Shut 'Em Up and Send 'Em Home: Flyers Top Jets in Amazing OT Finish

Shut 'Em Up and Send 'Em Home: Flyers Top Jets in Amazing OT Finish

Have any area bartenders invented a drink that involves something like a palm full of Tums followed by three consecutive belts of bourbon? Because that'd be perfect after watching any of the games between the Flyers and the Winnipeg Jets this season. Damn shame that's the last we'll see of them unless they meet in the playoffs. Not that it's necessarily heart-friendly hockey, and neither coach can be happy with the quality of cleanups in front of their own net, but Tuesday night's was no doubt wildly entertaining. In the end, the Flyers would silence a building that had been raucous since before the opening faceoff, first scoring the game-tying goal with less than 10 seconds in regulation, then the winner with 46 seconds left in OT.

The boys would pepper Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec with 55 shots (tying a franchise record for shots on the road), and despite the ultimate outcome, Pavelec may have been the best individual player on the ice. Fortunately, the Flyers overcame lapses on the penalty kill and in goal, maintained their frenzied attack all night, and finally broke him for the 5-4 win.

Hell of a hockey experience for those of us watching at home, can't imagine how it must have felt for the orange-clad Flyers fans strewn around the building. While we're all waiting around for them to play that perfect game at every level, there's something to be said for the nailbiters, and not just for their entertainment value. Check out all the action below.

It says a lot about the Flyers that they weathered a complete inability to stop the Jets' power play, as well as some shakiness in net. Even the haters can't pin more than a goal or two on Bryz, but that's a lot in a game this close, and one of them in particular could have sent a lesser team's momentum into the ground. Instead, they bailed him out, and he had the opportunity to do the same in return.

As we've come to expect from these teams so far this season, the action came early and didn't stop until the final horn. Still pissed that Ilya Bryzgalov publicly spurned the idea of playing in Winnipeg, the Manitobans let him have it all night. It's probably wrong to admit, but it was hard not to grin and acknowledge that despite it being in part at our goalie's expense, the fan presence at MTS Centre is pretty awesome. Any lifelong fan of the sport should at least be happy to see an NHL franchise reborn after returning to Canada.

Even Ilya Bryzgalov joked after the game about the reception he received. Don't let anyone tell ya different either. He was kidding... [Video here]

POINTS IN THE PAINT. LOTS OF 'EM.
The game opened like a tennis match, back and forth action and little in the way of efforts to slow things down. No surprise from opponents who combined to score 27 goals in their first two meetings of the season.

Unfortunately, a leaky Flyers penalty kill surrendered the first goal, a screened blast from Dustin Byfuglien. Goals due to traffic or shooters being very close were easy to come by at both ends though. Scott Hartnell and particularly Wayne Simmonds may as well have been banging cymbals in front of Pavelec for all the noise they brought to the crease area. Neither team could effectively clear for their respective goalies, and there were a lot of dirty markers to show for it.

Claude Giroux tossed a nice shot into a relatively open net (though the window was only open a second) off a backhand pass from Hartnell.

G would later say to Coatsey that Hartnell would claim he saw him on the back door, but there's no way he did when he threw a blind pass across the crease. Great to see how comfortable these guys are with each other on and off the ice. Probably why there was somehow gas left in the tank late in a game that began to look unwinnable.

Harts scored the first goal of the second period, a play absolutely gorgeous in its dirtiness. With Pavelec locked in, it was going to take some screening and redirection to beat him. On an early power play, they employed both. Hartnell and Simmonds have had some great success working a high-low screen on power plays lately, but this time they both stayed low, well under the Jets' defensive square. Kimmo fired a shot through down the pike, and Simmonds put the perfect angle on a deflection that would carom off of Pavelec's pads to Hartnell, who buried it with relative ease.
Was it stoppable? Sure. But sometimes you have to credit the playmaker
and the shooter, and they deserve it on this one.

Lavvy took a timeout to give his skaters a break after the goal and an icing call, but in a surprising twist… the Jets came out and immediately scored. Again, it was Ladd. Winnipeg had great traffic in front, swatting down a point shot, then pushing it past Bryzgalov.

Thankfully Max Talbot chipped home a rebound into an open net not unlike an opportunity he'd narrowly missed earlier. Talbot's 17th(!) of the season tied it at 3.

The third period brought some insane action, which despite a bad early goal by Evander Kane, heavily favored the Flyers. Bryzgalov was fooled by some English on a Kane wrister that, yes, seemed to knuckle or curve, but really shouldn't have beaten an NHL goalie.
Bryz would likely tell you the same.

After that, to their credit, the Flyers kept attacking in waves, rather than wilting. Pavelec was on fire at the other end. Nothing shaky was going to beat him. For a while, it looked like nothing at all, particularly this save on Jake Voracek.

Pandemonium in area living rooms. Silence in The 'Peg.

