After leaving home, I made it back to Baltimore for a few days before heading back to Pennsylvania. The Blues road trip, after seeing them play the Golden Knights, went through Philadelphia and Washington. Since D.C. was a close drive from Baltimore, we made the trip down to check the Blues out in their white jerseys this time.
This was a very entertaining game. There was a lot of scoring and good play from both sides. The only score in the 1st was Brett Connolly’s power-play goal for the Capitals from Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson. With a 1-0 deficit in the 2nd, the Blues got on the board. Vladimir Tarasenko scored his 18th of the season just 1:18 into the period. Less than four minutes later, Alexander Steen scored on the power play to give the Blues a 2-1 lead, a lead they had heading into the 3rd period. With Washington’s vaunted power play unit back on the ice, Ovechkin scored his 27th goal of the season 8:00 into the period. Lars Eller then added a goal a few minutes later to give the Capitals a 3-2 lead. With just over four minutes remaining, Carl Gunnarsson was able to put a puck into the back of the net for the Blues to tie the game up 3-3 and send it to overtime.
As the game looked to be heading to a shootout, Nicklas Backstrom got a breakaway that he converted with just 43 seconds left to give Washington a thrilling 4-3 victory. The teams were very close on the stat sheet. Both teams converted 50% of their power plays. The Blues had 19 hits and the Capitals had 18. The Blues won 58% of the faceoffs on the night. Braden Holtby stopped 31 of 34 shots he faced for the Capitals and Carter Hutton stopped 29 of 33 shots against him.
A view from the top
A close look of a faceoff scramble
As I made it home for a week around New Year’s, I always try to make it to a Blues game. Fortunately, the Vegas Golden Knights were in town. Having lived in Vegas for two years, I had been excited for the city to get an NHL team and have been and will be rooting for them as my “2nd team.”
Aside from getting tickets from a work buddy that were just a few rows behind the Vegas bench, this may have been one of the most exciting 2-1 hockey games you’ll ever see. It was fast-paced and clean. There weren’t a lot of penalties or stoppages and the goals were hard-earned.
The Blues were the only team to score in the 1st when Alexander Steen scored his 5th of the year from newcomer Brayden Schenn and Colton Parayko. Vegas was the only team to score in the 2nd when Erik Haula scored his 15th of the year from James Neal and former Blue David Perron. With a 1-1 game in the 3rd, Paul Stastny broke the tie nearly six minutes in on a goal from Vladimir Sobotka and Parayko. The Blues were able to hold on for a 2-1 victory.
Both teams were able to get a bunch of shots on goal and have a bunch of chances, but the goalies played very well. Carter Hutton got the win for the Blues stopping 32 of 33 Vegas shots. Vladimir Tarasenko put six shots on goal, but couldn’t score. Future Hall of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant stopping 37 of 39 shots, but took the loss. James Neal put five shots on goal, but couldn’t get one past Hutton.
The two Vegas goalies and some other skaters during pregame
The opening faceoff
Our company Christmas get together was at the Lehigh Valley Phantoms game. I had been to the PPL Center before for an AFL game and the AHL All-Star Skills Challenge, but not for an actual Phantoms game, until now.
After a relatively quiet first 15 minutes, Matthew Peca scored late in the 1st for Syracuse to give the Crunch a 1-0 lead going into the first intermission. In the 2nd, it was all Phantoms. In less than a five-minute stretch, the Phantoms were able to put three pucks into the net. Chris Conner was first with assists from Phil Varone and Will O’Neill. Then Corban Knight scored with assists from O’Neill and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Finally, Greg Carey netted his 15th of the year from Oskar Lindblom and Conner on the power play. It was now a 3-1 Lehigh Valley lead headed to the 3rd.
Both teams traded goals in the 3rd with a Syracuse goal by Kevin Lynch and a Phantoms goal by Danick Martel. Lehigh Valley finished with a 4-2 victory. John Muse made 22 saves on 24 shots for the Phantoms. Connor Ingram made 29 saves on 33 shots for Syracuse.
The Phantoms celebrating their victory
Being a Lions fan, them coming to Baltimore meant going to watch them play. Unfortunately, they didn’t put on a very good showing.
Baltimore was the only team to score in the first on a Justin Tucker 38-yard field goal. They then scored 17 more points in the second. Benjamin Watson and Patrick Ricard both caught TD passes from Joe Flacco and Tucker hit a 46-yarder as time expired. The Ravens took a 20-0 lead into the half.
The Lions began a comeback in the third. Touchdown runs from Theo Riddick and Tion Green made it a 20-13 game heading into the 4th Quarter. Unfortunately, the Ravens took it to Detroit in the fourth. Nick Bellore scored on a 1-yard pass, but the Ravens scored 24 points. Alex Collins ran in two touchdowns, Tucker hit a 51-yarder and Eric Weddle picked off backup QB Jake Rudock and returned it for a score. The Ravens took the 44-20 victory.
Flacco finished 23/36 with 269 yards and 2 touchdowns. Collins had 15 carries for 75 yards and 2 TD. Mike Wallace led all receivers with 5 catches and 116 yards. For the Lions, Matthew Stafford went 24/29 with 292 yards a TD and a pick before sustaining an injury in the 4th. Tion Green led the team with 51 yards and a score on 11 rushes. Marvin Jones had 4 catches for 90 yards. Rookie LB Jarrad Davis led all players with eight tackles on defense.
