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Empty Netter Assists - 09-13-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

Penguins

-According to his agent, Allan Walsh, former Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun (right) has rejected contract offers and training camp invitations from various NHL teams.

-The Penguins will participate in a rookie tournament in London, Ont. beginning today.

-Happy 55th birthday to former Penguins forward Scott Gruhl. A free agent signing during the 1987-88 season, Gruhl's Penguins career amounted to, six games and one goal that campaign. The first player in franchise history to wear No. 38, Gruhl was released in the 1988 offseason.

Neapolitan Ice Cream Metropolitan Division

-Former Penguins forward Ruslan Fedotenko will attend the Devils' training camp on a tryout basis. Fedotekno, a member of the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup championship team, spent last season with HC Donbass, a Ukrainian team in Russia's KHL. Former Predators/Red Wings forward Jordan Tootoo will also attend on a tryout.

-Former Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur is still looking for work.

Atlantic Division

-Former Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato will coach the Red Wings' defensemen and penalty kill.

-Canadiens forward prospect Tim Bozon has rebounded after nearly dying from a bout of meningitis.

-The Canadiens will retire the No. 5 of former defenseman Guy Lapointe Nov. 8.

-Despite finishing with the worst record in the NHL last season and a four percent increase in ticket prices, the Sabres had a renewal rate of 93 percent for their season ticket sales.

Pacific Division

-The Oilers signed forward Greg Chase, a seventh-round pick in 2013, to a three-year entry-level contract.

Adams Division

-Former Flames goaltender Leland Irving has joined Salavat Yulaev Ufa of Russia's KHL.

(Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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HALFTIME: West Virginia 28, Maryland 20

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — It's a wet and wild day here at Byrd Stadium.

It is halftime of a rather important football match between West Virginia (1-1) and Maryland (2-0), a game, I’ll remind you, the Mountaineers lost 37-0 last year. Yet the scoreboard now reads: WVU 28, Terps 20.

Quarterback Clint Trickett has completed 20 of 26 passes for 307 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Kevin White has 116 receiving yards and a touchdown, Mario Alford has 86 receiving yards and two touchdowns, and Rushel Shell rushed 19 times for 63 yards and a score.

A year ago in Baltimore, it rained and it poured. The Mountaineers trudged home wounded and weary, shut out for the first time in 12 seasons. So when West Virginia won the coin flip Saturday, team captains had strict orders: We want the ball.

On the first play from scrimmage, Trickett spun right and found running back Wendell Smallwood on a bubble screen. Smallwood followed a block from White and tore ahead for a 50-yard gain.

It took nine more plays to traverse the final 25 yards, but tailback Rushel Shell finally bowled into the end zone from a yard out on fourth down to give the Mountaineers their first score in two years against Maryland.

Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said earlier in the week his defense would need four takeaways to give West Virginia a shot against Maryland, and it only took four tries to get the first one.

Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown had his first pass attempt tipped at the line by nose tackle Christian Brown, and cornerback Daryl Worley picked off the dead duck at midfield.

The ensuing drive was foiled inside the red zone when Alford fumbled while stretching for the sticks on third down, but he made up for it the next time down the field when Trickett, who continues his meteoric climb, fed him perfectly on a deep post for the Mountaineers’ second score.

After one quarter, West Virginia led 14-0 and Trickett had completed 12 of 13 passes for 175 yards, the exact yardage the Mountaineers gained all game against Maryland last season.

Through two weeks, West Virginia’s suddenly prolific offense had a dearth of “big plays,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said, but that worry was quickly allayed Saturday.

Trickett connected with Smallwood for 50 yards, Alford for 43 and White for 44 on a tunnel-screen-turned-touchdown and finally, because why not, another perfect 36-yard strike to Alford to make the score 28-6.

Maryland caught a break on a defensive lapse that allowed receiver Stefon Diggs to trot away for a 77-yard touchdown pass, and then Trickett finally slipped up. His 24th pass of the half was thrown into coverage and intercepted by cornerback Will Likely.

Brown was blasted by linebacker Shaq Petteway while finishing a run late in the half and was replaced by Caleb Rowe, who promptly slung a beautiful 26-yard touchdown pass to Jacquille Veii to close the gap to 28-20.

 

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GAME DAY: Pitt at FIU

Written by Sam Werner on .

