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Monday, November 24, 2014

DAYTONA HOMES MONDAY MORNING GOALIE

MONDAY NOTEBOOK

1 - GREY CUP 2014:  So the combatants are set for the 102nd Grey Cup in Vancouver: the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Calgary Stampeders.  The pair emerged in some entertaining Division Finals on Sunday.  Not surprisingly the odds have not yet been set for the game and they may be difficult to determine.  Generally the home team gets four points automatically but it's not a home game.  Calgary will come out as the favourite I'm sure.

As for the forecast, rain is predicted all week for Vancouver with the sun only poking out around Wednesday.  The temperature will hover around +9 or +10 degrees.  It will be easier to deal with than minus-40 last year in Regina but the rain does threaten to dampen spirits.  However not much dampens spirits at Grey Cup time.

Us CFL types will be descending on Vancouver in the days ahead and 620 CKRM gets there Wednesday afternoon.  We'll be broadcasting the SportsCage from the Vancouver Convention Centre's Radio Row on Thursday and Friday.


2 - TICATS NATION?:  It seems Saskatchewan has adopted Hamilton as its Grey Cup favourite this week.  Correct me if I'm wrong but that's the general feeling I got while watching social media on Sunday. A lot of it stems from Saskatchewan's distaste for the Calgary Stampeders but a lot of of Rider fans see themselves in Ticats fans too.  They're a rabid bunch until those in McMahon Stadium Sunday who we didn't really see all year.

Someone said, "I'm pulling for Hamilton but not Kent," on Sunday although that's disappointing, it's also understandable.  Kent Austin's responsible for two of the Roughriders' four Grey Cups but he left twice.  I get it.  I'll never dump on Austin because he's been great to me - even writing the forward for my best-selling book - but if people here can't let the other stuff go, that's their business.

As far as Hamilton winning the Grey Cup in 2014, CKRM analyst Carm Carteri said on Sunday, "It would be great for the league!"

3 - THE MATCH-UP:  Calgary and Hamilton last met in the Grey Cup in Vancouver in 1999 with the Ticats winning 33-21.  The year before in Winnipeg, the Stampeders beat the Tiger-Cats 26-24 in the 86th Grey Cup.

So this is the rubber match, if you will.  And it's a salacious match-up indeed.  It pits the cocky, brash, older Stampeders against the youngest team in the CFL, the determined and seemingly humble Tiger-Cats.  The Stamps were passing around the West Division championship trophy on Sunday like it actually means something, groping and kissing it like they were at a high school dance.  The Ticats, on the other hand, wouldn't touch the East Division championship trophy.  They also wouldn't engage in Montreal's trash-talking the week before the EDF, saying instead "We don't have time for trash-talking. We're preparing for Sunday's game".  Then they whipped the Als' butts when it counted.

So you read it here first -- and this will be my prediction for the week -- the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will win the 2014 Grey Cup.  I'm never one on posting points but I'll say between 7-10 in this one.

Why?  The Ticats have had the fire burning in their bellies for just over a year now and if you subscribe to the theory "The team that wants it more will win", then it'll be the Tabbies.

Make no mistake, Calgary looked fantastic in their romp over Edmonton on Sunday.  But the core of that group is old (Cornish, Lewis, Hughes, Simpson, etc.).  They know the window is closing on the chance to cap their careers with a title, but they're too brazen to show some humility.  As always, that's what will catch them in the end.

4 - THE RIDERS:  Of course it sucks the Roughriders won't be in the Grey Cup.  No amount of sugar-coating the situation will placate the readers and it would all be hogwash anyway.  However we're going to have to forget about the Green & White for a week and focus on this national celebration of the CFL.

Honestly I was watching the Western Final thinking that the Riders would've been smoked by the Stampeders had they advanced to the Final Four.  That's in their current state of course, without Darian Durant.  Honestly I'd rather have not gone to Calgary at all than go there and get humiliated.


If you were watching the pregame show, TSN's Chris Schultz said Calgary and Edmonton are only going to get better so Saskatchewan, B.C. and Winnipeg had better "get your act together" if they plan to compete in the West.

I had similar thoughts about Calgary and Edmonton but am not prepared to lump the Riders in with the Lions and Blue Bombers either.  The Rider brass knows they have their work cut out for them to get back to the Grey Cup so rest assured they are on it.

And the expectation for the top should always remain to be in the Grey Cup, and win it.  If you've noticed, President Jim Hopson has gone underground the past little while although he'll resurface this week in Vancouver.

Hopefully the next President has the fire, passion and expectations of the departing Hopson.

5 - HOCKEY THOUGHTS:  You want to know why attendance is down in amateur hockey arenas across the country (WHL, SJHL, CIS)?  Because each night we have a variety of choices on our big screens at home.  And on Friday and Saturday, that's exactly what I watched and it was mainly the Edmonton Oilers plus the Leafs-Wings game ... I should've gotten off my butt and gone and watched my alma mater, Mount Royal University, pay a visit to the U of R but I was too tantalized by having the weekend off (the Cougars and Cougars split by the way) ... Anyways the passion is gone in Edmonton as I noted on Friday but it was impressive to see Rouleau's Keith Aulie rocking bodies on the Oiler blueline.  At least someone was putting out an effort in Blue & Orange over the weekend ... As for the Leafs, Don Cherry was right in that the Toronto players were shortsighted when they refused to salute the fans after Thursday's win over Detroit.  Because a few fans threw jerseys on the ice, they turned their back on 18,000 others and the Leafs Nation.  How stupid and juvenile.  However when your leaders are Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel, what do you expect? ... In the WHL, the Prince Albert Raiders were bullied by the P.C. crowd into mothballing their brand new mascot.  In my days in P.A., we referred to that logo of the team as "The Sheik" and it was in reverence.  A Sheik is an Arab leader.  However, because some Middle Eastern people MIGHT be offended by the mascot, he's been retired without making an appearance.  No comment here.  Maybe I've got to find a better way of fitting into this new world we live in ... The Regina Pats are 1-1 on their west coast trip after a 6-2 win in Vancouver and a 5-0 loss in Victoria.  They're off until Wednesday when they visit the Prince George Cougars.  All games can be heard on Saskatchewan's Sports Radio, 620 CKRM.

