Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Devils blank Flyers

AP Sports Writer

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils have started the lockout-shortened season in playoff form. The Philadelphia Flyers seem to have missed the opening bell.

Brodeur made 24 saves for his 120th NHL shutout, Ilya Kovalchuk scored on a short-handed penalty shot, and the Devils won their home opener in front of an enthusiastic sellout crowd with a 3-0 victory over the winless Flyers on Tuesday night.

It was the first meeting between the long-time divisional rivals since New Jersey eliminated Philadelphia in five games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Devils again had the Flyers' number and beat them for a fifth straight time.

Travis Zajac and David Clarkson scored first-period goals to provide all the offense Brodeur would need en route to his 10th shutout of the Flyers.

"It was a long time coming," Brodeur said. "I thought we had a great run in the playoffs, and our fans were great. With the lockout, we didn't know how these fans would respond. They showed tremendous support.

"I thought we played pretty good and gave them some excitement. Hockey is back in New Jersey, I guess."

The Flyers dropped to 0-3, matching their worst start since they also lost their first three games in the lockout-shortened 1995 season.

Philadelphia rebounded that year to win the Atlantic Division, and the Devils won their first Stanley Cup championship that season with Brodeur in goal.

"It's not time to panic, but we have to tighten the screws," Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said. "After the bad start we can't keep losing games anymore because you will never get out from the bottom of the standings because you don't have enough games.

"That's why we have to be with the attitude that's it's the playoffs."

The 40-year-old Brodeur was in postseason form, especially in the first period when he stopped all nine Flyers shots.

"It shows how good an athlete he is," Clarkson said of Brodeur. "Marty is one of the best athletes I've played with. It's impressive to see him at that age doing what he's doing and having fun doing it. He makes us a better team every night."

The Devils had only three shots in the first period, but Zajac and Clarkson scored. That duo also had goals in the Devils' 2-1 season-opening win over the Islanders on Saturday.

"They only had three shots so I don't think we played bad hockey," Flyers forward Max Talbot said. "The only thing we can do is keep working hard. It would be easy to panic. It's about work ethic. Yes, it's three games and we don't have a point but we need to keep working and battling."

Kovalchuk, who played in Russia during the lockout and was a little late in getting back for training camp, brought the crowd of 17,650 to its feet on the Devils' fourth shot of the game early in the second period. He was hooked by defenseman Kimmo Timonen on a semi-breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot at 2:44.

The 29-year-old Kovalchuk wasted no time once the puck was put down at center ice. He skated quickly at Bryzgalov and beat him with a backhander to the upper part of the net for his first goal of the season.

"It's a 50-50 chance and I was fortunate to score," Kovalchuk said. "He's a big goalie and I knew he would go down if I faked him. I beat him this time, but it's a long season."

The only question after that was whether Brodeur would add to his career-leading shutout total. Wayne Simmonds had the best scoring chance with a shot from the right circle that had Brodeur out of position. However, the 19-year veteran slid across the crease and made a pad save.

It must have frustrated Simmonds because he bumped Brodeur after another glove save later in the period, sparking a little melee. Clarkson and Simmonds traded punches in a third-period scuffle.

"I didn't hit him too hard," Simmonds said. "I just gave him a little push that I kind of thought he over exaggerated, and it worked. He is one of the best goalies who ever played. He can do whatever he wants in this league."

The Flyers held New Jersey without a shot for a 12:25 span in the first period but still trailed 2-0.

Zajac gave the Devils the lead after only 67 seconds. The center who signed a $46 million contract last week, stopped a point shot by Bryce Salvador right at Bryzgalov's doorstep and tucked the puck around the goalie into an open net.

Clarkson extended the lead to 2-0 with 24.9 seconds left in the opening period with a fluky power-play goal. He centered the puck from the side of the net, and it hit off the stake of Flyers forward Ruslan Fedotenko and caromed into the net.

Brodeur had three excellent saves in the opening 20 minutes. He made a skate save on a point shot by defenseman Andrej Meszaros, stopped Fedotenko on a rebound, and made a one-on-one stop against Scott Hartnell with the Flyers coming at him in waves.

