Magic continues for Conacher

After recording four points in his first game in the ECHL, it was unlikely Cory Conacher could continue such a torrent pace.

Well, he couldn’t. In his second game with the Cincinnati Cyclones this morning, Conacher only scored three points, recording a natural hat trick with goals four, five and six in a 6-1 win over Kalamazoo.

Through two games, Conacher has already amassed seven points in the ECHL. Former Griff Carl Hudson opened the scoring today, bringing his total to 10 points (2+8) through 56 games with the Cyclones. Canisius senior Vinny Scarsella has one assist in six games with the Elmira Jackals.

With one game left in the regular season, Cincinnati sits in seventh place in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference. The top eight teams make the playoffs, so the Cyclones can clinch a playoff spot with one point in the season finale. If Toledo (six points back with two games in hand) doesn’t pick up two points in every remaining game, Cincinnati also clinches a spot.

Cincinnati hosts Kalamazoo for the back end of a home-and-home to wrap up the regular season Friday night.

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Soccer fans bring coffin, corpse to attend game

You’ve heard plenty of stories about crazed soccer fans in other parts of the world. This story, however, is the craziest I have ever heard.

According to reports, fans in Colombia brought the body a recently deceased 17-year-old friend with them to a soccer game.

The friend, who was shot while playing soccer in a local park, belonged to a radical group of fans called Barra del Indio, who support the club Deportivo Cúcuta.

Barra del Indio leaders stole the coffin from the boy’s wake, and brought it to the game to “give him the farewell he wanted.

This story was featured on Deadspin, which usually means you should take it with a grain of salt, but a number of (seemingly) more reputable outlets also reported the story.

Conacher update: Five points in last two games

Less than 24 hours after scoring his first professional goal Saturday night with the Rochester Americans, Cory Conacher was sent to Cincinnati of the ECHL, where his four-point night led the Cyclones to a 4-3 victory over the Toledo Walleye.

Conacher got on the scoresheet early and often Sunday afternoon, opening the scoring midway through the first period and closing it on the game-winner with three and a half minutes left in the third period. Conacher had a point on every Cincinnati goal as he also set up both Barret Ehgoetz scores in the second period.

Former Griffs Cory Conacher (R) and Vinny Scarsella (L) look to lead their new ECHL teams through the playoffs.

The Canisius senior was on the ice for six of the game’s seven goals and finished the night plus-1. Conacher registered a game-high seven shots on net and was named First Star.

It was a big win for the Cyclones, who came into the day just two points ahead of Toledo in the ECHL Eastern Conference standings. The top eight teams in the East qualify for playoffs. Heading into the last week of the regular season, six teams have already clinched a playoff spot, while Conacher’s Cyclones and fellow Canisius senior Vinny Scarsella’s Elmira Jackals currently hold the two remaining spaces.

Scarsella has one assist in six games with the Jackals and is plus-2 with 11 shots on goal and no penalty minutes.

Saturday night with Rochester, Conacher scored his first pro goal six minutes and 19 seconds into his second game. His top-shelf finish was his only shot on net and he finished plus-1. He was assessed a delay of game penalty at the end of the second period and Syracuse scored on the ensuing power play.

After his first professional game on Friday, Conacher said the plan for him was to have a short stay with Rochester to get used to the speed of the game before going out to Cincinnati. The ECHL is a step below the AHL, but both teams are affiliated with NHL clubs.

Conacher was excited to reunite with Carl Hudson, a Canisius alum who signed with Rochester last season and is now with Cincinnati; however, Hudson did not dress for the game.

Conacher, who was given number 41 in Rochester, will wear 32 for the Cyclones. He wore 19 at Canisius. Oddly enough, Scarsella, who wore 23 in college, is now number 19 for Elmira.

USMNT vs. Argentina recap

Landon Donovan plays a nice ball off of a set piece, which was eventually finished by 18-year-old Juan Agudelo for his second international goal.