PittFIU14

MIAMI, Fla. — Pitt will look to extend its record to 3-0 for the first time since 2009 at noon today against Florida International. Really, this game will likely be a test of the Panthers' mental focus, facing another vastly overmatched opponent. Here are a few quick notes to get your game day started...

- Here's a link to my preview story from today's Post-Gazette, about just how much a 3-0 start would mean for the Panthers this afternoon.

- No injuries to update today (other than Artie Rowell's season-ending ACL injury from last week). On that one, I expect Gabe Roberts to get the start at center, but both he and Alex Officer will play. It will probably be a split similar to the way Jaryd Jones-Smith and Dorian Johnson are rotating on the left side, every two or three series. This is also a game where the other reserves should get some work in the second half.

- Running back James Conner is 121 yards away from breaking the Pitt record for most rushing yards through the first three games of a season. He's at 367 right now, and the record of 487 was set by Tony Dorsett in his freshman season (not his Heisman year). Against FIU's defense, Conner should probably be able to get there if he's running the way he did last week.

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Dispatches from Italy: A love story blooms in the gardens of Villa Cicogna Mozzoni

Written by Doug Oster on .

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It’s obvious at first meeting that Jacopo Cicogna Mozzoni and Silvia Casarotto are in love. Not only with each other but with Villa Cicogna Mozzoni, built before 1440 by Jacopo's ancestors. The affable couple openly spar in public with good-natured barbs, but also share soft kisses. Our group of travelers hang on each word as they tell stories about the place they have dedicated their lives to preserving.

Jacopo didn't understand the significance of the villa as a child. He would visit from next door where he grew up, playing hide and seek near the grotto with this brother and enjoying playing a trick or two on visiting groups. When he knew a tour was coming, Jacopo would head for the attic where he pretended to be a ghost by making noises and screaming in high pitch wails. In the library he got the pump organ going and since he doesn’t play, laid both arms on the keys, "to make the most horrible sound," he said. "It was very, very funny."

It wasn't until his mid-twenties he realized his calling, to preserve the villa and bring it back to it's former grandeur. He hopes for help from the government, but now relies mainly on tourists to bring in funds for the work, there are also weddings to supplement expenses, but it's not enough.

His grandmother moved out of the villa during WWII and never returned, living in the guest house next door. During that time the villa was home to three families of refugees for the duration of the war.

Recently Jacopo had a visit from someone who stayed there during the war as a child. During his time at the villa, the young boy wrote his name in a drawer with the post script, "I lived here for three years."

Jacopo videotaped the man explaining what it was like to live there, saving his story forever.

In 1957 the formal gardens and home were opened to the public so the ancient fresco paintings and classic architecture could be enjoyed by the masses. "To leave it empty was useless," Jacopo said.

He was the last member of his family to remain close to the villa and he took on the mission of preserving the home.

The formal gardens where he played as a child are beautiful. Shrubs are neatly trimmed, flowers are carefully chosen and the design harkens back to another time.

Walking in from the gardens, visitors are greeted by the villa's famous fresco paintings on the walls and ceiling of a portico. They have faded with time, but inside a great hall is covered with fascinating artworks which date back hundreds of years. The colors are more vivid than one could imagine, considering their age.

Even though the job of keeping up with the villa is endless, Jacopo and Silvia don’t let it get to them. "I love this place," he says, "and don’t worry about the money.”

When she talks of the villa, Silvia finds it hard to put into words what this ancient home means to her, especially in English. She first came here 24 years ago and learned the importance of the villa from Jacopo's mother, Eleonore. With her eyes filling with tears, she talks passionately about her mother-in-law's love for Villa Cicogna Mozzoni and how she passed that love on to her. "She was the countess for this villa, spoke seven languages and she helped me to understand to do these things," she said. Choking back the tears Silvia added, "she was a second mother to me."

Even after all this time, she looks at the intricately painted walls and discovers something new in the work.

When asked why the couple works so hard to restore the villa, Silvia pauses and smiles. "Simply because it's our life," she says. "I get to live in a fantastic dream."

 

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Above: These orange dahlias with dark foliage bloom in the the formal garden just outside the villa.

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This cherub fountain is splashed with water.

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Just one of the many fresco paintings outside in the portico of the villa.

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Barbara Simoneschi, who served a powerful expresso coffee halfway through our tour, looks out the window as the group gathered in the courtyard.

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Jacopo Cicogna Mozzoni (far left) tells our group about the challenges of keeping these amazing frescoes in shape.

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A look from above of the formal garden.

