following up his own rebound.
The intensity never really seemed to crest, and it caused Bobrovsky to be able to exit the net with just under two minutes left.

But the Islanders and Nabokov continued to foil each surge, and Grabner hit the empty net inside the final second.

“We played hard as we always seem to do against them, but they came in the third and they came in waves, and I thought Nabby (Nabokov) was real good, but again, special teams were a big part of tonight’s game with the short-handed goal and the power-play goal late," said Islanders head coach Jack Capuano. "We played them pretty good at home (in a 3-2 loss last Thursday at Uniondale) and we didn’t get the results, and it was good for the guys to get rewarded.”

The Islanders last won in Philly on April 7, 2007, the final victory in a four-game sweep at the WFC in the 2006-07 campaign...Giroux and Jaromir Jagr both finished with minus-3 and teammate Scott Hartnell was a minus-1...This was just the third win in the last 29 meetings for New York over Philadelphia...Both the Islanders' Boston College alums were unable to participate on Thursday, as forward Marty Reasoner was scratched and Mike Mottau is still battling a concussion...Tavares and P.A. Parenteau both notched a pair of assists for the victors...Couturier's five-game goal streak ended but his point streak was extended to six games.

Union's Paunovic calls it a career

Chester, Pa. – Veteran Philadelphia Union forward Veljko Paunovic, 34, is retiring from professional soccer, citing personal reasons.

The Serbian national’s 18 year player career has spanned five countries, over 400 career games played and 86 goals scored.

“I want to thank the great Union family for welcoming me from the very first day that I came here,” said Paunovic.  “I've been so many places around the world and I have never felt as happy as I have been here.

"It is with great sadness that I announce my retirement from soccer due to family reasons but I will never forget the Union fans and the atmosphere at PPL Park every game.  I have proudly worn the Union Jersey wherever we have played throughout the country and I will always feel like a Union "soldier" wherever I am in the world."

Paunovic signed with the Union in June of 2011 after three years away from soccer, netting three goals and notching three assists in 16 starts.  He played in a total of 17 games, including 67 minutes in the Union’s second playoff game against the Houston Dynamo.

“We are all very grateful that Veljko joined our club and helped us in a very important stage of our season,” said Philadelphia Union Team Manager Peter Nowak.  “He's been a top professional both on and off the field since he arrived and throughout his stay he has made the Union a better club.  We understand that family is more important than anything and, as much we are all sad to see him go and that we are losing such a great guy, we will always cherish his time with us.  We wish Veljko and his family the very best.”

Paunovic made his professional debut in 1994 with Partizan FK at the age of 17. Only a year later, Paunovic made his move to Spain, where he represented seven clubs in his 13 years in the country, netting 73 goals in 341 matches. Starring the vast majority of the time with Atletico de Madrid (1996-98, 1999-00, 2001-02, 2003-05), Paunovic also had stints with UD Marbella (1995-96), RCD Mallorca (1998-99, 2000-01, 2001-02), Real Oviedo S.A.D. (2000-01), CD Tenerife (2002-03), Getafe C.F.S.A.D. (2005-07) and Unión Deportiva Almería (2007-08).

Paunovic was transferred to Bundesliga club Hannover 96 in 2005, and a year after returned to La Liga’s Getafe for two seasons. The striker was then sent out to FC Rubin Kazan in the Russian Premier League for a brief stint in 2007 before heading to his final Spanish destination, Almería.

He was called up to the Serbian National Team in 2002, debuting on February 13 during a 2-1 victory over Mexico. The striker’s second and last cap came in a friendly with Northern Ireland on April 28, 2004, where he scored the lone goal in a 1-1 draw.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Temple - St. Joe's to air on Comcast Network

PHILADELPHIA – The Temple University men’s basketball game against Saint Joseph’s at the Liacouras Center on Saturday, January 28 (4:00 p.m.) will be televised live by The Comcast Network.

“This was a collaborative effort between the two universities and Comcast SportsNet,” said Temple Senior Associate Athletic Director Larry Dougherty.  “This is one of the biggest rivalries in the city as well as the Atlantic 10 Conference, and we wanted to ensure that it was available to the alumni of both schools as well as college basketball fans in the Philadelphia market.

