Afternoon State Sports Briefs: UW women's hockey players help U.S. beat Canada in Nation's CupWisconsin
-- Seven past and present Wisconsin women’s hockey players are on the U.S. team at the Four Nations Cup in Saint John’s, Newfoundland. And three of those Badgers played a big role in a 3-2 U.S. shoot-out victory over Canada in the Cup’s opening game.
ST. JOHN'S, Nwfd. - Seven past and present Wisconsin women’s hockey players are on the U.S. team at the Four Nations Cup in Saint John’s, Newfoundland. And three of those Badgers played a big role in a 3-2 U.S. shoot-out victory over Canada in the Cup’s opening game.
Hilary Knight scored the winning goal in the shoot-out. Meghan Duggan scored for the U.S. in regulation. And former Badgers’ goal-tender Jessie Vetter had 32 saves and stopped all three Canadians in the shoot-out. Wisconsin’s Brianna Decker is also on Team U-S-A, along with ex-Badgers Molly Engstrom, Erika Lawler, and Jinelle Zaugg-Siergiej. Former Wisconsin player Meghan Mikkelson scored one of the goals for her native Canada, which lost to the Americans for the first time in six match-ups. Last night’s game was also the first time the two teams got together since Canada won the gold medal over the U-S at the Vancouver Olympics earlier this year. The U.S. will play Finland tonight.
The Milwaukee Bucks have yet to win back-to-back games this season – and they’ll get a third chance tonight when they play the Hawks in Atlanta. The Bucks shot a season-high 51-percent against New York last night. And they topped the 100-point mark for only the second time in eight games, in a 107-80 rout of the Knicks. Milwaukee is 3-and-5 overall, and 1-3 on the road. Atlanta was 6-0 before losing its last two games to Phoenix and Orlando by a total of eight points. Atlanta’s Joe Johnson has scored 57 points in his last two contests, hitting 24-of-42 shots from the field. Tonight also marks the first time the Bucks will have played the Hawks since taking them to seven games in last year’s playoffs before bowing-out in the first round. But about half the Bucks’ current players weren’t around for that.
Trevor Hoffman may not be finished yet. The 43-year-old reliever tells MLB.com he’ll test the free agent waters, and then decide whether to retire. Hoffman spent the last two years with the Milwaukee Brewers. He had 37 saves in 2009. But he struggled for a couple months this past season, before he recovered and earned his 600th save in an 18-year big league career. John Axford became the Brewers’ main closer as the season wore on. He’ll stay in that role, and the Brewers didn’t feel it was worth paying Hoffman seven-and-a-half million dollars in a club option for next season. Hoffman was given a $750,000 buyout, and he’s now a free agent. There are rumblings he might end up in Arizona, where Kevin Towers is now the general manager. Hoffman played for Towers for many years in San Diego. At the very least, Hoffman wants a chance to earn a closer’s spot for a big league team in 2011.
Hannah Gabriel of Lawrence University in Appleton is the women’s athlete-of-the-week for swimming and diving in the Midwest Conference. Gabriel, a freshman from suburban Chicago, won four individual events and a relay competition in her first two collegiate swim meets. She won the 200-and-500-yard freestyle events against Beloit College, and was part of the winning 200-yard freestyle relay team. She also won the 200-and-500-freestyles in a dual meet against UW-Whitewater. Garr Punnett of Lake Forest is the male swimmer-of-the-week.
Daniel Pogue of UW-Green Bay is the Horizon League’s diver-of-the-week for the third straight time. Pogue, a junior, won all four of his events in dual meets at South Dakota and South Dakota State last weekend. He broke pool records in the three-meter event at both locations. Deni Gasparin of Cleveland State is the league’s top male swimmer. On the women’s side, Sarah Wardecke of UW-Milwaukee was named the swimmer-of-the-week. Wardecke, a junior, won the 50-and-100-yard freestyle events at the Northwestern Quad meet. And she helped a Panther relay team take first in the 200-freestyle. Casey Hill of Youngstown State is the honored women’s diver.
Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers is suffering less wear-and-tear this season – because he’s not being sacked as often. Last season, Rodgers was thrown to the ground 55 times in 17 games. That includes five sacks in the Packers’ first-round playoff loss at Arizona. This year, Rodgers has only been sacked 17 times in his first nine games. That’s less than two sacks per game, compared to four-and-a-half sacks in the first eight games of last season – when Rodgers was dumped 37 times before Mark Tauscher came in and stabilized the Packer offensive line. This season, the Packer line continues to do a solid job protecting the quarterback – even though Tauscher has been out for more than a month with a shoulder injury. First-round rookie Bryan Bulaga has done a good job filling in. Also, Rodgers has been getting rid of the ball faster than he did a year ago. He says a quicker release and a better line performance are both responsible for the drop in sacks. The 6-3 Packers are on their bye week. They’ll play at Minnesota a week from Sunday.
The Green Bay Blizzard is not going anywhere. The Indoor Football League team has signed a three-year lease extension to play its games at the Resch Center through 2013. The Titletown Group, made up of five local investors, bought the Blizzard group last year from a group headed by former Packers’ linebacker Brian Noble. The team plays from March through June. The Blizzard’s season opener for next year will be on March 18th against Bloomington.
It didn’t take long for Al Harris to find a new job. The former Green Bay corner was signed today by the Miami Dolphins, just two days after the Packers released him. According to the Miami Herald, the 35-year-old Harris will provide experience to the Dolphins’ nickel-and-sub packages – and he is not expected to compete for a starting job. Harris is a 13-year NFL veteran who had been with the Packers since 2003. He has 21 career interceptions, but has not played in almost a year since tearing his left knee in a game last November 22nd. He had been on the physically-unable-to-perform list for all of this season. Harris practiced with the Packers for three weeks – but when Monday’s deadline came to get him off the PUP list, coach Mike McCarthy said the team was happy with its younger corners Tramon Williams and Sam Shields. Harris passed a physical this morning before signing a new contract for the rest of the season. With the Dolphins, Harris will play close to home. He’s from nearby Pompano Beach Florida. Harris cleared waivers yesterday, and all 31 other NFL teams took a pass on him. But the National Football Post said Detroit and Houston both expressed an interest – and so, of course, did the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings have snapped up most of the top players Green Bay has released in recent years – including Darren Sharper, Ryan Longwell, and Brett Favre.
Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt is one of eight semi-finalists for the Ronnie Lott “Impact” trophy as college football’s most tenacious defender. The junior Watt was also named a semi-finalist this week for Bednarik Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive player. The Lott Impact award goes to the defensive player who best reflects on-field performance, maturity, academics, community service, and tenacity. Watt is sixth in the country with 16 tackles for losses this season, and he’s tied for fourth in the Big Ten with six sacks.
Patrick Mengelkoch of UW-Stout made the national small college Team-of-the-Week from D3Football.com. Mengelkoch, a senior tight end, had eight catches for 111 yards and a touchdown in Stout’s seven-point win over UW-Platteville last Saturday. His 28-yard scoring catch put Stout in front by 10 in the second quarter.