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Friday, May 25, 2018

FRIDAY RIDER CAMP PHOTOS AND UPDATE


Here's some photographic evidence of Friday's Day 6 workout at 2018 Saskatchewan Roughriders Training Camp ..



The most versatile PR guy in the CFL ... Ryan Pollock participating in drills!


Veteran punter Josh Bartel unloads ..


Naaman Roosevelt and Chad Owens do their thing ..


Long, lean and agile Mitch Picton had back-to-back strong days ..


RB Marcus Thigpen looking sharp ..


B.J. Daniels cocks the gun ..


Fullback Spencer ball throws the lacrosse ball around with Saskatchewan Rush player Ryan Dilks. The Rush host the Rochester Knighthawks Saturday night in Game 1 of the NLL Finals ...

/=S=/

- The update from Friday's Rider workout is that there is no update. Head Coach & GM Chris Jones said we'll have to wait until Saturday's walk-through to learn the roster for Sunday's preseason game at Edmonton (3:00 pm, TSN, 620 CKRM Rider Radio Network), and the QB rotation. He also mentioned, "It's not that we have any secrets. We have a lot of players to evaluate."

- Jones said Friday was probably the "flattest" performance as an overall group of training camp. He did, however, single out the receiver group for having an otherwise strong day.

- I asked the coach if this is the defense he envisioned when he began this rebuild in 2016, however he said Friday was not indicative of what he wants to see. "We had trouble playing fast today," Jones observed.

- The highlight of the day might have been Duron Carter picking off David Watford in one of the few reps he took at quarterback.

- Rookie DB Nick Marshall again lined up at cornerback with the first team defense and Jones said,"As you can see, he gets his hand on a lot of balls". Marshall was a QB at Auburn and a kick returner in the NFL. "Nick's just a good all-around player," Jones offered.

- Once again we'll have the SportsCage at 4:00 pm from Griffiths Stadium on 620 CKRM. It'll be an abbreviated Four Seasons Football Friday as we turn the show over to Mitchell Blair at 5:30 pm from the Memorial Cup in advance of tonight's semifinal between the Regina Pats and the Hamilton Bulldogs, also on 620 CKRM.

RP
@rodpedersen

MEMORIAL CUP: BULLDOGS AFTER REVENGE VERSUS PATS

Keith Hershmiller Photography
REGINA - While several of his Hamilton Bulldogs teammates huddled around a TV in the team hotel for Wednesday's game at the Memorial Cup, Robert Thomas opted to stop watching shortly after the first period.

The Bulldogs' star forward said that the game - a 6-5 win for the host Regina Pats (2-1) over the Western Hockey League's Swift Current Broncos (0-3) - was out of Hamilton's control.

1881 Scarth St. Regina, 306-789-0011
Regina's win set up a semifinal matchup against the Bulldogs (2-1) on Friday night at Brandt Centre while the Acadie-Bathurst Titan (2-1) of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League advanced directly into the final on Sunday.

If Swift Current had won Wednesday, Hamilton would have received a berth in the Canadian major junior championship game.

"To get that extra game, maybe it will make us better,'' Thomas said Thursday. "It's just good when we can sort of get our little revenge on Regina from Game 1.''

The Pats, who had more than six weeks off after being eliminated by Swift Current in the first round of the WHL playoffs, defeated the Bulldogs 3-2 in the round-robin opener last Friday.

Regina goaltender Max Paddock made 32 saves in the win and Nick Henry scored the winner with 32 seconds remaining in the third period.

"I think there was a lot more wrong with our game than not being able to find the back of the net,'' Thomas said. "We didn't play well at all. The way we bounced back the last couple games and got better each game, I think that's important and we'll continue that next game.''

Hamilton captain Justin Lemcke didn't think his team showed its full potential against the Pats.

"We're excited to get a little bit of redemption against them and hopefully move on to the final.''

The Bulldogs rebounded for back-to-back wins over Swift Current and Acadie-Bathurst on Monday and Tuesday.

Bulldogs coach John Gruden said that he prefers playing in the semifinal than waiting until Sunday.

"Knowing our group, if we had to sit around for four days, a lot goes through your mind, a lot of distractions,'' Gruden said.

The Pats, meanwhile, fell to the Titan on Sunday before Wednesday's win over the Broncos. Henry scored a hat trick against Swift Current while captain Sam Steel had five assists. Steel leads the tournament in scoring with 11 points.

Regina coach John Paddock said that he's not expecting anything different from the Bulldogs on Friday.

"They say their game wasn't very good then. I don't think ours was at the peak either after being off for 45 days,'' he said. "But we know they're a good team.''

Both teams said that they expect a fast-paced game with each squad possessing quick offensive options.

Pats forward Jake Leschyshyn said that Regina has to push the pace of the game in order to get the advantage.

"That's one of our best assets, we're a fast playing team,'' Leschyshyn said. "I think when we push the pace, that's when we're playing our best hockey.''

Although the Bulldogs won't get the luxury of another two days off before the final, Lemcke said that they're trying to not let that bother them.

"We're just kind of looking at it like everything happens for a reason,'' Lemcke said.

"We're going to expect a better Regina team than we faced in the first game and we're going to have to be a lot better as well.''

(Canadian Press/Ryan McKenna)

SCRUFFY'S THIS N' THAT

Welcome to Friday.  Here are the usual weekly thoughts running through my muddled mind. As always, they come in no particular order:

- Will the 100th anniversary season of the Regina Pats come to an end with the team winning the Mastercard Memorial Cup?  If Sam Steel has his way, the answer is yes.

I don't know about you, but if you have watched the tournament this week, the Pats captain has been the best player amongst the four teams. He has taken his game to the next level and to some may be NHL-ready. While next year is a long ways away, there are many reasons as to why the Sherwood Park, Alberta native could very well be a member of the Anaheim Ducks next season. You can't tell me that Ducks scouts are grinning from ear-to-ear with the way Steel has played.

- The attendance or lack of attendance chatter at the Memorial Cup has been tiresome and truthfully it has been overblown.  At the end of the day, if you can't come up with the money for one game at the country's marquee sporting event that's up to you.  All I know is those inside the Brandt Centre have had a blast and despite what it has looked like on TV, 90 percent of the tickets have been sold which is a success in my books.