We are extremely thankful that Comcast SportsNet was able to facilitate production of the game at such a late date.”

Temple (11-5, 1-2 A10) has won five of its last seven games entering play tonight against La Salle at the Liacouras Center (7:00 p.m./OwlAccess/1210 AM WPHT).  Saint Joseph’s (12-6, 2-2) plays at Xavier tonight.

Union's Le Toux headed overseas

Union all-time leading scorer  Sebastien Le Toux arrived in England on Wednesday ahead of a potential transfer to Bolton.

FOXSports reports the Union are prepared to sell the 28-year-old French striker in a move that would allow them to keep Danny Mwanga, and free up money to replace the All-Star.

Le toux already began training with Bolton on Wednesday ahead of a transfer that could go through by the end of the week.

Union decline options on 4 players

Chester, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union have declined contract options on Levi Houapeu, Morgan Langley, Ryan Richter and Joe Tait, the club announced today.

The move frees up two international roster spots.

Selected 41st overall in 2011 MLS SuperDraft, Houapeu saw action in Reserve League matches against NY (4/10), D.C. United (5/16) and Columbus (8/21) before suffering a season ending injury in mid-September.

A Swarthmore College product, Langley became the third player to follow the path from Harrisburg to Chester when he signed with Philadelphia on September 15, 2011. He appeared in one first team match for the Union, subbing on in the 80th-minute against the Columbus Crew on September 17. He also saw time in three Reserve League matches.

Selected fifth overall in the 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft, Richter signed with Philadelphia on March 1 after a trial with the club. Richter was featured in each of Philadelphia’s 10 Reserve League matches. He made his Union debut on July 21 during a friendly against Everton and scored his first goal in a Philadelphia kit against the Harrisburg City Islanders during a friendly on August 24.

Tait spent three weeks on trial with the Union before signing with the club on September 13.  He played in three Reserve League matches, where he had one assist. He was also featured in the friendly against Harrisburg, scoring the fifth goal in the Union’s 5-3 victory.

Eagles' Chaney has surgery

The Eagles announced today that LB Jamar Chaney underwent successful surgery on Tuesday to repair a herniated disk in his neck.

The procedure was performed by Dr. Craig Brigham in Charlotte, NC.

Chaney was originally injured in the season finale vs. Washington on January 1.

Union take four in MLS Supplemental Draft

Chester, Pa. - The Philadelphia Union selected four players in the 2012 Major League Soccer Supplemental Draft on Tuesday: defender Thomas Brandt (13th overall), midfielder Krystian Witkowski (26th overall), forward Antoine Hoppenot (39th overall), and midfielder Brandon Zimmerman (52nd overall).

Brandt, 21, served as captain for the University of Pennsylvania in both 2010 and 2011. A two-time NSCAA All-Region selection, Brandt was a first-team All-Northeast honoree in 2010. The FC DELCO product played with the Reading Rage (now Union affiliate Reading United AC) in 2005. Brandt was included on the preseason MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List after earning first-team All-Ivy honors as a junior in 2010. The Palmyra, Pa. native earned first-team All-Ivy honors again as a senior. Brandt scored five goals as both a junior and senior, including a goal on each of his five shots on goal in 2011. Over his four collegiate seasons, Brandt appeared in 56 matches with 52 starts, scoring 11 goals. The defender, who was named to the 2008 U.S. Soccer Development Academy's Mid-Atlantic Conference team, netted a hat trick in the final game of his college career.

Witkowski, 21, collected three consecutive All-MAAC First Team awards at Marist College. In 2011, the central attacking midfielder was named to the All-North Atlantic Region second team. In 71 collegiate games, Witkowski registered 21 goals and 12 assists, including nine goals and six assists as a junior. Prior to playing for Marist, Witkowski featured for the U-18 Polish national team.

