Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dom Brown to start 2015 on DL

Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown  will  start  the  season  on  the  disabled  list  with  left  Achilles inflammation.

"It's  the  right  thing  to  do  physically  and  also  with  regard  to  his preparedness," Phils GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said Tuesday. "We want to  make sure  he's  playing well  and  getting his  legs  underneath him  and swinging  the bat, doing the things he needs to do to get ready for the season
to help us in Philadelphia."

The  move can  be backdated to March  27, which means he could be activated as soon as April 11.

Brown,  who was  slated to start the  season in right field, hit .241 with two RBI in 11 spring training games.

A  first-time All-Star  in 2013, Brown hit  just .235 with 10 home runs and 63 RBI in 144 games last season.

The Phillies also released pitcher Kevin Slowey on Tuesday.

Soul's Raudabaugh reaches big milestone

PHILADELPHIA  – Philadelphia Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh threw his 400th career touchdown in the Soul’s season-opening, 70-63, win at Orlando over the weekend. 

Raudabaugh, who earned Offensive Player of the Game honors, finished the night by completing 30-of-48 passes for 422 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions, making his career total currently 404 touchdowns, the third-most TD passes amongst active AFL players (behind Tommy Grady, Jacksonville Sharks and Nick Davila, Arizona Rattlers).

“Without my teammates, the lineman blocking and the receivers making plays, the milestone wouldn’t have been possible and at the end of the day, the stat shows the hard work put in by everyone,” Raudabaugh said.  “I also wouldn’t have been where I am at today without my coaches pushing me to be the best.”

Raudabaugh is currently ranked No. 14 overall in the AFL passing touchdown career leaders list.

Eagles make it official with Austin

Miles Austin 2014 Browns training camp by Erik Daniel Drost
PHILADELPHIA - The Eagles have signed wide receiver Miles Austin to a one-year deal.

Originally signed as a rookie free agent by the Dallas Cowboys in 2006, Austin (6-foot-2, 215) has amassed 348 catches for 5,049 yards and 36 touchdowns in 118 career games (69 starts).

He spent the 2014 season with the Cleveland Browns, where he totaled 47 catches for 568 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games before a kidney injury ended his season.

A nine-year veteran, Austin spent the first eight seasons of his career in Dallas and ranks eighth in Cowboys franchise history in receiving yards (4,481) and 10th in both receptions (301) and touchdown catches (34).

Austin, 30, burst onto the scene for the Cowboys in 2009, notching a team-best 81 catches for 1,320 yards and 11 scores in 16 games (nine starts), becoming just the 15th undrafted player in league history to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards and the 12th with 10-or-more touchdowns in a season.

In his first-career start, Austin set a Dallas single-game record and earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after hauling in 10 catches for 250 yards and two touchdowns at KC (10/11/09). Austin finished first in the NFC and third in the NFL in receiving yardage in 2009 en route to his first-career Pro Bowl selection.

Austin returned to the Pro Bowl in 2010 after leading Dallas with 1,041 receiving yards and finishing second on the team with seven touchdowns and 69 receptions. He also added one rushing touchdown on a 60-yard scamper at Arizona on Christmas Day.

A Summit, NJ native, Austin attended Garfield (NJ) High School where he was a standout in football, basketball and track and field. He played collegiately at Monmouth University, where he concluded his career as the school’s all-time leader in receiving yards (2,867), receptions (150) and touchdown catches (33).

Temple's Martin-Oguike granted added year of eligibility

PHILADELPHIA – Temple University defensive end Praise Martin-Oguikehas been granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA.

Martin-Oguike, a Woodbridge, N.J. native, began his collegiate career at Temple in 2011, playing in seven games as a true freshman. The following May he was accused of rape and was subsequently suspended by the University as well as the football team.

After nearly 18 months, he was found to be falsely accused and the charges were dropped in October of 2013.

Martin-Oguike was reinstated to the University in January of 2014, and asked to rejoin the football team. By the season opener he had earned a starting position at defensive end. During the 2014 season, he started 11 games and led the Owls with 7 1/2 sacks and five forced fumbles, earning second team All-American Athletic Conference honors.

“I said throughout this process that I just want to get back to the life I had before,” said Martin-Oguike. “There was a path that I was on, to play four years of college football and get my college degree, then hopefully, have an opportunity to play at the next level. I’m working towards that goal and I’m very thankful that I’m back on that path.”

Martin-Oguike will now enter the 2015 season as a redshirt-junior meaning that he is eligible to play football during the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

“I can’t imagine what Praise and his family were put through from the time those accusations were made," Temple coach Matt Rhule said. "Hopefully he - and the rest of our players for that matter - learn from that experience how close they are to having the privilege of playing college athletics taken away. Fortunately, in this instance, Praise has been able to restore his life and his reputation. He has done everything we’ve asked of him since returning to the team.”

Flyers college prospect update: Parks and re-creation

Among all Flyers prospects who chose the college route, there's only one man standing as NCAA tournament has progressed to its Frozen Four, which takes place in Boston at the end of next week.

Michael Parks of North Dakota, a senior forward and 2010 fifth-round draft pick by former GM Paul Holmgren, is still alive and kicking, but struggling of late.

Though the Fighting Sioux claimed a pair of wins over the weekend against Quinnipiac and inter-conference rival St. Cloud State in Fargo to snag the West Regional, Parks was held off the board completely.

In fact, Parks, the St. Louis native, has posted a lone assist over his last 10 games. He hasn't scored since Feb. 21 at Western Michigan. That's a severely disappointing dry spell for a player counted on in all situations by head coach Dave Hakstol, including that of extra scoring punch given senior forward Mark MacMillan (16G, 25 pts. in 29 games) was lost for the remainder of the season with a lower-body injury whose nature is still unspecified.

Despite this prolonged stretch of bad luck, Parks still places second on UND with 32 points, but lags behind in fourth place with 12 goals.

His lone significant contribution to either win this past weekend, came on his team's opening goal in their opening game. On a power play in the latter stages of the first period against Quinnipiac, Stephan Pattyn won a right-circle draw back to defenseman Paul LaDue, and his chip across to Tucker Poolman resulted in a score.

