Villanova to host Lafayette at Allentown's PPL Center

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Villanova to host Lafayette at Allentown's PPL Center

Villanova will be playing all of its home games away from campus this season as The Pavilion undergoes renovations.

And for one night in November, the Wildcats will call Allentown home.

The program announced Monday that the 'Cats will host Lafayette at Allentown's PPL Center on Friday, Nov 17. Game time and broadcast information will be released at a later date.

This will actually mark the second time the Wildcats host a game at PPL Center, home of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Flyers' AHL minor-league affiliate. The 'Cats hosted Lehigh there in November 2014 and came away with a 77-66 victory in the first college basketball game ever played at the arena, which opened in September of that year.

With the renovations to soon-to-be-rechristened Finneran Pavilion underway, Jay Wright's team is expected to play the vast majority of its games this season at the Wells Fargo Center, its home away from home for the last several years. The Wildcats' full schedule and game location details are expected to be released sometime in September.

The 'Cats are coming off a 32-4 season that included Big East regular-season and conference tournament titles and the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament but also ended in bittersweet fashion with a second-round upset loss to Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament.

Lafayette is coming off the heels of an ugly 9-21 record that at one point included a nine-game losing streak from Jan. 11 to Feb. 5.

The Wildcats and Leopards met in last year's season opener at The Pavilion and the 'Cats promptly asserted dominance with an 88-44 victory.

Villanova's women's basketball team will also play at PPL Center on Nov. 17 as it will host Lehigh.

The Wildcats' women's team, which will play its home games this coming season on campus at Jake Nevin Fieldhouse, went 20-15 last season reached the semis of the WNIT before falling to Michigan.

Ron Hextall: 'Change' main reason Flyers, Steve Mason parted ways

Ron Hextall: 'Change' main reason Flyers, Steve Mason parted ways

Those who followed the Flyers last season, especially toward the end of the year, could read the tea leaves when it came to the relationship between Steve Mason and the team.

Mason, who was playing out the final year of his contract, saw Michal Neuvirth earn a two-year extension on March 1 despite miserable numbers in the Flyers' net. And then during his exit interview following the second playoff-less season in Philadelphia in three years, Mason voiced his displeasure with his platoon role with Neuvirth and made his desire to be an unquestioned No. 1 goalie known.

That wasn't in the plans for Ron Hextall and staff, whom ultimately decided to let the Mason-Flyers marriage end, as the team inked Brian Elliott to a two-year contract and let Mason skate away to Winnipeg on a two-year deal of his own on Saturday.

On Sunday afternoon, Hextall opened up about why the Flyers and Mason decided to part ways.

“In the end, I think the change is the No. 1 reason," Hextall said on a conference call. "I think it will probably be good for Mase and for us.

"Brian being available certainly played into it. I didn’t know for sure if [Elliott] was going to be available or not. He was and we acted on it.”

Mason came to Philadelphia at the 2013 trade deadline in a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the same team that drafted him in 2006 and the same team with which he won the Calder Trophy in 2009 as the league's rookie of the year. He leaves Philadelphia with a 104-78-36 record. Those 104 wins are third-most in franchise history behind only Bernie Parent and Hextall himself.

His last season in a Flyers uniform was an erratic one as he posted a 26-21-8 record, 2.66 goals-against average and .908 save percentage while splitting time with Neuvirth, who struggled again with injuries and inconsistency as he finished with an 11-11-1 record, a 2.82 goals-against average and a league-worst .891 save percentage. But still, Neuvirth, 29, was the one who got the contract extension, which left Mason to basically see the writing on the wall.

Mason, also 29, will now see the lion's share of the Jets' net alongside 24-year-old Connor Hellebuyck, a fifth-round pick of the Jets in the 2012 draft who was seen as the goalie of Winnipeg's future but struggled last season as he went just 26-19-4 with a 2.89 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.

And Neuvirth is still here in a new tandem with Elliott, who went 26-18-3 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .910 save percentage with Calgary. But he fizzled in the playoffs against Anaheim with miserable numbers in a four-game Ducks sweep in the first round — a 3.89 goals-against average and .880 save percentage.

But still, Hextall said Elliott was a sensible and attractive name to the Flyers for a few reasons. But a big one was the way Elliott handled a tandem during his recent days in St. Louis from 2011-12 to 2015-16.

