A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Guest Column: Playing for Life

Former afanofthegame blogger Nathan Skytta pops back in to tell the story of BYU’s dream of a national championship. The Cougars’ head coach Dave Rose overcame cancer last summer bringing more emotion into the 2009-10 college basketball season.

Note: Story written after first round and before second round of NCAA tournament.


After Brigham Young University’s coach Dave Rose beat pancreatic cancer last summer, the team and the school did not want this season to be just another season for the team.  After having a successful past few season, BYU wanted to continue their regular season domination of the Mountain West Conference this season and to advance into the deeper rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Even though the Cougars did not win the conference outright, they did finish second in the conference and that was enough to enter them into the tournament.

When BYU was matched up against the University of Florida, they knew that a challenge was ahead of them. BYU came into the matchup having lost seven straight first round matchups and knew Florida had won 12 games in a row.

They knew that it was going to be a big game for both teams, but for BYU, it meant something more. They hadn’t won a tournament game since 1993 and hadn’t advanced any further since 1981, when Danny Ainge was on the team.

BYU head coach Dave Rose won the most important battle of his life last summer — against cancer.

Led by James “Jimmer” Fredette, BYU defeated the Gators 99-92 in double overtime. Fredette led the team with 37 points, including knocking down two three-pointers in the second overtime. With the victory, the Cougars advanced to the second round of the tournament for the first time in 17 years.

“We had a second life, or a third life, or whatever it was,” Fredette said, “and I just wanted to go out there and try to get it done because I don’t know if I could have played another overtime.”

Florida didn’t make the game easy for the Cougars. In fact, if you ask the Gators, the game should have been theirs.

“You can’t complain about the looks we got at the end,” said Chandler Parsons, who landed game-winning shots at the final buzzer against North Carolina State and South Carolina this season. “We fought hard. Everyone was tired but they were just as tired as us.”

Parsons missed what were, at the time, potential game-winning shots at the end of regulation and the first overtime period. Fredette and his teammates did not allow Parsons or any other Gator clean shots during the second overtime, and therefore did not allow for what could have been a dramatic finish.

When asked what his thoughts were on the victory for his team Rose said, “This was a long time in coming for our program, and it’s a big win. One of the most important goals we had at the start of this season was to get into this tournament and advance, and we’re advancing. I’m proud of our guys.”

Probably the most fitting quote that could come from a cancer survivor, a coach, and a mentor to many athletes, Rose told the attending media members, “You’re playing for your life,” he said. It’s one and done at this point.”

BYU moves on to face Kansas State in the second round of the NCAA tournament, where the team will fight just like their coach has inspired them to do all season long. Their coach was successful at defeating his opponent, and that’s exactly what his team plans on doing until they can cut down the nets and raise the championship trophy.

–Nathan Skytta

April 2, 2010 Posted by | College Basketball | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 73/74

Quite the flatline game for the Sharks are they show no signs of life and lose to the Edmonton Oilers, 5-0. This comes after a 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames, so as if two losses weren’t bad enough, they were to Alberta.

It’s the sixth straight loss, and the loss helps propel the Phoenix Coyotes to first in the Pacific Division. You can say that as many times as you want, but I will never comprehend Phoenix at the top of the standings. They have no great players. It’s that stupid trap system.

I’ll go ahead and mention one thing from the Calgary game since I didn’t blog about it. Ryane Clowe decided to fight a “top player” in Jarome Iginla and it was a pretty even match. Other than that, nothing.

What makes the loss to Edmonton so mind-boggling is that it was to a goalie, Devan Dubnyk, who was 1-8-2 in the NHL, with a 3.96 GAA and .874 save percentage. The guy had a shutout until three minutes left in the game! Horrific.

Unlike in previous games where the Sharks played well for 10-20 minutes, this game had no effort to speak of. Despite Marc-Edouard Vlasic returning from injury after 17 games, and three fights, San Jose failed to come up with good play.

Zack! Don't punch me, bro! (From SJSHARKS.com)

The three fights were all Edmonton victories as well. Brad Staubitz, who has dropped off faster than Mount Roraima, Douglas Murray and Scott Nichol all got pounded. I’ve heard so much hype about Murray and his fighting, but Zack Stortini just annihilated him. Everyone can shut up about him now. He’s a bona fide pylon.

Nichol tried his best against Hilary Duff’s beau Mike Comrie, but ultimately got one-punch-KO’d. Staubitz is just a jester now.

There needs to be one of those movie moments where the coach does something drastic and outlandish to get the team to understand their predicament. Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening.

The Sharks will win again this season, but it’s looking like it will be all for not.

