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Wilkes-Barre - There were moments - such as when they gave up six goals to the Binghamton Senators Wednesday night - when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins seemed ready to create some doubt as to whether they were the best team in the American Hockey League's East Division.
As it turned out, the Penguins had it all the way.
Matt Hussey had a goal and an assist Friday night to lead the list of 10 players who had at least one point as the Penguins completed a wire-to-wire run to their first division title with a 5-4 victory over the Norfolk Admirals.
By playing the league's only game on opening night, the Penguins jumped into the division lead. They built the lead during a record-setting 20-0-2-1 start that served as the impetus for the division title and never let the advantage get away.
"This is something we were looking forward to," Penguins coach Joe Mullen said. "We would have liked to get it the other night, but it didn't happen."
The Penguins strung together three goals in a span of 5:28 in the first period, then two more in 3:22 of the second to take control.
The Admirals threatened with two late goals on a five-minute power play and some pressure in the final minute after pulling the goalie.
"We finally clinched," team captain Alain Nasreddine said. "We can go on now and maybe think about being conference champions."
Norfolk opened the scoring on the first of its four power-play goals, by Shawn Thornton, at 3:32 of the first period.
Hussey got the Penguins started offensively less than four minutes later.
An errant pass by the Admirals got out of their offensive zone and Hussey won the race up ice to the puck. He dropped a pass to Krystofer Kolanos, who pulled Adam Munro out of the net and scored from a tough angle at 7:13.
Munro, who had allowed six goals in the previous five games combined, wound up giving up five.
The second came just 28 seconds later.
Daniel Carcillo's pass out of the defensive zone sent Ryan Stone in on a clean breakaway. Stone faked Munro out of position before scoring.
Hussey added an unassisted goal for a 3-1 lead at 12:49. He swept down the right side, carried the puck all the way in front and scored while heading past to the net to the left.
Norfolk used the power play to get within a goal again midway through the second period, but Kenny Corupe and Stephen Dixon scored to put the Penguins ahead, 5-2.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Montrose graduate Rich Thompson has returned to the Class AA Altoona Curve for the start of his seventh season of professional baseball.
Thompson made it to the Major Leagues for six games with the Kansas City Royals at the start of the 2004 season before spending 2005 in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system, splitting time between Class AAA Indianapolis and Class AA Altoona.
After matching an Altoona record with 45 stolen bases last season, Thompson has been in the top five of a league in stolen bases in five of his six professional seasons.
Thompson's performance at the plate slipped somewhat last season. He hit .209 in 29 games for Indianapolis and .257 in 94 games for Altoona. He will be looking for improved hitting to match his defense and baserunning, which are already of Major League caliber.
Thompson helped Altoona into the Eastern League playoffs then returned to Class AAA in time for the International League playoffs. He hit .500 (7-for-14) and scored four runs in the Governor's Cup Championship Series, but the Indians lost to the Toledo Mud Hens in three straight.
Pittsburgh brought Thompson to spring training as a non-roster player for the second straight spring. He got into two Major League exhibitions for the Pirates and went 1-for-2 with a triple.
Thompson went 0-for-3 with a walk in Atloona's 4-3 win over the Trenton Thunder in an EL opener.
The Binghamton Mets also opened the EL season with a win.
Evan MacLane pitched five innings of two-hit shutout ball while striking out five in a 3-0 win over the Akron Aeros.
Brett Harper had three hits and drove in the first run in the first inning.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons got off to a much tougher start, dropping their International League opener, 13-1, to the Columbus Clippers.
In high school sports, the Elk Lake girls' track team kept Blue Ridge from having a perfect week in all sports.
Elk Lake defeated Blue Ridge, 83-64, in the girls' track meet.
Blue Ridge shut out Susquehanna, 15-0, in baseball; defeated Bishop Hannan, 6-2, and Susquehanna, 10-0, in softball; and handled Bishop O'Hara, 85-61, and Elk Lake, 100-41, in girls' track. The Lady Raiders started the girls' track season with a 97-49 win over Bishop O'Hara.
Elk Lake graduate Seth Button is a junior first baseman on the University of Pittsburgh baseball team.
Button is in his first season with the Panthers after spending two years at Gloucester County College in New Jersey where he was Most Valuable Player of the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III World Series when he helped Gloucester to the title.
Button was drafted by the Cleveland Indians after leading Elk Lake to the 2003 state championship game. He was named Lackawanna League Division III North Player of the Year that season.