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9-year CFL veteran, Grey Cup champion and CKRM football analyst Luc Mullinder penned this CFL Free Agent primer for you as we head into the off-season.  Enjoy!:

ARMCHAIR GM
By: Luc Mullinder

AYE!!! RELAX!!!  Gordy G and his equipment guys hadn’t even unpacked a travel bag from Edmonton yet and half of Ridernation was already making the roster decisions for 2015!!! #CoachesIncluded

I get it…The business of sport has no off season, touché my friends.  But please, let’s not stress ourselves out over the 27 guys that have been cast into the “Riderville FA watch”.

I know that everyone wants to see their favorite guys re-signed, and their least favorite guys left at the Westjet counter, but in this business, there’s truly no formula that you can use in order to pinpoint front office thinking patterns.

I’m putting these thoughts on paper for two reasons…
1. I couldn’t write about Saskatchewan vs. Calgary in the West Final
2. Quite a few of you guys have asked my thoughts on the Free Agent Outlook

This will be the only time I truly speculate as to who goes where, and which coach may get the hook etc etc.  Truthfully, I probably won’t even go that far.  I hated speculating when I was a player, and I’m not into it that much now that I’m a washed up has-been who runs a 13.23 40 yard dash (joking *kind of*).

The one thing that I will say Ridernation is that every team in the CFL is about to take a good hard look at their option year rosters, and there is some serious talent that may or may not be up for grabs when Free Agency rolls around.  Shoot, some of these guys may have re-signed by the time you read this…

Here’s how we’ll do this.  We’ll assume that none of the 27 guys that you’ve been talking about come back. Hey, it could happen.  #NotLikely.  And we’ll also assume that the guys we talk about here all make it to Free Agency…I know, a lot of assumptions, however, at least you guys will see that the Green and White aren’t the only ones at risk of losing some talent.

Ladies and Gentlemen, here are some names to ponder…

Offensive Line

Brett Jones

If Calgary can’t get this guy under contract, look out, there will be a line-up of teams that would love to have him.  Big and Physical come in the Calgary Stampeders job description, however what stands out most about him is his football IQ.  Having such a high aptitude for the game allows him to probably make a full time transition from centre to guard without missing a beat.

Obviously the Riders love their home town guys, but if he was from Yellowknife, we’d want him just as bad.  There is a path of greatness that a few Saskatchewan guys like Scott Flory and Gene Makowsky have paved.  Jones seems to be on that route.  The front office missed out on drafting him, but may look to get him in Green and White before the dust settles.

Tyler Holmes

You know with all this drama surrounding the lack of “national” offensive line talent that exists in the CFL, Tyler Holmes would be a welcome addition anywhere, and with the absolute gong show that was the Toronto Argonauts, Tyler may be looking to get outta there as fast as he can.

We had to wait until he exhausted some NFL looks, to get a look at the 2011 CFL first rounder, but the kid can flat out ball.  The Argos are probably in there right now trying to convince Braley to at least pay for SOMETHING this year, Holmes needs to be it, cause he’ll be a starter in this league until he retires.  Good Canadian Talent.  It’s limited for some reason or another, on the Oline.  Worth a real look.

Greg Wojt

While we’re talking about the Canadian talent that may be available on the Offensive Line, we may as well throw Wojt in there.  The veteran Canadian may be on his way out in Hamilton and if he can’t find a place to start in, he may be a great depth add for a team like Saskatchewan.  You’ll have to pay him as a vet, but luckily not as a high priced one.  Wojt has never been an all-star but he’s a solid football player who’s had his fair share of reps.

Matt O’Donnell

If you can’t beat ‘em, sign their FA’s and get their secrets (it happens).  6’11, Canadian, and 350 lbs.  Matt’s got plenty of Football left and had a really good year this year.  Take a look at him on Sunday, and judge for yourself.  Ed Hervey did a great job of going unnoticed this year while his team turned it all around, maybe he’ll screw up and forget to sign this behemoth.  I’m sure Rob Bagg will be a fan, he’s also a Queens Alum.

Offensive line is definitely a position group that has been mentioned a lot lately in Saskatchewan.  Nobody wants to see the guys that are in question go, but if they did, at least there are plenty of guys (especially Canadian guys) that may be available.  Depending on how the ratio shakes out with that group, talented guys like Mark Dile from Hamilton, and veteran Edwin Harrison from Calgary may be an “international” option.

Defensive Line

Jabar Westerman and Don Oramasionwu

The Rider “National” depth on the defensive sign is intriguing.  I’m not sure everyone is sold on David Lee.  Thankfully Ricky Foley never got hurt for an extended period of time because it may have caused a re-shuffling.  Westerman and Donny O may be on the outs with their respective teams or may be looking to go themselves, however their passport and skill level may be something to go after if the price is right.  The Riders wouldn’t want them both unless they planned on changing the ratio, but getting one of these two guys if the price is feasible may be a good depth pick-up.  Both have shown they can play, but they may be looking for a re-do…if the Riders want more Canadian Depth on that line, this may be an option.

