2016-2017 Hockey Champions

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It is the middle of June and the ice has finally melted on the 2016-2017 hockey season.  Here is a recap on the champions of each league:

National Hockey League (NHL):  Pittsburgh Penguins

  • The Penguins are the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings did it in 1997 and 1998.  The Penguins defeated Columbus (4-1), Washington (4-3), Ottawa (4-3) and Nashville (4-2) to win their 5th cup in franchise history.  Sidney Crosby was named the MVP.

American Hockey League (AHL):  Grand Rapids Griffins

  • The Griffins defeated the Syracuse Crunch in six games to win their second Calder Cup.  They defeated Milwaukee (3-0), Chicago (4-1) and San Jose (4-1) on their way to the Cup final.    Griffins’ forward Tyler Bertuzzi was named the finals MVP.  The Griffins are the top farm team for the Detroit Red Wings.

ECHL:  Colorado Eagles

  • The Eagles won their first Kelly Cup championship in team history.  Defenseman Matt Register was named the MVP to become the first defenseman in the ECHL’s 29-year history to receive the award.   The Eagles defeated Idaho (4-1), Allen (4-2), Toledo (4-1) and South Carolina (4-0) to win the Cup.  The Eagles are affiliated with the Colorado Avalanche.

Federal Hockey League (FHL):  Danville Dashers

  •  The Dashers completed the best season in Danville history by winning the Commissioner’s Cup after setting a new league record with 129 points in the regular season.  The Dashers defeated Watertown (2-1) and Berlin (3-2) to win their first championship.  Danville forward Gehrett Sargis was named the MVP of the Commissioner Cup playoffs with four goals and four assists.

Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL):  Macon Mayhem

  • The Mayhem won their first President’s Cup title in just their second season.  They defeated Columbus (2-1), Pensacola (2-0) and Peoria (2-0).  Goalie Jordan Ruby was named the MVP.

North American Hockey League (NAHL):  Lone Star Brahmas

  • The Brahmas were crowned Robertson Cup National Champions.  Drake Glover was named the tournament MVP to lead the Brahmas their first title.   Lone Star defeated Wichita Falls (3-0), Corpus Christi (3-2), Janesville (2-0) and Aston (1-0) on their way to the Robertson Cup.

United States Hockey League (USHL):  Chicago Steel

  • The Steel won the Clark Cup Championship beating the Sioux City Musketeers 3 games to 2 for their first title.  Eduards Tralmaks was the MVP with 10 goals and two assists in the playoffs.    His 10 goals are tied for the most in USHL playoff history.  Chicago defeated Youngstown (3-2) and Dubuque (3-1) in the playoffs.

Western Hockey League (WHL):  Seattle Thunderbirds

  • The Thunderbirds captured the Ed Chynoweth Cup for the first time in the team’s 40-year history.  Mathew Barzal was named the MVP.   Seattle defeated Tri-City (4-0), Everett (4-0), Kelowna (4-2) and Regina (4-2).    The Thunderbirds won a dramatic Game 6 at Regina in overtime to win the cup.

National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL):  Buffalo Beauts

  • The Beauts stunned heavily favored Boston Pride to win the Isobel Cup.  Despite a third place finish in the regular season, Buffalo defeated the Pride 3-2 to win the title.  Buffalo goalie Brianne McLaughlin was named MVP with 60 saves in the game.  The Beauts defeated New York (4-2) and Boston (3-2) in the playoffs.

Obscure Sports Report

The Obscure Sports Report is a weekly report of obscure sports leagues in the United States.  An obscure sport/league is one that gets little or no attention from the media.  Here is this week’s report:

American 7s Football League (A7FL) – The 2017 Championship Bracket is set.  The Round 1 matchups will be:  New Jersey Paterson U vs. New Jersey Savage, Pennsylvania Immortalz vs. New Jersey BIC, New Jersey Chiefs vs. Baltimore Kings and Baltimore Gators vs. Pennsylvania Dynasty.  The games will be played on June 25th.

