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Wilkes-Barre - The Binghamton Senators went from being the hottest team in the American Hockey League to just another Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins playoff victim in the span of a week.
Michel Ouellet scored on a power play with 2:44 remaining and Andy Chiodo made 30 saves Sunday night as the Penguins completed their latest Calder Cup playoff comeback with a 2-1 victory.
The Penguins have won four series in the past two years against teams that were at least 12 points better than them during the regular season. They have come up with those series victories despite three times facing deficits of two games.
"Everything is possible," Chiodo said. "We came back from 3-1 last year.
"It's a state of mind."
The Penguins overcame not only a 2-0 deficit in games, but a 1-0 deficit in the third period Sunday. They managed just 11 shots for almost 48 minutes while playing cautiously with a chance to finish off the East Division champs.
"We played real well defensively," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said, "but I thought for the first two periods we were not playing our game.
"We were backing up, backing up."
Once backed into a hole in the third period, the Penguins responded with power-play goals by Kris Beech and Ouellet in the final eight minutes.
"We have tons of faith," Beech said. "We've seemed to step up at the right times.
"We did the same thing here."
The Senators took a 1-0 lead on Chris Kelly's power-play goal with 1:13 left in the second period.
The Penguins then responded with two power-play goals in the third period.
Ryan Whitney sent a hard shot off the end boards and Beech put it past Binghamton goalie Ray Emery on his second try.
"The first was backhanded and they blocked it," Beech said. "I tried to use my body to get between the defenseman and the puck, then I spun around and shot."
When Andy Hedlund went off for holding with four minutes left, the Penguins had their chance.
Ouellet, who had 30 goals at the all-star break and just one after, scored on a shot from the slot off an Erik Christensen pass.
"He was in the right position at the right time," Therrien said. "It was a nice play by Beech and Christensen and he had a quick release."
The shot gave the Penguins the win in a game where they were outshot, 31-18, by a quality team playing to keep its season alive.
"From start to finish, it was our best game for 60 minutes," Binghamton coach Dave Cameron said. "We had lots of chances and we limited them.
"I thought we lost it on a marginal call in a huge game."
The penalty on Hedlund was the type that is sometimes ignored in playoff hockey, but it came less than four minutes after a borderline tripping call against Penguins defenseman Drew Fata.
"I thought the referee did a pretty fair job in the third period," Therrien said. "If he called the penalty on Drew Fata, then he's got to stick to the way he's going."
The four-game winning streak by the Penguins came after they had lost nine straight to the Senators. Binghamton won 11 of 12 overall before its triple-overtime loss at the Wachovia Arena Monday.
"We had big plans for this team," league scoring champ and Most Valuable Player Jason Spezza said. "Disappointed is the biggest word I can use … disappointed for myself and disappointed for my team."
Spezza broke a three-game scoreless streak by assisting on Binghamton's goal. He passed to Andy Hedlund whose shot was deflected in by Kelly. Spezza, the second overall pick in the 2001 draft, finished the series with a goal and three assists while going minus-2.
Chiodo finished the series ranked fourth among playoff goalies in goals against average (1.54) and fifth in save percentage (.942).
The Penguins became the eighth team in the 69-year history of the league to win four straight after falling behind, 2-0, to start a series.
WEEK IN REVIEW
The most dramatic game of the Penguins' comeback was the first win.
Colby Armstrong scored at 12:26 of triple overtime at one minute before midnight April 25 to lift the Penguins to a 3-2 victory.
The game had been tied at 2-2 for 77:15 from the end of the second period, through the third period and more than 2 1⁄2 overtimes.
Chiodo made 42 saves for the win on his 22nd birthday.
Chiodo then came back in Game Four to make 23 saves in a 2-0 shutout.
Ryan VandenBussche, a 12-year veteran, scored the first two playoff goals of his professional career Friday night to rally Wilkes-Barre for a 3-2 victory. VandenBussche scored the game-winner early in the third period.
In high school track, Blue Ridge swept a meet from Susquehanna to remain tied for the Lackawanna Track Conference Division III lead in both the boys' and girls' standings.
The girls remained undefeated overall in a meet that featured Blue Ridge thrower Mindy Stanton and Susquehanna pole vaulter Amber Gaffey setting school records. Of the 150 points available in a track meet, the Blue Ridge girls have scored 110 or more in five of their six meets.
Blue Ridge beat Susquehanna 119-31 in the girls' meet and 122-27 in the boys' meet.
Blue Ridge graduate Devin Glezen has played in 30 of 31 games and started in 28 as a freshman catcher at Division I Binghamton University.