Michael Klassen

Popp has struck out with his “national” D-linemen as of late.  Ahmeet Pall never panned out when they lifted him from Calgary.  Bo Adebayo didn’t scratch the field, and before that Chima Ihekwoaba looked to be the next greatest thing but never even came close to the athletic potential he exhibited.

Michael Klassen looks to have snapped the trend.  And now it’s up to Montreal to sign him or let him check out his options.  The 4th rounder made a bunch of plays for the Alouettes as part of their regular rotation and he’d be perfect here in Riderville.  Klassens only 23, and with Foley showing him and Ainsworth the ropes, the D-line Canadian Depth would be good to go.  I see Popp fighting hard to keep him in the stable there, but if he did look elsewhere, there’d be a few teams that would jockey with the Riders for his services.  Productive Canadian D-linemen are not easy to find, so teams are always open guys like Klassen.

Other notables, are two guys from Edmonton in Willis and Howard.  Howard has all the ability, but has struggled to stay healthy, and has fallen by the wayside in Edmonton.  A change of scenery may be just what the doctor ordered in his case, and you can never have enough depth at the end position.  Willis may be looking at an outside opportunity in the NFL, but the safer bet, would to be to see him re-up with the team that believed in his reincarnation.

Linebacker

Chip Cox

Chip Cox is in the top 3 when discussing the best pound for pound players in the CFL.  He’s not just a statistical beast, he’s really the heart and soul of the Montreal Defence and Special Teams units.  It’s really tough to imagine Jim Popp letting Cox walk but Montreal is going to have to pay, and extend, a couple of guys this off season and someone may choose to test the waters.  You would be nuts not to want to try and fit this quintessential dime into your defensive scheme.  The only variable that may make a GM flinch on Cox is his age, but he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, and that is due to a monster work ethic and all out love for playing the game.  He’s really Montreal’s Eddie Davis, but younger.  You get the picture.

Bear Woods

Bear Woods has been in the CFL for a few years but has bided his time as a back-up and then been hit with untimely injuries.  What you are seeing in the east-division defensive MOP nominee justifies the Alouettes patience in him, and now he looks to potentially cash in.  Ridernation has been up in arms about its LB core all year, despite the solid play of Sean Peters and Weldon Brown.  Seeing Bear Woods manning the middle for the green and white would surely silence the thirst.  Bear has two things going for him, aside from being a physically tough player.  He’s another guy with a tremendous football IQ, and really displays a good fundamental base, when it comes to the demands of the position.

Rennie Curran

This kid's a playmaker and Edmonton needs to find a way to wrap him up for the long term.  Yet another fine example of the linebacking talent that may be available when Free Agency hits.  Rider fans have seen enough of him to know his pedigree.  Good nose for the ball, and has the ability to play in multiple coverage schemes.  Dexter McCoil has been the talk of the town in Edmonton for obvious reasons, but Curran makes plays every time that the opportunity presents itself.

Ian Wild

Ian Wild did a fantastic job in Winnipeg this year.  Wild is very coachable.  When you play in a defence requires you to think outside of the box, you can tell by watching the film who the guys are that haven’t bought in.  Wild adapted very well to the concepts that were laid in front of him, and it showed up on the stat sheet, thanks to his keen eye for the ball.  The CFL game is constantly changing its offensive concepts and lately teams have looked to guys with Ian Wilds body type and skillset in order to deal with the changing coverage dynamics and athletic requirements.  Wild will always have a place on someone’s roster because of these demands.  The Rider wouldn’t complain if he fell into their lap.

Throughout 2014, there has been issues with the Middle Linebacker spot.  We all knew of the void left by Mike McCullough and Rey Williams, and to this day, the position still seems like it’s up for grabs.  A guy like Bear Woods or Ian Wild may just be the answer going into training camp.

Defensive Back

Delvin Breaux

Nobody really talks about anyone from Hamilton’s secondary, and the unit didn’t do much to stand out during the year, however there is some talent over in Steel town, and one guy in particular can be highlighted.  Sometimes the best DB’s in the league are the guys you never heard of, and a large part of that is because nobody ever tests them.  I’ll use Terrell Maze with the Riders as an example.  No all-star recognition, no fireworks, but if you ask anyone in the locker room who you don’t want to try as a QB, Maze would be the guy who jumps out.  It seems like Breaux is Hamilton’s T-Maze, but bigger; the Hamilton boundary CB stands about 6’1 and is super athletic.  The Alouettes tried him ONCE during the Eastern Final, and he made them pay by picking it off.  We all know the Riders Defence is a man scheme for the most part, and Breaux would fit in quite well with the Wolfpack.

Chris Rwanbukamba 

Other than 3-time Grey Cup champ and special teams ace, Paul Woldu, there’s no ‘national’ experience in the DB unit of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  Rwanbukamba has proven himself more than serviceable since leaving Hamilton, to the point where he’s a guy that could really provide some awesome ratio flexibility.  If there was a defection at the field side corner, having a guy like Chris on the roster would at least allow for the discussion of having some portion of the secondary manned by a Canadian.  This would also go a long way if a guy like Ricky Foley gets hurt for a lengthy period of time.

This guy also can play multiple positions on the field.  He filled in admirably at Safety when Hinds when down this year, so he’s already struck something off Chamblins “ability our guys must possess” list.
Ryan Hinds is another guy on the Esks roster that looks like he’s in his option year, but he seems to be a high priority guy due to his role as the Free Safety when he’s healthy.

There’s a few more names at the DB spot that look like they’re going to be Free Agents in February, unfortunately they’re a little older.  Chamblin may look to develop some younger talent in that secondary either from the NFL or within the locker room.  Breaux may be worth a serious look if the TiCats choose not to lock him down.  Rwanbukamba would not only add to the depth, but he`d provide the Riders with a guy who could contribute during defensive reps.