American Hockey League (AHL) –  After an ugly 5-1 loss in Game Five, the Grand Rapids Griffins will attempt to clinch the Calder Cup at home in Game Six.  Griffins goalie Jared Coreau gave up five goals in the first period.  The third-year veteran will try to regroup this week against the Syracuse Crunch.

American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) – Scores from last weekend:

  • Jacksonville 27, Atlanta 23
  • Raleigh 32, Nashville 20
  • San Diego 21, Seattle 20
  • Los Angeles 25, Seattle 20
  • San Francisco 27, San Jose 19
  • Madison 23, Minnesota 22
  • Montreal 16, Ottawa 13
  • Toronto 35, Philadelphia 28
  • DC 25, Toronto 17

Arena Football League (AFL) –  Philadelphia Soul Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh became the youngest in AFL history to pass for 30,00o yards in his career.  Raudabaugh now has 667 touchdowns and has a career record of 85-31.   The Soul defeated the Cleveland Gladiators, 59-49, to stay undefeated on the season at 8-0.

CAN-AM Indoor Football League (CAN AM) – The Vermont Bucks defeated the Rochester Kings, 61-41, to win the title.  Quarterback Steffen Colon threw for three touchdowns and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.  Cabrinni Goncalves ran for over 100 yards and scored two touchdowns.  The Bucks’ defense picked off the Kings several times in the rout and returned one for a touchdown.

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Vermont Bucks defeat the Rochester Kings, 61-41, for their first indoor title.

 

Champions Indoor Football League (CIFL) –  In the final weekend of the regular season, the Amarillo Venom demolished the Duke City Gladiators 70-41 and the Sioux City Bandits took care of the Bismarck Bucks 82-43.   In other games:  Omaha 43, Bloomington 30; Texas 63, Dodge city 59.

Gridiron Developmental Football League (GDFL) – The Missouri Cyclones (4-0) remained unbeaten as they edged the Missouri Valley Pitbulls (2-2), 19-17.  Impact East Division leaders, Tri-City Outlaws (2-1) had no trouble with the Gateway Spartans (0-4), 54-0.  The Chattanooga Eagles (4-0) rolled past the Georgia Knights (0-3), 64-6.   The Huntsville Rockets (3-0) blasted the Nashville Storm (0-2), 63-6.

Indoor Football League (IFL) – The Arizona Rattlers (11-4) knocked off the Cedar Rapids Titans (1-14) by a score of 56-24 in their final home game of the regular season in front of 13,251 fans.  With the win, the Rattlers extended their winning streak to seven games.  Arizona’s offense was led by RB Ketrich Harmon who ran for 73 yards on 12 attempts and scored three touchdowns. Quarterback Cody Sokol went five-for-nine with 43 yards and two touchdowns.

Major League Lacrosse (MLL) – Chesapeake Bayhawks attackman Josh Byrne was named the Cascade Rookie of the Week for Week 8. The Bayhawks fell to the Rattlers in overtime on Saturday night, 17-16.  Byrne, 23, scored seven goals for the Bayhawks in his first game as a professional, the most goals in a pro debut since at least 2010. The Hofstra product sparked a comeback for the Bayhawks after a 21-minute scoreless drought by scoring his first goal on the man advantage. Byrne also had a highlight-reel goal as he successfully scored a one-handed shot while falling to the turf off of an illegal check. Chesapeake selected Byrne with the No. 19 pick in the 2017 MLL Collegiate Draft.

Major League Quidditch (MLQ) – Yes, believe it or not there is a major league for this sport and I found the information on the season.  Scores from last weekend:  Boston Night Raiders defeated New York Titans 130-40, 190-70 and 201-90.  Austin Outlaws over Kansas City Stampede 190-20, 200-20, 220-60.  Los Angeles Guardians topped Phoenix Sol 180-80, 170-90, 150-50.

