<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Sports]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Fri, 22 May 2015 05:55:13 -0400 Fri, 22 May 2015 05:55:13 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[World War II Hero Still Competes]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 19:20:58 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/roy_rodriques_1200x675_448473667578.jpg Ninety-year-old Roy Rodriques, of Southington, won the Purple Heart for heroism in World War II. The 2014 Connecticut Masters Games athlete of the year continues to do the unthinkable. ]]> <![CDATA[Top French Open Stars, and 1 Who Missed the List]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 13:28:27 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/thumb-458711872.jpg

NBC’s coverage of the 2015 French Open begins this Sunday, May 24, at 1 p.m. ET. Follow along for live opening-round coverage, and don't miss the the live Women’s Final on June 6 and the live Men’s Final on June 7.

TV SCHEDULE

Sunday, May 24 1 - 3:30 p.m. ET First round (LIVE)
Monday, May 25 12 - 3 p.m. (all) First round (LIVE ET)
Saturday, May 30 12 - 3 p.m. ET Third round (LIVE)
Sunday, May 31 12 - 3 p.m. ET Fourth round (LIVE)
Thursday, June 4 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. (all)  Women's semifinals (LIVE ET)
Friday, June 5 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. (all) Men's semifinals (LIVE ET)
Saturday, June 6 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. ET Women's final (LIVE)
Sunday, June 7 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. ET Men's final (LIVE)



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Twin Power on the Track]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 12:05:15 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/dropsisters052015.jpg Jessica and Sam Drop are hoping two run away with the state track championships. Kevin Nathan introduces us to twin sisters from Coginchaug High School.]]> <![CDATA[Blackhawks Offer Late-to-Work Note After Longest Game in Team History]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 07:46:15 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/blackhawks-ducks-G2-3.jpg

Can you call in "hockey" to work? The Blackhawks say so. 

Following the Blackhawks' triple overtime win in Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks, a game that is now the longest game in Hawks history, the team shared their latest excuse note for fans who stayed up late to watch the game. 

The note, signed by the Chicago Blakchawks, asks for employers and teachers to excuse fans from their "lateness" or "sleepiness" Wednesday.

"He/she was up too late celebrating the win," the note reads.

But fans won't have much time to recover. The Blackhawks will look to defend home ice when the series resumes at the United Center Thursday night. The puck will drop at 7:00 p.m.



Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn, Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Blackhawks Beat Ducks 3-2 in Triple Overtime]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 03:53:52 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/474027552.jpg

The Blackhawks tried just about everything to get a puck past Frederik Andersen while Game 2 of the Western Conference finals wound through three overtime periods and deep into the night, eventually becoming the longest game in Chicago's 89-year history.

Andrew Shaw even headed the puck into the net — which was amazing, but illegal.

After nearly 110 consecutive scoreless minutes by Chicago, Marcus Kruger got it done with plain old work in front of the net, ending a landmark game and evening a series that's already the endurance test everyone expected.

Kruger batted home Brent Seabrook's shot 16:12 into the third OT, and the Blackhawks earned a 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 2 on Tuesday night.

"I got lucky," Kruger said. "Happy to see that go in."

Shaw and Marian Hossa scored power-play goals in the opening minutes, but Chicago couldn't score again in the longest game in Honda Center history until Kruger got in front and forced a ricochet past Andersen, who made a career-high 53 saves.

The Blackhawks celebrated with more relief than excitement, realizing they only had about 42 hours until the puck drops for Game 3 in Chicago on Thursday.

"I just hope we don't have any more like that," Shaw said. "I think this helps us, and showed us what can happen if we keep sticking to it and competing. We'll find a way to win."

Corey Crawford made 60 saves as the Blackhawks finally handed the Ducks their second loss of the postseason.

The game was the 17th-longest in NHL history, and the longest since Dallas and San Jose went four overtimes on May 4, 2008.

Shaw attempted to end it during a power play 8:47 into the second overtime by knocking a high-arching rebound of Patrick Kane's shot into the net with his helmet in a stunning soccer-style play, but the goal was illegal. The officials briefly conferred before waving it off — NHL rules prohibit players from deliberately knocking the puck into the net with anything except their sticks.

"It was just a reaction right there," Shaw said. "You do whatever you can to get that puck across the line. But we just kept working and competing, and we got lucky. ... Overtime goals are huge, so I tried to sell it as much as I could. It was just exciting, the reaction at the net. I was just out there using my head, I guess."

Corey Perry tied it late in the second period for the Ducks, who dropped to 9-2 in the postseason with their first home loss in seven games, missing numerous chances to end it. Andrew Cogliano also scored for Anaheim, which was shut out over the final 78:42.