Receiver

Shamawd Chambers?

I’m not positive Chambers didn’t already extend in Edmonton, but if he didn’t and wants to check out his value amongst the other teams, it wouldn’t kill Saskatchewan to take a look.  He’s long, plays the jump ball well and for a big guy, has field stretching speed.  He’s also going to be coming into the years where the game will start to slow down for him, and that will be huge for the youngster.  Two things that play into the Riders even considering this, is how they want to continue the development of Alex Pierchalski who looks like he has all the tools to be a good one for the green and white, and Chris Getzlaf and his fit with the squad going forward.  Chambers may be a reach, but he’s talented and you can’t leave any stone unturned.

Sam Giguere

Never really blossomed into the playmaker that people had him pegged for and may be cut loose by the Hamilton TiCats who also have Bakari Grant to deal with before February.  Depending on how much money is around (not in saying he’s worth a ton) Giguere would be a nice boost to the overall depth of the Green and White receiving core.  Currently he occupies the field side WR spot for the Cats but they don`t really look to him at all.  I`m not saying the Riders would plug him into a spot already occupied by Getz or Bagg, but you could find plenty of ways to infuse him into the offense gradually.

SJ Green

SJ Green was huge in the resurgence of the Alouettes during the back half of the season and throughout their playoff push.  All eyes are going to be on Jim Popp to see how he deals with the perennial All Star Green.  With everyone already punching Duron Carters ticket to the NFL, does Jim Popp really risk losing two of his main receiving targets?  My guess is no, especially after his 3 TD performance in the Eastern Final.  Green is a core guy there, and with other core guys taking pay cuts to stay in Montreal last year, I don’t see Green being coaxed out of La Belle Province.  The one thing I will agree on is that if SJ Green were to switch squads, the Riders would be his first choice.

Aaron Kelly

Kelly made some big plays for the Bombers and can be used at the 1st down sticks for jump ball plays or as a legit vertical threat to stretch the field.  He’s not the fastest guy on the field but is a nice addition to round out any teams receiving core.

Running Back

Honestly, the Riders are set at this position and one gets the feeling that if they were to actively go and look to add to their training camp roster, they’d look south first.  Names that may be popping up will be Matt Walter in Calgary, who would affectively replace a guy like Neil Hughes in terms of what he can do offensively and on Teams.  Another interesting name would be Tyrell Sutton, however he’s been in the Montreal system for a while and looks to be the incumbent to Brandon Whitticker who bowed out to injury for the second year in a row.  This is also a position group that looks to be set, and it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one that anticipates Keith Tosten taking the next step in 2015.

Those are just a few names that may be worth looking into as we sit and anticipate how Brenden Taman goes about his off season to-do list.  The option year charts are not the only resources that the Saskatchewan Roughriders will use to collect talent.  This is an organization that over the last few years has done a great job of finding productive players outside of the CFL.

Players like Levy Adcock, Derek Walker and Anthony Allen are just a few names, on the list of many, which Craig Smith and the gang have worked hard at finding.

The Rider brass may very well be intent on bringing guys up that they’ve been practising with.

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The point here is to not panic.  If your favorite player happens to start training camp next year in a different uniform, I’m sure that there will be a guy in his place that will get it done.  The one thing that you know from watching Coach Chamblin over the last few years is that he is going to have a team on the field that will compete and expect to win.

My Arm Chair assessment is simple.  I`d go after Brett Jones, Chris Rwanbukamba, Bear Woods, or Curran (if he`s there) and a big possession receiver.  Then I would probably work to get some more Canadian talent into camp.  Either way, just remember guys, there`s no formula, and anything goes.

See you guys in BC as RIDERVILLE takes over the convention centre.

#ProPerspective

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THANKS LUC! HAVE A GREAT WEEK EVERYONE...
RP
@sportscage

MONDAY EYE-OPENER

This year's Grey Cup will be a rematch of 1999's CFL championship game. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will play the Calgary Stampeders at BC Place next Sunday. Hamilton downed Montreal 40-24 in Sunday's East Final while Calgary dominated Edmonton in a 43-18 rout in the West. The Ticats last won the Grey Cup in '99, when they beat the Stampeders in Vancouver.

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Henrik Lundqvist stopped 21 shots for his fourth shutout and Martin St. Louis had a goal and assist as the New York Rangers routed the NHL-leading Montreal Canadiens 5-0. Lundqvist posted his team-record 54th shutout. Dominic Moore scored his first goal of the season for the Rangers, who had three days off due to a snow postponement in Buffalo.

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It was a happy homecoming for Ryan Reaves. The Winnipeg native scored the deciding goal at 2:25 of the third period to lift the St. Louis Blues to a 4-2 win over the Jets. Alex Steen, who's also from Winnipeg, had a pair of assists as the Blues ended a four-game road trip on a high note. Winnipeg has lost two straight.

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It was another fourth-quarter Mile High miracle for Peyton Manning. Manning directed the Denver Broncos to 22 points in the fourth quarter en route to a 39-36 come-from-behind victory over Miami. Manning completed 28 of 35 passes for 257 yards and four touchdowns, becoming the third player in NFL history with touchdown passes in 50 consecutive games. The others are Drew Brees and Tom Brady.

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Around the NFL, the Chicago Bears topped Tampa Bay 21-13, the Philadelphia Eagles downed Tennessee 43-24, Seattle dominated Arizona 19-3, San Diego edged the St. Louis Rams 27-24, and San Francisco got past Washington with a 17-13 victory.

(Canadian Press)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

TICATS, STAMPEDERS ADVANCE TO 2014 GREY CUP


HAMILTON, Ont. - Brandon Banks and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats made the Montreal Alouettes eat their words Sunday.