What amazes me is the fact Queen City Sports and Entertainment knew they would take a financial hit and were fine with it.  Co-owner and tournament host committee chair Shaun Semple said even with a sellout in every game they would still lose money.  It makes you wonder then just why they would even consider bringing the event here because many would not have.  They paid a highly inflated price to get the Memorial Cup here because they were not going to be denied in bringing the 100th Cup to end the Pats 100th anniversary season.  They are thanked by people bitching, moaning and complaining.  Its laughable. At the end of the day, you do what you want but organizers aren't bemoaning what has gone on or what's been said.  They know what they were getting into and they are happy with the way everything has gone down.  If it ends Sunday with Sam Steel getting the Memorial Cup, they'll be ecstatic and whether you have been inside the Brandt Centre or not, so will Pats fans.

I completely understand those who say it's tough to bring their kids and yes, there should be a price for a kids ticket. That being said, there aren't many places anymore that sell a kids ticket at a discounted price. Is that right? It isn't if you truly want to grow the game, but they aren't doing it at many other places in many different leagues so it's not a Regina thing.

It has been great seeing people from across the country enjoying the hockey much like people enjoy a Grey Cup.  They aren't complaining about what they've been seeing, what they've been doing or what they've been spending either.    Once again, the moral minority speaks the loudest.

- Sportsnet has done a fantastic job with the tournament.  From Jeff Marek to Rob Faulds to RJ Broadhead and Sam Cosentino, they have put on a first-class show as one would expect.  However, I can't help but wonder if the Canadian Hockey League needs to go to TSN to get their product the exposure it would need.   Those who wonder about the weird start times can look no further than the Toronto Blue Jays.  In fact, there were many across the country who did not see the first period of the Pats-Swift Current game because for whatever reason they didn't have SN360 on their cable package. That's a "you-thing" by the way.

The Jays and the NHL are Sportsnet's meat-and-potatoes.  There is no doubt about that.  However, a game in mid-May involving the Blue Jays should take a back seat to Canada's marquee junior hockey championship.  If you can put other Jays games on SN360 or SN1, you could have put the games they played against Oakland and the Angels this week at home on those channels as well.  With the Jays playing Thursday in the afternoon, it would have meant a 6 o'clock start time for the tie-breaker game had Swift Current beat Regina.  With the Jays game starting at 5 in Philly today, it means the semi-final starts at 8.   That problem wouldn't exist with TSN.

Considering the fact TSN does a great job with the World Juniors, this would be a natural tie-in.  Again, the production of Sportsnet and the job they do is not the issue.  It's the getting the game into your living room that is the problem.  That needs to be fixed because Sportsnet isn't doing the Canadian Hockey League any favours thanks to the Jays.

- The Stanley Cup was in town on Wednesday.  Many had their picture taken with the Cup and why not? Derek Meyers asked me on the Sportscage how old I was when I first saw the Cup. I truthfully don't know the answer to that, but I know I have seen it many times and was in the building when th Oilers won their first Cup in 1984.  Whenever you see it, you get that warm, fuzzy feeling being a Canadian that has grown up on hockey with many of our heroes being guys whose name is on that trophy and who have skated around a rink with it held high.  I don't know if it will ever change for me and many others when you see it with your own two eyes.

- Rider training camp continues in Saskatoon. With the Memorial Cup happening, my focus has been on here and not Saskatoon but that will obviously change soon.  This "he has been impressive" and "he looks great" chatter is nice, but let's see you what you do when you're hitting someone in a different colour uniform and you are actually playing the game and not running a drill.  Until then, I wait to see who survives and who doesn't.   That being said, yes I am excited for the pre-season home game against Calgary on the 8th and you know I'm amped (like many of you) for the home-opener on the 15th against Toronto.

- When the Argos play the Ti-Cats in their first pre-season game, you could see Johnny Manziel against Noah Picton in a quarterback battle featuring a Heisman Trophy winner against a Hec Crighton Trophy winner. I would take Noah in that showdown right now because he knows the Canadian game and Johnny Football is just learning it.   I can't get into the Manziel-hype,  I still think those who believe he will turn the game upside down are wrong.  We will see.  What has been great though is seeing NFL'ers talk about the CFL and how it isn't a Mickey Mouse league.  Cris Carter said Manziel had better be prepared to eat some humble pie because it won't be a breeze.  He is right and he should know seeing he has watched his kid play for many years in the league.

- Washington and Vegas in the Stanley Cup final.  I didn't have that. Did you?  It still is hard to believe that a team that wasn't even in existence a year ago is competing for the Stanley Cup.  Can Ovie get his first or will the Knights complete this Cinderella story.  We will find out.  While I want to see Washington win because I'm not a fan of the Knights and the fact they were handed a competitive team right off the bat, I think they win. It just seems to be destined for that to happen.  If Washington wins, that monkey will be off of Ovechkin's back and he will officially go down as one of the best to play because he will have that Stanley Cup on his resume.  It will also be nice to see Washington win because of the Saskatchewan connections that they have with the likes of Braden Holtby, Barry Trotz and Chandler Stephenson.

- It has been interesting this week to hear the narrative surrounding Steven Stamkos and why he doesn't get more heat for not getting it done.  Stamkos has not gotten it done in Game 7's getting zero points in seven career games.  If that was Ovechkin, he would be roasted for it.   Truthfully, one has to look at Stamkos and ask why he isn't getting it done either.

- As an Oilers fan, you know I like what is being announced today.  The team will announce Saskatchewan boys Glen Gulutzan and Trent Yawney are joining another Saskatchewan boy--Todd McLellan--as assistant coaches with a 3rd assistant coach being Swift Current Broncos head coach and GM Manny Vivieros.   I have heard about Viveiros leaving since just after the WHL final started and was wondering when it would be announced.  Now that the Broncos are out, there is no better time.   That's a huge loss for Swift Current.  What he did in his time with that team is something well-known.  It will be tough to fill his skates. 

