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Monday, April 24, 2017

THE MONDAY MORNING GOALIE


WEST PALM BEACH, FL: From a Holiday Inn near the I-95 along Florida's Atlantic coastline, we bring you this week's Monday Morning Goalie:

Terry Bulych
1 - SAD NEWS: The Roughrider family lost a key member over the weekend. Current Saskatchewan Roughriders Alumni President Terry Bulych passed away at the age of 66 after a bout with pneumonia, and a battle with cancer. The Regina product played at Weber State and was a fullback with the Roughriders from 1973-75, being named a Conference All-Star.

The news of Terry's passing spread quickly amongst the Rider family, with former Rider President Jim Hopson writing, "Damn good man. He did a lot for the alumni ... really brought it together. He had a vision."

Rider Radio analyst and proud alum Carm Carteri mentioned, "A Regina boy who was a good hockey, football and baseball player. He was one of the first guys back in the day who really pushed the weights thus earning the nickname 'Bull'. Terry was a major cog in helping brand the Rider Alumni over his five years as President. He was a northend star growing up who gave me hope of playing the CFL."

Our condolences go out to the Bulych family.

2 - ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?: Gridiron talk will dominate this blog over the next several days as the Roughriders stage their annual Spring Minicamp at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL. CKRM football analyst Luc Mullinder and I are holed up down just down the road in West Palm Beach for a couple of days before making the hour's drive north on Tueday for what could be a carnival.

The Riders have been holding spring camps in Florida since 2013 but none have been as hotly anticipated as this one.

It's all because of the signing of veteran NFL quarterback Vince Young on March 9, and media outlets from across the USA quickly confirmed their attendance. When I left the Queen City on the weekend, all the football types had a smile and a twinkle in their eye as they advised, "Enjoy the circus!"

But Rider boss Chris Jones isn't interested in running a sideshow. In fact, once that first football flies in the air at Dodgertown on Tuesday morning, it'll be all business. And the second year Head Coach & GM isn't prepared to cut Young any slack despite his gaudy resume.

“He’s like everybody else: He’d better show good,” Jones told Riderville.com. “There’s no room for error.”

All eyes are on Vince.

3 - ABOUT THE CAMP: There's been all kinds of info out there about what this minicamp will entail. I've read that 40 players will be in attendance, then 100, and now the latest report says 80 players will be strutting their stuff here in the Florida sunshine. The latter number seems to make the most sense.

And while we'll be endlessly scrutinizing every pass - and dropped pass - bull rush and missed block on our daily SportsCage shows from Vero Beach, we have to remember not to put too much stock into what we see.

For instance, no one will make this year's club based on what happens over the three day camp. But make no mistake, dozens of players won't make the club based on their performance.

As the old scouting saying goes, "The decisions always make themselves."

Last year at Dodgertown, we mentioned that Justin Cox was the best defensive back but now they're looking for his replacement. Rookie Canadian linebacker Dillon Grondon showed enough in Florida to earn an invite to main camp in Saskatoon and wound up making the team.

But I earmarked Marquez Clark as one of the top receivers last year at this time, and he didn't even make it out of training camp.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (Chris Jones), and it's tremendously exciting to be here and follow the players' fortunes!

The SportsCage will be broadast daily from Dodgertown on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on 620 CKRM at 4:00 pm Sask Time.

4 - LUC'S LOCKER: As mentioned, former Roughrider defensive lineman and current CKRM analyst Luc Mullinder is back for another year and provided this minicamp primer for the MMG:

LM: You've gotta DREAM BIG, make sacrifices, and get a little lucky sometimes in order to make it to this stage.  People often ask me, "What was it like being a professional athlete?"

My response has become quick and easy these days. I'll look whoever is asking me in the eyes and say, "Imagine everything that you think it is, and multiply it by two.  It's that cool."

The problem is that the journey is one that not a lot of people understand, and it comes lined with so many disapointments.  The guys who do manage to make it to a professional roster are literally the one-percenters.

For some, this camp will be something that they can look back on as the start of something special in their lives.  However for most of the others, this camp will unfortunately become another setback in the journey.

All one has to do is look at the cross section of quarterbacks that will be working out here come Tuesday to see how different these individual paths can be.  The first three guys that will come to mind are KG, Brandon Bridge, and Vince Young.  It's crazy how different each of these three players are but yet here they at the same point, competing for the same position.

That battle is going to be talked about all the way through June until someone takes the reins.  But don't let the conviluted situation at the QB distract you from the many other intriguing things that mini-camp will have to offer.

People don't talk about it much but the Riders use mini-camp to take a hard look at the guys in the trenches.  Tom Brady could be at the helm of the Green and White and it wouldn't mean a darn thing if the O-line can't protect him.

