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Saturday, November 22, 2014

PATS 6 GIANTS 2


VANCOUVER -  The Regina Pats started their west coast trip off with a bang.  Dryden Hunt had two goals to lead Regina over the Giants 6-2 at Pacific Coliseum Friday in the opener of a five-game road trip.

Kyle Burroughs, Adam Brooks, Braden Christoffer and Austin Wagner supplied the rest of the Pats' (13-9-2) offence. The win was the team's fifth straight.  Daniel Wapple made 27 saves in the Regina goal as they outshot the Giants 29-27.

Tyler Benson and Jackson Houck opened the scoring for Vancouver (9-14-0).

The Pats visit the Victoria Royals Saturday night at 9:00 on 620 CKRM (Press Box Sports Bar Pregame Show at 8:35 pm).

(Photo courtesy VancouverGiants.com, with files from the Canadian Press)

WDF PREVIEW


CALGARY (CP) - Jon Cornish has heard the Edmonton Eskimos want to limit his yards in Sunday's CFL West Division final. It echoes what the Calgary Stampeders star has heard throughout the three seasons he's been the dominant running back in the league.

"When you play this sport at the level I do, every week there's going to be people gunning for me. That's how it is,'' Cornish said.

"That is the reality of my life. People are going to be out gunning for me. Because I'm a main piece of this offence, shutting me down is going to be of critical importance to teams that want to beat us. I learned that a long time ago, so I don't think anything different.''

Calgary (15-3) and Edmonton (12-6) meet at McMahon Stadium in the first all-Alberta division final since 2001.

The winner advances to the Grey Cup in Vancouver on Nov. 30. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes (9-9) square off Sunday in the East Division final.

Calgary's last trip to a Grey Cup was in 2012 and their last win came in 2008. Edmonton's last appearance and victory in the CFL's championship game was in 2005.

Edmonton's defence ranks second in the CFL in defending the rush, but corralling the three-time CFL rushing leader and winner of the Most Outstanding Player award in 2013 is no easy task.

Cornish appeared in just half of Calgary's regular-season games, yet won the league's rushing title a third straight year with 1,082 yards. Cornish posted over 100 yards in six of his nine games, including two he played against Edmonton.

The 30-year-old from New Westminster, B.C., ran for a combined 272 yards, two touchdowns and a dozen first downs in the Labour Day series versus the Esks on Sept. 1 and Sept. 6. Calgary won those games by scores of 28-13 and 41-34.

"We want to stop him because their offence does evolve around him most of the time,'' Eskimos defensive end Willie Jefferson said in Edmonton this week. "We have to slow him down, make them try to find another way to win the game without him.''

Cornish also won the CFL's Outstanding Canadian honour in 2012 and 2013 and is a finalist for it a third straight year. His performance so far in 2014 begs the question, what numbers could Cornish have reached in the regular season if he'd been healthier?

He didn't participate in a 26-22 victory over the Esks on July 21. He was knocked out in the season-opener against Montreal and sidelined the next six games.

After sitting out another pair of games for more precautionary reasons later in the season, Cornish bounced his head off the McMahon Stadium turf Nov. 1.

The halfback didn't play in Calgary's regular-season finale as he was put through concussion protocol. Cornish has been back to full practice this week.

Eskimos head coach Chris Jones was Toronto's defensive co-ordinator when the Argonauts defeated the Stampeders 35-22 in the 2012 Grey Cup. Cornish rushed for 57 yards in the game.

The Stampeders went 14-4 last season only to lose 35-13 at home in the West final to eventual Grey Cup champion Saskatchewan. Calgary committed seven turnovers and Cornish mustered 60 yards in the game played in icy temperatures.

Sunday's forecast is for mostly sunny skies and a high of minus-2, but some snow is expected Saturday. The Calgary and Edmonton offences rank first and second respectively moving the football on the ground, so the run game will be key for both sides.

"If you look at the last few games that we've lost in the playoffs, we haven't been able to set up a good run game,'' Cornish said.

"In the last Western final, turnovers just put us down. In the Grey Cup, we were outschemed. (Chris Jones) has a very smart defensive mindset, but it's our job to establish our game. They're going to do their thing like they've been saying. We're going to do our thing.''

Defensive end Charleston Hughes, winner of the CFL's defensive player award in 2013, has been testing his foot in practice this week. Hughes hasn't played since injuring it Sept. 13 during a game against Toronto.

"One of the obstacles right now is just mentally getting back into the game,'' Hughes said. ``I've been out for two months.

"I think I can have a big impact in the game as soon as I step on the field. It's one of those things where my presence on the field changes the way a team has to deal with us.''

SATURDAY EYE-OPENER

Cory Schneider made 29 saves to record his second shutout of the season and 14th of his career as the New Jersey Devils snapped a two-game losing skid with a 2-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers. Schneider has now started 20 consecutive games for the Devils, who handed Edmonton its fifth straight loss.