Banks had a playoff-tying two punt return TDs to lead Hamilton back to the Grey Cup with a 40-24 East Division final win over the Montreal Alouettes. Banks had five punt returns for a playoff-record 226 yards and had another 78-yard TD return negated by a penalty.

The victory was especially gratifying for Banks and the Ticats, who remained silent last week after Montreal players Duron Carter, Bear Woods and S.J. Green all boldly predicted their team would win. The assurances came despite the Alouettes losing 29-15 here Nov. 8 that earned Hamilton first in the East and home field for the division final.

Banks was a multi-threat, adding three carries for 35 yards and four catches for 33 yards. He finished with 294 total yards and played a major role in making Montreal choke on its words.

"Of course, we won,'' Banks said. "They guaranteed a win, didn't they so (they) can eat those words.

"It is what it is.''

Defensive back Brandon Stewart, who was also centred out by Green last week, relished having the last laugh but said Green was gracious in defeat.

"He came up to me after the game and said, 'Good game, go win it in B.C.,'' Stewart said. "There's always respect, I mean he's a great receiver . . . but we're going to B.C. and they're not.

"That's all that matters.''

Banks' 88-yard return at 10:55 of the fourth quarter was nothing short of amazing. The five-foot-seven, 153-pound speedster - whose nickname is Speedy B - was completely surrounded by Montreal defenders after corralling Sean Whyte's boot but somehow found a seam, then sprinted along the sidelines to put Hamilton ahead 37-24.

"He did a better job than our cover team,'' Montreal head coach Tom Higgins said. "I think we might have missed 13 tackles on one play, probably a guy had two shots at him.

"He had an outstanding performance and hats off to him.''

Woods, who had a game-high 13 tackles, also gave Banks a tip of the cap.

"I told him walking off the field 'Man, you're the little killer,'' he said. "That's because that's two years in a row.''

On Oct. 26, 2013, Banks returned a missed field goal 107 yards for a TD and added a 45-yard touchdown run as Hamilton beat Montreal 27-24 to clinch second in the East Division. The Ticats then beat the Alouettes 19-15 in the conference semifinal.

Hamilton's Kent Austin is off to his third straight Grey Cup game as a CFL head coach. He won the '07 contest in his rookie season on the sidelines with Saskatchewan. He left for the NCAA ranks after that season before returning north to Hamilton last year and said Sunday's contest was decided on special teams.

"I don't know if you ever expect that kind of performance but when you block hard for a talented returner like Brandon is, you always have a chance,'' Austin said. "Special teams was a big part of this game.

"You always have plays but at the end of the day it's just effort, it's just a desire to stay on your blocks . . . but (Banks) is an unbelievable player.''

The win, which improved Hamilton's record at Tim Hortons Field to 7-0, delighting the enthusiastic sellout of 24,334 on a balmy 11 C afternoon. The Ticats will face the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup on Nov. 30 at B.C. Place and chase their first CFL title since '99 - when they beat the Stampeders 32-21 in Vancouver. Calgary downed the Edmonton Eskimos 43-18 in the West final later Sunday.

The Ticats lost 45-23 to the Saskatchewan in last year's Grey Cup game at Mosaic Stadium.

Hamilton pivot Zach Collaros was 18-of-27 passing for 199 yards and also added 19 yards rushing on three carries.

"We were confident but we're not going to run our mouths to the media,'' Collaros said. "That's not what we're about.

"Speedy B and the defence carried us through and we did enough on offence. I don't know what to say about Speedy B, he's just amazing out there.''

Grigsby's three-yard TD run at 8:50 of the third put Hamilton ahead 27-14. It was set up by Erik Harris's interception, with an unnecessary roughness call on Carter put the Ticats' on the Montreal 38.

Medlock had four converts and four field goals.

Whyte booted three converts and a field goal.

NOTES- Offensive lineman Marc Dile and receiver Giovanni Aprile didn't dress for Hamilton. Defensive lineman Corvey Irvin and defensive back Jamahl Knowles were Montreal's scratches . . . During the regular season, Ticats opponents have converted just 28 per cent of their second-down opportunities at Tim Hortons Field . . . With CFL commissioner Mark Cohon in Calgary for the West Division final, league COO Michael Copeland performed the opening coin toss.

(Canadian Press)

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CALGARY - The Calgary Stampeders are a win away from capping a stellar season with a Grey Cup.

After matching the franchise's best record of 15-3, Calgary will play the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL's championship game Nov. 30 in Vancouver.

The Stampeders were efficient and versatile in a 43-18 win over the Edmonton Eskimos in Sunday's West Division final. With the Eskimos limiting the top rushing offence in the league, the Stampeders won it in the air.

Calgary claimed the Grey Cup in John Hufnagel's first year as head coach and GM in 2008.

Upset losses at home in the West final to Saskatchewan in 2010 and 2013 - when Calgary's records were 13-5 and 14-4 respectively - were deflating conclusions to outstanding campaigns.

Despite a regular-season record of 88-37-1 in Hufnagel's seven seasons at the helm, Calgary's only other appearance in a Grey Cup was in 2012 when they lost to the Toronto Argonauts.

"We've been working for so long and we've experienced so much disappointment,'' Stampeder running back Jon Cornish said. "I want to win this Grey Cup, not for personal gain, but for every single person in this locker-room, every single person on the support staff and every single coach. They're the people that deserve this.''

The Stampeders went 15-3 three straight seasons from 1993 to 1995, but did not win the Grey Cup under Wally Buono during that span.

Stampeder quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell threw a pair of touchdown strikes to Eric Rogers, had touchdown throws to Cornish and Marquay McDaniel and ran the ball in for a TD of his own against the Esks.