Notes:
Simmonds is as hard-working an NHL forward as I've seen. His game is intensely physical, with momentum that puts defenders and goalies on their heels and forces them into making physical mistakes. In addition to yet again adding to his career-best goal total (22), Simmonds now leads all NHL'ers in February goal scoring with nine tallies.

Scott Hartnell leads the league in power play goals with 14.(<—Sentences I never thought I'd write before the season.)

Brayden Schenn wasn't among the night's scorers, but he made a very impressive save with Bryz down and out on a dangerous Jets scoring opportunity. [Video]

Nick Grossman had another solid game, including a great play cleaning up a dangerous turnover by Andrej Meszaros. In the Flyers' style of play, that's huge. Kubina had some promising shows and looked fine overall, but did get burnt by Kane pretty badly, though Bryz came up with a big save.

Giroux had a career-high 10 shots on goal.

Still a lot of work to be done by that PK unit… Three WPG PP opps, three goals.

Again, huge props to Pavelec. His defense was no help for long stretches, and he made 50 saves, including 17 in the third period alone.

St. Joe's honors A-10 championship team as focus turns to 2016-17 season

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Sideline Photos

St. Joe's honors A-10 championship team as focus turns to 2016-17 season

Picked to finish seventh in the 2015-16 Atlantic 10 preseason poll, the Saint Joseph’s Hawks were all but written off before their season even began. 

Fast forward a year or so later, those same Hawks gathered on the first day of school on Monday in the Ramsay Basketball Center for a special ring ceremony to commemorate their A-10 championship. 

To help give out the rings, head coach Phil Martelli was able to gather members of past St. Joe’s A-10 championship teams: Rodney Blake and Bruiser Flint from the 1986 team, Pat Carroll from the 2004 team, and most recently Daryus Quarles from the 2014 team. 

Notably missing from the ceremony was A-10 and Big 5 Player of the Year DeAndre' Bembry, a first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Hawks, and Isaiah Miles, who has begun his professional career in France with JDA Dijon. 

Aaron Brown, the team’s third graduated senior and another key cog of that championship run, was able to attend before heading off to start his pro career in Iceland. 

Martelli, addressing a room full of players, coaches, family and friends, made it clear just what it means to wear that ring and represent St. Joe’s as A-10 champions. 

“Championships last with you for a long time, if not forever, and we’re getting the opportunity to share that with these players, their families and some really special people in the room,” Martelli said. “People are going to have some tough times; they’re going to lose loved ones, they’re going to lose possessions, they’re going to lose jobs, but forever this group of players is going to be the 2016 Atlantic 10 champions.”

The 2015-16 Hawks finished the regular season with a 28-8 record, good enough for second-best in school history. They won their fourth A-10 championship, made their second NCAA tournament appearance in the last three years and came a few points shy of a Sweet 16 appearance. 

A simply remarkable season for a team that won just 13 games the year before. However, as with any sport, when one season ends the focus is already on next year. 

"We knew in the beginning, since I’ve had this job, that each year is a separate entity and each team is a separate group," Martelli said. "Obviously the talent changes, we had a first-round draft pick, we had a great player in Isaiah Miles, so we had all-league players. Now it’s really the question of who's next and what expectations do they have for carrying the ball. Everybody gets a chance, and this group now has that opportunity."

Lamar Kimble, a 2015-16 A-10 All-Rookie selection, is one player who will be counted on following the recent departures of Bembry, Miles and Brown. Despite being just a sophomore, Kimble knows he’s ready for a more expanded role this season.
 
"I've always been a leader, but I definitely see a bigger role this year in terms of scoring and facilitating," Kimble said. "I'm definitely ready to [have a bigger role], I’m looking to have more goals than last year rather than just All-Rookie, so there’s definitely big dreams for me."

Regardless of the success that St. Joe’s saw last year, both the players and coaches recognize that a new season has begun. Prior to the ceremony and reception, the Hawks went through a routine summer practice. Players realize the work and effort that must be put in if they want to replicate last season’s run. 

“It just starts from the older guys, you know, letting the younger guys know that what we did last year doesn’t fold over to the next year, we still have to work as hard as possible to get to where we need to get to,” Kimble said. “I think that’s the mind set we had this whole summer, going into the year now we have that same mind set where we want to get back to where we were at, that’s the position we want to be in.”

Martelli, entering his 22nd year on Hawk hill, looked out and addressed the crowd one last time after sliding his fifth championship ring (four A-10 titles and one from the 2004 undefeated regular season) onto his finger. 

“Championships are won and championships are lost,” he said, “but the Hawk will never die.”

Eagles Injury Update: Isaac Seumalo, Wendell Smallwood, Vinny Curry still out

Eagles Injury Update: Isaac Seumalo, Wendell Smallwood, Vinny Curry still out

The Eagles were back to practice on Tuesday without the same four players.

Isaac Seumalo (pec), Wendell Smallwood (concussion), Vinny Curry (knee) and Taylor Hart (knee) were all held out of practice.

