Gary Shelton - 7/188 - 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 star Tyler Johnson scores back-to-back goals to lead win

One game after losing to one of the worst teams in the National Hockey League, the Tampa Bay Lightning beat one of the best.

The Lightning, still struggling in its effort to make the playoffs, came from behind to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 Tuesday night. Coming one game after losing to Arizona, it was a needed win.

“This is desperation mode for us,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “This was a winnable hockey game. A lot of good things came out of tonight.”

One of those good things was the play of Tyler Johnson, who gave the Bolts the lead when he scored two goals in 30 seconds in the third period. Brian Boyle, Nikita Nesterov and Nikita Kucherov all scored for the Bolts as well.

“Johnny (Johnson) been playing hard,” Cooper said. “We had a passion to go and win this game. It was led by Tyler Johnson. It was big.”

Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy won for the first time in seven games. He stopped 34 shots in an excellent outing.

“Vasy gave us a lot of life,” Cooper said.

The Bolts play at Florida on Thursday night to complete a six-game road trip. They are home next Tuesday night against Boston.

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FSU Seminoles face difficult football schedule in 2017

The FSU Seminoles have a good returning class. They seem primed for a good recruiting class.

Only one thing could get in the way of FSU.

The schedule. Coach Jimbo Fisher has his work cut out for him.

The Seminoles play one of the nation’s toughest schedules in 2017, which was confirmed Wednesday as the ACC announced it schedules. FSU plays both teams that were in the national championship game – Clemson and Alabama.

The Seminoles also play rivals Miami and Florida. They play Louisville, which beat them handily a year ago.

FSU opens its season Sept. 2 in Atlanta against the Crimson Tide, the plays Louisiana-Monroe, Miami, N.C. State, at Wake Forest, at Duke, Louisville, Boston College and Syracuse. The Noles wind up their season playibg at Clemson on Nov. 11, Delaware State on Nov. 18 at at Florida on Nov. 25. The ACC championship, should FSU make it, is scheduled for Dec. 2.

FSU finished eighth in the nation last season, behind national champion Clemson and runner-up Alabama.

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Both FSU, Florida football teams will be represented in Super Bowl

There will be at least a bit of the Sunshine State in the upcoming Super Bowl.

Former FSU running back Devonta Freeman, who had his second straight 1,000-yard season this year, will lead the Atlanta Falcons. Former FSU guard Tre’ Jackson is on the Patriots’ physically unable to perform list.

The Florida Gators have been represented in 15 straight Super Bowls, since the Tampa Bay Bucs won. This year, both Keanu Neal and Brian Poole play for the Atlanta Falcons.

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Tampa Bay Rays trade Logan Forsythe for young Dodger pitcher

The Tampa Bay Rays have traded one of their steadiest, most dependable players.

For him, they got a hunk of potential.

Good trade? Bad trade? For the Rays, sending second baseman Logan Forsythe (519 major-league hits) to the Dodgers for 24-year pitcher Jose De Leon was a trade the team had to make. The reasons? Last place. High salary. The constant need for lively arms.

Forsythe, 30, was scheduled to make $5,750,000 this season.

In De Leon, the Rays are getting a highly rated prospect (third on the list of Dodgers’ prospects). De Leon was called up at the end of last season and had a 2-0 record, even though his ERA was a high 6.35. De Leon was 7-1 in AAA last year, posting a 2.61 ERA across 86.1 innings.

The Rays could consider moving infielder Brad Miller to second base.

The Rays also signed free agent pitcher Shawn Tolleson, a one-time closer for the Rangers.

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Rowdies hope new energy will lead to better results in 2017

There are new faces. There is a new league. There is new energy.

But for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the burning question is simple:

Will they be better than they were a year ago?

For the Rowdies, whose roster is almost complete, that is the burning question. The Rowdies were only ninth in the NASL a year ago, going 9-12-11.

This year, however, the Rowdies are in the USL.

This year, however, the Rowdies will have star midfielder Joe Cole for the entire season.

This year, however, they have five newcomers, all of them young players to complete in a faster league. For instance, there is new signee Darwin Jones, who spent part of last season with the MLS champion Seattle Sounders. Jones joins Georgi Hristov, the returning leading scorer from last year.

The Rowdies spurred a lot of interest this off-season when they talked of their ambitions to expand Al Lang Stadium and to join the MLS. That energy, the team hopes, will also show on the field

The defense still figures to be the backbone of the Rowdies. Goaltender Matt Pickens is back, as are defenders Tamika Mkandawire, Darnell King and Neill Collins, among others (including signee Damion Lowe). The midfield is led by Cole, Keith Savage and Martin Vingaard. Newly signed Alex Morrell will blend in.

The Rowdies play the Philadelphia Union in the Suncoast Invitational on February 18.

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Patriots beat Steelers to earn a record ninth Super Bowl trip

By now, they know how to line up for the team picture.

By now, they know how to handle their week.

By now, they are used to the confetti falling.

For the Atlanta Falcons, this Super Bowl is new territory. But the New England Patriots have been here a lot. This will be their ninth journey to the big game, and with coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, the Falcons have their chore cut out for them.

The Patriots earned their latest trip Sunday evening with a 36-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, a relatively routine win by New England. Once again, it was Tom Terrific, aka Brady, who threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns.

New England took a 10-0 lead and led 17-9 at the half. The Patriots outscored Pittsburgh 16-0 in the third period to break open the game.

“They work hard,” New England coach Bill Belichick said of his team. “They’re unselfish, and they’re tough. The players played hard, played smart and didn’t turn the ball over.”