- That's all I got.  It's going to be a great weekend of hockey at the Brandt Centre. Hope to see ya down there!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

DAY 5 NOTEBOOK FROM RIDER TRAINING CAMP


NOTEBOOK:

- Thursday's workout at Saskatoon's SMF Field saw a reprieve from the baking summer sun. It was overcast, but still a humid 26 degrees Celsius.

- Head Coach & GM Chris Jones was happy with the energy in the spirited workout, which lasted roughly three hours.

- The Riders continue to mix and match at the corner spots, putting rookie Nick Marshall in the first team secondary opposite Jovon Johnson. The second group featured Chris Lyles and rookie Orlandus Harris on the corners with Tristan MacDonald-Doughlin at safety. In the third grouping, Marc-Olivier Brouillette was at safety.

- The quarterbacks - in order of appearance in the team periods - were Zach Collaros, Brandon Bridge, David Watford, Marquise Williams and B.J. Daniels. The order of tailbacks was: Jerome Messam, Zac Stacy, Marcus Thigpen, Josh MacPherson and Bryce Viera.

- Marquise Williams had a tough day, throwing three interceptions. Brandon Bridge was intercepted by #91 DL Chad Geter, who batted the ball and came down with it.

- Rookie Canadian WR Mitchell Picton had his best day of training camp so far, catching almost everything which came his way. Chris Jones said he was happy with Picton's play on Day 5 but said he's still got some physical maturing to do.

- The Canadian receivers are Rob Bagg, Devon Bailey, Joshua Stanford and Picton. Jones was reluctant to say if they'll be able to keep all of them in some fashion this season.

- Veteran slotback Chad Owens came out briefly in the first series of the team period with a hand injury and was promptly replaced by Caleb Holley. However he was right back out for the third series.

- Owens has evoked memories of Weston Dressler with the way he ferociously has attacked every rep of this training camp. He's been diving, leaping and stretching for balls all over the field. An observer mentioned, "Owens isn't going to last if he keeps up with that effort".  I mentioned it to CO2 and his response was, "That's how I've lasted so long."

- Jones still hasn't announced which quarterbacks will play in Sunday's preseason game at Edmonton (3:00 pm, TSN, 620 CKRM Rider Radio Network). Zach Collaros was asked repeatedly in his media session if he expects - or wants to play - on Sunday but he said, "I trust the coaches with whatever they decide."

- The Riders are back on the turf at SMF Field on Friday at 9:00 am.

RP
@rodpedersen

2018 CFL MEDIA POLL

The Canadian Football League (CFL) revealed the results from the inaugural CFL Media Poll today. CFL experts across the country filled out 20 questions in advance to the 2018 season to make predictions, projections and answer hypotheticals. In total, 74 completed the poll.

Please note, ballots were distributed May 14th and closed May 21st.

Below are results:

Which team will win the West Division? (73 votes)

32% Calgary Stampeders (23 votes)
30% Edmonton Eskimos (22 votes)
29% Saskatchewan Roughriders (21 votes)
7% Winnipeg Blue Bombers (5 votes)
3% BC Lions (2 votes)

Comments:

“Even with all the changes to the roster I can’t go against Bo Levi Mitchell. With his right shoulder healthy there is no reason not to believe he can’t lead the stamps to the best record in the west.”

“Mike Reilly makes the Eskimos a Grey Cup threat every season and expect that to repeat in 2018. Sure, they lose Brandon Zylstra to the NFL, but Derel Walker is ready to go in Edmonton from the start of the season--unlike a year ago. Expect the Eskimos to win the trench battles, they allowed the least amount of sacks in 2017 and the addition of Alex Bazzie instantly helps the defensive line get some pressure. Not to mention, a home Grey Cup is good motivator.”

“The Riders improved on their weaknesses in the offseason and with Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge, should get more consistent play at QB. They could be scary good.”

Which Team will win the East Division? (73)

75% Toronto Argonauts (55 votes)
18% Hamilton Tiger-Cats (13 votes)
7% Ottawa REDBLACKS (5 votes)

Comments:

“By far the most well-coached and disciplined team in the East. Underrated defensive line and an improved secondary. Depth behind the league's most poised quarterback. Wilder adds a new dimension to a pass-happy Trestman system, allowing for one of the most versatile attacks in the league.”

“The Tiger-Cats were a different team when they were being coached by June Jones last year, and it's scary to think about what they might be able to do when Jones can work with his team for a full training camp. The pieces are all there and it's a safe bet that the Ticats will find a way to put them all together.”

“Trevor Harris isn't talked about enough as a top end quarterback, their receiving group is elite, and they've made some significant defensive additions over the winter. Ottawa looks like a real force in 2018.”

Which team will win the 106th Grey Cup presented by Shaw in Edmonton? (73)

23% Edmonton Eskimos (17 votes)
22% Calgary Stampeders (16 votes)
22% Saskatchewan Roughriders (16 votes)
15% Toronto Argonauts (11 votes)
12% Winnipeg Blue Bombers (9 votes)
3% BC Lions (2 votes)
1% Hamilton Tiger-Cats (1 vote)
1% Montreal Alouettes (1 vote)

Comments:

“The story is getting set up to right itself, the hometown Eskimos being crowned Champions in the city of Edmonton. Mike Reilly is the best quarterback in the league, Derel Walker is still a premier wideout and Edmonton's defense gets back the reinforcements that went down with injury last season.”

“Saskatchewan will finish first in the division but enter way too confident and inexperienced. The veteran Stampeders will 'upset' them in the Western Final and finally finish the deal with a younger, more motivated group.”

“The Stampeders will be playing with an edge and something to prove after back-to-back upsets. The defence is younger but will still be good, while I expect Bo Levi Mitchell to have his best statistical season of his career. With a healthy shoulder and those talented young receivers he should threaten for 6,000 yards.”

Who will win the Most Outstanding Player in 2018? (74)

35% Mike Reilly (26 votes)
19% Bo Levi Mitchell (14 votes)
19% James Wilder Jr. (14 votes)
5% Zach Collaros (4 votes)

Comments:

“Reilly has the offense around him to get him to the leagues first repeat MOP winner since Anthony Calvillo did it almost a decade ago.”