Unbelievable Nerve

The first goal of the game came when Joe Thornton turned it over into an Edmonton breakaway. Once the Edmonton guy had the puck, Thornton didn’t bother to chase him; he just peeked back and skated to the bench nonchalantly. Wow. That does it for me. I can’t wait to see him off the team. Worthless.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 30  EDM 19; Staubitz led with five.

Next game is Tuesday at Minnesota.

–Ray

March 22, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 63

Quite the weight-off-the-shoulders game for the Sharks as they finally defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout. Detroit still wins the series 3-0-1, but the importance of this victory can’t be overstated enough.

Let’s be honest here. Detroit is going to make the playoffs. Yes they’re ninth right now, but come on, it’s Detroit. They will slide into the playoffs and maybe even go on a tear to claim the fifth or sixth spot. Regardless, they are a potential first-round matchup for the Sharks, and losing all four games to Detroit would have been catastrophic. The team already lacks confidence against the Wings as is, and losing here would have surely meant a first-round sweep had they met.

The victory didn’t come without fierce battling and lots of physicality. Detroit didn’t want to give up his undefeated streak against the Sharks so easy. How about 52 shots peppered on Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov. Nabby stopped 50 of them. He’s the sole reason why the Sharks won this game. Sensing a trend lately?

Despite getting shutout last night, coach Todd McLellan decided to keep the same players on the ice for the game. Ryane Clowe was extra feisty tonight. Within the first five minutes, he was up in people’s grills looking for something. He found it in the third when he and Jonathan Ericsson decided to tango. Ericsson caught him early, but Clowe finished with some power hooks, an uppercut and a takedown.

The Sharks scored their only two goals in the first period. Joe Thornton got on the board 25 seconds after Detroit took a 1-0 lead. Niclas Wallin got his first point as a Shark on Thornton’s goal.

Dwight Helminen once again played extremely well. He notched his first goal as a Shark, NHL 10 style: Torrey Mitchell stopped behind the net, skated out, passed across ice for Helminen who one-timed it in the open net. It’s his second career goal, and here’s some food for thought: Wallin assisted on Helminen’s first goal when they were both in Carolina. That goal was way back on November 2, 2008.

Johan, I'm constipated. Punch me in the gut to force it out. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Detroit controlled the second period, and they controlled the third period by tying the game with seven minutes left in regulation.

So we head into overtime. Oh prevent offense, how I have missed thee. The Sharks took their prevent offense to another level by taking a penalty with two minutes to go. By some divine intervention they were able to kill it off.

In the shootout, Nabby stonewalled all three Detroit shooters. Patrick Marleau, the Sharks’ third shooter, won it.

How sweet it is. My health has deteriorated throughout today, so this was a great temporary remedy to the constant sniffing and overall feeling of crap.

Mickey Redmond – the worst analyst in hockey

If you’re unlucky enough to get a Detroit broadcast, listen to this guy talk. How many things can he get wrong? Let me count the ways:

1. Saying Jimmy Howard made save of the first period when clearly Nabby’s sprawling blocker was.

2. Calling for interference when there was nothing there.

3. Saying Thornton should continue playing with no emotion and should not play angry.

4. Stealing Darren Pang’s phrase, “Holy jumpin’!”

5. Called Kent Huskins, Huselius for five minutes.

6. Saying Rob Blake takes a lot of shootouts for the Sharks (I don’t think he’s taken one).

7. If he says “look out” one more time, I will go off.

Obviously he only has this job because of his past playing in a Red Wing uniform. Shame. Someone else agreed with me too. Check out the #22 comment on David Pollak’s blog.

Stat Pack

Nabby has the worst winning percentage against Detroit since 1980. With this win he’s now 8-17-0-2 against them. Terrible.

The Sharks lost the faceoff battle 51%-49%. I think they’ve lost it a couple times against Detroit. I don’t understand how they can be so dominant in the circle, but lose faceoffs to a team who isn’t that great at them time after time.

San Jose led in all four Detroit games, only garnering one win.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  DET 34; Scott Nichol led with five.

Thornton started getting angry at Detroit when Datsyuk and Cleary kept being annoying pests. He threw Cleary down with one arm, which was hilarious. Need to see more of that, but we won’t.

San Jose goes to Buffalo for a game with the Sabres on Saturday. It’s the last game before the Olympic break.

–Ray

February 12, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 61

Quite the Whac-A-Mole game for the Sharks has they pounded the Toronto Maple Leafs back into the the NHL cellar with a 3-2 win. It wasn’t pretty, but the Sharks did enough to withstand the newly energized Leafs.

The game felt like a Western Conference game. It’s always nice to watch the Sharks play Eastern Conference teams since we never see those players. But with the Leafs’ additions of Dion Phaneuf and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, along with Francois Beauchemin, it was like facing the Ducks or Flames.

