The Capitals' center, skidding across the ice on the seat of his pants after tangling with Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward, still managed to move the puck across to Matt Hendricks for a controversial first-period goal that was the difference until the final minutes as Washington spoiled Carolina's long-awaited home opener with a 3-0 win on Wednesday night.
"I don't think its a goal," Canes coach Paul Maurice said. "I'm not looking for a penalty. There are a bunch of different situations. If he rolls over your goaltender, then it's a penalty. I didn't feel in [the official's] argument that Cam was expanding out into the player, in which case the player has the right to his own ice. But for me he didn't. So I didn't agree with the call at all. He started with his heels in the paint. If he came out, he came out an inch."
Ward was sharp throughout, robbing Alex Ovechkin with the shaft of his stick on a Caps power play in the second period, but many of his teammates seemed to labor up and down the ice. Chances jumped off sticks, rebounds hid in skate blades, and Canes players looked up at the rafters or smacked their sticks against the boards with frustration.
"It took us a couple minutes to get our legs back into it," captain Eric Staal acknowledged. "For everybody it was probably a tougher game, in that respect, than we've had all year. Just getting the legs going, getting the heart rate back up. Sometimes it's tough coming off a road trip like that. But we got into it, I thought we were close."
It's hard to get closer than Staal did as a power play ended midway through the second period. Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth flashed his glove to snare Staal's hard slap shot. Neuvirth's shutout came fairly easy, however, as his defense effectively collapsed in front of him to clear rebounds. The Canes did the rest to themselves, missing chances to get the puck on net, none more golden than when Chad LaRose, who was looking at an open goal, couldn't keep the puck on his stick blade with 13 minutes to play.
Nicklas Backstrom potted a rebound a few minutes later, and added an empty-net goal after the Canes pulled Cam Ward in the final minutes to cap the scoring. Ovechkin, brilliantly held in check throughout by Joe Corvo, was unnoticeable throughout the game, managing only the second assist on Backstrom's first marker.
This season, there will be games like this one, as the young Hurricanes experience the grind of a long season. Coach Maurice waxed philosophical about the team's effort, "If you play that game in the middle of the season, I might be a little bit grumpier about the effort. But I don't think that's what it was. They were saying the right things on the bench."
"We stayed in the fight against a good team. The bodies just weren't doing what the brains wanted them to do."
If Tom O’Brien’s club can knock off visiting No. 16 Florida State, the Wolfpack would play in the ACC title game on Dec. 4 in Charlotte if it wins its remaining four games.
“Our football team is excited about the opportunity to play Florida State,” said Coach O’Brien, whose team has had 12 days to lick its wounds following a heartbreaking 33-27 overtime loss at East Carolina on Oct. 16. “Obviously they’re the class of the division right now, a very talented, athletic football team that’s playing great.
“You’re always careful about saying you ‘have’ to do something, but everyone is very aware that it’s a big football game if we want to represent our side of the conference in Charlotte. Every game is important, but certain games, because of the significance of them, take on a different life of themselves.”
GREENSBORO COLISEUM/GREENSBORO Duke won the ACC women’s basketball title in pretty convincing fashion last season, and the Blue Devils have plenty of believers at today's annual media rouser.
The Blue Devils’ floor leader, senior guard Jasmine Thomas, was named preseason player of the year while freshman forward Richa Jackson and guard Chelsea Gray are on the six-player “newcomer watch list.”
UNC, which has pre-season All-ACC senior forward Jessica Breland back in the fold after she sat out last season with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was picked to finish second and got six first-place votes. Florida State was picked third and got two first-place votes, while sixth-place selection and last season’s tournament runner-up N.C. State got one first-place vote.
In other area women's basketball news, N.C. State has been picked to host one of the four women's NCAA regionals in 2012.
Carolina manager Martin Rennie made good on his promise that the RailHawks would adopt a conservative approach for the away match, with the intention of keeping the score close entering next week’s second leg at WakeMed Soccer Park. The RailHawks’ starting lineup included Matt Watson, Floyd Franks, Amir Lowery and Josh Gardner at midfield, with Etienne Barbara and Tom Heinemann responsible for the attacking third. However, this left newly named 2010 USSF D2 Best XI midfielder Daniel Paladini and Gregory Richardson (again) on the bench. Richardson would eventually see action; Paladini, curiously, would never see the pitch.
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM It’s finally basketball season.
Duke was the first of the local ACC women’s basketball teams to put its product on display, with its annual Blue/White Scrimmage at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It’s a “Fan Fest” as well, with games for the kids and free popcorn and some giveaways and a post-game autograph session.
And there are perhaps a thousand fans in the house.
Last season the Blue Devils were so banged up in preseason that Coach Joanne P. McCallie put her team up against the male players that often go up against the team in practice.
This time there’s a modification. Duke has only 10 healthy and available players at the moment as sophomore center Allison Vernerey recovers from a recent blow to the head in practice.
So with five returnees plus a five-player freshman class touted as the nation’s best available to play, McCallie has elected to have some of the guys participate.
For those just tuning in, the Cary-based RailHawks are playing for the championship of second-division soccer in North America and the Carribean. After steadily picking up their stride after opening the season in uncertain fashion, the squad has convincing made its way past NSC Minnesota and Montreal in the first two rounds of the playoffs. In Bayamon, P.R., tonight at 6 p.m., the RailHawks kick off for the first leg in a two-game series against the Puerto Rico Islanders.
