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home : sports : sports May 25, 2016

6/25/2013 12:30:00 PM
Monday roundup: Blackhawks score tying, winning goals in 17-second span, win Stanley Cup; UCLA beats Mississippi State in series opener; Mayweather, Alvarez begin promo tour

NHL

Blackhawks 3, Bruins 2 (Blackhawks win series 4-2)

BOSTON (AP) - Two hours after clinching the Stanley Cup title, a handful of Chicago Blackhawks wandered back out onto the TD Garden ice in their street clothes.

Two of them walked gingerly over to the corner and recreated the goals that brought the NHL season to a stunning conclusion. A few took swigs from Champagne bottles. Some posed for pictures. Others took them.

The Blackhawks celebrated their second Stanley Cup championship in four seasons on Monday night, coming from behind when Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored 17 seconds apart in the final 1:16 to beat the Boston Bruins 3-2 and take the best-of-seven series in six games.

"This goal, the ending - nobody saw it coming," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "You just hope. And we tied it up and the other one was icing on the cake. But nobody foresaw either one coming.

"That series and the pace that we just saw for six straight games was an amazing series," he said. "Commend both teams for leaving it out there."

Seventy-six seconds away from defeat and a trip home for a decisive seventh game, Bickell tied and, while the Bruins were settling in for another overtime in a series that has already had its share, Bolland scored to give Chicago the lead.

The back-to-back scores in about the time it takes for one good rush down the ice turned a near-certain loss into a championship clincher, stunning Boston's players and their fans, and starting the celebration on the Blackhawks' bench with 59 seconds to play.

"We thought we were going home for Game 7. You still think you're going to overtime and you're going to try to win it there. Then Bolly scores a huge goal 17 seconds later," said Chicago forward Patrick Kane, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason's most valuable player. "It feels like the last 58 seconds were an eternity."

The team that set an NHL record with a 24-game unbeaten streak to start the lockout-shortened season won three straight after falling behind 2-1 in the finals, rallying from a deficit in the series and in its finale. Corey Crawford made 23 saves, and Jonathan Toews returned from injury to add a goal and an assist in the first finals between Original Six teams since 1979.

"I still can't believe that finish. Oh, my God, we never quit," Crawford said. "I never lost confidence. No one in our room ever did."

Trailing 2-1 with Crawford sent off for an extra skater, the Blackhawks converted when Toews fed it in front and Bickell scored from the edge of the crease to tie the score.

Perhaps the Bruins expected it to go to overtime, as three of the first four games in the series did. They seemed to be caught off-guard on the ensuing faceoff.

Chicago skated into the zone and Johnny Oduya sent a shot on net that deflected off Michael Frolik and the post before landing right in front of Bolland.

He chipped it in, and the Blackhawks knew it was over.

The Chicago players who'd been on the ice gathered in the corner, while those on the bench began jumping up and down. It was only a minute later, with Boston's Tuukka Rask off for an extra man, that the Blackhawks withstood the final push and swarmed over the boards, throwing their sticks and gloves across the ice.

"I don't think there's any question, even though - let's face it - today was a little bit of luck, we're still the best team in the league," Oduya said. "We proved that during the year, and we proved that during the playoffs. Lot of things have to break right for you, they did tonight, but sometimes the great teams make their own breaks."

The Bruins got 28 saves from Rask, who was hoping to contribute to an NHL title after serving as Tim Thomas' backup when Boston won it all two years ago.

"It's obviously shocking when you think you have everything under control," Rask said quietly, standing at his locker with a blue baseball cap on backward and a towel draped over his shoulders.

The sold-out TD Garden was chanting "We want the Cup!" after Milan Lucic's goal put the Bruins up 2-1 with eight minutes left, but it fell silent when Boston coughed up the lead. The team came out to salute its fans as they streamed out of the building for the last time, from the air conditioning into the summer air.

"Probably toughest for sure, when you know you're a little bit over a minute left and you feel that you've got a chance to get to a Game 7," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "And then those two goals go in quickly."

