Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Admirals/milwaukeeadmirals.com
By JACOB BORN
MILWAUKEE - The boards are up, the ice has been painted, and the goal horn has been tested. The Milwaukee Admirals 2013-14 season starts Friday night.
The upcoming season will be drastically different from the one just a year ago. Last season, the NHL was amidst a lockout, meaning there was NHL talent in the AHL level. This season, the NHL is already in full swing and the Admirals can work on having the same core for the entire season.
That core is Taylor Beck, Austin Watson, Mark Van Guilder, Patrick Cehlin, Joonas Jarvinen, Scott Valentine and Magnus Hellberg. All seven of these players were invited to participate in the Nashville Predators training camp before being demoted to Milwaukee.
And this is the challenge facing an AHL team. Teams will lose their best players to their NHL-parent clubs and the time missed could range from two games to the entire season. While it’s great for the players to get the NHL experience and gets to play on the biggest stage, it hurts team chemistry in the AHL and the team doesn’t get consistency in the lineup on an everyday basis. The core will help stabilize these transitions.
“We’re excited about having some of the same people back (from last season),” head coach Dean Evason told admiralsroundtable.com. “It’s nice this year to have people that know what to expect from us and we know what to expect from them.”
Hellberg echoed Evason’s comments.
“We have a good group of guys who played here last year,” Hellberg said. “So everybody knows what we’re all about and we can continue to work on what was finished off last year. We have some new guys but they’ve gotten into the group really well.”
The stars of the newcomers are forwards Joonas Rask, Miikka Salomaki and Colton Sissons. Rask, younger brother of Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, is coming over to the United States for the first time. Formerly playing for Jokerit in SM-Liiga in Finland, Rask does not often find himself on the score sheet but makes up for it in his special teams play. Salomaki also played in SM-Liiga for Karpat, and has had some success in international play for the Finland U20 team. And finally, Sissons has been progressing well in the WHL. In his latest season for Kelowna, he averaged just more than a point per game.
But even with the promising talent, the Admirals lost some important players from last year’s roster. Former captain Mike Moore signed a one-year deal with Boston, while former starting goaltender Jeremy Smith signed with Columbus. Jonathan Blum traveled west to sign with Minnesota and Chris Mueller went south and signed with Dallas. But Admiral faithful can be happy about one departure. Victor Bartley will be spending the season in Nashville.
The Admirals season will open with two games in Abbotsford and one in Grand Rapids against the Calder Cup Champion Grand Rapids before the home opener against Chicago.
A chance meeting with Ryan Braun made Andy Schwantes a fan for life. (Andy Schwantes photo)
By JOE WEISS
Special to ESPN Wisconsin
Fewer than 48 hours have gone by since the news came out that Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun was suspended for the remainder of the 2013 season, and still fans have not totally settled on their feelings.
Many are angry, and rightfully so, that Braun cheated. Children grow up learning in school and in sports that cheating is a sneaky way of getting ahead without putting in hard work that is required to succeed. Just the idea of cheating often feels morally wrong, and it does not take a mom, teacher or coach to tell you that.
Other fans could get past the cheating, but the lying is too much for them. It’s no coincidence that many are using a phrase most often heard from their parents growing up: “I’m not mad… I’m just disappointed.”
Still others have not decided. They feel hurt and confused by what happened. They want answers, which they may never get.
But here’s another scenario, one that this early in the Braun suspension, has little support, but one that may be worth watching. This scenario includes the people who are ready to move on. It may be a fresh cut right now, but some fans choose to have short memories and look for the positive in things.
How much did those steroids make Ryan Braun who he was? In Drew Olson’s article on the matter, he discussed Braun’s flair for the dramatic. Do steroids give you a clutch gene? Do they convince a star player from Southern California to continue to play for one of the smallest markets in baseball at a cheaper rate than he is probably worth? Do they push that player to embrace the fans in the community and become the face of the franchise? Does that pressure play a factor in using steroids in the first place?
We may never know how long Ryan Braun has been using PEDs. For some people, that relationship with the community is ruined. To them, it was all an act from day one.
For Andy Schwantes, 29, a Brewers fan his whole life, Braun will have a second chance.