Argentina came into New Meadowlands Stadium last night as winners of three straight under new coach Sergio Batista, who took over as head man after former Argentinean superstar Diego Maradona’s contract was not renewed following a disappointing World Cup performance.

The Argentineans had been playing well under Batista, defeating Brazil, Spain and Portugal by a combined score of 7-2. After dominating the first half and taking a 1-0 lead into halftime, Argentina did well to hold off the U.S. late and escape with a 1-1 draw.

Even without international superstars Carlos Tevez, Gonzaolo Higuain and Diego Milito, Argentina came out and controlled play in the first half. Lionel Messi, arguably the best player in the world, put on a clinic of close control as he expertly used teammates and shifty moves to slice and dice the USA’s 4-2-3-1 formation.

Desperation defense, most notably from Jonathan Spector, and superb play from goalkeeper Tim Howard kept Argentina off the scoreboard for most of the first half. Messi and Angel Di Maria both had good looks at goal but shot wide; however, even when they got through, Howard was equal to the task.

In the 42nd minute, the left-footed Messi worked a series a one-touch passes in the box before finding Di Maria right in front of goal. Howard sprawled to make the save, but Esteban Cambiasso came through unmarked and put the rebound into the top of the net from the 6-yard box.

U.S. coach Bob Bradley subbed out Jermaine Jones — who had a shaky first half — and Spector at halftime in favor of two up-and-coming players, 18-year-old Juan Agudelo (third international appearance) and 20-year-old Timmy Chandler (first), as the States switched to a 4-4-2 formation out of intermission.

The extra man up front seemed to disrupt to Argentina’s possession play that was so relaxed and controlling in the first half. The Americans had much more success when attacking as a unit, opposed to Jozy Altidore’s get-it-and-go style he tried as the lone striker in the first half.

A foul in the attacking third awarded the U.S. a free kick in the 59th minute. Several red jerseys moved forward as Landon Donovan lined up a set piece, which were so futile for the States in the World Cup.

Donovan lofted a nice ball over the line Argentina defenders held just inside the 18-yard box. Several players went up to win the head ball and a shot was directed on net. Mariano Andujar made the first save, but Agudelo was waiting on the doorstep and knocked the rebound into the goal to level the score at one.

Both teams went back and forth over the final 30 minutes as play really started to open up. The Americans were much more threatening in the 4-4-2, but neither side could capitalize the remainder of the night. The best chance belonged to Argentina when Di Maria got through in the 73rd minute, but Onyewu and Jay DeMerit combined to close off the attack.

Onyewu had another rough night on the back line and frequently looked flustered with the ball at his feet, but his size is almost always an advantage he has over attacking players. He got the better of Messi when the two went up for a head ball in the 24th minute, and Messi stayed on the ground after, holding his head. He went off briefly to be examined, but came back and played the rest of the game.

The next match for the USMNT is this Tuesday, March 29, when the men take on Paraguay in Nashville, Tenn. Game time is 8 p.m. EST (7 CST) and can be seen on Fox Soccer Channel and TeleFutura.

USA (4-2-3-1) — Bob Bradley, coach

Altidore
Dempsey-Edu-Donovan
Bradley-Jones
Bocanegra-Onyewu-DeMerit-Spector
Howard

Substitutions
IN: Agudelo, Chandler (halftime); OUT: Spector, Jones. USA switched to a 4-4-2 in the second half.

Argentina (4-3-3) — Sergio Batista, coach

Lavezzi-Messi-Di Maria
Mascherano-Cambiasso-Banega
Rojo-G. Milito-Burdisso-Zanetti
Andujar

Substitutions
IN: Biglia (73); OUT: Cambiasso.

Shots/on target: ARG 13/6, USA 7/4.
Corners: ARG 6, USA 2.
Fouls: ARG 9, USA 12.
Offside: ARG 1, USA 0.
Yellow cards: ARG none, USA 4 (Edu, 35; Chandler, 48; Donovan, 79; Bocanegra, 90+1).
Referee: Roberto Garcia (MEX).
Attendance: 78,936.