Parks was there, on the right wing, to seal off a Bobcats forechecker which allowed LaDue to move the puck whichever direction he wished.  It's a testament to Parks' true value that he's not a flashy player, but one who can get the right thing done at the right time, rather than bask in the glow of the spotlight.

Part of the problem may be an undefined illness currently making the rounds within the locker room. Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald, who covers the Fighting Sioux beat, revealed on Saturday that he was told a significant number of players were affected with this malady, and two undisclosed players had to resort to IVs for hydration.

In any case, Parks doesn't want to go out with an empty stat sheet for the second consecutive season. Last year, he helped UND win its national postseason opener with a goal and assist against Wisconsin, then was promptly blanked through meetings with Ferris State and then the heartbreaking Frozen Four last-second semifinal loss to Minnesota.

Parks' final chance to prove himself will come next Thursday, in the late semifinal against Boston University.

Murray unsure what organization has with Luukko and Bardreau

Signed to separate deals, defenseman and 2010 draft pick Nick Luukko (University of Vermont) along with forward Cole Bardreau (Cornell) made their professional debuts for the Phantoms in the last week.

It's "pickle race time" for the minor leagues, when drafted players and the otherwise unsigned get a shot to prove their worth once the season is through for their respective programs. As far as Lehigh Valley is concerned, this year's crop was less of a gamble than when Adirondack received Carsen Chubak, Tom Serratore, Shayne Gostisbehere, Kevin Goumas and Tony Capobianco a year ago.

On an ATO, Luukko came straight from his fourth and final season with the Catamounts, who shocked Boston College in the Hockey East quarterfinals in three games at Conte Forum before losing a semifinal to UMass-Lowell. UVM's defense, along with goaltender and Minnesota Wild signee Brody Hoffman, limited BC to one goal over the final two games in the series to advance. The program's stifling defense was ranked in the top 10 nationally all season long.

Luukko made his debut in Saturday's 4-1 home win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the club's lone win over their last six outings, but hasn't earned enough to catch on as a regular in spite of the farm team virtually out of the playoff race like the parent club.

"I thought his game was OK, for his first pro game out of college hockey it was pretty good. He got some nice looks, showed composure. I think the big thing for him is to adjust in practice, get used to the pro game, get used to hanging out with the guys," said Phantoms head coach Terry Murray on Sunday night.

"He needs to work out. He needs a lot of strength and power, and we've got a great set up here for the off-ice stuff. Every day he needs to dig in on that, and the opportunity might come along in the next couple of games. I think he left us with a pretty good feel for what he's capable of doing right now."

Bardreau, on the other hand, was not a draftee like Luukko, and came to the organization on a three-year, entry-level deal which begins next season. In his senior campaign, the upstate New York native led a weak Cornell team with 22 points in 30 games. So far, the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder has been used in a checking role, scoring once in his six appearances, but Murray is equally perplexed as to his true ceiling.

"I really don't know a lot about Bardreau and his numbers back through his four years of college," he said. And when reminded that the youngster was the Big Red's leading scorer this season, added: "I need a little bit of that here right now."

"He's playing a lot of minutes, he's playing in some pretty good situations, and I want to see that offense a little more, I want to see more of that gritty, dig in attitude, especially in the d-zone on faceoffs," Murray continued. "I think he stands and watches at times. That's part of the maturing process. I'd like to see him continue to grow rather than recede at this level. I think he's taken a few steps backwards from the first couple games he's played."

Without playing time to properly assess his value, Luukko might be consigned to remain in the organization down in Reading -- which isn't as horrible as it sounds. The Royals have been a successful franchise for almost a decade across four separate affiliations, and it has done wonders for so-called fringe talents like Pat Mullane and Maxim Lamarche. The time needed to bring Robert Hagg, Mark Alt and possibly Lamarche up to speed means that Luukko may likely be lost in the shuffle without some self-motivation.

If he's unable to stick with the Flyers, there's another team 1,200 miles to the south which may bid for his services.

Bardreau still needs to prove his long-term health given he's just two years removed from a broken neck -- something which clearly made him damaged goods in some teams' estimation. Murray's right in that his offensive side needs to flourish, otherwise, there's little else besides better discipline to distinguish him from a Jay Rosehill or Zack Stortini.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Eagles sign Ryan to 1-year extension

DeMeco Ryans - courtesy of John McMullen
PHILADELPHIA - The Eagles have signed veteran linebacker DeMeco Ryans to a one-year extension, keeping him under contract through 2016.

Terms of the new contract were not disclosed, but Ryans was set to make $6.8 million for the 2015 season and his cap number came down significantly.

Ryans has started 40 games in three seasons with Philadelphia before sustaining an Achilles tear against Houston, his former team, in Week 9 of the 2014 season. Over his Eagles' career, he has accumulated 285 tackles with five sacks and four interceptions.

The 30-year-old Alabama product has 921 tackles in 126 games with the Eagles and Texans. He was named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006 and reached the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2009.

In 2010, Ryans also sustained an Achilles tear and missed 10 games that season.

Union's Pfeffer called up by U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team

Chester, Pa. – Philadelphia Union forward Zach Pfeffer has been called up to the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced Monday.

Pfeffer will join the team for its upcoming match against Denmark on Tuesday, March 31 in Copenhagen.

A fixture on the youth national circuit, Pfeffer will make his first national team appearance in 2015. In September 2014, he was one of 19 players called-up to the U.S. U-20 team for a September 2014 camp in Argentina. He scored the lone goal in a 1-1 draw with the hosts, Argentina. Earlier in the year in April, Pfeffer was called up to the U-20 team to take part in the Dallas Cup. He played in four out of the five games, scored one goal and handed out two assists.

Pfeffer, who just turned 20 in January, has also played on the U-17 and U-18 National Teams.

For the Union, Pfeffer has played in 12 games and made four starts since joining the team in 2011. He signed as the team’s first Homegrown Player on Dec. 22, 2010 at the age of 15 years and 350 days. At the time, he was also the fourth youngest player ever to sign an MLS contract, behind Freddy Adu, Fued Ibrahim, and Diego Fagundez.