To me, that's the real interesting watch: What is this offensive line going to look like?  There may be a couple of interesting finds down here in Florida and it would seem to behoove Saskatchewan to have the O-line group be the most competitive of them all headed into main camp in the summer.  The success of whichever QB wins the job depends on the hoggies ability to keep him upright.  I'm actually pretty excited to see how things play out.

In terms of sheer numbers, I've heard that there may be 30 guys at mini-camp, or 300.  It wouldn't surprise me if the group was as big as last year (a little over 100 showed up) because realistically, the recruiting and scouting process never stops for any professional organization.

For those who stop by the camp, things are going to be moving about 100 miles an hour.  It may be confusing at times, but for the guys on the field, it will feel just like home.

Hopefully the guys get some good rest over the next couple of days.  There's a lot of big dreams on the line in Dodgertown.

5 - ANSWERING QUESTIONS: If you've been following along on this blog over the past several months, you'll know I've been speaking to many crowds about the 2017 Saskatchewan Roughriders. Here are some of the questions - and answers - which were posed at Friday's Executive Club luncheon at the Conexus Art Centre:

Can Vince Young get it done? Of course he can. His physical tools have never been in question. The knock on him has always been his drive. Through his college and pro careers, everything came easily to him because of his natural gifts. But when the going got tough, he vamoosed. And as we've recounted many times over the past six weeks, he's got a "do-over" at the age of 33 and he doesn't want to live with any regrets. But whether the Riders like it or not, this minicamp is all about Vince Young. To the Riders it's not, but to everyone watching from the outside, it is.

What if Young can't get it done? The Riders aren't in as dire shape at the quarterback position as some would think if Young doesn't pan out. Kevin Glenn has shown an ability to win games and although he's never won the big one, that's not to say he never will. And veteran Brandon Bridge could be forgiven for coming into camp with a chip on his shoulder. He's been overlooked in this whole scenario but he's spent the winter training for this opportunity and plans to put his best foot forward starting Tuesday. Remember, Jim Popp thought Bridge could be "the next one" in Montreal and all he might need is the right opportunity.

How's the roster looking? It seems like a group of All Stars: At some positions, yes. Rider Hall of Famer Don Narcisse gave the receiver group a "10 out of 10" on the SportsCage on Friday and he'd know better than anyone. Unfortunately those vets won't be competing in Florida.

There are some big name players on the roster including Eddie Steele, Henoc Muamba, Willie Jefferson and Ed Gainey on defense. The offensive line will be sturdy if Brendon Labatte remains healthy and Josaih St. John takes the next step in his development.

But there have been holes created with the tragic loss of Joe McKnight and the NFL departures of Jeff Knox Jr. and Otha Foster.

There are plenty of jobs up for grabs and we'll start to get a look at the incumbents this week.

Are the Riders set up on the business side for this season? (This wasn't a surprising question to get from a group of Regina businessmen). I'd say that of course they are. The Riders know business. But it's tough to market a team with a losing record and that's been their task since the 2014 Banjo Bowl (10-35 since). If the Riders win and become a contender this year, all will be good. However if they're slow out of the gate and flounder, that will make everyone's jobs in the front office a lot tougher.

6 - THE BOYS WERE BACK IN TOWN: Our long-time close friend Jeff Armstead tied the knot with Karlee Goby at a beautiful wedding ceremony in tiny Claybank, SK on Saturday followed by the reception at the Goby farm north of Avonlea.

It was a joy to attend, and to speak at the supper about my relationship with Jeff.

And it was a Who's Who of the CFL in attendance with the likes of Darian Durant, Chris Getzlaf, Andy Fantuz, Scott Flory and Luc Mullinder. As many know, Jeff has been the proprietor of a variety of personal CFL websites over the years including Kerry Joseph, Geroy Simon and the guys listed previously.

It was fantastic to spend time with these guys, and not talk football.

Congrats to Jeff and Karlee Armstead!

7 - GO PATS GO: It was disappointing to leave the Regina Pats while they're on this remarkable playoff run but, obviously, I'm not complaining. This Florida trip is the highlight of my year.

But finally the City of Regina has gone googoo-gaga over the Pats. It seems one out of every three Facebook posts I read is all about the Queen City Kids.

They hardly panicked over Friday's 3-1 loss to Lethbridge in Game 1 of the WHL Eastern Conference Final on Friday, and everything stabilized after a 3-2 OT win in Game 2 on Saturday. Now the series heads to Lethbridge all tied up at 1-1.

Pats captain Adam Brooks proved his worth by scoring the winner Saturday night and has cemented his stature with some of the all-time Pats greats. He's become a household name in Southern Saskatchewan.