“Bo Levi Mitchell If his shoulder is 100% he takes home the honours. At just 28 he owns the best winning percentage of any quarterback in CFL history. Already owns a ring and was so close to two more.”

“James Wilder Jr. becomes the first RB to win MOP since 1998. He's got a real shot at being the first 1,000-1,000-yard back. Special blend of size and speed, he's in the middle of his prime and he couldn't ask for a better situation in Marc Trestman's offence.”

Which player is most likely to have a breakout season in 2017-18? (72)

10% Zach Collaros (7 votes)
10% Bryant Mitchell (7 votes)
6% Terry Williams (4 votes)
4% Nic Demski (3 votes)
4% Alex Green (3 votes)
4% Kamar Jorden (3 votes)
4% James Wilder Jr. (3 votes)

*25 other players received two votes or fewer

Comments:

“Zach Collaros New team, new offence, skilled receivers, Healthy. Motivated to get back to the level he was at in 2015 before he tore his ACL.”

“Bryant Mitchell, Eskimos. Great numbers, reliable hands in limited targets last season. With the departures of Zylstra and Bowman, Eskimos will need him.”

“Not that he didn’t last season, but I believe James Wilder Jr will continue to break out this year. Now that the contract situation has been resolved look for him to build on his incredible 2017 campaign where he averaged 7.1 yards per carry!”

Which team made the best overall moves this offseason? (73)

38% Saskatchewan Roughriders (28 votes)
19% Montreal Alouettes (14 votes)
11% Toronto Argonauts (8 votes)
11% BC Lions (8 votes)
10% Winnipeg Blue Bombers (7 votes)
8% Hamilton Tiger-Cats (6 votes)
1% Ottawa REDBLACKS (1 vote)
1% Edmonton Eskimos (1 vote)

Comments:

“The Riders got a number one QB, 2 quality pass rushers, and a number one running back. They got people with winning experience who can make a contribution right away.”

“Ed Hervey made some making huge/necessary improvements to BCs offensive and defensive lines!”

“The Alouettes had to get better in the offseason. The moves did just that.”

Which one player acquisition will make the biggest impact? (71)

61% Zach Collaros to SSK (43 votes)
10% Adarius Bowman to WPG (7 votes)
10% James Franklin to TOR (7 votes)

Comments:

“It's a QB league and with Roosevelt, Carter, Bagg, and Grant, he'll have a shot to have an unreal season in the air.”

“The impact of Franklin's move to Toronto might not truly be felt until 2019, but he's got the makings of an elite QB. If anything happens to Ricky Ray, the Argos shouldn't miss a beat when Franklin's behind centre. That's invaluable.“

“With Matt Nichols at QB, Bowman will have a bona fide passing threat feeding him the ball.”

Who will lead the league in receiving yards? (72)

46% Derel Walker (33 votes)
11% Duron Carter (8 votes)
11% S.J. Green (8 votes)
10% Greg Ellingson (7 votes)

Comments:

“The last time Derel Walker played an 18-game season he had 1,589 yards. He's averaged 6.5 receptions per game throughout his career, and now he's doing the heavy-lifting for Mike Reilly following the departure of Adarius Bowman and Brandon Zylstra. Walker runs away with this one.”

“Did you see his connection with Ricky Ray after one year? With another year to get on the same page their compatibility means productivity for the Argo passing game.”

“To quote Duron’s twitter account “this is my first professional season with the same OC as last year... y’all in trouble”

Who will lead the league in rushing yards? (73)

51% James Wilder Jr. (37 votes)
23% Andrew Harris (17 votes)
10% William Powell (7 votes)

Comments:

“James Wilder Jr. is going to want to prove his rookie year was no fluke, whether he hits 1000 yards shouldn't be a question but beyond that is anyone’s guess.”

“Maybe Adarius Bowman's presence in Winnipeg's offence makes Harris less of a target and a more frequent rusher.”

“Harris and Wilder's reception totals will increase this year, Powell will play the full season and see significantly more carries than his two main competitors.”

If you were starting a franchise today and could sign any player in the CFL, who would your first selection be and why? (73)

56% Mike Reilly (41 votes)
30% Bo Levi Mitchell (22 votes)
4% Alex Singleton (3 votes)

Comments:

“Mike Reilly. He's a dual-threat quarterback, he knows how to run an offence efficiently, and how to carry himself as a pro, proving times and times again that he's always willing to put the team first. I think he's great to build a team around, not just on offence.”

 “Bo Levi Mitchell, QB, Calgary Stampeders. He might not always lead the league in every QB category, but he's always right near the top. More importantly, though, he wins and does so consistently.”

“Alex Singleton Has become the premier linebacker in the CFL, Elimimian is close but older. Singleton just loves to play the game, and does it at a high level, week in, week out.”

Who will win Most Outstanding Canadian? (73)

40% Andrew Harris (29 votes)
37% Alex Singleton (27 votes)
15% Brad Sinopoli (11 votes)

Comments:

“The Harris /Wilder Jr. yardage battle will get a ton of coverage this season, so their names will be in the news all season. Harris will benefit from that more than any other candidate. He'll have an outstanding season.”

“Singleton nearly doubled his tackles from his rookie season in his sophomore year last season. One year older, one year stronger Singleton will be the first defensive player to win the award this decade.”

“REDBLACKS should have a bounceback season, Brad Sinopoli has had three straight 1000 yard seasons, as defences figure out ways to slow down Greg Ellingson, holes will open for the Canadian.”

Who will win Most Outstanding Defensive Player? (71)

46% Alex Singleton (33 votes)
21% Willie Jefferson (15 votes)
17% Solomon Elimimian (12 votes)

Comments:

“Singleton is the best defensive player in the game right now, until he is proven not to be can't doubt he will be as dominant if not more so next season.”

“With Charleston Hughes taking some attention on the other side, I think we could see Jefferson get close to 20 sacks after leading the league in QB pressure last year.”