"When I was out in L.A. there, we played against him in the playoffs a couple of times, and honestly we played them a lot," Hextall said. "First of all, you do your homework, you find everything out about the kid. He's a real good team guy, which is important. His work ethic is at a high level, his compete is at a high level, teammates want to play for him. There are a lot of things that when you look at goalies, that you look for and Brian checked a lot of the boxes off. The fact that he played in a tandem — Michal Neuvirth is a good goalie, the fact that Brian played well in a tandem, played into it, so there was a number of things that we looked at and in the end, we felt like Brian was the best fit."

Hextall was asked Sunday to compare Elliott and Mason and what each goalie brings to the table, but he refused to get into any sort of comparison.

“I’m not going to sit and compare Brian to Mase," Hextall said. "I can tell you that we’re extremely excited to have Brian. He’s a very competitive guy. He’s got a really good work ethic. He’s played in a tandem in St. Louis to Calgary there. He’s played very well in a structured system, so a lot of the things we felt were important with the guy we signed, Brian fit the criteria. In saying that, Steve Mason did a real good job for us for a number of years here and we certainly wish Mase nothing but the best.”

Flyers re-sign RFA Mike Vecchione to 2-year deal

Flyers re-sign RFA Mike Vecchione to 2-year deal

Ron Hextall has kicked off NHL free agency by bringing one of the Flyers' own back into the fold.

The Flyers on Saturday signed forward Mike Vecchione to a new two-year contract. The deal carries an annual salary cap hit of $900,000, per SportsNet Canada's Elliotte Friedman.

Vecchione, 24, was a restricted free agent after signing with the Flyers following a star-studded career at Union College, the alma mater of fellow Flyer Shayne Gostisbehere. A highly-coveted college free agent who had numerous suitors, Vecchione inked with the Flyers on March 31 and played in two of the final three games of the season with his NHL debut coming in the Flyers' 1-0 OT loss in New Jersey on April 4.

"Our exit meeting went pretty well," Vecchione said. "They expect a lot out of me. Just coming into the summer, I'm just trying to improve my game all around. I'm pretty happy I got my feet wet, know what to expect. It helps me train. …

"For them to give me a contract, they obviously want me to go out there and produce and play for the big team. I don't want to let them down. I take a lot of pride in that."

In his four years at Union, Vecchione scored 71 goals and added 105 assists for 176 points. His senior campaign was his best as he scored 29 goals and added 34 assists for 63 points en route to being named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, aka the "Hockey Heisman."

Vecchione also played in the Flyers' season-closing 5-4 shootout loss to the Hurricanes on April 9. In his two appearances in a Flyers sweater, he won 8 of 12 faceoffs taken and averaged 8:30 of ice time in a fourth-line role.

Come the fall, he is expected to be part of a training camp competition for one of the Flyers' bottom-six forward spots. 

"My expectations are to make the big team and have a long career in the NHL," Vecchione said. "Nothing's been handed to me. My parents have done a pretty good job instilling a lot of work ethic in me. That's just who I am, I'm going to work hard and try to earn a spot."

As for the Flyers' other RFAs, Cole Bardreau, Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier, Alex Lyon, Roman Lyubimov and Anthony Stolarz remain unsigned.

The Flyers made another minor move on Saturday morning by signing forward Corban Knight to a two-year deal.

Knight, 26, is a four-year veteran who spent all of last season in Lehigh Valley with the Phantoms. He posted 11 goals and 29 assists last year.

A fifth-round pick of the Florida Panthers in 2009, Knight provides veteran depth in the organization as he has 29 games of NHL experience with both the Panthers and Calgary Flames.

The team also signed 26-year-old centerman Phil Varone to a two-year deal.

Varone spent the majority of last season with the Binghamton Senators, the AHL affiliate for the Ottawa Senators. He recorded 51 points in 65 games. He didn't record a goal or assist in seven games with Ottawa.

"I feel like it's going to be a good opportunity for me," Varone said. "I still have that fire to compete for an NHL job and I feel like I can make a difference. I feel like in Philly, I feel like I would be able to complement what they're trying to do.

"Just a smart two-way forward who competes every day. I try to do it all. I try to be good in the faceoff circle, put up points, kill penalties, be a good leader. I try to bring it all to the table. You can expect an effort level and care level 100 percent every night."