As former Rider Matt Dominguez is fond of saying, "The regular season makes All Stars but the playoffs make legends."

The better team should always win over the course of a seven game series and for that reason, I'm confident the Pats will move on to the WHL Final. But I'll be back for Game 7 and fully expect the series to go that far.

8 - STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS: So now the Conference Semifinals are set. Nashville faces St. Louis and Edmonton takes on Anaheim in the West while in the East, it's the New York Rangers against Ottawa and Pittsburgh will face Washington.

For what it's worth, ESPN's Barry Melrose predicts the Rangers and Penguins to advance to the Eastern Final but I didn't catch his predictions for the West on the evening SportsCenter.

I'll take Nashville and Edmonton but even if the Oilers lose out to the Ducks, they're going to be back in the spring for many years to come.

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THAT'S IT! TALK TO YOU TUESDAY FROM FLORIDA
RP
@rodpedersen
IG: rodpedersenofficial
SC: Pedersenmedia
www.realtyoneregina.com

Sunday, April 23, 2017

VIGR RECAP: BROOKS POTS WINNER, PATS TIE EASTERN FINAL

Keith Hershmiller Photography
REGINA – Regina captain Adam Brooks scored at 17:10 of overtime Saturday night to lift the hometown Pats to a 3-2 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes, tieing the WHL's Eastern Conference Final at 1-1

Coming off a 3-1 home loss in Game 1 on Friday, Regina opened the scoring Saturday night, 9:44 into the first when Jeff de Wit tipped home his second of the playoffs.

It stayed that way until seven minutes into the third when Austin Wagner scored on a shorthanded breakaway, his 12th of the post-season, to make it a 2-0 game.

Two minutes later, the Hurricanes struck twice, just 23 seconds apart to tie the game 2-2 and eventually force overtime.

With 2:50 to go in the first OT, Brooks buried his fourth of the playoffs from the left circle to clinch the win.

Game over: Pats 3 Hurricanes 2

Regina outshot Lethbridge 51-31 in Game 2, while each team went 0/4 on the powerplay.

Tyler Brown made 29 saves for the Pats, Stuart Skinner 48 for the Hurricanes.

Quick Hits
- Austin Wagner extended his goal scoring streak to four games, has six goals in that stretch.
- Adam Brooks scored the game winner in his second game back from injury.
- Kjell Kjemhus recorded his first career WHL point with an assist in the first period.

What’s Next?
The Pats will visit Lethbridge in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final on Tuesday at the Enmax Centre at 7 pm on 620 CKRM, WHL on Shaw and Access 7. Game 5 will be back at the Brandt Centre on Friday April 28, tickets will go on sale Monday at noon at ticketmaster.ca, the Brandt Centre Box Office and Safeway.

(With files from Phil Andrews/ReginaPats.com)

SUNDAY SPORTS

 

Edmonton's heading to the second round. Two breakaway goals less than a minute apart proved to be the difference as the Oilers defeated the Sharks 3-1 to take their first-round matchup in six games. The goals by forwards Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev came 56 seconds apart. Cam Talbot made 26 saves for the Game 6 victory.

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The Canadiens' season is over. The Rangers are moving on to the second round. The Rangers downed Montreal 3-1 in Game 6 of their first-round series to take the Eastern Conference quarter-final 4-2. Earlier, the St. Louis Blues moved on to the second round with a 4-3 overtime win over Minnesota in Game 5.

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DeMar DeRozan scored 33 points, and the Raptors beat the Milwaukee Bucks 87-76 in a defensive slugfest to tie their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series at two games apiece. Kyle Lowry had 14 of his 18 points in the second half for the Raptors, who turned up their intensity before a hostile road crowd after getting embarrassed in a 27-point loss in Game 3.

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The Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs are all tied up. Marc Gasol hit a 12-foot floater with Point-7 seconds left in overtime as the Grizzlies beat San Antonio 110-108 to even up their first-round series at 2-2. Earlier, Paul Millsap scored 29 points as Atlanta cruised to a 116-98 victory over the Wizards that sliced Washington's lead in the series to 2-1.

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The Blue Jays came close but couldn't get past the Angels in a 5-4 loss in Anaheim. Justin Smoak hit a solo homer in the ninth after Kevin Pillar's two-run shot in the eighth to make it a close game. Andrelton Simmons hit a grand slam off Toronto starter Casey Lawrence to lead the Angels.

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Trey Mancini and Jonathan Schoop homered in succession off knuckleballer Steven Wright as the Orioles beat Boston 4-2 for their fourth straight victory. Baltimore will seek to complete a three-game sweep tomorrow. The Orioles have not lost a series this year and own the best record in the majors at 12-and-4.

