SPORTS & LEISURE MAGAZINE
SPORTS & LEISURE MAGAZINE
Jhonas Enroth ascends By George Kuhn
When Jhonas Enroth compiled a 9-2 record and filled in for an injured Ryan Miller down the stretch late in the 2010-11 season, he helped the Sabres secure a playoff berth for the first time in three seasons. Enroth also gave Sabres coach Lindy Ruff something he hadn’t had in years; a good chance to win a hockey game when Miller had a night off. Ruff had used backup goalie Patrick Lalime sparingly over the last three seasons as Lalime won only nine games against 26 losses. While Lalime had earned a reputation as a consummate professional, not to mention being well-liked by his teammates, his appearances declined from 24 in 200809, to 16 in 2009-10 and only seven in 2010-11. Clearly, Ruff was more confident in Ryan Miller’s ability to deliver a victory than he was in Lalime. This was certainly understandable when your backup goalie loses three times as many games as he wins. But with the Sabres missing the playoffs during Lalime’s first two seasons here, some observers felt that Ryan Miller was playing too many games and was worn down
late in the season, thus diminishing his effectiveness. Enroth’s performance last season showed that the Sabres now had a good opportunity to win any game whether or not Ryan Miller played. Ruff, clearly more confident in the caliber of his new backup goalie, gave Miller more frequent nights off early this season as Enroth continued his strong play. When Miller was sidelined with an injury as a result of a collision with Boston’s Milan Lucic on November 12th, Enroth again became the starting goalie and has kept the Sabres in a playoff position as their injury-ravaged lineup saw their NHL roster resembling the pre-season training camp with as many as nine Rochester players wearing the blue and gold in recent games. Enroth’s goals against average has dropped from 2.73 to 2.43 this season while his save percentage has risen from .907 to .922. So, taken by these goalie specific numbers, the kid is getting better results even though his win/loss record has fallen to 8-6. While Enroth is clearly the backup to the former Vezina Trophy
winner, his numbers are actually better than starter Ryan Miller’s 7-6 win/loss record, 2.54 GAA and .914 save percentage. Starting consecutive games over several different stretches last season while Miller was injured, Enroth certainly found his groove. Heading into 2011 training camp, his role for the upcoming season was welldefined; fill in every few games as Miller would rest a bit more often than previous seasons. Then following Miller’s injury, Enroth was thrust back into the role as starter. He was now being called on to rescue a team that floundered at times with inconsistent play, especially from its starting goaltender. Was it difficult to go from backup to starter? “I was expecting this,” Enroth said. “I knew it would happen so I was prepared for a situation like this.” Filling in for Miller, Enroth knows he is virtually guaranteed to start every game because the Sabres do not have another NHL ready goaltender in their system. How does he prepare for his role as the starter? Does his approach on game day change? “Nothing really,” Enroth said. “I just try to go
interest in fast cars. Is there any connection between his interest in the speed of exotic automobile and the speed of hockey, his chosen profession? “No not really, they are two different things. They don’t really have much in common,” Enroth explained. He’s really not interested in owning a Ferrari anyways, saying that he prefers a Maserati. Right now he drives an Audi S4 and aspires to the Audi A8. As a youngster growing up in his native Sweden, Photo by Jeff Barnes Enroth also played Jhonas Enroth has become an exemplary goalie. soccer as well as hockey. “Soccer is a very an all-star. Players might out there and play every popular sport in Europe so I feel more comfortable takgame as if it were my last played a lot of soccer back ing chances when they game. I just try to be sharp, home,” Enroth said. “It’s know there is a Dominik try to take advantage of my pretty much a close race Hasek or Ryan Miller in the chance to play in this between hockey and soccer, net to bail them out if needleague. I haven’t changed both sports are very popular ed. Might the Sabres players anything really. I look at back home in Sweden.” be trying to play more film a little bit. I watch their Now in his fourth year responsibly with Enroth in power play before games across the Atlantic, Enroth the net? “I don’t know. and I watch on the has adjusted to life in Maybe they feel a little more shootouts but that’s just America. “I’ve been in comfortable with Ryan but normal. That’s stuff I’ve Portland for three years and that’s just human nature. I always been doing.” now in Buffalo. I’m getting mean I would rather drive a Often teams play harder used to America. I really Ferrari in a race than a for their backup goalie than like it over here. It’s a good Volvo,” Enroth mused. the starter, particularly place to be.” So the young man has an when the number one guy is
SPORTS & LEISURE MAGAZINE
From the Publisher The Buffalo Bills’ oncepromising season took a turn for the worse in November and is now headed down a road all too familiar; the one that leaves them on the outside looking in when the playoffs get under way. Still, with every door that shuts—like Fred Jackson being placed on the injured reserve list—another one opens. Second-year running back C.J. Spiller looks to make the most of his extended playing time in Jackson’s absence and has shown flashes that convinced the Bills to take him No.9 in the 2010 draft. Leading the way for Spiller, at least partially, is Andy Levitre. Throughout the season, Levitre has already lined up at left guard, left tackle and most recently center. Levitre might not be mentioned on the Sunday pregame but the ability to fill in ably as needed is something that both his running back and quar-
terback have commented on. Like the Bills, the Sabres have been hit by the injury bug; and by hit I really mean ravaged. At various points throughout the first quarter of the season, the Sabres have dressed as many as nine Amerks to fill in for injured players. The most notable absence has to be that of Ryan Miller, who was knocked out by Boston’s Milan Lucic. Having filled in for Miller down the stretch last year to help the team go 9-2-2 and reach the playoffs, Jhonas Enroth was once again called upon to shoulder the load. Although he has posted an 8-6-1 record, Enroth has posted Milleresque numbers and gives the Sabres something they haven’t had for many years; a viable backup goaltender who is not a liability. Zack Kassian has also been filling in due to injuries. He has made the most of his call-
up, averaging over a half point per game, and looks every bit like the imposing, energetic, mismatch creating player the Sabres drafted in 2009. Despite national jokes about the weather, winter is a wonderful time to experience all that Western New York has to offer. With cold weather activities from snowboarding and skiing to tubing and snowmobiling, there is no shortage of fun for the whole family. This year’s special winter directory highlights some family friendly activities and advises on all of the latest gear to keep you warm while looking stylish. For the avid outdoorsman, hard water fishing season is almost here and it’s never early to start stocking up on supplies and checking last season’s gear. We will see you again towards the end of February. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
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Publisher & Editor Marian Giallombardo Associate Editor Jeffrey Levine Feature Writers Paul Adamo, Robert Caico, Rick Davenport, Mike Dyer, Mike Fox, Shirley Giallombardo, Ivan the Impaler, Ed Kilgore, Joe Kirchmyer, Shawn Krest (Buffalo Managing Editor), George Kuhn, Jeffrey Levine, Adam McGill, Brian Michalek, Ron Montesano, Len Mytko, Gary Reeves, Charles Roberts, Dave Sully, John Williams, Rick Zurak (golf editor) Chief Photographer Jeff Barnes Staff Photographers Ryan Bartholomew, Bob Conlon, Nick LoVerde, Joe Valenti, Mike Majewski, Holly Malinowski Cover photos Jhonas Enroth by Jeff Barnes Advisory Board: Phil Haberstro, Adam Lingner, Denny Lynch Contributing Writers Bob Conlon, Holly Malinowski, Andrew Minier, Bob Plezia, Dave Ricci, Kyle Soppe, Bob Timkey, Matthew Young Layout & Cover Scott Appleby, Graphic artist Liz Seivert Copy Editors and Office Assistants Len Mytko, Justin Vernold, John Williams Please send your letters, questions, and comments to: Sports & Leisure Magazine, 469 Virginia Street, Buffalo, NY 14202 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, address and phone number or your letter can’t be published. All letters and responses become the property of Sports & Leisure Magazine, they may be printed, and are subject to editing. Sports & Leisure Magazine is circulated throughout Western New York and Southern Ontario. All rights and trademarks reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without the express written consent of the publisher is strictly prohibited. ©1997 2012 Sports & Leisure Inc. Facebook: Sports and Leisure Magazine and Hugesportz.com
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Zach Kassian exactly as advertised By George Kuhn When the Sabres drafted Zach Kassian 13th overall in the 2009 NHL entry draft, the 6-foot-3, 214-pound power forward seemed like a perfect fit for a team loaded with undersized forwards. Kassians’ reputation as a physical player projected him as an ideal and necessary complement to the likes of Derek Roy and Jason Pominville, smallish skilled forwards whose forte was scoring goals, not punishing opposing forwards with bone crushing checks. Following two consecutive first round playoff eliminations, the Sabres clearly need to climb to another competitive level. Part of what the team needs to make that climb is more physicality, which Kassian has in abundance. Kassian piqued the Sabres interests after scoring 24 goals and 39 assists for 63 points in 61 games for the Peterborough Petes in 200809 along with 136 penalty minutes, including 13 fights. According to hockeysfuture.com, Kassian’s career prospects sound prophetic considering his performance since being brought up to the NHL club; “The 6’3, 205-pound right winger is a power forward prospect. He has imposing size and has shown a willingness to use it...Kassian’s total package of