[A note about the scoring. Judging by a conversation Triangle Offense had with bewildered fans during the second semifinal game against Montreal, it's clear that it's worth explaining the aggregate scoring system. Very simply, the USSF-D2 champion will be determined by the aggregate score of the two games. In essence, the final is a single 180-minute game, with the first 90 minutes to be played tonight and the second 90 to be played this Saturday, Oct. 30 in Cary. Should the score be tied after 180 minutes, there will be two 15-minute overtime periods, to be followed, if necessary, by a penalty-kick shootout.]
The RailHawks will be facing a formidable opponent in the Islanders. While it's tempting to count Colin Clarke's team as an underdog because they were the last team to qualify for the playoffs, finishing eighth in a 12-team league, such a conclusion would be mistaken. The Islanders have two burdens other clubs don't. By virtue of being located in the 18th parallel, between the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands, they have no short road trips. They're a rugged, indefatigable side.
More importantly, their hard travels through North American airspace is in the service of incredibly strong opposition. As one of the few reliably strong Caribbean soccer clubs, Puerto Rico is perennially involved in the CONCACAF Champions League, which is, for all practical purposes, unavailable to U.S.-based second-division clubs.
This latter commitment kept the Islanders busy with eight extra games played between July 27 and Oct. 20. Most notoriously, on July 27 and Aug. 4, the Islanders prevailed over the Los Angeles Galaxy in a 5-3 aggregate victory, including a 4-1 humiliation of a lineup that included World Cup stalwarts Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle before their home fans in the Home Depot Center.
Duke women’s basketball will hold its annual Blue/White game today at 2 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium, with admission free to the public.
The Blue Devils return three starters in Jasmine Thomas, Karima Christmas and Krystal Thomas, and its freshman class Chelsea Gray, Richa Jackson, Haley Peters, Tricia Liston and Chloe Wells has been ranked No. 1 nationally by HoopGurlz.
UNC’s recent domination of Coach Butch Davis’ former team is over.
Miami (5-2, 3-1 ACC) had lost its last three meetings with the Tar Heels, who fell to 4-3 and 2-2 after having their four-game winning streak snapped.
It was the Tar Heels’ first loss of the season by more than six points.
DURHAM, NC—With more than 13 minutes left in the second half during a season-opening exhibition against St. Augustine’s University Saturday night, the Duke University Blue Devils—last year’s national champions and, thanks to several returning stars and a promising fleet of young guards, ESPN’s pre-season favorite—broke the 100-point barrier. That benchmark gave the Devils a 59-point lead over the visiting Falcons. Indeed, the Devils essentially won the game about a half before, when they sprinted to 30-1 lead with a mostly perfect eight-minute opening sequence. During that decisive gambit, outstanding-as-promised freshman Kyrie Irving, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee combined for four dunks, while Irving, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins each hit a three pointer. Seniors Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith scored, too.
“This is a very good shooting team,” Coach Mike Krzyzewski, now in his 31st year as Duke’s head coach, understated after the game.
Indeed, six Duke players hit more than two three-pointers during the contest, with the team shooting 56 percent from beyond the arc and 66 from the floor. It wasn’t just baskets that led to the 141-68 victory, though: Smith and Irving combined for nearly half of the team’s 38 assists (with only 12 turnovers), while both Mason and Miles Plumlee added several blocks. The Devils ran well, too, getting lay-ups and dunks in transition and consistently clamping the Falcons with their man-to-man defense on the other end. For Krzyzewski, that combination will be key this season.
“We’re going to get shots,” Krzyzewski said. “But we have to make sure we play defense and rebound.”
Duke’s trademark intensity was intermittent, however, their overall dominance pocked by spurts of complacence—missed defensive assists, poor ball-handling, a sense that this game was already in the bag. Missed free throws also saddled the Devils Saturday night, with co-captains Singler and Smith (who, after missing his first three, looked especially frustrated returning to defense) missing all of their combined first five. The Devils finished at nearly 75 percent from the line, however, with the sophomores Curry and Dawkins combining for 13 charity points.
At their best, the Devils were a hybrid of finesse and hustle, diving for loose balls, rushing to step in front of passes and looking down the floor for easy transition shots. Highly rated freshman Irving seems to have bought into Krzyzewski’s relentless system entirely, as his aggressive play in the first half against St. Augustine’s often put him above the rim and on the floor.
“I think he’s just mature—mentally, physically,” Krzyzewski said of Irving. “He has great poise. He had it in high school but playing the U.S. this summer when they won the gold medal helped him more.”
For last year’s CIAA champions of St. Augustine’s, the rout versus Duke marks the beginning of a rebuilding process. The team’s champ head coach, Lonnie Blow Jr., is now at Old Dominion, and six of the players from that squad left, too. New head coach Ken Spencer saw flashes of the team he needs Saturday night, especially after that opening disaster.
“With only six days of practice, with a new coach and a new system and a new staff, it was a shock. Our kids came in and, especially in the second half, they played hard and represented really well,” Spencer said. “We have an opportunity to go back and watch film against some of the best players in the country.”
Duke had a very long Saturday in Blacksburg.
Tech (6-2, 4-0 ACC) continues to lead the ACC’s Coastal Division while the Blue Devils are in last place at 1-6 and 0-4. Duke has lost 10 straight games against Division I-FBS competition.
Taylor added 47 rushing yards on six carries. Darren Evans and Ryan Williams added rushing touchdowns for the Hokies.