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BINGHAMTON, NY – The Binghamton Senators and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins appeared to have switched paths in the American Hockey League prior to getting together Friday night at the Broome County Arena for the first of four meetings in 15 days between the two rivals.
The Senators started strong, including a 4-2 victory in Wilkes-Barre, after an abysmal 2006-07 season. After two seasons where they batted for the top spot in the overall league standings right from the start, the Penguins stumbled out of the gates.
By the time Friday night's game was over, the teams appeared to be near equals, adding significance to the showdowns ahead.
Nathan Smith and Mark Ardelan scored 17 seconds apart late in the second period to break a scoreless tie and send the Penguins to a 3-0 victory over the Senators.
The win was the third straight by the Penguins and lifted them to within a point of the Senators for third place in the AHL East Division. After scoring 18 goals in a four-game winning streak, Binghamton was shut out for the second straight game.
"We were solid in every zone and it was as complete a 60 minutes as we've played all season," goalie Ty Conklin said after making 22 saves for his first professional shutout since January 3, 2006 when he was with the National Hockey League's Edmonton Oilers. "Since the first couple of games, we've really shored up our defensive zone play."
"We did the things that have started getting us goals lately. We just kept putting pucks on net."
The Penguins had a 37-22 advantage in shots.
After their first two dozen attempts failed to produce a goal, Smith broke through by backhanding in a rebound of a Ryan Lannon point shot with 2:44 left in the period.
"We've been talking a lot lately about getting pucks to the net and getting rebound goals, dirty goals," Smith said.
Just 17 seconds later, the Penguins used flash to add to the lead.
Jeff Taffe sent a pass from the slot, catching Ardelan as he entered the left circle. The defenseman wound up and fired a shot into the top, far corner of the net for his first goal as a Penguin.
"It was a great shot by Ardelan and a nice play by Taffe," Smith said.
The Penguins opened the second period needing to kill off a power play for 1:59. When they were done, they outshot the Senators, 18-4, for the rest of the period.
Ryan Stone, who joined Smith by producing a goal and an assist, converted Smith's cross-ice pass into his first goal of the season during the third period.
Elk Lake finished the Wyoming Valley Conference Division II field hockey season tied for ninth out of 11 teams.
Nanticoke won the division with a 10-0 record, followed by Wallenpaupack 9-1, Honesdale 7-3, Berwick 6-4, Hazleton Area 5-5, Hanover Area 4-4-2, Tunkhannock 4-5-1, Pittston Area 4-6, Wyoming Area 2-8, Elk Lake 2-8 and Montrose 0-9-1. Montrose struggled offensively, but finished ahead of three teams in terms of goals allowed, giving up just 27 in 10 division games.
Dallas and Crestwood, two teams from Division I of the conference, are among the state final four in Class AA.
CHANGE OF SEASONS
All of the local high school teams and individuals have completed fall sports competition.
Official practice opened around the state Monday for winter high school sports.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Our high school football predictions for the first week of the playoffs were 9-0, improving our overall season record to 95-20 (82.6 percent).
This week's predictions for games involving Lackawanna Football Conference teams, with home teams in CAPS for games that are not contested on neutral fields: West Scranton 27, Berwick 24; DUNMORE 30, Lakeland 16; Riverside 27, WYOMING AREA 18; Lackawanna Trail 27, Northwest 23.
In professional hockey, the Penguins and Senators meet again when they play Sunday in Wilkes-Barre at 5:05.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
The Racing Reporter
Fourth Win In A Row For Johnson, Phoenix, AZ – Jimmie Johnson is only one race away from the 2007 Nextel Cup Championship.
Even Jeff Gordon conceded the 2007 title to Johnson after Sunday’s race. “It’s over,” said Gordon, who finished 10th. “Those guys have done it flat out and they deserve the recognition.”
Jimmie Johnson, winner of Sunday's race at Phoenix.
Jimmie Johnson won his fourth race in a row, Sunday, in the Checker Auto Parts 500, and now leads his teammate Jeff Gordon by 86 points with only one race left in the season.