Boston’s Milan Lucic, who is currently public enemy No.1 in Buffalo following his recent collision with goalie Ryan Miller. Kassian showed his fighting prowess in his third NHL game as his fist flew furiously against Matt Martin of the New York Islanders. Will Kassian be el ultimo hombre, the last man standing, when the Sabres face Lucic and the Bruins again? Photo by Jeff Barnes With a spectacular He scores, he hits, he fights. Zach breakaway goal, Kassian, a future fan favorite. opportunistic snipsize, checking, and energetic ing, a pretty as you please play make him an appealing assist setting up Ville Leino addition to a club looking for with a yawning open net, a top-six forward who can what else does a guy have to open up the ice for other do to earn a spot in the lineteammates. An ability to put up? But Kassian recognizes the puck in the net adds to his that his performance doesn’t value as he has proven he guarantee him anything. won’t be an offensive liability “There’s a lot of key guys with more skilled teaminjured. My goal is to not be a mates...Kassian projects as an liability and help the team in imposing power forward at any way possible. I feel pretty the next level with good good so far, everyone on the enough hands and hockey team is helping me, the coachsense...He uses his body effeces and my linemates. There’s tively in the offensive zone more I can do to get better, I and creates mismatches along need to improve every day.” the wall for opponents The adjustment from the because of his strength.” AHL to the NHL can be diffiHis combination of size, cult. “Everything is quicker skill and physical play has here, guys are stronger,” earned him comparisons to
Kassian said. “It’s a lot harder in the defensive zone. I just need to keep it simple and work hard, that’s my main focus. I need to keep my feet moving, battling, winning my one on one battles, then the other stuff will happen.” Kassian is clearly more effective than he was in the preseason where he seemed to have little influence in games. Clearly his short apprenticeship in the American league has been beneficial. “I’ve got to give credit to the coaches in Rochester from [head coach] Ron [Rolston] to development coach Chris Taylor, they’ve helped me tremendously and I’ m very grateful. They’ve put me in situations to succeed. Those guys have really helped me. I still have a lot of work to do but I think I’m heading in the right direction.” Current Sabre Patrick Kaleta also came out of juniors
Page 5 from Peterborough with a reputation as a punishing hitter. Coach Lindy Ruff taught him not to run around the ice looking for hits, emphasizing that he had to concentrate on playing hockey. Kassian so far has not shown the inclination to emphasize a hitting style of play in the NHL and says there has been no direction from the coaching staff on that subject. “No, they haven’t talked to me,” Kassian said. “I still think I could be more physical. We’re doing well right now. We’re playing the cycle game where we’re holding onto pucks. When you have the puck for most of the shift it’s tough to get your hits. We can’t shy away from hits but I can try to get a couple more in each game.” Kassian knows that he can’t be doing the things he did in juniors but at the same time he knows that’s why the
Sabres drafted him. “I need to find that in between line and not do anything stupid, not take stupid penalties.” Like any fan and player, Zach has his favorites whom he has watched over the years. “Lucic and Todd Bertuzzi in his prime. And Jerome Iginla. I don’t really model myself after any player. They are their own player and I’m young. I try to pick bits and pieces out of their game. They’re all tough and that’s definitely what I try to bring.” Kassian defines his role on the team as being physical, wining battles and protecting pucks, as well as sticking up for teammates. “I think so far it’s been good but it needs to be better. If you’re not winning games everyone needs to look in the mirror and give more. I hope to get better each day and stay here for as long as I can.”
Sabres deal with Pegula pressure By Ed Kilgore Terry Pegula probably didn’t realize it—or maybe it was his intention—but after he bought the Sabres and told the world the team’s reason for existence was to “Win a Stanley Cup,” or “Cups” for that matter, the pressure to win was much greater than at any time in the franchise’s storied history. That’s not to say there hasn’t been pressure to win in the past, and you can go back to the Scotty Bowman years to see just how high the bar of expectations had been raised. That’s not to say Punch Imlach didn’t demand a winner, but the Sabres were still a new toy in town in the early years. Bowman was a proven winner, and as a GM he bolted to a fast start by engineering two straight drafts that left the Sabres with three first round picks in 1982 and 1983. In ‘82 the Sabres took Phil Housley (sixth), Paul Cyr (ninth) and Dave Andreychuk (16th). Housley and Andreychuk both went on to Hall of Fame careers. The next season was even better, with Tom Barrasso, another future Hall of Famer, heading the trio that included Norm Lacombe and Adam Creighton. Although Lacombe and Creighton were never stars, they were good players who were joined in that same draft by John Tucker, Darren Puppa, Christian Ruuttu and Uwe Krupp. That was one heck of a draft, and the Sabres seemed destined to win another Cup for Bowman. We all know it didn’t happen for a variety of reasons too lengthy, or boring, to rehash here, but the comparison to what’s happening now is somewhat similar in terms of what was expected. There were other good teams of course, and oddly enough, the closest the Sabres ever came to winning a Stanley Cup came with the 2005-2006 team that wasn’t expected to be there just yet. That team almost pulled it
off, beating the Flyers in six and the Senators in five to reach the Eastern Conference final against eventual Cup winner Carolina. A freak run of injuries to the Sabres defense corps was too much to overcome, as the Sabres still battled the Canes to a seventh game and even had a third period lead in the deciding game. Carolina’s toughest test was the Sabres, as seventh seed Edmonton reached the final to give the Canes a somewhat easier path than they might have had. That’s when the pressure began to mount for the Sabres, who had an exciting team the following season that won the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s best team during the regular season. The Sabres again reached the Eastern Conference Finals, but this time they were victimized by the Senators team they’d surprised the year before, and then it all came apart. Good bye to Danny Briere and Chris Drury, as owner Tom Golisano and managing partner Larry Quinn underestimated the cost of allowing them to hit the open market. This much we can say about the current situation that makes it different though. Golisano was focused on not losing money and keeping a competitive team on the ice, even if it meant losing a star or two along the way. That is not the situation for Pegula, worth over $3 billion and one of the wealthiest owners in all of professional sports. So far, Pegula’s moves haven’t paid many obvious dividends despite the explosion of excitement that came from adding some talented free agents in the off- season, something that had been almost unheard of in the Sabres past. So far though, Ville Leino is still adjusting. Defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr are good additions but not impact players as yet. Tyler Myers signed a lucrative
long-term deal but hasn’t been the player he was as a rookie, and was even a healthy scratch for a game for the first time in his career. Adding to the pressure was the highly visible improvement to the Sabres training and locker room areas, now among the best in the NHL. Yes, it’s great, but the guys are well aware Pegula didn’t do this just to be a great guy. But the players also see this isn’t just about fancy new digs and overpaying for free agents. Take the Myers extension, for example. He’s only 21 years old, yet Lindy Ruff and GM Darcy Regier obviously believe he’s a legit longterm asset, and Pegula then gave the green light to a seven-year, $38.5 million deal. No longer do players or fans worry about the Briere and Drury defections, and they weren’t the only departures linked to money of course. There is still a lot of hockey to be played, and if the Sabres can ever become reasonably healthy for a long stretch, they could not only reach the playoffs but also make a serious run. If not, then things may change, and not just a little. Is Regier safe? Even Ruff, the longest tenured coach in the league could be expendable. Who knows, even Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek could become parts of deals, and their big contracts won’t matter to Pegula. He can afford to match or exceed their deals if it comes to that in terms of a player or players acquired. There is a strong group of young players, and the injuries have given the players like Zack Kassian, Luke Adam and Jhonas Enroth among others the opportunity to remain a part of an organization that is committed to winning. When the owner says he wants to win a Stanley Cup and doesn’t mind paying for it, the stakes go up, and while it may actually hinder progress for a while, the publicly stated goal is a huge positive if you believe in self fulfilling prophesies. That’s a safe bet if you look at Pegula business history. His vision became real.
