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Canes Add Depth -Andrew Williams

The Carolina Hurricanes had a mostly quite first day of free agency. With several needs still on the table for the Canes, but not much cap space due to the massive contracts of Alex Semin, Jordan Staal, and others, it was safe to assume that General Manager Jim Rutherford wouldn’t pull the trigger on any big name free agents unless the deal was absolutely perfect for both sides. None of the Hurricanes’ UFAs have been resigned by the club as of now, and only one, Dan Ellis, was even signed by another team. Although Rutherford and company didn’t make the splash they did last season, the Canes acquired a couple of players who will have an immediate impact on the team.

The first move of the day was the signing of veteran defenseman Mike Komisarek. The 31 year old defenseman signed a one-year, $700,000 deal that increased the depth of Carolina’s blue line. At 6’4, 243lbs, Komisarek is a huge, hulking body that has the ability to move people around. Although he has had trouble staying healthy over the last few seasons, and played more games with Toronto’s AHL Marlies than with the Maple Leafs last year, the addition is extremely low risk/high reward for Rutherford. The move allows the Canes to put Komisarek in the bottom half of the defensive rotation and keep young phenom Ryan Murphy in Charlotte for one more year to help develop his skills. Also, after a plague of injuries to an already weak defense occurred last season, Komisarek adds another body to the rotation.

The Canes signed Mike Komisarek to a one-year deal on the opening day of free agency. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Many believe that all Komisarek needs is a change of scenery, and he reinforced those thoughts with quotes of his own yesterday, saying that coming to Carolina would be a “breath of fresh air” for his career. For 700k, the risk is definitely worth the possible benefits for a team who has trouble in their own zone.

The second and final move of the day came later, when Rutherford addressed the backup goaltender situation by signing Anton Khudobin to a one year, $800,000 contract. Khudobin played admirably in relief of Tukka Rask in Boston last season. He posted a 9-4-1 record with a solid 2.32 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. Khudobin is younger than Dan Ellis, and will push starting goaltender Cam Ward for starts. Ideally, Khudobin could see as many as 20-25 games next season, and if the unfortunate circumstance of an injury occurs again to Ward, Rutherford feels confident that Khudobin can step in as the regular starter and win hockey games.

Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports

This signing was a steal for Rutherford, as he added a young goaltender that has proven himself at this level, at least with Boston’s defense in front of him. The question will be if Khudobin can build off of last year’s success without Zdeno Chara playing in front of him for a full season.

These two moves shore up depth in the organization, and the popular belief among Canes fans is that the team is now better based solely on the addition by subtraction principle. The Andrej Sekera for Jamie McBain swap, added to the signing of Komisarek, and the release of free agent Joe Corvo has the blue line looking bigger and stronger than it was a season ago.

Rutherford has hinted that a big name free agent could still possibly agree to a one year contract with the Hurricanes in the range of 3-3.5 million dollars before the free agent period ends. Speculation has run rampant here in Raleigh as to who the mystery free agent could be.

The Canes look better than they did last season already, but they could still use a few more pieces to become perennial playoff contenders. Day one of free agency is over. What will day two bring?

 

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Hurricanes to Let Free Agents Walk -Andrew Williams

Let’s face it. Last season was a huge disappointment for the Carolina Hurricanes. After getting a scorching hot start out of the gate and competing with some of the best teams in the NHL, the wheels came off. Injuries, lack of depth, and a patch-work blue line all contributed to the downfall that was the second half of the 48-game truncated season. However, the poor finish to the 2013 season may have been a blessing in disguise, as the Hurricanes are set to pick 5th overall in tomorrow’s NHL Entry Draft, in what’s being called the deepest draft since 2003. With that high of a pick, the Hurricanes are assured to either get an impact player who is NHL ready now, or they have the ability to trade that pick for some serious defensive help.