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It wasn't the best game for the New York Islanders, but it was a win against the first-place Pittsburgh Penguins. Kyle Okposo scored in the third round of the shootout, sending New York to a 5-4 victory at Pittsburgh. Also, the Boston Bruins slipped past the Columbus Blue Jackets in a shootout 4-3.

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There was a Bruno Caboclo sighting at the Air Canada Centre as the Raptors hammered the Milwaukee Bucks 124-83. The 19-year-old rookie made his NBA debut in the fourth quarter for Toronto, which built up a 44-point lead through three quarters. Lou Williams led the Raps with 22 points while Jonas Valanciunas added 18 points and 12 rebounds.

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Toronto's Anthony Bennett was the top-producing Canadian on the night, scoring a career-high 20 points and Andrew Wiggins of Vaughn, Ontario chipped in with 14 as their Timberwolves fell to the Spurs 121-92. Also, Kamloops, B-C's Kelly Olynyk put up 18 points for the Celtics in a 117-100 loss to the Grizzlies.

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A person familiar with the situation says free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche has agreed to a contract with the Chicago White Sox. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced the deal. The White Sox have AL Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu entrenched at first base, so LaRoche is likely to see most of his time at designated hitter.

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Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette has been fined $10-thousand dollars by the NFL for striking an opponent in the head. Lockette was ejected from last Sunday's game at Kansas City for hitting Chiefs defensive back Kurt Coleman after Coleman shoved him in the back.

(Canadian Press)

Friday, November 21, 2014

PATS REASSIGN FUHR


Regina, Saskatchewan – The Regina Pats Hockey Club announced today goaltender Tyler Fuhr ('95) has been reassigned to the Estevan Bruins of the SJHL.

Fuhr had a 1-0-0-0 record with the Pats this season, stopping 24 of 25 shots in the Blue and White's 7-1 win over Moose Jaw on September 26th
The move leaves Regina with 22 players on the roster (14 forwards, 6 defence and 2 goaltenders).
The Pats are in action tonight as they face off with the Vancouver Giants to open their B.C. Division road swing.  Listen in to Home Depot Pats Hockey on 620 CKRM starting at 9:05 CST.

DAYTONA HOMES FRIDAY RODSERVATIONS

RANDOM THOUGHTS AND DIV FINAL GAME NOTES

1 - THE YEAR OF THE INJURY:  Slowly but surely people are coming to grips with the Roughriders' first round playoff exit in 2014 and are becoming optimistic about next year.  Not too many fans seem to think this team is in rough shape with a healthy Darian Durant.  2014 will always be remembered as the season that went down the tubes when Durant got hurt, much like 1991 with Kent Austin which ultimately cost John Gregory his job.  The unfortunate part is that it came in a season when the Riders had the chance to repeat as Grey Cup champions.  Will that ever happen?  It's tough to say since Salary Management Systems were put in place to prevent dynasties.

2 - UNACCEPTABLE!:  A commenter into this blog this week mentioned that, at 10-8, the Roughriders had the third-best record in the CFL this season.  I thought the guy was going to congratulate them for that, however he went on to write "THAT'S UNACCEPTABLE!"  What's wrong with some of these people?  I'd take being in the top three every year which normally should get you a home playoff game and a shot at the Grey Cup.

3 - THE FIRST FIRING:  Four days after the B.C. Lions were destroyed 50-17 in Montreal in the Eastern Semifinal, they fired coach Mike Benevides.  It seemed like a decision GM Wally Buono agonized over and he said as much in a letter to the fans.  The question I have for Wally is: what did you do to help Mike?  The Roughriders assembled an All-Star team for 2013 to host the Grey Cup and we all know how that turned out.  However the 2014 Lions were anything but.  Oh well, I suppose Buono wasn't going to fire himself.

4 - AND ANOTHER THING:  It was great to spend a weekend in Oil Country last weekend, and investigate the struggles of the last-place Oilers.  The thing I came away with is that there is no reason to expect anything to change with that franchise any time soon.  They're the highest-profile NHL team in Western Canada and although they play horribly, they're the most-watched team.  Everybody knows every move they make and it's because they're still riding that "it" factor the Flames and Jets never had but desperately want.  Want proof?  Name five Calgary Flames.  Ready?  GO!!!

5...
4...
3...
2...
1...

Didn't think so.  Same goes for the Jets.  Oilers coach Dallas Eakins will eventually be fired and that revolving door of coaches willl continue to swing but there will be no change at the top.  And Eakins isn't exactly helping himself, by blaming his players every night.

