Men’s hockey: Badgers seek to prolong season at Big Ten tournament

first_imgThe Wisconsin men’s hockey team will get a chance to salvage the worst regular season in program history this weekend, but it’s going to have to nearly double its total wins.After victories in just four of their first 34 games, the Badgers (4-25-5, 2-15-3 Big Ten) head to the Big Ten tournament this weekend in Detroit, where their season will likely come to an end. UW would have to win three straight games and the Big Ten tournament title to secure an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.But despite the tall task of winning out, head coach Mike Eaves is optimistic about his team’s improvement in the second half of the season heading into the conference tournament.“It’s a brand new start. It’s a beginning, and I think it raises that thought of hope for us,” Eaves said. “We have, in the second half, talked about playing our best hockey coming into March, and we have done that.”However, Wisconsin opens with Michigan Thursday night, a team it has yet to beat this season in four games. In the first series with the Wolverines, UW jumped out to a 4-1 lead early on in the second period, but ended up allowing six straight goals in a 7-4 loss. After those first four goals in the first game, the Wolverines ended up outscoring the Badgers 20-2 in the final three and a half games.The road trip to Michigan featured slightly closer games, but still resulted in 3-0 and 5-2 Michigan wins.“They lead the country in offense, and we saw that firsthand here,” Eaves said. “We played them much tighter in their building. Even Red complimented our team [on] how the second series was closer.”Going up against a team in Michigan that averages 3.88 goals per game, Wisconsin will have a tall task on its hands. Wisconsin hasn’t scored more than two goals in a game in more than a month, which coincidentally was its last win, a 3-2 victory over Ohio State Feb. 14, and has scored more than two goals in a game only seven times. The Badgers have also been shut out in five of their last seven games.After two conference tournament championships the last two seasons for Wisconsin, the Badgers will have to start fast if they hope to reclaim a tournament crown for the third straight year.Wisconsin will also have to do it in a different venue, as this year’s Big Ten tournament will take place at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, following 14 straight years for the Badgers at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.“The next time the tournament comes up to go to Detroit, that arena won’t be there,” Eaves said of the only opportunity to play in the historic NHL barn. “They are building a new arena for the Detroit Red Wings, and this arena, excuse the pun, but it reeks of history, like spilled beer and cigarettes and championships gone by.”Should Wisconsin win in the first game against Michigan, it would take on Michigan State in the semifinals. The Badgers did manage one win against the Spartans this season, but then got swept in the final three games against MSU, all by a score of 3-0.  Spartans’ goaltender Jake Hildebrand has keyed the Spartans’ success this season, with the second-most shutouts in the country (6) and the ninth-best save percentage (93.0).Goaltending could also be a key to Wisconsin’s success in the tournament. UW has relied heavily on Joel Rumpel throughout the season, and despite less than average numbers compared to the rest of his career, Rumpel has kept Wisconsin in most games. Despite allowing the fifth most goals per game in the country as a team, Rumpel still has managed a .904 save percentage.But considering Wisconsin is the fourth-worst offense in the country, the Badgers’ attack will have to support Rumpel to keep the season on life support.“Hope is a great thing,” Eaves said. “This time of year, how many Cinderella stories have been written in March through basketball or hockey? We will find out together if we can write one of those stories again.”Game VitalsWhat: Big Ten men’s hockey tournamentWho: Wisconsin vs. Michigan StateWhere: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, MichiganWhen: Thursday, 7 p.m. Televised on the Big Ten Network.WisconsinLeading scorers: Grant Besse (11 G, 11 A), Joseph LaBate (6 G, 12 A), Morgan Zulinick (5 G, 10 A)Probable goaltender: Joel Rumpel (4-22-4, 3.43 goals-against-average, 90.4 save percentage)Michigan StateLeading scorers: Matt Berry (11 G, 17 A), Mackenzie MacEachern (11 G, 14 A), Michael Ferrantino (12 G, 11 A)Probable goaltender: Jake Hildebrand (17-15-2, 2.12 GAA, 93.0 save percentage)last_img read more