Major League Soccer (MLS) – Aaron Kovar scored in the third minute and Zach Mathers added a second-half penalty kick, leading the Seattle Sounders  to a 2-1 victory over the Portland Timbers in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday.  Seattle jumped on top off a finish from Kovar that was set up by a pinpoint cross from left back Nouhou. Portland’s Augustine Williams would equalize with a headed finish in the 38th, but Mathers’ PK after a handball in the box in the 54th would prove to be the dagger, sending the Sounders through to the Open Cup quarterfinals.

National Arena League (NAL) – The Lehigh Valley Steelhawks (9-1) rallied in the second half to finish off the regular season with a win against the Georgia Firebirds Saturday night. The team hit the road and found a way to win as they defeated the Georgia Firebirds (2-7), 51-26.  The Steelhawks sit in second place behind the undefeated Jacksonville Sharks (11-0).

National Lacrosse League (NLL) – Lyle Thompson’s pass to brother Miles gave the Georgia Swarm a 15-14 win in overtime against the Saskatchewan Rush to clinch the National Lacrosse League Champion’s Cup at Sasktel Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.   The win gives the Swarm their first title.

National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) – Nine different players scored for USSSA on Monday night as the Pride dominated the Chicago Bandits (6-3) by a score of 11-1 in game two of the series at JoAnne Graf Field. The Pride won their fourth game in a row and improved to 4-1 on the year.  Chicago used a trio of singles in the first inning, including an RBI base hit up the middle by Sahvanna Jaquish, to jump out to an early 1-0 lead.

North American Soccer League (NASL) – Zach Steinberger of the Jacksonville Armada currently leads the league with six goals.  The Armada has 19 points and in second place in the Spring Season standings.

National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) – The league is currently on an international break but will resume the season on June 17.

Supreme Indoor Football (SIF) – This weekend the Cap City Bulls (1-5) from Austin, Texas will face the Cape Fear Heroes (4-2) in Fayetteville, North Carolina.    The winner will play the Triangle Torch (6-0) for the league title on June 24th.

United Soccer League (USL) –  The league hopes to have a team in Baltimore approved by the end of the year.  USL president Jake Edwards told The Baltimore Sun that the second-tier professional league hopes to have the city’s prospective ownership group finalized by August and the construction plan for a new venue in place by 2018, with the team’s launch targeted for the 2020 season.

Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) – The Rocky Mountain Thunderkatz will be in the playoffs for the first time in the team’s 7-year history.  The team finished 5-1 in the Mountain West Division.  They will face the South Oregon Lady Gades in the first round of the Division III playoffs.  Here some of the other matchups for the first round:

  • Maine Mayhem at New York Knockout
  • New England Nightmare at Connecticut Hawks
  • Atlanta Phoenix at Pittsburgh Passion
  • Cleveland Fusion at D.C. Divas
  • Kansas City Titans at Minnesota Vixens
  • San Diego Surge at Los Angeles Warriors
  • New York Sharks at Philadelphia Phantoms
  • Miami Fury at Tampa Bay Inferno
  • Everett Reign at Sin City Trojans

Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) –Chelsea Gray scored 24 points, Nneka Ogwumike added 21 and the Los Angeles Sparks beat the Dallas Wings 97-87 on Tuesday night.Gray and Ogwumike combined to make 10 of 11 shots in the first half for 24 points. They finished 15 of 18 from the field as the Sparks shot 57 percent. Candace Parker had 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Los Angeles (6-3), which avenged a 96-90 loss at Dallas last Friday. Los Angeles raced out to a 23-6 lead as Dallas went scoreless for nearly five minutes in the first quarter. The Wings were just 4-of-17 shooting in the quarter. Dallas rookie Allisha Gray hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter to pull to 36-28 and Kayla Thornton made the Wings’ fifth 3 of the second to get within five points, but Seattle closed on an 8-0 run.  Skylar Diggins-Smith scored 28 points for Dallas (4-7), which has lost five of six.

 

Georgia Swarm Buzzes To NLL Title

The Georgia Swarm completed a sweep of the Sasakatchewan Rush to claim the National Lacrosse League Champions Cup.  The title is the first professional sports title for an Atlanta team since the Atlanta Braves won the 1995 World Series

Okay, maybe indoor (or box lacrosse) isn’t a major sport but at least the Georgia Swarm held onto their lead to win a championship.