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Versatility the name of the game for Bills’ Levitre By Charles Roberts At nearly 6-foot-3 and 303 pounds, Andy Levitre doesn’t have the easiest frame to push around. And that’s exactly why the Bills made him the first guard taken in the 2009 NFL Draft with selection No. 51. While opposing defensive lineman may see him as immoveable, he has been a nomad of sorts—positionwise—along the Bills’ offensive line. Levitre has played left guard, left tackle and most recently, filled in at center for the injured Eric Wood. “The thing about Andy is he’s so smart and such a competitor,” Bills head coach Chan Gailey said. “He’s so valuable because he’s good and he’s versatile.” Versatility is hardly a new part of Levitre’s game, however. While playing high-
school ball in Felton, Calif., Levitre not only played offensive and defensive line—racking up 60 tackles and three sacks as a senior— he even saw a little time at running back in goal-line situations. “I can probably play it all,” Levitre joked. “Let me learn the passing and I’m sure I can run that, too.” Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was hardly threatened, but certainly respects Levitre’s ability to protect him, wherever that may be. “We’ve talked about how valuable that was for him to be able to move from guard to tackle and really do an admirable job out there at tackle,” Fitzpatrick said. “And then to have to move back in, skip guard and go to center. It’s hard to shuffle around but he does a really
good job with it. That’s why he’s so valuable to our team.” Still, the road hasn’t always been filled with recognition. Coming out of high school, Levitre wasn’t quite getting the looks from collegiate programs he might have expected. He had to make his own highlight reel—a VHS tape—and with the help of his grandfather, send it around the country. Levitre estimates more than 100 schools received a copy of his promotional film. “I was pumping out two or three [tapes] a day. I’d have an address [of a Division I program] and give it to my grandpa, and
he’d send it out for me,” Levitre said. “I figured if I was going to get recruited, that was the only way to do it.” People still used VCRs as recently as 2003—as hard as that is to imagine—because Levitre eventually attracted interest from a handful of big-time schools, including Arizona, Fresno State, LSU and Oregon State. His brother, Erick, played center from 2002-06 for Arizona, but ultimately Andy chose Oregon State. Levitre played guard as a redshirt freshman in 2005 for Oregon State, later splitting time starting at both left and right tackle, where he would start 35 consecutive games
to finish his collegiate career. Add durability to the list of attributes. “Toughness won’t be an issue,” Gailey said, referring to Levitre, who has yet to miss a game since joining the pro ranks. He started all 16 games in each of his first two seasons and hasn’t missed a beat in 2011, regardless of where he’s lined up. Levitre’s not just brawny though. Fitzpatrick’s Harvard education garners most of the attention, and deservedly so, but Levitre’s no slouch in the way of wit. He was an Academic AllPAC-10 choice in 2008, earning second-team honors in 2007. He was also one of just 25 draft-eligible players to earn a college degree in finance and sociology. Not bad for a guy who had to wear a director’s hat to get his chance.
he took home the conference’s player of the year and offensive player of the year awards, too. He ran for 1,212 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior, also snagging 36 passes for 503 yards and four touchdowns. Oh, and he had time for another five touchdowns on special teams. Something had to give. “I thought he was a lot more comfortable running the football and seeing the blocking schemes and knowing where to go with the ball,” Gailey said after the matchup with the Titans. “He was a lot more comfortable. …And I think that’ll just continue to get better.” “I think you could tell at the end of the Jets game [Week 12] he was starting to feel a little more comfortable,” Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said after the meeting with the Titans. “He had some runs that were close to going, at least getting some big chunks. He did that this last game. Unfortunately the one got called back for the holding. In the second half, being
down and the way that it went, not being able to get him as many touches as we would have liked. He did some really good things in this game. He’s obviously an explosive guy. He showed that to everybody this last game.” The Bills face an interesting offseason in the backfield. Jackson, who will be 31 the next time he straps on the shoulder pads, has one year remaining in his current deal and is reportedly seeking a lucrative extension. Spiller has three years left in his rookie deal valued at a total of $25 million. If nothing else, the back end of the schedule gives the front office a chance to evaluate Spiller’s progress while assessing the position as a whole. For Spiller, it’s about proving the critics wrong and making plays, something he’s been eager to do. “I guess you could say I’m the expert at patience,” Spiller stated. “So if anybody out there needs help learning how to be patient, just come to No. 28.
Photo by Joe Valenti
The Bills are big on Andy Levitre’s versatility and durability.
Spiller looks to find comfort zone with Bills By Charles Roberts Expectations were skyhigh for running back C.J. Spiller when the Buffalo Bills drafted him ninth overall in 2010. Results fell short of the hype, to say the very least. However, with year two almost in the books, the 24year-old native of Lake Butler, Fla., is starting to show flashes of why he was so highly coveted out of Clemson: agility; quick decision-making; lightning speed. And an often-overlooked attribute for Spiller is strength. Listed generously in terms of height at 5-foot11, Spiller gets the most out of a small, but very well conditioned 197-pound frame. “He’s an explosive runner,” Bills head coach Chan Gailey said. “He’s a good cutback runner. He can get from one side to the other pretty quickly. You try to find different ways to be able to use him. A lot of people think that we’ll run outside the whole day because he’s a fast guy, try to get him on the edge. That’s not necessarily the case. He can run up inside, too.”
Besides getting more playing time, the cure for Spiller’s slow-to-develop career may be quite simple; stop thinking so much. “In my first start last year, I was doing a lot of thinking in the game and I really wouldn’t let my ability take over,” Spiller said. “I was concerned about, ‘Should I go inside? Should I go outside?’ But now I’m just going out there and playing football, just playing the way I Photo by Joe Valenti always played.” C.J. Spiller gets a chance to prove himself S p i l l e r ’ s during the tail-end of the 2011 season. increased workload the starting duties were comes as a result of Fred handed over to Spiller. Jackson—amid a Pro Bowl Jackson, despite fending and potentially MVP camSpiller off for the starting paign—going down with a role prior to the season, season-ending injury during remains a mentor. Spiller a Week 11 tilt in Miami. The said Jackson kept a close Bills signed veteran free watch from the Bills’ sideline agent Tashard Choice to help during the Week 13 meeting ease the pain—in every with the Tennessee Titans sense of the word—associatand continuously advised ed with Jackson’s loss, but
him of what he saw from the opposing defense. The contest, which was only the third start of Spiller’s career, ended up being a statistical best— 14 carries for 83 yards— highlighted by a 35-yard touchdown and a would-be 41-yarder that was called back by a phantom holding penalty. “It felt natural,” Spiller said after his breakout performance. “I’m not going to say like my Clemson days, but you know, it felt normal. That’s what they drafted me for, to try to make big plays.” The Clemson days he spoke of were so widely celebrated that Spiller’s No. 28 jersey was retired by the university Oct. 16, 2010, just months after he graduated. He has a lengthy list of awards from each of his four collegiate year, including All-ACC and All-American honors for football and track. Not only was Spiller named the MVP of the 2009 ACC championship game,
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Fantasy football: Surprise, surprise, surprise By Leonard J. Mytko As we close in on the last chapter to another fantasy football season, it’s once again that time to reflect on some of this year’s biggest surprises at each position. Last year we saw players such as Peyton Hillis, Arian Foster, Brandon Lloyd, and rookie Sam Bradford score lots of points and pave the way to victory on a weekly basis for many fantasy teams. And we’ve seen no exception of good surprise players this year as well. So without further ado, let’s take a look and highlight some of them. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks: He got off to a sluggish start (117 yards and zero scores in September) but the former Bill has turned into a very consistent and solid performer heading down the stretch, rushing for 737 yards and eight touchdowns in his eight games since. Toss in another 20 catches, 170 yards, and a score and he’s right on pace for a flourishing finish. Michael Bush, RB, Raiders: Four seasons into his career and it’s looking more and more like Bush is that “thunder” to McFadden’s “lightning.” And with McFadden often battling injuries, Bush will keep getting his chances. He’s played well in place of McFadden before and once again this year he’s delivering bigger but better numbers. Overall, he has 764 yards rushing, 150 more than McFadden, and three more touchdowns than him. Andy Dalton, QB/A.J. Green, WR, Bengals: Together, they’re likely going to be the most productive pair of rookies at quarterback and receiver that fantasy participants have ever seen. Dalton’s 2,833 yards and 19 touchdowns (one rushing) have owners drooling for more and if Green can get to 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, then they’ll go down as the best rookie-quarterback duo on the same team since 1995 when St. Louis’ Tony Banks was flinging passes to Eddie Kennison. Cam Newton, QB/Steve Smith, WR, Panthers: A n o t h e r quarterback/receiver combo coming out of nowhere and enjoying even more fantasy success this year has been the Heisman Trophy winner out of Auburn and No. 89. Comparing their two numbers together, Dalton and Green fall quite a bit short to Newton and Smith. Newton has 740 more passing yards than Dalton and 12 more rushing touchdowns. Additionally, Smith has already gone over 1,000 yards and has a dozen more