"The guys who have to be critical for us right through our lineup, the forwards and some of our D, they weren't there,'' Eakins said after Wednesday's 5-4 home loss to Vancouver. "They showed sparks of coming, but for whatever reason the couldn't get it done. The guys we rely on less played well. Your key guys have to be your drivers every night, and it wasn't just two or three. We had a number of guys struggle through different portions of the game.

When has Eakins ever said he and the coaching staff need to be better?  He might get a lot more mileage with the players by doing that than he is now.  However most Oiler fans and media think this team is a lost cause already.

5 - CFL EASTERN FINAL:  The game kicks off at noon our time with Montreal at Hamilton on Sunday.  The last I looked, the Ticats are favoured by 3.5-points.  Who honestly thought when Hamilton hired Kent Austint that they wouldn't find themselves in this position in short order?  Owner Bob Young stands to earn $1-million by hosting the Eastern Final on Sunday at splashy new Tim Hortons Field where the Ticats are 6-0.  Incidentally over that period they've only allowed five offensive touchdowns.

6 - MORE ON THE ALS-TICATS:  Montreal has historically had trouble with Hamilton in the playoffs, going 9-16 all-time and have lost the last five straight.  However the Alouettes are hot going 7-2 in the second half of the season after starting 2-7.

7 - YOUNG GUNS:  Sunday's quarterback match-up of Jonathan Crompton (Montreal) and Zach Collaros (Hamilton) is a battle of the two pivots with the least amount of experience in 20 years.  Crompton's making his second career playoff start while Collaros is making his first.  Incidentally that stat will be bettered later in the afternoon when Calgary's Bo-Levi Mitchell faces Edmonton's Mike Reilly in the West Final.  It will be the first career playoff start for both.

The last time that happened?  It was 1995 and it happened twice.  BC's Danny McManus went up against Edmonton's Kerwin Bell while Sacramento's David Archer faced Birmingham's Kelvin Simmons.  Simmons got the start in the place of the ailing Matt Dunigan.

CFL Game Notes say in 1989 Kent Austin and Danny Barrett made their first career playoff starts when Saskatchewan met Calgary in the Western Semifinal but I'm not sure that's correct.  Didn't Kent start the WSF in 1988 against BC?  I was at the game but I was a kid and I don't recall.  I know Dunigan lit it up that day.

8 - BATTLE OF ALBERTA:  Much like their hockey cousins, the CFL's Battle of Alberta has been dead for awhile as the Stampeders and Eskimos haven't met in the West Final since 2001.  All tolled it's their 11th meeting in the conference championship with the first being in 1978 after the CFL went to the one game format.  Calgary was won 11 straight regular season meetings over Edmonton.  Kickoff on Sunday is 3:30 pm our time.

The Stampeders are looking to get over the playoff hump.  Since winning the Grey Cup in 2008 in John Hufnagel's first season, Calgary is 3-4 in the playoffs.  Hufnagel has a career playoff winning percentage of .500 while his regular season mark is .702.

No CFL team has won more Grey Cups IN Vancouver that Edmonton.  There have been eight Grey Cups played in BC and the Eskimos have won the most with four.

9 - GO PATS GO:  The Queen City Kids kickoff the five game west coast trip Friday night when they visit the Vancouver Giants at 9:00 on 620 CKRM (Press Box Sports Bar Pregame Show at 8:35 pm).  The Pats have won four in a row and sit fifth in the WHL's Eastern Conference, just two points behind Edmonton.

I'm envious of Pats voice Phil Andrews as the west coast trip is always the highlight of the year.  You get to enjoy some mild weather, see some nice arenas and visit with friends and family across BC.  But we'll be listening!  Hopefully the Pats win at least three.

10 - SO LONG BLACKBERRY:  In order to better facilitate some of CKRM's new mobile apps, I was urged to switch over from my Blackberry Torch to an Iphone on Thursday.  It was painful!  Driving to Prairie Mobile to make the switch on Thursday felt like taking the family dog to the vet to be put down.  The old boy's been so good to me!  And this Iphone isn't exactly rocking my world just yet.  We'll see.  It definitely is faster.

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THAT'S ALL - HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!
RP
@sportscage

THIS WEEK IN COUGAR ATHLETICS

Swimming – The Cougars will send a total of six student-athletes to represent the U of R at the Canada West Swimming Championships this weekend at the University of Lethbridge. Eyad Albassiouny, Daniel Gomez, Brent Hill, and Chris Myers qualified for the conference meet for the men's team, while Jacee Kaczmar and Eva Madar will compete on the women's side. The conference meet runs from Friday to Sunday at the Max Bell Regional Aquatic Centre on the U of L campus.