Cornish scored his second touchdown of the game on a two-yard run late in the fourth quarter. The CFL's rushing leader was held to 54 yards on 14 carries, but Cornish made his impact in the game as a receiver.

He totalled 120 yards on four catches. One of them was a 78-yard rumble for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Edmonton starter Mike Reilly was 20-for-33 in passing for 216 yards and was intercepted twice. He threw touchdown passes to Paris Jackson and Adarius Bowman in the third quarter when he was injured on the last two plays.

Reilly did not return for the fourth quarter, when backup Matt Nichols completed nine of 15 passes for 92 yards. Hugh O'Neill kicked a 42-yard field goal for the visitors.

Cornish, who is from New Westminster B.C., said he spent some time at his mother's condominium in Vancouver in the off-season, looking across the water to B.C. Place and thinking about the 2014 Grey Cup.

"I sat out and just thought about what it would feel like to go to B.C. Place,'' Cornish recalled.

The Tiger-Cats earned their second consecutive trip to the championship game with a 40-24 win over the Montreal Alouettes in the East Division final.

So this year's Grey Cup will feature teams who have been disappointed in it recently.

Hamilton lost 45-23 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders last year in Regina, while Calgary fell 35-22 to the host Argonauts two years ago.

"We had the trouble in 2012 winning the Grey Cup and they had trouble winning it last year, so we're both hungry,'' Mitchell said. "Neither team is going to be celebrating this win too long. It's going to be a great game. It's going to be a dogfight.''

With weather a non-factor indoors, the Stampeders will be the favourite against a team that was 9-9 in the regular season. Calgary was 2-0 versus Hamilton this season with scores of 10-7 and 30-20.

The Stampeders offence had the ball for 12 and a half minutes in Sunday's first half compared to Edmonton's time of possession of 17:34. Mitchell made the most of his time with the ball.

He threw for 284 yards and three touchdowns on just eight passes as well as rushing for one himself. The 24-year-old Texan won his first career playoff start completing 14 of 22 passes for 336 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.

"We had to make some hay in the air because we weren't doing very much on the ground, especially in the first half,'' Hufnagel said. "I thought Bo played an excellent football game. He threw the ball with great accuracy, he handled the pressure, kept his poise and didn't make any major mistakes.''

Winning the division and earning a bye week in the post-season helped Calgary get healthy on offence as Mitchell had multiple targets with which to work.

The temperature at Sunday's kickoff was zero under cloudy skies with a light wind out of the south. Attendance was announced at 31,004, but there was ample room in McMahon Stadium's stands.

Reilly can inflict damage with his legs, but his mobility was compromised by a late-season foot injury that's been reported as a broken bone.

The Eskimos quarterback looked winded when he was sacked by Simpson late in the first half. Reilly remained in the game to throw a pair of touchdown passes in the third quarter.

He was tackled hard by Shawn Lemon and sacked again by Simpson on the final two plays of the quarter. Reilly was taken by motorized cart to the visitors' dressing room early in the fourth quarter.

Reilly indicated he'd reinjured his foot on the Lemon tackle.

"It made my whole leg sore, knee and everything,'' Reilly said. "I don't think that it really did much damage and then the last play that I was in, I'm not really sure what happened, but when I went to stand up I just couldn't put any pressure on it.''

Eskimos head coach Chris Jones was Hufnagel's defensive co-ordinator from 2008 to 2011 and held the same position with the Argonauts when they beat Calgary in the Grey Cup two years ago.

Edmonton held Calgary's running game in check, but the Eskimos backfield was beaten by the athleticism of receivers Rogers and McDaniel and the relentless legs of Cornish.

"Unfortunately we didn't play our best football tonight,'' Jones said. "Calgary's a very, very well coached and very good football team. You've got to give all the credit to them. They came out with a good game plan. They executed and kudos to them.''

Notes: Calgary defensive tackle Charleston Hughes played in the first half for his first game action since injuring his foot Sept. 13, but did not appear in the second half. Hufnagel said following the game the CFL's defensive player of the year in 2013 injured his other foot . . . Edmonton's mayor Don Iveson will donate 100 pounds of food to Calgary's food bank in payment of a wager with counterpart Naheed Nenshi.

(The Canadian Press)

SUNDAY SPORTS

The Victoria Royals captured a 5-0 win over the Regina Pats on Canadian Forces Appreciation Night Saturday at Save On Foods Arena.

Royals’ netminder Jayden Sittler earned his first career WHL shutout in the win. The 18-year-old goaltender turned aside all 33 shots in his second start in as many nights.

Victoria’s Travis Brown tallied two markers including a powerplay goal for the home side. Jared Dmytriw, Taylor Crunk, and Austin Carroll had the other Royals’ markers.

Regina started 15-year-old goalie Jordan Hollett in his first WHL career game where he stopped 21 of 26 shots.  Victoria went 1/1 on the powerplay, while Regina went 0/2.

The Pats saw their five game win streak snapped with the loss.  Wednesday they visit the Prince George Cougars at 9 pm on 620 CKRM.

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Montreal Canadiens 2014 first-round draft pick Nikita Scherbak of the Western Hockey League's Everett Silvertips left Saturday's 3-2 shootout win over the Seattle Thunderbirds on a stretcher.

Scherbak was hit in the second period by Seattle's Keegan Kolesar and was transported to the hospital as a precautionary measure. The game was delayed 10 minutes as medical staff attended the 18-year-old forward.

The Silvertips (15-4-3) said Scherbak passed a motor test with success. The team also tweeted that Scherbak will undergo further tests for a potential back injury. Kolesar did not get a penalty on the play.

