Gary Shelton - 6/200 - 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.

Lightning falls further behind despite gaining a point against Montreal

The Tampa Bay Lightning gained a point Saturday night.

Still, it lost ground.

The Lightning dropped a 2-1 game in overtime against the Montreal Canadiens, but watched as both of its playoff competitors won. Tampa Bay now trails Boston by four points for the final wild-card spot and both Toronto and Ottawa by five points for third place in the Atlantic Division.

Montreal’s winning goal came from Alexander Radulov 51 seconds into overtime.

The Bolts lost despite  34 saves by Andrei Vasilevskiy, who gave up a questionable goal in the second period.

“Well, you can look at it a couple of ways. You can say, ‘Well, that was a bad one to give up.’” coach Jon Cooper said. “Or you could look at it and say that Vasy made like six 10-bellers and we still pushed that game to overtime. It was one of those games,  they’re a good team and we’ve been asked for so much from our guys and they just keep delivering and delivering.

“Kind of the signature of this team, they found a way in the third to will us at least a point and give us the chance that we had in overtime. So I look at it as a complete positive because we got a point out of the game and we can sit here and say, ‘They got the better of us tonight.’ I guess there’s not much wiggle room left, but not getting a point out of that game would have been devastating.”

Yanni Gourde scored for the Bolts for the third straight game to force overtime.

Tampa Bay plays at home tonight against Dallas.

Rowdies clobber Toronto, 4-0, to stay unbeaten after two games

Coach Stuart Campbell wants to make his stadium “a fortress.”

Star player Joe Cole wants more than that. He wants an entire city behind the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

It’s hard to blame the Rowdies for being ambitious after team walloped Toronto FC II Saturday night. The Rowdies won 4-0, scoring three times in the first half to remove any doubt as to the night’s outcome. The Rowdies drew 4,326 fans.

We were happy with the result and the performance from last week and we just talking about building on it,” Rowdies coach Campbell said. “We want to make this place a fortress. We want to make teams hate to come here.”

The Rowdies had been impressive in an opening week victory over Orlando City B, 1-0, but were even better Saturday night. Tampa Bay has now given up only 10 shots in its two wins. Toronto ended up with seven shots, but only one was on goal.

We played really well last week and we played well tonight,” Cole said. “The difference was we put the ball in the back of the net. It’s a good start for us. It’s great that the crowd turned out tonight. We want to put on a show and get the whole city behind us. You can’t do much more than score four goals.”

Damion Lowe scored in the 12th minute for the Rowdies. Georgi Hristov scored his second goal in two games in the 20th minute and Cole scored his first of the season in the 22nd. Deshorn Brown scored his first in the 70th minute.

“The goal was to attack, attack, attack and be relentless,” said midfielder Michael Nanchoff.

Still, the second straight shutout impressed Campbell, too.

“Defending starts from the front and the front two (Hristov and Cole) set it all off tonight,” Campbell said after his teams’ second-consecutive clean sheet. “It filters back through the midfield, the back four and the goalkeeper. They’ve been great. They’re desperate to keep a clean sheet and it’s something we spoke about at halftime.”

Tampa Bay is home for the third straight game Saturday against Ottawa.

Five things to watch for at the Tampa Bay Rowdies-Toronto soccer match

Five things to ponder about Saturday night’s game between the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Toronto FC II:

1. Mirror images. Both teams won their opening games 1-0. The Rowdies beat Orlando City B, while Toronto beat Phoenix Rising. In a way, then, this early-season battle of the unbeatens could be the start of competition in the USL’s Eastern Division.

2. The finish: For the Rowdies, one of the oldest problems that continues to nag is the ability to finish its runs. That was a problem Saturday night. The Rowdies dominated Orlando City, outshooting it 21-3, but could only manage the one goal. Georgi Hristov, who scored on the team’s penalty kick, missed two of those opportunities.

3. Marcel Shaffer: Shaffer had an impressive debut for the Rowdies last week, but he played only eight days after arriving from his native Germany. Shaffer should be more acclimated this week.

“To win games is the most important thing in my life since I was five years old,” Schafer said this week. “As a soccer player, you train every day for Saturday night, for the main part of the week. To win games is why I’m here. That’s why I’m a soccer player and that’s what I live for.”

4. Defense rules: Goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald will likely play instead of Matt Pickens again this week. Fitzgerald was good enough to get a clean sheet (shutout) last week, but he really didn’t have to do a lot of work. The defense in front of Fitzgerald allowed only three shots, which should the Rowdies a chance in most games.