Men's Hockey – The Cougars (3-10-1) took three out of a possible four points last weekend against Saskatchewan, winning 3-1 in front of a packed The Co-operators Centre crowd on Friday and falling 2-1 in a shootout on Saturday in Saskatoon. Looking to make up even more ground in the Canada West standings, the Cougars are back at it this weekend with two home games against No. 10-ranked Mount Royal. Game times are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Women's Volleyball – The Cougars' Canada West record fell to 3-7 on the season after a pair of four-set road losses to No. 9-ranked Calgary last weekend. And they host UBC Okanagan this Friday and Saturday in what will be the second consecutive weekend against a nationally ranked opponent, as the Heat come in ranked No. 3 in the CIS. The teams will start at 6 p.m. on Friday, with first serve scheduled for 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Men's Volleyball – The Cougars dropped a pair of road matches to Calgary last weekend as their conference record drops to 1-9 for the year. Now with just four matches left on the Canada West schedule before the December break, the Cougars are back at home this weekend with two matches against a UBC Okanagan (0-12) team that's still searching for its first conference victory of the season. The Cougars and the Heat are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Track & Field - The Cougars host part of their first meet of the 2014-15 season this Saturday upstairs at the Centre for Kinesiology, Health & Sport. The Intrasquad Meet will have four track events in addition to the triple jump and the long jump, and will stretch from 11 a.m. to about 1:45 p.m. at the CKHS.

Women’s Hockey – The Cougars continued their recent surge with two wins over Saskatchewan last weekend, getting overtime goals from Emma Waldenberger and Kylie Gavelin on back-to-back nights to give them six wins in their last seven games. The Cougars (3-5-3-1) are currently fifth in the Canada West standings and return to action this weekend against eighth-place Mount Royal (0-1-9-2). Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m. (MST) on Friday and 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Women’s Basketball – Winners of four consecutive Canada West games after 77-54 and 71-58 home wins over Calgary last weekend, the Cougars (4-2) now sit in a tie for third place in the Pioneer Division standings with Winnipeg. The Cougars continue the Canada West schedule this weekend with a pair of games at Lethbridge, which comes into the weekend with a 3-3 conference mark. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. (MST) on Friday and 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Men’s Basketball – The Cougars recorded a weekend split with Calgary at the CKHS, including an impressive 85-76 win over the No. 10-ranked and previously undefeated Dinos on Friday night that saw Jonathan Tull score a season-high 28 points for the U of R. Tull, who was named the Canada West Third Star of the Week for his efforts, and the rest of the Cougars will travel to Lethbridge this weekend for two games against the 4-2 Pronghorns.

Wrestling – Coming off the men’s wrestling team’s annual trip to the Dakotas, both wrestling teams return to the mat this weekend at the Huskie Open in Saskatoon on Saturday. It’ll be the last competitive meet of the season for both the men’s and the women’s teams, which will both break for the month of December before hosting the Cougar Invitational on Jan. 4.

(Courtesy Braden Konschuh)

FRIDAY EYE-OPENER

Matt Beleskey forced extra time with a goal at 11:52 of the third period and Corey Perry scored the shootout winner as the Anaheim Ducks beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-3. Nineteen-year-old rookie Bo Horvat scored his first-career goal for Vancouver in the second period.

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Patrick Kane's third goal in three games lifted the Chicago Blackhawks over the Calgary Flames 4-3. Kane scored the winner 9:12 into the third period while Corey Crawford turned aside 24 shots for the win. Paul Byron had a goal and an assist for the Flames.

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Tomas Tatar scored a pair of goals. inlcuding the winner, and set up one more as the Detroit Red Wings slipped past the Winnipeg Jets 4-3. Tatar broke a 3-3 deaadlock at 15:10 of the third period while third-string goalie Petr Mrazek stopped 28 shots to earn the victory.

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Earlier, Max Pacioretty scored twice to give the Montreal Canadiens a 4-1 victory over the visiting St. Louis Blues, James van Riemsdyk had a pair of goals in the Toronto Maple Leafs' 5-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lighting and Robin Lehner made 33 saves as the Ottawa Senators slipped past the Nashville Predators 3-2.

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Derek Carr threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to James Jones with 1:42 remaining and the Oakland Raiders snapped a 16-game losing streak with a 24-20 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders built a 14-point lead, but needed a 17-play, 80-yard drive led by Carr to secure its first win since beating Houston on November 17th, 2013.

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Former Oakland Raiders punter Ray Guy received his Hall of Fame ring during a halftime ceremony. Guy was the first full-time punter inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer in his 23rd year of eligibility. Guy was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and spent his 14-year career with the Raiders, winning three Super Bowls.
(Canadian Press)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

LIONS FIRE BENEVIDES

SURREY, B.C. - An embarrassing playoff loss put all that ailed the B.C. Lions on full display.

Those flaws ultimately cost Mike Benevides his job.

The Lions fired their head coach on Thursday, four days after a 50-17 spanking at the hands of the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL's East Division semifinal.

