Hawks respond to Torres suspension


Hawks respond to Torres suspension

GLENDALE Marian Hossas gear hung in a locker at Jobing.com Arena, a bit of symbolism and, perhaps, motivation.

And be it his absence, thanks to Raffi Torres 25-game-suspension-earning hit, or the fact that the Blackhawks playoff lives are at stake tonight, theyll need to find all the motivation they can.

The Blackhawks are fighting the uphill battle beginning tonight, as they try to stave off elimination to the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 5 of their Western Conference quarterfinal matchup. And as news of Torres suspension came out, it was little consolation for some.

The reaction (to the suspension) is we lost Hoss, forward Andrew Brunette said. I dont think we get any satisfaction in X amount of games he was suspended. Were missing arguably our best player, and theres no satisfaction in that.

Jonathan Toews said the same.

We take a little satisfaction in seeing some justice there, but Marian Hossa is still at home, not feeling like himself, he said. It doesnt bring him back to our lineup and feel ready.

No, but there has to be motivation or make that desperation. For the second consecutive season theyre facing a steep climb, able to match Phoenix down the stretch in regulation but unable to stop them in three out of four overtimes. The energy level has to be immediate tonight.

Our mindset going into today is, after those two games (at home), we have to find some excitement in our team. We need more pace, more enthusiasm; we have to be all-out desperate tonight, coach Joel Quenneville said. If you look at the smaller picture, its comparable last year when we found a way to work ourselves back (against Vancouver). We have to get some positive encouragement; were at the point where talk isnt going to get it done.

But a pep talk still doesnt hurt. After Quenneville got done with his post-skate talk and the coaches left the ice, the Blackhawks remained and Toews did one of his own. Players werent willing to divulge what was said.

Thats between us as a team, Brendan Morrison said. But obviously hes saying the right things a leader does to get us ready.

Toews said theres some satisfaction in the Torres ruling. But if the Blackhawks dont use that, or their current situation in this series, as motivation, it all rings hollow.

The Blackhawks have all the motivation they need for tonight, be it in a fallen teammates symbolic locker or the brink of elimination. That drive has to come out tonight, or there is no more games for which to get motivated.

We need something to get excited about, Quenneville said. Coming off those two games, we need a win and thats where the excitements got to come from. Weve got to leave it out there.

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Not all losses are created equal.

When Lincoln-Way East suffered a 35-30 defeat in Week 3 to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Griffins took positives away from the loss. They had held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, battled back from adversity in the second half and had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Even that loss in retrospect appeared acceptable – if there ever was an acceptable loss – as the Vikings are currently 8-0 and in their other seven wins have outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points.

By Week 3 the Griffins were still acclimating to the unique situation of playing at game speed with a host of Lincoln-Way North students who had transferred in the offseason. They had a defense made up almost entirely of first-year starters, and the offense was still rotating quarterbacks Jake Arthur and Max Shafer to figure out how to maximize their talent. By many standards the Griffins went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes with a team also considered to be a favorite for a state title.

The same couldn’t be said for the Griffins’ effort last Friday night in Bradley.

An esteemed program with a 2005 state title and 16 consecutive playoff appearances to their resume, it isn’t often the Griffins are embarrassed on Friday night. But those were the words head coach Rob Zvonar used in his postgame speech to the team following their 38-21 loss to the undefeated Boilermakers.

“We chose to play the game,” Zvonar began. “Which means you play it to the greatest of your ability and you honor each other, God, everybody by your play. And we didn’t do that tonight.”

There were plenty of reasons the Griffins suffered their second loss of the season. That is came in such blowout fashion was the bigger surprise. The Boilermakers found the end zone on their first two possessions, rallying behind a raucous home crowd hoping to see their team go 8-0 for the first time in school history.

The Griffins defense, which had allowed 27 points the previous three weeks combined, were on their heels as the Boilermakers used misdirection and a few trick plays to set up the short touchdown runs.

The Griffins offense moved down the field on their fourth possession, moving inside the Boilermakers red zone looking to get on the board. But Iowa commit Camron Harrell stepped in front of a Griffins screen pass on 4th down and returned it 89 yards for a score. On the final play of the first quarter, with the Griffins moving again, Damien Williams read a route and picked off Jake Arthur, returning it 53 yards for a score to give the Boilermakers a shocking 28-0 lead after 12 minutes.

After a spirited halftime speech from Zvonar, the Griffins came out firing in the second half, scoring on a touchdown run from Nigel Muhammad and a Jeremy Nelson 27-yard reception from Arthur. But the Boilermakers weathered the storm each time Lincoln-Way East attempted a comeback. The Griffins only got as close as 14 points late in the fourth quarter.

“I think we came into this game not ready,” said Muhammad, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. “But we’re all a team and we all accept this loss together.”

Added senior Jack Carroll, who finished with a team-high nine tackles: “We have this sick feeling in our stomach right now but the best thing is (next) Friday we can come back and get it out of our stomach. If we lose again in the playoffs then we’ll have that sick feeling in our stomach for the rest of our lives.”

That’s now the reality for the Griffins, and a silver lining if there ever could be one for such a blowout loss. With the playoffs a mere week away – the Griffins defeated Lockport on Friday to finish the regular season 7-2 – the feeling each of them felt getting on the bus back to Frankfort will linger with them and act as a reminder of how quickly things can slip away.

“We’re trying to put this behind us,” said Max Shafer. “We’re going to try to get hot and make a run in the playoffs.”

In a loaded 8A class, the Griffins’ two regular-season losses have already knocked them down in the seeding process. While any loss before Week 9 means little in the long run – the Griffins locked up a playoff berth weeks ago – it also means a more difficult road to Champaign. But that’s the reality for Zvonar’s group, and whether it’s a defense playing faster or an offense avoiding costly mistakes, the Griffins are running out of time to right the ship.

But Zvonar believes such a loss as the team suffered last Friday night can act as the catalyst to doing just that. The Griffins have established themselves as one of the state’s premier programs, and that means not riding the highs too high, and not breaking apart when the lows come. Last Friday night was as low as Zvonar had seen any of his 16 teams, but the silver lining occurred in that his squad now knows what it has to do to avoid it when it’s win or go home.

“What we also think is that the program is built on a solid foundation, so when you take a little hit like that you battle back and you go back to what you believe in and what you know can be successful. And that’s fundamentals and keeping things simple, and the kids have bounced back and they’re not acceptable to them what occurred to them, so very proud of their effort and the way they’re working.

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