While the team prepares to select a difference maker tomorrow afternoon, General Manager Jim Rutherford already has some key decisions to make about this year’s crop of unrestricted free agents. Several players who have been staples on the team for several years are up for contract renewal, and if Rutherford’s comments are any indication, the team is planning on going in a completely different direction. Carolina’s UFAs are defensemen Joe Corvo, Marc-Andre Bergeron, and Bobby Sanguinetti, forwards Tim Brent and fan favorite Chad LaRose, and goaltender Dan Ellis.

In his end-of-the-season press conference, Rutherford indicated that all the free agents would likely become UFAs by the July 5th deadline, and that the team would only be looking to sign a minimum of two of the six names listed above, if that at all. While some of the pending UFAs haven’t been with the team for an extended period of time (Bergeron, Ellis), some of the players that won’t be back next season have been with the team for several years. Corvo has had three separate stints with on the Hurricanes’ blue line, and while his offensive production is still present, his speed and defensive prowess is on the decline. Tim Brent has been a serviceable 4th line center/powerplay specialist for several years, but with the myriad of Charlotte Checkers in the mix for the 4th line role, Brent has become expendable.

The Carolina Hurricanes expect to let UFA and long-time fan favorite Chad LaRose go to free agency this season. Photo Credit: CanesCounry, Photo by Jamie Kellner

LaRose is the hot button topic with fans. Here in Carolina, LaRose is either loved or hated, and there’s not much middle ground. LaRose’s hustle and great work ethic has been a staple for the team; however, after posting a career-low 4 points in 29 games last season. His 1.5 million-dollar contract is hardly worth the production he showed last season. LaRose also skipped his exit interview after the season, which understandably upset Rutherford.

Dan Ellis stood in admirably for Cam Ward after Ward was injured in the middle of the season. The Ward/Ellis tandem was proving to be very tough early on, but after the team had to rely on Ellis to carry the load, things began to fall apart. He played through a couple of injuries, and the defense in front of him left him out to dry several times. The Canes will probably let Ellis get to free agency and see what else is out there in the role for back-up goaltending, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the team brought Ellis back on a 1-year contract to mind the net for about 20-25 games next season.

With so many UFAs potentially leaving, there is cap space for the Hurricanes to sign some grit to add to their bottom six forwards unit. Also, there has been a lot of talk about putting somebody in their top-six on the trade block if it means getting back a top-4 defenseman.

After the draft tomorrow and the free agent deadline of July 5th happens, we should have a better idea of who will be with the Carolina Hurricanes next season. The team has a great core of young talent in place, but they badly need help in a few key areas if they want to compete in the newly-formed “Division D”. One thing’s for sure, they won’t be in the Southleast anymore.

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Déjà vu All Over Again -Chris Sapikowski

vs  

Who doesn’t love the movie Hoosiers, a small, scrappy school playing against and winning a State Championship against a large powerhouse of a school.  Soccer or football, gives us those matchups, and we should embrace them.  Just Two weeks ago in England the FA Cup Championship was played between two teams, one team, Chelsea FC, that has a Russian Oligarch owner two can and often does buy the best talent in the world versus a small franchise Wigan, playing to for fractions of the cost of their opponent and doing their best to represent their small community well.  Wigan FC won, and while being relegated to the second tier Championship division

The Carolina Railhawks won the 2nd round matchup, their first matchup, in the 2013 US Open Cup.  The US Open Cup is a tournament that gives us the possibility of the Cinderella that everyone craves. Everyone a chance.  This years US Open Cup looks an awful lot like last years tournament.  After a first round victory last year, the Railhawks welcomed the defending MLS Champion LA Galaxy to Wake Med Soccer Park.  Playing before a sold out crowd, the Railhawks won in dramatic fashion before bowing out to MLS side Chivas.  Today, May 22, the fourth round potential matchups were announced.  If the Railhawks manage a victory against the two time defending MS Champion LA Galaxy, they will play the Chivas and have a chance at revenge.