Johnson didn’t have the best car at the start of the 312-lap race. He qualified sixth, but stayed near the leaders until after the mid point in the race. He took the lead from Martin Truex Jr. with 24 laps to go, and was never challenged for the front spot.
“I’m just doing my job,” said Johnson. “I’m also dumbfounded. I don’t mean that I’m not feeling a ton of excitement right now, but I’m just as shocked as everyone watching.”
When asked what he thought of the last race of the season at Homestead, FL, Johnson replied, “We’ll have to go to Homestead and be smart and see how things shake out. It’s going to be a stressful weekend.
“Last year it was pretty stressful. We’ve only got seven more days until we do it again. I’ll try to keep my mind clear and not worry about the things I can’t control, and focus on next weekend.”
Unfortunately, it has been a two-man battle between Johnson and Gordon for this year’s championship, which has diluted the drama attached to the 10-race chase.
“It's not good for the sport, no,” Richard Petty said. “It's too cut-and-dried. You've got no competition. You've got competition between two teams within the same team. That don't get it done as far as the general public.
“If one of these drivers happened to be Earnhardt, it might be a little different. When you get Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, they're the same. They've just got different names.”
Polesitter, Carl Edwards had engine problems on lap 106 after leading 89 laps, lost 46-laps in the garage area, and finished 42nd.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. just lost the handle on his No. 8 coming out of turn-4 during lap 119, hit the inside wall, and wound up 43rd.
Johnson, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex, Jr., Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton, and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top-10 finishers.
Top-12 Chase contenders after 35 of 36: 1. Johnson-6572, 2. J. Gordon-6486, 3. Bowyer-6331, 4. Kyle Busch-6185, 5. Stewart-6169, 6. Kenseth-6103, 7. Harvick-6093, 8. J. Burton-6089, 9. Edwards-6067, 10. Kurt Busch-6056, 11. Truex-6009, 12. Hamlin-5973.
Hornaday Closes Gap In Truck Series – Craftsman Truck Series driver Ron Hornaday finished second Saturday night at Phoenix, and series points leader Mike Skinner was eighth. Skinner started the race with a 57-point lead over Hornaday, but the margin was trimmed to just 29 points as the series heads into the final race of the season at Homestead.
Top-10 leaders: 1. Skinner-3865, 2. Hornaday-3836, 3. Kvapil-3411, 4. T. Bodine-3404, 5. Benson-3367, 6. Crawford-3358, 7. Musgrave-3074, 8. Crafton-2933, 9. Sprague-2886, 10. Darnell-2784.
Top-10 Busch Series leaders: 1. Edwards-4640, 2. Reutimann-4069, 3. Leffler-3875, 4. Harvick-3868, 5. Ragan-3670, 6. Hamilton Jr.-3525, 7. Leicht-3443, 8. Ambrose-3343, 9. Biffle-3316, 10. Kenseth-3311.
Carl Edwards wrapped up the Busch Series title last week at Texas.
Legends Of Racing Series Formed – Former NASCAR stars David Pearson, Harry Gant and Geoffrey Bodine are slated to compete in a new racing series next year, according to officials from Old School Racing.
The Old School Racing Champions Tour will hold 10 races in 2008, all on tracks 0.75 mile or less. The season begins May 18 at Concord (NC) Motor Speedway and ends Feb. 12, 2009 at New Smyrna (FL) Speedway.
Other drivers expected to compete include Dave Marcis, James Hylton, Derrike Cope, Phil Parsons, Jack Ingram and Larry Pearson. Eligible drivers are former winners in any of NASCAR's top three series, former ARCA, CART or IndyCar champions or former Indianapolis 500 winners. All drivers must not be competing fulltime in any of those series. Drivers will compete in identically prepared cars furnished by OSRCT.
“I have been an ARCA truck series team owner for many years, have a few wins under our belt, but OSR is the most exciting thing I have ever been involved with in racing,” said Gene Weaver, a managing partner of the series. “These drivers are legends in auto racing, and I hope that OSR can provide a platform that will allow us to show them how much we appreciate what they have done for this sport.
“They deserve recognition as the pioneers of racing, and it is the least we can do for them at this stage of their lives.”
