Fiddlers's Facts: Kudos to Rocket for exciting game, deadline decisions

Fred
Fred MacDonald
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Sports Prophet makes his picks for this weekend's NFL playoff games

The P.E.I. Rocket team of Serge Savard Jr., Trent Birt and Gord Dwyer are to be congratulated for not giving away any of their young stars at the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League trade deadline.

They could have moved goaltender Maxime Lagace, but decided to keep him when offers were not to their liking. The Rocket upended highly regarded Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 5-2 here Thursday night in perhaps the most exciting game of the season. The Rocket played very well and newcomer Troy Vance, a big defenceman with a cannon, looked like a great addition.

Time will tell.

The locals are in Halifax tonight and it’s a great test for this very good Rocket club. As for goaltender Legace, he likely plays against the Mooseheads in Halifax tonight, and I expect a great game from him.

Who knows, maybe Maxime could be the star of the playoffs. Having two top goalies available for post-season play is a luxury few teams can enjoy.

There was a good crowd Wednesday, so lets get behind this club and support them by attending.

 

University

Tom Hayward may not be a name familiar with today’s sporting crowd but the big Saint John native played three varsity sports (soccer, hockey and football) at UPEI in the 1970s.

Sadly, he passed away earlier this week. To his wife Leah-Jane and all connected to this great guy, our condolences.

Billy Fisher, who starred with Colonel Gray football teams in the mid-1970s, was home prior to Christmas for the funeral of his mom Elaine. Billy is first cousin to the top baseball players from the same era, Ron and Don Fisher.

My belated condolences.

On the basketball front, the UPEI teams are in action again today with Saints Mary’s in town for games at 4 and 6 p.m.  

UPEI men’s coach Tim Kendrick and his assistants have done a terrific job with a club ravaged by key injuries. The Panthers  upset the nation’s second-ranked Acadia Axemen last weekend and at crucial times in the game had four freshmen on the floor.

The women’s team, under coach Greg Gould, has shown a marked improvement and deserve a better record.

 

Maple Leafs

After four straight years of missing the playoffs and having saddled the Toronto Maple Leafs with as weak a roster as any in the National Hockey League, the Leafs finally fired general manager Brian Burke.

In addition to the post-season absence and the present roster, Burke ’s anointment of Dion Phaneuf as Leafs captain and the signing of veteran taskmaster Randy Carlyle as coach for a young Leafs club for the next three years means Burke could still be haunting the Leafs for years to come.

At the time of the Carlyle hiring in March 2012, a great many hockey fans felt Burke missed the boat by not signing Dallas Eakins, who did such a great job with the young American Hockey League Marlies. Old school coaches and today’s young players seldom turn into successful relationships.

From the outset, Burke has been nothing but a big, arrogant bag of wind. He promised everything and delivered nothing. If there’s a GM anywhere in major league sports who has done more to ruin a club than Burke I’d like to see him.

Dave Nonis, a Burke protégé from the Vancouver days, takes over as GM, at least until the end of the season. Nonis, and some in the Toronto media, talk about the great things Burke did. Building a strong AHL club, that is a great accomplishment? If Nonis was partially responsible for any of the Burke on-ice hockey decisions, he should have gone as well, but I guess for a shortened season he can’t do much harm. Whatever he is, he couldn’t possibly do any worse.

 

At the track

Live harness racing continues today at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park with a 13-dash card beginning at 1 p.m.

The $2,200 feature goes in Race 12 and includes, from the rail out, Blue Star Outlaw, Stress Buster, CL Eighty, Camcun, Oakrock Almighty, Joseph Michael, Big League and Block Party. A $1,500 co-feature and a $1,300 open trot make for a very good card with entries from other Maritime tracks now closed.

The simulcast handle from the Big M, the Meadowlands continues to climb with the overall handle breaking $3 million last week, and the other night $2.8 million. A very healthy sign.

Yonkers Raceway in New York opens this weekend, so the Big M numbers should slide a little but, nevertheless, it’s great for the business. Casey Gavin’s Proven Lover, who raced here a month or so ago, has jumped up the Yonkers class ladder and now meets the $35,000 class against horses like River Shark. That should tell you the racing at the CDP, oops Red Shore’s Charlottetown, is some tough.

At Woodbine tonight, Gold Cup and Saucer runner-up, Mystician has drawn the rail in the $34,000 preferred top class. Veteran trainer Wally MacInnis is training 12 head in Montreal and is doing double duty as head trainer Marcel Barrieau is on the shelf with an injury. One freshman that he likes so far is a Shadow Play colt co-owned by the Charlottetown group of Shaun MacIsaac, Mitch Gallant, Calvin Larkin and Billy MacKinnon. We’ll keep an eye on this fellow.

John MacDonald, Toby’s boy, posted his first win at The Meadowlands last Saturday night winning with Firethorn in 1:51:2. The same horse has the No. 9 post position tonight against the $20,000 A-2 class. On the same Big M card last week Mark MacDonald scored with River Shark in 1:50:1.

How about veteran pacer Silent Swing finishing fourth, with a last quarter in 26:1, in Golden Receiver’s 1:48:4 mile?

Pigskin Picks

The Sports Prophet was a perfect 4-for4 with the National Football League playoff picks last Saturday, so lets take a look at this weekend’s key matchups.

 

Today

Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos: I’m pulling for Peyton Manning to win. Although Denver beat Baltimore easily a few weeks ago, I think this game is a nail-biter. The spread is a hefty nine points, and that’s a lot to give up in this matchup. It’s time for Joe Flacco to step up and show us he’s a playoff quarterback.

The Broncos don’t really have a big running game and I’m not sold that they’re a shutdown defence that can contain Ray Rice. I’d take the points and bet Baltimore in what could be the last game for Ray Lewis. I believe Denver can win, but by 10 points, I don’t think so.

Green Bay at San Francisco: The 49ers beat the Packers early in the season but a lot has changed since then. San Fran has a new QB in Colin Kaepernick and he is a threat to run at any time. The Packers looked great last week and are healthier than any time this season.

This is too close too call and too much of a risk for me to bet. Premier Robert Ghiz loves his 49ers, who are three-point underdogs at home, so I might just jump aboard and go for the ride.

 

Sunday

Seattle at Atlanta: The Falcons are three-point favourites. The Falcons have a terrific receiving corps with Julio Jones, Rod White and Tony Gonzalez but Seattle has a terrific pass defence. Can Atlanta contain Seahawks QB Russell Wilson once he gets out of the pocket?

I don’t think so, so I’ll take the points and bet Seattle even though they will be without defensive end Chris Clemons, their big pass-rush guy.

Houston at New England: The spread is 9.5 points if you bet the Texans. Tom Brady and his cast of receivers plus the solid running back Stevan Ridley will score too often to keep this game close. I never bet against Brady/Belichek, so New England in a rout.

As always pay the mortgage first, the picks are for fun.

Fred MacDonald’s column appears

in The Guardian each Saturday.

He can be at fiddlersfacts@hotmail.com.

Organizations: Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Toronto Maple Leafs, Big M National Hockey League American Hockey League Marlies Block Party Sports Prophet National Football League Denver Broncos

Geographic location: Halifax, Saint John, Charlottetown Driving Park Charlottetown Vancouver Toronto Seattle Denver New York Atlanta Montreal New England Green Bay San Francisco

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