Gary Shelton - 6/193 - SaintPetersBlog

Gary Shelton

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

Rays bash Minnesota 19-0 in Grapefruit League contest

Are we sure it doesn’t count?

Is there any way we can make it count?

After all, fans have waited years for the Tampa Bay Rays to hit like this – 23 hits including five home runs. And the team hasn’t pitched like this very often – seven perfect innings and a shutout.

It all added up to a 19-0 squashing of Minnesota is a grapefruit league victory Tuesday. Alex Cobb threw two perfect innings in the game. Curt Casali, Nick Franklin and Rickie Weeks hit homers, while Jake Bauer had a grand slam.

The Twins finished with three hits and a walk in the game that was, unfortunately, just practice.

Still, it’s better to win a lopsided game than to lose one.

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Should Tampa Bay Bucs be interested in Adrian Peterson?

When it comes to the next destination for free agent Adrian Peterson, the Tampa Bay Bucs look like a possible place to run toward.

But should they be?

Peterson, who has rushed for almost 12,000 yards in his career running for the Minnesota Vikings, certainly has the name for the job. He has seven 1,000 yard seasons. He has scored 97 touchdowns. He is, arguably, the best running back of his generation.

Still, there are warning signs to Peterson. He’ll turn 32 in March, and he’s coming off an injury that limited him to 75 yards in 2016 (after 72 in 2014). Obviously, he’ll want to stop by an ATM on his way to the field.

So should the Bucs be ready to chase down Peterson? Or should they let another team sign him?

Oh, make no mistake. With the problems that Doug Martin has had, no one would blame Tampa Bay if they choose to try out another running back. But there are other quality backs to be had at a more affordable price than Peterson,

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Nikita Kucherov scores hat trick as Lightning beat Ottawa

Did you see that?

Want to see it again?

How about one more time?

The Tampa Bay Lightning played one of most inspired games of the season Monday night, blasting the second-place (Atlantic Division) Ottawa Senators 5-1. Nikita Kucherov blistered three straight shots in the second period into the net to lead the way.

It was the second Hat Trick of his career, with all three goals coming in a row in the second period. His scores were all similar – one timers from the circle to the goaltender’s left. All three snapped into the net in span of 17 minutes and nine seconds.

“Let’s go back a couple games,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “He had nine shots on goal, didn’t score. He had that mentality of, ‘I want to score.’ It wasn’t pass first, pass first, pass first. Then you get to the game after that, I think he had seven shots and he scored in the game. When the Calgary game came, he had zero shots after two periods. He ended up getting a couple shots at the end, but when he’s got that shooter’s mentality with the gift he has to put the puck in the back of the net, this is what happens.

“Now what’d he have: seven tonight? This will happen for him. Guys like Kuch, they’re special players. They have high hockey IQ’s. They want to make plays and sometimes it hurts them by making too many plays. When he’s got that shooter’s mentality, these are the type of things that happen.”

It was the kind of game that signals that maybe, just maybe, the Bolts are still in it despite the trades of goaltender Brian Bishop and forward Brian Boyle.

For instance, there was Kucherov’s magic. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy won his first game since Jan. 24, and collected only his third since Dec. 31, a span of 14 games. Vasilevskiy said he refused to think about Bishop’s trade, thinking only about stopping pucks instead. It worked for him.

Forward Jonathan Drouin had three assists on the night, and Brayden Point and Braydon Coburn scored goals.

The Bolts are home Wednesday night against Carolina.

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Unbeaten UConn women win No. 104 in a row against USF

The USF women weren’t able to stop the Huns at the gate Monday night.

Still, they played better.

Six weeks after losing by an embarrassing 65 points to UConn, the Bulls came within 28 points of the rampaging Huskies, 96-68, who have now won 104 straight games. Napheesa Collier scord 39 points for the Huskies, who finished their regular season at 29-0.

USF finished 22-7. They got 16 points from Adriana Pujol.

After a while (say, 104 victories), it says as much about the opposition as Geno Auriemma’s team.

The Bulls are 0-22 against Uconn. They’re 0-8 in the Huskies’ winning streak, losing by an average of 29 points.

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Tampa Bay Bolts also barter Brian Boyle as trades continue

The Tampa Bay Lightning has traded away another fan favorite.

The Bolts sent Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday afternoon for forward Byron Froese and a conditional second-round draft pick.

The Lightning will get the higher of Toronto’s second-round picks.