Quick, name a Green Bay receiver. If you said ‘Greg Jennings,’ that’s normal, but you should know that Nelson has more touchdown receptions (10-tonine) than his compadre to date. In his previous three seasons, Nelson wasn’t even one of Aaron Rodgers’ primary targets, averaging only 423 yards and two touchdowns per year, but he did start to show a sign of things to come in last year’s Super Bowl run with 21 grabs for 286 yards. And he’s really hit it off with Rodgers in year No. 4, catching 51 passes for 957 yards along with Photo by Jeff Barnes those 10 touchWestern New York’s Rob Gronkowski downs. has turned into a fantasy machine for Victor Cruz, WR, the Patriots this season. Giants: With injuries to New along with 27 extra points York’s receiving corps, Cruz and in doing so has also put has made the jump from a to rest any doubt about reserve to a reliable fantasy whether or not San starter in just his second Francisco’s offense would be season. Hakeem Nicks is the able to generate enough G-Men’s main headliner, but opportunities for him to he’s even being overshadpossibly repeat as scoring owed by the 25-year-old champ. But the most shockCruz in all fantasy football ing stat is that the lefty is leagues. His 69 receptions, nailing 50-yard shots with 1,159 yards receiving and some regularity for the first seven touchdowns are all time in his whole career so team-highs and also ahead if your league adds extra of bigger name stars such as points for field goal length, Baltimore’s Anquan Boldin, he’ll likely rank among the Philadelphia’s DeSean top handful of players at his Jackson, or Miami’s position by season’s end yet Brandon Marshall. again. Ben Tate, RB, Texans: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arian Foster’s still the Patriots: No.1 back in Houston of Even though he competes course, but Tate has been for balls with fellow teamevery bit as impressive as mate Aaron Hernandez, Foster this year, churning Tom Brady is one of the few out 820 yards and scoring quarterbacks who frequentthree touchdowns to ly passes to his tight ends Foster’s 957 and eight (10 and any player who is a total). He’s also popped off favorite target of his is fantafour 100-yard games and sy gold. So step aside, has attained a stellar 5.6Jimmy Graham or Tony yard rushing mark despite Gonzalez, and check out starting just once. And now these supreme stats: 71 that T. J. Yates is starting for receptions, 1,088 yards, 16 the injured Matt Schaub touchdowns (one rushing). (and Matt Leinart) at quarAnd with three games left to terback, Tate should keep spare, the Amherst native getting his share of carries and Williamsville North star and could top 1,000 yards has already broke the singlerushing. Not bad, considerseason, tight end record of ing that a neutral observer 13 touchdown receptions probably didn’t have him on held by Antonio Gates of his or her fantasy radar at San Diego and Vernon Davis the start of the year. of San Francisco. Honorable mentions go Laurent Robinson, WR, out to: Fred Jackson, RB, Cowboys: Buffalo (averaged 137.6 As of two months ago, his yards per game on offense); career numbers were four DeMarco Murray(1,080 seasons and four touchtotal yards), RB, Dallas; down catches. And the forDarren Sproles, RB, Saints mer Ram and Falcon looked (1,043 total yards, six TDs); like nothing more than your Reggie Bush, RB, Dolphins ordinary waiver wire fodder (1,034 total yards, six TDs); until Miles Austin got hurt Eric Decker, WR, Denver and a breakout season (nine total TDs); John sprang forth. The result has Kasay, K, Saints (123 been 46 receptions for 763 points); Dan Bailey, K, yards and eight touchdowns Cowboys (125 points); San with all eight touchdowns Francisco defense (31 takecoming in the last seven aways). games alone. Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers: catches than Green does. David Akers, K, 49ers: Since moving from Philly to the Bay area, the five-time Pro Bowler has converted on 36 of his 42 chances
Packers trying to be perfect, but how do they match up? By Shawn Krest The Green Bay Packers dominated the regular season, storming to wins in their first 13 games, as of press time. The winning streak, the superstar quarterback leading an elite offensive attack, and a close call against the New York Giants bring about memories of the last team to challenge the 1972 Dolphins’ perfect season. The 2007 Patriots are the only team in league history to post a 16-0 regular season, but their run at perfection stopped one game short, as the Giants beat them in the Super Bowl. Will the Packers be able to finish what the Patriots and 2009 Colts couldn’t? How do they match up with the New England team that came tantalizingly close four years ago? Here’s a look at how the two teams stack up. Passing game: Aaron Rodgers’ 2011 season is remarkably similar to Tom Brady’s 2007. Both lead the league in touchdowns and passer rating. Both throw touchdowns every 11 passes and interceptions every 70. Rodgers is on pace to throw for slightly more yards and slightly fewer touchdowns. The rest of the league’s offensive coordinators have caught up in the last few years, however. While no one came within 380 yards of Brady’s numbers, just four years later, Rodgers’ performance is only good for third in the league. Brady also had a 14-touchdown advantage over the next best quarterback, while Rodgers’ lead is about half that. Brady had two of the biggest big-play receivers to throw to. Wes Welker and Randy Moss were new additions to the team and shredded opposing secondaries for 210 catches, 2,600 yards and 31 touchdowns. They also had Donte Stallworth, who caught the longest pass play of the season, Jabar Gaffney, who scored five times, and tight end Ben Watson. Green Bay’s receiving corps is led by Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, but neither is having a Moss/Welker type
Photo by Jeff barnes
Tom Brady led the last team to an undefeated regular season but fell a game short of perfection. season. Tight end Jermichael Finley has an edge on 2007’s Ben Watson, and Donald Driver, James Jones, and Randall Cobb give the Packers more depth. Edge: New England Running game: Neither team wins the game on the ground, but the biggest star on either team is New England’s Laurence Maroney, who had 835 yards and six touchdowns. UB’s James Starks leads Green Bay, but he only scored once in the first 13 games. Green Bay suffered through a plague of injuries at running back last year, which gives them a deeper stable of running backs in Ryan Grant and John Kuhn. New England will end up with significantly more contribution from the running game, however. Edge: New England Defense: With three games to play, the Packers already have eight more interceptions than the Pats had all year, but that’s where their advantage ends. New England had recorded significantly more sacks and allowed far less yardage. Green Bay’s pass defense gave up 396 yards to Drew Brees in week one and rookie Cam Newton in week two. Four other teams recorded at least 300 passing yards, including the less-than-impressive Rams and Bucs. New England only gave up 300 total yards (passing and running) seven times in 2007. Big Edge: New England
Special teams: Kicker Mason Crosby has more field goals and is more dependable from long range than Stephen Gostkowski, who was a second-year player in 2007. Green Bay punter Tim Masthay is three yards better than Chris Hanson. Packers rookie Reggie Cobb is the best return man on either team, having run back a punt and a kickoff for scores this season. Big Edge: Green Bay Coaching: Bill Belichick was considered a genius and the best coach alive in 2007. Mike McCarthy won the Super Bowl last year, but he is content to stay out of the spotlight and let his players get the attention. Big Edge: New England Schedule: New England played five division winners (including Pittsburgh and Cleveland, who tied for the AFC North), six 10-game winners, and two 13-win teams. Green Bay’s schedule includes two teams who are on pace to win their division. Through week 13, one Packer opponent had 10 wins and another four had eight. Big Edge: New England Momentum: New England blew out opponents at a record pace to start the season, but then slowed considerably as the year wore on. A week 13 win over Oakland was Green Bay’s biggest of the year, and they seem to be playing themselves into shape even as they carry out a run at a perfect season. Big Edge: Green Bay Outlook: Green Bay’s road looks tougher than New England’s was. They aren’t as battle tested as the Patriots were, and, if seeds hold, they’ll likely face the NFC East winner and then a rematch of the epic season opener with New Orleans just to make the Super Bowl. No AFC team will strike fear in their heart, but then again, the Giants weren’t a juggernaut when they faced New England.
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Continuous foot movement By Gary Reeves Continuous foot movement simply means keeping your skates moving as much as possible while playing the game of hockey. If you break your stride and make a little glide, your power development is interrupted and speed is automatically curtailed. When I first watched the Russians play the Canadians I was simply amazed at their quick reflexes when shooting on goal. The puck was in the net in the blink of an eye. There was absolutely no indication that they were about to shoot the puck. A few years later I managed to find a book written by the great Russian coach Anatoli Tarasov and discovered the reason why! Tarasov stated “To be a goal scorer you
must learn to shoot the puck unexpectedly.” In other words the Russians were taught to shoot “in Stride,” which means they did not telegraph their shot by gliding and setting themselves before shooting. All young hockey players should study Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and you’ll see what I mean. Learn to use continuous foot movement while deking your opponent. It’s very hard to stop a player who continues to develop power, especially if he’s skating with a low center of gravity. Remember the domino effect: a good knee bend = a low center of gravity = a better balance factor = better power development. This is why it’s so difficult to take the puck away
from Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. In my opinion, many of the hooking, tripping and slashing penalties are a direct result of a lack of continuous foot movement. If you turn off the power your opponent pulls away from you and you automatically reach out and take foolish penalties. Two of the main reasons that causes this to happen is firstly fatigue (staying on the ice too long) and secondly the old proverbial “Just Plain Laziness.” At some point in a hockey game we all break stride and take a little glide. We’re not all perfect! However, by striving to keep your skates moving with continuous power development will undoubtedly bring your game performance to another level. For more information regarding our pro skating hockey skills clinics or individual and team clinics call Gary Reeves (905) 384-0508.
