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Binghamton, N.Y. - The Binghamton Senators are the hottest team in the American Hockey League and the frontrunner to win the East Division title, heading into the final weekend of the regular season.
Binghamton's impressive play reached a new level last week with four straight wins.
The Senators used their dominating penalty killing unit to produce six short-handed goals during the streak that included two wins over division rival and likely first-round playoff opponent, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and another over the league's top team, the Rochester Americans.
Binghamton leads the league with 23 short-handed goals.
"Our skill players are killing penalties," Binghamton co-coach John Paddock said. "We don't look for chances in our own zone, but in their zone we're looking and sometimes the chances come."
Pat Kavanagh and Josh Langfeld scored short-handed goals during the second period of Wednesday's 3-1 win in Wilkes-Barre.
Langfeld had another in the first period of Friday's 5-1 win over Rochester, which has the league's best record but has not played as well as Binghamton with the playoffs approaching. The game was tied, 1-1, going to the third period, but the Senators ran off four straight third-period goals while racking up an 18-5 shot advantage.
The Senators kept rolling Saturday night when they came out with four goals in the first 8:17 of a 5-2 win over the Penguins. Binghamton out-shot Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 21-5, in the first period. Chris Kelly scored the last of those four goals shorthanded. League scoring leader Jason Spezza had two goals and two assists in the game.
The onslaught continued Sunday. Binghamton produced a four-goal period for the third straight night, this time in the second period of a 6-2 win over Bridgeport. Antoine Vermette and Kavanagh had short-handed goals.
The Senators have gone through extended stretches as the league's top team. They are 17-2-1-3 in 23 games since February 17. They are 27-7-2-5 since January 1 and 32-9-2-5 since December 18 when Paddock saw the turnaround start.
"We've had a good team game going," Paddock said. "Everybody has been chipping in throughout the lineup.
"Our goaltenders started to play better around Christmas and the guys are seeing the benefit of that."
The Senators began collecting rewards for their success last week.
Spezza was named first-team AHL all-star while defenseman Brian Pothier was named to the second team and Brandon Bochenski was named to the all-rookie team.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton recovered from its Wednesday loss to Binghamton to break a seven-game losing streak Friday night. The Penguins beat Hershey twice in three nights to clinch a playoff berth.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Montrose graduate Rich Thompson jumped right to the top of the International League in stolen bases.
Thompson is playing left field for the Indianapolis Indians, the top farm team of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Indianapolis is off to a 4-0 start with the help of four stolen bases by Thompson. No other International League player had more than two stolen bases.
Through four games, Thompson was 3-for-13 (.231) with three runs scored, a triple and a walk.
Indianapolis leads the West Division while the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons lead the North Division.
The Red Barons lost their opener Friday, but bounced back to win their next three games.
In the Class AA Eastern League, the Binghamton Mets went 2-2 in the first week.
Joe LaBarbera, a freshman from Montrose, helped Slippery Rock sweep the first three places in the pole vault during the Clarion Invitational.
LaBarbera, who earned a state high school silver medal last season, cleared 14-6 to finish second in the invitational.
Alison McNamara, a freshman from Blue Ridge, is competing in a variety of women's events for Slippery Rock.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Two of the four District 2 softball teams to produce state championships since 2000 will meet Thursday.
Bishop O'Hara, the 2001 Class A champion, is at Blue Ridge, the defending Class A champion, in a Lackawanna League game.
In professional hockey, Binghamton takes a three-point lead in the standings into the final weekend. The Senators play at Syracuse Friday and are home against Hershey Saturday. Philadelphia has three games remaining so Binghamton either needs two wins or help to be assured of the division title.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
Three-Down GORDON Wins At Martinsville
Martinsville, VA – Jeff Gordon came from three laps down to win Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Jeff Gordon at Martinsville Speedway
Gordon was down three laps after pitting on lap 46 for a loose wheel, but he was able to work his way back onto the lead lap 230 laps later.
He took the lead on lap 464 of the 500-lap race, and held off Kasey Kahne after the final restart with just three laps remaining for his second win of the season.
“I knew we had way too good of a race car to give up,” said Gordon. “The team never gives up, and I can’t give up either.
“There are a lot people in the Hendrick organization who were very special people that were lost here at Martinsville, and it’s only fitting that we won here today. Jimmy (Johnson) won it last year, so this is a special win for all of the Hendrick family.”