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Two pots of geraniums are framed by the doorway to the portico

(Top image: While I was getting ready to shoot their portrait Jacopo Cicogna Mozzoni and Silvia Casarotto gave each other a kiss. The two have dedicated their lives to restoring and preserving Villa Cicogna Mozzoni. Doug Oster photos/Post-Gazette)

 

 

 

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GameDay: West Virginia (1-1) at Maryland (2-0)

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — If West Virginia's players had forgotten the lyrics to the Star-Spangled Banner, they'll have them memorized after today's game. The Terrapins unveil their all-America everything jerseys today in hopes that they might ride a patriotic tide to a second win in a row against the Mountaineers, who they spanked, 37-0, in Baltimore last September.

"They embarrassed us," receiver Kevin White said.

"It was ugly," special teams coordinator Joe DeForest said.

"It was bad," running backs coach JaJuan Seider said. "That's the only way to describe it. That's probably the worst game I've ever been a part of. There's nothing you can do right, and even if you try the weather came in and every time we had the ball it just gushed down out of the sky. We can't make no excuse, though, they kicked our butt."

Indeed, the Week 4 shutout was a defining moment in the Mountaineers' 4-8 season. West Virginia had six turnovers, set its defense up for failure and had nearly historically poor numbers in every offensive category. Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said it was probably the first time his team has been shut out, but he also kind of said what everyone has been thinking for the past year.

"If you look from top to bottom, at this point last year I don't think we were very good," Dawson said. "I don't think anybody would disagree with that."

It's a little funny to think about. A year ago Friday, Dana Holgorsen named Ford Childress his starting quarterback. That's before Childress tore a pectoral muscle against Maryland and eventually was suspended and dropped from the team in the offseason. By then, it didn't really matter, because Clint Trickett had taken the reins and restored some semblance of cohesiveness to the West Virginia offense.

It's only Week 3, but a win today would do wonders for West Virginia's bowl hopes. Entering the conference slate 2-1 isn't half bad, but a 1-2 start would be pretty tough to overcome with this schedule. It's not impossible, it'd just be an uphill climb.

To add to the intrigue, it's a rivalry game, and West Virginia doesn't have many of those left.

"The Big 12 is trying to make it Iowa State, but that's not a rivalry for us," Seider said. "Maryland is the last rivalry we've got left, and we're not going to play them for a while, so we need to go out there and win."

Check back here for injury updates and news bullets throughout the day.


• Linebacker Wes Tonkery, listed earlier in the week as day-to-day with a leg injury, is dressed in sweats and will not play.


SCOUTING REPORT

Matchup: Maryland (2-0) vs. West Virginia (1-1), noon today, Byrd Stadium, College Park, Md.

TV, Radio, Internet: Big Ten Network, Mountaineer Sports Network, Sirius 84, XM 84.

Maryland: Returned 16 starters this season. … Has committed seven turnovers. … Has held opposing offenses to 32.5 percent conversions on third downs. … QB C.J. Brown is averaging just 156.0 passing yards, 93rd among Division I QBs through two games.

West Virginia: Holds 26-22-2 series lead against Maryland. … Had five players score rushing touchdowns against Towson. … First-team offense has not turned the ball over. … QB Trickett ranks among top-10 in interceptions (first), completions (third), completion percentage (fourth) and passing yards (seventh).

Hidden stat: West Virginia is 74-94-6 against schools from the Big Ten Conference but 3-1 under Holgorsen’s charge.

Follow @stephenjnesbitt and @AllEersPG.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

• West Virginia QB William Crest made his debut Saturday and will factor, in some way, into the Mountaineers game plan from here on out. His debut had a classic rookie mistake early, but that's quite alright when you're playing with a 40-point lead.

• Holgorsen said in his Tuesday presser that Maryland is exactly the same team it was a year ago when it put the Mountaineers to shame. 

• Was Holgorsen crazy to ask more of his offense, the one that scored 54 points and had 606 yards of total offense against Towson? No, actually, he's got a point. West Virginia has struggled to make the big play.

It's "payback" time. West Virginia's 37-0 loss at M&T Bank Stadium a year ago was brutal on every level. Some are hesitant to call it a grudge match, but the Mountaineers are no doubt using it as motivation today.

• Today's game starts a five-game gauntlet against teams West Virginia lost to last season. So, redemption road begins here and could well decide the Mountaineers' postseason bowl hopes.

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