The U.S. U-23 MNT’s two friendlies are part of the team’s first training camp of 2015 currently taking place in Europe. The camp marks the beginning of the team’s qualifying preparations for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The team played its first friendly of the year on March 27, defeating Bosnia U-21's 5-2 in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Temple's Will Cummings Accepts Invitation To Portsmouth

PHILADELPHIA -  Temple senior guard Will Cummings has accepted an invitation to play at the prestigious Portsmouth Invitational, held at Churchland High School in Portsmouth, Virginia April 8-11.

Now in its 64th year of existence, the P.I.T invites 64 of the best college basketball seniors from across the nation to participate in a four-day, 12-game tournament in front of representatives from every NBA team.

Cummings, who is averaging 22 points per game in NIT play, is having a career season.  The 6-2 guard has been named first team All-American Athletic Conference and all-Philadelphia Big 5, while leading Temple's incredible turnaround from a 9-22 season to a 26-10 campaign.  The Owls' co-captain tops the squad in scoring (14.9 ppg), assists (4.2 apg) and steals (1.9 spg) while becoming the 50th player in school history to score 1,000 career points. 

Temple (26-10) will face Miami (Fla.) (24-12) Tuesday night (7:00 pm/ESPN/1210 AM WPHT) in the semifinals of the NIT. 

Soul start AFL season with win in Orlando

ORLANDO (March 29, 2015) - Ryan McDaniel's late touchdown reception lifted the Philadelphia Soul to a heart-stopping, 70-63, win over the Orlando Predators at the Amway Center in Orlando on Sunday night.

Down by a pint with just  36 seconds left, Aoul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh connected with McDaniel for the game-winner. An ensuing two-point conversion by Marco Thomas accounted for the final score.

McDaniel finished with 10 catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns and  Thomas added 14 catches for 154 yards and three touchdowns. Shaun Kauleinamoku had six receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

Raudabaugh finished the night by completing 30-of-48 passes for 422 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions.

“That’s Arena Football, coming down to the wire on the last play of the game,” said Soul head coach, Clint Dolezel. “Coming back from injury and adversity is the key."

Kent Richardson led the Philadelphia defense with 6 1/2 total tackles and one tackle for loss while Dwayne Hollis had 3 1/2 total tackles.

Union blanked by Chicago

Bridgeview, Ill. – Chicago defender Adailton lifted the Fire over the Philadelphia Union, 1-0, on Sunday night at Toyota Park.

Adailton scored the match's lone goal in the 37th minute off a free kick from Harry Shipp and for the second consecutive game, the Union played with 10 men as Fred was sent off in the 72nd minute.

“I’m a competitive guy – I have competitive guys in our locker room,” head coach Jim Curtin said. “[We’re] not happy with the performance. We weren’t good enough on the day. I don’t think we had an opportunity. They’re missing guys, we are missing guys, but that’s no excuse.”

Rais Mbolhi made two saves for the Union, including one in the 20th minute off a dangerous Fire possession that started via corner kick. Unfortunately, less than 20 minutes later on another set piece, the Fire broke through as Adailton headed home the eventual game-winning goal.

“Shipp put in a good ball and they got on the end of it,” Curtin said. “Too loose of a mark, obviously.  I’ll have to look at the tape. Watching it live, it was very lax defending on our part.”

Mbolhi’s finest save of the night came right on the 54th minute as Kennedy Igboananike got on the end of a long through ball from Michael Stephens. Mbolhi reacted well to make a kick-save with his left foot.

One of the best chances for the Union came in the 68th minute when Andrew Wenger sent a cross in that was eventually played down for Fernando Aristeguieta, who had to react quickly to get an attempted shot, but his effort was wide.

Just a few minutes later, Fred, who subbed on for Vincent Nogueira was issued a red card for hitting Shipp. It’s the second red card in as many games for the Union.

“It’s tough,” Curtin said. “You’re pushing the game, the tempo and the ball is starting to go our way.  We were on them, not letting them get out of their end. Then the red card happens, and now we are down a man. Credit to guys on the field though, they pushed hard.”

The Union fell to 0-2-2 on the season. They won’t play again until Sunday, April 5 when they’ll take on Sporting Kansas City on the road.

“We know that four games have gone by now and we only have two points,” Curtin said. “We are not happy with that at all. We’re going to be chasing it a bit now. We have to get our first three and get it behind us, and then go from there.”

Sunday, March 29, 2015

'Biz Nasty' has himself a day at Phantoms' expense

Thanks to Team Shred
by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor 

Allentown, PA -- Another signpost that the Phantoms' inaugural season in their third location is slowly sliding towards oblivion, was that a player best known for his social media personality rather than anything ever accomplished on ice suddenly enjoys a flash of success.

Spurned by every single team in the National Hockey League following a sporadic six-year career, Paul Bissonnette recorded a goal, assist and engaged in a second-period fight as the league-best Manchester Monarchs posted a 3-1 decision over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Sunday evening.

Ryan Horvat added a goal and ex-Flyer Josh Gratton picked up an assist, while Patrik Bartosak only needed to stop 19 shots -- but 12 of those in the third period -- for the win.

"Their fourth line outplayed our fourth line. That's the way it is when you get down to the post-All-Star-game push and into the playoffs," said Phantoms head coach Terry Murray. "That's why you need depth in your lineup, need secondary scoring. We got that last night, but it didn't show today."

Scott Laughton provided the Phantoms' lone score, in the first period, his third in as many games after a long dry spell. Rob Zepp played well in defeat with 31 saves but his club has lost five of their last six games and will be playing out the string with 10 contests left and 11 points out of a playoff spot as of the opening faceoff.

"I think it's important to stay focused. That's been the message. Obviously, out of the playoff picture, but to take each game and try to get two points," noted Phantoms defenseman Mark Alt. "That was our goal tonight, to stay focused, stick to the game plan and finish off the season strong with the right mentality. We have enough games left to finish off this season in a positive way."