Astonishingly, Giguere recorded two shutouts in his first two games as a Maple Leaf. After the first period, the streak was still in tact. Toronto led 1-0 at the first break after completely controlling most of the period. Phanuef was throwing his weight around on Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley. The Leafs were skating and made the Sharks look very lethargic.

Jody Shelley tried his best to get some emotions going. He dropped the gloves with Toronto tough guy Colton Orr, and Shelley KO’d him with a right. You don’t see that too often — Orr getting dropped or Shelley KO’ing someone. So you might want to favorite that video on YouTube.

Right after was when Toronto notched their first goal. Rob Blake turned the puck over behind the net, and a cross-crease pass found Tyler Bozak’s stick.

The Leafs continued the pressure briefly in the second before the Sharks whacked their first mole. Dan Boyle shot a wrist shot change-up to beat Giguere. Yep, Boyle’s back.

Two minutes later Joe Pavelski wristed one past Giggy, and yet another mole was whacked to oblivion.

All right, Colton. This is going to be a one-shot KO. Jersey Shore Ronnie style. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Brad Staubitz sought redemption against Garnet Exelby for a knee-to-knee hit earlier in the game. The two danced, and it was a close fight. Both fighters landed some punches, and Staubitz claimed the takedown.

The Leafs would score in the last minute of the second to tie the game back up. Curse those relentless moles for popping up.

Remember last game when I gave you the statistic which read the Sharks are 10-0 in games with multiple fights. Well, make that 11-0. Ryane Clowe buried the puck with seven minutes left to give the good guys the win.

Nab-credible

Once again, Mr. Evgeni Nabokov did his best brick wall impersonation, making key save after key save. You just can’t say enough about how great he’s been this year. We’ll have to wait until April to see if he gives the Sharks the real bang for their buck, but if this season is any indication, the Sharks will be living well come postseason.

Welcome Wallin and Helminen!

Newly acquired Niclas Wallin made his debut in the #7 sweater tonight and played as advertised. He didn’t make any mistakes and finished with a +1 rating in 17:03 of ice time. He also recorded one shot, one blocked shot and one hit.

Dwight Helminen was called up for the first time as a Shark. I didn’t hear his name called much, though. He put in nine minutes of work and struggled in the faceoff circle going 1-4.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  TOR 34; Scott Nichol led with four.

The Sharks visit the reeling Blue Jackets on Wednesday. It’s the front end of a back-to-back — Columbus and Detroit.

–Ray

February 9, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 30

Quite the just-like-old-times performance for the Sharks in their 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. The Sharks roster finally looked like it should be with a couple exceptions. And with the added aspect of facing former Sharks, Christian Ehrhoff and Steve Bernier, it was a reunion of sorts.

Got to mention the injuries, returns and transactions. Devin Setoguchi and Rob Blake returned to the lineup tonight; Benn Ferriero and Jason Demers were sent down to Worcester because of that. Of course this was Torrey Mitchell’s second game back so he’s still getting used to NHL-level speed.

Jody Shelley and Brad Staubitz are still out with injuries, so Frazer McLaren played on the fourth line. Derek Joslin retained his spot on the defense upon Demers’ reassignment.

OK so the game — a slow back-and-forth game. One team would control for 10 minutes, then things would switch. Vancouver got on the board early in the first and controlled the play. McLaren scored his first NHL goal to tie things up before the first ended. He took a big hit behind the goal-line but stayed on his feet and kept his stick on the ice. Joe Pavelski found him and it was an easy tip-in. Glad to see Frazer add his name to the list of first-time scorers this season; Ferriero, McLaren, Demers, Logan Couture and Ryan Vesce all have scored their first NHL goal so far this season.

The Sharks dominated the second period, outshooting Vancouver 15-4; however, they only managed one goal, which came from Dan Boyle on the power play. It was a cool goal to watch on the replay because you saw how much Boyle moves on the man-advantage. One second he would be up high at the point, five seconds later he was down low. Always keeps his skates moving in a very fluid motion.

Captain Rob Blake made his return against Vancouver (From SJSHARKS.com)

San Jose backed off during the last frame but withstood a fierce Canucks forecheck. The Sharks capitalized on a counterattack, as Manny Malhotra deked — yes deked — goalie Roberto Luongo fairly easily. Thirteen seconds later Jamie McGinn notched his fourth goal of the season after Jed Ortmeyer battled beyond the goal line and sent the puck to the crease.

Let’s go back to the decision to send Demers down to Worcester. Coach Todd McClellan cited bad play in the defensive zone as the reason for the reassignment. Demers and Joslin were battling for the final defenseman spot with Rob Blake returning and T-Mac said Joslin played better over the last 10 games. Demers has definitely not played up to par lately. I think back to last game where Demers attempted a stretch pass only to have it intercepted and turned into an Edmonton goal.