While the blowout defeat was disheartening, B.C. general manager and vice-president of football operations Wally Buono said undisciplined and inconsistent play throughout the entire 2014 campaign sealed Benevides' fate.

"It was really a combination of what occurred this year and what we were hoping to see and wanting to see in Montreal,'' Buono said at a news conference. "The reoccurring of the same issues in the playoff game was such that we had to do something about it.

"The thing that was repetitive was the bad penalties, the bad judgement and not good enough football being played at this level.''

This year's Grey Cup hosts, the Lions were full of optimism in training camp, but wobbled to a 9-9 record and had to settle for a crossover playoff berth in the East that ended in disaster.

"The things that had plagued us all year long, the things that we knew were a detriment during the regular season, they again (reared) their ugly head,'' said Buono. "It's a tight game, but yet we make critical penalties that kill us. It's a tight game and we can't convert on second down.

"That just brought back all the frustrations and the disappointments of the regular season.''

Benevides had worked with Buono since their days with the Calgary Stampeders and was the hand-picked successor to lead the Lions after Buono left coaching to focus on his front office duties following B.C.'s Grey Cup win in 2011.

"Any time you take a dream or take a livelihood away from an individual it's extremely hard,'' said Buono, the winningest coach in CFL history. "Mike and I have grown to be good friends because of our relationship, how it started, how he grew, how he was a big part of helping me win three championships.

"I know how much Mike cares. I know how much he sacrificed for the organization. When you relieve him of his responsibilities it's not only tough on him, it's tough on his family. That's pain you're bringing on not just an individual, but other people.''

While the Lions failed to meet expectations in 2014, they also experienced a number of challenges, especially on the injury front. Starting quarterback Travis Lulay missed all but one game because of a shoulder ailment, while star running back Andrew Harris and dependable slotback Courtney Taylor were lost for the season.

"I've never been big on excuses, but a year like this year = I've been involved (in the CFL) for 42 years - this was unique,'' said Buono. "I'm not going to stand here and feel sorry for myself or feel sorry for this football team, but they went through a lot. The players, the coaches, they went through a lot, and they had to endure a lot.''

The faltering offence was a focus, but a defence that had been the backbone of the team all year faltered down the stretch, giving up a combined 70 points and more than 1,000 yards in the final two games of the regular season before the debacle in Montreal.

"Is it always fair? No. Are other people responsible? We're all responsible,'' said Buono. "I'm responsible because my job is to make sure football is winning and football is successful. The coach's job is to make sure the product on the field wins. The players have a responsibility to win.

"I would say from myself to the coaches to the players, we weren't good enough.''

Benevides was 33-21 with the Lions, but 0-3 in the playoffs and trending downwards after going 13-5 in 2012 and 11-8 in 2013 before the .500 record of 2014.

"The thing that is concerning is the slippery slope in the wrong direction,'' said Buono. "As much as I felt, we felt, this was going to be a banner year for us, it wasn't. As much as I was hoping that I could help Mike to put a championship team together, I wasn't able to do that with him.''

Talk has already shifted to who will be the Lions' next coach, and while Buono didn't completely strike his name from the list, it sounds like he wants new ideas and philosophies to energize both the team and its fanbase.

"I need to re-establish a tradition, an expectation, and the only way to do that is to start fresh,'' said Buono, who added he has some candidates in mind already. "I don't believe that I would be fresh.

"I'm not of the new age. I have a hard time understanding the new player. I have a hard time understanding young people. As much as I love them, I have a hard time. I think we need to get somebody here that can do that.''

(Canadian Press)

CFL ROUND-UP

SURREY, B.C. - Grey Cup organizers were hoping for different outcomes in the CFL playoffs over the weekend, but they still believe the big game on Nov. 30 will be a sellout.

Both the hometown B.C. Lions and Saskatchewan Roughriders - who have the most rabid fanbase in the league - were eliminated from post-season play on Sunday.

Despite those disappointing results, 102nd Grey Cup Festival general manager Jamie Pitblado is confident the remaining 6,500 unsold tickets will be gone by kickoff on Nov. 30 at Vancouver's B.C. Place Stadium.

"Once we get those two finalists the big push will start and we'll certainly be sold out come game time,'' Pitblado said Tuesday. "We were certainly hoping the Lions would have a stronger showing and continue the march and we'd move a few more (tickets) along the way, but it is what it is.

"We always prepare a game and a festival not knowing who's going to be in it. The last three years organizers got spoiled having the home team in. Now it's just back to having to do some hard work and push the tickets.''

The Calgary Stampeders host the Edmonton Eskimos in the West Division final, while the Hamilton Tiger-Cats welcome the Montreal Alouettes in the East showdown.