"There were a few posts, a few crossbars," Perry said. "It's a tough one to swallow, but you get right back at it, put it behind you and get ready for the next one."

These Western powers came into the series with ample rest after easily winning their second-round series, but they used up much of that extra energy in a marathon Game 2.

Anaheim hadn't played a game with multiple overtimes since May 3, 2009, while Chicago won two multiple-overtime games in the first round against Nashville. The game was the second-longest in Ducks history, trailing only a five-overtime game at Dallas in 2003.

Two days after Anaheim comfortably won the series opener to improve to 6-0 at Honda Center in the postseason, Kruger's fortunate goal ended a nail-biting rematch.

"You just try to limit the mistakes as much as possible," Cogliano said. "You're drained. I think both game plans on both teams get a little lax, because you're out there for so long. Physically it's tough. Guys cramp. You're out there for so long, going through so many hits, and the game is so fast-paced, especially against this team. It's a tough pill to swallow right now, but you've just got to get over it. We've got to recover."

Perry put a shot off the crossbar roughly 10 minutes into the first OT, and Sami Vatanen hit the posts behind Crawford twice in extra time. Andersen made two enormous saves early in the second overtime, and Crawford matched him with a handful of stunners late in the period.

The Blackhawks never led in Game 1 while struggling to match the Ducks' depth and going scoreless on three power plays. Chicago kept its bench short in Game 2, largely playing only four defensemen — Duncan Keith logged just under 50 minutes of ice time, while Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook both topped 47 minutes — and relying on its top-end talent.

In the end, Kruger came up with his second goal of the postseason.

Chicago capitalized twice in the opening 6:19 after poor penalties by the Ducks. Shaw and Hossa both scored their second goal in three games after nine-game droughts to open the postseason.

Anaheim played a dominant second period, outshooting the Blackhawks 17-1 in the final 13 minutes. Perry finally evened it late, deflecting a long shot from captain Ryan Getzlaf for his eighth goal in 11 games.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Curry's Daughter Steals the Show]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 21:38:21 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/0519-2015-RileyCurry.jpg

Few, if any, can steal the spotlight away from Steph Curry during this year's jaw-dropping, MVP season.

But 2-year-old Riley Curry did just that Tuesday night after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

Curry, who dropped 34 points en route to the 110-106 win, brought along his daughter to the post game press conference.

Riley instantly stole the spotlight, waving to the media and telling her All-Star dad to "be quiet" after he was talking "too loud."

At one point during the press conference, Riley got off Curry's lap and disappeared from the camera's view while her father fielded questions from reporters.

But moments later she re-appeared under the press table and again waved at the audience.

Riley Curry, you are the real MVP.

Visit NBC Bay Area's Warriors page for more team coverage.


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<![CDATA[Patriots Won't Appeal Punishment]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 16:17:47 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/vlcsnap-2015-05-19-13h12m20s15.jpg

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Tuesday that the team will not appeal the penalty handed down by the National Football League in the wake of the Deflategate controversy.

Speaking from the NFL owners' meetings in California, Kraft said he decided to accept the punishment in an effort to "end the rhetoric." He said that while he still believes the penalty handed down was "unreasonable and unprecedented," he respects Commissioner Roger Goodell.

"The entire process has taken way too long," he said. "I can try to end it, or extend it."

Kraft also acknowledged that his position on how to handle the situation has changed.

"I think maybe if I made the decision last week it would be different than it is today," Kraft said.

The NFL fined the Patriots $1 million and took away two draft picks as punishment for the deflation of footballs below the league-mandated minimum for the AFC championship game. 

Quarterback Tom Brady was also issued a four-game suspension, which he has already appealed. His appeal must be heard within 10 days of its filing on May 14.

The NFL Players Association formally requested Goodell recuse himself as an arbitrator in Brady's appeal later Tuesday afternoon and asked for a neutral party to set in.

"If the NFL believes the Ted Wells report has credibility because it is independent, then the NFL should embrace our request for an independent review," the union said in a statement.

If it is upheld, Brady would miss the first four games. The Patriots open the NFL season at home against Pittsburgh on Sept. 10, then travel to Buffalo before a home game against Jacksonville. After a bye week, their fourth game will be in Dallas.

Brady would be eligible to return for the fifth game on Oct. 18 at Indianapolis. The probe began after the Colts complained that Brady used deflated footballs in their 45-7 loss to the Patriots in the AFC title game.

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<![CDATA[What We Learned From American Pharoah's Preakness Win]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 11:27:50 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/American-Pharoah-Preakness-15-May-2015.jpg

That was easy, wasn't it?

Two weeks after struggling but winning the Kentucky Derby, American Pharoah ignored thunder, lightning, rain and the opposition and splashed his way to a seven-length victory in the Preakness on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course.