Froese, 25, has appeared in two games with the Maple Leafs this season, posting two shots on goal. The 6-foot, 205-pound forward has skated in 58 career NHL games, all with Toronto over the past two seasons, collecting two goals and five points. He made his NHL debut against the Montreal Canadiens on October 24, 2015. Froese scored his first career NHL goal on December 19, 2015, against the Los Angeles Kings.

The Winkler, Manitoba native has also played in 48 games with the Toronto Marlies this season, posting 24 goals and 39 points to go along with 18 penalty minutes. Froese paces the Marlies for both goals and points. He’s appeared in 195 career AHL games, registering 49 goals and 101 points to go along with 81 penalty minutes.

Boyle had 13 goals for the Bolts this season.

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Lightning’s Steve Yzerman thinks team can still make the playoffs

Even without the best goaltender in its history, general manager Steve Yzerman thinks the Tampa Bay Lightning can make the playoffs.

On the morning after trading Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, Yzerman said the post-season remains a goal.

“We’re still trying to make the playoffs,” Yzerman said. “This tandem (goaltenders Andrei Vasilevskiy and Peter Bukaj) gives us a chance to win every night.”

Yzerman said his choice was this trade or to sit tight until the end of the season. He said one reason he made it now was to afford to pay off performance clauses of the young players.

That puts the team’s goaltending in the hands of Vasilevskiy, who Yzerman thinks will be a good one.

“To me, it’s more than a leap of faith,” Yzerman said. “I believe time will tell. I think he has all the tools to be an excellent starting goaltender for a long time. He’s going to be a very good starter. It’s the hardest position to play. There are ups and downs for every player. I think he has the desire and the fortitude to ride those downs out.”

At any rate, the immediate future belongs to Vasilevskiy, who is 11-13-5. The Bolts have won only one of his last eight starts (three overtimes).

Yzerman said the expectations are still high.

“Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup,” he said, “whether that’s this year, next year or two years from now.”

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Tampa Bay Lightning trades goaltender Ben Bishop to Kings

The Tampa Bay Lightning traded away the best goaltender in their history Sunday night.

Now, the question is whether the team can make the playoffs without him.

The Bolts swapped Ben Bishop, who has won 128 regular season games over past three-plus seasons, to the Los Angeles Kings for goaltender Peter Budaj, defensive prospect Erik Cernak and two draft picks. It is a trade that will free up salary cap space for the Bolts, but it hurts them in this year’s playoff race. Bishop had won five straight games.

The trade had been talked about since the Lightning re-signed young goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to a new contract. Bishop was to be an unrestricted free agent.

Budaj actually had won as many games this season (27) as Bishop and Vasilevskiy combined. However, he is 34, and no one knows how long he’ll be able to help.

Cernak, a former No. 2 draft pick, has not left the minors for the Kings.

Budaj, 6 feet 1 and 196 pounds, played in 53 games with the Kings this season, taking over the No. 1 job after Jonathan Quick suffered a groin injury in the season opener. Quick returned Saturday night for his first game since the opener. Budaj was 27-20-3 with a 2.12 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage with seven shutouts. Budaj, 34, has appeared in 350 NHL games with Los Angeles, the Canadiens and the Avalanche, with a 152-127-39 record with 18 shutouts.

Cernak, 6-3 and 221 pounds, has played in 41 games with the junior Ontario League’s Erie Otters this season, with three goals and 17 points, and is plus-27. Cernak, 19, has played in 82 career OHL games with Erie, recording seven goals and 32 points, and is plus-34 rating.

Bishop had not played well much of this season, perhaps because of his contract status, because the upcoming salary cap and because Vasilevskiy had taken on more of a share of the net. However, his recent success brought his record to 16-12-3.

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Rowdies take impressive win over MLS’s Montreal in exhibition

If you want to join them, well, first you beat them.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies, who have announced their plans to pursue admission into the MLS, took a symbolic step toward their goal Saturday night when they beat the Montreal Impact. The Impact was the Eastern Conference runners-up last season.

However, the Rowdies dominated play most of the evening, taking a 2-0 lead en route to their victory. Joe Cole and Deshorn Brown, a training guest, scored the goals within six minutes of one another late in the first half. Montreal’s only goal came from the penalty spot in the 71st minute.

“It’s nice to get a win, even though in preseason, the result isn’t the most important thing,” coach Stuart Campbell said. “It’s about the performance, the amount of work and improving the players’ fitness. You could see how hard the players worked tonight. For many of them, it was their first 90 minutes of the preseason.”

