Empty Netter Assists - So far, so good for Maatta and Lovejoy - 10-10-15

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .


-"We talk a lot. We try to keep it simple, and I think that’s the way to go. He’s really solid. You can’t expect that it’s going to be perfect [immediately]. But I think we have pretty good chemistry.” - Defenseman Olli Maatta on being paired with Ben Lovejoy.

-Right winger Patric Hornqvist must adjust to a new center in Evgeni Malkin.

-Left winger Scott Wilson scored two goals, including one in overtime, to give the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins a 2-1 season opening win against the Providence Bruins. Goaltender Matt Murray made 40 saves in the victory.

-Goaltender Brian Foster made 12 saves for the Wheeling Nailers in a 4-2 preseason loss to the Cincinnati Cyclones.

-Happy 69th birthday to former Pittsburgh Hornets and Penguins forward Pete Mahovlich (right). Acquired early in the 1977-78 season along with Peter Lee in a deal which sent Pierre Larouche and future considerations to the Canadiens, Mahovlich spent two seasons in Pittsburgh. In 1977-78, he saw action in 57 games and finished second on the team with 61 points. That season, he actually recorded a hat trick in his first game with the team, a 6-4 win against the Red Wings. He followed that up in 1978-79 by playing in 60 games and netting 53 points. In that spring's postseason, Mahovlich appeared in two games and recorded one assist. During the 1979 offseason, Mahovlich was traded to the Red Wings in exchange for Nick Libett. In 117 regular season games for the Penguins, Mahovlich scored 114 points, 72nd-most in franchise history. He is currently a professional scout for the Panthers.

-Happy 55th birthday to former Penguins forward Ron Flockhart. Acquired prior to the 1983-84 season along with Andy Brickley, Mark Taylor and draft picks in a deal which sent Rich Sutter and draft picks to the Flyers, Flockhart spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. In 1983-84, he appeared in 68 games and scored 45 points. After 12 games and five assists in 1984-85, Flockhart was traded to the Canadiens in exchange for John Chabot. in 70 games with the Penguns, Flockhart scored 50 points.

-Happy 43rd birthday to former Penguins forward Brian Holzinger. Acquired at the 2003 trade deadline in a deal which sent Marc Bergevin to the Lightning, Holzinger spent parts of two seasons with the Penguins. He finished the 2002-03 season by appearing in nine games and scoring three points for the Penguins. In 2003-04, Holzinger saw action in 61 games and scored 21 points. At the 2004 trade deadline, Holzinger was traded to the Blue Jackets in exchange for Lasse Pirjeta. One of six natives of Ohio to play for the Penguins (Ab DeMarco, Moe Mantha, Ian Moran, Mike Rupp and Bryan Smolinski were the others), Holzinger played in 70 games for the Penguins and scored 24 points. Holzinger is also one of four former Hobey Baker Award winners to play for the Penguins. Brian Bonin, Jordan Leopold and Kip Miller are the others.

-Happy 53rd birthday to former Penguins goaltender Roberto Romano (right). A free agent signing midway through the 1982-83 season, Romano spent parts of six seasons with the Penguins in two separate stints. As a rookie in 1982-83, he saw action in three games - all losses - and had a 6.97 goals against average. In 1983-84, Romano appeared in 18 games, had a 6-11-0 record, a 4.59 goals against average, a .876 save percentage and one shutout. Platooning with Denis Herron in 1984-85, Romano played in 31 games, went 9-17-2, had a 4.42 goals against average, .877 save percentage and one shutout. Romano's only season as the team's primary starter was 1985-86. He played in 46 games, had a 21-20-3 record, a 3.55 goals against average, .886 save percentage and two shutouts. After 25 games, a 9-12-2 record, a 3.72 goals against average and .876 save percentage in 1986-87, Romano was traded to the Bruins in exchange for Pat Riggin. After bouncing around the AHL and Italy, Romano returned to the Penguins in 1993-94 by appearing in two games, going 1-0-1 with a 1.44 goals against average and .946 save percentage. He retired in the 1994 offseason. In 125 games with the Penguins, Romano was 46-62-8 with a 3.96 goals against average and recorded four shutouts.

-After the Jump: Simon Despres got paid.

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New poster, trailer for Love the Coopers filmed in Pittsburgh

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .


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Reaching across the aisle: Oklahoma State

Written by Craig Meyer on .

(Photo: Tulsa World)

We're fewer than 24 hours away from West Virginia's kickoff against Oklahoma State on Saturday night. As we've done the past couple of weeks, I've interviewed (via email) someone who covers the opposing team to get a better idea of the Mountaineers' opponent and what to expect in the game.

This week, I caught up with Kyle Fredrickson, who covers the Cowboys for The Oklahoman. You can find Kyle's work here and follow him on Twitter at @KyleFredrickson. And if you're thirsty for WVU-Oklahoma State pregame content from more of a WVU angle, I hopped on a podcast with Kyle and his colleague, Jenni Carlson (@JenniCarlson_OK), earlier this week to discuss a few things pertaining to the Mountaineers. I didn't make too big of a fool of myself. Or at least I don't think I did.

1) Oklahoma State is leading FBS teams in sacks and tackles per loss per game heading into Saturday's contest. Is that defensive pressure just that good or is it partially a product of a schedule that's featured only one team in the Sagarin top 25?

The soft nonconference schedule — at Central Michigan, home against Central Arkansas and UTSA — certainly helped, but there's no doubt this defensive unit is a major team strength and has flexed its muscles so far in conference play. OSU combined for 13 sacks against Texas and Kansas State, defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah appears to be a sure-fire first-round pick in the next NFL draft and the Cowboys have proven depth at nearly every defensive position. However, their first-half struggles against fifth-string KSU quarterback Kody Cook raised some eyebrows last week. Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer was able to make second-half adjustments that ensured a victory, but it has some fans wondering just how good this group really is.

2) Mason Rudolph was kind of thrown into the fire late last season and performed well. Five games into this season, his stats have improved. What kind of progress have you noticed from him in his sophomore season?

Expectations for Rudolph were through the roof entering the year because he quarterbacked wins against Oklahoma and Washington to close out last season. While his overall numbers have been solid so far in 2015, he's had his fair share of growing pains early on. He committed three turnovers, including two for touchdowns, at Texas. But Rudolph bounced back in a big way against Kansas State with career highs in completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns. Rudolph is the face of the program, but he's also far from a finished product. He's had some issues with overthrown balls, but has an incredible amount of self confidence and poise in pressure situations. If Rudolph has another big day on Saturday, it will go along way toward building his confidence and the potential for OSU to contend for a conference title this season.

3) The revenge aspect can be overplayed, but does it seem like last year's 34-10 loss to West Virginia is lingering a little bit for Oklahoma State players heading into Saturday's game?

I'd say that West Virginia loss blends together with the four others OSU endured during its five-game skid last season that has provided plenty of motivation this year. Since falling at Baylor last November, OSU has rattled off seven-straight victories. The loss to the Mountaineers especially stung because it was homecoming and against the coach who installed the offense OSU still runs today. Plenty of current OSU players were also on that 2013 team that fell by nine points the last time the Cowboys played in Morgantown. That defeat might resonate even more today.

4) The Cowboys are undefeated and ranked, but won their past two games by a combined five points. Do you get the sense this is a Big 12 title contender and how far will this game go in determining whether that's the case?

I picked OSU to fall 30-26 in large part because of the way it beat Texas and Kansas State — ugly. In terms of talent at skill positions, the Cowboys have the pieces to contend for a conference championship. But the offensive line has serious issues run blocking and the team is overall still very young. The Cowboys will be a hot pick to win the Big 12 in 2016. This year? I don't think they have what it takes. But beating a solid WVU team on the road would be a huge step forward toward that goal.


Craig Meyer: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG

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Live Friday blog -- Highlights and interviews from Belle Vernon victory against Ringgold

Written by Mike White on .