"I think all the teams will draw well. Certainly if you look at (Lions') home games, when we play Calgary we get quite a large contingent of red and white,'' said Pitblado. "So Calgary would be a strong one and a helpful one, but Edmonton's playing some strong football right now so I wouldn't put anything past them.''

B.C. Place hosted a sold-out Grey Cup back in 2011 when the Lions beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the first major event at the venue following its renovation after the 2010 Olympics.

Capacity is 54,500 and Pitblado estimated about 15,000 of the tickets - which range in price from $175 to $445 - already sold for this year's game have been bought by fans outside of British Columbia.

"I just think we continue what we're doing. We have a good plan in place,'' said Pitblado. "We built this plan not expecting the Lions to be in it, that (would have been) gravy.''

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SURREY, B.C. - B.C. Lions general manager Wally Buono never saw it coming.

Head coach Mike Benevides called the performance "very, very disturbing.''

A little more than 24 hours after the Montreal Alouettes embarrassed the Lions 50-17 in the CFL's East Division semifinal, Buono and Benevides met the media on Monday to begin the autopsy on a season that started with the promise of another Grey Cup in their backyard and ended with a resounding thud.

"Was I in a state of shock (Sunday)? Yes,'' said Buono, choosing his words carefully. "Would I ever would have imagined that would have occurred? No.

"What did I learn about our football club? I learned the fact that we're not good enough and I learned the fact we have to do something about it.''

As was the case throughout much of 2014, B.C.'s offence was unable to get anything going against Montreal, which will take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the East final on Sunday.

"I was just so confident that we were going to go out and really play well and win a tough, close game on the road,'' said Buono. "This is devastating. If it's not devastating then you weren't committed, you weren't 100 per cent in.''

Kevin Glenn, who started 18 of the club's 19 games this season in place of the injured Travis Lulay, was completely ineffective against the Alouettes, throwing for just 64 yards and two interceptions before getting the hook.

"When you have that kind of loss there's going to be a lot said and a lot of attention, and rightly so,'' said Benevides. "To lose in that manner is very, very disturbing and certainly disappointing and all the adjectives you could come up with.''

In his three years as head coach of the Lions, Benevides has a record of 33 wins and 21 losses, but is 0 for 3 in playoff games. He was promoted from defensive co-ordinator to head coach after Buono moved into the front office on a full-time basis following the Lions' Grey Cup victory in 2011.

When asked if Benevides would be back in 2015, Buono responded with: "Are any of us going to be back?''

Benevides said job security wasn't a concern, but added the 9-9 record and the crossover playoff spot wasn't good enough.

"There's no doubt this business is about winning and I'm clearly aware where that's at,'' he said. "When I look at it, my goal is always to find a way to improve and get better and that's still where my focus is. But I'm clearly aware of where we're at - very disappointed.''

The Lions dealt with a number of injuries on offence throughout 2014. Lulay played just one game, running back Andrew Harris and wide receiver Courtney Taylor were lost for the season, and the offensive line was beat up for long stretches.

Despite those losses and a defence that had played well for much of the season, but also gave up 70 points and more than 1,000 yards over the last two weeks of the regular season, Buono said he was already making plans to face Hamilton with a shot at the Grey Cup on the line.

Instead, the players will meet on Tuesday for a final time before cleaning out their lockers.

"That team should have been good enough to execute better (against Montreal),'' said Buono. "That team should have been good enough to be able to have a very competitive game. At the end of it ... they didn't.

"I think they were well prepared. Montreal didn't surprise me. They didn't surprise me in what they did, they just executed it better.''

(Canadian Press)

HABSCHEID OKAY WITH SHORT RAIDER DEAL

Marc Habscheid's coaching experience with junior, NHL, and Canadian national and Olympic teams did not earn him much job security with his new club.

After more than two seasons away from the bench, Habscheid, 51, is guiding the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League following the early-season dismissal of Cory Clouston. But the contract only covers the balance of this season.

Still, Habscheid is "not too worried'' about his seemingly tenuous status.

"I've learned in life it's day by day - and you hear that all the time, but I have a good friend of mine, who's 52 years old, that's dying of (pancreatic) cancer,'' he said.

"It puts life into perspective. You live every day as it comes, and tomorrow is no guarantee. So I'm just enjoying life day to day. You never know when your number is called. You don't try to plan too far ahead.''

Habscheid returned to life in the rink after running a ranch that he has owned for many years south of his hometown of Swift Current, Sask. Despite his love for ranching, hockey's pull was too strong.

"I've been around the game since I was three years old,'' he said. "I really enjoyed ranching. It's something I grew up with, too, but hockey has been a part of me for a long time. So it was good to get back.''

He last acted as an executive with the Victoria Royals' parent company on its hockey-related businesses after serving as the club's general manager and coach from 2009-12.