Other tracks on the schedule are Eldora Speedway in Ohio, Flat Rock Speedway in Ohio, Music City Motorplex in Tennessee, Springport (MI) Speedway, Southside Speedway in Virginia, Hickory (NC) Speedway and South Boston (VA) Speedway
It’s Time To Move, Said Petty – Richard Petty said that after 58 years at the same location in Level Cross, NC, it was time to move the Petty Racing operation closer to Charlotte.
“We hated to leave Level Cross, but for us to be more competitive, we need to move,” said Petty. “It’s not the buildings and stuff as much as it is the personnel we hope to be able to attract.”
Their new facility will be the 85,000-square-foot building formerly occupied by Robert Yates Racing in Mooresville, NC.
“The Yates building came up a little while ago and we said, ‘Hey, this might be a good place to go see if it will work like we want to before we go spend a lot of money and all that stuff.’ It’s not exactly a location that we would choose, but it’s closer than Level Cross,” continued Petty.
“I was born in the house right beside our present shop and I’ve always worked out of there. A couple of years we worked a little bit out of Kannapolis (NC) with Curb, but we still had the shop operating. We’re not closing the shop down, per se, we’re just trying to figure out now what we’re really gonna do and put into the shop part of it.
“It’s kind of hard for us and for the people around the community to accept ‘hey, they’re not there anymore’. We hate that part of it, but again we feel like we have to go forward and to try to keep up. NASCAR is growing and we just felt like we had to try to look at us growing somewhere a little bit down the line too. This is our first venture into something like this. One thing about it, we’re gonna be like a yo-yo. We’re gonna always have this home, if we need to we can always come back.
“I don’t know that from the kids’ stand point that it’s that much personal being in Level Cross except that it’s their home. The race part probably isn’t as important to them as it’s where grandma lives, ya know? I think that’s probably more important than the race shop per se, especially as NASCAR grows and used to, we ran all the races right close and the kids could go to all the races then we got to going all over the Untied States, they couldn’t go to them all so the time changes on that.”
Petty said they had no plans to entirely abandon their current Level Cross shop, and at least a portion of it would remain open in some capacity.
All three of the major NASCAR series will end their 2007 racing season this weekend at the 1.5-mile Homestead, FL track.
Friday, November 16: Craftsman Trucks Ford 200, 134 laps, 7:30 p.m. TV: Speed Channel.
Saturday, November 17: Busch Series Ford 300, 200 laps, 4 p.m. TV: ESPN2.
Sunday, November 18: Nextel Cup Ford 400, 267 laps, 3 p.m. TV: ABC.
Racing Trivia Question: What year did Matt Kenseth win a Nextel Cup Championship?
Last Week’s Question: Which car number will Dale Earnhardt, Jr. use in the 2008 Nextel Cup Series? Answer: Car No. 88.
You may contact the Racing Reporter at email@example.com.
One of the first things Patti Walker did after taking over as the new coach of the Mountain View girls' soccer team was ask several players to change positions.
"It was interesting to see how receptive they were," Walker said.
Erika Lewis, a defensive starter as a freshman or sophomore, was one of the players to find a new position. Lewis took the opportunity to play forward and became the second-leading scorer in the Lackawanna League.
With Lewis leading the way, the Lady Eagles made a late surge that allowed them to tie for first place before losing a playoff game to determine the Northern Division champion.
Lewis is the latest Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Month after scoring 10 goals and adding an assist in eight October games.
"I was very happy," Lewis said about hearing of the switch. "Before high school, I had always played up front."
Walker kept moving Lewis around along the front line, finding a variety of ways for her to score. Lewis wound up with 25 goals and six assists in 14 league games for the best scoring total among county players.
"Erika is just an incredible athlete," Walker said. "She's very coachable. She listens to anything you have to say and takes advice."
Lewis said she was not surprised when the team made the climb through the standings into a tie for first.
"We were thinking we could do it right from the start," she said.
Lewis has also started on the basketball team as point guard since her freshman year.
Erika is the daughter of Mark and Terri Lewis of Harford.
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