And now, it's on to the Belmont Stakes on June 6 for a shot at the Triple Crown and racing immortality.

"He's just an amazing horse," trainer Bob Baffert glowed after winning his sixth Preakness. "Everyone talks about the greatness, and it's just starting to show now. To me, they have to prove it. Today, the way he did it, he just ran so fast. It was like poetry in motion."

Here are some things learned about American Pharoah from the Preakness:

POST POSITION

Inside or outside, American Pharoah is one tough customer. Saddled with an unfavorable No. 1 post, the 3-year-old colt broke a bit slow, but was urged to the lead by jockey Victor Espinoza. In the eight-horse field, only Mr. Z gave chase but for just a little while. AP, as owner Ahmed Zayat sometimes calls him, motored along the rail and cruised home for his sixth straight win. In the Derby, he drew the No. 18 post, started from No. 16 after two horses were scratched, and won by a length despite not being on his A game. For the upcoming Belmont Stakes, at 1 1/2 miles the longest and most grueling of the three races, post position won't be an issue. By the way, the last horse to win the Preakness from the No. 1 post before Saturday was Tabasco Cat in 1994.

NO SLOP FOR YOU

Rain or shine, track condition is not a problem. American Pharoah gave every indication he could deal with a torrential downpour two months ago in Arkansas. A champion as a 2-year-old, his debut this year came in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He won there, too, by 6 1/4 lengths. So once the skies opened on Saturday, there wasn't too much concern about how the sloppy track would affect his performance. "So much rain we had, and so much water, it's insane," winning jockey Victor Espinoza said. "American Pharoah was traveling super in there." How bad was it? "I saw a picture of the track with a river running on the rail, and I thought he's got to run through that?" Baffert said.

BIGGER, STRONGER

A two-week turnaround took nothing out of American Pharoah. Maybe it did, but it didn't look that way. His stride was a graceful as ever — much better than it was in the Derby — and as Baffert says, he "floats over the track wherever he goes." In the weeks leading up to the Belmont, though, Baffert knows that can change. After all, this will be the trainer's fourth attempt to give racing its first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. American Pharoah has won six of his seven lifetime starts, and looks as strong as ever. Then again, 2004 Derby winner Smarty Jones looked awesome, too, after his record 11 1/2-length win in the Preakness — but three weeks later in the Belmont, he was run down in the final yards by Birdstone. "I've seen horses that you don't see it until two weeks later (after the Preakness)," Baffert said. "That's when it starts showing up on these horses. I've been through it. About two weeks out, you'll start seeing if it's getting to them a little bit, and that's why it's so difficult (to win a Triple Crown).

COTTON PICKIN' RAIN

So now we all know American Pharoah is fitted with ear plugs — or else his ears are stuffed with cotton — for his races, because he's sensitive to noise. Not a good thing for a horse going for a Triple Crown and performing before 100,000-plus fans. Nonetheless, the cotton worked again, and he was as attentive as he needed to be. He may have covered the 1 3-16 miles in the slow time of 1:58.46, but he finished ahead of everyone else and was not distracted. "I could tell they (the horses) didn't like it when they got pelted like that," Baffert said. "And I was worried about the cotton balls in his ears. How is he going to react? Maybe I should take them out." No need.

CAN HE DO IT?

Can American Pharoah end a 37-year Triple Crown drought that began after Affirmed became the 11th horse to sweep the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 1978. Here's a sampling of opinions from three Triple Crown winning connections:

Penny Chenery (owner, Secretariat): "The question will be how quickly he recovers and doesn't lose too much weight. He seems to have a level head, though, and seems to be in command of his talents."

Steve Cauthen (jockey, Affirmed): "He looks like the real deal."

Ron Turcotte (jockey, Secretariat): "The sport needs a Triple Crown winner and he could very well be the one."

THE OPPOSITION

Now that American Pharoah has dusted off his rivals in the Derby and Preakness, who's left to take him on in the Belmont? Well, it sure looks like a bunch of Derby also-rans who skipped the Preakness are going to show up in a bid to play Triple Crown spoiler. Among them are a bunch trained by Todd Pletcher: Materiality (sixth in the Derby), Carpe Diem (10th) and Peter Pan Stakes winner Madefromlucky. Also probable are Frosted (fourth in the Derby), Keen Ice (seventh), Mubtaahij (eighth) and Frammento (11th). "I really don't think about the third leg yet," Baffert said. "It's going to be tough. I've always said this is the easiest of the three legs, and the next race is going to be ... everybody right now is sharpening their knives getting ready."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kraft Speaks on Deflategate Punishment]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 11:10:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bob-kraft-tom-brady-high5.jpg

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft says he hasn't ruled out taking the National Football League to court in an effort to reverse the $1 million fine and the loss of draft picks levied in the wake of the Deflategate mess.