Miles Thompson scored the game-winner, taking a one-handed pass from brother Lyle Thompson after he drew a defensive double-team and whipping a shot past Rush goalie Aaron Bold under two minutes into overtime for a 15-14 win.

Adam Jones put the Rush up 14-13 late in the fourth quarter.  With 42 seconds remaining, the Swarm pulled goalie Mike Poulin for an extra attacker. The Rush regained possession and pulled Bold, hoping an extra man would help them keep the ball but the decision came back to haunt Saskatchewan in front of over 14,000 Rush fans.

The Swarm took possession on a errant pass. Joel White passed to Lyle for the winning attempt and then rebounded Lyle’s miss for the game-tying goal with three seconds left.

NLL commissioner Nick Sakiewicz announced postgame that Lyle Thompson was voted Champion’s Cup MVP. Thompson scored 12 points in two games.

The Swarm won Game One 18-14 on June 4th in Duluth, Georgia.   They finished the season at 17-5.

The franchise, which was in its second season in Atlanta, was founded as the Minnesota Swarm, playing in St. Paul from 2004-2015. It’s the team’s first title in 13 years.

Hockey Tonk Hangover

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This is not the post I wanted to make this morning.   This is the morning after the Nashville Predators lost Game Six of the Stanley Cup final, giving the Penguins another title.  It was a heartbreaking defeat as the game was scoreless until the final few minutes of regulation.   As we were assuming overtime might decide it, Patric Hornqvist slipped the puck in off of Predators’ goalie Pekka Rhinne for the game winner.  Carl Hagelin ended all hope of a comeback with an empty net goal with 14 seconds left.

I won’t lie.  It hurts.

Yes, I know the Predators had an amazing run and played in their first Stanley Cup final but at the moment it means nothing.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are grueling.   Two months of playoff hockey.  It takes its toll on players, coaches and fans.  I’m tired and emotionally spent.  I’ve always said that the playoffs should all be best-of-five series instead of seven game marathons.

preds fansYes, the Predators did the unthinkable.  They swept the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, eliminated the St. Louis Blues in six games and out-hustled the Anaheim Ducks in six to advance to the Stanley Cup final.   Music City was absolutely crazy and a town painted in gold.  Fans packed viewing locations on Broadway, Hall of Fame Park and other designated viewing areas to support the team.   It was an amazing experience.

As far as the final thoughts about the Stanley Cup final, I think the Predators missed Ryan Johansen and Kevin Fiala.  It might have been a different series had they remained healthy.  I read some comments on social media where Predator fans are posted memes about the refs but as Predators’ captain Mike Fisher said, “It’s just sports”.   Yes, the refs were horrible in this series.  The NHL needs to do something about that but the fact remains that the Predators still had power play opportunities and were still shutout – even with a 5-on-3 advantage – so you can’t pin that one on the refs.  Another thing I have noticed is the poor sportsmanship from Penguin fans.  One went back and commented on my post on a Predators’ site that was unnecessary.  I’m just surprised on their reactions.  I even saw a Penguins fan and I wished them good luck before the game.  He did the same.  There was no “Penguins suck” or any other trash talk.

I also wish Predator fans would get rid of the ridiculous chant after our team scores.  So the sportsmanship works both ways.

P.K. Subban already predicts that the Predators will be back.  I guess he means the Stanley Cup final.  Honestly, I wish he would stop talking.  I’m really not sure he’s that good on the ice.  I have not been a fan.

In every postseason there is always a goaltender that gets hot and leads his team.   Pekka Rinne did that but he really had problems on the road in the final.  He was as bad as he could have been.  He wasn’t particularly great during the regular season.  I’m just wondering if the Predators might need to get another goalie ready.  I don’t think Saros is the answer.

Another area the Predators need to get better is on the power play.  The team has not been much of a threat on power play opportunities.  When the Predators start on a power play I have not gotten my hopes up because it hasn’t been an advantage.