5. The crowd: The Rowdies drew a record crowd of 7.710 last week against Orlando City B. Can they do it again? It’ll be tougher, with the Lightning playing and the Rays opening the next day. But the Rowdies have emphasized their crowds all off-season. Look for another boisterous bunch.

 

Rays’ Chris Archer thinks his team will surprise some people

Outside the clubhouse, there is new synthetic turf and old banners. There are questions and skeptics.

Inside, there is hope and promise and optimism. Two days short of Opening Day, why wouldn’t there be?

Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays stands in front of his locker, and he expresses his belief in a team that many think is bound for the AL East Cellar. Archer believes. Someone has to, right?

“I think we’re super-talented,” said Archer, who will start Sunday against the Yankees when the Rays start their season. “We need to remain healthy, and we have a few guys who need to get healthy. And that will happen in due time. But with our ability to pitch and the upgrades that we’ve made as of late, they’ve been talking the whole offseason that they’re going to go out and try to get guys to make us better defensively and on the offensive side. They literally have not stopped throughout the offseason and Spring Training.

“[The Rays have] added Peter Bourjos — great defender. We’ve got two great defensive catchers, and guys have played really good at their respective positions at Spring Training, too. So I’m really looking forward to it.”

Those who still need to get healthy include shortstop Matt Duffy, outfielder Colby Rasmus and catcher Wilson Ramos.

It’s rare to find a prediction that doesn’t have the Rays in the AL East.

“And I think that’s typical for the Rays,” Archer said. “We’re always a sleeper. We’re always an underdog. Nobody’s going to give us some love until it’s October 1 and we’re still in this thing. As long as we take it day by day, we’re talented in a different way than a lot of these teams. We’re constructed differently. But those differences are our advantages.

“Especially after the past two years haven’t been too awesome,” Archer said. “But having Longo (Evan Longoria) coming off a strong year and some of the bullpen guys we’ve added, position players we’ve added, and the way certain players have looked during Spring Training, definitely looking forward to April 2 kicking it off.”

Lightning’s victory over Detroit led by guys who don’t often score

No one will ever call them the new Triplets.

J.T. Brown? Really? He hadn’t scored a goal in 46 games.

Andrej Sustr? Honestly? He had scored only one in 45 games.

Yanni Gourde? Seriously? He had scored three goals … in his life.

Thursday night, however, they all found the net in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. It was a timely effort, because the Bolts had to play without Nikita Kucherov, who has been their most valuable player all season. Kucherov became ill just before the game.

The Lightning is just outside of the playoff chase, trailing the Boston Bruins by three points for the final wild-card berth and Toronto by four for third place in the Atlantic Division.

When Sustr scored, the loudspeaker played his chosen song. It was Britney Spears “Oops!…I Did It Again.”  It has been a long time since the song was hit; it has been a long time since Sustr scored.

“I didn’t know if we’d get to hear it,” said teammate Alex Killorn.

The Bolts also got goals from Killorn (his second in 22 games) and Jonathan Drouin (his first since, well, last game).

“Eventually, you need secondary scoring,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “Someone’s going to lead your team in scoring. Some one is going to be second, then third. But when you’re missing those guys, the goals have to come from somewhere. We got one from Brownie and one from Schu. Killer hadn’t been on for a while.”

Andrei Vasilevskiy won his 20th game of the year for the Bolts, stopping 31 of 34 shots.

Cooper was hopeful that Kucherov could play Saturday night when the Bolts host Montreal.

Could the Bucs still be a destination for runner Adrian Peterson?

Are the Tampa Bay Bucs done with reeling in big names to help their offense?

Maybe not.

Speculation has returned to the Bucs after quarterback Jameis Winston worked out in Houston recently with former Minnesota Vikings’ great Adrian Peterson. The Bucs were linked with Peterson early in free agency, but due to his age (32), his injured knee and probably his price tag, things never materialized. Peterson remains a free agent.

I’ve seen Adrian Peterson many times — one of the best running backs to ever play,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter told ESPN. “I’m anxious to talk to Jameis and ask him about how his workouts went.”

The Bucs need a running back because of the suspension of starter Doug Martin for the season’s first three games this season. There is a possibililty that Tampa Bay could draft a back.

Rays sell out their 12th straight opening game against Yankees

Attendance problems? Those are for the other 80 home games.

For openers, the Tampa Bay Rays have plenty of fans.

The Rays have sold out their 12th consecutive opener, selling out Sunday’s game against the New York Yankees at the Trop. Tickets are available for the remaining two games in the season-opening series against the Yankees on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. and for the first weekend series of the season, April 6-9, versus the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Rays are 9-10 in their openers.

Chris Archer, 9-19 last season, starts on the mound for the Rays.

