Morning State News Briefs: Badger pucksters open Final Five play this afternoonWisconsin Sports
-- The University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team will play Minnesota State this afternoon in the quarter-finals of the WCHA Final Five in Saint Paul. The winner will go up against top-seeded Saint Cloud State in the semifinals tomorrow.
ST. PAUL - The University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team will play Minnesota State this afternoon in the quarter-finals of the WCHA Final Five in Saint Paul. The winner will go up against top-seeded Saint Cloud State in the semifinals tomorrow.
The Badgers have the fourth seed among the six teams in the league tournament. They’re 19-12-7 overall – and two of those wins came at Minnesota State in mid-January. John Ramage scored a game-winning goal in overtime, as the Badgers swept a pair at Mankato for the first time ever. Minnesota State comes in a 24-12-3 overall. The Mavericks have the Number-five seed. It’s the final WCHA tournament for Wisconsin, which will join a new men’s hockey conference in the Big Ten this fall.
The University of Wisconsin football team said yesterday it would open the 2015 season against two-time defending BCS champion Alabama. The game will be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on September fifth of 2015. Badger fans have demanded that the team toughen up its non-conference schedule. And athletic director Barry Alvarez says it’s a top priority – mainly because strength-of-schedule will be a factor in the new four-team playoff system in the BCS group. Alvarez says the Badgers “want to be in that mix.” And he said it’s a priority throughout the Big Ten to get rid of soft non-conference matchups. Wisconsin had sought a home-and-home series with Alabama in 2011, but Crimson Tide coach Lou Saban said no at that juncture.
The Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants played to a scoreless 10-inning tie yesterday in a Cactus League exhibition in Scottsdale Arizona. Brewers’ starter Chris Narveson gave up just one hit in six innings with no walks and four strikeouts. Giants’ starter Ryan Vogelsong also appeared to be in mid-season form. He struck out seven in six frames, giving up three hits and a walk. Caleb Gindl had Milwaukee’s only extra-base hit with a double. The Brewers are now 9-12-2 this spring. They’ll play the Chicago White Sox this afternoon. Right-hander Mike Fiers will start for Milwaukee.
The Milwaukee Brewers finally have their entire team back from the World Baseball Classic. Backup catcher Martin Maldonado returned to Spring Training yesterday, and he was promptly inserted into the lineup when Milwaukee played San Francisco to a scoreless 10-inning tie. Maldonado was not exactly tired, after getting just nine at-bats for Puerto Rico as a back-up at both catcher and first base. He struck out seven times in the World tournament – and before that, he was just 1-for-12 in Cactus League games. Still, Maldonado called the World Classic an unforgettable experience – one of the best a ballplayer can have. He said quote, “You can have fun more … If somebody goes out there and scores a run, you go out there and celebrate. It was unbelievable.” Brewers’ manager Ron Roenicke says he’s glad to have all his players back, after Puerto Rico lost to Japan in the final game of the World tournament on Tuesday night. The Brewers play the Chicago White Sox in Arizona this afternoon.
Green Bay Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy plans to go with two featured running backs this season – and he’ll give DuJuan Harris every chance to become the starter. The 5-8 Harris is considered too small to play on every down. But after being signed in mid-season last year, Harris showed a lot of promise from December on. He averaged four-point-six yards a carry, the most among Green Bay running backs in the regular season. He scampered for a 26-yard touchdown on an NBC Sunday Night game against Detroit. And Harris ran for 100 yards in the Packers’ two playoff games, with 28 carries and two scores. At the NFL’s owners meetings in Phoenix this week, McCarthy said he wanted a one-two punch out of the backfield – but he did not want a running back-by-committee approach. The Packers used five backs last season at various times. James Starks has been injury-prone, and Alex Green was still coming off knee surgery from 2011. Cedric Benson was hurt early, and Ryan Grant didn’t sign until December. Both Benson and Grant remain unsigned for 2013.
It’s not a given that Green Bay linebacker Brad Jones is on the way out. The free agent met with Packers’ officials yesterday, presumably to discuss a possible new contract. Jones did not comment afterward, and his agent did not indicate whether an offer was made. He met with the Tennessee Titans earlier. Brad Jones had a break-out year in 2012, after playing mostly on special teams in his first two seasons. He became a starter about a month into last season, after Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith went out with season-ending injuries. Jones played all but seven possible snaps in the Packers’ final 12 games. He had two sacks, four pass break-ups, and 77 tackles.
The Packers won’t have to worry about Brian Urlacher when they play the Bears twice next season. Chicago announced yesterday that it released the 13-year veteran linebacker, after the two sides failed to agree on a contract. Urlacher said he has no hard feelings against the Bears, and he wants to play at least one more season in the NFL. The eight-time Pro Bowler was the league’s defensive player-of-the-year in 2005. He originally wanted a two-year contract worth 11-and-a-half million dollars. ESPN said the Bears only offered a one-year deal for two-million – and Urlacher called that more of an ultimatum than an offer. He countered with a one-year proposal for three-and-a-half million with possible incentives – but that went nowhere. Urlacher has had injury problems in recent years. He missed the final four games of last season with a bad hamstring. Urlacher has also had knee problems, and he missed 15 games in 2009 with a wrist injury suffered against the Packers in that year’s opener.
Arike Ogunbowale of Milwaukee Divine Savior Holy Angels has been named the AP girls’ state high school basketball player of the year. Sara Rohde of Green Bay Notre Dame is the coach-of-the-year, after she led the Tritons to the Division 2 state title last weekend. Ogunbowale, a sophomore guard-and-forward, was also a unanimous pick to the AP’s All-State first team. That was after being named the Gatorade state player-of-the-year, and a first-team pick by the coaches’ association. Ogunbowale averaged just over 20 points for Divine Savior this past season, with almost 10 rebounds, four-and-a-half assists, and three steals per game. She led the Dashers to a 21-4 finish and a sectional semi-final berth. Also on the AP All-State girls’ first team are Gabrielle Ortiz of Racine Prairie, Samantha Terry of Baraboo, Mackenzie Latt of Sussex Hamilton, and Jessica Lindstrom of Superior.