Bissonnette provided the lone spark of the first half of the second period when he and Oliver Lauridsen decided to drop the gloves in an otherwise unentertaining draw, then finished off his Gordie Howe hat trick at the 10:38 mark by dishing to Horvat for his successful shot from the right circle.

The 30-year-old journeyman only recorded seven goals and 22 points in 202 NHL appearances for the Penguins and Coyotes, but was held without a goal over this season's first 46 games, split between Portland and Manchester. 

Lehigh Valley mustered just three shots in the second period, but turned on the jets in the third, forcing Bartosak into a state of alertness not needed in the first two.

Bartosak appeared to be caught off-guard and had his glove hand low as Petr Straka fired away from the left wing with 8:28 remaining, but smothered the rebound just before Andrew Gordon could take a poke. Earlier in the third, Gordon again cut to the net but after Blair Jones hit him with a centering feed, the puck took a curved route off his stick and missed the left post. 

"They're the first place team in the league for a reason. They're really tough for us...Need to get pucks in deep and use our speed," Straka said at the second intermission, but he and his club didn't heed the warning until it was too late.

Another player who didn't heed a warning was Laughton, who was caught at center ice looking down and away when crushed by a legal hit from Horvat. It was a grim reminder of Laughton's concussion suffered in his Flyers call-up when Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen drilled him with an elbow to the head.

However, Mike Mersch outpaced the field up the left wing and hit the empty net to seal the outcome with 28.7 seconds remaining. That effort ended his weekend at five goals and seven points, while helping his team improve to 32 wins, one loss this season when leading after two periods. 

Keeping up a season-long tradition, the Phantoms picked up the game's first solo penalty but killed it off despite Manchester setting up for just over a minute inside the offensive zone with their expert cycle game.

Though the visitors were thought to be the more tired team, facing the final matchup of another 3-in-3 weekend, it was not the case. They've gone 8-1-1 over their last 10 games and won two of three in the series with 11 total goals. 

Halfway through the opening period, the shots were 9-1 in favor of the Monarchs, but the hosts picked up the game's initial score. Laughton emerged from the left-wing corner after following a blocked shot and was allowed room to weave in close and lift a backhander over Bartosak at 10:48.

"Yeah, a little bit," Laughton said when asked if he was surprised to have that much room to work. "It kinda bounced on my stick. I just wanted to bring it out far enough and it's a tough play to score on the forehand from a bad angle so I had to switch to put it on net."

A surprise name was given credit for the visitors' tying goal as Bissonnette was in front of Zepp and a shot from Horvat apparently got a piece of him en route to the back of the net inside of four minutes left in the period. Former Flyer Josh Gratton picked up the secondary assist.

Bissonnette's tally was his first at the AHL level since April 11, 2009 when he took the ice for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, finishing that campaign with 16 points (9G, 7A) in 46 appearances. 

Game Notes: The clubs split the two-game season series with each team winning on the road ... Lehigh Valley won 3-2 in Manchester back on Nov. 7, the game notorious for being the one where Shayne Gostisbehere suffered his season-ending ACL injury ... Lehigh Valley's Jay Rosehill drew a game misconduct for leaving the bench at the end of the second period The Phantoms killed off both Monarchs' power plays, extending their streak to 21 consecutive short-handed situations killed off ...  Lehigh Valley scratched defenseman Nick Luukko less than 24 hours after he made his professional debut in a 4-1 win over the Baby Penguins ... Zepp faced at least 30 shots for the 26th time this season as a Phantoms goalie.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mason allows Flyers to gain point in loss to Sharks

Philadelphia,  PA -- Somehow, despite the mathematical probability of making the playoffs dwindles each and every night, the Orange and Black insist on dragging each game out to its illogical conclusion.

Despite missing four regulars due to injury and illness, on Saturday afternoon in South Philly things weren't decided until Brent  Burns scored the winner in the fifth  round  of  the  shootout  as  San  Jose  claimed  a  3-2  victory  over Philadelphia.

Matt Irwin and Joe Pavelski lit the lamp for the Sharks, who improved to 3-3-0 on their seven-game road trip which concludes on Sunday in Pittsburgh.  Alex  Stalock  only needed to  make 16 saves in  regulation and halted four of five Philly chances in the game's terminal segment.

Michael  Raffl  and Claude Giroux  provided offense  for the Flyers, losers in five  of  their last six  games and teetering on  the edge of being eliminated from playoff contention.

Steve Mason took the loss despite stopping 42-of-44 shots. It was the 25 time the club's starter has faced at least 30 shots in a game, and fell to 10-8-7 in those games. That he was able to squeeze a point in 18 of those contests is a minor miracle.

There's six games left in the regular season and the Flyers, who fell to 3-10 in shootouts this season, has ample chance to set a new franchise record for most games played beyond regulation. Today was their 24th, tying a record set in 1998-99.

Mason looked powerless as Burns finished off the final round with several stick moves which resulted in a successful backhander.

Jake Voracek scored on the hosts' first shot, but the veritable Murderer's Row of Giroux, Matt Read, Sean Couturier and Vinny Lecavalier failed to dent Stalock.

Irwin's  blast made  it through  traffic  and past  Mason just  4:38 into  the contest,  but Raffl  popped home a loose puck from a Nicklas Grossmann rebound at 6:44.

San  Jose  went up 2-1 with  3:15 left in the  first as a turnaround shot from behind  the goal  line by Pavelski deflected off Flyers defenseman Michael Del Zotto's  leg and  trickled through Mason. A brief review apparently determined the puck crossed the line before the whistle blew to stop play.

Mason then kept it a one-goal spread by stopping a short-handed breakaway from Logan Couture with 8:40 to play in the second.

Subbing  for  the injured Wayne  Simmonds, Ryan White missed  an open net on a power  play with  just over  seven  minutes played  in the  third, but  Giroux channeled Alex Ovechkin and fired from the left circle through a screen to tie things with 11:23 left.

The Sharks failed to click on an overtime power play, then Couture misfired on a backhander with an open net ahead of him in the final seconds.