Notes: Brodeur also has 10 shutouts against the Islanders. ... Kovalchuk's goal was the Devils' first short-handed, penalty-shot score since Zach Parise had one on Oct. 21, 2011 vs. San Jose. ... Kovalchuk has scored on three of four penalty shots in his career. ... New Jersey is 17-8-5 in home openers. ... Tye McGinn, recalled from Adirondack of the AHL on Monday, made his NHL debut for the Flyers. He replaced Zac Rinaldo who sustained a cut to his right thigh against Buffalo on Sunday. ... Philadelphia RW Danny Briere missed his third straight game. He broke his left wrist playing overseas during the lockout. ... Former Islanders D Bruno Gervais, who signed as a free agent during the offseason, made his Flyers debut.debut.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tommy Pereira's career night helps Rider win foruth straight

JERSEY CITY — Tommy Pereira sure made the most of his opportunity.

Filling in for the injured Nurideen Lindsey, Pereira scored a career-high 17 points in his first career start, helping Rider to a 66-54 victory over St. Peter’s Thursday night in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference contest at the Yanitelli Center.

Pereira hit five 3s, including a pair from long range in the second half that helped spark a 9-0 run in which the Broncs grabbed the lead for good.

“When coach called my name, I was ready to go,” said Pereira, who found out he was going to start two days ago after Lindsey suffered a concussion Tuesday in practice.

“Excitement, nervous, you know, first career start,” said the junior guard from England. “I just wanted to go out there and play carefree — just play with confidence.”

Read more »

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Kaepernick, 49ers bulldoze Packers

AP Sports Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Colin Kaepernick ran for a quarterback record 183 yards and two touchdowns and threw two scoring passes to Michael Crabtree in leading the San Francisco 49ers back to the NFC championship game with a 45-31 victory against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night.

Playoff first-timer Kaepernick outshined reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, who never got in sync for the Packers (12-6) in finishing 26 of 39 for 257 yards with two touchdowns.

Kaepernick ran for scores of 20 and 56 yards on the way to topping the rushing mark of 119 yards set by Michael Vick in 2005 against St. Louis. Crabtree caught TD passes of 12 and 20 yards in the second quarter and wound up with nine receptions and 119 yards for the Niners (12-4-1) in the NFC divisional matchup.

San Francisco had 579 total yards, 323 on the ground.

Kaepernick, the second-year pro out of Nevada who supplanted Alex Smith at quarterback in a much-debated move by coach Jim Harbaugh, shook off an interception that Sam Shields ran back 52 yards for a touchdown on San Francisco's first possession to twice rally the 49ers from a TD behind.

Kaepernick's 56-yard TD run on a read-option keeper in the third quarter — the longest by a quarterback in franchise history — gave the 49ers a 31-24 lead. He stopped in the end zone and flexed his right arm, smiling all the way back to the sideline.

The scores mark the fourth time in NFL history a player had two touchdowns rushing and two touchdowns passing in a postseason game.

Kaepernick also led another drive that David Akers finished with a 36-yard field goal to put the 49ers ahead 24-21 as the first half ended.

Frank Gore also ran for a 2-yard touchdown 3 seconds into the fourth quarter to extend San Francisco's lead to 38-24.

Rodgers rallied the Packers after tossing his own interception. The former Cal star threw a 20-yard scoring strike to James Jones, and DaJuan Harris ran for an 18-yard touchdown.

The amped-up crowd at Candlestick Park endured a flurry of emotions at the start.

With San Francisco looking to return to the NFC title game for the second straight season, Kaepernick's costly error quieted the 49ers faithful. Shields stepped in front of Kaepernick's pass, shook the quarterback to the ground and scampered down the sideline to give the Packers a quick 7-0 lead.

Kaepernick unclipped his jaw strap and dropped his head to the sideline while Shields waved his hands at the crowd. Rodgers pumped his fist on the Packers sideline.

Kaepernick converted two third downs to bring the 49ers back on their next drive. He bought time and scurried out of the pocket to find running back Gore for a 45-yard gain, then darted 20 yards up the middle on third-and-8 for the tying score.

When Rodgers and the Packers offense finally took the field, they didn't do much the first time out. San Francisco stopped Rodgers, who had a contingent of friends and family make the 4-hour trek from his hometown of Chico, on a three-and-out that whipped the crowd back into a frenzy on a crisp night along the bay.

Rodgers found his groove and floated a 44-yard pass that Jones leaped to snatch over two defenders along the sideline. Then Harris broke through the middle to put the Packers up 14-7 on the next play.

Green Bay made its share of mistakes, too.

Jeremy Ross muffed a punt and Chris Spillman recovered at the Packers' 9. Three plays later, Kaepernick found Crabtree running free over the middle for a tying 12-yard touchdown pass.

San Francisco's stout defense often took a linebacker off the field to drop an extra defensive back in coverage against Rodgers, just as the 49ers did in a 30-22 win in the season opener at Lambeau Field. The strategy flustered Rodgers enough that he overthrew Jordy Nelson on a deep pass that Tarrell Brown intercepted. Rodgers had gone 184 passes without an interception.