In an interview with Peter King of The MMQB, Kraft said he believes that Tom Brady had no part in deflating the footballs.

"I just get really worked up," he said. "To receive the harshest penalty in league history is just not fair. The anger and frustration with this process, to me, it wasn't fair."

Kraft refused to comment when asked if he'll take the NFL to court. He also wouldn't say if he plans to remain as active in league affairs as he has in the past. Asked about the status of his relationship with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, he said, "You'll have to ask him."

[CLICK HERE for more on what Kraft had to say.]

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<![CDATA[Gibbs Expects Huskies to Be Good in 2015-16]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 10:50:28 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/kevin+ollie+uconn+against+bryant.jpg

The Huskies will be a completely different team in 2015-16. Gone are Ryan Boatright (graduation) and Terrence Samuel (transfer), and in their places are incoming freshmen Jalen Adams and Steve Enoch, and transfers Shonn Miller and Sterling Gibbs.

Of the group, the explosive Adams has the most upside while Gibbs, who announced he was coming to UConn over the weekend, offers a proven track record after stops at Texas and Seton Hall.

With Boatright's departure comes a void at the point-guard position, one both Gibbs and Adams could fill.

"I'm a point guard, 100-percent," Gibbs said, via the New Haven Register. "I can score the ball, and the fact that I'm able to score, sometimes people may try to say, 'He's a combo, a two-guard.' But I'm a point guard who can score, and at the same I'm I'm able to get my teammates involved."

Gibbs averaged 16.7 points per game last season to go along with 3.8 assists. He also led the Big East in three-point shooting percentage (45).

Gibbs also has high hopes for what UConn can do in 2015-16, after a disappointing effort last season.

"I think UConn can be really good," he said. The sky's the limit. It's not like anything's gonna be given to us. I know Coach Ollie's gonna push us to the limit, make sure we all jell together as one family, as a brotherhood."

It also doesn't hurt to play for a program that has a proven track record when it comes to churning out NBA-ready guards.

“It’s a great opportunity to be able to come into a veteran team with a great coach and have the chance to make an impact,” Gibbs told SNY.tv. “The tradition of UConn and their guards speaks for itself.”



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sterling Gibbs Is Transferring to UConn]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 11:08:45 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP463092600188.jpg

Sterling Gibbs made it official over the weekend: He's headed to UConn. The former Seton Hall standout announced that he's transferring to play for Kevin Ollie and the Huskies, a move that gives a young UConn depth depth, experience and a scorer.

The 6-2 combo guard averaged 16.7 points per game last season to go along with 3.8 assists. He also led the Big East in three-point shooting percentage (45).

 So why did Gibbs settle on UConn?

 "Overall, the coaches," he said, via the New Haven Register's David Borges. "It's a great coaching staff, great players, a seasoned team. Everything Coach Ollie has dealt with as far as guards. It's a UConn tradition, everything their guards have done throughout the years."

 "My favorite player has always been Marcus Williams. I used to watch all his games, even when he was on the Nets. The way he dished the ball and was also able to score a little bit. And, of course, Kemba (Walker) and Shabazz (Napier).

 Gibbs began his college career at Texas before transferring to Seton Hall. Last season was a rocky one for Seton Hall; the Pirated finished 16-15, the locker room was reportedly unsettled, and Gibbs was suspended two games for hitting Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono in the face with his forearm. 

Gibbs will join 6-7 Shonn Miller as the Huskies' second transfer this offseason. Miller played previously at Cornell, and he will also use his fifth year of eligibility in Storrs.



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Proposal: Make Women's Game 4 Quarters]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 10:43:00 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/geno-auriemma-nat-champs.jpg

On Friday, the NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee proposed and recommended that instead of two 20-minute halves, the women's game move to four 10-minute quarters. UConn coach Geno Auriemma has been a proponent of the change and, not surprisingly, he's happy it's being discussed seriously.

“What a great step forward for our game,” Auriemma said in a statement, via SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “As the game becomes more global each year, it’s important that we start the process toward standardizing the rules. This is just the beginning of what I hope are many other changes to improve this great game.”

Nothing's official until it's approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which will convene via conference call on June 8. Still, it's a step in the right direction, one that could make the game better.

The rules committee is very excited about the change to the four-quarter format for the 2015-16 season,” said University of Richmond coach Michael Shafer, who is also the chair of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules Committee. “We believe this change, along with the associated changes to the timeout and foul rules, will address flow of the game and physicality. The overall format will strengthen the connection of college basketball with women’s basketball globally.”

In the new format, team fouls would be reset to zero at the beginning of each quarter (currently, it's reset to zero at the beginning of each half).