Notes: San  Jose extended  its  win streak  to  seven  games and  run  of success  in Philadelphia  to eight (7 wins, 1 tie) since a loss on Dec. 21, 2000 ... Raffl hit the 20-goal mark for the first time in his North American career and first since reaching the mark while playing for Leksands in Sweden two years ago ...
Flyers  defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo and Mark Streit were scratched due to flu-like  symptoms,  while defensemen  Oliver Lauridsen and  Mark Alt, and forward Jason  Akeson  were recalled  by  the  Flyers  from  the AHL  under  emergency conditions. Alt, a Minnesota product, made his NHL debut ... All three players were loaned back to the Phantoms following the contest.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Impossible choice ahead for Barry Ashbee Trophy

Kimmo Timonen and Shayne Gostisbehere.

At the outset of the year they were arguably the two best defensemen in the Philadelphia Flyers' system. In mid-Summer, you could have inscribed their selection as the best at their positions for the NHL parent club and its AHL farm team with ink.

And yet, both hardly saw the ice this season thanks to unexpected circumstances -- with the former eventually doing so for a completely different organization.

Ironic, dontcha think?

This season alone, Craig Berube has had to find playing time for 10 different defensemen due to injuries, inconsistent play, call-ups, demotions and trades. It's hard to believe that Timonen, only fully recovered from a series of blood clots which kept him off the ice until late February, wasn't one of them. He was dealt to Chicago on March 2 without suiting up in Orange and Black in legitimate game action.

When that amoebic mass of a defensive corps collectively sports one of the worst penalty-killing percentages in the NHL, ranks 13th out of 16 teams in the Eastern Conference in goals allowed, and only recently dragged itself into the middle of the pack in terms of goal scoring, one can list as many positives as negatives for what passes as the cream of the crop.

In that spirit, how can media members properly assess which blueliner is worthy of taking home the Barry Ashbee Trophy this season? It's not difficult to envision the tough-as-nails, long-time minor leaguer is shaking his head from the Great Beyond at the current choices. 

Since the creation of the award which honors the bellwether of the Flyers' blueline in 1975, it's been a virtual slam-dunk selection every single season with the exception of two: 2015 and 1982.

The three-time defending champ and five-time winner Timonen isn't here and didn't skate a shift for Berube when he was given the go-ahead by doctors, and, unless the club wishes to set a far-out precedent, won't end up inching closer Eric Desjardins for the most overall wins at seven.

Could it happen? Sure. Recall that Ian Laperriere won the Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication to hockey in 2011 without having returned from multiple injuries suffered during the 2009-10 season, issues which forced his retirement. In fact, one can make a case that his complete lack of mistakes makes his 2014-15 ledger pristine, unlike his teammates who were forced to defend without his guidance.

Mark Streit is the team co-leader with nine goals, heads the club with 45 points, and is an anchor for the second power play unit. He's also been the lone member of the rearguard to participate in all 75 games. On the other hand, the 37-year-old has seemed catatonic at times, has made glaring errors on the penalty kill along with the rest of the forwards who collapse towards the puck carrier, and if you put stock in this number, ranks lowest among defensemen at minus-10.

Michael Del Zotto has been a revelation when he's not a healthy scratch, with nine goals and 28 points, picking up where Andrej Meszaros left off for Flyers defensemen allowed to tap into their instinct and join the rush. At 24 he's just developing a killer shot on the move and has been as good as any forward firing from the left wing. Conversely, the Ontarian who played his way out of New York and was unwanted in Nashville has drawn the ire of observers for being too slow at times to pick up the late man when either Steve Mason, Ray Emery or Rob Zepp let rebounds go or when a pass comes to a late-breaking opposition forward.

Luke Schenn has been near invisible on most nights, can't seem to get away with clean checks in the defensive zone, can't seem to figure out a clear path to clearing the puck from his defensive zone. Braydon Coburn is absolved since he's been shipped to Tampa Bay and there seems to be little discussion of the worth of Andrew MacDonald, relative to his contract or to each individual shift when casual observers come away with at least one gripe.

Creating some doubt/discussion/controversy is CSNPhilly.com's intrepid beat writer, a veteran of hockey coverage in this city, who tweeted the following last night: 

Steve Mason said to me last week that N Schultz should be the Barry Ashbee Trophy winner. Many teammates agree

If only the Ashbee were a prize voted upon by fellow teammates, like an insular Lindsay Award, this supposition might gain some traction. Given that it's an honor decided upon by a panel of writers and broadcasters who are familiar with the club's play throughout this nightmare of a season ... on second thought, why not?

Schultz is one of two defensemen, and the only one not protected through injury or lineup choices, to have a positive plus-minus (5). When pressed can you think of anything either overwhelmingly positive or overwhelmingly negative in his game? A 13-year veteran, that's how Schultz has been able to mold his performance to survive through four NHL organizations. He may lack a little flash, but there's a quiet dedication and attention to whichever role he's given, which makes him a little more than a dark horse candidate.

Back in 1982, persons tasked with selecting the Ashbee winner faced a similar crisis borne of different results.

That squad, split between 72 games of Pat Quinn and eight from Bob McCammon, finished third in the Patrick Division and made the playoffs under the old divisional format. Ultimately, their defensive corps barely kept the club above water, ending the season with only a plus-12 goal differential. They gave up a then-team-record 313 goals over an 80 game schedule, and surrendered 19 more scores in a four-game, first-round loss to the Rangers.

What's worse, the Flyers allowed 14 hat tricks by the opposition. They fell victim to not one, not two, but three separate five-goal games: one each from Wayne Gretzky, Bryan Trottier and Willy Lindstrom and a four-goal effort from Kent Nilsson.

None of the 12 defenseman who dressed at one time or another played the full season. Jim Watson was the closest with 76 appearances, while Brad Marsh -- acquired from Calgary in November -- participated in all 66 games the Flyers played from that point.