On Monday, head coach Doug Pederson said the team would hold Seumalo back from practice until he was 100 percent. Pederson expects Seumalo back next week and then the team will make a decision about the starting offensive line.

Pederson also said he expects Curry and Hart back for the season opener on Sept. 11.

For the second straight day, however, Carson Wentz (ribs) and Jordan Matthews (knee) were practicing. Neither will play on Thursday in the preseason finale against the Jets, but both also said they'll be ready for the opener.

The Eagles wrap up their preseason at the Linc on Thursday with a 7 p.m. kickoff against the Jets.

Penn star receiver Justin Watson ready to keep doing it all in 2016

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Photo: Dave Zeitlin

Penn star receiver Justin Watson ready to keep doing it all in 2016

As Penn football players spread out around Franklin Field to take photos and do interviews for the program’s annual media day, Justin Watson hung by the track, playing a quick game of tag near the hurdles.

“Come and get me, J-Wat!” cried out Vhito DeCapria, the precocious 5-year-old cancer patient the team adopted last year through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation and who’s now back for his “sophomore” season.

Watson, known as “J-Wat” to most, smiled and played along. Being Vhito’s favorite player is just one of the many hats he wears. He’s also one of the team’s hardest-working, smartest and most versatile players — and he enters his junior season as perhaps the top wide receiver in the Ivy League, if not the entire FCS.

“Does he do anything to surprise me?” senior quarterback Alec Torgersen said from media day Monday. “Not anymore. He did at the beginning when he first got here. But now it’s just expected of him. I expect him to make those crazy one-handed grabs. I expect him to catch every ball I throw to him. When he doesn’t, I get disappointed.”

Torgersen has had plenty of opportunities to throw Watson passes — and not only last season when the star receiver caught 74 balls (fourth all-time at Penn) for 1,087 yards (second all-time) and nine touchdowns (third all-time). Throughout the summer, the two friends worked together at the same internship downtown. They ate lunch together every day and, at 5 p.m., they hopped on a subway back to Franklin Field, where they worked out in the weight room and practiced back-shoulder fades and option routes.

“A lot of college quarterbacks and receivers can’t have that type of chemistry but I think us being here all summer really helped,” Watson said. “It’s been cool doing that. It’s a special thing that’s definitely going to help us in the fall.”

In truth, Watson is actually more than just a receiver. Last season, he was also used on running plays, gaining 154 yards on the ground, including a 79-yard scamper that sealed Penn’s huge upset at Harvard. Watson finished with a staggering 249 all-purpose yards that day at Harvard Stadium, helping the Quakers win the game that effectively led to them sharing a piece of the Ivy League title. And he said he was all set to play another position by taking direct snaps in the team’s regular-season finale vs. Cornell before getting hurt.

“The uniqueness about Justin is not only his talent and skill on the field but his football IQ,” second-year head coach Ray Priore said. “During the course of the year, he in theory played every skill position on offense. And he didn’t even blink an eye doing it. That’s a special characteristic.”

Priore laughed when asked if he can find more ways to utilize Watson in 2016 but said he won’t put him back on kick returns, “which he probably could do.” He will, however, play safety when the Quakers line up in their “victory defense” at the end of games, “so you may see an interception.”

Watson says he’s ready for anything.

“That’s so much fun,” he said. “When you’re a kid in middle school, that’s what you do. It’s awesome to be back doing that. Anything I can do to help us win, I’ll do it, whether it’s running back or receiver. I don’t think they’ll let me throw it at quarterback after seeing my arm. But anything else I’m definitely willing and ready to do.”

In the end, though, playing receiver is what Watson loves most, saying that catching a deep ball — and hearing the crowd “hold their breath when the ball’s in the air and then erupt” — is his favorite thing as a football player. It’s also his skills as a receiver that has him earning so much attention heading into Penn’s opener vs. Lehigh on Sept. 17. Among his preseason accolades, the junior was named one of 22 players on the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year Watch List — the only Ivy Leaguer to receive such an honor.

But if all of his records and accolades leads to opposing defenses paying more attention to him, Watson isn’t worried. That’s because he knows the team’s other receivers like fifth-year senior Cam Countryman and sophomore Christian Pearson are more than capable of having big years too.

“If you put two guys on me, we’ve got a bunch of other great receivers who will be open and will kill you down the field,” Watson said. “If I’ve got to take two or three guys every game, we’ll be 10-0 because I know everyone else will be making plays.”

It’s that kind of selflessness that has endeared Watson to his teammates, who enjoy the energy he brings to practice and how he always seems to be the first player in the training room.

“He’s an incredible player,” said Countryman, one of Penn’s leaders. “I have the utmost respect for him. When he came in his freshman year, you noticed right away the talent he had. So all of the accomplishments that he gets, I’m not surprised at all. 

“And they’ll keep coming in.”