T-Mac said before he likes how Demers takes risks, and now he’s going back on that? I don’t get it. Demers is clearly learning from Boyle how to be an offensive threat and doing a pretty good job at it. He has one goal and 12 assists in 27 games. He’s been one of the league’s most surprising rookies and you choose Joslin over Demers? I’m sorry, but this is a dumb move by T-Mac. Joslin is a joke of a player and isn’t going to amount to anything.

Perhaps it will help Demers not to play with Kent Huskins and actually someone good down in Worcester. Huskins was on the power play tonight again. Stop doing that T-Mac. Just stop. Demers needs to be on the power play and Huskins needs to be sent down. No one will claim him off waivers.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 16  VAN 14; Jamie McGinn (4) and Devin Setoguchi (3) led the team.

The Sharks wrap up November with a 9-2-3 record and are the first team to reach 40 points.

All eyes will be on San Jose on Tuesday when the Sharks battle the Ottawa Senators. Dany Heatley versus his ex-girlfriend. Should be good.

–Ray

 

November 30, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 7

Quite the turnaround performance from the Sharks tonight as they took care of the Minnesota Wild, 4-2. Things looked bleak for San Jose early, and I was worried we wouldn’t be able to string two wins in a row.

Throughout the first period, the Sharks looked sluggish and uninterested in playing tonight. The Wild dominated the neutral zone and had the 1-0 lead going into the second period.

The light switched flipped on (as did the refs whistles), and the Sharks scored three in the second. Early on in the second stanza, San Jose kept taking penalties — at one point killing off a 5 on 3 until a Wild player took a penalty. There were 16 minutes of penalties in the second period (10 on SJ, 6 on MIN). The Wild took a 2-0 lead on a fluke deflection off Dan Boyle’s skate. The puck flew over goalie Evgeni Nabokov’s head and into the net.

After that play, the Sharks started swimming. I was thinking it would be a good time for a fight, being down 2-0 and not looking good. Jody Shelley came on the ice, and his line gave a strong forecheck that led to Jed Ortmeyer’s first goal as a Shark. Congratulations to Jed.

Patrick Marleau, with some newfound, rocket-skates, hit a slapshot off Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom. A nice rebound lay on the ice, and Patty flipped it over Backstrom and in for a goal.

The penalties started to catch up with the Wild, though. The Sharks power play got on the board when Dany Heatley fired a one-timer cannon into the net — his accuracy is unbelievable.

Much to the Wild’s shock, the third period opened with another Marleau goal — just nine seconds in. Seriously, Patty should have lost his captaincy a long time ago if we’d known he would play like this. He might challenge Heater for most goals.

Jed Ortmeyer celebrates his first goal as a Shark (From SJSHARKS.com)

Jed Ortmeyer celebrates his first goal as a Shark (From SJSHARKS.com)

One of the most important aspects of this game was Nabby’s goaltending. It was outstanding. Absolutely phenomenal — his best game of the season. After the two goals, he stoned everyone — and these just weren’t weak shots from the point. These were point-blank opportunities with a plethora of juicy rebounds. I honestly have no clue how nothing went in.

Well, that’s not true. Every player on the Sharks was giving 110% effort, no question. Ryane Clowe, in particular, dove to prevent a wide-open net. Marc-Edouard Vlasic dove to block pucks; Jason Demers was diving to prevent shots; Benn Ferriero consistently skated hard to the net. It was spectacular to see such effort from the Sharks.

Other Notes

Jamie McGinn stayed in the lineup tonight, even after Brad Staubitz served his suspension last game. McGinn made a bonecrushing hit on a Wild player behind Backstrom. Good to see him giving his all as well.

This is the second time the Sharks scored four straight goals in the young season. That shows how potent this offense is when it’s on. I hope they take note and recognize they have even more potential.

I hope Nabby takes this game’s performance, sticks it in a bottle, and unleashes it every game. This is the Nabby we remember; this is the Nabby that we love. Let this not be a Douglas-Murray-hat-trick type of once-in-a-lifetime deal.

Devin Setoguchi racked up five hits, which led the team — nice to see Gooch doing something different/more than what he’s asked.

Rob Blake blocked five shots, which led the team — nice to see Blakey doing something he’s supposed to do, and excelling at it.

Who’s Got Next?

The Sharks play Phoenix, Monday. It’s their last home game before taking off on a six-game east coast road trip. It’s crucial to win this game and not sleep on the Coyotes. Phoenix always plays the Sharks hard, so getting the effort going shouldn’t be a problem. But if I’ve seen anything this season so far, it’s the Sharks like to play the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde card. Please don’t.

–Ray

October 11, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment