The stage is set for two of the most highly hyped NFL playoff games in recent memory as the conference championship games are set for Sunday.
Last week, this writer, “The Sports Prophet,” picked all games correct, as many of you readers have been accustomed to expect. Let’s take a closer look at tomorrow’s games.
The New England Patriots travel to Denver to play the hometown Broncos and it features two of the all-time great NFL quarterbacks in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
Brady was sharp last week as he led his club to a drubbing of Indianapolis Colts and Andrew Luck. Manning was his usual exceptional self in leading the Broncos to a hard-earned victory over the San Diego Chargers.
I still have major concerns with the Denver defence and I don’t think they can hold off the high-powered New England offence. LeGarrette Blount has quickly emerged as one of the most impressive big running backs in the league and Steve Ridley and Shane Vereen are good ones too. In addition, the Patriots have a great passing game with Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman and then there’s the Brady and head coach Bill Belichick factor.
Las Vegas oddsmakers have made the Broncos five-point favourites in the AFC championship game and although I would like to see Manning win, I don’t think they’re good enough to get past the Patriots.
The NFC championship game will be a physical war as both teams dislike each other and neither Seattle coach Pete Carroll nor San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh can stand the other.
The last time the 49ers came visiting, the Seahawks stomped them although that’s no guarantee in a winner-take-all game.
In my view, for San Fran to win quarterback Colin Kaepernick will have to run the ball and that’s exactly what the vicious Seattle safeties will want him to do. The Seahawks are extremely physical and their fast secondary are built more like linebackers. If Kaepernick runs too often, he risks injury and that’s what I fear. The Seahawks have a great young quarterback in Russell Wilson and although they don’t have an explosive offence, they have enough to win a low-scoring game at home. Take Seattle by four points or more.
As always, pay the mortgage first, the picks are for fun.
The professional basketball Island Storm hosts the Moncton Miracles Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Eastlink Centre in the hopes of getting back on their winning ways.
Newcomers Ed Jones, Nick Okorie and Phil Jones have been impressive in practice this week and with the great play of Antonio Ballard and Steve Tchiengang, the Storm have enough talent to challenge first-place Saint John.
The Storm is the best entertainment value in the province, so do yourself a favour and take in the Sunday afternoon game.
The Charlottetown bantam AAA Abbies beat the Western Maroons 4-1 in the championship game of the 34th annual Salmon Hockey tournament held last weekend in Miramichi, N.B.
The Charlottetown club, coached by Corey Gaudet, defeated Pownal 7-0, Quebec 5-2 and Kings County 7-2 en route to the playoff round. They pushed Pownal to the sidelines in the semifinal, setting the stage for the championship game victory.
Tenacious speedster Thomas Casey scored the winner with other goals by Kallum Muirhead, Chris McQuaid and Andrew “Soupy” Campbell.
Charlottetown received great goaltending throughout the tournament from Matt Halliwell, who was 3-0 and player of the day in the championship game, and from Ava Boutilier, who was 2-0 and sharp in the semifinal.
McQuaid (Adam’s cousin) and Kallum Muirhead each had 12 points in tournament play while Tyler Hashmi, Jack Carruthers and Thomas Harper were solid defensively.
At the same hockey tournament, Brady Morrissey scored twice and added an assist as the Maroons peewee AAA team upset Cole Harbour 5-4 in the championship game. Love to see those Island teams and kids enjoy hockey success on the mainland.
UPEI hockey Panthers are home Saturday, Jan. 25 against powerful UNB in a key game. In the afternoon, the annual Green and White alumni game is scheduled with ex-Panthers in an exhibition encounter. If you are interested in playing, contact John Brioux at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local hockey fans were shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of rugged former Charlottetown Junior Abbies defenceman Sean McInnis, who passed away after a friendly hockey game earlier this week in Kings County.
McInnis, 42, was a rough, tough defenceman from the Souris area and a favourite of fiery Abbies coach Forbes Kennedy.
Sean could skate and shoot and is best remembered for his many battles with ex-Sherwood Parkdale and New York Rangers enforcer Darren Langdon. Our condolences to all connected.
Local harness racing continues today at 1 p.m. with another top card at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park.
The $2,000 top class has attracted a field of six as Pinner, owned by Kevin, Brian and Lillian Ladner, looks to extend his win streak to nine. Pinner and driver Marc Campbell leave from post two with Majestic (Brodie MacPhee) on the inside, and Panacotta (Blaine Baglole), Nobestbfor (Walter Cheverie), Miracle Matts (Corey MacPherson), and Cambest Kisser (Ken Arsenault) on the outside. There’s also an interesting $1,800 trot class as trainer Mitch Tierney sends out newcomer Wonderous Hanover (Mike McGuigan) from post six against the likes of Dunmore Alpha, Delta Dental, Caliban Hanover, Buckling Banbury, Zip the Lip, Honeymoonisover and Abundaspin.
In racing up country, Jason Ryan drove five winners on Tuesday at Monticello Raceway, New York, and was the subject of a nice piece on Standardbred Canada. Ryan has 14 head at the Mount Hope Training Center, just an hour from both Yonkers and The Big M. Ryan is not just a great kid but he’s got talent too. His parents, Maurice and Cindy Coady, are owners and are Saturday regulars at the Charlottetown simulcast room. Love to see Islanders doing great in every sport.
Simulcast racing from Flamboro is available this afternoon while Woodbine, Yonkers and The Meadowlands is on tonight’s schedule.
Trois Rivieres is bringing back the famous Prix D’Ete this summer and offering a hefty $200,000 purse for four-year-old pacers, the top three-year-olds of the past season. Quebec has about a dozen teletheatres and organizers believe grand circuit racing will return to Quebec, which has a great harness racing tradition in the near future.
Northfield, Ohio, and the state of Ohio, are enthused with the slots-related money, which is giving Ohio sire stakes a huge boost Northfield is hosting a new $500,000 race for three year olds this summer. And last I looked Kentucky is going the same route which is great news for the harness racing game.
Fred MacDonald’s column appears in The Guardian each Saturday. He can be reached at email@example.com.