Rematch of emotional game as Cowboys face Cyclones

Rematch of emotional game as Cowboys face Cyclones

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) The memories of Oklahoma State's trip to Iowa State a season ago are etched in Richetti Jones' memory in an aura of sadness and spookiness.

It's not just the fact that the Cowboys' dream season and national championship bid got derailed with a loss, but the circumstances that surrounded that Friday night game. That morning, the team learned of the crash that killed women's basketball coach Kurt Budke, assistant Miranda Serna and two others on a recruiting trip to Arkansas.

The game still went on.

``That was the weirdest day ever,'' said Jones, a senior defensive end for the Cowboys last season. ``It was like it wasn't real life.''

What was terribly real seemed to Jones like it was right out of a tragic movie. Carrying a 10-0 record and needing two more wins to reach the national championship game, the Cowboys lost 37-31 in double overtime to a Cyclones team that had never beaten a team ranked in the top six in 58 previous chances.

``Not so much physical as emotional, it hurt,'' linebacker Alex Elkins said. ``I don't like to lose and after everything we'd been through that season, for us to come that close and lose, it hurts.''

The rematch of that game comes Saturday in Stillwater, and the memories are still fresh from a day of jubilation for Iowa State's football program and a diametrically opposite feeling for Oklahoma State.

Coach Mike Gundy remembers telling his team about the plane crash tragedy during a meeting in a banquet room and how quiet they remained while at the team hotel, during meetings, on a bus ride to the stadium and in the locker room before the game.

After watching TV news reports about the plane crash throughout the day, the Cowboys boarded three buses for what Jones remembers as about a 30-minute drive through pitch black fields to get to the stadium.

``It's eerie, it's creepy and all you can think about is death ... because of what happened - these people are actually gone. And then you stop at a stop sign and make a left and there's only one bus behind you,'' Jones said. ``We get to the stadium and we're warming up with only half the team.''

One of the team buses had broken down on the way to the game, adding another layer of complication for players who were already emotionally rattled. Jones won't argue that turnover problems did in Oklahoma State on that night, but there was something else to it, too.

``You can say that it didn't affect us, but it did. It did,'' Jones said. ``You can say whatever you want, but these people died. They're dead. They're not coming back.''

Considering all of the circumstances, there's absolutely no comparison between last year's game and the one on Saturday. This time, it's a somewhat routine midseason game with Oklahoma State (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) and Iowa State (4-2, 1-2) slugging it out for position in the middle of the conference standings.

Both Gundy and counterpart Paul Rhoads downplayed the revenge factor.

``Coach Gundy is a very smart coach and he doesn't need extra motivation for his team,'' Rhoads said. ``He knows the importance of this game because it's the next game, and I'm sure that's how he's preparing them, just like that's how we're preparing our football club.''

Gundy continued to withhold whether his starting quarterback would be freshman Wes Lunt, who won the job in the spring, or J.W. Walsh, who replaced him after an injury last month. Walsh got the call last week at Kansas even though Lunt was able to play, and the Cowboys had their NCAA record-tying run of 22 straight games scoring at least 30 points snapped in a 20-14 win.

Oklahoma State had only 24 points in regulation at Iowa State last season.

``We'll have our hands full to do anything close to that, like we did last year,'' Rhoads said.

The Cyclones cracked the top 25 in the first BCS standings of the season after losing 27-21 to then-No. 6 Kansas State last weekend in their bid to upset a second straight ranked opponent.

``They just don't make any mistakes,'' Gundy said. ``They play good football and they don't turn it over. They're sound. From this season and even back into last season, you can see that they've competed against good offenses and played much better than what people would have expected them to.

``We're to the point now that everybody realizes that it doesn't happen by accident that Iowa State is a good football team and worthy of the consideration that they're getting.''

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Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

Capitals have been their own worst enemy, and they were again on Friday

The Capitals managed to earn a point on Friday in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers, but the game felt like a missed opportunity for Washington. After giving up four goals in the first period, seven power plays including two 5-on-3s, and two power play goals, the Caps knew they had no one to blame but themselves for the loss.

“We were still not quite there maybe emotionally,” Lars Eller said.

At least not for the first period. The Caps allowed four goals in the opening 20 minutes to dig themselves into a 4-1 hole. Each goal came from the slot as the Caps had no control over the front of their own net.