The arena was almost empty - except for a few hundred fans in red Blackhawks sweaters who filtered down to the front rows - when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman handed the 35-pound Cup to Toews, who left Game 5 with an undisclosed injury and wasn't confirmed for the lineup until the morning skate.

The Chicago captain skated with the Cup right over the crease in which the Blackhawks mounted the comeback and in front of the fans in Blackhawks sweaters who lined up along the front row behind the net. Toews banged on the glass while the remaining Bruins fans headed up the runways.

He then continued the tradition of handing it from player to player before the team settled to the side of the faceoff circle for a picture with the trophy they will possess for the next 12 months.

Just like in 2010, they won it in a Game 6 on the road.

"In 2010, we didn't really know what we were doing. We just ... we played great hockey and we were kind of oblivious to how good we were playing," said Toews, who scored his third goal of the playoffs to tie it 1-1 in the second period, then fed Bickell for the score that tied it with 76 seconds to play.

"This time around, we know definitely how much work it takes and how much sacrifice it takes to get back here and this is an unbelievable group," Toews said. "We've been through a lot together this year and this is a sweet way to finish it off."

The Blackhawks opened the season on a 21-0-3 streak and coasted to the Presidents' Trophy that goes to the team with the best regular-season record. But regular-season excellence has not translated into playoff success: Chicago is the first team with the best record to win the Cup since the 2008 Detroit Red Wings.

The Blackhawks went through Minnesota in five games and Detroit in seven, rallying in the Western Conference semifinals from a 3-1 deficit and winning Game 7 in overtime. They got through the defending NHL champion Los Angeles Kings in five games to return to the Cup finals, where Boston was waiting.

Chicago won the first game at home in three overtimes but dropped Game 2 - another overtime - and fell behind 2-1 in the series when it returned to Boston.

After that, it was all Blackhawks.

The tightly contested finals - with three games going a total of five overtimes - may help fans forget the lockout that shortened the season to 48 games and pushed back the opener to Jan. 19. That left the teams still playing ice hockey on a 95-degree day in Boston on June 24, matching the latest date in NHL history.

A Game 7 would have excited most hockey fans even more, and the series seemed to be heading there for the sixth time in 10 years before Bickell and Bolland turned it around.

"Dave Bolland, what else can you say about that guy?" Kane said. "He just shows up in big playoff games."

COLLEGE WORLD SERIES

UCLA 3, Mississippi State 1 (UCLA leads 1-0)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - UCLA followed its script yet again.

The Bruins churned out a few early runs and let their pitching and defense take care of the rest in a 3-1 victory over Mississippi State on Monday night in the opener of the College World Series finals.

They're one win from their first national championship in baseball and their school's record 109th in a team sport.

"We dodged some bullets, no doubt about it, but you have to give credit to our defense," UCLA coach John Savage said. "Kind of a Bruin game. Tight game, and at the end of the night we were fortunate to come out with the win."

The Bruins (48-17) know it won't be easy to finish off a Mississippi State team that had an estimated 8,000 fans migrate from the Magnolia State to be at TD Ameritrade Park to see their team play for the school's first national title in any sport.

Adam Plutko limited the Bulldogs (51-19) to a run on four hits in six innings and turned the game over to his bullpen. The Bulldogs left runners in scoring position in four of the last six innings.

"They're great hitters, they grind it out every at-bat, and they're not going away," UCLA closer David Berg said. "They want to win this thing as bad as we do. They're not going to give it up."

Bulldogs second baseman Brett Pirtle said he and his teammates can't give the Bruins any openings because they're so capable of capitalizing on them.

"Nobody that's extra special," Pirtle said of the Bruins. "They're just small ball. They bunt and put pressure on the defense, and that's what helped them out, and that's the kind of ballclub they are. So keeping runners off base and just catching the ball and putting pressure on them will help us win the game tomorrow."

The Bruins can play some defense, too. Eric Filia ran in to catch Trey Porter's line drive to right with two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth, and he robbed Nick Ammirati of extra bases with a catch on the warning track in the fifth. Second baseman Cody Regis made a couple diving stops and also started both of UCLA's double plays.

UCLA is 40-0 when leading after seven innings. There was drama all the way to the end.

