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Cal ends disappointing season at No. 15 Beavers

Cal ends disappointing season at No. 15 Beavers

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) There could be a lot of finality for California at No. 15 Oregon State on Saturday night, and not just because it's the Golden Bears' last game in a disappointing season.

The game could close the chapter on the 11-season tenure of Cal head coach Jeff Tedford, who has come under increasing scrutiny this season. It could also be the culmination of the wide receiver Keenan Allen's college career.

For certain it's the finale for senior quarterback Zach Maynard. But what's sadder is that Maynard and his half-brother Allen won't even play - both have been ruled out because of injuries.

It's almost a fitting end for a team that went just 3-8 overall this season and just 2-6 in the Pac-12 conference.

``Things haven't gone as we wanted. But this is one more chance to put that helmet on and go play for our group of guys, our coaches and fans and everybody. It's a great opportunity for us to try to go out on the right note,'' senior offensive lineman Tyler Rigsbee said.

Allen, who is sitting out of his third game with a left knee injury, is projected by some to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. If so, he leaves Cal as the school's all-time leader in career receptions with 205. He's third on the career list with 2,570 receiving yards and he has 17 touchdowns. He's caught at least one pass in each of the 33 games he's played for the Bears.

Maynard, who is sitting out his second game with a left knee injury, will finish 10th on Cal's career list for passing yards (5,204 yards) and total offense (5,350 yards). One of the best games of his career came this season when he threw for 295 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another against UCLA.

Tedford is Cal's winningest coach ever, with an 82-56 record in 138 games. But the Bears are having their worst season since they finished 1-10 in 2001 and fired Tom Holmoe.

The Bears' season ends Saturday without a bowl appearance for the second straight year.

Tedford said he expects to meet next week with California athletic director Sandy Barbour. If Tedford is let go, Cal would owe him $6.9 million for the final three years of his contract.

``He's one of the hardest-working guys you'll ever be around,'' Rigsbee said. ``He's kept a great attitude and kept this team together, which is not easy to do, especially this year with some really tough losses. Teams will disintegrate or guys will start bickering at each other. He's done a good job keeping us as a family. He's going to go back to the drawing board and work as hard as he can to get us in the position to win games.''

With Maynard out, Cal will start Allan Bridgford, who passed for 113 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions last week in Cal's 59-17 loss to No. 1 Oregon.

The Beavers (7-2, 5-2) are also coming into Saturday's game on a down note. Their hopes for a shot at the Pac-12 championship game for a trip to the Rose Bowl were dashed last weekend with a 27-23 loss at Stanford.

But Oregon State is still going to a bowl game - a dramatic turnaround for a team that finished just 3-9 last season and was picked to finish at the bottom of the Pac-12 North. After Cal, the Beavers host No. 1 Oregon in the annual Civil War rivalry game over Thanksgiving weekend.

Against the Golden Bears, Oregon State's biggest issue is at quarterback. Junior Cody Vaz, who started last week against the Cardinal, injured his left ankle on the final drive of the game. He did not practice this week.

That means the Beavers will go with sophomore Sean Mannion, who started the first four games of the season, throwing for an average of 339 yards a game with seven touchdowns. Vaz took over when Mannion hurt his left knee and required surgery.

``You always have to be confident in yourself,'' Mannion said. ``I don't try to be arrogant, but I like to think when I'm out there I can make some plays. It's really all about working hard and practicing. That's all I try to do. I let my play take care of itself.'

Last season, Cal hosted the Beavers at AT&T Park while Memorial Stadium underwent renovations. The Golden Bears won that one, 23-6, with Isi Sofele rushing for a career-high 190 yards and a score.

This season, Sofele needs 109 yards for 10th place on the school's career list. Last week, he rushed for a season-best 134 yards against the top-ranked Ducks.

Oregon State will pose a challenge for him. The Beavers are allowing opponents an average of just 99.7 yards on the ground a game, 10th in the nation and second in the conference to Stanford.

``We'll attack this thing and finish strong,'' Tedford said. ``The mood was upbeat at practice. We worked hard. Looking forward to going and competing against a great team.''

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Burakovsky is back in for Game 6

Burakovsky is back in for Game 6

Coach Barry Trotz indicated that Andre Burakovsky’s benching wouldn’t last long.

And it didn’t.

The 23-year-old winger will return to the lineup on Monday night as the Caps look to stave off elimination in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final.

During the morning skate, Burakovsky skated on the third line with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly—a trio that’s enjoyed some success in the past.

It’s been a difficult postseason for Burakovsky, who has not recorded a point in six games. He missed 10 contests after suffering a hand injury in Game 2 of the first round that required minor surgery.