Behn Wilson potted 13 goals but was used as a winger at times, and fought near-constant issues with discipline, puck movement and coverage. Bob Hoffmeyer, Fred Arthur, Mark Botell, Steve Smith and Reid Bailey were stop-gap solutions due to epidemic injuries and lack of organizational depth. Their chief offensive threat, Bob Dailey, saw his career ended after just 12 games due to a horrifically-broken leg suffered in Buffalo during a race for a puck.

The answer was apparently to reward Frank Bathe. A tough player from the Streak team of 1979-80 who resembled a lumberjack and who paid a constant price through repeated injury, Bathe missed all of November, December, January and February while battling back issues which eventually cost him his career. His final ledger: 28 games played, four points (1G, 3A), 68 penalty minutes, plus-11 rating.

By that logic, wouldn't Carlo Colaiacovo be in the running this year?

When will 'Ghost' re-appear?

During the second period of Wednesday night's Flyers-Blackhawks game, Flyers GM Ron Hextall announced that the unlucky rookie Gostisbehere would, in fact, be shut down for the remainder of the current season. The Union College product had been skating since early January, rehabbing from a torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered with the Phantoms on Nov. 7 and the required surgery performed less than a week later.

Hextall explained the rationale behind his final answer and denied that the franchise d-man suffered some kind of setback: “No, all the new research says eight months until it’s fully healed. Is there a chance of him getting hurt? Yes. The risk is too high to take the chance basically. The risk reward doesn't add up.”

It was clear at the outset of the injury that Gostisbehere didn't suffer the kind of torsional ACL tear that football or basketball players suffer which ends seasons, may involve a reconstruction, and requires a 6-to-8 month rehab and recovery.

However, the kind of time frame Hextall referenced is not new in college or professional sports. In the span of one afternoon at the Meadowlands in October of 1993, Eagles offensive stars Randall Cunningham and Fred Barnett both suffered torn ACLs whose torsion forced them out of action for the 6-to-8 month time frame -- and medical science has progressed from that juncture nearly a generation ago.

Either Hextall has remained ignorant of medical technology outside the game of hockey, the doctors he's consulted have engaged in a fabrication, or he's telling a fib to back up the manner in which he hedged several weeks prior.

Gostisbehere was lucky, since his ACL tear was obviously not of the kind which need total reconstruction or replacement, but the carrot that was dangled all along of a four-month time frame for recovery should have set off alarm bells to casual observers from the start.

If you recall, back on March 5, Phantoms head coach Terry Murray made a surprise announcement that Gostisbehere was not healing in time to make a comeback and would be shut down for the season. By the end of that night's Flyers game, a 3-1 win over the Blues, Hextall emphatically denied that the situation had progressed to a point of finality.

The timetable cited then was two weeks, the official announcement was made in 20 days. In the meantime, both the Flyers and Phantoms have been virtually eliminated from playoff contention.

While the lack of clear communication between levels of the franchise is not promising, once any ideas of a conspiracy are shaken from the gray matter, Hextall continued on and provided some insight into Gostisbehere's process for returning to action in the Fall.

"He's gained a lot of weight, he's a lot stronger, so it hasn't been a total loss. He's watched a lot of games, he's learned how to be a pro. There's been a lot of benefit ... as much as playing? Of course not. He's going to dictate that (readiness to play). Come into camp and see where things go."

Gostisbehere is incredibly lucky to have sustained that type of injury so young. Lesser knee procedures, such as Steve Mason's meniscectomy which was required to keep that tissue from twisting inside the knee joint, often mean the affected area will never be 100 percent back to where it was before any damage was done.

With a conservative estimate of eight months, that means Gostisbehere should be bursting to hit the ice following medical clearance in July, with two good months of hardcore exertion before camps open in mid-September. Lehigh Valley ranks 13th in the East in goals allowed and 12th in goals for, and an additional offensive presence besides Brandon Manning is desperately needed next year.

In the interest of shepherding the potential heir to the Howe-Desjardins-Timonen lineage on the blueline, Hextall and Murray ought to be crystal clear in their plans for the young man going forward.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Temple beats La. Tech, reaches NIT semis

Philadelphia, PA -- Quenton DeCosey registered a double- double with 21 points and 11 rebounds as the Temple Owls dismissed the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, 77-59, in the quarterfinals of the 2015 NIT from the Liacouras Center on Wednesday night.

DeCosey, who shot 7-of-11 from the floor, including 3-of-4 behind the 3-point line, was joined in double figures by Jesse Morgan and Will Cummings with 17 and 15 points, respectively, for the Owls (26-10).

With the victory Temple, which has made a 17-game improvement on its win total from the 2013-14 campaign when it finished just 9-22, heads to New York City and face off against the Miami-Florida Hurricanes in the semifinals of the tourney, for the right to play for the title on April 2.

Leading the way for the Bulldogs (27-9) was Erik McCree with 14 points, followed by Michale Kyser and Raheem Appleby with 10 apiece.

Shooting an impressive 51.7 percent from the floor, which included 5-of-9 behind the 3-point line in the first half, Temple moved out to a 41-33 advantage at the break. It also helped that the Owls suffered just a single turnover through the first 20 minutes of action.

With less than nine minutes gone by in the second half, Tech's Kenneth Smith (eight points, five assists), the Conference USA Player of the Year, went down on a drive to the basket, suffering what was later reported to be a left ankle injury. He remained on the floor while play continued at the other end and was then tended to by the Louisiana Tech staff.

Smith was carried off during the timeout and taken directly to the locker room and did not return. When Smith left the Bulldogs trailed 61-47.

With their floor leader no longer available, the visitors hit only 34.5 percent from the field, 1-of-7 beyond the arc, in the second half.

The Owls, who suffered only five miscues the entire night, converted 9-of-18 shots beyond the arc as they led from start to finish.

A two-time champion in this tournament, Temple has the distinction of claiming the very first NIT title back in 1938. The Owls took home the trophy in 1969 as well.

These teams met earlier this season, with Temple posting an 82-75 win as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, in what was the first-ever meeting between the programs.