“I was fortunate enough to meet him at the airport when he was already running late for his flight, but (he) was willing to stop and pose for two pictures, never acting like it was a burden, but happy to satisfy the request of a fan with no hesitation,” Schwantes said. “You don’t need performance enhancers to be generous and sincere.”
Athletes are often held to a higher standard. When the guy living across the street gets a DUI, it becomes old news quickly. When Yovanni Gallardo gets one, it’s a front page story. When a close friend has a gambling problem, it can get brushed under the table. When Pete Rose has one, he gets banned from baseball for life.
Fortunately for athletes, however, sports often offer second chances. Ryan Braun falls into a different category than Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire. He has a lot of career left, a lot of time to make amends.
He may forever be known for cheating and lying, but that doesn’t mean he cannot come back and be a better guy. Maybe he will put up similar numbers on talent alone, maybe not. But he has a chance to be a better guy, and you may be surprised how quickly fans embrace that. Fans cheered as Barry Bonds hit number 756. Mark McGwire coaches now, and few are calling for his head, and neither of those guys tried hard to repair their image. Braun has the opportunity to do so.
The steroid era has been defined by good and bad. Records have fallen, and so have reputations. Popularity for the sport reached catastrophic levels, and so did the scandals. The scars will stay forever, but the sport is slowly cleaning up.
If Braun can get past this and prove to the sporting world that his mistakes were awful and his eventual apologies are sincere, people may begin to see a real change in baseball. Braun will never be regarded like Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth or even Cal Ripken Jr., but he has a chance to reshape his own image the rest of the way.
Andy Schwantes believes so anyway.
“I will teach my son, someday, about Ryan Braun and how he played the game,” he said. “I will tell him people make mistakes, but that those mistakes do not define you unless you let them. I will only feel cheated by Braun if he allows himself to be defined by this.”
By MIKE NELSON
One game after a stray bat flew away with the headlines, Marquette guard Vander Blue made sure it was a Golden Eagle who soared off with the attention Monday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Blue finished with a career high 30 points in No. 25 Marquette’s 63-50 victory over the South Florida Bulls.
“I was just taking what the defense gave me,” Blue said. “They’re a really good defensive team. They’re really big. You can’t really get into the lane like you want to, so I wanted to make sure I used my pull-up (jumper) and just take advantage of when I had a step on them (to) make sure I got there and finished.”
Marquette needed Blue, its leading scorer, to come up big with the offense in a funk. He made 13 of 20 field goals in 34 minutes and scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half.
Trent Lockett was the only other Golden Eagle to reach double figures (10), and he didn’t reach that plateau until there was just 1 minute, 49 seconds left to play.
Blue was the only Golden Eagle to make more than three field goals.
Davante Gardner, the team’s No. 2 scorer, was ejected from the game after he was called for a flagrant 2 technical foul with 13:36 left in the second half. Gardner earned the call after throwing an elbow that hit South Florida’s Zach LeDay as the two were battling for a rebound.
Gardner finished with 4 points, 2 blocks and 3 rebounds in 12 minutes.
“I was actually right there when it happened, but I figured it wasn’t anything intentional,” Blue said. “I thought it would just maybe be a flagrant 1, if that. I thought he (LeDay) flopped, but I guess it was a flagrant 2.”
Marquette coach Buzz Williams wasn’t sure if Gardner would be suspended for the incident and said more would be known Tuesday morning.
While Marquette (15-4, 6-1 Big East) struggled to generate offense beyond Blue, South Florida’s struggles were more intense.
The Bulls (10-10, 1-7 Big East) shot just 27.3 percent (15 of 55) from the field and committed 13 turnovers. They entered the game averaging 10.3 turnovers per game and shooting 41.2 percent from the field.
Marquette’s defense certainly deserves some credit for South Florida’s sluggish performance, as it forced the Bulls into 13 turnovers and blocked a season high eight shots. Chris Otule recorded four of those, which tied a career best, and scored the game’s first four points with two dunks.