The Bruins made it 3-0 in the fourth on Filia's two-out, two-run single off Chad Girodo, who replaced starter Trevor Fitts (0-1) in the second. That was the last of the Bruins' six hits.

Mississippi State's fans started the "Maroon and White" chant in the bottom of the ninth after C.T. Bradford and pinch-hitter Sam Frost singled to put runners on first and second with one out against Berg.

Nick Ammirati flew out, and pinch-hitter Jacob Robson ended the game with his comebacker to Berg, who sprinted toward first base before under-handing the ball to Pat Gallagher.

Berg, making his 50th appearance of the season, earned his NCAA-record 24th save for 1 2-3 innings of work.

"Records are meant to be broken, but titles are what matter," Berg said. "So if we all win a national championship, I'll enjoy that. But right now I don't think about it at all."

The loss spoiled a splendid performance by Girodo, who pitched the last 7 2-3 innings. He allowed three hits, walked two and struck out nine. Both runs against him were unearned.

Plutko (10-3) walked in Mississippi State's only run in the fourth. He wasn't overly sharp, but he continued his impressive run in postseason play. In eight career NCAA tournament games, he's 7-0 with an 0.94 ERA.

The Bruins brought a .248 season batting average into the finals, and a .182 average through their first three CWS games.

They eked out enough offense to win again. In the first three innings, they had batters reach on a dropped third strike, infield single, two hit batsmen and a throwing error.

But there were big hits, too.

Filia, who came in 1 for 9 in the CWS, doubled after Kevin Kramer struck out but reached because strike three was in the dirt. Pat Valaika's single to center drove in Kramer for a 1-0 lead.

"First baserunner of the game kind of spells it out," Bulldogs coach John Cohen said. "I really wish that kid hadn't swung at that pitch. I'm not saying it to be a smart aleck, but that kid doesn't swing at that pitch, it lands in front of the plate, I think the ballgame could be different. But crazy things happen in sports."

The Bruins added two more in the fourth. Brenton Allen singled and Brian Carroll reached when he bunted and catcher Ammirati made a bad throw to first.

Carroll ran into the Bulldogs' 6-foot-5, 272-pound first baseman Wes Rea while running through the bag. Rea stayed down after the knee-to-knee contact but was able to keep playing after an athletic trainer attended to him. Allen and Carroll came home on Filia's base hit to right.

Alex Detz and Brett Pirtle produced Mississippi State's first and second hits against Plutko with one out in the fourth. Rea was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

That got the "Maroon and White" chant started as Bradford came up to face Plutko. Bradford fouled off three straight pitches before the count ran full. Plutko walked him with a high changeup, scoring Detz. Plutko's 30-pitch inning ended when Trey Porter lined out.

Plutko had to endure more stress in the fifth. Filia made his big catch on Ammirati, and Demarcus Henderson reached when Plutko misplayed a comebacker, and moved to second on a balk. The inning ended with Detz's line out to second.

Freshman reliever James Kaprielian came on in the seventh with a man on and none out. After he walked Ammirati, Henderson, the team leader in sacrifice bunts, fouled off two bunt tries and then grounded to second for the first of UCLA's two double plays.

"Not much to get excited about," Savage said. "It comes down to tomorrow."

BOXING

Mayweather, Alvarez begin promo tour

NEW YORK (AP) - Floyd Mayweather stood in the middle of a jam-packed Times Square, speaking over the chants of "Mex-i-co!" that grew increasingly louder.

The eight-time world champion also had plenty of fans cheering him on, but Mexican star Saul "Canelo" Alvarez appeared to be the slight crowd favorite as the two kicked off an 11-city tour Monday to officially announce and promote their title fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Sept. 14.

Not that it seemed to bother Mayweather all that much.

"I take my hat off to the country of Mexico, and they have produced some tremendous champions and I respect the country of Mexico," Mayweather said on a steamy afternoon in the heart of Manhattan in front of a few thousand fans with Broadway marquees serving as a colorful backdrop.