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The Montreal Canadiens, with the best record in hockey at 16-5-and-1, won for the eighth time in nine games by blanking arch-rival Boston 2-0. The Canadiens are 3-0 against the Bruins this year. Carey Price recorded his second shutout of the season by stopping 33 shots.

Andrei Markov became the fourth Canadiens defenceman to score 100 goals. Tomas Plekanec scored the other goal.

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask fell to 3-12-3 against the Canadiens in his career. He has never beaten the Canadiens in Boston in the regular season.

In other NHL action:

- Jaroslav Halak made 27 saves, and the New York Islanders beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 to sweep a home-and-home series. Anders Lee scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period.

- Tyler Bozak scored a pair of third-period goals, and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 in an Original Six matchup.

- Brayden Schenn, Mark Streit, Wayne Simmonds and Braydon Coburn all scored for the Philadelphia Flyers in their 4-2 win over Columbus.

- Steven Stamkos scored his 14th goal of the season and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat Minnesota 2-. That ends the Wild's four-game winning streak.

- Buffalo nipped Washington 2-1. That's only the sixth Sabres victory in their 21 games. Torrey Mitchell scored the tiebreaking goal with 7:42 left.

- Jamie Benn scored two first-period goals, and the Dallas Stars held on to beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-4.
Zach Redmond scored his second goal of the game with 1:35 left, and the Colorado Avalanche rallied to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3.

- Filip Forsberg scored the lone goal in a shootout, and the Nashville Predators beat the Florida Panthers 3-2.

- Chicago built a 6-0 lead after two periods and routed Edmonton 7-1. Jonathan Toews scored twice.

- Calgary rallied with two late goals and then beat New Jersey 5-4 in a shootout. Jiri Hudler got the game-winner in the shootout.

- Antoine Vermette scored in regulation and again in the shootout in Arizona's 4-3 win over San Jose.

- The St. Louis Blues nipped the Ottawa Senators 3-2. Vladimir Tarasenko scored his 12th goal of the season.

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The Toronto Raptors followed up their 42-point blowout of the Milwaukee Bucks last night by going out on the road and beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-93. Lou Williams scored 36 points for the Raptors - including a perfect 15-for-15 from the free-throw line. James finished with just 15 points.

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The Philadelphia 76ers are still winless. Carmello Anthony scored 25 points as the New York Knicks dropped Philly to 0-and-13 with a 91-83 victory. The Sixers made the score closer with a late run, but the damage was already done as they entered the fourth quarter down 17.

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The Vanier Cup is set. The Montreal Carabins defeated the Manitoba Bisons 29-26 in the UTeck Bowl Saturday afternoon to advance to its first CIS national final while the McMaster Mauraders claimed their spot in the championship game after beating the Mount Allison Mounties 24-12 in the Mitchell Bowl. The Vanier Cup goes next Saturday.

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The Calgary Stampeders are well rested and ready to host the Edmonton Eskimos in the CFL's West Division final. The Stamps finished first in the West and had an extra week to prepare for the Eskimos, who had to get through Saskatchewan in the West semifinal last week. Calgary's Bo Levi Mitchell and Edmonton's Mike Reilly are expected to start at Q-B.

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats face the Montreal Alouettes in today's East Division final. The Ticats are hoping to make their second straight Grey Cup appearance. Montreal is trying to get to the big game for the first time since 2010 when it hoisted the trophy after beating the Roughriders. Zach Collaros is expected to start at Q-B for the Ticats. It'll be Jonathan Crompton for the Als.

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The Arizona Cardinals will try to improve on their NFL best 9-1 record when they face the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks in Seattle. Arizona has won its past six games, a streak currently matched by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots - who host the Detroit Lions.

(With files from Canadian Press & VictoriaRoyals.com)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

STAMPEDERS FACE DO OR DIE

CALGARY (CP) - The Calgary Stampeders' regular-season record in seven seasons under head coach and general manager John Hufnagel is 88-37-1 for a winning percentage of almost 70.

They've posted the best record in the CFL or tied for it five times.


Calgary's playoff record to date is 5-5, which includes its Grey Cup victory in 2008.

Upset losses in the West Division final to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2010 and 2013 - when Calgary's records were 13-5 and 14-4 respectively - kept the Stampeders from backing up dominant regular seasons with a championship.

So after a 15-3 season matching a franchise record and on the eve of another division final, Stampeder running back Jon Cornish was asked Saturday what does the weight of expectations feel like?

"Like a feather,'' the CFL's leading rusher said.

"Let me just clarify,'' Cornish continued. "Expectation doesn't really exist. We can talk about it and people write it down and stuff, but it's not a real thing. Once you realize that, you can go into these games and not have any pressure.

"There's no pressure on me. Do I want to win, 100 per cent. But pressure doesn't exist. Nobody is pushing down on me. I think this team will come out understanding there is 'expectation' but we're going to play our game.''

It's the Edmonton Eskimos this time who intend to play spoiler. Calgary swept Edmonton (12-6) in their three regular-season games. The Stampeders have to beat the Esks a fourth time to get to next week's Grey Cup in Vancouver.

"I definitely would disagree with them that it's their year,'' Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly said. "I don't believe in the destiny of a team, or anything like that.

"In terms of potential, athletic ability and in terms of players, I don't think they're a far-and-away better team.

"I think we have the best team in the league. I believed that all season long. We've got to prove it though.''

The victor faces the winner of Sunday's East Division final between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes, who both went 9-9 in the regular season.

"The team that advances out of the West is going to be a very good team, but it's also probably going to be a team that's pretty sore and pretty beat up because that's going to be a battle tomorrow,'' Reilly said.