“I thought it was the best game he’s ever played,” Williams said of Otule’s performance. “I thought he changed shots. I thought he was in the mix. I think that it helped that he got two dunks. I don’t think that’s ever happened, never happened prior to the first media timeout.”
Marquette’s first five baskets all came within the paint, three dunks and two layups. Six of those points were of the fast-break variety.
The Golden Eagles held a 28-24 advantage at halftime, after having found themselves down by as many as four and up by as many as seven in the opening half.
“We had to make sure we stuck to the basics and didn’t get overwhelmed and didn’t try to play their type of game and make sure we played our type of game,” Blue said. “Luckily, we got the win.”
The Golden Eagles opened the second half with a 10-0 run, highlighted by an alley-oop dunk by Blue. The run opened up a 38-24 lead.
South Florida opened the second half going nearly seven minutes without a field goal, which severely limited the Bulls’ chances of a comeback. They whittled Marquette’s lead down to eight on four different occasions in the second half, the final time coming with 4:46 left.
With the win, Marquette maintained its place atop the Big East with Syracuse. Marquette won’t face the Orange until Feb. 25, when the two play in Milwaukee.
“If we win at home, that’s what you’re supposed to do so it’s zero. If you lose at home you’re minus one. You’re supposed to lose on the road. If you win on the road, that’s plus one. So right now we’re plus one. That’s not good enough to win the league,” Williams said. “That’s not good enough to go to the NCAA Tournament. We still have a long way to go, but I am thankful to be where we are.”
By TONY CARTAGENA
Special to ESPNWisconsin.com
MADISON -- It looks like the Big Ten Conference will be getting even bigger. Monday morning, the University of Maryland Board of Regnets unanimously voted to move the school out of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) into the Big Ten.
Maryland’s Student Government Association released a letter supporting the Regents decision:
“We believe it would be in the best interests of the undergraduate student body for the University of Maryland, College Park to become a member of the Big Ten,” the letter stated. “Although we mourn the traditions that would inevitably be lost, joining the Big Ten would fundamentally transform our
university for the better.”
The Terrapins would become the 13th member of the Big Ten Conference and the first team added since Nebraska joined in 2011.
Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said he was excited about the expansion. “Every time the commissioner and athletic directors have come up with a plan, its been very positive so I assume this will be as well," he said.
Currently the Maryland football program is 4-7 overall and holds a 2-5 record in ACC conference play. The men’s basketball team is off to a 2-1 start.
Upon leaving the ACC, Maryland will have to pay a $50 million exit fee.
Rumors have been swirling that the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers will be the 14th team to join the Big Ten. An official announcement is expected Tuesday.
Sources have said that Maryland and Rutgers would both join the Leaders Division and Illinois would shift to the Legends, but no official plans have been announced.
“Probably not a decision that they’re going to poll the coaches on,” Bielema added. “Pretty sure that’s going to be the case.”
By ZACK GARHART
Special to ESPN Wisconsin
The Lions of Southeastern Louisiana had never traveled to the BMO Harris Bradley Center before. In fact, Tuesday night was their first ever showdown against the Golden Eagles of Marquette. Entering the contest, Marquette held a 10-1 record over opponents in the Southland Conference and came into the game looking to build on their win on Sunday over Colgate.
A 64-53 showing against Southeastern Louisiana may keep Marquette perfect in the early stages of the season, but neither coach nor players were overly impressed with the win.
“We have to have more discipline with what we do and what we practice,” head coach Buzz Williams said.
Marquette shot just 42.3 percent on 52 attempts and turnovers contributed immensely to the close margin of victory. Missed shots and poor ball handling slowed the Marquette offense early and allowed Southeastern Louisiana to stay within range until the closing few minutes of the game.
“33 percent of those shots were turnovers and the other 67 percent we just didn’t make a shot,” Williams said. The Lions weren’t much better, averaging 35.2 percent on their shots throughout the game
Yet, the Lions came out aggressive, taking 11 three pointers in the first half, converting on four of the attempts as solid defense by Marquette forced difficult shots on the perimeter. As the final minute of the first half approached, Southeastern Louisiana capitalized on Golden Eagles’ turnovers and strung together a five point run to put the game within reach at 32-29.