Glezen, who started in two state finals and won a state title while with the Lady Raiders, is fourth on the team in hitting. She is tied for the lead with five doubles while batting .271 with a home run, seven runs and eight runs batted in. She has drawn three walks and sacrificed three times.
Defensively, Glezen has thrown out a third of the runners attempting to steal against her. Opponents are 16-for-24 when Glezen is behind the plate.
Binghamton is 10-21, including 3-10 in the America East Conference.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins advance to the East Division finals to play the Philadelphia Phantoms.
The series starts Wednesday in Philadelphia. After game two Friday in Philadelphia, the series moves to Wilkes-Barre for games Saturday and May 10.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
The Force Was With JEFF GORDON At Talladega,
Talladega, AL – Jeff Gordon became the first three-time winner of the season as he led 132 of the 194-lap Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, Sunday.
Gordon, who started from the outside pole, was leading the race when a major wreck occurred on lap 132, involving 25 cars, and brought out a 43-minute red flag period.
The incident happened heading into Turn 1. Mike Wallace, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. got together, setting off a chain-reaction accident that involved over half the field.
“I couldn’t tell you what happened,” said Brian Vickers, one of the drivers caught up in it. “All I could see was smoke ahead of me, and I have no idea what triggered it.”
Gordon continued to dominate the race until another caution for debris was called on lap 165.
Gordon and most of the leaders pitted for two right side tires and fuel. Kevin Harvick, the polesitter, was one of the few cars to take on four new tires.
When green flag racing resumed on lap 170, it was Gordon’s blue No. 24 Hendrick Chevrolet, his teammate, Jimmy Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. that led the field.
Gordon pulled away while Johnson got shuffled back into the pack.
During lap 182, Michael Waltrip, with drafting help from teammates, Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex was able to briefly gain the lead.
But Gordon regained the lead one lap later, without any help.
Two laps from the finish of the scheduled 188-lap race, there was another wreck behind Gordon, involving the cars of Earnhardt Jr., Johnson, and Truex.
Since NASCAR rules do not allow for a Nextel Cup to end under caution, there was a green/white/checkered finish that extended the race for six additional laps.
On the final restart, Gordon held the lead over Jamie McMurray, Elliott Sadler, and Tony Stewart.
Stewart went low with McMurray, but Gordon blocked them. On the final lap, Stewart passed McMurray, and Waltrip moved into third, but they were no match for Gordon, who won his 72nd career win, leaving him four behind Dale Earnhardt for sixth place all-time.
“My goodness, I had the force with me today,” said Gordon. “That thing was hitting on all eight cylinders so hard, it’s unbelievable. The restarts were so crucial, and the other guys were playing cat and mouse, so I was concerned because I knew if I let them get too far back, they were just going to blow by me.”
Tony Stewart finished second.
“It was pretty calm out there for us, because we stayed away from all the big stuff,” he said. “The most stressful part was after the wreck and I got stopped, it was like being in a nightmare, they were all around me.”
Waltrip, Jeremy Mayfield, and McMurray rounded out the top-five.
“I got a hold of Tony’s rear bumper and pushed him all the way down the back straightaway,” said Waltrip. “I couldn’t see where we were going, but I kept thinking, ‘we’re going to pull out on the 24 in a minute, I know we are, I know we are.’”
Top ten finishing order: 1. Jeff Gordon, 2. Tony Stewart, 3. Michael Waltrip, 4. Jeremy Mayfield, 5. Jamie McMurray, 6. Elliott Sadler, 7. Kurt Busch, 8. Ken Schrader, 9. Dale Jarrett, 10. Jeff Burton.
The top-10 leaders after 9 of 36: 1. Johnson-1368, 2. Busch-1238, 3. J. Gordon-1217, 4. Biffle-1181, 5. Sadler-1164, 6. Stewart-1088, 7. Jarrett-1085, 8. Harvick-1083, 9. Earnhardt Jr.-1070, 10. McMurray-1067.
EDWARDS Continues As Busch Leader – The top-10 Busch Series leaders after 10 of 35: 1. Edwards-1482, 2. Bowyer-1335, 3. Sorenson-1329, 4. Truex Jr.-1260, 5. Lewis-1207, 6. Stremme-1154, 7. Harvick-1149, 8. Hamlin-1149, 9. Wood-1147, 10. K. Wallace-1146.
MUSGRAVE Is New Truck Leader – The top-10 Craftsman Truck Series leaders after 5 of 25; 1. Musgrave-796, 2. Hamilton Sr.-783, 3. Craven-748, 4. Spencer-745, 5. T. Bodine-678, 6. Hornaday-660, 7. Setzer-648, 8. Benson-643, 9. Chaffin-633, 10. Crafton-631.