Edmonton's last appearance and win in the CFL's championship game was in 2005. Calgary lost the Grey Cup to the host Toronto Argonauts in 2012.

Sunday's forecast is for mostly sunny skies and a high of minus-3. The Eskimos didn't score an offensive touchdown in last Sunday's semifinal, but eked out an 18-10 win over Saskatchewan at frigid Commonwealth Stadium.

Reilly didn't play until midway through the third quarter because of what's been reported as a broken bone in his foot. The Esks quarterback says he feels ``night and day'' more fit to play in Calgary.

"Things have progressed every day even with pushing the limits and things like that, we haven't taken any steps backwards,'' Reilly said. "Going into last week's game, there were definitely some questions marks in my mind about what I would be able to do.

"This week we've called all the plays that we have installed and I've run all of them and be able to do it physically at a very high level. There's not a play in our game plan that our coach could call that I'd have any hesitation about doing, so I feel very good about that.''

Both Bo Levi Mitchell and Reilly will start in a CFL playoff game for the first time in their careers, although they have appeared in previous post-season games.

Mitchell, 24, went 12-2 this season and is 15-2 in his short career. Reilly, 29, was 12-3 this season and is a career 17-18.

Reilly is a mobile quarterback with 709 yards rushing in 2013, but his injury could make him less effective on the run Sunday.

Both teams rely heavily on the run. Calgary topped the CFL in average rushing yards per game (143.9) ahead of Edmonton (129.4).

But Edmonton and Calgary also ranked second and third respectively in defending the rush. The Eskimos held the Roughriders to just 47 yards on 10 carries in the semifinal.

The Stampeders had a bye week's worth of rest and recovery while Edmonton and Saskatchewan prepared to square off.

Calgary is relatively healthy on offence with the return of Cornish and receiver Maurice Price, who both sat out the regular-season finale to follow concussion protocol.

"We're as healthy as we've been probably since the first week of the season,'' Mitchell said.

Notes: Calgary has a 11-10 record against Edmonton in CFL playoff games . . . Edmonton has not given up any points in the fourth quarter in its past three games . . . The most recent Battle of Alberta in the West Division final was in 2001, which Calgary won 34-16 en route to claiming the Grey Cup that year . . . In their last playoff clash, Edmonton beat Calgary 33-19 in the 2011 division semifinal.

Five things to watch for in Sunday's CFL West Division final between the Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos:

Quarterback - Calgary's Bo Levi Mitchell and Edmonton's Mike Reilly are light on CFL playoff experience. Questions surround Reilly's mobility because of what's been reported as a broken bone in his foot.

Coaches - Edmonton's Chris Jones was John Hufnagel's defensive-co-ordinator in Calgary from 2008 to 2011. Jones was Toronto's defensive co-ordinator in 2012 when the Argos defeated the Stampeders in the Grey Cup.

Running back - The Eskimos talked this week about corralling Calgary running back Jon Cornish, who was dominant in the Labour Day series between the Alberta rivals. Edmonton has its own rushing weapon in John White.

Defensive end - Calgary's Shawn Lemon and Edmonton's Odell Willis were among players tied for second in the CFL in sacks with 13 apiece. Charleston Hughes is on Calgary's roster for the game, although the league's defensive player of the year in 2013 says he is still experiencing considerable pain in the foot he injured Sept. 13.

Turnovers - Calgary's giveaway-takeaway ratio this season is plus-14. Edmonton is plus-1.

DYAKOWSKI TO MAKE SEASON DEBUT IN ESF

HAMILTON, Ont. (CP) - Peter Dyakowski is back having a cheeseburger before playing football.

The six-foot-five, 325-pound offensive lineman will make his 2014 debut Sunday when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats host the Montreal Alouettes in the East Division final. Dyakowski, 30, suffered a serious knee injury in last year's Grey Cup game.

And the Vancouver native, in his eighth CFL season, will celebrate his return to the lineup by resuming his practice of having a cheeseburger as his pre-game meal.

``It might strike some nutritionists as odd but I really firmly believe that it's the perfect blend of nutrients,'' Dyakowski said Saturday. ``I have a place here near the stadium where I usually get a large 8-ounce patty cheeseburger."

It's a game-day tradition Dyakowski maintains even on the road.

Dyakowski, a 2012 East Division all-star, suffered a torn patellar tendon in Hamilton's 45-23 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 2013 Grey Cup, an injury that required surgery. Despite the lengthy rehab, Dyakowski said he never lost faith that he'd return to the field.

``I had so much to work on with my rehab that I didn't have any tough, depressive moments,'' the former LSU star said. ``Game days were really tough because I was on the sidelines just watching and there was no pressure on me.

``I don't like that.''

Kent Austin, Hamilton's head coach/GM, said having Dyakowski back is a big lift for his team.

``It was a pretty tough injury and he has had a very long road back,'' Austin said. ``He loves his team, he loves his teammates.

``I think the hard work he has done has not gone unnoticed by the players. Good for Peter, good for us.''

***

HAMILTON, Ont. - Andy Fantuz is holding out hope he'll play Sunday in the East Division final.
The veteran slotback is listed on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' 46-man roster for the game against the Montreal Alouettes.

Fantuz has been out for the last five weeks with a torn hamstring and said Saturday he'll be a game-time decision.

Also listed on Hamilton's roster is offensive lineman Peter Dyakowski, who missed the entire regular season recovering from a serious knee injury suffered in last year's Grey Cup game.

Missing from Montreal's active roster is running back Tyrell Sutton, who practised all week after missing the Alouettes' 50-17 semifinal win over B.C. with an ankle injury.

Brandon Rutley ran for 98 yards and a TD against B.C. in his first CFL start and is listed as Montreal's starter for Sunday's contest.

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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)