Mason leads the way, as Flyers beat Blackhawks 4-1

Image courtesy Amy Irvin - 38Photography.net
by: Hal Greenblatt
Phanatic Hockey Writer

Philadelphia, Pa -- Ryan White potted the game-winning goal midway through the second period, as he redirected a shot passed Chicago goalie Corey Crawford, to give the Flyers a 4-1 win Wednesday night.

Wayne Simmonds, Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl also scored for the Flyers. Matt Read and Michael Del Zotto each notched a pair of assists, while Nick Schultz, Carlo Colaiacovo, Nicklas Grossmann, and Jakub Vorack all chipped in with one a piece. Steve Mason was stellar in net for the Flyers, stopping 31/32 shots. With the win, the Flyers snapped a four-game losing streak.

Andrew Shaw was the lone goal scorer for Chicago. Duncan Keith and Brandon Saad recorded assists on Shaw’s power play goal. Corey Crawford was the star of the night for Chicago, as he made several highlight reel saves despite allowing 4 goals on 36 shots. The Blackhawks loss was only their third of the month, as they battle for the playoffs.

On a night that was set to honor a former Flyer legend, it was the current Flyers that put on a show. Kimmo Timonen returned to Philadelphia for the first time since being traded at the deadline, and the adoring fans showered the Finnish defenseman with love throughout the entirety of the game. During the first television time out, the Flyers played a tribute to veteran defenseman who donned the Orange and Black for seven memorable years.

"I was thinking about it," Timonen said after the game referencing the reception he received from the fans. "I've gone through a lot of games throughout my career. Won a lot of medals, all star games, but that's one of the coolest things as a player to experience. I just want to say thanks to the fans. That was awesome."

The defenseman also mentioned that he needed a moment after watching the video tribute that was shown on the jumbotron during the first timeout.

Despite honoring Timonen, the Flyers had a game to play, and play they did. In perhaps the teams strongest outing all season, it was the good guys who struck first, and then continued to attack.

The Flyers first tally came 7:20 into the period, shortly after the Timonen video, as Wayne Simmonds took a feed at the right circle from Matt Read, and beat Crawford with a quick slap shot. Simmonds holds the teams lead with 28 goals.

Despite holding a lead in the second period, the Flyers refused to sit back, with Ryan White camped out in front of the net, he notched his 5th goal of the season on a beautiful redirection off a Carlo Colaiacovo point blast.

Not to be outdone, the magnificent duo of Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux teamed up to provide perhaps the most impressive goal of the season. Voracek skated into the zone on the right side and throw the puck towards the net. A speeding Giroux came down the middle and redirected the puck top shelf, to beat Crawford, who had little chance to make the save.

"Sure, at times he's tried to do too much," Head coach Craig Berube said referring to Giroux's first home even strength goal. "His frustration level has been pretty good, I think. He's a good leader. He wants to win. He doesn't worry about the goals so much, he obviously has to produce for us, and it's mind boggling at times that he only had one goal five-on-five at home."

The Flyers would head into the locker room holding a 3-0 lead.

"Our productions been way off," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said regarding the lack of offense from his team. "We had some good looks tonight, but we didn't get shots through. You got to get to the front of the net, you got to get greasy goals, they got a couple of those tips that went their way because they got inside."

Despite the Flyers entering the third period with a 15-0-3 record, the Blackhawks refused to go away, as Andrew Shaw quickly scored on the power play, just 14 seconds into the man advantage, and only 2:24 into the third period.

As expected, the Flyers and Blackhawks did exchange fisticuffs, courtesy of former Flyer Dan Carcillo and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Despite Bellemare participating in just his second career fight, he held his own against the veteran Carcillo.

"Belle's got character," said Berube. "He's a feisty player. He's a competitor out there. He's done very well for us in a lot of different situations."

With a possible swing in momentum heading towards Chicago, the Flyers were back on their heels, but it was Michael Raffl who would make sure that Philadelphia would not lose the lead or the game, as he tacked on a power play goal with just over four minutes remaining, to give Philadelphia a 4-1 victory over the playoff bound Blackhawks.

We got a chance to get closer to Nashville, and we let it slip away tonight. Not much else to say about it," a dejected Corey Crawford said following the game.

Game Notes: Giroux’s goal was his first even strength goal at home...Voracek's assist helped him regain a tie for the league lead in scoring…Simmonds is one goal away from tying a career high…The Flyers improved to 16-0-3 when leading after 2 periods…Timonen record 17:25 time on ice…Flyers announced following the game that Simmonds (lower body) and Andrew MacDonald (upper body) would both miss the rest of the season with injuries.

Witherpsoon brings boxing back to Pennsauken

Pennsauken, NJ (The Phanatic Magazine) - Chazz Witherpsoon's  Silver Spoon Promotions is bringing boxing back to South Jersey on April 18 at the GPG Event Center in Pennsauken, New Jersey.  

Witherpsoon (32-3, 24 KO's), a veteran heavyweight who calls Paulsboro home, will be in the main event against an opponent to be named. The St. Joseph's University grad won his first 23 bouts before suffering his first defeat to future two-time world title challenger Chris Arreola.

Since then Witherspoon participated in the 2008 Ring Magazine Heavyweight Fight of the Year, an eighth-round stoppage over Adam Richards (21-1) and dropped a fight to future two-time world title challenger Tony Thompson.

In has last bout, Witherspoon stopped Cory Phelps in two rounds at the GPC Event on Jan. 24.

Appearing on the undercard in four-round bouts will be:

Vidal Rivera (1-0, 1 KO) of Camden, NJ takes on Tyron Stewart (0-1) in a super bantamweight clash. 

Obafemi Bakari (2-0) of Staten Island, NY will fight pro debuting Andrew Osborne in a jr. middleweight fight.

Matthew Gonzalez (2-0) of Vineland,NJ will take on Joseph McDonald (0-1) of Concord, NC in a jr. middleweight fight.

Courtney Blocker (4-0, 4 KO's) of Pensacola, FL will take on an opponent to be named in a jr. welterweight bout.

Paris Chisholm of Baltimore will be making his pro debut in a welterweight bout.

Erick Kitt (5-0, 2 KO's) of Pensacola, FL will see action in a jr. middleweight bout.