“You either win or you learn,” Archer told MLB.com. “And I learned 19 times lsat year.”

The Rays will be an unsettled bunch on the field, as shortstop Matt Duffy, outfielder Brad Rasmus and catcher Wilson Ramus are all hurt. However, outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, third baseman Evan Longoria and second baseman Brad Miller are intriguing draws, and the Yankees are still the Yankees.

Game time is 1:10 p.m.

Bucs still pondering what to do with running back Doug Martin

Is Doug Martin running on empty?

Martin, the Tampa Bay Bucs’ back who was second in the NFL in rushing two seasons ago, but who fell off substantially a year ago (to 421 yards) and finished the season suspended for PEDs, remains the property of the Bucs. However, there has been much speculation that the Bucs might check out a first-round running back in the upcoming draft.

The Bucs are still trying to figure out if they can give a roster spot to Martin, who will miss three weeks, or if they need to address the situation in other ways.

“Who knows what’s going to happen?” Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter said at the NFL owners’ meeting Wednesday. “Are we going to add a running back in the draft? Is Doug going to continue down the path of good health? We have other guys we like at the position, too. I don’t know what’s going to happen as I sit here today. But right now, we have time on our side.”

The Bucs have Jacquizz Rogers, who started five games last year, to replace Martin for his three-game suspension. A number of mock drafts have the Bucs’ taking a running back.

“Every team is looking for a game-wrecker with that first pick, at whatever position he plays,” Koetter said. “I would think, of the 32 teams, everyone is saying ‘Man, this is a good running back draft. Maybe we ought to add one of those guys.”

The trouble with Martin, of course, is that he’s a feature back who doesn’t help on special teams.

“I’m a Martin fan,” Koetter said. “We would love to have Doug on our team. But when a guy’s been a Pro Bowl running back, and you know you’re not going to have him for the first three games of the year, how do you do the reps.”

Martin signed a huge contract before last season, but because of his suspension, the Bucs are no longer bound by it.

FSU’s Dalvin Cook hopes his Pro Day will help him be drafted higher

Former FSU running back Dalvin Cook, for once, has been going in the wrong direction.

He’d like to reverse his field, if you don’t mind.

If you believe the consensus, Cook has been dropping in draft expectations since having a poor Combine last month. He hopes that his Pro Day will help establish himself as “today’s” back.

Cook, who is widely considered a first-round prospect, ran the 40-yard dash and performed numerous position drills and simulations during Florida State’s pro day event on Tuesday.

Unofficial times had Cook running between 4.40 and 4.43 seconds, short of the 4.49 time he posted during the Combine last month.

Cook hopes to show that he can be a pass-catching back.

“I feel like I came out here today, ran the routes they wanted me to run and caught every ball,” Cook said. “I’ve done everything they wanted me to do so far.

“I’m just working hard so my name can be called pretty early,” Cook said. “I got to put the work in right now, and just give everyone a good impression of Dalvin.”

Cook said he would love to join Jameis Winston with the Tampa Bay Bucs.

“Jameis is a player that I look up to as a role model,” Cook said. “To be in the backfield with him, it would be something special.”

Cook was acquitted in August 2015 after being charged with striking a woman at a Tallahassee bar.

“Look at the situation,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He did nothing wrong. He was actually defusing a situation. That’s him. You’re never going to have those issues with him. He’s a great guy, and I never had anything with him. … He was tremendous for us.

“He’s in tremendous shape. The things he does at the beginning of the game, he does in the fourth quarter. He takes himself to levels because of his competitive drive. It means something to him.

“We knew if we gave him the ball, good things were going to happen.”

Cook said he hopes to go as high in the draft as possible.coach

“Every time I step on the field, I feel like I’m the best player,” Cook said. “That’s just my confidence. I just feel I put the work in and put the time in to feel and think that way.”

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher says his football team lacks leadership

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher says his team needs leadership.

Soon would be good.

After the Seminoles first scrimmage of the spring, Fisher talked about the lack of leadership from his squad.

“We need more of it,” Fisher said. “I’m not mad about it. It’s just kind of the personality of this team. It’s needs more of that. We’ve got a bunch of good guys. They’re good kids. They really are. They need to be more exuberant and dominant personalities and stuff.”

The Seminoles started last season poorly, and part of the reason was attributed to a lack of leadership.

“You can’t make guys do that,” Fisher said. “They either have it in their personality or they don’t. That’s the personality of the team. Some guys like doing it and some guys don’t. It’s just not a lot of those vocal, vocal guys on this team. There’s a lot of good players. They play hard. They play good. You don’t need a lot. You only need one or two.”

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