Kaepernick broke another 15-yard run on third down, but officials whistled him for a 15-yard taunting penalty for tossing the ball in the direction of Green Bay defenders. He brushed that off to hit Crabtree on a 20-yard touchdown pass to give the 49ers a 21-14 lead midway through the second quarter.

On its next series, Green Bay took advantage of a 15-yard personal foul penalty Dashon Goldson was given for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Harris. Rodgers then threaded a tying 20-yard TD to Jones between three defenders in the end zone with 2:33 remaining. Kaepernick responded and led the 49ers downfield to give the struggling Akers, who had to beat out Billy Cundiff to keep his job, a chance.

Rodgers led the Packers on a nine-play 76-yard drive midway through the third quarter. Mason Crosby kicked a 31-yard field to tie the game at 24 in the third quarter

Sixers stop Rockets

AP Sports Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jrue Holiday scored 30 points, Thaddeus Young had 18 points and 12 rebounds and the Philadelphia 76ers snapped a five-game losing streak with a 107-100 win over the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

Jason Richardson scored 16 points for the Sixers, who finally return home for a lengthy stint as they try to play their way back into the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Sixers opened a stretch of 12 homes in the next 13 and hope they can start to offset a miserable 2-6 road trip that stretched over the new year.

The Sixers are 6-16 after a nice 10-6 start to the season. But it's turned into crunch time quickly for the Sixers as they as try and get back to .500 in the next month before the hopeful return of injured center Andrew Bynum.

James Harden led the Rockets with 29 points and Chandler Parsons had 23. Jeremy Lin missed 11 of 13 shots for seven points.

Led by 24 points from Holiday, the Sixers built a 14-point lead in the third quarter, and found an offensive touch they've missed for most of the season. The Sixers entered 27th in the NBA in scoring (92.2 points) and regularly failed to even reach 90 points over the last six weeks.

Spencer Hawes hit a jumper early in the fourth to make it 91-82 — the first time in six games the Sixers had scored more than 89 points. The Sixers didn't break 89 in either of their two games before a 103-99 win over the Lakers on Jan. 1.

The cushion almost wasn't enough once Harden tried to take over. Sixers coach Doug Collins called Harden a legitimate MVP candidate and the Houston guard showed why in the fourth. He scored six straight points, including the play of the game, going between his legs in transition and drawing a foul on a bucket over three defenders. Harden's three-point play pulled Houston to 96-93.

For once, the stumbling Sixers didn't break in the waning minutes. Evan Turner, who scored 12 points, fed a long pass to Young for a big dunk on the break and a seven-point lead.

The Rockets missed eight straight shots from the field to lose control of their comeback. Harden fumbled the ball with a minute a left and Young was there to pick it up and fire to Holiday, who took one look over his shoulder and put in the easy layup for a 104-94 lead.

Holiday sank two free throws to hit the 30-point mark, falling three points shy of matching his career high set in November against Phoenix.

Houston's cold stretch was uncharacteristic of a team that was second in the NBA in scoring (105.60 points) behind Oklahoma City. The Rockets only shot 30 percent from 3-point range (8 of 32) and had no answer to stop Holiday.

Collins has noted this team's missing energy to open second halves over the last month. Against Houston, they started slow, trailing by 11 before ending the quarter on a 20-6 run. Turner scored 12 points in the second quarter to help the Sixers take a 58-50 lead into halftime.

The Sixers held on to avoid a season-high losing streak and win for only the fourth time in 17 games.

NOTES: The Sixers are 15-0 with a lead at the start of the fourth quarter. ... The Sixers play Tuesday at Milwaukee for their only road game until Feb. 13. ... Holiday's great game could have been two points better. He had a jumper at the buzzer to end the third waved off after a review. ... Parsons and Harden combined to miss 13 of 16 3-point attempts.

Stingrays stop Titans again

For The Trentonian

TRENTON -- Titans head coach Vince Williams conceded that Saturday night's 3-1 loss to the South Carolina Stingrays was little more than a blueprint of Friday's defeat to the very same team.

But, after seven straight losses, it appears more likely that last year's abysmal second half could be a blueprint of things to come in the capital city. 

"We're losing two more guys tonight, so take a look around," said Williams, who is believed to be losing both Bryan Haczyk and Kelly Zajac to the AHL's Albany Devils.

"We're getting plucked pretty good.  We've got to find guys to come in here quickly...we had some sustained pressure, it was kind of a throwback of last night though.  A couple mistakes, a bad pinch, missed assignments."

The night certainly started on a positive note for the home team when Marcel Alvarez, who played his last game for the Titans before leaving to re-join the Army, was honored on the ice in a well-executed pre-game ceremony.  But that's about where the good feelings stopped.

Although the pace of the game certainly picked up from Friday's disastrous effort, fueled in part by bad ice, both teams still couldn't get on the scoreboard in the first period.  Trenton's defensemen as a whole have struggled throughout the season, but that point has only been magnified by a complete retooling of the blueline made necessary by the end of the lockout.  That has  led to, as Williams confirmed, plenty of rookie mistakes.

So, with most of the Titans' regular D core in the AHL -- perhaps for good -- it's somewhat miraculous that capital city primary puckstopper Scott Wedgewood was able to keep South Carolina off the scoreboard for as long as he did.  But even he showed some cracks once the second period got underway.

Just three minutes and 12 seconds into the second stanza, Stingrays forward Chris Langkow drove to the net with speed up the left side and managed to stuff a shot into the pads of the Devils prospect.  But the 20-year-old goaltender appeared to lose his angle a bit, over committing to the short side, all while Langkow made contact with him after his scoring chance.  Phil Mangan was trailing the play the whole way, and simply tapped the stray disc into a wide open net to put South Carolina up, 1-0.

About five and a half minutes later, and the Stingrays would double their advantage.  Connor Goggin was the last defenseman back on a partial 2-on-1 and managed to block the initial shot attempt of Tyler Johnson in the slot.  But Johnson simply followed his shot and managed to sneak the puck past Wedgewood. 

Langkow managed to beat Wedgewood on another odd-man rush midway through the third period to account for the final marker.  In the other net, Jeff Jakaitis was spectacular at times.  The 29-year-old journeyman didn't see many quality chances from the Titans, but stopped most with relative ease.  Only a Bryan Haczyk goal with 2:36 left to play spoiled a shutout.

The post-lockout era has proven to be a challenge for Trenton; their loss put them in 13th place in the 14-team ECHL Eastern Conference, with only a loss by Kalamazoo keeping them from being in the cellar.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sixers snared by Nets

AP Sports Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Reggie Evans grabbed a career-high 23 rebounds, Deron Williams scored 22 points and the Brooklyn Nets improved to 6-1 under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo with a 109-89 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night.

Evans dominated on the glass, outrebounding the undersized Sixers 23-22 through three quarters. Evans had 22 rebounds against Seattle in 2006.

Andray Blatche scored 20 points for the Nets, hours after he was questioned by Philadelphia police as part of a sexual assault investigation at an upscale hotel. Blatche, who was not charged, wrote about the incident on Twitter: "Im ok and I didn't do anything jus was n the area when it happened," Blatche tweeted. He later took down the tweet.

Up by one at halftime, the Nets routed the Sixers in the third. Joe Johnson, who scored 15 points, and Gerald Wallace each hit 3-pointers during a game-changing 16-2 run to open the third. The Nets hit 14 of 19 shots in the quarter to stretch the lead to 23 points.

Evans, a former Sixer, fell six shy of the NBA season high of 29 rebounds set by Orlando's Nikola Vucevic.

The Sixers traded Vucevic after his rookie season to the Magic as part of the four-team deal that sent Andrew Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers to Philadelphia. The Sixers were counting on Bynum to become the dominant center in the East and lead them deep into the postseason, but he has yet to play this season because of bone bruises on his knees. There's no date for a possible return. Without Bynum, the Sixers are getting outrebounded this season and entered the game ninth in the East.

Evans had 16 rebounds (12 defensive) by halftime, three less than Philadelphia's total. He had 20 rebounds with 6:54 left in the third, one more than the Sixers. He finished with 17 defensive rebounds and six offensive. He only scored two points.

Blatche didn't look at all affected by the police investigation. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said Blatche was among the witnesses interviewed by police Tuesday. Ramsey told reporters preliminary findings of the investigation show Blatche was not involved.

Officer Jillian Russell says the possible assault reportedly happened around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday in a room at the Four Seasons Hotel.

"He's going to play," Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo said of Blatche before the game. "He's been playing well and I expect him to play well today."

Blatche did not talk to reporters before the game. Photographers snapped photos of him as he left the Four Seasons and as he arrived at the Wells Fargo Center.

Police told WCAU-TV that a 21-year-old woman was taken from the hotel to a local hospital.

Jrue Holiday scored 19 points and Spencer Hawes had 14 for the Sixers, who stumbled home from a 2-6 road trip and on a three-game losing streak.