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<![CDATA[Ducks Beat Blackhawks in Game 1]]> Sun, 17 May 2015 18:13:45 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/ducks+hawks+game+1.jpg

The Anaheim Ducks took a 2-0 lead over the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, and they withstood a late charge as they finished off a 4-1 victory in the contest. 

Brad Richards scored the lone goal of the game for the Blackhawks, and Corey Crawford made 23 saves as the Blackhawks find themselves behind in a series for the first time this postseason. 

The Blackhawks got a power play just over a minute into the game when Corey Perry slashed Patrick Kane in the neutral zone, but it was Anaheim that had the first good scoring chances. Jakub Silfverberg nearly scored a short-handed goal off a Ryan Kesler rebound, but Corey Crawford made the save as the net came off the moorings to keep it scoreless.

After that failed power play, the Blackhawks seemed to take control of the tempo of the contest. Patrick Sharp had a nice one-timer from the slot off of a feed from Teuvo Teravainen, but Frederik Andersen made the save. Kane then got a loose puck in the middle of the ice and nearly scored into an empty cage, but Andersen hit the shot up over the net. Off the ensuing face-off, Sharp got another shot off at the net, but Andersen made the save once again.

The Ducks started pushing back a bit after the midway point of the period, and they ultimately scored to take the lead. David Rundblad failed to break up the zone entry by the Ducks, and Jakub Silfverberg made a gorgeous play as he circled around to the boards and fired a pass back to the point. Hampus Lindholm then ripped a shot in toward the net that evaded Crawford, and the home team grabbed a 1-0 lead.

The Blackhawks had a few more good chances to score late in the first period, but the game-tying goal wasn’t coming. Teravainen established possession through the middle of the slot, but the Hawks couldn’t force in a shot through traffic as the Ducks held onto their lead through 20 minutes of play.

After the intermission, the Ducks started pushing back at the Blackhawks, and they were rewarded with a goal. Johnny Oduya and Rundblad both failed to clear the puck from behind the net, and then Nate Thompson’s shot toward the front was kicked out by Crawford. Kyle Palmieri then picked up the rebound and rifled a one-timer over the goaltender’s shoulder, and Anaheim seized a 2-0 advantage.

The damage could have been even worse for the Blackhawks later in the period as Niklas Hjalmarsson was sent off for tripping, but the Hawks’ penalty kill came up big against the league’s top-ranked power play as they killed off the infraction. Matt Beleskey did have one good shot on goal during the man-advantage, but Crawford blocked it away to keep it a two goal game.

With less than a minute to go in the period, the Blackhawks finally were able to solve Andersen as they scored a key goal. Brad Richards made the play happen as he wrestled the puck away from Francois Beauchemin at the blue line, and then his breakaway ended with a goal as he snuck a shot between Andersen’s blocker and chest to make it a 2-1 game after two periods of play.

As the third period got underway, the Blackhawks got a pair of power plays but were unable to convert on either of them. Richards did come close to getting his second goal of the day on the first man-advantage situation, and Brandon Saad had a killer rebound chance as well, but Andersen made some good saves as he kept his team in front despite the pressure.

Just after the halfway mark of the period, the Ducks got an odd-man rush scoring chance thanks to a missed play by Duncan Keith, and they made Chicago pay. Crawford was able to stop the initial shot off the stick of Andrew Cogliano, but Thompson picked up his second point of the day as he flipped the puck past the sprawled out goaltender to give Anaheim a 3-1 lead with about eight minutes to go.

The Blackhawks ended up surrendering an empty net goal late in the third period, and they find themselves trailing in a series for the first time since they trailed 3-2 in the Western Conference Final last season. They will try to even things up when the two teams meet for Game 2 in Anaheim on Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. Central time. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[What to Know About the French Open]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 13:18:05 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/450285812.jpg

The French Open is the second of four annual Grand Slam tournaments, the most prestigious individual competitions in tennis.

The tournament, also known as Roland Garros, begins on May 24 in Paris and lasts through June 7. 

It follows the Australian Open in Melbourne and precedes both Wimbledon in London (June 29 to July 12) and the US Open in New York City (Aug. 31 to Sept. 13).

The French Open is held on clay courts, which are slower than outdoor hard and grass courts. Crushed brick is used to form the upper layer of the red clay court surface, while limestone, clinker and stone make up the remaining layers, as well as drainage pipes.

The courts are built with 1.1 tons of red clay and 100 people are responsible for maintaining them during qualifying rounds and the tournament, according to the French Open’s official website.

Here are more fun facts about the French Open: 

1891: The year the world championships of clay-court tennis were created and first held on the courts of Stade Francais club in Paris. The tournament was reserved for members of French clubs. Women’s singles were added in 1897.

1928: The year Helen Wills became the first American to win the women's singles title. Donald Budge became the first American to win the men’s singles title in 1938.

3 hours and 4 minutes: The longest final in women’s singles titles: Steffi Graf beat Arantxa Sanchez in 1996 (6-3, 6-7, 10-8).

9: Spanish legend Rafael Nadal, 28, has won a record-breaking 9 of the last 10 men’s singles titles. Swiss Roger Federer won the 2009 title, while Nadal suffered his first ever defeat at Roland Garros in the fourth round. He won his first French Open title in 2005.

5: The number of Nadal's losses on clay so far this year, The Associated Press reported. It's the first time he's lost more than three in a year on clay since 2003. 

10: The number of French men to win the men’s singles title since the tournament included foreign athletes in 1925.

15 and 20: The number of finals featuring the top two seeds in men’s and women’s singles, respectively. Last year, No. 1 Rafael Nadal defeated No. 2 Novak Djokovic for the 2014 title, while No. 1 Serena Williams beat No. 2 Maria Sharapova for the 2013 title.

22: The number of matches Djokovic has won in a row heading into the French Open

17 years and 3 months: Michael Chang was the youngest person to win the men’s singles title (in 1989).

31.06: The amount of string, in miles, (50 kilometers) used by the official tournament stringers, Babolat, in 2014.

149: The Roland Garros speed record belongs to American Taylor Dent, who served at 149 mph (240 km/h) in 2010.

250: The number of ball kids, ages 12 to 16, who worked the matches in 2014. Eighty percent were boys, with eight coming from French overseas territories and protectorates.

60,000: The number of tennis balls used during the three-week competition in 2014.

1,650,000: The prize money in euros ($1.7 million) awarded to the 2014 women’s and men’s singles champions, Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal.

1,800,000: The prize money in euros ($2 million) that will be awarded to the women's and men's singles champions this year, according to the AP. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Haley Rice Overcomes Tragedy]]> Fri, 15 May 2015 15:41:21 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/haleyrice051415.jpg UHart runner Haley Rice graduates on Sunday with a psychology degree, but for the Albany native, her life's crusade is born out of personal tragedy.]]> <![CDATA[Racing in Their Bones: Behind Top Jockeys' Dynasties]]> Fri, 15 May 2015 15:42:46 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/american+pharoah+derby+race.JPG

Javier Castellano would never have been a jockey if his father had had his way.

Abel Castellano had ridden horses for almost 30 years in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and broken ribs and a shoulder along the way. He knew how tough the job was.

But his son Javier would awaken as a child and get out of bed when his father returned from the track. Javier fell in love with racing, and once he finished high school, he followed his father to the track.

"I always looked up to him, because he was a great jockey," said Javier, 37, the top thoroughbred jockey in wins and earnings heading into the Preakness Stakes this weekend.

“It’s very risky, but it’s a beautiful sport,” he said.

On Saturday in Baltimore, he will ride Divining Rod in the second leg of the Triple Crown. The race will take all his concentration, he said, and it's easier when his family understands the pressures he faces.

Many riders in this year's Triple Crown come from long lineages of jockeys, trainers and agents — mostly men, though occasionally women. In families with deep roots in racing, the jockeys grow up around stables, learn from their fathers and uncles and root for their siblings in their races.

Trevor McCarthy, 20, knew by the first grade that he wanted to be jockey like his father, Michael.

As a boy, Trevor would go with his father to the Delaware Park Racetrack in Wilmington, first riding the ponies that led the horses to the post, then the horses themselves. He credits his father with much of his success.

"He’s put a lot of effort into making me the rider I am," McCarthy said.

McCarthy — who will be on Bodhisattva on Saturday, his 21st birthday — said he always looked up to his father, a jockey turned trainer and jockey's agent who also gallops horses in the mornings.

“He loves it, he loves that I ride," he said. "Sometimes he gets a bit nervous watching, a bit nervous and concerned at times, but overall he loves it."

His mother, who competed in barrel races in high school in upstate New York, is just as proud, he said.

Competing against McCarthy, the Preakness' youngest rider, will be Gary Stevens, a racing veteran who at 52 will be the oldest jockey at Pimlico on Saturday and who like his young rival was raised among horses, their trainers and jockeys.

Stevens twice returned to racing after he had retired, and has acted in the 2003 movie “Seabiscuit” and worked as a racing analyst for NBC Sports and other outlets during his time away from the track. Two weeks ago, Stevens rode Firing Line in the Kentucky Derby, finishing second to American Pharoah. He has previously won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont stakes three times each.

Stevens was raised around horses in Boise, Idaho, the youngest of three boys. His brother Scott is also a jockey, and his brother Craig is a jockey agent and horse trainer. Their father is a horse trainer; their mother was a rodeo queen.