The Patriots got a huge game from Chris Hogan, who caught nine passes for 180 yards — identical to Atlanta’s Julio Jones. Julian Edelman caught eight passes for 118 yards.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 314 yards in the loss. But the Steelers, who lost Le’Veon Bell to an injury, gained only 54 yards on the ground.

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Falcons, Matt Ryan run away from Green Bay to reach Super Bowl

It was billed as a potential shootout.

In the end, however, the Atlanta Falcons had most of the weapons.

The Falcons, 6-4 at one point this season, blew out the streaking Green Bay Packers Sunday night, winning a runaway 44-21 game. The Falcons, who have never won a Super Bowl (and who have played in only one), will play in two weeks against either New England or Pittsburgh.

Quarterback Matt Ryan, an MVP candidate, was excellent in the victory. He hit 27 of 38 for 392 yards and four touchdowns. He out-dueled Aaron Rodgers, who hit only 27 of 45 passes for 268 yards.

“He s such a competitor,” coach Dan Quinn said of Ryan. “He takes shots. He’s tough.”

Ryan’s primary target, again, was wide receiver Julio Jones, who caught nine passes for 180 yards (and two touchdowns).

Atlanta scored more than 30 points in each of its last six victories.

The Packers had won eight games in a row to get to the title game, but injuries helped catch up to Green Bay.

“The Falcons were outstanding today,” said Green Bay coach Mac McCarthy. “We ran out of gas in some spots.”

“We didn’t stop them at all defensively. There’s definitely a reason why (Ryan) is up for the MVP. He’s a tremendous player.”

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Tampa Bay Lightning embarrassed by a bad Phoenix Coyotes team

What does it say about a team when it is blasted by the next-to-worst team in the league?

No, the Tampa Bay Lightning isn’t the worst team. But it’s far from good, too. No one would argue it after a 5-3 blasting at the hands at the point-at-and-laugh Phoenix Coyotes. Phoenix was near the bottom of the league in most statistics, including 25th on the power play and 27th on the penalty kill.

Against the Lightning, however, Phoenix was an explosive team, taking a 2-0 lead and adding three goals in the second period. Tampa Bay scored the last two goals of the game to make it close.

“It’s a low point,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “Not because we lost, but we didn’t play to our capabilities in the first two period. You can say what you want about the third, but they had a 5-1 lead. I’m sure they sat back a little bit.”

Ben Bishop started for the Lightning, but he was pulled after the second in favor of Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Particularly disappointing was the Bolts failing to convert on a four-minute power play in the first period.

“That was a big moment for us, no doubt. Our power play’s been pretty good all year,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “But it wasn’t that one, it was the one we got a minute and a half into the game, and we weren’t working. And it kind of set the tone for the way that first period was going. It kind of sucked a little momentum out of us, and then all of a sudden it’s 2-0 and now we’re chasing the game. Give them a little credit: The boys battle back and make it 2-1 and then we have a big moment there, we come out and have a great start to the second and we do nothing with the power play. They did something with there’s, and that was it.”

 The Bolts now travel to Chicago to face the Blackhawks.

“That’s what’s tough because your margin for error is . . . there is none,” Cooper said. “We can sit here and say we deserved points out of those games, the bottom line is we didn’t get them. So now you’ve got to get the points the next night, and we didn’t deserve points tonight. We’re not in a position where we’re playing games and we’re stealing points. We have to work for everything we’re getting. Sometimes we’re working and not getting them, but it can’t work the way we did tonight in the first couple periods.”

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Latest Lightning loss makes you wonder about their goaltender

Here’s something for the Tampa Bay Lightning to consider as they go nowhere.

What if Andrei Vasilevskiy isn’t the future?

Vasilevskiy lost his sixth consecutive start Thursday night as the Bolts fell 2-1 to the San Jose Sharks. With the loss, the Lightning fell to 21-21-5 on the season. Vasilevskiy fell to 10-11-2. He has now given up 24 goals in his last six starts.

Tampa Bay has now lost 12 of its last 14 road games.

For the Bolts, the plan all along was that Vasilevskiy would be the future, and that the team would barter starting goaltender Ben Bishop somewhere along the way. But Vasilevskiy’s recent skid has called all of that into question.

The Sharks got goals from Ryan Carpenter and Logan Couture in the win. The Bolts’ goal came on a highlight-reel power play from Jonathan Drouin.

Still, it was not enough to pull out the win for Tampa Bay, which plays at Arizona Saturday night.

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Florida left with young quarterbacks after Luke Del Rio’s surgery

The University of Florida’s search for a quarterback just got more interesting.

The school announced that incumbent quarterback Luke Del Rio will miss spring training due to a (non-throwing) shoulder injury, leaving the brunt of the competition to Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask, a pair of well regarded freshmen.

Del Rio, who came to Florida via Alabama and Oregon State, was 5-1 for the Gators last season before being injured. He threw for 1,358 yards and eight touchdowns.

Franks ascended to No. 2 on the depth chart, but the Gators never played him, which kept his redshirt status.

“You’re talking about a guy (Franks), ultra-talented, who came in and we threw a lot at him early and he’s really, really learned how to prepare and how to take the offense and take the tools we’re giving him and now apply them to the field,” Nussmeier said.

The 6-foot-4, 228-pound Trask arrived from Houston having been a high school backup and lightly recruited, but is a quick study and might be the Gators’ best pure passer.

“Kyle is a guy that when you tell him it one time, he gets it right now,” Nussmeier said. “He can process information very, very well, his accuracy is unbelievable and he’s just done a really, really good job for a guy that doesn’t have a ton of snaps.

“When you put him in situations, he reacts very, very well.”

The Gators have been solid on defense for the past two seasons, winning the SEC East both times. But the team has sputtered on offense and has never found a good quarterback.

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