Mitch's Sports Report: Bruins Welcome Back Bergeron And Turn Again To Marchand For Overtime Magic
Before the men's NCAA basketball tournament began I'd wager you couldn't find anyone who would predict that the 11th seeded Loyola-Chicago Ramblers would be in the Final Four, while the perennial powerhouse and number two seeded Duke Blue Devils would not, but brackets are immune to prediction, reputation, or odds, and that's where we stand today with a Final Four that makes about 3/4 worth of sense.
It was Duke's misfortune to face number one Kansas last night in an elite eight match-up that lived up to the hype, the two squads needing overtime to decide things in the Jayhawk's favor 85-81, and it's fair to say that Kansas is still standing thanks to one player, Malik Newman, who scored all the Jayhawk's 13 points in overtime.
The rest of the Final Four features Villanova, Michigan, and that Hail Mary team for the ages, the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, who have only the Wolverines standing between them and a shot at the most improbable national championship perhaps in tournament history.
In the women's bracket, Mississippi State is back in the Final Four for the second consecutive year after an 89-73 rout of UCLA, backed by a dominating double double from Teaira McCowan, who scored 23 points and added 21 rebounds in the win. Number one Louisville also advances after a win over Oregon State, and the rest of the field will be decided tonight when UConn and South Carolina tip off, and Notre Dame goes up against the Oregon Ducks.
In the NHL, welcome back, Bergeron. The Boston Bruins saw the return of their best all around player in Minnesota last night, as Patrice Bergeron rejoined the black and gold for the first time in more than two weeks, the time if took to heal from a small fracture in his foot, and number 37 admitted to some rust in his game while still recording an assist in Boston's 2-1 overtime win.
That overtime win came in part thanks to another player back from injury, albeit one who had only missed a few games compared with Bergeron's ten missed contests. Defenseman Torey Krug was back behind the blue line and in overtime he banked a billiard shot pass off the boards to a streaking Bard Marchand, who got a step on Minnesota defenseman Matt Dumba and rifled a wrist shot into the top corner of the net over the shoulder of goalie Alex Stalock. for the game-winner.
Marchand has made scoring overtime winners a specialty this season. He's now got five overtime winners this season, and already owns the record for most overtime regular season goals in Bruins franchise history since the NHL introduced the regular season extra frame in 1981.
The other star of this one was Tuukka Rask, who finished with 24 saves, but may of those were of the spectacular variety in the first period when the Wild were storming the Boston bet and could have run away with the game early. There are nine more regular season games left before the post season starts and the Bruins are still hoping four other key players, defensemen Charlie McAvoy, Zdeno Chara, and forwards Rick Nash and Jake DeBrusk, can recover from their injuries to be playoff ready, but in the meantime the Bruins are still finding ways to win, and sit just two points behind first place Tampa Bay with two games left against the Lightning and a game in hand.
The Boston Celtics and Sacramento Kings made a statement before last night's game in the California capitol city. Players from both teams wore black shirts during the pre-game warm-up with the name of Stephon Clark on them along with the message "Accountability. We are One". Clark is the young African-American who was shot to death recently in his grandmother's backyard by Sacramento police, who learned after shooting at him at least 20 times that he was holding a cell phone, with no sign of a weapon on him.
Following that powerful display of unity, the two teams took to the court and the Celtics resumed adjusting to game life without their best player Kyrie Irving, a situation they hope doesn't stretch too far into their playoff run, and part of that adjustment is letting young players step up and thrive in his absence.
One of those young players is Terry Rozier, who turned in a career performance last night in Sacramento, scoring 33 points and nearly tying a franchise record for most three pointers made in a game, hitting eight times from beyond the arc in Boston's 104-93 win. Those eight long distance buckets left him one shy of the Celtics' single-game record of nine shared by Isaiah Thomas and Antoine Walker.
The Celtics were also thrilled to have youngster Jaylen Brown back on the court after missing two weeks with concussion symptoms, and he had as good a return as anyone could hope for, with 19 points in the game.
Irving's balky knee will have him on the shelf for at least three weeks, possibly twice that long, and the Celtics will hope for more step-up games like Rozier and Brown turned in last night as they try to catch the Toronto Raptors for first place in the eastern conference, as they currently hold a 3 and a half game lead over Boston.
Finally, the The Formula One racing season began this past weekend in Melbourne, Australia. Defending World Champ Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap in qualifying and led the race until passed by Sebastian Vettle at the finish.