Habscheid's other previous WHL employers were the Kamloops Blazers (1997-99) and Kelowna Rockets (1999-2004), who won league (2002-03) and Memorial Cup (2003-04) titles under his tutelage. A former CHL coach of the year, he also guided Canada to a silver medal at the 2003 world junior championships held in Halifax and Sydney, N.S. At the senior men's level, he led Canada to world championship gold and silver medals in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

In addition, he spent one season as a Boston Bruins associate coach (2006-07) and worked as an assistant with the Canadian men's team at the 2006 Olympics.

"He's played at multiple levels as well,'' said Raiders general manager Bruno Campese. "So between his playing track record and his coaching track record and his availability, it was really an easy choice.''

Habscheid, a former NHL and Canadian Olympic team player, received other coaching offers after leaving the Royals. But he rejected them until getting the call from Campese, whom he has known for many years.

"I had coached in Saskatchewan once before and really enjoyed it,'' said Habscheid. "It was my first coaching job, in Melfort (with the Mustangs of the SJHL in 1996-97), and (the Raiders offer) just felt right.''

Since Habscheid assumed the helm Nov. 1, Prince Albert (9-13-0 overall) has posted two wins and four losses. While introducing an up-tempo style, he is striving to show players how to make good decisions on the ice and do things together off it "rather than staying at home and playing Xbox.''

"I think he's a great coach,'' said defenceman Mackenze Stewart, a 19-year-old Vancouver Canucks prospect.

Stewart added players have bought into Habscheid's methods and NHL experience, and are gelling around him. The Calgary native praised Habscheid for creating a more fun atmosphere following the departure of the "stricter'' Clouston, a former Ottawa Senators coach whose "negative'' tone was "getting old.''

"(Habscheid) is not a yeller, but he does demand a lot,'' said Stewart. "He expects you to perform at your best at all times. But he also understands, within reason, that there's going to be mistakes on the ice and there's going to be plays that are misjudged. He's not going to hold it against you.

"I think (the coaching change) is helping everybody move forward.''

If the community-owned Raiders have advanced sufficiently by season's end, Habscheid might also improve the job security of Campese and the entire hockey operations staff. They are all in the final year of their contracts.

Under the circumstances, Campese said, it was only "prudent'' and "fair'' to give Habscheid a short-term deal.

"This way, it puts everybody on the same page, everyone's pulling on the same rope and things will be evaluated at the end of the season,'' said Campese.

(Canadian Press)

CFL THIS WEEK

EDF: MONTREAL AT HAMILTON - SUNDAY - 12 PM

Montreal is brimming with confidence following its 50-17 home semifinal win over B.C. The Alouettes split their season series with Hamilton 1-1 but the Tiger-Cats clinched first in the East - and home field for the division final - on point differential following a 29-15 win over the Als Nov. 8 at Tim Hortons Field.

The Ticats are 6-0 there, allowing just 12.7 points per game.

Montreal ran for over 200 yards and four TDs against B.C. Brandon Rutley, making his first CFL start, had a game-high 98 yards and a TD on 17 carries while Chris Rainey had a 64-yard touchdown run and finished with 71 yards on three carries.

The biggest beneficiary of the strong ground game was Jonathan Crompton, who completed 14-of-21 passes for 155 yards and two TDs. Crompton is 9-2 as Montreal's starter despite having not cracked the 300-yard passing plateau and often forcing his receivers to make acrobatic catches because of errant throws.

On Sunday, Montreal faces a Hamilton's defence that allowed a league-low 76.8 yards rushing per game. However, with a 60 per cent chance of rain Sunday - and a balmy 8 C high forecasted - both offences will have to try and establish the run.

Montreal had just 17 yards rushing on 12 carries Nov. 8 while Hamilton's Nic Grigsby had 93 yards on 19 carries and a TD. Quarterback Zach Collaros was 20-of-28 passing for 207 yards with a touchdown and interception while adding 35 yards rushing on six carries.

With no running game, Crompton threw 35 times, completing 18 for 284 yards and a TD. Montreal also fumbled three times, losing two, and surrendered an easy TD when Rainey couldn't control a lateral that Hamilton's Brandon Stewart recovered in the endzone.

Hamilton slotback Andy Fantuz (hamstring) remains questionable but Collaros still has sophomore Luke Tasker (72 catches, 937 yards, five TDs). Another weapon is versatile Brandon Banks, a threat catching and running the ball as well as returning kicks.

Both teams have made resounding turnarounds as Hamilton lost six of its first seven games while Montreal started 1-7. And as confident as the Alouettes are, there's something about Tim Hortons Field that works for the Ticats.

Pick - Hamilton
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WDF: EDMONTON AT CALGARY - SUNDAY - 3:30 PM

Injuries limited Jon Cornish to just nine games this season. Unfortunately for the Edmonton Eskimos, two were against them.