Lakers hope they’re better off without Howard

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error A towering presence loomed over the Lakers last season, and it didn’t just involve Dwight Howard.It included everything around him.There was never-ending uncertainty on whether he’d remain a Laker or just use his lone year in Los Angeles as a pitstop before pursuing something else; Howard’s constant frustration that Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced, pick-and-roll-heavy offense contradicted his hope for a larger post and defensive presence; personality clashes between Howard’s cheerful demeanor and Kobe Bryant’s demonstrative personality. “Dwight wanted to do it one way, which he felt like was effective. I wanted to do it another way,” Bryant recalled this week. “There was constant tension.” Even with a surgically-repaired back and a torn labrum in his right shoulder, Howard led the league last season with 12.4 rebounds per game and he also had 2.45 blocks per game, fifth-highest in the NBA. That contributed to the Lakers averaging 44.8 rebounds per game, fourth best in the NBA.Through eight preseason games, opponents have outrebounded the Lakers by an average of 49-41.“That’s a big absence for Dwight leaving,” Lakers forward Jordan Hill said. “We got to keep moving. He made his decision. I respect him for it. But we got to focus on the guys we got now. We’re not letting that bother us or letting it get it to us.” The Lakers’ front office operated the same way. Things didn’t work out for the Lakers this offseason when Howard ignored their billboards all around Los Angeles pleading for him to stay. But despite limited resources stemming from harsher luxury-tax penalties for high-spending teams, the Lakers still found a number of players on one-year deals that filled specific needs.The Lakers acquired speed in the form of former Cleveland High and USC product Nick Young and former Woodland Hills Taft and UCLA standout Jordan Farmar, both of whom had strong friendships stemming from their Los Angeles roots. The Lakers gained length by signing swingman Wesley Johnson. The point guard depth with Farmar and Steve Blake makes D’Antoni more inclined to rest Nash as he tries to avoid last season’s injury-plagued campaign in which he missed a combined 32 games because of a broken left leg and ailments in his back and right hamstring.Young’s ability to score in bunches gives the Lakers another player capable of creating his own shot for however long Bryant stays sidelined as he rehabs his left Achilles’ tendon. “We filled the holes where we were weak at with the length, athleticism and to cover the ground, especially defensively,” Bryant said. “You have guys with length and speed that can close out shooters that can shut down and close out on penetration. It makes a big difference.”The Lakers also expect that their frontline production will make a big difference by pairing veteran center Chris Kaman with Pau Gasol, who posted career lows last season in points (13.7) and field-goal percentage (46.6 percent) because of ailing knees and a reduced role as a facilitator both to mitigate Howard’s post limitations and appease him to stay.A healthier Gasol will have a bigger role inside with Kaman, who remains dependable in the post, on mid-range jumpers and pick-and-rolls.“He’s not just a big guy who will be in the middle of the lane operating in the post or the elbows,” Gasol said of Kaman. “So his versatility, knowledge of the game and unselfishness really helps our combination work well.”Meanwhile, the Lakers describe themselves as a closer-knit group. With exception to Gasol training in his native Spain, all players participated in informal workouts at the Lakers’ facility leading into training camp. The Lakers’ nine-day trip last week to China featured chances to bond, including an array of team dinners and walk through the Great Wall. Can the diminished drama, a full training camp under D’Antoni, a healthier roster and a deeper bench offset the Lakers’ drop in talent stemmed from Howard’s departure?“We’ll see. That’s what we got to go in and prove,” Lakers guard Steve Nash said. “It’s definitely going to make a difference. It’s just a matter of how much if it’s enough. We have to go out and prove it and play with a chip on our shoulder.”And with the Lakers encountering another tough situation with a drop-off in talent, they remain determined in overcompensating elsewhere.“We’re having great communication with each other and understanding the weaknesses of each other,” Bryant said. “Chemistry is always the biggest thing. It’s always the most important thing. If chemistry is not there, no matter how much talent you have, it’s going to be a struggle.”center_img That tension evaporated as soon as Howard left this offseason via free agency to the Houston Rockets. But with the Lakers lacking a franchise player following Bryant’s career and a defensive presence that once earned Howard the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year three times, the purple-and-gold’s championship prospects may have evaporated too.The Lakers may have a good-riddance attitude toward Howard’s departure. Bryant claimed, “I really don’t give a (hoot)” on whether he stayed.When a reporter asked D’Antoni a question about Howard during training camp, the Lakers’ coach answered “Who?” Lakers guard Steve Nash noted both the franchise’s fan base and the team immediately “moved on” from Howard’s departure. Yet, the Lakers have shied away from arguing they’re experiencing an addition-by-subtraction scenario.“I don’t think you can blame one guy. We’re all in it together. It was just a tough situation,” D’Antoni said. “But when the chemistry is right, roles are defined and everybody accepts their roles, then you have a chance to win. When things aren’t accepted or there’s not a great chemistry, it makes it very difficult, I don’t care how talented you are. In that aspect, we hope to be better.”For that to happen, the Lakers have plenty of work in filling Howard’s void.last_img read more