"She could ride, and she’s pretty,” he said.

Only Stevens' wife, Angie, does not ride.

All of the Stevens brothers played sports — football, baseball and wrestling — and they hunted and fished.

“We all wanted to play pro football, except for my middle brother Scott," Stevens said. "He always just wanted to be a jockey.”

He called all of his brothers in the days before the Preakness, and though they did talk about horses, no one brought up Saturday’s race.

"It’s kind of my peaceful time,” Stevens said. “It was more little brother calling his two big brothers, and just getting some free time off of not worrying about the Preakness. Sort of going back to my childhood with my brothers."

The bond of brotherhood also looms large for Victor Espinoza, who rode American Pharoah to victory at the Kentucky Derby and hopes to do the same Saturday. His older brother was also a jockey.

Espinoza, now 42, grew up on a farm in Hidalgo, Mexico, playing soccer, baseball, basketball — every sport but golf. He rode horses, but he was afraid of them.

“I had no clue about racing,” he said. “My family, they never were interested in the races. We are farmers.”

But Espinoza followed his older brother Jose to Cancun, where the two brothers learned to train horses, and eventually moved to California to ride them.

Victor never chose to become a jockey, he said. He rode horses to survive, for what he thought would be a short time.

“For me, it's not just a fun thing,” he said. “It's a job that I have to do.”

It's also a job that has profoundly affected his brother, who suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was thrown from a horse crossing the finish line in Saratoga in 2013. Jose no longer rides, and his brother says his condition is improving.

Though Jose was in Baltimore last year to watch his brother ride California Chrome in the Preakness, he will not travel this year. But he will watch the race, Victor Espinoza said.

"I try not to bring it up at all," Victor said of his brother’s injury. "For me, I just want him to be 100 percent."

Castellano, who will ride Divining Rod on Saturday, is reminded daily of the risks, too. His wife Abby, the daughter of the national director of the Jockeys' Guild, grasps the sacrifices he must make, he said.

Castellano loves his sport but appreciates how dangerous it can be. He must watch his weight. He has little time off. He travels in the winter from his home in New York to race in Florida. The first year, his wife moved with him, and they enrolled the children in school in Florida for three months, but the disruption wasn't good for them, he said. So now they stay in New York, and he is separated from them.

"It's a funny business," he said. “You can be in the top right now, and then if I spill, you can die or you can be paralyzed.”

His daughters cared more about the hats at the Kentucky Derby than about riding, he said, but there is also his 2-year-old son.

Would he like his son to follow him to the racetrack?

"I don't want to talk about that," he said, laughing, though he admitted he would support his son if he wanted to be a jockey. How could he not? he asked.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Boatright Looking to Impress at NBA Combine]]> Fri, 15 May 2015 10:25:40 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/UConn-Cincinnati-Boatright.jpg

Ryan Boatright is the latest in a long line of outstanding point guards to make their way through UConn. Whether he can make the transition to the NBA -- like Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier most recently -- is the biggest question facing the diminutive playmaker.

It was a concern for scouts during Boatright's senior season and remains so as Boatright showcases his talents at the NBA combine in Chicago this week.  On Thursday, he scored 12 points and added two assists, a steal and a block in 25 minutes.

"I thought I played good for the minutes I played," he said, via the Hartford Courant. "I could have improved on the turnovers. I had two careless turnovers (three total). But overall I think we played good."

Boatright measured 5-10, 170 pounds at the combine, which is a shade under his the 6-0, 175 UConn had him at last season. Of course, being undersized won't matter if Boatright can convince NBA scouts, coaches and front-office execs that he can play. Which has been the plan all along.

"I think everybody knows I can score, everybody knows I can handle the ball," Boatright said. "I think the biggest question of NBA teams was that I was too small. I am showing that I can hold my own. And I am not even at the weight right now that I was during the season [he says he played at 152]. I am just proving that I'm not too small.

"I think I need to put on some weight. If I can put on some weight, it will make my game a lot easier and I won't get knocked off my spot as much. I can slow down a little more. There is always room for improvement. My jump shot, my ball-handling, there is always room for improvement."

One person who doesn't need convincing: Michigan St. coach Tom Izzo, who saw plenty of Boatright during the point guard's career.

"We played [UConn] the year before and they beat us," said Izzo, who was in attendance at the combine. "[Boatright] was unbelievable. He played so hard, he played well. He was so good defensively. Kevin [Ollie] did a great job with that team. Boatright played well against us, I can just tell you that. He played so good defensively it was scary."