Cornish ran for 272 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries (eight-yard average) in the contests - both Calgary wins. Despite his abbreviated season, Cornish led the CFL in rushing with 1,082 yards, with just over a quarter coming against Edmonton.

So Cornish will again be a focal point when the Calgary Stampeders host Edmonton in the West Division final Sunday.

But Calgary also beat Edmonton 26-22 at Commonweath Stadium on July 24 without Cornish, last year's CFL outstanding player. The Stampeders were 3-0 against their provincial rivals and accounted for half of the Eskimos' regular-season losses while posting a CFL-best 15-3 record.

A big part of the Stampeders' offensive success this season - they averaged a CFL-high 28.4 points per game - was a league-best rushing attack that averaged 143.9 yards per game. Calgary was ranked seventh overall in passing (234 yards per game) although quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, who'll make his first career playoff start but is 4-0 versus Edmonton, threw 22 TDs and just eight interceptions.

Edmonton also runs the football well, finishing second behind Calgary (136.6 yards per game). Running back John White (852 yards) was second overall behind Cornish and had 134 yards on 17 carries in last weekend's 18-10 West semifinal win over Saskatchewan.

Sunday's forecast calls for a high of -1 C (and low of -7 C) with winds of 15 kilometres an hour, so the ground game will be important for both clubs.

Unfortunately for Edmonton, one of its top run threats is ailing. Mike Reilly was the CFL's top-rushing quarterback with 616 yards (7.8-yard average, eight TDs) but is reportedly nursing a broken bone in his foot.

Reilly, who's 0-5 lifetime against Calgary, is still expected to start Sunday. But an Edmonton offensive line that allowed 46 sacks - fourth-best in the CFL - must keep the Stampeders' front seven off the Eskimos quarterback.

An effective Stampeders running game would also help counter an Edmonton defence that had 55 sacks, second-most in the CFL. Both units also finished tied for most interceptions (20 each) as Calgary's Jamar Wall and the Eskimos' Dexter McCoil had a league-leading six apiece.

It's almost unfortunate for Calgary that this isn't a road game. The Stampeders were a league-best (8-1) away from McMahon, including two wins at Edmonton.

Calgary wasn't bad at home, either, finishing tied with Edmonton and Hamilton with a league-best 7-2 mark. The Eskimos were 5-4 on the road.

Rarely this season have the Stampeders beat themselves. They've recorded a league-low 29 turnovers and are the CFL's least penalized team. By comparison, Edmonton had 41 turnovers (fourth-most) and led the CFL in penalty yards.

But Calgary is just 13-19 in the West final and has dropped its last two post-season games ('12 Grey Cup to Toronto, '13 West final to Saskatchewan). Since winning the '08 Grey Cup, the Stampeders have a 3-4 playoff record.

It's also difficult to fathom Calgary beating Edmonton a fourth time this year but the Stampeders a) have a rested Cornish b) are coming off the bye c) are home d) play disciplined football and e) have a shot at playoff redemption.

Pick - Calgary

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Last week: 2-0.

Overall record: 57-26

(Canadian Press/Dan Ralph)

THURSDAY EYE-OPENER

Ryan Miller wishes he could play the Oilers every night. Miller made 28 saves to improve to 11-0 all-time against Edmonton as the Canucks beat the Oilers 5-4. Radim Vrbata had a pair of goals for Vancouver, which is 4-0 this season against its division rival.

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Cam Talbot stopped all 31 shots that came his way while Kevin Klein and Rick Nash supplied the offence as the New York Rangers blanked the Philadelphia Flyers 2-nothing. Steve Mason stopped 32 shots for Philadelphia, which lost its third straight.

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The Toronto Raptors are taking advantage of their games at Air Canada Centre. DeMar DeRozan scored 21 points and Kyle Lowry added 18 as the Raptors improved to 7-1 at home with a 96-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. At 9-2 overall, Toronto leads the Eastern Conference.

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Kobe Bryant had 29 points, Wesley Johnson made key free throws down the stretch and the Los Angeles Lakers took advantage of Dwight Howard's absence in a 98-92 victory over the Houston Rockets. It was the second consecutive win for the Lakers following a 1-9 start.

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Canadian content was in full force around the NBA. Pickering, Ontario's Corey Joseph had 10 points as San Antonio beat Cleveland 92-90, Kamloops, B-C's Kelly Olynyk chipped in nine points and four assists for Boston in a 101-90 win over Philadelphia, and Vaughn, Ontario's Andrew Wiggins put up 12 points as Minnesota beat New York 115-99.

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Sixteen Pennsylvania congressmen are demanding the NCAAA release all documents related to a 2012 consent decree that required Penn State to pay $60 million dollars and imposed a football bowl ban and other penalties over the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal. The House members released a letter urging the NCAA to remove all remaining sanctions against the school.

(Canadian Press)