More than five months have passed since 10 people headed to Martinsville for the Subway 500. They died when a Hendrick team plane crashed into Ball Mountain nearby.
On his way to victory, Gordon bumped Kurt Busch’s No. 97, causing Busch to spin out. Gordon later said, he was sorry for what happened to Busch, but it was just hard racing.
Kasey Kahne lost ground to Gordon on the final restart, but his second-place finish was the best of the season for the Ray Evernham driver.
“We’ve been looking for this for a long time,” said Kahne. “I was hopeful we had something for Gordon, but we didn’t have quite enough forward bite.”
Third-place finisher, Mark Martin came on strong in the last half of the race, but his Roush Ford was no match for Gordon’s Hendrick Chevrolet.
“With fifty-to-go, I thought we had a chance to win,” said Martin. “We had a shot at it, and I am really proud of this team.”
Tony Stewart led the most laps, but his right front wheel came off during lap 432, and he finished 26th. His teammate, Bobby Labonte, the winner of Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race, lost an engine in his No. 18 Chevrolet, and wound up 33rd.
Polesitter, Scott Riggs finished the race, two laps down in 21st.
Rusty Wallace’s fifth-place finish was his best of the season.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Jeff Gordon, 2. Kasey Kahne, 3. Mark Martin, 4. Ryan Newman, 5. Rusty Wallace, 6. Sterling Marlin, 7. Ricky Rudd, 8. Jimmy Johnson, 9. Elliott Sadler, 10. Joe Nemechek.
The top-10 points leaders after 6 of 36: 1. Johnson-977, 2. Biffle-817, 3. Sadler-795, 4. Martin-779, 5. Stewart-774, 6. J. Gordon-772, 7. R. Wallace-771, 8. Newman-753, 9. Busch-746, 10. Jarrett-732.
HARVICK Wins Busch Race, Sweeps Bristol, Bristol, TN – Kevin Harvick won the rain-delayed Busch Series race, Monday, April 4 at Bristol Motor Speedway over his teammate Jeff Burton.
The win is Harvick's first in the series this season, and the fourth of his career at Bristol's 0.533-mile high-banked track.
Top ten finishing order: 1. Kevin Harvick, 2. Jeff Burton, 3. Reed Sorenson, 4. Matt Kenseth, 5. Sterling Marlin, 6. Jeremy Mayfield, 7. Carl Edwards, 8. Ashton Lewis, 9. Denny Hamlin, 10. Greg Biffle.
Top-10 Busch series leaders: 1. Edwards-1106, 2. Sorenson-1025, 3. Bowyer-955, 4. Harvick-875, 5. Truex Jr.-864, 6. Lewis-863, 7. K. Wallace-835, 8. Hamlin-814, 9. Hmiel-774, 10. Wood-726.
STERLING MARLIN Is Job Hunting – Sterling Marlin said Friday at Martinsville, that he is "99.9 percent certain" that he won't be back in the No. 40 Coors Dodge, owned by Chip Ganassi Racing for the 2006 Nextel Cup season.
Marlin, 47, has been driving for the team formerly owned by Felix Sabates since the start of the 1998 season. He's won four races with the team after having six victories in the previous four seasons at Morgan/McClure.
Marlin, who made his 646th career Nextel Cup start in Sunday's Advance 500 at Martinsville Speedway, is in the final year of his contract.
Before getting into racing, Marlin was a standout football and basketball player at Columbia High in Tennessee. Still, there was little doubt about which career path he would take.
"I was always in the shop working with the guys on my dad's (Coo Coo's) cars," Sterling said. "I started doing that when I was 12 or 13 years old. By the time I was 15, I was changing tires for him, and then when I turned 16 I was serving as my dad's crew chief and I also started driving."
Marlin won three consecutive track championships at Nashville Raceway from 1980-82. He actually made his Cup debut four years prior, after his father, Coo Coo, suffered a broken shoulder.
He is perhaps best known as only the third driver in Cup history to win back-to-back Daytona 500s, joining Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough as the only drivers to earn that distinction after winning in 1994 and 1995.
"There is no doubt that my fondest memory is winning that first Daytona 500," Sterling said.
He came closest to winning the NASCAR championship in 2002. Marlin scored victories at Las Vegas and Darlington and held the Cup points lead for 25 weeks.
However, a late-season crash at Kansas ended his season. Still, he scored 14 top-10 finishes and six top-10 qualifying efforts in 29 starts.