Malik Hawkins (2-0, 2 KO's)  of Baltimore, MD will take part in a jr. welterweight bout.

Andrew Pureifoy of Philadelphia will fight in a cruiserweight fight.

Antoine Aikens (9-0, 1 KO) of Atlantic City, NJ will take part in a super middleweight bout.

Rocco Salimbene of Pennsauken, NJ will make his pro debut in a lightweight fight

Soul add pass rusher Curtis Young

PHILADELPHIA (The Phanatic Magazine) – The Philadelphia Soul added a pass rusher on tuesday, inking defensive end Curtis Young to a one-year deal.

The 6-foot-1, 270-pound Young will be entering his fourth season in the Arena Football League after breaking in with the Cleveland Gladiators in 2012. Young then collected 32 tackles and one sack in 15 games for the Pittsburgh Power in 2013, and had his breakout season in '14 when he tallied 25 1/2 total tackles and 7.0 sacks in 18 starts.

“Curtis is a versatile athlete who has the ability to bring pressure from both the ‘mack’ linebacker and defensive end positions,” said Soul assistant head coach Phil Bogle.  “He’s a great addition to the defensive line and will be a serious threat to the opposing team’s offense.”

Prior to his start in the Arena Football League, Young debuted for the UFL’s Sacramento Mountain Lions in 2010.  He also went to training camp with the Green Bay Packers in 2010 after starring at the University of Cincinnati.

Matthews heads to Minnesota

PHILADELPHIA (The Phanatic Magazine) - One of Philadelphia's favorite whipping-boys has a new home.

Linebacker Casey Matthews agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday.

Matthews, the brother of Green Bay Packers star Clay Matthews, spent his first four NFL seasons with the Eagles after being taken in the fourth round of the 2011 draft out of the University of Oregon. He played in 65 games, starting 15, and amassed 109 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks, 7 TFLs, 5 QBHs and 1 forced fumble in addition to 39 special teams tackles.

Despite his reputation as an underachiever Matthews has his best year in 2014 as an injury replcement for both Mychal Kendricks and DeMerco Ryans, recording a career-best 62 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, 4 TFLs and 3 QBHs.

In Minnesota, Matthews will be moving from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 and is expected to compete with Audie Cole at MLB. The Vikings' starter in 2014, Jasper Brinkley, left for Dallas in free agency.

Michael Jack to get longer look on Phillies broadcasts

Comcast SportsNet’s President and GM Brian Monihan announced on Wednesday that Philadelphia Phillies’ Hall of Fame third baseman Michael Jack Schmidt will double-up on his duties for the 2015 season.

Schmidt originally helped out during Sunday games in 2014, only giving him 13 broadcasts.

The word came down from upon high that the most famous Jupiter, Florida resident would be in the booth for both Saturday and Sunday games, increasing his work load to 26 for the entire season.

“I’m very excited to have added Saturday’s to my Phillies broadcast schedule this year,” Schmidt said in a press release. “Working with my new broadcast partner Ben Davis, and again with Matt, Murph, and Tom will be a blast. I can’t wait to bring my six week spring training experiences with all the players to life in the booth.”

Schmidt’s first set of Saturday and Sunday broadcasts will take place on April 12-13 when the Phillies take on the Washington Nationals.

The club's all-time home runs leader retired from baseball in May of 1989, and the following season made his first foray into broadcasting on PRISM, featuring play-by-play man Jim Barniak alongside Schmidt's long-time Phils teammate Garry Maddox. 

Since then, he's popped in and out of the organization at various times, with stints as Spring Training instructor and less than a year at the helm of the Single-A Clearwater Threshers.

Noel can't do it himself as Sixers lose tight one to Kings

Sacramento, CA -- DeMarcus Cousins recorded 33 points, 17 rebounds, four blocks and forced a turnover on the game's final possession to seal the Sacramento Kings' 107-106 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Rudy Gay complemented Cousins with 21 points, and Sacramento held on by the skin of its teeth for its first three-game winning streak since November.

"The energy of the team and the spirit of the team right now since I have been here, this is by far the best," said Kings coach George Karl.

Robert Covington netted a team-high 21 points for the Sixers, who have dropped 16 straight on the road. Thomas Robinson, the fifth overall pick in the 2012 by the Kings, scored a career-high 16 points against his former team, while Nerlens Noel held his own against Cousins with 14 points, 10 boards and six blocked shots.

Covington scored 12 points in a 1:14 span in the middle stages of the fourth quarter, connecting on three 3-pointers and converting a three-point play the old-fashioned way.

His triple with 6:12 remaining broke a 100-100 tie and signified the Sixers' last make from the field. From there, they went 0-for-5 and committed eight of their 21 turnovers.

Two Gay free throws pulled Sacramento even at 105-105 with 1:20 remaining, and on the next Kings possession, Ray McCallum snuck for a putback of a Cousins miss.

After Covington went 1-of-2 at the foul line with 39.5 seconds to go, Noel blocked a Cousins shot and forced him into a rushed fadeaway that drew iron.

Brett Brown called timeout with 8.2 seconds remaining and tried having Thompson play hero.
Cousins, though, stripped the ball near the foul line, and the Kings survived a tight battle.

The Sixers, the lowest scoring team in the NBA this season, exploded for 70 points in the first half -- just 21 below their average coming in. They shot 56.3 percent from the field, made eight 3-pointers and only turned it over four times.

Cousins' double-double in the first half (21-10) helped the Kings keep pace in the up-and-down style of play, but they still trailed 70-63 at the break.

Things slowed down considerably in the third quarter, and a 10-point Philadelphia lead was erased with a 14-0 Kings run. Gay scored the final six points of the surge, and the hosts were in front 87-84 entering the fourth.

Notes: Ish Smith totaled 13 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and seven turnovers for the Sixers, who made 13 3s ... The Kings outscored Philadelphia at the free throw line 30-13 ... Sacramento will start a four-game road trip Wednesday against Phoenix ... Philadelphia, which had won six straight in Sacramento, closes out its three-game trek at Denver on Wednesday.