“Realistically, this is going to be between Alex Singleton and Solomon Elimimian . Both guys are incredible and deserving winners. Elimimian has been so good for so long, though, that it's hard to bet against him.”

Who will be the comeback player of the year in 2018? (71)

48% Zach Collaros (34 votes)
18% JC Sherritt (13 votes)
15% Jonathon Jennings (11 votes)
14% Adarius Bowman (10 votes)

Comments:

“Collaros could benefit greatly from a fresh start and with the complement of players assembled around him he could get back into the MOP discussion.”

“It's gotta be Sherritt . The only thing that kept him from dominating -- again -- last year was injury. If he's fully recovered, the guy is as terrifying as any linebacker in the league.”

“A better offensive line will help Jennings regain his from of two years ago. Still young young for growth, now with the experience of nearly everything the game has to offer. Will be motivated to prove doubters wrong.”

Which 2017 CFL Draft pick will have the most impact this season? (71)

27% Tunde Adeleke, CGY (19 votes)
25% Kawku Boateng, EDM (18 votes)
13% Nate Behar, EDM (9 votes)

Comments:

“The Stampeders got the steal of the draft last year when they chose Tunde Adeleke out of Carleton. Adeleke has already turned heads with his punt-returning, but he's primed to take over the Stamps' starting safety spot this season now that Josh Bell has moved on to coaching. He's the one to watch.”

“Kwaku Boateng is a pure pass rusher who will get a chance to pin his ears back and get after the quarterback, especially with some highly-talented defensive linemen around him. Adeleke will have a big year, but Boateng notches double-digit sacks.”

“Behar has all the makings to be a star in the CFL. He will get plenty of opportunity to show it this year.”

Which non-playoff team a season ago will have the most wins in 2018? (73)

70% Hamilton Tiger-Cats (51 votes)
26% BC Lions (19 votes)
4% Montreal Alouettes (3 votes)

Comments:

“Hamilton went 6-4 under June Jones last year and it could've been better if not for some late game mistakes. Jeremiah Masoli and Johnny Manziel are ready to operate a new style of offence, that makes its full season debut in 2018.”

“Lions were not as bad as their record last year. Lost a lot of close games. Team has improved in key areas and has the talent. Talent that will also be motivated to play for a focused Buono in his final season.”

“I like what the Als have done, and they should at least double their win total from 2017.”

Who is the most underrated player in the CFL? (72)

4% Cleyon Laing (3 votes)
4% Jeremiah Masoli (3 votes)
4% Tyrell Sutton (3 votes)
3% Brandon Banks (2 votes)
3% Bryan Burnham (2 votes)
3% Alan-Michael Cash (2 votes)
3% BJ Cunningham (2 votes)
3% Armanti Edwards (2 votes)
3% Kevin Glenn (2 votes)
3% Micah Johnson (2 votes)
3% Maurice Leggett (2 votes)
3% Antoine Pruneau (2 votes)

Comments:

“Cleyon Laing. He's in a league with Ted Laurent of the best interior D-linemen in the CFL. He was an enormous part of the Argos' defensive success last year.”

“Antoine Pruneau. He's tough, reliable, a starter since he came into the league. He made a very average defence look better last year with Ottawa. He will have more help this year and he should be able to shine even more.”

“Bryan Burnham , doesn't rack up the TD's but makes the key catches game in and game out that lead to TD's. Tough as nails, no fear receiver.”

Which CFL Team has the biggest home-field advantage? (72)

67% Saskatchewan Roughriders (48 votes)
17% Calgary Stampeders (17 votes)
11% Winnipeg Blue Bombers (8 votes)

Comments:

“It's a different world in Regina. It's loud, packed, and hostile, exactly what a home field is supposed to be.”

“To me, Winnipeg has always had the loudest fans. Doesn't matter which stadium or how good or bad the team has been, they make it tough on the visiting team.”

“Teams just don't go into McMahon Stadium and win. Loud fans, hostile environment, difficult opponent. Almost an automatic loss for the visitors.”

Which current Head Coach would you want coaching your team? (74)

65% Marc Trestman (48 votes)
15% Dave Dickenson (11 votes)
8% Wally Buono (6 votes)

Comments:

“Trestman 's football IQ is second to none. Also his calm demeanor filters through the team, just look at the East final versus the Riders. There was no panic and the team did what they had to do.”

“The Stamps have gone to two Grey Cups in two years under Dickenson, and even if they've lost both championship games that's still awfully impressive.”

“Wally Buono. He's the godfather of CFL coaches, enough said.”

Which up and coming coach (current Coordinator or positional coach) would you hire as a first-time Head Coach? (70)

46% Orlando Steinhauer (32 votes)
16% DeVone Claybrooks (11 votes)
10% Mark Washington (7 votes)

Comments:

“Orlando Steinauer ... Probably was ready for it before he left for Fresno State, but a year working under June Jones and Jerry Glanville will make him even more ready to take on HC role.”

“He's already been rumoured to have turned down a few offers, but he's run the best defence in the league for the last two years in Calgary. There's lots of good options, but this one's not even close. It's Claybrooks.”

“Mark Washington. Has done his time and learned from one of the best.”

Will there be a crossover this season? (74)

66% Yes (49 votes)
34% No (25 votes)

SASKATOON, ROCHESTER MAYORS BET ON CHAMPION'S CUP

Saskatoon, SK - The stakes just got higher for the NLL Finals beginning this Saturday, May 26th at SaskTel Centre. As the Saskatchewan Rush face-off against the Rochester Knighthawks on the floor, there will be another battle off the floor.

Mayor Charlie Clark of Saskatoon and Mayor Lovely A. Warren of Rochester have announced a friendly wager on the series. The losing team’s Mayor must wear the jersey of the winning team to a City Council meeting.

The Rush are meeting the Knighthawks in the NLL Finals for the second time in franchise history. After a bitter defeat last season, Saskatchewan will be battling for a third league title.

(SaskRush.com)

10 THURSDAY THINGS

David Watford #9, and Marquie Williams #12
1 - Others may differ, but I feel the most-intriguing battle at 2018 Roughriders Training Camp here in Saskatoon is for the #3 quarterback spot. Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge are performing well enough, but they have their spots sewn up. It's the competition for their top back-up spot between David Watford and Marquise Williams which has been a thrill-a-minute.