The Railhawks beat the Carolina Dynamo f the Premier Development league, the United States third tier division 3-1 yesterday evening and disposed of their opponent rather easily. Ty Shipalane, Austen King and Zack Schilawski all scored and now will aim their focus to next Tuesday’s matchup against the Galaxy.  It is still unclear if Galaxy superstars Robbie Keane or Landon Donovan will play in Cary, but it is safe to assume great crowd will be out in Cary to see this great matchup.  Coach Colin Clarke said, “We are happy with the result and that we are through to the next round,” “Advancing and hosting the LA Galaxy in the next round is a great occasion for the organization and for the supporters.  It was a lot of fun last year and I expect to have another great match next Wednesday.”

No matter what happens next Wednesday evening fans are in for a real treat.  Last years Galaxy vs Railhawk matchup is spoken about as one of the best crowd environments the Railhawks have had and surely the best matchups this area has seen in professional soccer.

 

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Railhawks’ Hot Start Continues -Chris Sapikowski

After six games this season the Carolina Railhawks are tied with Tampa Bay Rowdies and standing in first place with only 1 goal separating the Railhawks and Rowdies.  The 7 team NASL has a new format this season, a format that gives the winner of the spring season an automatic spot in the end of the year Soccerbowl.  The Railhawks have started the season on fire and look to continue their current trend towards that coveted spot in the NASL Championship at the end of the year. 3 wins, 2 ties and 1 loss in Atlanta Saturday have Carolina sitting with 11 points after 6 games played.  Saturday’s loss was an especially hard pill to swallow after the beginning of the season saw the Railhawks show such promise and look like a team that was ready to run away with the division.

Railhawk fans had reason to be nervous after last seasons team leader in goals, Nick Zimmerman obtained a knee injury during MLS tryouts, but the Railhawks have grown more comfortable with coach Colin Clarkes game plan and Brian Shriver has taken full advantage of the attacking style and holds an early lead in the race for the NASL Golden Boot with 5 goals.  Austin Da Luz has also synched nicely with the offense leading the NASL after these first 6 games with 4 assists.  Most impressively however might not be the goal scoring, but may be in the defensive side of the ball.  Last seasons best XI defender Paul Hamilton has been as advertised and Akira Fitzgerald has stepped into goal nicely.  Fitzgerald has faced more shots then any other goalie in the NASL with 27.  That’s 8 more shots then any other Keeper and currently has a 1.17 goals against average.

NASL.com

Unfortunately Paul Hamilton had his most unproductive game of the year after committing an own goal in the 6th minute and leaving the game with an injury in the nineteenth minute.   With the arguably our best defender forced out of the game and a deficit and questionable referring, Carolina could not claw themselves back into the game.  As the Railhawks looked to start making a second half charge Floyd Franks was sent of with a red card in the 54th minute.  Atlanta scored against Carolinas ten man defense in the 76th minute and the game ended with a final score of 2-0.  Coach Colin Clarke let his feelings for the referees felt during a halftime interview highlighting two elbows to the head and two tackles with cleats up, but played it close to the vest post game saying “Tonight’s result was unfortunate,” “The slow start put us in a hole, but I thought we regrouped well and earned the better of the chances.  The guys fought hard and had a couple things gone the other way, I think we could have had a more favorable result.”

Something happened Saturday that may not be seen as a milestone or even memorable, and while it was a loss, a rivalry continued to blossom.  Last season, in the beginning of the season a game against the same Silverbacks was called early when a brawl broke out between the two teams at Wake Med Soccer Park.  Saturday didn’t have a brawl, but had an edge to it, with players in each other’s faces every time a hard tackle was made, or a whistle was blown.  While Atlanta is a team trying to find winning ways in the NASl and Carolina is looking at how to break on through and win a Championship, these two teams do not like each other.  Most Derby’s are between teams from the same city and while Atlanta and Raleigh are separated by 100’s of miles, the Railhwaks vs Silverbacks has a Derby-esque feel to it.  The matchup in Cary is sure to be one that fans will want to be at.