FIFA world rankings: ARG 4, USA 19.

Cory Conacher makes pro debut with Rochester Americans

Cory Conacher was glad to lose his NCAA-mandated full cage in favor of the half-shield he can wear in the AHL, although his parents made sure he bought a mouth guard to protect his teeth.

ROCHESTER — Canisius College’s all-time leading scorer, Cory Conacher, played his first professional game last night for the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.

The Canisius senior played roughly three and a half minutes on five shifts at left wing. Amerks head coach Chuck Weber said he wanted to get Conacher more ice time, but it just didn’t work out with the game being so close and the amount of penalties in the game.

“I thought he did some nice things,” Weber said. “Unfortunately, with the game being as close as it was, he didn’t play as much late. A number of times I called his number in the second and early in the third, and we ended up getting either a D-zone faceoff or special teams happened and he probably lost out on about five shifts that he was called for.”

After signing an Amateur Tryout Contract with the club on Thursday, Conacher got in two practices with the team on Thursday and Friday before dressing for last night’s game.

“I was excited earlier on, but as it got closer [to game time], I started to get a little nervous,” Conacher said. “But after I got that first shift underneath the belt, I got a little more comfortable and for the rest of the game I was having fun… overall it was a good first pro game for me.”

Conacher finished the night with a minus-1 rating and was officially credited with one shot on net, although he appeared to have three. His first shot was a backhand in the first period that seemed to catch Lake Erie goalie Jason Bacashihua off guard, but he was able to knock it into the corner.

In the second period, Conacher hopped off the bench and ripped a one-time snap shot from the top of the circle that Bacashihua was just able to get a piece of with his right arm. Later on the shift, Conacher collected a long rebound and took a wrist shot that Bacashihua saw all the way.

Weber acknowledged the shot count may have been a little low, which credited the Amerks with only 13 shots in regulation.

The goal against that Conacher was on the ice for was Lake Erie’s first goal of the night, 12:27 into the first period. He had just hopped off the bench and made his way into the defensive zone when the rebound was put into the back of the net. “You can’t blame him coming off the bench in that situation,” Weber said.

Conacher became the second Griff to make an appearance with the Americans, the farm team for the NHL’s Florida Panthers, after Carl Hudson played 12 games with the team last season. Conacher said he had been in touch with Hudson about what to expect at the next level.

“You don’t have as much time as you think,” Conacher said, citing the biggest difference between the AHL and Canisius’ Atlantic Hockey Association. “You have to be able to make a play before you even get the puck. It’s a lot faster. Guys are obviously smarter and they know where to be and they’re in the right positions, so you got to make some good moves and you got to think fast in order to get the puck out of your zone.”

As part of his tryout-based contact, Conacher expects to stay the weekend with Rochester before heading off the play with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the East Coast Hockey League, one step below the AHL. There he will reunite with Hudson and will stay with the club throughout its playoff run. Weber said Conacher will play for the Americans tonight when the team takes on the Syracuse Crunch.

Under his deal, Conacher said his expenses are being paid for by Rochester, “but that’s about it.” That may change when he goes to Cincinnati; the ECHL’s website lists minimum rookie salary at $370 per week.

Conacher, a senior in his final semester at Canisius, said he “definitely” plans on finishing his degree. He is working closely with his professors and Canisius’ academic advisor for athletics, Lynsey Miller, to try to plan something out where he can finish the last few weeks of his classes online. Driving back to Buffalo once or twice a week to get work done or attend class is not out of the question either.

The ending to the game — a 3-2 overtime loss — may not be the one Conacher wanted for his first pro game, but it was still a night he will never forget.

“The support from my friends and family is awesome. That first shift was very special to me, and I’m sure [it was] to my family and friends. That was the biggest moment of my hockey career thus far,” he said. “This is my dream to play at a level like this… it’s going to be an experience that I forever remember.”