Should Nascar Have Set Penalites? Last week we asked readers to comment on whether they thought the present way NASCAR penalized teams was satisfactory. The following e-mail from C. S. of Havelock, NC, pretty much summed up most of the mail we received.
“I agree that NASCAR needs to take a new look at the penalties they assign. They (NASCAR) should be more specific on the dollar amounts and suspensions that will be handed out in case of rules violations. The term cheating covers a very large area. Some violations are purposely done, some are done out of ignorance of the rules. So many rules are open for interpretation. That is why they need to be more specific.
“As far as Richard Childress Racing (RCR), of course you would expect an owner to want the fine instead of the points levied against the drivers. But the pockets of the owners are very deep. To really get their attention you would have to fine in the triple digits, NASCAR will not do that. The only way to keep them from ‘Buying’ a win is to keep the points deductions in place. I have no doubt an owner would gladly pay a $20,000 - $30,000 fine for a win. But to have the driver stripped of points is not an option for them.”
HAMILTON Leads Truck Series – The top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders: Hamilton Sr.-633, 2. Craven-614, 3. Musgrave-606, 4. Hornaday-567, 5. Spencer-580, 6. T. Bodine-532, 7. Crafton-519, 8. Benson-513, 9. Sprague-503, 10. Cook-498.
The Nextel Cup and Busch series are at Ft. Worth, TX, while the Craftsman Trucks do not race again until April 30.
Saturday, April 16, Busch Series O’Reilly 300, race 8 of 35, 200 laps/300 miles, 2 p.m. TV: Fox.
Sunday, April 17, Nextel Cup Samsung/RadioShack 500, 334 laps/500 miles, 12:30 p.m. TV: Fox.
Racing Trivia Question: What is the number of Greg Biffle’s Nextel Cup car?
Last Week’s Question: How many Daytona 500 victories does Michael Waltrip have? Waltrip won the Daytona 500 in 2001 and 2002.
You may read additional stories by the Racing Reporter at www.race500.com.
Matt Panasevich proved that he was one of Pennsylvania's top high school wrestlers in any class, then provided another reminder that he is one of the nation's top underclassmen.
After placing in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state tournament and earning All-American honors with a fifth-place finish in the National High School Coaches Association's Junior Championships, the Mountain View junior was named Susquehanna Transcript Athlete of the Month.
Panasevich followed up his second District 2 Class AA title by turning his third trip to Northeast Regionals into his first berth at the state high school championships. Panasevich received a state medal with an eighth-place finish.
"I'm glad I placed," Panasevich said. "I was a little upset about eighth place."
In the bout to decide seventh place, Panasevich had an early lead, but got caught and was pinned by Johnny Lamboy of Milton Hershey with 40 seconds left.
Panasevich debuted with a 9-5 win over Sharon's Kellen Harris, who eventually finished fifth. It was one of the signs that Panasevich can be a contender as a senior.
"I had a little first-match jitters, but I got over it quick," Panasevich said. "I think next year I can do better."
Panasevich had already established himself on the national level with All-American honors during USA Wrestling freestyle competition.
Under high school rules, he reinforced that status at the NHSCA event for top high school juniors March 29-April 1 in Cleveland.
Panasevich faced state placewinners from Utah, Connecticut, Virginia and Ohio on his way to a fifth-place finish in a 189-pound bracket that featured 27 wrestlers.
Panasevich worked his way back from a second-round loss. After beating Cortez Robinson of Ohio by pin in 5:13, he lost to another Ohio wrestler, Aaron Griffin, by a 3-1 decision.
Four straight wins put Panasevich into a rematch with Griffin where he lost, 10-1. He then recovered for an 18-3 technical fall over John Carley of Utah. In addition to producing the technical fall with three seconds left, Panasevich's consolation bracket victories included a pin and two shutouts by decision.
"Senior nationals is a huge tournament," said Panasevich, who qualified for that tournament next season with this season's finish. "They're just starting Junior Nationals. A lot of colleges would go to see Senior Nationals, but the guys there were already committed to schools.
"This is a way to get colleges to see you earlier."
The tournament week included a recruiting fair and Panasevich has started receiving contact from recruiters by mail.
In addition to his individual district title in wrestling, Panasevich's defensive play was a major contribution to a team title for Mountain View in soccer.
Matt is the son of Mike and Sharon Panasevich of Gibson. Mike Panasevich coaches his son at Mountain View.
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