“FRONT ROW” JOE Remains Optimistic – “Front Row” Joe Nemechek began racing in NASCAR's top series full-time in 1994, and since then, he has won four times in 366 starts. His highest season finish was 15th.
Last season, Nemechek, moved into the MB2 No. 01 Chevrolet, won the Kansas City race, and finished 19th in points.
His 2004 performance raised expectations, both Nemechek's and the team's. But the 2005 season has gotten off to a so-so start, with Nemechek 24th in the standings and his best showings in the first eight races a pair of 10th-place finishes.
"All we want to do is be consistent, get a top 10," Nemechek said. "If we can do that every weekend, we're going to be a threat for the championship."
So, what has been the problem so far this season?
"You just look back at what could of, should of, would of," Nemechek said. "Heck, we'd be easy top 10 in the points. But the team has done their job as far as building good, quality race cars and I've been able to keep them in front. We've had bad luck with parts and pieces and we just haven't finished.
"Having those years of experience is what makes me the kind of race driver I am. I feel it makes me smarter. I know what I want in my race car. I know what I want the thing to drive like and I know we do some crazy things with aerodynamics, and I know we make the cars drive bad now.
"There are a lot of guys that don't take care of their equipment and can't finish. But I've always been a petty smart driver, trying to stay out of the accidents, trying not to abuse the engine, the transmission, the rear end gear. Abusing all that stuff is making sure you can't finish.
"But putting yourself in the right situation on the racetrack is very important, too. Sometimes things happen, but you can't say, `Hey, my car's good and I'm just going to go out and stay out of trouble today.' I mean, you have to do it all the time, not just whenever you have a good car.
"It seems like some drivers have more bad luck than others. In my case, just like this year. I still think that this year can be my best year in Cup racing."
Nemechek finished 32nd at Talladega after getting caught up in a 25-car wreck.
The Nextel Cup and Busch teams are at Darlington, which has only one race date, after the traditional Labor Day race was moved to California. The Craftsman Trucks do not race again until May 15.
Friday, May 6, Busch Series Diamond Hill Plywood 200, race 11 of 35, 147 laps/200 miles, 7:30 p.m. TV: FX Channel.
Saturday, May 7, Nextel Cup Dodge Dealers 500, race 10 of 36, : 293 laps/500 miles,: 7 p.m. TV: Fox.
Racing Trivia Question: Who is the driver of Joe Gibb’s No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet?
Last Week’s Question: Who is Dale Jarrett’s teammate at Robert Yates Racing? Answer. It is Elliott Sadler.
You may read additional stories by the Racing Reporter at www.race500.com. You may write him at P. O. Box 160711, Mobile, AL 36616.
The SCHS Boys’ Basketball Team has been awarded the Scranton Lackawanna League Basketball Officials Sportsmanship Award. The award is given based on input received from the basketball officials of the Lackawanna Interscholastic Athletic Association. SCHS was chosen as the basketball team which displayed the best sportsmanship and character throughout this past season. The award is presented every year to the team that demonstrates a respect for the officials, opposing coaches and players, and fans from both home and away games. The goals of having players exemplify sound morals, values, and ethics has been an emphasis of Head Coach Scott Glidden and Assistant Coach Rick Soden.
Team members Anthony Sellitto, Brian White, Kevin Lee, Adam Schiffer, Sean Wolf, Ernie Taylor, Allen Russell, Kirk Fallon, Craig Soden and Brent Keyes have practiced these positive attributes on a daily basis as much as they have practiced improving their basketball skills. Although the team qualified for the post-season playoffs, the SCHS School Administration places just as high a premium on winning this award as it does winning the actual athletic competitions. Coach Scott Glidden was presented the award on behalf of the members of the team during the annual banquet of the L.I.A.A. Basketball League on April 24.
The Montrose Tennis Team defeated Dunmore on April 28 at home. The Meteors sweep the singles matches in route to the 5-2 win. Singles players are led by sophomore Pat Bayer at No. 1, seniors Brady Goldsmith at No. 2 and Sean Jones at No. 3 and sophomore Andrew Bookin at No. 4. The No. 1 Doubles team of Bayer/ Goldsmith also posted a victory.
Pat Bayer of Montrose returns a shot by Ryan Smith of Dunmore in their singles match.
The team was not as successful at West Scranton on April 26 falling 3-4. Montrose wins were at No. 1 Singles by Bayer and the Doubles teams of Bayer/ Goldsmith and Mike Whitney/ Brian Perry.
Upcoming matches for Montrose are May 2 at Elk Lake and the final home match on May 3 against Scranton Prep.
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