Friday, May 14, 2010.
The Idaho Steelheads have played 82 games this season—all of them versus seven different opponents. Economic concerns eliminated inter-conference play this season in the ECHL, making the Kelly Cup Finals that much more interesting. Fans finally get to see somebody different. So what about these Cincinnati Cyclones? They’re looking for their second Kelly Cup in three years after winning the championship in 2008. The title two years ago capped a rapid rebound for a franchise that had suspended operations in 2004 and had just resumed play a season earlier after a two-year hiatus.
Now we’ll see how important fresh legs are as Game 1 unfolds tonight in Qwest Arena. The Steelheads have played just 10 postseason games this spring; Cincinnati has played 19, as each of its three playoff series has gone the distance. We’ll also see what kind of tone will be set in the Finals. There were a couple knock-down, drag-out brawls in the American Conference Finals between Cincinnati and Reading.
If this series doesn’t go as far as six games (either way), this weekend may mark the last chance you have to see the Steelheads’ Mark McCutcheon on home ice. McCutcheon has really shined in the playoffs, and AHL clubs have surely taken note. He’ll likely be back in the “A” next season, and he won’t be yo-yo’ing back and forth to the ECHL. If the Steelheads are fortunate enough to win the Kelly Cup—and if McCutcheon keeps playing like he has been this spring—he’ll be a prime candidate for postseason MVP honors. He has at least two points in six of Idaho’s 10 playoff games. His signature points came in the form of assists on a pair of shorthanded goals that demoralized the Stockton Thunder in Game 2 of the National Conference Finals.
Boise State has finally filled that open spot on its 2011 football schedule, as BSU will take on Ole Miss and former Bronco coach Houston Nutt to open the season in Oxford, MS. It’s a one-and-done, with no return trip to the blue turf, but it’s worth $900,000 to Boise State. BSU athletic director Gene Bleymaier was on Idaho SportsTalk yesterday and said ESPN was involved in the negotiations, which have been going on 4-6 months. The date is in pencil right now on Saturday, September 3. ESPN will likely decide when kickoff actually happens—don’t be shocked if it’s on college football’s opening night the preceding Thursday.
This will be the third time Boise State has faced Nutt on the road. In 2000, the Broncos played Arkansas in Little Rock, with a big rally ending at the one-yard-line in the final minute of a 38-31 loss. Then BSU traveled to Fayetteville in 2002, and the Razorbacks thumped the visitors 41-14 in a game that saw quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie break his ankle. Interesting that Bleymaier mentioned a positive relationship with Houston and Diana Nutt as playing a part in this game happening. It didn’t seem so positive when Nutt left on a private plane in the middle of the night in December, 1997. Nutt went 4-7 in his one season at Boise State (officially 5-6 with a forfeit by Cal State Northridge). His season-ending win over Idaho was as big as it got for the Broncos at the time. Nutt is credited with changing the mindset of a team rocked by the death of its previous coach, Pokey Allen.
Boise State’s 2011 schedule is thus complete, and—just like this year’s slate—it shouldn’t take as many shots from critics as it did in 2009. The Broncos also play Toledo on the road and have home games against Wyoming, Tulsa and Utah. Of course, there are those who will ignore the Ole Miss and Utah games and harp on the rest, including the eight games in the WAC.
In tennis, the NCAA Tournament starts this weekend at campus sites. The Boise State men open tomorrow against Florida State in Athens, GA. This is the sixth time in the seven seasons since coach Greg Patton returned to the Broncos that they’ve made the NCAA’s—and five times they’ve won first round matches. The Boise State women, coming off their first WAC championship, face 21st-ranked Iowa today in South Bend, IN.
The WAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships get underway in earnest today in Ruston, LA, with Boise State getting a jump start on the merit of Kurt Felix’s championship in the decathlon yesterday. On the women’s side, Bronco star Eleni Kafourou will be making her final appearance at the WAC meet. Kafourou, a senior from Athens, Greece, is a five-time conference outdoor champion in the jumps. At the WAC Softball Tournament in Las Cruces, Boise State gave perennial power Fresno State all it wanted before falling 5-4 yesterday. But the Broncos stayed alive in the double-elimination tourney by routing Louisiana Tech 8-2 last night. They face San Jose State today in another loser-out game.
This Day In Sports…May 14, 1981:
The Boston Celtics top the Houston Rockets, 102-91, to claim Game 6 of the Finals and win the NBA Championship. The Celts’ Larry Bird, in his second NBA season, went 7-of-10 in the second half—finishing with 27 points and 13 rebounds. The MVP of the Finals, though, was Boston’s Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell. Although it was the Celtics’ 14th NBA title, it was the first for any member of that Boston team.
(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 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He’s also handled color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football the last five seasons.)