Time for playoff hockey. The ECHL’s Kelly Cup awaits somebody about six weeks from now, and the Idaho Steelheads and Utah Grizzlies open their best-of-seven first-round series tonight in CenturyLink Arena. The Steelheads went 7-3-3 versus the Grizzlies this season, with All-ECHL forward Wade MacLeod scoring 19 points in 13 games against the Griz. Steelies goalie Olivier Roy has been especially stingy versus Utah, going 3-0 with a .924 goals-against average. The Steelheads and Grizzlies have only met one time previously in the playoffs, a four-game sweep by Idaho in the second round in 2010 when the Steelheads went on to win the Western Conference before falling to Cincinnati in the Kelly Cup Finals.
Do you remember the wild brouhaha in front of the Steelheads’ bench in the season finale last Wednesday, midway through the third period of Idaho’s 4-3 win over Utah? The ECHL didn’t suspend any Steelies, but they did sit the Grizzlies’ Alex Gallant for six games and fined him an undisclosed anount as the result of a mjor penalty for spearing. Gallant was unavailable for Utah’s two games at Colorado last weekend and will miss the first four games of the playoff series against the Steelies.
Boise State’s Anthony Drmic has finally been granted his medical hardship by the NCAA, making him eligible for one more season with the Broncos in 2015-16. There was never a doubt, as Drmic met all the criteria for medical hardship status. The 6-5 Australian played in less than 30 percent of his team’s games this season, didn’t appear in the second half of the season, as he was unable to return, and had a redshirt year available. Drmic underwent reconstructive surgery on his left ankle January 15 and is still recovering. He gives the Broncos the makings of a pretty good team next season, joining Mountain West Newcomer of the Year James Webb III to form a formidable playmaking duo.
The irony in the timing of Drmic’s injury is that the seven games he played at the beginning of the season might be enough to make him Boise State’s career scoring leader when it’s all said and done a year from now. Derrick Marks finished his career 32 points behind Tanoka Beard’s Bronco record of 1,944 points. Drmic scored 105 points total this season before he was shelved following Boise State’s December 6 win at Saint Mary’s. His career total stands at 1,528 points, 416 away from Beard. The Broncos played 34 games this season. Let’s conservatively say they play 32 in 2015-16. Drmic would have to average just over 13 points per game to break Beard’s mark. It is doable.
San Diego State’s basketball program has enough cache to be attractive in some creative venues. The Aztecs faced Syracuse on the deck of the USS Midway aircraft carrier in San Diego Bay in November, 2012. Now they’ll take on their cross-city foe, the University of San Diego, this December in Petco Park. The home of the Padres has held non-baseball sporting events before, most notably a US-Britain Davis Cup match in January, 2014. The court will likely be set up in leftfield, with the configuration able to accommodate as many as 20,000 fans.
Familiarization with the 2015 Washington Huskies can begin in earnest now, with spring football at Boise State complete and with Washington’s halfway through. We can start with Budda Baker, one of the biggest gets in Chris Petersen’s first recruiting class at UW. Baker, a star free safety from Bellevue, originally committed to Oregon but decommitted in order to play for the team he grew up rooting for. He started as a true freshman last season and played more reps than any other Husky defender, making 80 tackles. Now during spring ball, Washington is experimenting with Baker as a two-way player, trying him at running back and slot receiver. “We have to utilize the talent,” acknowledged Baker’s secondary coach, Jimmy Lake, the former Bronco assistant. Baker will also be a key on special teams in the return game.
Elijhaa Penny is still listed as 6-2, 254 pounds on Idaho’s official football roster. But word is that Penny has dropped some weight and added some quickness as Vandal spring football heads into its third week. Penny shed many a tackler in last Saturday’s scrimmage, rushing for 154 yards on 27 carries. He posted another 120 yards in the first spring scrimmage a week and a half ago. Momentum from 2014 has carried over for the senior from Lakewood, CA. Penny was Idaho’s leading rusher last season with 589 yards and 12 tocuhdowns, with 342 yards coming in the final four games of the year.
Kristin Armstrong’s competitive juices have roiled up again, and yesterday on Facebook the two-time Olympic gold medalist announced she’s coming out of retirement again. Armstrong, the Boisean who claimed cycling gold at Beijing in 2008 and in London in 2012, retired after her first triumph when she had son Lucas, then re-retired after the London Games. According to her statement, “I will start my race schedule this year in Mexico with the Pan American Continental Time Trial Championships in Morelia, Michoacán on May 7th.”
The Boise State men’s golf team turned in its best result in more than a year yesterday, coming in third at the OGIO UC Santa Barbara Intercollegiate tournament. The Broncos posted the only sub-par team round of the event to jump past Utah, finishing three shots behind UC Riverside and five back of the host Gauchos. Boise State also finished in third at the Thunderbird Invitational in St. George, UT, in February of 2014.
Other campus notes: Northwest Nazarene men’s basketball coach Dave Daniels has announced his retirement from coaching, effective at the end of May. Daniels spent 10 years as a head coach, six at his alma mater, Colorado Christian, and four at NNU. He compiled a 126-157 overall record and a 34-58 mark while leading the Crusaders. And the NNU and College of Idaho baseball teams play the tail end of this season’s Canyon County series tonight with a game at Vail Field in Nampa. The Crusaders are 22-18 after a four-game road sweep of Saint Martin’s last weekend, while the Coyotes are 28-18. The Yotes won this season’s first meeting versus NNU on February 7, 14-10.
Former Boise Hawk Robinson Chirinos hit a two-run double—then smacked a three-run homer last night to lead the Texas Rangers past the L.A. Angels, 8-2. The home run was his first of the year, and the five runs batted in were a career high. Chirinos, in his fourth major league season, came into the game hitting just .077 (he’s now up to .176). Chirinos was 18 years old when he played for the Hawks back in 2002. He batted .247 with eight homers and 38 RBI.
This Day In Sports…April 15, 1947:
More than 25,000 fans witness history as Jackie Robinson bats second and plays first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking major league baseball’s color barrier. It was Opening Day at Ebbets Field, and the 28-year-old Robinson, signed by Branch Rickey, went 0-for-3 against Boston Braves starter Johnny Sain but scored the deciding run in the Dodgers’ 5-3 win.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)