By Mike Fox Every fantasy owner drafts a few players that are expected to be the anchors of their team. When those players underachieve, however, they can act as anchors of a different sort, dragging your squad to your league’s basement. Eric Staal was a logical early pick in most leagues, riding a streak of six consecutive years with at least 29 Photocourtesy of Gregg Forwerck/Carolina goals and 70 points. Hurricanes Both streaks are now Eric Staal has had a miserable start in jeopardy, as Staal in Carolina, but his fantasy owners has produced only should be patient. seven goals and 19 after 28 games means he’s points over his first 31 again on pace for a total games. Adding insult to closer to 30 than to 50. injury, his -18 plus/minus Alex Semin scored only 54 rating ranks dead last points in 65 games last among all NHL skaters. year. He’s rewarded his fanHidden amongst all this tasy owners who had faith bad news are a few glimin him with five goals over mers of hope, however. his first 25 games this year. Staal is just entering his All three players are clearly prime at age 27 and he supreme talents, but someranks among the league thing is missing. Don’t just leaders in shots on goal. give them away in a trade, Bench him if you have a but if you can get anything reasonable replacement, approaching 2010 value for but selling low is not a them, smile and wave good idea just yet. goodbye. That’s a bit harder to say I offer the same advice to about some of those supthose being bedeviled by posed studs in the guy who used to be Ilya Washington. The Caps Kovalchuk. It seemed like struggled offensively last a bad fit when he moved to year—at least by their stanNew Jersey, and as it turns dards—before being struck out, it was. After six confour consecutive times by secutive 40-plus goal seathe Lightning in the sons in Atlanta, he’s manEastern semis, and this aged only 45 goals over his year hasn’t been much betfirst 125 games with Jersey, ter. Mike Green’s 70-point including the eight he’s seasons seem like a figscored this year. Don’t hold ment of our imagination, your breath while waiting as injuries have again kept for 32 more. him off the ice and limited Jarome Iginla’s amazing his production when he’s consistency made him a actually playing. Alex the first-round pick in many Gr8 has been more like leagues. He entered the Alex the MediOcre. It was year with 484 career goals, easy to dismiss last year’s and is riding a string of ten 32 goals as an aberration consecutive seasons with after he averaged 54 goals 30-plus goals. He’s manper year over his first five aged only eleven in his first seasons, but nine goals
29 games, but it’s much too early to panic here. Slow starts are not unprecedented for Iginla, but in the end the numbers are always there. Buffalo’s Ryan Miller was already being outplayed by Jhonas Enroth, even before his run-in with Milan Lucic, and many other goaltenders are also experiencing early woes, and I do mean woes. In standard roto leagues, you’d almost be better off starting Tony Esposito and taking the zero, rather than the likes of Robbie Luongo, Corey Crawford, Jonas Hiller or Cam Ward. In each case, the wins they’ve posted have been statistically outweighed by their bloated goals-against averages and save percentages. Craig Anderson has managed 12 wins with the Senators, amazing considering his 3.42 GAA and .895 save percentage. Miller, Luongo and Ward are all proven stars, and all play for solid teams, so a turnaround should be expected eventually. Crawford is still the clear No.1 in Chicago, but his resume is a lot shorter, so proceed with a bit more caution. Hiller’s 2010-11 season ended prematurely due to a bout with vertigo, and it’s possible he’s still experiencing symptoms. If so, that could make for a long season for the Ducks and his fantasy owners. And Anderson, well, this isn’t the NHL of the mid80s, so stats like that will eventually translate into a lot more losses, especially playing for the undermanned Senators. Happy Holidays to all. Here’s hoping for good health for your loved ones, and for your fantasy players!
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Collecting Memories holds the record for most game-winning drives, with 47? a. Dan Marino b. Peyton Manning c. Vinny Testaverde d. John Elway 5. Who is the only player to amass at least 1,800 rushing yards in a season three times in his career? a. O.J. Simpson b. Larry Johnson c. Eric Dickerson d. LaDainian Tomlinson 6. Who is the only active quarterback ever to throw 28 interceptions in a season? a. Jay Cutler b. Jon Kitna c. Eli Manning d. Peyton Manning 7. Who is the most recent tight end to lead the league in receptions, with a 102catch season? a. Kellen Winslow b. Tony Gonzalez c. Dallas Clark d. Shannon Sharpe
8. There have been 11 occasions in which a player has amassed at least 265 receiving yards in a single game. Who is the only active player on the list? a. Chad Johnson/Ochocinco b. Miles Austin c. Lee Evans d. No active player has ever reached the 265-yard mark. 9. Who was the last player to lead the league in yards from scrimmage for two consecutive years? a. Chris Johnson b. Marshall Faulk c. Priest Holmes d. Tiki Barber 10. Who is the only quarterback with a career passer rating of more than 100? a. Aaron Rodgers b. Steve Young c. Joe Montana d. Kurt Warner Answers 1.c 2.b 3.a 4.a 5 c 6.d 7.b 8.c 9.d 10.a
By Mike Fox 1. Jason Hanson is the active leader in career regular season appearances. Who is the active leader in appearances among nonkickers or punters? a. Ray Lewis b. Derrick Mason c. Tony Gonzalez d. Ronde Barber 2. Four active quarterbacks have passed for six touchdowns in a game; Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tommy Brady, and who? a. Donovan McNabb b. Carson Palmer c. Josh Freeman d. Tony Romo 3. Who is the only player with two career seasons with at least three interceptions returned for touchdowns? a. Eric Allen b. Charles Woodson c. Nick Collins d. Darren Sharper 4. Which quarterback
Walker, Bagwell deserve HOF berths I missed them last year. But both Larry Walker and Jeff Bagwell are on my 2012 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. The ballot arrived in late November from the Baseball Writers Association of America. I’ve been voting for the Hall of Fame since 1983 and I’ve always done my best to help the greatest players into the Cooperstown, N.Y. museum. I am the only Hall of Fame voter living in Western New York. Last year I believed Walker was helped too much by playing the majority of his career in Denver, Colo. And Bagwell, a former National League MVP, lacked a vital ingredient but I was never sure what that was. But this year, Walker and Bagwell join five other deserving players on my ballot for induction. They join first basemen Rafael Palmeiro and Don Mattingly; shortstop Barry Larkin; outfielder Tim Raines and designated hitter extraordinaire Edgar Martinez. This is the first year former New York Yankee Bernie Williams is on the ballot but I am skipping past Bernie. The switch-hitting Williams finished his career with a .297 lifetime average and 287 home runs. Now let’s take a closer look at Larry Walker. The lefty-swinging first baseman-outfielder out of British Columbia started his big league career with the Montreal Expos. Now 45 years old, Walker finished his career with a .313 lifetime mark, 383 home runs and 1,311 RBI. He received only
20 percent of the Hall of Fame vote in 2011. A five-time National League All-Star and seventime Gold Glover, Walker has similar statistics to Hall of Famers Duke Snider, Johnny Mize, Chuck Klein and Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. Walker enjoyed his greatest year in 1997 when he bat-
ted .366 with 49 home runs, 130 RBI, 208 hits and 143 runs scored. He was voted the league’s Most Valuable Player. Walker also had excellent campaigns with averages of .379, .363 and .359 for Colorado. But Larry was also a tough out for the Expos in the strike-shortened 1994 when he hit .322 with 19 homers and 86 RBI. Walker led the National League in slugging in 1997 and 1999 and was first in total bases in 1997. Bagwell boasted 449 career home runs, 1,529 RBI and scored 1,517 runs while posting a lifetime .297 average for the Houston Astros. The Boston native, now 43, was an All-Star four times and won a single Gold Glove. In his best season, Bagwell batted .368 with 39 home runs and 116 RBI. He had a 47 home run season in 2000 with a .310 average and 107 ribbies. Also in 2000, Bagwell
with Mike Dyer scored 152 runs and drove in 132. Bagwell has been compared to Hall of Famers Willie Stargell and Orlando Cepeda. As for my other Hall of Fame candidates Larkin has the best chance of making it. A former MVP, the exCincinnati Reds shortstop finished with a .295 average and 379 stolen bases. Palmeiro was only the fourth player to ever finish with 3,000 hits (3,020) and 500 h o m e r s ( 5 6 9 ) . Raines stole 808 bases in his career with a .294 average and Martinez had a .312 career mark with 309 home r u n s . Mattingly led the American League in batting in 1984 and was MVP in 1985. He had a .307 lifetime average. All ballots must be returned before Dec. 31. The Hall of Fame announcement will come in early January. UPCOMING EVENTS Free admission sports card shows will take place Jan. 11 at the Leonard Veterans of Foreign Wars Post on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga. Shows start at 5 p.m. and end at 9 p.m. Amherst show promoter Rob Schilling reports he’ll run a two-day sports card show March 31-April 1 at the Hearthstone Manor on Dick Road in Depew. Now a Cheektowaga resident, Mike Dyer spent 47 years covering sports for various New York newspapers. He is the author of two sports books and was editor of “Who’s Who in Baseball.” You can contact Dyer by sending email to email@example.com.