This week marks a break in the NASL season, as the Carolina Railhawks will look towards the US Open tournament.  A Tournament that saw both MLS side LA Galaxy and Chivas play at Wake Med Soccer Park last season, could have similar scenes this year.  Tuesday May 21st, the Railhawks will take on the Greensboro’s Carolina Dynamo and with a win the will face the two time defending MLS Champions LA Galaxy in Cary for round 2.   The spring season is starting to take a full swing and fans will want to be out at Wake Med Soccer Park to take part.

 

 

STANDINGS

TEAM

GP

W

T

L

GD

PTS

Carolina RailHawks

6

3

2

1

4

11

Tampa Bay Rowdies

6

3

2

1

3

11

Atlanta Silverbacks

6

3

1

2

1

10

Minnesota United FC

6

2

2

2

1

8

FC Edmonton

6

2

2

2

1

8

San Antonio Scorpions

6

1

2

3

-4

5

Fort Lauderdale Strikers

6

1

1

4

-6

4

 

 

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Checkers Season Ends in First Round -Andrew Williams

The 2012-13 American Hockey League season officially came to an end last night for the Charlotte Checkers in an exciting and dramatic winner-take-all game five with the Oklahoma City Barons. A remarkable series which saw both teams win big and a couple of close contests finished with a 6-2 win for the Barons, despite being peppered for 51 shots. The Checkers look to head into the offseason with a chip on their collective shoulders, as they blew a 2-1 series lead to be eliminated Saturday night.

The Checkers had a very successful regular season which saw them compile a 42-26-4 record. Their 92 points were good for fourth in the Western conference and they were edged by the Texas Stars for the South Divisional crown. A hot start, thanks in large part to the NHL work stoppage, allowed the Checkers to come flying out of the gates. They held first place in the AHL for several weeks, before losing a couple of players to the big leagues in January. The injury bug also plagued the Checkers for much of the stretch part of the season, as key players were either out or called up due to injury with the Hurricanes.

Despite the adversity, the Checkers put up a valiant effort against the Barons, who finished just below Charlotte in the standings with 91 points.

Charlotte Checkers’ Tim Wallace (21) crashes into Oklahoma City’s Jonathan Cheechoo (18) in the first period of Saturday night’s Game 5 of the best -of-5 American Hockey League playoff series played at Time Warner Cable Arena.

After Charlotte took a commanding 2-1 series lead, the Barons woke up offensively and defensively. Oklahoma City routed the Checkers 8-1 to force a deciding game 5, and then kept the pressure on the Checkers by potting six goals. Despite outshooting the Barons 51-30 in game 5, the Checkers couldn’t break through and ultimately lost the series.

The Checkers were led by Zach Boychuck, who had three goals and three assists in the series. Starting goaltender Rob Madore started all five games, but was pulled twice in the series. He finished with a 4.01 goals against average and a save percentage of 88.1%, not great numbers to have in a best-of-five playoff series.

The Checkers will look to build off of another Calder Cup playoff season. Several players have a chance to crack the lineup in Raleigh, so it will be tough to have a solidified lineup in place until training camp is over. Closing out a series has to be priority number one for Charlotte in the future, but they have a ton to build from after being one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the league this season.

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Railhawks Continue Hot Start -Chris Sapikowski

Railhawks 3 , Strikers 1

Saturday night the Carolina Railhawks welcomed the Fort Lauderdale Strikers to Wake Med Soccer Park and sent their sunshine state foes home losers.    The win for Carolina sees them sit alone, atop the NASL standings with 7 points (2W 1D 0L).  Fort Lauderdale was left sitting tied at the bottom of the standings with 1 point (0W 1T 2L).  What looked to be a dominating 3-1 performance Saturday seen by the 3,761 fans in attendance, unfortunately had fans hearing the all too common rhetoric by the losing opposition.  Teams no longer lose; they are made to be losers by an officials missed or bad call.  Fort Lauderdale head coach Daryl Shore is no exception while explaining his dismay at the tying goal in the 27th minute which saw an offside Zack Schilawski drill a ball into the net.  He was called offside, the goal was and the goal disallowed.  The problem lies with how he got the ball.  Strikers player Darnell King had the ball ricochet off his hand while he was in the box, to Schilawski, Floyd Franks scored the penalty kick and the game was tied 1-1.  That’s where the excitement, disagreement and Fort Lauderdale moaning started. “I know exactly what I saw,” “I saw the referee call handball, and then I saw the linesman raise his offsides flag. So, the referee decided that he’s going to give the handball before the offsides, so it’s a penalty … I saw the flag go up, I saw the guy shoot the ball and it hits a player in the hand. It’s not like the player put his hand out and went to it. But, you know what? Referees are referees, they make decisions. You got a referee that’s from North Carolina, he refs the game in Carolina. What do you expect? It’s just the way it goes. Gotta take your lumps.” – Strikers Coach Daryl Short