An all-star at four positions - catcher, first base, outfield and pitcher -- in high school, Button was projected as an outfielder when the Indians picked him in the 50th round. He has since settled in at first base, although he also could pitch for the Panthers in an emergency.
Button is second on the team with three homers. He has appeared in 20 games, including 16 starts, and is batting .217 with 12 runs batted in.
Pittsburgh is 2-7 in the Big East and 11-15 overall.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons play their home opener Friday against the Norfolk Tides.
The Red Barons began what is expected to be their last of 18 seasons as the top affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies in Ohio last week.
The early schedule could be tough on the team with 18 of the first 26 on the road. That same schedule, however, could help the franchise, which will be looking for a new Major League organization if the Phillies follow through with plans.
Once one of the IL's model franchises, the Red Barons are coming off their worst season ever in total and average attendance, dipping below 6,000 per game for the first time to 5,725. They had three of the seven smallest crowds in team history last April.
Former Phillie John Russell is the team's new manager.
Chris Roberson, the Paul Owens Award winner as the top player in the Phillies system last season, moves up from Reading to play in the outfield. The Eastern League Rookie of the Year hit .311 with 15 homers and 34 stolen bases at Reading.
"He's energetic," Russell said. "He's one of those players who has all the tools you need. He has speed and he has an arm. He has the ability to steal a lot of bases."
Shortstop Danny Sandoval returns after leading the International League with a .331 batting average, which set a team record.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
Kahne Wins From Pole At Texas
FT. WORTH, Tex.—Kasey Kahne won his second Nextel Cup race of the season as he took the lead in Sunday’s Samsung/RadioShack 500 from Tony Stewart on lap 308 of the 334-lap race, and ran away from the rest of the field.
Kahne, who turns 26 on Monday, now has three career victories and all of them have come from the pole. His previous win this season was Atlanta in March. His other win came at Richmond in 2005.
“I couldn’t believe that we were loose there at the start,” said Kahne. “It took us a while to get going. They made a lot of adjustments, but on the final run it was the best it had run all day.
“It was a heck of a battle there with Tony (Stewart), because I knew he wanted to hold me off.
“I wasn’t getting good restarts. I was just missing them. The engine ran great, and we showed that we had the best car at the end.”
His win moved him into third spot in the points, 46 points behind the leader, Jimmie Johnson.
Matt Kenseth was able to pass Stewart for second with ten laps remaining, but had nothing for Kahne’s No. 9 Dodge. “We could just never get it right,” said Kenseth. “We never had the balance perfect today, but through hard work and good pit stops, I had a great car.”
Kenseth moved into second in points, just 15-points out of first. It was Kenseth’s fourth top-five finish of the season.
Third-place finisher, Tony Stewart moved into fifth in points, but he was almost the victim of an accident after Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Roush Ford spun and hit the wall during lap 258. “He just lost it,” said Stewart. “He just looped it because he was driving over his head. I’m just grateful no one was caught up in it.”
Kurt Busch continues to be the center of controversy after he sent Greg Biffle into the outside wall after Biffle had passed him. Biffle said there was no “give and take,” on the part of Busch. “I don’t know what he was trying to do,” countered Busch. “I was a lap car trying to get out of the way, and he checked up down the straightaway. I tried to keep from getting into him, and I had no where to go.
“I hate that. He had a fast race car. I was just trying to get out of the way.”
Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton, Scott Riggs, Martin Truex Jr., Mark Martin, and Bobby Labonte rounded out the top-10.
Top-10 unofficial Nextel driver standings after 7 of 36: 1. Johnson-1063, 2. Kenseth-1048, 3. Kahne-1017, 4. Martin-1017, 5. Stewart-966, 6. Earnhardt-951, 7. Kyle Busch-950, 8. Jeff Gordon-911, 9. Harvick-859, 10. Mears-845.
KURT BUSCH IS ONE FOR ONE
It’s hard to believe that a former Nextel Cup champion could be a rookie in the Busch Series, but that’s exactly the case with Kurt Busch.
In his first career Busch Series start, rookie Kurt Busch was the top cowboy at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday. He held off Greg Biffle in a green-white-checkered finish, as Cup guys swept the top six spots.
Busch hopped directly into the Nextel Cup Series for Roush Racing in 2001 after a year in the NASCAR Truck Series, skipping over the stepping stone traditionally taken by young stock-car drivers.
His new team, Penske South, wanted to give Busch a little extra time in the seat of a Dodge. So Roger Penske put him in the No. 39 car in which Ryan Newman won six times.
"We really had a nice car from the get-go," said Busch, the 2004 Nextel Cup champion, "We had a car that could keep pace with the leaders and then the crew got me out in front."