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Local college hoops heating up as winter approaches By Adam McGill
travel to Delta, Mich. for three-pointers per game the Delta College and the upperclassman is The college basketball Tournament throughout the certainly benefiting from season has started off with a month of December. the increase in playing bang in Western New York Niagara University time. with almost every local Niagara has struggled so The Griffs will be in team boasting a record far this year after losing sevevery game this year with over.500. The area is finally eral key players in getting some the off-season to national attengraduation. The tion and this young team is lookwinter will ing for their true prove to be an identity, but still exciting time has managed to for basketball, post a 3-3 record in regardless of non-conference the NBA situaplay. The loss of tion. point guard Buffalo State Andrew Nelson has College proved hard to The Bengals, replace, but the ranked No.16 team has a core of in Division III, young scorers just are making waiting to make headlines all their mark. over the counThe squad’s best try and picking jump shooter is up right where Juan’ya Green, who they left off is amazingly shootwith a SUNYAC ing over 80 percent Championship from the field. He last season. The has been the Purple team has utterEagles’ best creator ly dominated on offense, includthe competiing a game winning tion, including layup with .2 secan embarrassonds at the buzzer ing 141-93 win in the 65-63 over D’Youville. Photo by Paul Hokanson/UB thrilling win over The Bengals’ Jarod Oldham hasn’t missed a step as the Bull’s St. Francis (Pa.) win set the sinnew point guard. after the team was gle-game scordown over 20 ing record at points at halftime. Aiding this kind of scoring, but the Buffalo State, beating the Green is the team’s five-tool team will need more help previous record of 135. player Antoine Mason. from the interior of their The team has an array of Mason is a very physical defense. The team still has young stars, including predefender and is an amazing half of their Metro Atlantic season All-American Jake rebounder off the offensive Athletic Conference schedSimmons (Rochester, N.Y.) glass. ule left to play so this will and senior forward Ahmed The rest of the year will be the most important Nagaya. Simmons is averagbe exciting for Niagara, as month for the school on ing over 22 points per game they have had one of the Main Street. and has looked dominant most competitive teams in Erie Community College from end-to-end. Ngaya has years. The team will need to The Kats have started off continued his great playoff stay this hot to make noise hot this season with an performance from last seain the MAAC, because they impressive 5-2 start behind son, averaging 14.5 points have some tough road the scoring of the and five rebounds since games coming up. “Brooklyn Brothers,” becoming a permanent University at Buffalo Yandell Denis and Dequan starter. Buffalo started strong by Jones. Both of the duo hail Buffalo State still has a winning three of their first from the BK and are the way to go but is quickly on four games, including a team’s two leading scorers their way to running the dominating 94-59 win over in their second year togethtable again. The team is crosstown rival Canisius. er in WNY. Dennis can hit playing as strong as anyone New point guard Jarod any shot outside of 20 feet in the nation, but the road Oldham leads the team and and the underclassman will only get tougher from the sophomore has looked knows how to move in here. very smooth running the space. Jones is leading the Canisius College offense for the first time. team with 18 points per Many of the Golden Fortunately for the Bulls, game and has even been Griffins’ faithful thought the team has “the Twin named Region III Male that head coach Tom Towers,” Javon McCrea Athlete of the Week at the Parrotta would have a diffi(Newark, N.Y.) and end of November for his cult time replacing former Mitchell Watt, who are dominating play. team leaders Frank Turner among the most athletic Forward Eyimofee and Julius Coles. However, duo in the conference. They Edukugho has been the the first month of the year both can score at will and most imposing presence in has proved that they have know how to gain position the low post, both on the several young stars on their to out-rebound the compeoffensive and defensive side roster. tition. Watt stands in at an of the floor. He is averaging Junior Harold imposing 6-foot-10 and the a team best 8.8 rebounds Washington has been the Arizona native is much and two blocks per game team’s most exciting scorer more agile than the other and his athleticism is and is averaging over 18 forwards in the conference. shocking considering his 6points per contest. He is Buffalo starts their Midfoot-6 frame. great at getting off pickAmerican Conference play The Kats have been conand-rolls, drilling shot after soon and has some tough sistently competitive in the shot with defenders in his non-conference games after division over the last face. Fellow junior Alshwan winter break at BYU on decade, but this year the Hymes (DeWitt, N.Y.) has Dec. 20 and at Temple on team appears to be ready to carried the team with his Dec. 28. make a serious run. Their amazing outside jump shot. true test will be when they He is hitting around three
Just for kicks By Kyle Soppe To be a Division I athlete you need to have a mix of natural talent and an impeccable work ethic. For Brianna Smith (Nichols High School) and Breanna Catipovic (Mount Saint Mary), the reward for their on and off-field prowess is a chance to not only play at the highest level in college, but also to do it in their hometown. Through her outstanding play Smith earned a scholarship to play soccer at Canisius College. Before signing on with the Golden Griffs, Smith held the two most important offensive records in school history as the all-time leader in goals (166) as well as assists (72). These stats got her foot in the door but her consistent steady play has made her a staple of the Canisius attack. Building on both her high school experience as well as her club team, Smith has not had trouble adjusting to her new home. “I definitely attribute my success to Nichols; I loved everything about that school and community,” Smith stated. “I wouldn’t be here without my club team, the Syracuse Fury. Going into my senior year, we played at the national level, and it made my transition
Photo: Niagara University Athletics
Breanna Catipovic, Mount Saint Mary’s all-time leading scorer, led the Lady Purple Eagles this season with eight goals. to Canisius much smoother.” The 2010 MAAC rookie of the year has started every one of her 40 college games, and plans to continue making life difficult on opposing defenses for at least another 40 games. Catipovic, Mount Saint Mary’s all-time leading goal scorer (147), selected Niagara University as the next stop for her storied soccer career. Soon after she made her decision official by signing her national letter of intent, a giddy coach Veltri made it known what Catipovic would add to the Purple Eagles: “She
brings an aggressive style of play and we expect her to contribute in a big way.” As a freshman, Catipovic made five starts and tallied one goal and two assists. “I was nervous and tried too hard to live up to expectations. The speed of the game caught me by surprise and I wasn’t happy with my performance,” Catipovic said. The adjustment period didn’t last long, however, as she was the team’s leader in goals (8) this past season. Equally impressive was her efficiency when attacking the goal. Catipovic beat the keeper once every 2.25 shots on target, a ridiculous ratio to sustain for an entire season at the D1 level. “It was a confidence thing. I wanted to score and finally felt comfortable at this level of competition.” It’s hard to imagine, but both of these players expressed how much better they will be as upperclassman during the 2012 season. They will both step into leadership roles and see their responsibilities increase, meaning Buffalo goal keepers better take note. As Smith said as a warning to everyone on next year’s schedule, “Watch out!”
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Sweet 16 players to watch By Dave Ricci As the calendar turns to December the scholastic basketball season tips off. Here is the Sports & Leisure Magazine list of players to watch: Kallie Banker, senior, Grand Island We dare you to name someone better. Go ahead and try. A pure basketball kid through and through, Banker has tremendous allaround skill, but she is also one of the most modest, easy-going kids you will ever meet. Katie Healy, senior, Lancaster Healy was a key member of Sacred Heart team that went to the Catholic state title tournament last season. She will instantly make the Redskins a more competitive team. Rachel Pawlak, junior, Niagara Wheatfield A mid-year transfer last year, Pawlak was a huge addition to the Falcons’ lineup and made them better. Pawlak and Melissa Smith will give Wheatfield a strong 1-2 punch in what will be a very competitive Niagara Frontier League. Clarisa Matias, senior, Holy Angels Outstanding pure shooter who vastly improved her ball handling skills over the summer. Will be big part of Angels’ team that has all of the components for a great season. Alanna Herne, sophomore, Tonawanda You name it: basketball; soccer; hockey; softball. This girl can do it all. Herne is a standout in every sport she plays, but what truly wins her teammates over is her hard work and modest personality. Aaron Shabazz, senior, Cardinal O’Hara The Lady Hawks are built to win this year and Shabazz is one of the reasons why. She
Photo courtesy Nichols
One of four freshman on the varsity team, Jamar Waters will make a huge impact for Nichols. has size, good speed and can finish. Jessica Jolley, senior, Kenmore West A sharp student of the game and member of the National Honor Society, the Blue Devils offense will flow through Jolley this year. And that is a good thing. Marisa Guyton, senior, Lockport At 6-foot-1, Guyton gives the Lions an intimidating force on the court, but she is more than just tall. Guyton has great all-around skill. Sterling Taplin, sophomore, Williamsville North It doesn’t take long to see why Taplin sports the nickname of “showtime.” People have known about him since he cracked varsity in the eighth grade but he should really explode this year. Jamar Waters, freshman, Nichols Part of a talented class of four freshmen that made the varsity team. With good speed and great ball handling skills there is no doubt Waters will be a force for the Vikings for years to come. Patrick “PJ” Blanch, senior, Kenmore East
I don’t think I know any scholastic player who lives for the game more than Blanch does. His desire to help his team win is so strong that sometimes he forces his game a bit. But you can never, ever question his heart or commitment. Stan Weir, senior, East Aurora A total gym rat. Weir is that kid you always hear about. The one that gets to practice an hour before everyone else and stays long after everyone else has left. A member of the Nichols 2010 state title team, so he knows how to win big games. Ryan Dougherty, junior, Timon Dougherty is the kind of player coaches love. He’s a hard working, tough, scrappy kind of player that grabs rebounds and can score from inside or outside. Reggie Agbeko, senior, St.Joe’s The 6-foot-7 Agbeko will no doubt be the main big man in our area that college recruiters will be focusing in on. He had some ups and downs last season that were born more out of having to acclimate himself to learning/playing a specific system. But this kid is for real and will be tough to stop. Martin Bailey, senior, Kenmore West One of the quickest and most creative point guards in all of WNY, Bailey is coming off of a record-setting football season. Jesse Lalka, senior, Tonawanda. Part of a 1-2 punch with Clayton Hess that helped the Warriors gain the program’s first league title in over 50 years. Lalka can dribble, shoot, pass, score and always hustles back on defense.
