The Washington Kastles look to hoist the Billie Jean King cup for the second year in a row this weekend at the 2012 World Team finals.Despite the momentum of their 30 match winning streak, they'll have to dismantle their rivals, the New York Sportimes, en route to the finals. The Kastles opened with a win over the Sportimes, but it was a close contest as Washington edged New York just 20-18 aided by the clutch play of, Bobby 'The Closer' Reynolds, in the final match.Reynolds, along with veteran and doubles specialist, Leander Paes, were instrumental in the Kastles victory capturing both men's singles and doubles, as well as mixed doubles.The Kastles other sister act, Anastasia and Arina 'Hot Rod' Rodionova, however struggled versus the Sportimes, dropping both events.This time around, reigning Wimbledon and Olympic doubles champion, Venus Williams, will be suiting up for Washington as they face the Sportimes.When Venus joined the Kastles in New York on July 21st, she defeated another former World No. 1 Martina Hingis 5-1. Williams was victorious in both overtime games and didn't drop a point during the 7 point Supertiebreaker leading the Kastles to a 21-20 win. Earlier this week, Coach Murphy Jensen noted that the Kastles success isn't the result of one superstar's 'herculean' effort, but rather the cohesiveness of the squad. But it can't hurt to have Williams' massive serve on the Kastles side of the net.If the Kastles capture the Eastern Conference title to advance to the finals, they'll face the Sacramento Capitals who swept all 5 sets to beat the Orange County Breakers, 25-15 Friday night. The Kastles know it won't be easy taking down the Capitals, whom they survived in the regular season 21-19. But luckily for the Kastles, the Caps will be without marque player Sam Querrey, who is representing the U.S. team in Davis Cup action. Meanwhile, both Reynolds and Paes opted to play in the WTT Finals this weekend versus representing their respective countries in the Davis Cup.Paes's decision caused a stir in his native India, and he said of his decision, "We come together as a team; as a community. I love playing on the Kastles team. This week the Indian Davis Cup team is playing New Zealand back in India, but the fact that I am here to support the ideals of what were trying to doshows how much I care for this team."
Hershey update: 38-19-8-3, 4th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-1-0-0
The Hershey Bears split their two games over the weekend with St. John’s with a 4-3 loss on Saturday and a 2-1 win on Sunday.
Saturday’s loss came in heartbreaking fashion as the Bears gave up the game-winner with just 16 seconds remaining in regulation.
Chandler Stephenson recorded an assist in the game, but gave up an absolutely dreadful turnover for the game-tying goal. From behind his own net, he attempted a no-look back pass that went directly to a St. John’s player who passed it to the slot for the goal.
Jakub Vrana recorded two points in Sunday’s win, including the game-winning goal.
Jonas Siegenthaler made his season debut for the Bears in Sunday’s game. He was a plus-one on the day.
The real star of the weekend for Hershey was goalie Pheonix Copley who started in both games. The young netminder was particularly strong in Sunday’s win, stopping 35 of the 36 shots he faced in the win. Since returning to Hershey, Copley is now 7-2-0 with a 1.94 goals against average and a .942 save percentage.
Travis Boyd and Riley Barber each had a goal and an assist over the weekend for the Bears.
Other prospect notes:
The WHL Playoffs are underway. Lucas Johansen’s Kelowna Rockets jumped out to a 3-1 series lead and are one win away from eliminating Garrett Pilon and the Kamloops Blazers. Johansen and Pilon both have one assist in four games.
The news wasn’t all bad for Pilon, however, as the Caps signed him to a three-year, entry-level deal on Thursday. He will report to Hershey at the end of the WHL season which may come as early as Friday.
Connor Hobbs and the Regina Pats are on the verge of sweeping Beck Malenstyn and the Calgary Hitmen. Regina has outscored Calgary 15-5 in three games. Hobbs has recorded two assists in each game while Malenstyn has yet to record a point.
Dmitriy Zaitsev is locked in a tight battle as his Moose Jaw Warriors are currently locked in a 2-2 series tie with the Swift Current Broncos. He has one assist.
Both Shane Gersich and Brian Pinho saw their seasons come to an end in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
North Dakota loss to Boston University 4-3 in double overtime on Friday. Gersich registered eight shots on goal, but could not get onto the scoresheet. Providence also lost in the first round to Harvard 3-0 on Friday.
There is no word yet on their future plans or if the Capitals have tried to sign either to an entry-level deal. Gersich’s teammate, Brock Boeser, was signed Saturday by the Vancouver Canucks and scored his first goal NHL that afternoon. For any who may have dreams of Gersich or Pinho following suite for the Caps, that’s unlikely to happen.
The Capitals seem pretty set with their lines right now and, if they were to recall anyone as a backup, it would likely be Jakub Vrana or they would stick with Paul Carey. Neither Gersich nor Pinho would likely be the top choice for a Washington team hoping to win the Stanley Cup.
That doesn’t mean the team won’t be interested in signing them and sending them to Hershey, however.
Gersich will be a rising junior at North Dakota, Pinho a rising senior for Providence if they both choose to return to college.
Ilya Samsonov’s KHL team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, completed a four-game sweep of Ak Bars to advance to the Gagarin Cup Finals for the second consecutive season. They will face SKA starting April 8.
While Siegenthaler returned to Hershey, there will be no such return trip for forward Kevin Elgestal. Elgestal’s season in Sweden was limited to only 25 games after he suffered a broken thumb in January. NOVA Caps caught up with Elgestal to get an update on his progress and it sounds like he will need to continue rehabbing over the summer.
Forward Damien Riat has been selected to Switzerland’s initial team roster for the World Championships. The team will have a two-day training camp starting on April 5. This year’s tournament will be held in Germany and France from May 5 to 21.
For more Capitals coverage, check out the latest edition of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast!
The Indiana Pacers appear headed to the playoffs, as they currently sit eighth in the Eastern Conference and 1 1/2 games ahead of the Bulls in ninth. Indiana could even face the Wizards, depending on how all this shakes out.
The Pacers, though, are struggling. They are 37-38 on the year, have lost six of 10 and two straight. With seven games remaining, time is running out before they have to face one of the best teams in the East in the first round of the playoffs.
Superstar Paul George is fed up with all of it and this week had some critical words for his teammates via the Indianapolis Star. After a loss to the Timberwolves, he pointed out the Pacers were lackluster against a team not even heading to the postseason.
Then, he said this:
“There’s no urgency, no sense of urgency, no winning pride,” he said. “This locker room is just not pissed off enough.”
As a guy who has led the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals, George knows what it takes to win in the playoffs and clearly he does not think their current roster has what it takes. Earlier this season he lamented the fact they are so bad on the road, as their 11-26 mark in away games is the worst among teams currently in the playoff picture.
Even with George, one of the game's best players, the Pacers look like a team few would be scared of come playoff time and he appears to know it.