“Just tough to start that way, to kind of dig ourselves a big hole,” Brett Connolly said. “Obviously, it’s good to come back and get a point but we don’t need to do that to ourselves. It takes a lot of energy to get back in that game.”

Washington battled back to tie the game at 4, but penalties ultimately derailed their momentum, allowing Florida to retake the lead.

After scoring three straight goals, the Caps took three minor penalties in the final three minutes of the second period.

Alex Ovechkin was called for interference on Aaron Ekblad as he made no attempt to play a loose puck that trickled past the Florida defenseman. He was clearly focused on delivering the hit and nothing else.

Less than a minute later, Eller was caught on the ice a tad early, and Washington was called for too many men.

“I see Backy coming for a change, they had full possession,” Eller said. “I don't see behind my back, I think the guys are telling me he has one skate over so I think it was an unnecessary call, but what am I going to say? It's a tough one.”

With 1:15 of a two-man advantage to work with, Jonathan Huberdeau scored the go-ahead goal late in the period.

Even after a furious comeback, the Caps could not escape the second with the score tied because of the penalties.

Just 43 seconds after Huberdeau’s goal, Washington went right back to 5-on-3. Evgeny Kuznetsov was tossed from a faceoff by the linesman and argued the call, eventually earning himself an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“He said something he shouldn't have said to the referee,” Reirden said of the call.

The Caps' penalty problems were exacerbated by the continued problems of the penalty kill.

Heading into Friday's game, Washington was only killing off 72.2 percent of the power plays they faced. They allowed another two power play goals Friday as they continued to struggle when facing the extra man.

“We have room for improvement for sure,” Reirden said of his penalty kill. “It’s a new system, new with the way we’re killing, its new personnel. We’re learning. We’re missing a key guy in Tom on that as well. It’s not easy, either, when you’re 5-on-3 when they’ve got talented players that can convert in that spot. It’s definitely a work in progress and I didn't expect it to go smoothly to start with. That’s one of the areas that we knew was gonna be new to our team this year and it’s gonna continue to take some work. It’s something that definitely is a work in progress.”

Mistakes put the Caps down 4-1, they put them down 5-4, they cost them a valuable point against a previously winless Panthers team before a four-game road trip through Canada, and they are ultimately why the defending Stanley Cup champions are only 3-2-2 to start the season.

And they know it.

“We’re still trying to find our game,” Connolly said. “Would we have liked to have picked up where we left off? Yes. But it’s not easy. We played a lot of hockey last year and a short summer and you come in here and there’s a lot of distractions, a lot of that kind of stuff. We’ve done some good things and we’ve done some not so good things.

"I think if you look at last season we weren't very good either at the start. We weren't at our best. Just take the positives and know that we can overcome that. It hasn’t been disastrous. We’re still getting points, we’re still above .500 right now with a tough couple back-to-backs to start the year. So not the worst start, but obviously we have another level.”


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Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

Panthers head coach calls for league to review Ovechkin’s hit to Pysyk

The Florida Panthers played over half of Friday’s game with five defensemen after a hit from Alex Ovechkin ultimately knocked Mark Pysyk out of the game.

Early in the second period, Ovechkin attempted to enter the offensive zone with the puck, but it was swept away at the blue line back to Pysyk. Pysyk quickly chipped the puck away and then was on the receiving end of a hit from Ovechkin.

In real time, the hit did not appear to be a big one. It wasn't even the biggest hit Ovechkin delivered in the game, as in the third period he sent Aleksander Barkov flying with a shoulder hit. But Pysyk went down to the ice after the hit and left the game soon after.

After the game, Florida head coach Bob Boughner did not mince words.

“Pysyk got a high hit to the head,” he said.

When asked if he thought the league should review the hit, Boughner said, “I hope they do because if you see the replay, it's high. It's a head shot. And the league's trying to clamp down on that. Whether there's no call, I don't blame the refs. Maybe they missed it. That happens. But those are the kind of plays that need to be reviewed.”

Based on the replay, it is hard to determine if the principal point of contact was the head. Ovechkin does not launch himself, but does appear to take an upward trajectory into Pysyk. Still, it seems like a hard sell to say Ovechkin was targeting the head.

But the hit did send Pysyk out of the game, and in today’s NHL, when head hits are a big topic of conversation and when a player is injured on a play, the NHL has shown it takes those plays more seriously.

Pysyk returned to the game for one more shift after receiving the hit, but left the game after and did not return.

“Right now we're still getting him checked out, but we'll see more in the morning,” Boughner said.