2 - "Well they're both having good camps," agreed Head Coach & GM Chris Jones. "They've both done some very good things. As you saw on that second-last drive, Marquise took us down the field and scored a TD. And B.J. Daniels has had a good camp as well. We've got a good problem."

3 - Sunday's game at Edmonton (3:00 pm, TSN, CKRM Rider Network) will go the furthest to telling the tale at the #3 QB position. Interestingly, the Riders will fly into Edmonton Sunday morning and return to Saskatoon immediately after Sunday's game. Not that it matters, but I don't ever recall the Riders going into a road city on the day of a game. However the City of Champions is a scant 45 minutes away.

Duron on D
4 - Another takeaway from Wednesday is that Chris Jones cautioned the media and fans not to take too much away from the position groupings we see on a daily basis. For instance, KR Christion Jones has spent the past 2 days at WR. Jones says he likely won't see any action there this season. QB Brandon Bridge spent the majority of his time on Day 4 with the 1st team offense. Duron Carter spent Day 4 of camp entirely on defense, wearing an unmarked green jersey.

5 - What this means is we shouldn't try to read-between-the-lines regarding "Who's ahead of whom". Jones is trying to examine his players' versatility, and who fits best where. From our perspective, we're just trying to report on who's lining up where - and with whom - and who's making plays. Other than that, Sunday's game will be the determining factor. I love the old scouting phrase, "The decisions will make themselves".

6 - To answer your favourite question: Who looks good? Devon Bailey has been the top Canadian receiver since Jake Harty went down on Sunday. Based on groupings and depth, the Rider CDN receivers are Bagg, Bailey, Joshua Stanford and Mitchell Picton. At OLB, Sam Hurl has seen far more action with the 1s than Cameron Judge. Rookie DB #29 Orlandus Harris has been the top rookie standout at that position, with a handful of interceptions.

#20 Zac Stacy
7 - More: Centre Dan Clark of Regina is having the best camp of his career. ... The sudden retirement of C Jeremy Zver seemed to catch the Riders off-guard, and put them in a pinch. Sophomore OL Dariusz Bladek has struggled with the 2nd team snaps, so hopefully he gets a handle on it. ... At RB, it's Jerome Messam, Zac Stacy and Marcus Thigpen. That could change once "Thiggy" serves his 2-game suspension for a positive banned substance test.

8 - Even More: Canadian Mike Edem is your starting safety, followed closely by Marc-Olivier Brouillette. Edem's been very good, and I've really liked what "Marc-O" has brought. .. It still seems like Chris Lyles will replace Kacey Rodgers at CB, even though they're rotating a lot of bodies through there ...K Brett Lauther has handled all of the FGs with veteran Tyler Crapigna still nursing a mild injury which has lingered from last year. I'm told Lauther has been decent, but it's still Tyler's job. ... Meanwhile veteran LB Alexandre Gagne has done the long-snapping in the absence of veteran Jorgen Hus.

Keith Hershmiller Photography
9 - The Regina Pats worked their tails off in a 6-5 round robin victory over Swift Current on Wednesday, eliminating the Broncos and punching their ticket to Friday's semifinal versus the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Pats finally played like their life depended on it (similar to Friday's win over Hamilton) and they were rewarded. Now they have a chance to win their 4th Memorial Cup in franchise history with two more wins. ... For those upset that the host team is in contention on playoff weekend, don't go away mad. Just go away! (That’s not directed at SC. It’s for those still belly-aching about the tournament format)

10 - The Stanley Cup Finals match-up is salacious: The wily, beleagured old vet Alex Ovechkin looking for his first Stanley Cup win versus the upstart, expansion Vegas Golden Knights. Who are you cheering for? And who do you think will win? Sometimes those are two separate things. NO ONE ALIVE predicted this would be the Finals pairing when the playoffs began and this is why this is the best time of the year.

Y'er welcome,
RP
@rodpedersen
1881 Scarth St. Regina, 306-789-0011

OH HENRY! PATS ADVANCE TO MEMORIAL CUP SEMIS

Keith Hershmiller Photography
REGINA - The Regina Pats had to wait over six weeks for the Memorial Cup to arrive after a first round exit at the hands of the Swift Current Broncos in the Western Hockey League playoffs.

Regina exacted revenge on the Broncos on Wednesday night by defeating them 6-5 in the round-robin finale to eliminate Swift Current from the Canadian major junior championship.

"Our (45) days off, we were hoping these guys would win (the league title),'' Pats forward Matt Bradley said. "We're happy hard work and preparation have paid off.''

Nick Henry scored a hat trick for Regina, which will now face the Ontario Hockey League's Hamilton Bulldogs in Friday's semifinal.

The Pats' win means the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Acadie-Bathurst Titan advanced directly to Sunday's championship game.

Regina coach John Paddock said that losing last year's WHL final along with the first round exit has been smoldering in his players.

"We were told we were the best team, but sometimes the best teams don't win and we were told that after the series and we were told that this year,'' he said.

"So I think they had something to prove for over a year.''

Cameron Hebig, Bryce Platt and Libor Hajek also scored for the Pats (2-1), who got five assists from captain Sam Steel. Josh Mahura tacked on two helpers and Max Paddock made 26 saves in net.

Glenn Gawdin struck twice with Beck Malenstyn, Aleksi Heponiemi and Giorgio Estephan rounding out the attack for Swift Current (0-3).

Broncos goaltender Stuart Skinner, who turned away 22-of-28 shots, said that losing to the Pats once again in his junior career is difficult.

"I only beat them once and that was this year in the (playoff) series,'' Skinner said. "It's tough to lose against them three times for me. I don't like them very much.''

Swift Current was without star forward Tyler Steenbergen for a second-straight game after he we was injured in the Broncos' opener against Acadie-Bathurst.

Head coach Manny Viveiros said that Steenbergen suffered a concussion while Gawdin was playing with a separated shoulder.