Penske asked him to drive the No. 39 "as a favor" for a team aimed at developing people that might one day work on the Cup teams with Busch and Newman.
Busch is the 16th driver with at least one victory in the Cup, Busch and Truck series. But he's the second in his own family - younger brother Kyle, who finished fourth on Saturday, won in all three series last year.
Four other drivers won their first Busch Series start, beginning with Dale Earnhardt in the first race in the series. Joe Ruttman, Ricky Rudd and Terry Labonte also did it, with Labonte doing it most recently in October 1985 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Casey Mears finished third, just ahead of Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Burton.
Top-10 Busch Series drivers after 7 of 35: 1. Harvick-1099, 2. Hamlin-953, 3. Bowyer-900, 4. J.J. Yeley-868, 5. Biffle-849, 6. Kyle Busch-832, 7. Sauter-832, 8. Menard-819, 9. Leffler-818, 10. McMurray-816.
CROWN JEWEL OF RACING GETS ADDITION
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Darlington Raceway, NASCAR’s first Superspeedway, and once considered the “Crown Jewel” of all race tracks has undergone a facelift and addition.
On Wednesday, a new, 6,300-seat grandstand was named after Harold Brasington, the man who built the sport's first superspeedway. "It makes me proud to see this," said Brasington Jr., 63 and still living in Darlington.
Track leaders considered several options in naming the new stands, including drivers with strong track connections like South Carolina native Cale Yarborough and nine-time Darlington winner Dale Earnhardt.
There was even talk of selling the naming rights.
In the end, raceway president Chris Browning kept returning to the man who got the whole thing started with his wacky idea to carve a track out of a peanut farm nearly 60 years ago. "It was the number one priority to keep his name at this place," Browning said.
Brasington met with several people about his idea, including NASCAR pioneer "Big" Bill France. France told Brasington a banked speedway probably wouldn't work. "I don't think you're right about that," Brasington Jr., then in grade school, remembers his father saying.
Soon enough, Brasington was clearing farm land in the fall of 1949 for his vision. He had to change the plans for a true oval, however, after promising a neighbor that a nearby minnow pond would not be destroyed. The result was Darlington's famous egg-shape layout that has vexed NASCAR's best drivers for years. The first Southern 500, won by Johnny Mantz, took place in 1950.Brasington Sr. died in 1996 at age 86.
The only racing this weekend is the NASCAR Busch Series. Both the Nextel Cup and Craftsman Trucks have the weekend off for the traditional Easter break.
Saturday, April 15, Busch Series Pepsi 300, race 8 of 35, Starting time: 3:30 p.m. (EST); TV: FX Channel; Distance: 225 laps; Defending champion: Reed Sorenson.
Racing Trivia Question: Which Cup team is Jeff Green driving for this season?
Last Week’s Question: How many Winston Cup championships did Bobby Allison win?
Answer. Allison has one Cup title, and that came in 1983.
You may read additional stories at the Racing Reporter’s website, <http://www.race500.com>www.race500.com.
Jessica Sartell, of Thompson finished one-quarter of a second from gold in the USASA Snowboarding Nationals slalom, giving her the silver medal. In Giant Slalom she placed tenth with an Overall Alpine Ranking of fourth. She competed with over 27 girls her age from across the United States.
Jessica Sartell won a silver medal at the USASA National Snowboarding Competition at Lake Tahoe.
Jessica has been competing throughout the winter with the Mid-Atlantic Snowboarding Series, winning all gold medals in eight races of Slalom, Giant Slalom and Boardercross which gave her enough points to qualify her to make the Mid-Atlantic Snowboarding National Team to compete at the USASA National Snowboarding Competition held at North Star-At-Tahoe in California from March 25 to April 1. This was her third time qualifying for Nationals.
Jessica is in eleventh grade, attending The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. Along with snowboarding she is involved in her family dairy farm in Gibson Township. She belongs to Susquehanna County 4-H showing dairy, horses and poultry.
The USASA is the world’s largest snowboarding event, which brings in 1,300-plus athletes for the week’s competition. The USASA has developed many of today’s top names in snowboarding, including Shaun White, Ross Powers, Lindsey Jacobellis and many other past Olympians.
Each year, USASA members who qualify for the USASA National Championship can apply for a USASA Scholarship by completing the application requirements. The applicants are evaluated for the following criteria: grade transcripts, letters of recommendation, race results and photo. Last year $15,000 was awarded to 141 USASA members, with Jessica being awarded a scholarship for 2004-2005.
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