Even though the Lions took the loss, it was nice to see them play and check another NFL stadium off the list.
A view of the Lions during pre game
Some in-game action
My final game getting scouting credentials was in Philly for the UCF vs Temple game. UCF came in undefeated and they had some solid NFL prospects. The three that topped the list were WR Tre’Quan Smith, CB Mike Hughes and LB Shaquem Griffin.
Temple got on the board first with a field goal, but then McKenzie Milton ran it in from four yards out on a QB keeper. UCF held a 7-3 lead after one. An 8-yard pass from Frank Nutlile to Keith Kirkwood allowed Temple to regain the lead 10-7. After that, UCF decided to start scoring. A Dredrick Snelson 2-yard run, Otis Anderson 9-yard reception, Matthew Wright 44-yard field goal and 5-yard Gabriel Davis reception put the Knights up 31-10. The Owl got a late 41-yard field as time expired to make it a 31-13 game at the half.
Tre’Quan Smith made a great grab for a 22-yard score and the Marlon Williams caught an 8-yard TD to make it 45-13 after three quarters. Adonis Jennings hauled in a 74-yard pass from Nutile in the fourth to make it 45-19, the final score. Milton finished 16/23 for 208 yards, 4 TD and 23 rush yards and a score. Smith caught four balls for 89 yards and a score. Mike Hughes had 6 tackles on the day and Griffin had 3 tackles and an interception. For Temple, Nutile was 17/40 with 201 yards, 2 TD and 4 Int. David Hood had 12 rushes for 81 yards. Jennings had 2 catches for 88 yards and a TD and Kirkwood had 3 catches for 32 yards and a score. Jullian Taylor led the defense with 10 tackles and 4.5 TFL and Safety Sean Chandler had 6 tackles.
A view from the press box about to do some scouting
A nice view during the game
This made three weekends in a row that we made it to a college game and this was the third we got scouting credentials. The main attraction was SMU Wide Receiver Courtland Sutton. They also had Wide Receiver Trey Quinn and Defensive End Justin Lawler.
This was a cold, thrilling game. It was all Navy in the first half. After scoring to go up 13-3, SMU blocked the PAT and ran it back for two points for a 13-5 Navy lead after one. Malcolm Perry was on fire for the Midshipmen. He scored on each end of a Trey Quinn 19-yard TD reception. Perry’s first was a 24-yard run and the second was 92 yards. Chris High ran it in from two yards out with 19 seconds left in the half to give Navy a 34-11 lead at the half.
It looked over, but SMU had other ideas. Sutton scored from 14 yards out on their first drive of the half. Xavier Jones ran it in from 3 yards out on their next drive. All of a sudden it was 34-25. Perry again scored from a yard out, but they failed on the 2-point conversion. James Proche caught a 17-yard Ben Hicks pass toward the end of the quarter to bring the Mustangs within eight at 40-32. With just 3:32 remaining, Sutton caught a 29-yard score for his second score of the game. Quinn caught the 2-point conversion to tie the game up 40-40. After Perry was injured, Navy found what it took to keep the drive going. They drove ten plays for 78 yards to get into field goal range. J.R. Osborn hit the 18-yard field goal as time expired to give Navy the 43-40 victory.
Perry finished the day with 282 yards rushing and 4 TD on 33 carries. He probably would’ve gone over the 300-yard mark if he hadn’t gotten hurt on the final drive. He threw one pass on the day and it was intercepted. Navy had 559 yards on the day, all on the ground. SMU QB Ben Hicks was 16/29 for 261 yards, 4 TD and a pick. Xavier Jones finished with 106 yards on the ground with one score. Only three players caught passes for SMU, and it was the big three. Sutton had 7 catches for 123 yards and 2 scores. Trey Quinn had 6 receptions for 87 yards and a TD and James Proche had 3 catches for 51 yards and a score. Justin Lawler finished with 10 total tackles and a block.
The awesome pre game tradition of Navy
Navy celebrating a thrilling victory
Our second game that we were able to get scouting credentials for came in Connecticut between UConn and USF. There were a few guys in particular we were watching, but one guy stood out and that was USF QB Quinton Flowers. He finished with 516 total yards (385 passing and 131 rushing).
As for the game, it was all USF, as most would have thought. They led 17-7 at halftime, but broke out and put it away in the third. An Emilio Nadelman 25-yard field goal, D’Ernest Johnson 11-yard TD reception and a Marquez Valdes-Scantling 95-yard TD reception made it a 34-7 game after three. UConn bookended a USF field goal in the fourth to finish the game at 37-20 with USF getting the victory.
Valdes-Scantling finished the day with 152 yards and a score on six catches. Three USF defenders finished with 10 total tackles. Deadrin Senat was one of the guys we were looking at and finished with 4 tackles. Bruce Hector had 4 tackles and 1.5 sacks. UConn QB Bryant Shirreffs finished 17/23 with 133 yards a TD and a pick and 28 yards rushing. Kevin Mensah ran the ball 22 times for 95 yards and a score. Junior Joseph led the defense with nine tackles and top UConn NFL prospect Folorunso Fatukasi finished with five tackles.
A view from the press box
A look from the sidelines while getting a close look at some guys