Philadelphia shot 50 percent in the first half only trailed 48-47 at the break, but the Sixers never got into a groove in the second half and were booed off the court to end the third quarter. Most of the 16,167 fans fled for the exits in the fourth. The few that remained at the end saw the Sixers lose their third straight game by at least 20 points.

Notes: Actor Mark Wahlberg was at the game. ... Philadelphia Flyers Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Matt Read received a huge ovation when they were introduced to the crowd. ... The Sixers signed G Maalik Wayns to a 10-day contract. ... Nets F Kris Humphries played after missing the last two games with a sprained left ankle.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Alabama rolls to a repeat

AP College Football Writer

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Alabama romped to its second consecutive BCS championship, and third in four seasons, beating No. 1 Notre Dame 42-14 in a BCS championship game that was no classic after all.

AJ McCarron threw four touchdown passes and Eddie Lacy ran for 140 yards and scored twice for the second-ranked Crimson Tide, which scored on its first three drives and cruised to the second-most lopsided BCS championship game victory Monday night.

Alabama (13-1) became the third team to win three national titles in four seasons since polls started being used to crown champions in 1936, and the first since Nebraska from 1994-97.

Tide coach Nick Saban now has won four national championships. Only Alabama's Paul "Bear" Bryant, with six, has more.

The Fighting Irish (12-1) didn't score until they were down 35-0 late in the third quarter.

In a matchup of tradition-rich programs tied for the most AP national championships with eight, Notre Dame was looking for its first national championship in 24 years. The Crimson Tide got its ninth.

The Crimson Tide marched with ease on the opening drive, going 82 yards on five plays to take a 7-0 lead on Lacy's 20-yard touchdown run up the middle with 12:03 left in the first quarter.

Notre Dame (12-0) had allowed only two rushing touchdowns in its surprising run to the championship game. The Fighting Irish were the first team to reach the BCS championship game after starting the season unranked. They were trying to become the first team to go from unranked to national champion since BYU in 1984.

Alabama quickly made the Fighting Irish look as if they were in over their heads.

Notre Dame did nothing to respond to Alabama's opening march, and on its punt back, the Crimson Tide might have caught a break. Returner Christion Jones muffed the kick, but Notre Dame was flagged for interfering with the catch, though it was one of Jones' teammates that made contact with him.

Lacy and the Crimson Tide went right back to work, hammering away at Notre Dame's vaunted defense. The Irish struggled to bring down the 220-pound tailback, who even ran through Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te'o on a screen pass.

In the second quarter, it was freshman T.J. Yeldon slipping through Te'o's arms in the backfield on a third-down run and getting a first down.

Lacy set up Alabama's second touchdown with another 20-yard run, this time to the Irish 2. Instead of running into a Notre Dame goal-line defense that has become known for goal-line stands, McCarron faked a handoff and found tight end Michael Williams all alone for the score and a 14-0 lead.

Alabama made it 3 for 3 on the next drive when Yeldon scored from a yard out on the first play of the second quarter.

The Alabama fans seemed outnumbered at Sun Life Stadium by Fighting Irish followers, pumped to see their team try to win its first national title in 24 years. But the folks in Crimson and houndstooth were making all the noise as the Tide rolled.

Lacy landed one more blow with 31 seconds left in the half. McCarron dumped off to Lacy, who spun off two tacklers, and went 11 yards to make it 28-0.

The Southeastern Conference, winners of the last six BCS championships, was storming toward seven in a row. Those familiar "S-E-C!" chants started early in this one.

The Fighting Irish started the third quarter with a promising drive that ended with another Alabama highlight.

HaHa Clinton-Dix made a sensational diving interception, grabbing a tipped pass and tapping his toe inches from the sideline. Alabama turned the game's first turnover into another long scoring drive. McCarron capped this one with a 34-yard TD pass to freshman Amari Cooper, the longest TD pass the Irish have given up this season.

With the score 35-0 and some Fighting Irish fans in the stadium record crowd of 80,120, Notre Dame finally got on the board with 4:08 left in the third.

Everett Golson took an option keeper 2 yards for a touchdown to break a streak of 108 minutes, 7 seconds in which Alabama had not allowed a point in a BCS championship game, dating to the last 6 minutes of the fourth quarter of the 2009 title game against Texas at the Rose Bowl. Alabama had scored 69 straight points in that span.

Alabama had 529 yards. The Irish defense came in allowing 286 per game.

Golson, the redshirt freshman quarterback who coach Brian Kelly had nurtured through the season, was 21 for 36 for 270 yards.