"But one thing I always know about the sport of boxing is that my fans can't fight for me, and his fans can't fight for him," he continued. "The Earth is my turf. You can put me in any ring and I will always come out victorious."

The promotional tour includes stops in cities such as Washington D.C., Chicago, Miami and Mexico City, and is jumpstarting the hype ahead of one of boxing's most anticipated bouts in recent memory.

Mayweather, 36, is unbeaten in 44 fights, the last a unanimous 12-round decision over Robert Guerrero on May 4 in defense of his 147-pound title.

Alvarez, a 22-year-old rising star, is 42-0-1 and unified the 154-pound titles with a unanimous victory over Austin Trout on April 20.

"In the sport of boxing, it's everybody's time, and this is my time," Alvarez said through a translator. "I'm going to win."

The 12-round fight will be contested at 152 pounds with both men's super welterweight/junior middleweight titles on the line - Mayweather's WBA super welterweight "super" championship, and Alvarez's WBC, WBA and Ring Magazine super welterweight championships.

The bout billed simply as "The One" is expected to be a monstrous draw on pay-per-view for Showtime. It also just might satisfy many fans who had been wishing during the last several years for Mayweather to take on Manny Pacquiao.

"In every sport, there are certain rare occasions when you have the best fighting the best," said Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports. "The Super Bowl, Final Four, the college football national championship. Sept. 14 will be one of those occasions - the two biggest stars in the sport, the two biggest fan bases.

"We have America's No. 1 fighter versus Mexico's No. 1 fighter. We have the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport versus the No. 1 new star in the sport."

There remains some dispute over who set the 152-pound catch weight, with Mayweather's camp saying Alvarez's people brought it up first. Alvarez, however, insisted it was Mayweather who decided on having both fight at 152 pounds instead of 154.

"It wasn't me," Alvarez told reporters before the news conference. "I don't want to fight 2 pounds below my weight class. That's the way it was negotiated, and I accepted it. I'm fine with it."

There was also some contention between the two because Alvarez chose to headline his own fight card against Trout rather than be included on the undercard of Mayweather-Guerrero card. But both fighters agreed that this is a matchup that needed to happen.

"I've visualized this fight for years," Alvarez said, "and I feel I'm going to win."

The fighters each announced on Twitter last month that they would face each other, exciting boxing fans around the world. Monday's event marked the start of perhaps the sport's most ambitious promotional tour since Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya also stopped in 11 cities before their 2007 bout - won by Mayweather.

Each fighter took a stroll down a makeshift red carpet leading to the dais with pops of confetti - red, white and blue for Mayweather and red, green and white for Alvarez - marking their entrances.

One fan got Mayweather to crack up when he held up a Chucky doll from the "Child's Play" movie franchise, taking a clear shot at Alvarez's hair color.

The two took their seats after staring each other down for nearly a minute - Mayweather next to Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, and Alvarez next to De La Hoya, the president of Golden Boy Promotions. It was a mostly tame news conference with the banter between sides at a minimum.

Before the news conference, Mayweather talked about shooting a commercial with the Spanish-speaking Alvarez and someone asked why he isn't doing his usual trash talking with his opponent.

"He wouldn't understand me anyway," Mayweather said, laughing.

It is the second in Mayweather's six-bout, 30-month contract with Showtime that could pay him more than $200 million. After Mayweather beat Guerrero, he said he wanted to fight again in September - marking the first time since 2007 he will be in the ring twice in a calendar year.

Mayweather showed little rust while dominating Guerrero by using superior defensive skills in his first ring appearance since serving a jail term for assaulting the mother of his children.

Alvarez is a confident and rapidly rising fighter who should provide a huge test for Mayweather. Alvarez was solid against the previously unbeaten Trout, showing up some fans and media who speculated that perhaps he wasn't ready to face such an experienced opponent.

"To be the best," Alvarez said when asked before the news conference what his motivation is to fight Mayweather now. "(I want) to go down in history as the guy who beat the guy people consider the best."

When the news conference was over, both fighters got up and stared each other down one more time. And again, the crowd went wild.

"Canelo, I appreciate you for taking the fight," Mayweather said. "Now, let's give the fans what they want to see."





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