The Rowdies finished the Suncoast Invitation with a 1-1 record. The loss came to Philadelphia, which scored a late goal after Tampa Bay had substituted liberally.

“The movement that Montreal has and the attacking quality they use, they’re a very good team,” Campbell said. “We limited them to very few chances. I can’t remember many clear-cut chances they had. That’s one of the best teams in MLS. If you finish above Montreal, you’re not going to be far from winning the championship.”

After a back-and-forth first half that showed flashes of quality but with chances lacking, the Rowdies opened the scoring in the 34th minute with a quickly-taken free kick.

Rowdies winger Leo Fernandes drew a foul just outside the 18-yard box, and, before Montreal could set up defensively, the Rowdies took the free kick with Brown feeding Cole wide of the 6-yard box.

Cole’s shot on goal was deflected past Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush by Laurent Ciman and Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead in the 34th minute.

Just six minutes later, Cole nearly scored his second of the match, but Bush made a big save. Brown pounced on the rebound and smashed it with his left foot to double Tampa Bay’s lead before halftime.

Despite the normal second-half substitutions that come standard in preseason matches, the Rowdies maintained control of the match save for Piatti’s penalty in the 71st minute, sealing a positive result.

“We wanted to go out and get a result, but really we wanted to put on a good performance,” Campbell said. “It’s fantastic to go out there and beat an MLS team that had a very good year last year and will no doubt have another very good year this year.”

Tampa Bay is back in action next week when it travels to Tampa to take on the University of Tampa Spartans on Saturday, March 4.

The Rowdies open their inaugural USL season March 25 against Orlando City B at Al Lang Stadium.

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Tampa Bay Bucs release highly paid cornerback Alteraunn Verner

Alteraunn Verner was still getting paid like star.

His performance, however, was that of a backup.

The two could not be reconciled, and so Verner was released by the Tampa Bay Bucs on Thursday.

Verner, 28, signed a four-year, $25.5 million contract in 2014, but his play didn’t measure up. The last two seasons, Verner started only nine games, including three in 2016. However, he was due to make $6.5 million in the coming year, even though he had been essentially replaced by free agent Brent Grimes and No. 1 draft pick Vernon Hargreaves. Verner was scheduled to be the fifth-highest paid Buc on the team’s salary cap list.

Verner’s most memorable moment of the last year came in the Seattle game, two days after his father died. Verner had a key interception in the Bucs’ victory.

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Should Jameis Winston be hammered for clumsy statement?

Now that he has fumbled, are we to hammer Jamies Winston?

Now that he has said the wrong thing, does it matter if he was doing the right one?

Winston, the quarterback with the troubled past for the Tampa Bay Bucs, had good intentions. Really he did. On an off-day, he chose to speak to the children at Melrose Elementary School. He said later that he noticed one small boy who wasn’t paying attention, and he tried to get him involved.

At that point, Winston said something inappropriate. And, from the reports, there are those who will not forgive him.

“All my young boys, stand up. The ladies, sit down,” Winston said, as quoted by the Tampa Bay Times and others. “But all my boys, stand up. We strong, right? We strong! We strong, right? All my boys, tell me one time: I can do anything I put my mind to. Now a lot of boys aren’t supposed to be soft-spoken. You know what I’m saying? One day y’all are going to have a very deep voice like this (in deep voice). One day, you’ll have a very, very deep voice.

“But the ladies, they’re supposed to be silent, polite, gentle. My men, my men (are) supposed to be strong. I want y’all to tell me what the third rule of life is: I can do anything I put my mind to. Scream it!”

It should go without saying that no one should tell girls to be silent, or to suggest that they are not strong. For that clumsy wording, Winston was wrong.

On the other hand, he was at Melrose to deliver a positive message. Should he be roasted for it?

Yes, Winston had his problems while at FSU, being accused of domestic violence, singing a rap song that was crude. But this was merely saying something the wrong way, wasn’t it? No one should defend what Winston said. Still, you get the feeling that Winston was trying to fire up the boys rather than put down the girls. Don’t you?

ESPN — which defended Winston in a video — did bring up his sexual assault reports in its report.

“I was making an effort to interact with a young male in the audience who didn’t seem to be paying attention, and I didn’t want to single him out so I asked all the boys to stand up,” Winston said. “During my talk, I used a poor word choice that may have overshadowed that positive message for some.”

On the other hand, Winston just turned 23. He will get smoother in his messages. He will be all-inclusive.

And, yes, he’ll learn that girls are strong, too.

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