 

Behind two Brian Shriver goals the Carolina RailHawks beat Ft. Lauderdale 3-1 Saturday and improved to 2-1-0 on the season. They currently sit atop the NASL standings with 7 points.- Wral.com

Carolina showed their offensive stride throughout the game as a takedown in the box 8 minutes later saw Brian Shriver score his penalty kick and the Railhawks took the lead.  Once again never letting the facts stand in the way of a good story Daryl Shore thought “Home Cooking” was the reason for this goal, even though he himself admitted tackling. “I guarantee you the second if that’s in our box it’s on us also,” “You got two guys grabbing each other and tackling each other, and he decides to give the home team the penalty. If that was on the other end, he would have given the home team the defensive call.” 

Brian Shriver went on to connect on a second half goal which along with the Railhawks defense playing a tight shut down game from that moment on, preserved a 3-1 score until the final whistle.  Paul Hamilton returned from a one game absence after receiving two yellow cards against Tampa in week 1.  It is safe to say that he immediately make our defense better, as does Akira Fitzgerald, who with 6 saves on the night, leads the NASL after three games with 15 saves and only 2 goals allowed.

www.nasl.com

 

Carolina continues to show an offensive know how even with the absence of Nick Zimmerman, who led the team last season.  Brian Shriver, Zack Shilawski, and Ty Shipalane have more then picked up the slack for the injured Nick Zimmerman who is recovering from a knee injury suffered before the start of the season.  With the new format in the NASL and the winner of each respective season getting a place in the Championship game, leading the division after 3 games is a good start to the season. The Railhawks now travel North to Minnesota for a May 4th showdown with the newly named Minnesota United FC before returning to Cary on 5/11.

 

STANDINGS

TEAM

GP

W

T

L

GD

PTS

Carolina RailHawks

3

2

1

0

3

7

Atlanta Silverbacks

2

2

0

0

3

6

Minnesota United FC

2

1

1

0

2

4

Tampa Bay Rowdies

3

1

1

1

1

4

San Antonio Scorpions

2

0

1

1

-2

1

FC Edmonton

3

0

1

2

-3

1

Fort Lauderdale Strikers

3

0

1

2

-4

1

*Tiebreakers: 1. Goal Differential – 2. Total Goals – 3. Head-to-Head record

-from NASL.com

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Railhawks Win Home Opener -Chris Sapikowski

The second lowest attendance for a 2013 season opener was recorded Saturday as 5,033 Raihawks fans attended the newly renovated Wake Med Soccer Park.  Carolina was able to leave with all 3 points in a 2-1 victory.  This year the Railhawks have already welcomed a record crowd of 8,054 to the park and while it was against one of the more popular teams in Mexico’s first division, it was still only a friendly.

The Carolina Railhawks were founded in 2006 and averaged a crowd of 3,353 people to watch their games only 2 years ago, 2011, as the Railhawks ran away with the NASL regular season championship.   A starting attendance of 5,033 while low in comparative standards, should not be looked at negatively.  In a market that truly has strong competition for a families dollar, the attendance will continue to increase throughout the season as club President Curt Johnson and Head coach Colin Clarke continue to put a competitive and good product on the field.