What he found out upon returning was this: coming back from injury in the regular season is hard...and it’s exponentially tougher in the playoffs.

“It’s definitely tough to jump in in the semifinal,” he said. “When you’re out, you just want to get in and help the team and do what you’re good at—score goals and produce.”

“What I realized is that it’s not that easy,” he added. “I really thought I could jump in and just play like I did before I got injured. 

But obviously it didn’t work out as well I thought it would.”  

Burakovsky also said that he’s planning to work with a sports psychologist this summer in an effort to maintain an even keel when things aren’t going as well as he would like. It’s a problem that he said he’s struggled with since his childhood.

Asked what he hopes to see from Burakovsky in Game 6, Coach Barry Trotz kept it simple: offense.

The Caps have scored just two goals in each of the last three games, with Evgeny Kuznetsov contributing 50-percent of that total.

“He’s a guy that’s given us some good offense all through his time here,” Trotz said of Burakovsky. “We think that he can add some of that.”

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5 keys for the Caps to win Game 6 and force a decisive Game 7 against the Lightning

5 keys for the Caps to win Game 6 and force a decisive Game 7 against the Lightning

The more you look at Monday's Game 6 between the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the more you realize this game is the most important game of Alex Ovechkin's career.

This is the first time Ovechkin and Co. have made it to the conference finals and it is the first time this postseason in which the Caps face elimination.

Here are the keys for the Caps to staving off elimination and forcing a Game 7:

1. Get off to a better start

It took Tampa Bay just 19 seconds to score in Game 5 and the score was 3-0 nothing before the Capitals really began to show any signs of life. They cannot allow the Lightning to jump all over them in the same way and take the crowd out of the game early.

With the game being in Washington, the Caps will have the crowd on their side. Use it.

The Caps have been at their best this series playing the trap, holding their own blue line and countering against Tampa Bay's aggressive defensemen leading to odd-man breaks. That's a hard gameplan to run if you're playing from behind. Scoring first would go a long way for Washington.

2. Stay out of the penalty box

Washington has given up six power play goals to Tampa Bay on just 15 opportunities in this series. That means the Lightning's power play is producing at a blistering rate of 40-percent. That's an insanely good power play rate and that may be putting it mildly.

So far, the penalty kill has had no answer for how to shut down a Tampa Bay unit that features Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov setting up for one-timers and being quarterbacked by Victor Hedman. That's a formidable cast.

If you can't beat it, then there's only one solution: Stay out of the box.

Despite everything that went wrong in Game 5, the one thing the Caps did right was not give up many penalties. They took only one on the night and even that one was avoidable as Brett Connolly got caught holding Brayden Point trying to get around him to get the puck.

3. Win the top line matchup

The Lightning have found success matching their fourth line against Ovechkin. Of his six points this series, only two of them (one goal, one assist) have come at 5-on-5. That's not good enough.

It's gut check time. The Caps need their best players to be at their best and that means Ovechkin has to win the matchup against Chris Kunitz, Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan. In Game 5, Tampa Bay's fourth line actually outscored Ovechkin's line in 5-on-5 play 2-0.

Washington will not win this game if the fourth line outscores Ovechkin's line. It's just that simple.

4. Take advantage of the power play opportunities

The Caps scored at least one power play goal in Game 1 and Game 2, both wins. They have not scored any since and have lost all three games since. They scored on three of seven opportunities in the first two games and zero of seven opportunities in the last three.

Not a coincidence.

Granted, they did not draw any penalties in Game 5, but it seems unlikely the Lightning will stay out of the box for another sixty minutes. At some point, they will take a penalty and when they do, Washington must take advantage.

5. Win the goalie matchup

Not much attention has been paid to Braden Holtby in this series. The Caps are not facing elimination because they have been getting bad goaltending, but when the Lightning needed Andrei Vasilevskiy to steal them a win and up his game to get them back into the series, he responded.

Vasilevskiy has been brilliant the last three games as he has turned aside 100 of the 106 shots he has faced for a .943 save percentage. For the series, Holtby has a save percentage of only .883.

Again, Washington is not down 3-2 in the series because of goaltending. Holtby has faced far fewer shots than Vasilevskiy and has been just about the only thing that has worked against Tampa Bay's lethal power play.

But as one of the team's top players, the Caps need Holtby to step up the way Vasilevskiy has. Game 6 will be about winning by any means necessary. If that means they need a hat trick from Ovechkin so be it. If that means they need Holtby to steal it for them, so be it.

Holtby has to be just as good as Vasilevskiy in Game 6, if not better, for Washington to come out on top.

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