Live blog from tonight's Post-Gazette game of the week - Ringgold at Belle Vernon. Follow along and look to the right for updates, notes and photos from other games, courtesy of @PGVarsityXtra twitter account. If you have a score update or note, tweet with #WPIAL and tag @PGVarsityXtra


9:45 Ringgold goes three and out.


After blocked punt, on third down, QB Mike Fine finds end zone. Two point run no good.

9:38 big break for Belle Vernon. Derek Verkleeren blocks punt. Noah Bukowski recovers. BV at Ringgold 8.


And a turnover turns this game. Mike Fine's pass is intercepted by Ringgold's David Carpenter at his 45 and he returns it all the way to the Belle Vernon 5. George Martin scores TD on next play with a run. two point pass no good.

9:15 Ringgold goes three and out. Belle Vernon takes over at 41.

9:11 Ringgold actually has looked better in this game offensively. But Rams still trail. 7-6. They take over at own 31, late in the third.

9:04 Pass intercepted by Jake Powell. BV takes over at 7.

8:58 Second half underway. Belle Vernon goes three and out on first possession.


How about South Fayette? On way to 38th consecutive win, which would tie for third-longest in WPIAL history. Leading Steel Valley 21-0.

Clairton trailing Jeannette, 19-18.

Surprising a little. Allegheny Conference Freeport leads Highlands, 14-0. Highlands undefeated.

Bethel Park showing it is indeed good, leading Mt. Lebanon, 20-7.

Hampton undefeated, but players out with injuries and sickness, including leading rusher Matt Rech. Franklin Regional leads Hampton 14-0.

Seneca Valley showing something tonight. Hard to stop Pine-Richland offense, but Seneca Valley trails Pine-Richland, 28-21.

Mars leading Gateway, 28-7. Offensive problems continue for Gateway.


Halftime stats: Neither team overwhelming offensively. Belle Vernon only 88 yards offensively. Luke Durigon 9 yards rushing. Mike Fine 50 on 7 carries. Fine 2 of 7 for 29 yards.

Both teams have some speed on defense and fly to the ball well. Ringgold has 160 yards offense. 125 on the ground. Maybe Chacar Berry will get the ball a little more in the second half. Has 58 yards on nine carries.

Never mind offense. How about South Fayette defense. Outgained Steel Valley 214 to minus 3 so far. Wow. SF leads 14-0

8:36 BV takes over at own 28 with 3:01 left in half.

8:18 Place is packed tonight.

8:12 Belle Vernon got to the 21, but went backwards and punted.


Chacar Berry 1-yard TD run. Run for two points by Small is stopped.


Big run by George Martin set up Ringgold at BV 9. TD pass to Briscoe on next play. Called back because of holding penalty.

7:52 Ringgold has now completed 2 of 7 passes for ..... minus 12 yards.

7:50 Dalton Holt INT ends BV drive.

8:44 Chacar Berry is running pretty well for Ringgold, but Rams seem to want to establish the pass. But George Martin is now 1 of 6.


It took Belle Vernon three plays to go 11 yards. Luke Durigon scores on 1-yard run.

7:34 Second play. Short pass to Berry. Fumbles. Belle Vernon recovers at 11.

7:31 Game time. Ringoold receiver. 

7:17 Kickoff at 7:30. A few updates coming in. Jeanntte has taken 7-0 lead on Clairton. Doubt there will be mercy rule tonight in this one.

Colleague Megan Ryan of P-G reporting Hampton without its standout running back "Wrecking Ball" Matt Rech

Here's something to raise your eyebrows: Post-Gazette boys basketball coach of the year Nick Lackovich of Aliquippa is being investigated for dog fighting. 

7:11 Never mind the gold turf and whether you like or dislike. I've always felt Belle Vernon's James Weir Stadium is one of the best places to watch a game. 

Everything seems golden. Ringgold - and the new gold turf at Belle Vernon. Check it out. Wild, isn't it? I kind of like it. It's like a layer of gold snow on the field.

Belle Vernon turf2


The first time these two teams played was 1969. They have not played every year since. Although they have played a number of times, there were a number of years when Ringgold was in Class AAAA and Belle Vernon in AAA. So, they didn't play.

