Felger: Farrell's managing to keep Sox alive

Felger: Farrell's managing to keep Sox alive

Three for Thursday:

-- Rob Ninkovich's playing-time numbers are hard to believe, which is probably a good thing. Like a good offensive lineman, Ninkovich's relative invisibility means he's not blowing assignments and giving up plays.

Either way, it's remarkable to consider that the veteran linebacker, who tore a triceps this week at training camp and is doubtful to start the regular season in September, has started 94 consecutive games for the Pats, including the playoffs. In terms of games played, Ninkovich's streak is at 116 straight, going back to the 2009 season. And it's almost impossible to believe the percentage of snaps he's played for the Pats over the previous five years. To wit:

2015: 81.8%
2014: 94.1%
2013: 96.0%
2012: 84.6%
2011: 83.1%

Did it feel to you like he was out there that much? Me neither. In terms of noticeable (i.e., impact, or ``big play'') Patriots defenders, I would put him outside of the top five, at least. Last year, that list included Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Chandler Jones, Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan. We could argue about guys like Jabaal Sheard and Devin McCourty, too.

But what Ninkovich lacks in flash, he makes up for in consistency and smarts. No way Bill Belichick plays him that much if Ninkovich is just out there taking up space.

In other words, the Pats are going to miss him more than we realize.

-- Well, what do you know: Is that John Farrell doing a little bit of managing the last week? Seems so. I liked the way he had Matt Barnes up in time and ready to go when Criag Kimbrel fell apart in the ninth inning against the Yankees on Tuesday. And his lineup tinkering the next day was a proactive move given the recent struggles of the Sox offense. It seems like Farrell isn't just going to sit back and watch the Sox slide out of playoffs, he's going to do try and do something about it.

Of course, Farrell isn't completely out of the crosshairs, as his handling of David Oritz in Los Angeles over the weekend indirectly led to Steven Wright jamming his shoulder and missing his next scheduled start. Playing Ortiz on Saturday led to a gimpy Ortiz needing to be pinch-run for on Sunday, which led to Wright flopping around on second base in the sixth inning. Now we all have to watch Clay Buchholz pitch on Saturday, which many fans consider a fireable offense in itself.

-- Ominous report from Joe Haggerty regarding where prize rookie free agent Jimmy Vesey is leaning toward signing later this month. It's not Boston, obviously. The Rangers, Devils and Blackhawks are the leaders in the clubhouse according to Haggs.

Don Sweeney and Cam Neely desperately need something to go their way, and this would be a big one. Absent landing the Hobey Baker winner, this offseason feels like another loser. In fact, this offseason might be another loser for the B's whether they get Vesey or not.

Vesey or no Vesey, the B's still haven't addressed their biggest problems. They will return basically the same defense corps from last year, and they've done nothing to take minutes away from the declining Zdeno Chara. They still don't have a viable depth chart at right wing, unless free-agent center David Backes moves over and then he's playing out of position. And they've returned the same coach that led them to the worst record in the NHL down the stretch two years running.

Bottom line, even if the B's land Vesey, I'm not sure how they're going to be any better than last year.

Still, Vesey choosing the Bruins would be a score, something the slumping Sweeney and Neely desperately need.

E-mail Felger at Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast runs daily on CSN.

U.S. women's hockey team beats Canada in shootout thriller for gold medal

AP Photo

U.S. women's hockey team beats Canada in shootout thriller for gold medal

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson skated slowly back and forth toward the net, showing forehand, then leaning quickly to the left to fake a backhand that pulled Canadian goalie Shannon Szabados out of the crease.

On the sport’s biggest stage, against the Americans’ greatest rival, with all her teammates leaning eagerly over the boards watching her every move, the three-time Olympian came back to her forehand to finish off a dazzling, triple-deke move by sliding the puck into the net past the outstretched glove of Szabados for the deciding goal in the sixth round of a shootout thriller.


“I knew when that went in that Maddie was going to stop the next one,” Lamoureux-Davidson said.

That would be 20-year-old goalie Maddie Rooney, who stuffed the last two Canadian shooters to wrap up a 3-2 victory Thursday that snapped the Americans’ 20-year gold medal drought and ended Canada’s bid for a fifth straight title in the first shootout in an Olympic women’s final.

The Americans piled over the boards, throwing gloves in the air before piling on top of Rooney on the ice — 20 years after their last gold medal in women’s hockey and 38 years to the day after the men’s famous “Miracle on Ice” victory over the Soviet team in group play at Lake Placid.