Carolina’s Zack Schilawski (22) and Edmonton’s Carlyle Mitchell (19) battle for control of the ball. The Carolina Railhawks took on FC Edmonton in their season opener at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary on April 13, 2013.
Steven Worthy — newsobserver.com

As both teams entered halftime drawn 0-0, the Railhawks were still showing the same play that saw a lackluster offensive display in Tampa Bay the previous weekend.   The goal post could have been selected the man of the match in the first half as it had the best stop in the 16th minute off of FC Edmonton Forward Daniel Fordyce.  The Railhawks were able to even the possession midway through the first half and even get a couple chances on goal, entering halftime scoreless and being out shot 7-4.

The Railhawks delivered the first blow of the game in the 52nd minute as Austin da Luz took a Shipalane cross and directed to the back of the net. “It was a fantastic ball from Ty,” da Luz said. “Now that I’ve been playing out wide I’ve been concentrating on getting into the box a little bit more and trying to get on the end of things. I got my shoulder on it—you’ve got to get something on it, put it towards goal and good things will happen.” The second goal came just 20 minutes later as Brian Shriver put a free kick over a wall and in the left corner from 20 yards out, essentially crushing Edmonton’s hopes at a win and delighting the Railhawks faithful in attendance. 

The Railhawks celebrate Brian Shrivers goal midway through the 2nd half

The Railhawks defense still gave up too many chances on the night and will need to continue their work on coming together as a unit.  Saturday’s game was tougher due to the lack of newly acquired, 2012 best XI defensemen selection, Paul Hamilton, who was forced to sit this game after collecting two yellow cards in Tampa Bay.   Carolina was dangerously close to letting Edmonton leave Cary with a win as the second half saw a goal post deflection and a disallowed goal on a fiercely debated albeit correct, offside’s call, all that was standing between 3 and 0 points for Edmonton.   This closely contested match left FC Edmonton’s Coach feeling Edmonton left having been dealt an unfair hand, saying “I thought the best team lost tonight, Probably the man of the match again tonight was the goalkeeper [Akira Fitzgerald]. We had a goal disallowed—I haven’t seen it yet to know whether it was offside’s or not. I’m very proud of the players; I thought they contributed a great deal over 90 minutes. Two defensive errors cost us, and that was the difference.”

Rob Kinnan
Akira Fitzgerald skies against FC Edmonton at WakeMed Soccer Park

The Railhawks sit in 2nd place in the standings with 4 points only behind Tampa due to goal difference.   

Standings
TEAM

GP

W

T

L

GD

PTS

 
Tampa Bay Rowdies

2

1

1

0

2

4

 
Carolina RailHawks

2

1

1

0

1

4

 
Atlanta Silverbacks

1

1

0

0

2

3

 
Minnesota United FC

1

0

1

0

0

1

 
FC Edmonton

2

0

1

1

-1

1

 
Fort Lauderdale Strikers

2

0

1

1

-2

1

 
San Antonio Scorpions

2

0

1

1

-2

1

 

 

Standings courtesy NASL.com

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Canes End Skid -Andrew Williams

The Carolina Hurricanes found themselves in the win column for the first time since a 3-1 win in Winnipeg on March 30th. Before that, the team hadn’t received two points since March 12th. Going two weeks between wins has been the source of the Canes’ downward spiral in the standings, but the team put aside their most recent seven game skid and played a strong game against the Bruins Saturday night.

Both teams came out of the gates with something to prove. A few chippy battles turned into three first period fights as both teams tried to liven up their respective benches. Boston opened the scoring when Milan Lucic got his body in front of goaltender Justin Peters and deflected the puck in. Jeff Skinner potted his second goal in as many games off a rebound to tie the game at one going into the first intermission.

Carolina Hurricanes’ Jeff Skinner (53) skates up the ice as Boston Bruins’ Jaromir Jagr (68), of the Czech Republic, falls during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday (AP Photo/Gerry B)

Jiri Tlusty scored his career high 18th goal of the season on a pass from Eric Staal to give the Canes the lead with five minutes remaining in the second, but Tyler Seguin answered right back with a breakaway goal of his own just three minutes later.