Hoppenot, 21, was named First-Team All-Ivy three consecutive years, as well as Ivy League Player of the Year and second-team All-American as a junior in 2010. As a junior, Hoppenot scored nine goals and added five assists en route to being named a semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy. Heading into 2011, Hoppenot ranked 20th on the Top Drawer Soccer men's National Top 100 list. Born in Paris, France and raised in Princeton, N.J., Hoppenot tallied 26 goals and 15 assists in his college career.

Zimmerman, 21, is a four-time All-WCC midfielder, including All-WCC First Team as a senior. Zimmerman anchored the Bronco midfield in 2011, scoring three goals and adding two assists in 18 games. In his four-year college career, Zimmerman registered 28 points in 68 appearances. Zimmerman joined U.S. Soccer's Residency Program in August 2005, featuring for both the U-15 and U-17 national teams.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

UFC announces pre-contract screening policy for PEDs

Fresh off former Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal positive test for the anabolic steroid Drostanolone at the Jan. 7 "Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine" event, UFC has announced that  that all potential UFC and STRIKEFORCE signees will be subject to a mandatory pre-contract screening for performance-enhancing drugs.

The company cirtes a "continuing a commitment to the health and safety of its athletes" as the reason.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2012, all incoming athletes will be tested prior to finalizing a contract with the world’s largest mixed martial arts organization.

UFC and STRIKEFORCE already work closely with the most prestigious regulators and athletic commissions to ensure the healthy and safety of athletes prior to competition. This includes contestants on The Ultimate Fighter, all of whom are pre-screened for performance-enhancing drugs prior to participating on the longest-running sports reality show on television.

All current UFC and STRIKEFORCE athletes will continue to be screened for performance-enhancing drugs, both prior to competition and at random, in accordance with athletic commission rules and regulations.

“We’re committed to the health and safety of our athletes and we take it very seriously,” UFC Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said. “We already work closely with athletic commissions to protect our athletes and now we’re taking it one step further. We’re going to test any potential UFC or STRIKEFORCE fighter before finalizing their contract. This shows that we don’t want performance-enhancing drugs in our sport.”

This pre-contract screening policy further cements the organization’s dedication to the well-being of its athletes. In May, the organization announced that nearly 350 UFC and STRIKEFORCE independent contractor athletes would be eligible for customized accident insurance coverage, an unprecedented policy that covers accidental injuries suffered by athletes while training, as well as non-training incidents such as automobile accidents.

Tix to Soul home opener on sale later this month

PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Soul have announces single-game tickets for the 2012 home opener on April 1 against the Eastern Division rival Cleveland Gladiators will go on sale starting Monday, January 30.

“This is an exclusive opportunity for fans to purchase single-game tickets for the Soul home opener,” said Soul VP/COO John Adams.  “With the great expectations for this season, tickets for the home opener will be in high demand and created the need to have a separate on-sale date from all the other single-game ticket sales.”

The Soul have been very active this offseason starting with the signing two-time AFL Coach of the Year Doug Plank and assistant head coach Clint Dolezel.  The team also re-signed perianal All-Arena performer Donovan Morgan (2011 Second Team All-Arena), while landing key free agents: QB Dan Raudabaugh, WR Tiger Jones (2011 Cutter’s Receiver of the Year and First Team All-Arena), FB Derrick Ross (2011 First Team All-Arena), DB Rayshaun Kizer (2011 First Team All-Arena), DB Michaeux Robinson (2011 First Team All-Arena) and WR/KR Jeff Hughley (2011 All-Ironman Team).

The Soul open the regular season on the road against the New Orleans VooDoo at the New Orleans Arena on Sunday, March 18.  A date for sale of single-game tickets for the other Soul home games will be announced in the near future.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Flyers net problem has little to do with goalies

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

Bryzgalov sucks. He's not worth the money. He can't make the big saves.

Bobrovsky rocks! He plays aggressive hockey. The defense plays better in front
of him.

#TeamBob or #TeamBryz? Really people?

This is what it's come to, legions of Flyers fans turning into hockey's version of teen girls squealing over the two leads of a vampire movie?

Here's where I hand it to our Fearless Leader, John McMullen. Last Spring, he wrote a column excoriating head coach Peter Laviolette for his handling of the goaltending in the Flyers' seven-game first-round win over Buffalo.