St. Francis takes home another championship By Brian Michalek Western New York was treated to a game for the ages at The Ralph last month as the St. Francis Red Raiders (8-3) defeated the Marauders of St. Joe’s (8-3) 37-16. The win gave St. Francis its 13th Monsignor Martin League Championship and the school’s first title since 2008. Akeel Lynch, for St. Francis, got things going by running the ball for 164 yards including a 62-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Alex Misterman finished carrying the load, running for 150 yards and one touchdown, after Lynch went down with turf toe near the end of the first half. “All year long we faced eight or nine guys in the box,” St. Francis head coach Jerry Smith said. “We knew St. Joe’s was going to come and do the same thing. We picked it up after the St. Ignatius game earlier in the year. Our kids on the offensive line were just tremendous this year.” “[Running is] what we are and it’s what we do,” assistant head coach Steve Otremba agreed. “That was this team this year, as far as our ability to run the football. That is what our focus was and what we wanted to do from the get-go. That is what we’ve done the entire year. This is one of the most prolific running attacks we’ve had at this school.” On the opposite side of the field, St. Joe’s Chad Kelly had a productive night, going 15 out of 35 for 203 yards. He also reminded Western New York of his athleticism, running the ball
for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Two interceptions, however, proved costly in the middle of the second half. “The St. Joe’s team lived and died with Chad Kelly,”
Photo by Jerry Gorczyca (St. Francis class of ’73)
St. Francis’ Akeel Lynch opened the scoring in the championship game with a 62-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Smith explained. “Their defense was OK for most of the year, and they gave up a lot of points; but because of him they scored more points than ever. A lot of the stuff he did were broken plays, in which he made plays on. He is such a great athlete, and we knew we couldn’t stop him, but we had to contain him as much as possible. Let him get some yardage, but not crazy.” Otremba was more succinct, “[Chad] was their team.” He then elaborated, “we had to be able to stop him, and at the very least, limit what he was capable of doing, and I think we did a good job of that. Making him run around and keep him out of his comfort zone helped us out a lot. We were
really disciplined in keeping him contained as possible. He’s a great player.” St. Francis threw the ball only three times the entire game. However, when they threw the ball, quarterback Brian Melisz made sure his passes counted, including a 50-yard bomb to wideout/kicker Dominic Buccieri. “We knew play action was going to work,” coach Smith said. “It was just a matter of ‘Could we execute it?’ That’s been the problem all year long. We really couldn’t execute what we wanted to do. For this game and the last couple games, Brian Melisz really stepped up and did a good job.” “We worked on a few things we saw we could take advantage of,” quarterback coach Nick Suchyna said. “With the way the running game was going, we knew that we could attack downfield a little bit. With Lynch and Misterman running the ball during the game, they opened up some things for us in the passing game.” “You win the game in the trenches,” Otremba said. “Our ability to win on both sides of the line of scrimmage, whether we were playing defense or offense, was our key to any football game. We’ve got a very talented group of kids that play for us on both sides of our lines this year.” Nate Suchyna, trainer, assistant coach and older brother of Nick Suchyna, credits the championship to something much more universal than Xs and Os; determination and perseverance.
Making a list, checking it on ice
By Chris Colleluori
While Santa Claus has been busy loading up his sleigh, the Rochester Americans have been busy loading up on victories. They sat second in the North Division as December arrived, but not everything has been merry. Here is a look at what has been naughty and what has been nice so far for this year’s Amerks: NICE: The hometown hero. Born and raised in the Flower City, Derek Whitmore has been a stud this year, particularly of late. He is tied for eighth in the league with 10 goals—largely thanks to a four-goal outburst, Nov. 26, against the Hamilton Bulldogs for his first professional hat trick. He is tied for fifth in the league with 74 shots on goal through 20 games, and he is also tied for fifth in the league by tallying the first goal of the game three times. Which is important because… NAUGHTY: The first two periods. The Amerks struggle
out of the gate, and were outscored 43-35 in the first two periods through November. They carried a lead into the second period only five times, and were leading after two periods just six times. Those are paltry numbers in 20 games. NICE: The third period. Rochester makes up for the slow start with a late surge. The Amerks outscore their opponents 20-12 in the final frame, and five times they have won when the score was even after two periods or the Amerks were losing. “All season long we’ve been a good third-period team, which is a good sign in terms of the character of this team and the ability to be resilient as a team,” head coach Ron Rolston said. “It has been a strong point of our team this year—coming from behind or fighting in the third to get a win.” NAUGHTY: Special teams. The Amerks don’t rank higher
than 20th in the league in either the penalty kill (17 of 88, 80.7 percent, 20th) or the power play (12 of 87, 13.8 percent, 26th). The best power-play team in the league, the Hershey Bears, scores more than twice as often with the man-advantage than do the Amerks (29.5 percent). NICE: Home sweet home. When playing at the Blue Cross Arena, Rochester boasts an 8-3-0-1 record for a leaguebest 17 points at home. They average 3.2 goals per game. NAUGHTY: On the road again. The Amerks are 2-4-2-0 in away games for a leagueworst six points. They average only 2.4 goals per game. NICE: Joe Finley. The 6foot-8, 260-pound defender had two points and was a team-best plus 10—good enough for 12th in the league—which earned him a multi-year contract from the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 28. NAUGHTY: Joe Finley. The 24-year-old, third-year profes-
sional is tops on the team with 57 penalty minutes. The former first-round pick’s play when he actually is on the ice more than makes up for it, though. NICE: Zack Kassian. Among rookies, he was tied for 12th with 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in only 18 games before getting the call to Buffalo. Perhaps more impressive was his meager 17 penalty minutes, a far cry from the 136 penalty minutes he posted in 61 games only three years ago while still playing juniors. NAUGHTY: The Buffalo injury bug. With Brad Boyes, Tyler Ennis, Cody McCormick, Tyler Myers, Mike Weber and Ryan Miller all on the Sabres’ injured reserve, at November’s end, that meant Corey Tropp, Drew MacIntyre, T.J. Brennan, Paul Szczechura, Brayden McNabb and Kassian all received at least one call to the big leagues during the month. While the
Photo by Bob Conlon
Rochester’s own Derek Whitmore has been lighting it up for the Amerks as of late. opportunity to skate in the NHL is a dream come true for any hockey player, to have it at the expense of an injured teammate is always bittersweet. NICE: The fans. Through November, the Amerks were averaging 5,074 fans per home
game. That’s way up from 3,872 last year. Rochester fans have not been in attendance so much since, you guessed it, 2007-08, the last year of the Sabres-Amerks partnership before the Florida Panthers took over.