But since that first meeting 46 years ago, they have never met in a game as big as this one during the season. Many years, they played in the season opener.

The closest was 1987 when Ringgold was 6-0-1 and Belle Vernon 5-2.

This is the only turf in the WPIAL that isn't green.

Belle Vernon turf



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Behind Enemy Lines: Virginia

Written by Sam Werner on .

This week, I enlisted the help of Virginia beat writer Andrew Ramspacher, who covers the Cavaliers for The Daily Progress in Charlottesville. You can read Andrew's work here and follow him on Twitter @ARamspacher. Now, on to the questions...

1) How would you characterize Virginia's offense so far? Has Taquan Mizzell started living up to the hype that was placed on him in the recruiting process? What about Matt Johns stepping into the starting quarterback spot? What does he bring to the table?

Virginia's offense has not developed the style it preached about in the offseason. With a ton of experience coming back on the offensive line, the Cavaliers were all in to become this "power running team." Well, through four games, UVa's passed more than it's run. And when the Cavaliers do go to the ground, they're rarely successful, ranking 123rd nationally with less than three yards per carry.

Mizzell is a really good receiver. He runs great routes, has great hands and has decent speed. (Hence the 292 receiving yards, tops among all RBs in the country.) It's the north-south running abilities of his position that he still struggles with. (Hence the 3.4 yards per carry.)

Despite what he showed against Boise State, I still believe Johns is the best quarterback Mike London's had in his five-plus years as Virginia's head coach. He doesn't have the size or skill set of Georgia transfer Greyson Lambert, but he's smart and he's not afraid to push the ball downfield — a trait Lambert lacked. Bonus: Johns and receiver Canaan Severin and best friends. Their chemistry often translates to the field in big spots. The two hooked up 11 times for 153 yards against Notre Dame.

2) Over on defense, where are Virginia's strengths? They obviously had a lot of success against Pitt's offensive line the last couple of years, what does the pass rush look like this season? Where have they struggled?

Strengths? Those are hard to find for a unit that ranks dead last in the ACC in both scoring and total defense. The success it had last season against Pitt came mainly from five players — defensive end Eli Harold, linebackers Henry Coley, Daquan Romero and Max Valles and safety Anthony Harris. Through graduation or early NFL Draft entry, those five are no longer in the program — and it shows. There are communication breakdowns, no consistent edge pass-rush and, most shockingly, no takeaways.

Virginia is joined by Wake Forest as the only teams in the country without a takeaway. This comes from the same program that had 29 takeaways in 2014. In records dating back to 1937, UVa had never gone the first four games of a season without creating a turnover. It's not a good look for a Jon Tenuta-coordinated bunch that prides itself on being aggressive and forcing mistakes.

3) Virginia has obviously faced a really tough schedule this year with games against UCLA, Notre Dame and Boise State. How much of the Hoos' 1-3 record is due to opponents, and how much is it due to their own struggles?

A good mix of both. If you gave Virginia the non-conference schedule N.C. State just went through — Troy, Eastern Kentucky, South Alabama, Old Dominion — I'd say the 'Hoos would be 3-1 or 4-0. But that's not to say UVa's going to run through the ACC schedule because it's so battle-tested. These crazy out-of-league slates have become the norm in Charlottesville and I honestly think it's just beaten these guys up over the last few years. There are plenty of issues that add to Virginia's 5-19 ACC record since 2012 — with poor coaching being near the top — but not gaining any momentum in the non-conference is certainly one of them.

4) What does the Mike London hot seat look like at this point? The record isn't great, but, as has been noted, their schedule has been very tough. Is there still hope that London can turn it around in ACC play or are Virginia fans already looking for who the next guy will be?

Losing to Boise State by six touchdowns on national television two weeks ago was the worst thing that's happened to London since he first touched the hot seat during the 2013 season. There's some serious apathy around the program right now — and it's not pretty. A loss on Saturday and Scott Stadium will likely be a ghost town for next week's homecoming game with Syracuse.

Put it this way: Basketball practice started last week. Virginia fans are ecstatic about that.


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