It wasn't the right kind of history despite advancing, as the 1988 Detroit Red Wings were the last team in the NHL to win a best-of-seven by using three different starters.

At the time, I said that Laviolette shouldn't come under fire because all three guys (Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton) weren't playing up to snuff and, needing four wins in seven games, he had to do what he felt was right at the time to win.

But things have changed. As of last Monday night, Laviolette no longer should receive the benefit of the doubt. I admit J-Mac was right, and showed the proper foresight while I hedged. Point: editor.

It appears there's no good answer why Lavi is treating the Number One Guy, the one who was paid $51 million over nine years, like a rag doll over bad starts. I suspect it's because he doesn't have a clue what he's doing back there. Allow me to translate: "riding the hot hand" is short for "I can't be trusted to stick with the main man so let me throw everything into turmoil by taking things game-to-game and making it impossible
for either guy to find a rhythm."

This last week alone highlights the problem.

First, Bryzgalov gets the start at home on Saturday and makes 35 saves in a 3-2 OT win against the Senators. That, plus barely surviving the Blackhawks two days earlier earns him a third straight start.

But the next night in Ottawa, obvious defensive breakdowns against a veteran-laden, offensive-minded team costs him five goals on 37 shots in a 6-4 loss.

So what happens? Bryz gets the hook and Bobrovsky gets the benefit of two softies in Raleigh and Uniondale. Let's not forget how he was 6-0 lifetime against the Islanders coming in. And he wins both, by margins of 2-1 and 3-2 with a combined 68 stops.

But then, despite these victories, Bob is suddenly left out in the cold and Bryz gets the nod. Flyers lose, 4-2, in Nashville on Saturday as the money man makes only 21 saves and the daily drama unfolds once again.

The constant indecision and lack of consistency shown here is a slippery slope. What if the Flyers start going weird and alternating wins and losses each time out? Does the starting situation become nothing more than a checker board? Who gets to shout "King me" in the end after all the squares have been jumped?

No matter how you justify the decisions Laviolette has made, they're mostly of the knee-jerk variety.

He's breaking a cardinal rule of the crease: the top guy is the top guy for a reason, and the top guy has to have the majority of the starts no matter what happens. Bryzgalov needs to get two-thirds of the action and Bobrovsky one-third.

All the noise about how the backline plays for one and not the other can be quieted by giving Bryzgalov the time to acclimate himself -- a chance everyone's hero Bobrovsky was afforded in spades last year. That's how Bob can play the way he does now, and that's how Bryz will
perform -- but time has to be provided. It's gone Looney Tunes after only a half season.

Rabbit Season. Duck Season. He doesn't have to start you now. BLAM!

Simply put, the way things have been handled this year already are the things of which "goaltending controversies" are made. Laviolette needs only to look in the mirror for a potential solution.

He has to understand that this is not a life-and-death, lose-and-you're-out postseason. There are 82 games on the slate over six months, and managing in such tiny increments benefits no one. If only the master of the time out could call one on himself and get back on track.

But it's clear he doesn't see this method as the major part of the madness. Add to that the encroaching dislike of Bryzgalov that borders on insanity from an irrationally-impatient fan base and it all just feeds the beast.

This week, the Wild and Islanders come to call on Tuesday and Thursday, then the scene heads north to Newark on Saturday afternoon before landing back here on Sunday afternoon for a date with the Bruins.

Common sense calls for Bryzgalov to draw Minnesota, New Jersey and then Boston to test his mettle, with Bobrovsky taking another crack to extend his unbeaten streak against New York. But my spider sense tells me we'll be waiting with bated breath after each game to find out what's behind Door #1.

Yes, the pressure is on because the Flyers are performing beyond expectations in competing for home-ice advantage in the playoffs. That doesn't mean the head coach -- the one person above all who is supposed to have a grip on things -- should get swept up in the chaos and keep tinkering with the works.

If it continues, it won't be long until people wake up, take pity on the goaltenders and #TeamLavi won't have many backers after another late-season flame-out.