The most frustrating part of the play of the Predators is shot selection.  When the puck is in the offensive zone the team passes too many times in an attempt to get a perfect shot.  It seems very indecisive and then when they take a shot it is a poor choice.   With the goal scorers the team has on offense, this shouldn’t be happening.

Yes, I’m a little bitter right now.  If you get this far you should win it because you never know if you will ever get back here or not.  It’s a long season.   In fact, training camp starts again in September.

With that said, it was a season that no one expected.  Not even myself.  If you look back at my past blog posts you will see that I did not pick the Predators to win any of their playoff series so they surprised me and exceeded any expectations anyone had.  For the first time, I watched more hockey this season than any other.  My wife and I were doubtful how good the Predators would be after the regular season.

Losing always hurts but I’m sure it will hurt less in the days and weeks ahead.  It has been a fun season.

Friday Flashback: 2012 Los Angeles Kings

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In this season’s Stanley Cup finals, the Nashville Predators are the lowest seed to make it to the final since the Los Angeles Kings won it in 2012.   Like the Predators, the Kings entered the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs as the number eight seed in the Western Conference.  The Los Angeles Kings historically had not fared well in the postseason, having only advanced beyond second round of the playoffs once in franchise history.  They were the first eighth seed in North American professional sports history to win a championship. They are also one of the few teams to win a championship after never benefitting from home-venue advantage in the post-season. Los Angeles would start every series by winning the first three games, only sweeping the St. Louis Blues.

The Kings finished 40-27-15 during the regular season for third place in the Pacific Division.

In 2012, the Kings took a 3-0 lead in the finals against the New Jersey Devils then won in six games for their first Stanley Cup.  The Kings upset the #1 seed Vancouver Canucks in the first round with a 4-1 win, swept the Blues in four straight then easily eliminated the Phoenix Coyotes in five games.

The Kings’ road dominance in the playoffs was probably the most impressive part of their championship run. Their Game 5 loss in the finals was the only road defeat in the postseason, the Kings were a stunning 10-1 away from Staples Center.

There are several different reasons for the Kings’ success on the road.

Most obvious is the play of goaltender Jonathan Quick.   Quick, who was voted the Most Valuable Player, was 16-4 in the playoffs with a 1.41 Goals Against Average and recorded three shutouts.  Another reason for their road success was their phenomenal penalty kill. The Kings finished the playoffs with the second-best penalty-killing percentage in the playoffs, and also scored five short-handed goals.

Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter led the Kings with eight goals during their playoff run.

Darryl Sutter was the head coach for the Kings.   Sutter led the Kings to another Stanley Cup in 2014.  On April 10, 2017, the Kings relieved Sutter of his coaching duties after the team missed the playoffs for the second season in three years.

 

(Don’t) Use Your Head

A7FL

When I was growing up we played tackle football and tackle-the-man-with-the-ball during recess.  I have also heard tales of people playing football against “the crack” in a town where I lived.  These were all games where football was played without helmets, pads or any safety equipment.

There is actually a (semi) professional league playing its second season that plays without any equipment except for a mouth piece.

Dangerous?   At first thought you would think so but then when you look at it more closely you wonder if all the gear traditional football teams wear contribute MORE to players’ injuries.

The American 7s Football League (A7FL) is a no pads, no helmet spring league with 16 teams located in the Northeast.   The A7FL field size is smaller than a standard football field measuring 100 x 37 yards.  The narrower field width increases the pace of the action with fewer players on the field.  The teams play 7-on-7.  The quarterback has four eligible targets and two linemen.  There are no blitz restrictions for the defense.

A7FL claims their game is much safer than traditional football because players are more aware to not use their heads or shoulders for tackling.  There are no helmet-to-helmet collisions as there are in other forms of football.  This teaches players not to lead with their head.   Games also do not include kickoffs or punts.  Instead, the rules implement a unique version of special teams called a 3-on-1 throw off.