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Bonez Jones continues to dominance UFC’s light-heavyweight division
Caps off an amazing 2011 by choking out Machida By Ivan Godzuk
battle on January 28. He wants to To r o n t o , take his parents on Canada a special vacation to Rochester-born reward them for Jon “Bonez” raising him and his Jones retained two football-playhis UFC Lighting brothers Heavyweight (Arthur, with the Title with a Baltimore Ravens, second round and Chandler win over Lyoto of Syracuse “The Dragon” University). He also Machida at the just wants to take UFC 140 Paysome time away Per-View on from fighting after a December 10. busy year. His triumph Between winbefore over ning four bouts in 18,000 at Air one calendar year, Canada Centre including the put the exclaLight-Heavyweight mation point Title, appearing on on an amazing Photo by Jeff Baron the Tonight Show year. Jon Jones unloads a right in the second round of his and co-starring in a Jon’s 2011 title defense against Lyoto Machida. beer commercial, performance life is good for the guillotine choke. After a few will go down as one of the most Rochester kid now living in seconds, Lyoto passed out, and impressive in UFC History, as Endicott, NY. Referee John McCarthy ruled a he recorded four wins, all by The scary thing, as Dana White technical submission at 4:26 of TKO or submission. Triumphs noted, is that Jon’s only 24. As the round. over Ryan Bader, Mauricio Rua the late Curt Gowdy would’ve At the post-fight press con(on March 19 to win the Lightsaid, “He has his entire future ference, Jones said that Lyoto Heavyweight Belt), Rampage ahead of him.” had his utmost respect, Jackson and Machida were all In other bouts noting “I’ve never fought anyconvincing, with only Bader Flyweight Chan Sung Jung, one like him before; the first taking him into the aka “The Korean Zombie”, round was very, very confusing fourth round. knocked out Ontario’s Mark for me (it was the first time UFC President Dana White Homick in seven seconds, Jones faced a southpaw). was the first to proclaim that tying a UFC record..... When I caught him with the Jon’s 2011 “might have been In a middleweight contest, elbow from the top posithe most dominant year in Brian Ebersole beat Canadian tion, my confidence began to UFC history....he was also the Claude Patrick by split deciskyrocket; I knew on the first fighter to successfully sion after fighting off Claude’s ground I’d have a pretty good defend the light-heavyweight numerous submission avenue of success...(When I crown (twice) since Chuck attempts...Antonio Rogerio saw blood,) I said ‘OK, he Liddell (in 2005)”. Nogueira (Little Nog) beat Tito bleeds, let’s do this’.” Jones’ fight against formerOrtiz by TKO after a knee and Some questioned Jones’ abilchamp Machida didn’t begin all several punches to the ribs in ity to take a punch before the that well. There wasn’t a lot of the first round of their lightfight, ignoring the fact that if a action in the opening frame, heavyweight battle. Who says man generally has a 10 inch but when there was, fans saw McRib sandwiches always taste reach advantage over his oppoThe Dragon connect with sevgood?....All was not good for nent, it’s hard to even get eral solid shots to Jons’ head. the Nogueira Family this night; struck in the first place. Trainer (Surprisingly, two of the three in a rematch of former Greg Jackson told Jon after judges scored the round 10-9 Heavyweight Champs, Frank the contest that Bonez proved a for Jones.). Things turned early Mir again won against Antonio lot by absorbing those first in the second, as Jones scored a Rodrigo Nogueira (Big Nog). round blows, saying Jon takedown and rocked Lyoto Mir applied a kimura (arm bar) showed he can keep his comwith a right elbow, opening a in the first round; Nog tried to posure through adversity, and gash in his forehead. After a roll through twice but Frank that he handled it like a champ. brief ref stoppage to check the simply tightened his What’s next for the 15cut, both men were in the grip, breaking Nog’s arm in the 1 Jones? He’ll face the winner clinch position when Bones process. of the Rashad Evans-Phil Davis caught Machida in a standing
Upcoming Pro Wrestling events By Ivan the Impaler Thu. Dec. 29 - WWE (Smackdown) House Show First Niagara Center Buffalo, NY - 7:30 PM Thu. Dec. 28 - TNA Impact (House Show) - Times-Union Arena - Albany, NY - 7 PM Sat. Jan. 14, 2012 - Buffalo Championship Wrestling Lake Erie Italian Club, Sout Park Ave. -Lackawanna, NY 7:15 PM Sat. Jan. 28, 2012 - NWA NY - Eagles Club, 1200 Buffalo Road - Rochester, NY - 6 PM TELEVISION The Finest Wrestling Program in Television History is “Wrestlevision Presents No
Limits TV”. Catch the action, orchestrated by Big Guy Productions and A Crew of Dozens, on the following stations: In Rochester at 3 PM Sundays on My18 (WBGTTV). (Replays late Wednesday/Early Thursday at 2:30 AM, as well as late Saturday/early Sunday at 2 PM.). For Suburban Erie County, it’s on Time-Warner Cable Ch. 20 every Saturday at 4 PM, with replays Mondays at 11:30 PM. In Elmira/Corning, stay glued to WYDC-TV (Big Fox) at 1:30 AM late Saturday. Or, watch WJKP-TV (Ch.39) Sundays at 4 PM.
RADIO Listen to The Pain Clinic every Saturday at 10 AM on WHTK-AM (1280) in Rochester. Cashman Rich Jones has all your wrestling news and insights, along with special guests. You can also listen online at http://www.feelthepain.net THE TWITTER Yes, Wrestlevision is now on Twitter. Curiously, the address is @Wrestlevison. COMING SOON... Sometime in late January, www.ivantheimpaler.com debuts. The world can stop waiting...
Local boxing happenings By Bob Caico Ray Casal of Casal’s Boxing Club hosted Fight Night II on Nov. 19 at his gym in Niagara Falls. Another sell-out crowd witnessed 13 bouts with gyms from Rochester, Buffalo, North Tonawanda and of course the home gym. Fight of The Night laurels were bestowed on Antonio Smith of Victory Gym and Joe Portera of the University at Buffalo. The two battled back and forth to a very close three-round decision, with Smith earning three of the five judges cards. There were many bouts in contention for the best fight of night. Brandon Mallory of St. John’s Church in Buffalo and Mike Christopher of U.B. was a very exciting contest with Mallory pulling out the decision. Jake Ventry of Thunder Boxing and K-Shawn Agee of Casal’s staged a rematch from Fight Night I with Ventry gaining the decision again although this time Agee competed much better and lost a close decision. The full card and results are as follows.
Prince Slobert (St. John’s) 3-2 Jackson Krebs (Casal’s) Amed Abbi (St. Martin’s) 5-0 Frank Saunderson (Casal’s) Sedrick Mitchell (St. Martin’s) 4-1 Marcus Floyd (Buffalo) Dominic Sirianni (Casal’s) rsc-1 M a t t McLaughlin (Thunder Boxing) Tim Thayer (U.B.) rsc-1 Eric Plumeri (WNY MMA) Jake Ventry (Thunder Boxing) 3-2 K Shawn Agee (Casal’s) Tymir Puryear (Rochester) rtm-1 Jose Acevedo (St. Martin’s) Donte Ettipito (WNY MMA) 5-0 M i k e Vega (Casal’s) Antonio Smith (Victory Boxing) 3-2 J o e Portera (U.B.) Jesse Fish (Casal’s) 5-0 Kevin Bonk (Thunder Boxing) Jeremy Ferguson (Flare Center) rsc-3 Ariel Class (WNY MMA) Brandon Mallory (St. John’s) 3-2 Mike Christopher (U.B.) Jeffrey Ngayot (Buffalo PAL) 5-0 M i k e Glavin (Casal’s) •••••••• Undefeated Buffalo light heavyweight Lionell “Lonnie B” Thompson made a smashing United Kingdom debut, knocking out Phil Goodwin (6-8) in the second round in Manchester, England. Thompson-Goodwin was on the Tyson FuryNeven Pajkic undercard,
Photo by Bob Caico
Hector Alejandro, boxing coach at the Buffalo PAL on West Ferry Street instructs main event winner, Jeffrey Ngayot at Casal’s Boxing Club event.
presented by Hennessy Sports, at Event City in Trafford Park. Lionell improved his perfect pro record to 11-0, seven KOs. “I was very excited to fight in England for the first time,” 26-year-old Lionell said. “I can’t wait to fight there again in front of those great fans. I trained hard and was in great shape. British fans got to see an up-and-coming star who delivered.” “Not only is Lionell a dangerous fighter,” promoter Adam Harris (Hennessy Sports) said, “he’s also a true showman. British fans really loved him. He must have spent at least 30 minutes after his fight signing autographs for young fans. We’re very high on Lionell Thompson.” Lionell is staying busy as he is scheduled to fight in Montreal on Dec. 17 against Christian Cruz (12-12-1). •••••••• Guillermo Sanchez (13-4-1) of Buffalo dropped a unanimous 10round decision on Nov. 12 in Cleveland. He fought Mark Davis (16-0) of Ohio and won most of the early rounds. Unfortunately he was the victim of hometown judging. He stunned Davis with a straight left but couldn’t finish him. He sprained his right hand late in the seventh and was forced to fight one handed for the remainder of the fight. •••••••• Mike “Action” Jackson signed with Don Juan Fighting Promotions to a
two-year and eight fight deal. Promoter Juan Santiago plans to have him fight at least 10 fights in he next year. His pro debut is scheduled for this Dec.16 in York, Pa. against Emil Brooks (0-4) also of Buffalo. He will be fighting at the featherweight limit of 126 pounds. He will be managed by Frank Santiago and is training with Ross “The Boss” Thompson. “I am very excited about Mike. He is exciting to watch, very quick hands, and as he gains professional experience will develop into Buffalo’s next champion. He has a strong work ethic and is eager to fight,” Juan Santiago said. Jackson is a graduate of Buffalo State College. •••••••• At Singer’s Gym: Dec. 15, 1959 at Memorial Auditorium, three Buffalo boxers remained undefeated on a card promoted by Pedro Martinez. A crowd of 2,504 witnessed Rocky Fumerelle (24-0) defeat veteran Joe Miceli (59-40-8) of NYC by unanimous 10-round decision. Referee Joe Muscato awarded Jackie Donnelly (17-0-1) a TKO over Al Tisi (24-20-6) in the ninth round after barrages of punches were unanswered. Tony LaBarbara (4-0) knocked out Tommy Brown in the second. The other fight on the card had Jimmy Watkins (20-8-1) of Buffalo stopping Don Ross of Toronto after a cut forced Muscato to halt the contest.
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