Though the team may have anticipated a greater margin of victory over Southeastern, Chris Otule said that the team was expecting the Lions to play up tempo basketball.
“I don’t think it caught us off guard because we knew what kind of team they were, they like to get out fast,” Otule said. “We just have to do a better job of getting stops.”
Similarly to the defense, Marquette saw less offensive contribution from its stars. The team was unable to find production from Jamil Wilson in the first half as the junior struggled to find his groove offensively, recording 0 points on four attempts.
Despite the slow start, Wilson finished with four points and five assists. Williams said Wilson will be a player the team will count on to be good, but the coach also indicated that shared roles among players will ultimately define the team.
“I think there will be a grouping of guys that are going to score between this amount of points and that amount of points, but it will change per night,” Williams said. “I think that it’s probably how it will play out.”
If Tuesday night was any indication, Williams has already seen how a combination of players can step into different roles as the team finds a groove offensively. Forward Davante Gardner put up 18 points, all of which came from inside the paint on physical shots and Otule posted 10 points.
Otule and Gardner both carry solid frames, at 6-foot-11 and 6-foot-8 respectively. Otule said that in practice the two are constantly competing and the upside was seen on the scoreboard for Marquette.
“Davante did a good job creating angles for himself and scoring inside the paint,” Otule said.
Gardner finished 8-14 and came up big late in the second period with four points to disrupt the Lions’ second double digit run of the game. His late game heroics helped Marquette extend their 52-50 lead and go on a run of their own to end the game by a margin of 11 points.
By ZACK GARHART
Special to ESPN Wisconsin
St. Louis struck first, but Green Bay scored 14 points in the final 4 minutes of the game to pull away with their second consecutive victory.
The Rams dominated both the line of scrimmage and time of possession in the first half by holding onto the ball for 18 minutes, 46 seconds in an effort to slow down the Packers’ fast tempo offense. At the end, the result was all field goals.
Aaron Rodgers was under duress a number of times early, courtesy of Robert Quinn, and the offensive line struggled to keep protection long enough for him to find receivers down field.
All three of St. Louis’ sacks came in the first quarter and similarly the majority of Rodgers passes were complete on short passes due to the pressure. It also seemed in the first half that on defense the Packers were playing far off the line of scrimmage which allowed St. Louis to throw quick, short passes amid an array of punishing runs by Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson.
And then the first half ended. Adjustments were made and the Packers came out firing. St. Louis continued to bring pressure, often five and six rushers at a time, but the offensive line held up long enough for Rodgers to find rhythm.
While setting the tone for the rest of the game on that initial drive in the second half, Rodgers avoided a costly turnover in Green Bay territory by keeping what would have been a fumbled pitch to running back Alex Green. Following the botched play, Rodgers found Nelson on a short route for a first down and continued to take advantage of the space afforded by Rams cornerbacks. Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins have asserted themselves as physical defenders but their presence was not felt as Rodgers exposed the cushion by finding Jordy Nelson, James Jones and finally Randall Cobb for a touchdown.
Turnovers and time of possession also proved to be the difference in second half adjustments. Green Bay won each battle by controlling the ball for 21 minutes and 44 seconds in the second half and recording a Casey Hayward interception midway through the third quarter. The interception not only vaulted Hayward into a tie for first place among the league’s interception leaders but lead to a ten play drive resulting in three points for Green Bay.
Conversely, Green Bay showed that one of their weaknesses still resides in the middle of the field on defense. Early in the fourth quarter, Rams receiver Chris Givens took a tipped pass down the middle of the field for 56 yards and the woes continued as Richardson and Jackson combined for significant yards and eventually a touchdown to keep the game within a touchdown. Injuries have kept Green Bay from keeping a consistent inside linebacker but the troubles have continued on a game to game basis and must be figured out in the coming weeks.
On the upside, St. Louis is a tough defense and the performance was another indication that the explosive plays on offense are resurgent for Green Bay. With nine touchdowns and no interceptions in the previous two games, Rodgers also looks back on track to retain possession of an MVP title. Personal achievements aside, the Packers continue to stay in the mix of playoff contenders in a tough NFC.