The game was Swift Current's 102nd of the season including regular season, playoffs and the Memorial Cup. Viveiros said that fatigue started to set in.

"At the of the day I really thought we were running out of fumes,'' he said.

A five-goal second period broke the game open thanks in large part to Steel's passing brilliance.

Hebig received a pass from Steel at the side of the net and tapped it in at 10:29 with the man advantage. After a Gawdin goal, Regina regained its two-goal advantage while shorthanded late in the second with Henry finishing off a 2-on-1 with Steel.

Henry completed the hat trick 57 seconds after Malenstyn's goal when Steel found him again off an odd-man rush. Steel leads the tournament with 11 points.

"It's just everyday things for those guys,'' Mahura said of Henry and Steel. "Obviously you never expect that out of players, but I mean it's no surprise for us in the room to see them play like that in a big game.''

The Broncos made it close late with third period goals from Heponiemi, Estephan and Gawdin's second of the game.

But a too-many men penalty with 2:12 remaining squashed any chance of a comeback.

And now, a fifth Memorial Cup title in franchise history is within reach for the Pats.

"It's a good feeling right now,'' Regina forward Jake Leschyshyn said. "I think we worked so hard to get to that point.

"We have two more games ahead of us. That's what we're focusing on now. It's good fun right now, though.''

(Canadian Press)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

CFL GOVERNORS APPROVE RULE CHANGES

TORONTO - CFL coaches won't be allowed to challenge illegal contact calls this season.

The CFL eliminated illegal contact as a challengeable call Wednesday, and the change will be in place when the regular season kicks off next month.

The rule change was one of many approved by the CFL's board of governors and first proposed by the league's rules committee earlier this year.

"The governors have again emphasized the importance of player safety to our league, as well as the need to protect game flow on behalf of our fans,'' Darren Hackwood, the CFL's senior director of officiating, said in a statement.

Other rule changes adopted by the league include:

- A replay official will automatically review "potential touchdowns,'' plays marked down short of the line when it seems obvious a TD has been scored.

- A player can't deliver a forcible block on an opponent while moving back towards his own goal line. This is often referred to as a "blindside'' block.

- Low blocks happening outside of the "tackle box'' - the area extending from tight end to tight end and the quarterback or kicker to two yards beyond the line of scrimmage - are not allowed.

- The definition of spearing is extended to include any situation where a player delivers a blow with his helmet as the initial or primary point of contact. This doesn't apply to a low-running ball carrier.

- A loophole in the ``sleeper'' play rule is closed by making it illegal for a player entering a game and remaining outside the numbers to receive the ball in any manner, including a kick or lateral.

- A quarterback making a legal pass behind the line of scrimmage is now defined as the passer having at least one of his feet on or behind the line of scrimmage instead of requiring the release point of the ball being behind the line of scrimmage.

- The so-called ``force-out rule'' is no longer. A receiver catching a ball must have at least one foot in bounds regardless of whether he was contacted in mid-air.

- The penalty for "pyramiding'' - the use of one player to elevate another to block a kick - is increased to 10 yards from five yards.

- Allowing the replay official to fix the game clock after a challenge to what the clock should read as a result of the challenge.

(Canadian Press)

10 THINGS FOR FAMOSO PIZZERIA

1- ROUND 8: The Regina Pats take on the Swift Current Broncos tonight at the Memorial Cup in Regina and although it's not for all the marbles, it's close. A Pats win eliminates Swift Current from contention for playoff weekend. If the Broncos win, my mind can't comprehend the logjam of scenarios for Friday's semifinals. So it's simple ... the Pats MUST win tonight (8:00 pm, Sportsnet/620 CKRM).

2 - MASSIVE GAME: Tonight's game is in the Top 5 games ever played in the Brandt Centre/Agridome by the Queen City Kids. (Guess the other Top 4: they include the 1980 Memorial Cup, 1984 WHL Final, 2001 Memorial Cup and 2017 WHL Final). How lucky am I to have been at them all? Until tonight.

3 - GET YOUR TICKETS: It's deflating that the #1 topic at this year's Memorial Cup is the empty seats at the games, rather than the quality and parity of play. I still don't have a clear opinion on the matter because I'd pay anything to watch the Pats in the Memorial Cup. ANYTHING. However it's long been established that I'm far from normal.


Famoso 1881 Scarth St. Regina
4 - GOUGING: Junior hockey brass feel this year's tournament was over-priced and now everyone's pointing the finger of blame. Upon further review, it seems $50 should be the top-end cost for a junior hockey ticket. These are the same fans who'd pay ANYTHING to watch the Riders in the Grey Cup. It's a head-scratcher.

5 - THE RIDERS: There's no place I'd rather be than in Saskatoon, SK, covering my 20th Training Camp for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Canada's Team looks mean, lean and hungry. If anything, they're a tad cocky and Rider boss Chris Jones has mentioned he needs more out of his vets. To me, that'll be his biggest task this year: keeping the players focused and their eyes on the prize. They're good and they know it. Fortunately Chris Jones is the perfect man to handle them because he's been through this before.

6 - THE RING'S THE THING: It shouldn't be tough keeping Jerome Messam focused. On Tuesday the Canadian RB discussed the agony of losing the last two Grey Cup games with the Calgary Stampeders. At 33 years of age, he still hasn't won a CFL championship. I asked him on a scale of 1-10, how hungry is he to win it all this year? He yelled, "FIFTY!"

7 - KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES: A quote from Chris Jones on Tuesday seems to have caught fire. I believe it had to do with the players' casual approach to training camp this year. “We’re here to win a ring," Jones steamed to reporters. "We’re not here just to be a good football team and collect paycheques. We’re here to try to win a Grey Cup.” That should give the Rider Nation tingles.

8 - JOHNNY FOOTBALL: Like most everyone else, I'm stoked to have John Manziel in the CFL with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and am pulling for him. Everybody loves a comeback. Now plenty of questions open up like: How long will he stay? When will he start? The Ticats visit Saskatchewan in Week 4 on July 5. If he's changed, he'll still be on the team by then. If he hasn't changed, he won't be.

