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UConn gives coach Kevin Ollie new 5-year deal

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UConn gives coach Kevin Ollie new 5-year deal

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Connecticut has given men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie a new contract that runs through the end of the 2017-18 season.

The deal, signed Saturday, is worth just under $7 million and begins Jan. 1. When Ollie was hired in September, he was signed for just one season.

``As I said in my first press conference, I want to be here a lifetime and this is a step, hopefully a great step, in the program moving forward,'' Ollie said.

Ollie, who turned 40 on Thursday, was hired after Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun retired. His original deal had a pro-rated value of just over $465,000, the school said.

Ollie has led UConn to a 10-2 record, including a win Saturday against Washington, despite losing five underclassmen from last year's team after it was announced that the Huskies were academically ineligible for the upcoming postseason.

``He's shown that he can coach, that he can lead this team on the court, and academically,'' athletic director Warde Manuel said. ``He's the epitome of an UConn Husky.''

Ollie was greeted with a standing ovation as he walked on the court Saturday night and the student section chanted his name.

``We got excited for him, and we wanted to give him his first career win as UConn's new long-term head coach,'' said guard Shabazz Napier, who scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds in Saturday's 61-53 win.

Ollie, who played point guard for Calhoun from 1991-95, was his former coach's hand-picked successor. He became an assistant at UConn in 2010, after 13 years as an NBA journeyman.

But, he had never been a head coach on any level. Manuel said that's why he waited before tendering a multi-year offer, even though he knew it could have a negative impact on recruiting.

``I'm sure it didn't help, the short-term nature of the deal,'' Manuel said. ``But I wanted the opportunity to see Kevin and get a sense of who he was for the long term.''

Ollie has quickly established himself with his upbeat and energetic style, running practices that focus on conditioning and accountability.

``Kevin moved gracefully and seamlessly into this position of immense responsibility over the course of the fall,'' school President Susan Herbst said. ``He demonstrated to us that he is a genuine leader of extraordinary talents.''

The contract also includes some stiff penalties should UConn in the future again fail to meet the minimum standards for the NCAA Academic Progress Rate.

Ollie would forfeit two weeks' salary and all postseason payments. Two consecutive years of substandard APR scores would be grounds for termination.

``I agreed to it because I have a belief system in my student athletes,'' Ollie said. ``We're students first and we're going to get it done.''

Those sanctions would be eliminated from the contract once UConn's four-year APR climbs above 930, Manuel said.

Ollie will receive $1.2 million in 2013. His base salary will be $400,000 and rest will be for speaking and media appearances. The payments increase annually to $1.34 million by 2017.

Calhoun, who is vacationing in Florida, issued a statement saying the hiring makes him feel ``very good about the future of UConn basketball.''

UConn women's coach Geno Auriemma, who is making $1.8 million this year and is in negotiations for an extension, said Ollie remains in a tough position, but will have the support of the entire athletic department.

``He's going to do the right thing. He's already proven that,'' Auriemma said. ``And now he's going to get an opportunity to recruit and he's going to get an opportunity to coach.''

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AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in Stanford, Calif., contributed to this report.

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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.

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