The third was all Canes, as Joe Corvo hit a one-timer from the point for the team’s second power play goal to take the lead and Tlusty added an empty netter for good measure to ice the 4-2 decision for Carolina.

There were several key contributing factors to finally breaking the skid. Justin Peters was solid in net all night for the Canes, and made huge saves, including one at point blank range with his glove on Jaromir Jagr. Good goaltending has been incredibly hard to come by since Cam Ward went down with an injury, but the Canes got it on this night. Another factor was the power play. The Canes have struggled with the man advantage all season long, and going up against the league’s best penalty kill didn’t bode well. However, the Canes were able to score twice on the power play, once to tie the game at one, and once to take the 3-2 lead.

Although the Canes haven’t been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, it would be nothing short of a miracle if Carolina played in games past April. However, the team continues to battle night in and night out, and have come up with some good performances against good teams down the stretch. The role of spoiler might be all the Cane have left to play for, but one thing’s for sure: they aren’t going to quit on the season.

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Railhawks Earn Point in Season Opener -Chris Sapikowski

VS.  

April 6th marked the opening of the 2013 NASL season and 6 of the 7 teams played their first game of the season.  The League will see only seven of its teams playing in the newly created Spring Season, which runs from April 6 through July 4th.  Defending Champion Tampa Bay Rowdies, San Antonio Scorpions, FC Edmonton, Atlanta Silverbacks, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and our Carolina Railhawks will all be competing from the start to earn one of the two coveted spots in the Soccer Bowl.  After the sweltering month of July allows for a mid season break, the NASL will welcome back the Puerto Rico Islanders (who are not playing in the Spring Season), and the New York Cosmos (who haven’t played since the first NASL go-round in the 70’s and 80’s).  So on Saturday 6, teams played, 2 goals were scored, and everyone sits tied at the 1 point.  The Carolina Railhawks had the daunting task of opening their season with a trip to the reigning champion Tampa Bay Rowdies.

The 2012 Championship banner was unveiled and a crowd of 4,232 came to cheer on a successful start to the new season.  The Railhawks are no doormat, and last years achilles heel, the defense, played valiantly as they were able to come away with a 0-0 draw.  There is work to be done on the defensive side of the ball for sure, but the addition of 2012 Best XI defender and Thor doppelganger Paul Hamilton looks like a good addition to the defensive side of the ball.

 

You be the Judge…

          

The newest member to the team (Hamilton) along with new starting keeper Akira Fitzgerald left Coach Colin Clarke feeling they were big pieces in helping secure the road point.  “To come away with a point on the road moves us forward and our defense was a big part of that tonight.  Akira (Fitzgerald) and Paul (Hamilton) had great performances in the back for us tonight.” – Colin Clarke

Offensively, the Railhawks did nothing of note and while they were without the services of 2012 team goal leader and Best XI selection Nick Zimmerman, the experienced Carolina offense was unable to put a solid attack together.  Forwards Brian Ackley, Zack Schialawsky and last years super sub Ty Shipalane all played, but goal scoring chances were at a premium.

Defensively, it was not all roses Saturday night, as the Railhawks were outshot 17-6, and left Akira Fitzgerald scrambling all night. Fitzgerald made seven saves to keeps the Hawks in the game. The Rowdies controlled play throughout and with them playing in front of the home crowd, an air of nervousness that a Tampa first goal would open up a barrage of goals leading to a route, hung overhead while watching. “Any time you come here you know what they’re going to do,” “They’re going to play it long and win second balls but we didn’t do a good job of winning those second balls.  Our goalkeeper and defenders did very well.” –coach Colin Clarke

NASL.com

Andrew Fontein made his Rowdies Debut against the Railhawks and only had to come up with 6 saves, none as impressive as the save old reliable crossbar made in the 90th minute.  The best chance for the Carolina to score came in the 90th from Brian Ackley as he rifled a shot from 18 yards and was denied by the crossbar. 