9 - CONFERENCE FINALS: I'm starting to have some time for anyone who says the Vegas Golden Knights winning the Stanley Cup in Year 1 makes the NHL look bad. What the expansion team is doing is sheer insanity. Their systematic dismantling of the Winnipeg Jets in the Western Final was shocking. Meanwhile seeing the long faces and utter shock on the faces of the Jets and their fans doesn't provide any amusement for their prairie cousins next door in Saskatchewan. That loss ripped Winnipeg's heart out, and I truly emphatize with them.

10 - SOCIAL MEDIA: Thanks to everyone who showed up to the 3rd Annual Pedersen Media Inc. Social Media Training Seminar Tuesday evening at Saskatoon's Parkridge Centre! We filled the room and had a wide range of attendees from the industries of Sports, Construction, Ag, Health Care, Beauty and Service Clubs. Stay tuned for details on our next one, or how we can provide specialized training for your business, organization, league, charity, school, etc.


Y'er welcome,
RP

@rodpedersen

DAY 3 TRAINING CAMP NOTES


Some Notes From Day 3 of Rider Training Camp

- Tuesday's Day 3 of 2018 Saskatchewan Roughriders Training Camp moved over to SMF Field, home of the Saskatoon Hilltops. Again, sunny skies and 26 degrees Celsius greeted Canada's Team.

- Just prior to the workout the Roughriders announced they've released DT Nick James and CB John Ojo. Head Coach & GM Chris Jones said they’re “physically not ready” for training camp.

- The Riders also announced the retirement of centre Jeremy Zver, a Regina Rams product. Zver's agent told me the player has decided to move on from football. Jones said Zver was having an “okay camp, but not a great camp".

- The team also activated veteran Canadian DT Eddie Steele. He promptly lined up with the 1s.

- The star of the day was quarterback David Watford, who unfurled a barrage of accurate, deep passes.

- It was another day in pads, and two former Calgary teammates hooked up for the most thunderous collision of camp so far. Defensive lineman Charleston Hughes demolished tailback Jerome Messam on a run play.

"See the thing is, Charleston, man, I thought we were better than that!" Messam huffed after the practice. "I'm older, trying to save my legs, so I'm not trying to burst 30 yards. I pulled up a little bit and he gave me a good pop. I owe him one."

- Duron Carter took plenty of reps at corner, lining up primarily against Caleb Holley and Rob Bagg. He wasn't beaten much, if at all.

- The Riders visit the Edmonton Eskimos Sunday at 5:00 pm (TSN, 620 CKRM Rider Radio Network) and Jones said he'll announce his quarterback rotation for the game later in the week. He said to expect a lot of #3, #4 and #5 at that position, meaning we won't see much of Zach Collaros or Brandon Bridge (if at all).

RP
@rodpedersen

PATS FACE BRONCOS WEDNESDAY IN PIVOTAL MEMORIAL CUP GAME

Keith Hershmiller Photography
REGINA - Just hours after enduring a 54-save losing effort at the Memorial Cup, Swift Current Broncos goaltender Stuart Skinner told his coach that was looking for more punishment.

"He said, 'Manny, can we go paintballing?''' Broncos head coach Manny Veveiros said Tuesday afternoon. "I said, 'Stu, you got hit enough last night, we don't need you getting hit any more here.' We're going to keep him nice and calm and quiet.''

Facing elimination from the biggest tournament in major junior hockey, the Broncos (0-2) will need Skinner at his best Wednesday night when they take on Western Hockey League rival Regina (1-1).

A win by the hosts would set Regina up for a semifinal matchup against either the Acadie-Bathurst Titan or the Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday.

Swift Current is took Tuesday off to relax and do team building after a 2-1 loss to Hamilton on Monday.

Viveiros said that he expects his team to play with desperation when they take on the Pats.

"We have to,'' he said. "We know if we don't, if we don't win tomorrow, we're going home. And we don't want to.''

The Broncos forced Regina to sit out for over six weeks after eliminating the Pats in seven games during the first round of the WHL playoffs.

Regina is trying to emulate the OHL's Windsor Spitfires, who hosted the 2017 tournament and ultimately went on to win the Canadian major junior championship.

The playoff loss has stung for the Pats, and forward Jake Leschyshyn said that eliminating Swift Current is extra incentive for Wednesday's game.

"It's something that we're going to be thinking about and it's going to drive us to win that game,'' Leschyshyn said.

Regina started the tournament strong by beating Hamilton with a late winner by Nick Henry. They looked off in their next game on Sunday against the Titan and ended up losing 8-6 despite a third period comeback that saw them score four times.

Pats coach John Paddock pulled nephew Max Paddock at end of the second against Acadie-Bathurst after he stopped 26-of-32 shots. Ryan Kubic, who played in the first round series against the Broncos when Paddock was injured, came on in relief and made three saves.

Regina's coach said that he has given a lot of thought as to who he'll start against Swift Current, but wasn't prepared to say who will get the nod.

The Broncos haven't looked like themselves through their first two games in the Memorial Cup. They allowed two short-handed goals in their opener against Acadie-Bathurst before eventually falling in overtime and were heavily outshot against Hamilton.

Facing an opponent who could end their season is nothing new this spring for Swift Current, which set the WHL record for playoff games played with 26.

The Broncos' first two playoff series against Regina and Moose Jaw both went seven games while their third and fourth round matchups went six games apiece.

"We have to go after them (Regina) like we did in the playoffs,'' Swift Current captain Glenn Gawdin said. "We know what it takes to beat them and we've got to be ready to play.''

The Broncos have also been playing without key forward Tyler Steenbergen after he we was injured in the Broncos' opener against Acadie-Bathurst. Steenbergen went awkwardly into the boards on a hit from Titan captain Jeffrey Truchon-Viel in the second period and hasn't played since.

Viveiros said Tuesday that Steenbergen would once again be a game-time decision.

John Paddock, meanwhile, downplayed the potential of eliminating Swift Current at Brandt Centre, saying that he wants to play with home ice in the semifinal.

And he doesn't expect it to be a high scoring game against the Broncos, either.

"It's going to be a grind it out game I believe,'' he said.

(Canadian Press)