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Mark Matthews had four goals and three assists and Robert Church scored twice and set up five more as the Saskatchewan Rush downed the Toronto Rock 15-10 on Saturday in National Lacrosse League action.

(Canadian Press)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

UPDATE: SUNDERLAND TO BE NAMED ESKS GM


The Edmonton Journal's Gerry Moddejonge published a list of the top five candidates for the vacant Edmonton Eskimos General Manager position and at the top of it is Roughriders front office man Jeremy O'Day.

Here's a snippet of Gerry's article. The rest can be found here.

1. a) Jeremy O’Day supposedly interviewed very well when the Eskimos hired Ed Hervey in 2012. The Saskatchewan Roughriders assistant vice-president of football operations has three Grey Cup rings: Two as an offensive lineman during a 14-year playing career spent mostly in Regina; and one as an assistant GM. He also acted as the Roughriders interim GM and v-p of football ops after the club got off to an 0-9 start in 2015.

1. b) Jim Barker would be a natural choice if experience has anything to say, given his coaching career began in 1978 and includes two Grey Cups as an offensive co-ordinator. He added two more championships as an administrator: in 2008 as a vice-president and director of player personnel with the Calgary Stampeders and 2012 as Toronto Argonauts GM. It was that season in Toronto when current Eskimos head coach Jason Maas first joined the CFL’s coaching ranks and the two have a good relationship with each other.

3. Tom Higgins spent 11 seasons as either assistant GM or GM in Edmonton. In 2003, he was GM and head coach of an Eskimos squad that won the Grey Cup. He posted a 44-28 record as Eskimos head coach, finishing first in the West Divison three out of four seasons. Higgins was the CFL director of officiating from 2008-13. Interestingly, it was reported Thursday that Higgins will be stepping down as defensive co-ordinator of the University of Calgary Dinos.

4. Brock Sunderland is an intriguing choice a just 37 years old. As assistant GM with an emphasis on U.S. scouting, he played a role in building the Ottawa RedBlacks into a Grey Cup champion, although the club was built with far more CFL veterans than rookies. He already has a relationship with Maas from their time together in Ottawa. Sunderland grew up in Montana and is the son Marv Sunderland, who recently retired after a 40 year NFL scouting career.

5. Brendan Taman is a two-time CFL GM who has been to three Grey Cups, winning one in 2013 with the Roughriders. He has recruited several great players to the league, such as all-time receiving yards leader Geroy Simon and perennial all-star running back Charles Roberts.

DARK HORSE SELECTION: Danny McManus has played a big role in the turnaround in Winnipeg as the Blue Bombers assistant GM and director of U.S. scouting. A former Eskimos quarterback, he is one of the more well liked people in the CFL.

*UPDATE*: TSN's Farhan Lalji reported on Twitter Saturday morning that Sunderland is expected to be named General Manager of the Edmonton Eskimos.

RP
@rodpedersen

VIGR RECAP: HURRICANES TAKE GAME 1


REGINA - Jordy Bellerive's powerplay goal at 1:59 of the third period was the game-winner as the Lethbridge Hurricanes downed the Regina Pats 3-1 Friday evening to claim Game 1 of the WHL's Eastern Conference Final.

Before a 21st sellout crowd of the year of 6484 in the Brandt Centre, the Pats came out flying with Austin Wagner opening the scoring just 1:10 in on a breakaway, beating Lethbridge goalie Stuart Skinner.

It was 1-0 Regina after 1.

The 'Canes found their legs in the second frame and Giorgio Estephan tied the contest at 1-1 at the 13:23 mark at even strength. It stayed that way through 40 minutes.

Bellerive's powerplay goal early in the third put Lethbridge ahead to stay, although the Pats thought they tied it late on a goalmouth scramble. However upon review, the goal was waved off much to the crowd's dismay.

Giorgio Estephan iced the series opener with an empty-netter with 1:22 remaining.

Game over: Hurricanes 3 Pats 1

Regina outshot Lethbridge 37-24 while going 0/2 on the powerplay and 2/3 killing penalties.

Pats captain Adam Brooks returned to the ice for the first time since being injured in Game 2 of last series, but seemed tentative and not near 100%.  However his presence clearly provided a boost.

The loss is not catastrophic, as the Pats have survived bigger scares than this in these playoffs. However it's clear the upstart Hurricanes are going to be a force to be reckoned with in this Round 3 affair.

The Pats will attempt to tie the series up when they host Game 2 on Saturday in a 7:00 pm faceoff on 620 CKRM, WHL on Shaw and Access 7.

RP
@rodpedersen