The first game of the season is always a tough judge of where you’re at, but can be a good example of where you may be headed.  Rowdies coach Ricky Hill took the game in stride saying he was “Disappointed that we didn’t manage to take one of those opportunities that we created but delighted with the overall effort and application of the team,”

Rowdies defender Jay Needham protests after an offside call nullifies his would-be score in the first half. Tampa Bay outshoots Carolina 17-6 but settles for a scoreless tie. NASL.com

The Railhawks now turn their attention to winning in the newly renovated Wake Med Soccer Park in Cary, NC.  Having played and dropped exhibition matches against MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps, and Liga MX side UNAM Pumas in the new park, FC Edmonton looks to be the first visiting team to leave with WMSP with a loss.

 

Starting XI:

Tampa Bay:

GK Andrew Fontein; D Frankie Sanfilippo (Captain), D Jay Needham, D Takuya Yamada, D Andres Arango; M Evans Frimpong (Alex Dixon 71′), M Stuart Campbell, M Luke Mulholland, M Raphael Cox; F Amani Walker (Devin Del Do 65′), Georgi Hristov (Kyle Clinton 90′)

Carolina:

GK Akira Fitzgerald; D Jordan Graye, D Paul Hamilton, D Austen King, D Kupono Low (Captain); M Brian Shriver (Sam Stockley 90′), M Floyd Franks, M Nick Millington, M Austin Da Luz (Ciaran O’Brien 83′); F Brian Ackley, F Zack Schilawski (Ty Shipalane 72′)

 

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Struggles Continue for Carolina -Andrew Williams

The playoffs are quickly looking like a pipe dream for the Carolina Hurricanes this season. After a start which saw the team come flying out of the gates with a 15-8 record, the team has gone stagnant. With a record of 1-9-1 in their last 11 games, the Hurricanes find themselves sitting in 12th in the Eastern conference, closer to a lottery pick than a playoff spot. They trail Washington by four points for the division lead, but with no cohesiveness on offense, weak team defense, and awful special teams play, the Canes are dropping in the standings quickly.

After last night’s 5-0 shutout at the hands of Tampa Bay, the team seems to have hit rock bottom. Despite peppering goaltender Ben Bishop with 45 shots, they were unable to score. The closest opportunity they had was a disallowed goal, when Alexander Semin kicked the puck into the net. 45 shots sounds impressive, but most of the shots were uncontested slap shots from the blue line. Not to take anything away from Bishop, who was outstanding in net in his Bolts debut. The team has been playing uninspired hockey for much of the past month and a half. Their power play ranks 27th in the league out of 30. Their penalty kill? 28th.

RALEIGH, NC – APRIL 04: Radko Gudas #75 of the Tampa Bay Lightning flattens Patrick Dwyer #39 of the Carolina Hurricanes with an open-ice hit during play at PNC Arena on April 4, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Since defeating Winnipeg 3-1 last Saturday, the Canes have dropped three straight, and been outscored by a margin of 14-4 in that time frame. Injuries do hurt. Starting goaltender Cam Ward and young defenseman Justin Faulk have missed significant time due to injuries. However, neither Ward nor Faulk makes much of a difference in the 5-0 thrashing we witnessed last night. The team is struggling to find their identity, and despite the production from the first line of Semin, Eric Staal, and Jiri Tlusty, there is no secondary scoring.

Earlier in the season, the Canes expected to be buyers at this year’s trade deadline. Instead, they essentially gave Jussi Jokinen away to the Penguins for a 6th or 7th round pick. While they didn’t fully go into fire-sale mode, they didn’t do anything to bolster the team. Add that to the season-ending injury Joni Pitkanen sustained during the game against Washington, and the Canes may have a rough couple of weeks coming up.

Still, with all the adversity in front of the team, they ONLY sit four points out of the division lead. They have to start winning games for the playoffs to become a reality, and have to go on a crazy tare to end the season just to sniff post-season play, but the division is there for the taking. The optimism that was prevalent at the beginning of the season has all but evaporated, and coach Kirk Muller HAS to do something about the team to right the ship. There’s no outside help coming this year, so the team has to take it upon themselves and play better to a man in order to salvage the season.

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