Alisson won’t be ‘stupid’ and repeat howler

first_imgAlisson insists he will not be “stupid” and repeat the mistake which saw Liverpool concede their first Premier League goal of the season at Leicester.Jurgen Klopp’s side were once again short of their free-flowing best at the King Power Stadium, but had seized control of the contest courtesy of first-half goals from Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.They were left sweating on a fourth successive victory at the start of the 2018-19 campaign after seeing their £67 million ($84m) goalkeeper pay the price for trying to play his way out from the back. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Man Utd ready to spend big on Sancho and Haaland in January Who is Marcus Thuram? Lilian’s son who is top of the Bundesliga with Borussia Monchengladbach Brazil, beware! Messi and Argentina out for revenge after Copa controversy Best player in MLS? Zlatan wasn’t even the best player in LA! Alisson was forced into a difficult position by a wayward back-pass from Virgil van Dijk, but his efforts to try and turn past Kelechi Iheanacho came back to haunt him as Rachid Ghezzal was gifted a response for the Foxes.Liverpool have been haunted by goalkeeping mistakes over recent years, with Loris Karius moved out of Anfield on the back of two in the Champions League final, but their new No. 1 insists he will learn from his early experiences in England.Alisson told ESPN Brasil on his high-profile howler: “It was a bad reaction to a mistake, a defensive mistake. The most important thing was we got the win.“I am angry that I made a mistake that put the team in a difficult situation. When one person makes a mistake, it affects everyone and everyone fought back together. We have to improve still but the result is what matters at the moment.”Asked if he will try a similar move again, rather than clear his lines, the 25-year-old added: “It was bad judgement.“I made a mistake reading the play. I didn’t get a very good pass. We talked about that in the dressing room and I spoke to Virgil. It wasn’t a good pass but I could have just kicked it long.Alisson Liverpool Leicester“I wanted to keep playing and keep the possession. Now everyone is going to analyse that.“I’m not going to be stupid and make the same mistake. We have to learn from our mistakes. It is part of my game [playing with the ball at his feet] but I am not going to be arrogant to stand here and say I’m going to keep doing it. We have to learn from our mistakes.“If it is necessary the dribble has to be the last resort. Unfortunately, today, it caused the goal.”While prepared to accept responsibility for what could have been a costly error in judgement, Alisson believes he could have been spared from being thrust under the spotlight by the match officials.He said of his tangle with Iheanacho: “I actually think it was a foul but I don’t want to blame it on that.“In the Premier League it’s not the kind of contact that results in a foul. It’s part of the game. I just have to make sure that doesn’t happen again.” Subscribe to Goal’s Liverpool Correspondent Neil Jones’ weekly email bringing you the best Liverpool FC writing from around the weblast_img read more