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I watched some YouTube videos of A7FL games and I still cringe at the hitting and tackling that happens in a game.  It’s a lot like an Americanized Rugby game which is where American football evolved.  Rugby is just as much contact and they do not have helmets either.   So, you wonder if maybe the NFL should rethink the helmet and pads.  In reality I don’t see it happening but with technology, you would think traditional football could develop better protective gear.

Instead of the traditional football helmet, the league is looking at technology to help its players protect themselves.   The league signed a deal with 2nd Skull which makes skull caps integrated with technology which helps absorb the impact of hits.  The cap is very light with a specialized urethane material that lies softly on the player’s head but hardens to guard against impact.

Why not just go back to the leather helmets?

For more information about the A7FL, go to: http://www.a7fl.com

Yeah, I’m still not sure about safety in this version of tackle football.  They have never played a game against guys from “the crack”.

 

 

 

Hockey Conversion Of A Southerner

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When I grew up, hockey was something that was said to come out of a bull – as in – bull hockey.  So the word “hockey” was associated with what we call in the social media world as the “poop emoji”.

From an early age I loved American football, especially high school football.  I grew up in Georgia and you either liked football, baseball or both.  There wasn’t much attention paid to any other sport.  I never knew much about the sport of hockey until the late 70s.  We were living in Villa Rica, Georgia and somehow I got to see some Atlanta Flames games on television.

I watched them in their best season in Atlanta in the 1978-79 season, but they were swept by the Toronto Maple Leafs in two games in the first round of the 1979 Stanley Cup playoffs.  I paid more attention to them the next season which turned out to be their final season before they packed up and moved to Calgary.

Then, who could forget the “Miracle on Ice” when the U.S. Olympic Hockey team won the Gold Medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics?  I listened to the Gold Medal game on radio.

It wasn’t until 1983 that I attended my first hockey game in person.  I was going to a school in Indianapolis, Indiana and learned that the United States Olympic Hockey Team was playing an exhibition game against the Indianapolis Checkers.  The Checkers were a minor league hockey team.

After that, I watched hockey occasionally but didn’t get to attend another game in person until I worked for the Macon Telegraph and met a co-worker who was a big hockey fan.  Specifically, he was a fan of the New York Rangers.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a hockey team in our immediate area at the time.  The closest hockey team was a minor league team in Tallahassee, Florida.  We actually drove down for a game.   In 1992, Atlanta got a minor league team called the Atlanta Knights in the International Hockey League (IHL).  We went up to see a game there.  It was a higher caliber hockey but not quite the National Hockey League (NHL) level.

In 1996, there was a renewed interest in hockey in Macon, Georgia where I lived.  The Macon Whoopee started playing in the Central Hockey League (CHL) for five seasons.  I attended many, many games there.   Early on I remember attending when it was a packed arena and thinking it would be around for a long time.  The team finally left in 2001 but in 2002 the Macon Trax brought hockey back.  They bounced around three leagues over the next three years before leaving.

When my wife and I moved to Nashville in 2014, we started trying the different sports teams.  She bought us tickets to a game for a Valentine’s Day gift but on the night we were supposed to go, a heavy ice storm hit the area and it wasn’t safe for us to drive.  When we talked to the Nashville Predators front office about this situation, they gave us some free tickets for the next season.

In October 2015, we attended our first game.  We had great seats and survived the annoying lady next to us that was trying to tell us how to cheer the Predators.  We did pretty good on our own and from that game we were hooked.   My wife had never seen a hockey game in person but now she is just as much a fan (or maybe more) than I am.  She has definitely been converted.  I still have to explain the rule about offsides to her but she’s definitely “coaching” the team during the game.  It’s been fun watching her conversion.

Hockey is an awesome sport.  Lots of action.   We don’t like the fighting and wish they wouldn’t do it.  In fact, in all the games we have attended in person, there weren’t any fights at the game.  During this past season we have watched almost every game on television.

Football is still number one for me – although the last Super Bowl almost did me in.  Hockey is definitely a close second for me now.