“Joy’s the only word that comes to mind,” said Gigi Marvin, a three-time Olympian and at 30 the oldest American on the roster.

This victory capped a year that started with the Americans threatening a boycott of the world championships to secure more money and the same kind of treatment that USA Hockey gives to the men’s team.

“They should make a movie on it,” forward Hilary Knight said. “We had all the drama and everything. It’s sort of a storybook ending to an incredible series of accomplishments.”

Nothing was more incredible than the move by Lamoureux-Davidson, who decided to use the deke called “Oops, I did it again ” — something she had practiced uncounted times in practice, skating around tires set up on open ice to mimic defenders.


“I’m just thrilled beyond words,” the beaming Lamoureux-Davidson said with a U.S. flag draped around her shoulders and gold hanging on her chest. “I’ve butchered it a thousand times, just ran into tires, tripped over tires just working on my hands. Just glad it worked out this time.”

Her twin, Monique Lamoureux-Morando , said coach Peter Elander, now at Ohio State, had taught the sisters the shootout move when the three were at the University of North Dakota.

“Not everyone can take the pressure like that, and she took it like a champ,” she said.

Marvin and Amanda Kessel also scored in the shootout, another nail-biter ending four years after Canada won its fourth-straight gold medal in Sochi after rallying to stun the Americans in overtime.

Knight gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead with 25.4 seconds left in the first, redirecting a shot from Sidney Morin through Szabados’ pads to give the Americans a jolt of energy.

That lasted only 2 minutes into the second when Irwin tipped a midair pass from Blayre Turnbull over Rooney’s left leg for Canada. And when Morin lost the puck, Daoust grabbed it and passed to Agosta who hit Poulin for the wrister into the left side of the net at 6:55 for a 2-1 lead.

Lamoureux-Morando tied it up with a breakaway with 6:21 left in regulation . Knight also had a goal and Rooney was spectacular, making 29 saves for the win. Rooney stopped the last two Canadian shooters in the shootout in Brianne Jenner and then Meghan Agosta on her second attempt.

Pressure? Rooney’s grin was clear to see throughout the shootout.

“Right before she came down, I just looked over at the bench and saw my teammates like pointing at me, just one more,” Rooney said. “And to have their support made it a whole lot easier. I just reacted to her, and then everything kind of went into a blur.”

It was sweet redemption for the 10 Americans who watched the Canadians snatch gold away in Sochi. Not only did the Americans end the Canadians’ stranglehold on Olympic gold, they ended a skid of five straight against their rival coming into this game, including a 2-1 loss in the tournament a week ago.

“It is everything for our country,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said. “I am just so thankful for the outcome. It was a thrilling final. It was unreal.”

Marie-Philip Poulin and Haley Irwin each scored goals for Canada. Agosta and Melodie Daoust scored in the shootout.

The Canadians, who had pushed the Americans around for much of the game and taken penalties for it, wept on the ice as they accepted their silver medals. Jocelyne Larocque took hers off immediately and held it in her hands as the Americans stood nearby awaiting their gold.

“It’s just hard,” Larocque said. “You work so hard. We wanted gold but didn’t get it.”

The Canadians said they didn’t like the shootout format , preferring overtime to settle a game of such magnitude.

“We’ve trained so hard,” Agosta said. “It’s unfortunate this had to come down to a shootout. When it comes down to a shootout it can be anybody’s game.”

Added Canada coach Laura Schuler: “There’s not a lot of words that can describe how you feel. It was a great game of hockey. It’s what we expected: back and forth hockey.”

The Americans had dominated the women’s game in non-Olympic years, winning the last four and eight of the last 10 world championships, including a 3-2 overtime victory over Canada last spring.

It only made the lack of gold at the Olympics all the more noticeable, and Canada has been in their way since losing the inaugural gold in Nagano in 1998. Canada had won 24 straight Olympic games to go along with those four consecutive gold medals — a streak of success in a women’s team sport second only to the U.S. basketball team’s current streak of six straight gold.

This was the eighth time these North American rivals had met in the Olympics and the fifth with gold on the line. None have been decided by more than two goals.

Stauber went with Rooney in net after she won the only three games the U.S. took from Canada last fall during a pre-Olympic exhibition tour.

And like Lamoureux-Davidson, the youngster delivered in the biggest moment.

“Everything got into a blur, seeing my teammates sprinting at me ,” Rooney said. “It’s an indescribable feeling.”