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Former Husky McCombs Signs With Argos]]> Fri, 15 May 2015 10:22:43 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/lyle-mccombs-michigan.jpg

Earlier this week, former UConn center Alex Mateas was the first overall pick in the 2015 CFL Draft. And now Mateas will be joined in the league by a former Huskies teammate: running back Lyle McCombs has signed with the Toronto Argonauts.

McCombs, who rushed for 1,115 yards as a UConn freshman, left the football program last June as the fourth-leading rusher in school history (2,681 yards). He also has 11 career 100-yard rushing games. New coach Bob Diaco made the decision to move on from McCombs, who played his final college season at Rhode Island, an FBS school. There he rushed for 663 yards (4.8 YPC) and scored five touchdowns.

Back in June 2014, Diaco said that McCombs, who was the centerpiece of the Huskies' offense for his first two seasons, had "not met the expectations set forth by the group and for that he won't be moving forward with us."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Southington Softball Team Defeats Farmington 42-0]]> Thu, 14 May 2015 20:14:30 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/softball051315.jpg

Southington High School’s softball team remains the top team in the state, with a 42-0 win over Farmington on Wednesday, giving the team a 59-game winning streak.

Coach Davina Hernandez said said her team toned down against the Farmington softball team to in an effort to prevent a blowout.

"So when the team was unable to get three outs early on in the game, we started batting nine batters and saying, 'Don’t worry about the outs,' and you know, you don’t see that in a big score like that," said Hernandez.

Hernandez said it was emotionally draining to play on Wednesday night.

"I know what it feels like to lose by a lot and it’s not fun," she said.

The game continued, even if Hernandez didn’t want it to.

According to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference CIAC, a "tournament game must be seven innings, or if tied after seven innings must be completed to constitute a legal game."

The regulations further state, "After 4.5 or 5 innings of play and one team is 15 or more runs ahead, the mercy rule will be invoked."

"It was an odd situation, to tell you the truth. You didn’t want to cheer because you didn’t want the other team to feel bad, but your kids are out there; they came to play," said Southington parent Patty Scafariello.

Hernandez said there are no hard feelings between the schools.

"The Farmington athletic director called our athletic director today and said, ‘Despite the huge lopsided score, your team is a class act and your coach did everything that she could,' and I don’t think you’ll see that with the score," she said.

It was a comment that meant the world to Hernandez, who calls her team an extremely humble group of ladies.

Farmington High School’s athletic director did not return a request for comment Thursday.

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<![CDATA[Patriots Slam Deflategate Report]]> Thu, 14 May 2015 14:41:38 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/DeflateGate_AP946476660019_0_sm.jpg

The New England Patriots fired back at the National Football League on Thursday, releasing a lengthy response saying the conclusions of the Wells Report are "at best, incomplete, incorrect and lack context."

[CLICK HERE to read the full Patriots response to the Wells Report.]

"The Wells Report in Context," written Patriots lawyer Daniel L. Goldberg, who represented the team and was present at all interviews of Patriots personnel conducted at Gillette Stadium, attempts to provide detailed context of the Wells Report, which led the NFL to suspend quarterback Tom Brady for four games, levy a $1 million fine and strip the team of two draft picks.

"The conclusions of the Wells Report are, at best, incomplete, incorrect and lack context," the document states. "The Report dismisses the scientific explanation for the natural loss of psi of the Patriots footballs by inexplicably rejecting the Referee's recollection of what gauge he used in his pregame inspection. Texts acknowledged to be attempts at humor and exaggeration are nevertheless interpreted as a plot to improperly deflate footballs, even though none of them refer to any such plot.

"There is no evidence that Tom Brady preferred footballs that were lower than 12.5 psi and no evidence anyone even thought that he did. All the extensive evidence which contradicts how the texts are interpreted by the investigators is simply dismissed as 'not plausible.' Inconsistencies in logic and evidence are ignored."

The goal of the document, the team says, is to "provide additional context for balance and consideration."

In addition to taking issue with the reported psi levels of the footballs, the team says the NFL "had already prejudged" the issues before Ted Wells was hired to look into the matter. "The Wells investigators, then, were hired by the League to investigate an issue that the League had already prejudged."

The team says increased communications between Brady and Patriots equipment assistant John Jastremski after the AFC Championship Game "do not make it more likely than not that there was any wrongdoing or knowledge of wrongdoing. They are totally consistent with complete innocence. It is only speculation to conclude otherwise."

Also defended is Brady's refusal to turn over his cell phone, as the team says the league already had all of Jastremski's texts with Brady, along with phone records from Patriots locker room attendant James McNally.

"Given the fact that Mr. Jastremski and Mr. McNally had both turned over their phone records, no adverse inferences should be drawn from the fact that Mr. Brady did not make his phone or its contents available."



Photo Credit: FILE - AP]]>