NHL, union continue to be far apart

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NHL, union continue to be far apart

From Comcast SportsNetTORONTO (AP) -- Another NHL lockout is beginning look inevitable.Unable to move beyond the philosophical stage of talks, the owners and players have watched another week slip by without progress. They sat down together for a quick session Thursday morning before reporting the same significant gap that has existed all along.The main issue that divides them is far from complex."We believe we're paying out more than we should be," Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "It's as simple as that."Of course, the NHL Players' Association doesn't quite see it that way.Executive director Donald Fehr has acknowledged there's room for some flexibility in that area -- last week's proposal included three years with a slightly lower share in revenues for the players -- but he hasn't come to the table in a conciliatory mood after taking over a union that capitulated during the last round of negotiations."Everybody understands that employers would always like to pay less," Fehr said. "That's not a surprise to anybody -- it's disappointing sometimes -- but it's not a surprise."He went on to add that the services his constituents provide are irreplaceable."From the players' standpoint, they want a fair agreement, they want one that is equitable, they want one that recognizes their contribution," Fehr said.With both sides so entrenched, real negotiations have yet to begin even though the Sept. 15 deadline for a lockout is fast approaching.The parties attempted to make some progress Wednesday by clearing the meeting room of everyone but the key figures: Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly along with Fehr and his brother Steve Fehr, the union's No. 2 man. They soon discovered there was little common ground.Those same four men will reopen talks next Tuesday in New York during what promises to be a key negotiation session. The sides have tentatively blocked off the rest of the week for meetings as well, but they must first determine if there's anything worth talking about.That's far from guaranteed.A league that lost the entire 2004-05 season to a lockout is in real danger of having the start of another one disrupted for the same reason. The current CBA has seen the NHL grow from a 2.1 billion industry to one that pulls in 3.3 billion annually -- a fact that isn't lost on either side."We recovered well last time because we have the world's greatest fans," Bettman said.The essential difference between the offers put forward so far is perhaps best articulated in terms of their impact on the salary cap. Under the NHL's initial proposal, it would fall to 50.8 million for next season. The NHLPA's would see it set near 69 million.The league also is believed to have verbally raised the possibility of seeing the players' share in revenue drop incrementally rather than all at once. Theoretically, it could be done at a rate that is matched by an expected increase in revenues -- essentially keeping salaries constant over the duration of the agreement while owners take in more profit.So far, the union hasn't shown much interest in negotiating off of that kind of model.While it's natural to assume the parties might be more willing to make concessions as Sept. 15 nears, Fehr pointed out that they already know what's at stake."If there's going to be a lockout -- and that's something that the owners will choose or not choose -- then you would have missed games, you would have lost revenue, you would have lost paychecks," he said. "But that doesn't mean that the parties don't understand going into it that that would be the case."With the possibility of a lockout becoming more real, the posturing is starting to begin. Bettman lamented Thursday that the union wasn't ready to open talks a year ago -- the commissioner did say throughout the season there was more than enough time to make a deal -- while Fehr continues to point out that Sept. 15 is only a deadline because the NHL has made it one.The bottom line is that they need to make an agreement and there isn't one in sight.Seven years ago, the sides battled one another over the philosophical view of whether the sport needed a salary cap. With that out of the way, this fight is all about money, although Bettman declined to go into detail when asked why the owners were seeking such significant givebacks."I'm not going to get into a public debate on that," he said. "Obviously, if we didn't think that there were issues that needed to be addressed we wouldn't be in this type of negotiation."

Stanford tops North Carolina on PKs, advances to NCAA final

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USATSI

Stanford tops North Carolina on PKs, advances to NCAA final

HOUSTON — For the second straight season, Stanford found itself depending on penalty kicks to advance to the College Cup final.

Like last season, the Cardinal came out on top. After each team converted its first nine attempts in the tiebreaker, Amir Bashti made it 10-for-10 for Stanford. Tar Heels defender Alex Comsia then sent his try over the crossbar to end it, giving Stanford a 10-9 win.

"They had just as many good chances as us, and it could have been a 1-0 game either way," Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn said.

Stanford (14-3-5) will face Wake Forest in the College Cup final on Sunday in search of its second straight national championship.

"It's not his fault. We could have done things in the game to have his back," North Carolina defender Colton Storm said of Comsia's miss. "It could have been any of us."

"It's the nature of the game," North Carolina coach Carlos Somoano said. "Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. Sometimes there's moments you seize the moments, and sometimes it runs away from you."

North Carolina (14-3-4) had the two best chances of the game. Late in the second half, forward Alan Winn was denied by goalkeeper Andrew Epstein, who made a nice save with his legs.

Later, Epstein made the best save of the match in the final seconds of the second overtime on a shot from forward Tucker Hume. After gaining possession in the right side of the 18-yard box, Hume unleashed a shot that Epstein deflected wide with his legs.

"He made the plays to keep the game at 0, and he deserves credit," Somoano said.

After a flurry of corner kicks and a free kick in an attacking area, Stanford had the best opportunity to score in the first overtime on a header from Drew Skundrich, but he put if over goalkeeper James Pyle, who had six saves. Foster Langsdorf, the Stanford goal leader who scored in the team's first three tournament games and has 15 on the season, had three shots and two on goal but was unable to break the deadlock before the game went to penalty kicks.

"Any result like that is going to be tough to swallow," Storm said. "Stanford's a really good team. We each had our chances. National semifinal, it's going to be tough to swallow no matter what."

While Epstein was unable to stop any of North Carolina's penalties in the shootout, his saves late in the game enabled Stanford to continue its quest for a repeat.

"Andy's never really attracted much attention, but when you're his coach you appreciate him," Gunn said. "You can depend on him."

Stanford has won 15 of its last 18 games after starting the season with three ties and a loss. The Cardinal have yet to concede a goal through four tournament games, while North Carolina's season ends after a third consecutive tournament shutout.

After winning the first national championship in program history last season, Gunn praised his team for continuing to push forward this season.

"It's incredible," Gunn said. "You've always got to be optimistic. There's no point in being anything else. We started the year so well in January. I thought, 'These players are so hungry.'"

Rewind: Sharks fall behind early again, lose 3-2 to Ducks

Rewind: Sharks fall behind early again, lose 3-2 to Ducks

ANAHEIM – Spotting a team the first two goals is a difficult recipe for winning hockey games. That’s even truer when you’re the Sharks, and you’re having tremendous difficulty scoring more than two goals on any given night in the first place.

While the Sharks hung with Anaheim in a closely contested game at Honda Center on Friday night, the Ducks got that extra necessary score. Brent Burns and Kevin Labanc answered first period goals by Rickard Rakell and Antoine Vermette, but Hampus Lindholm’s marker with 5:38 to go in the third period was the difference.

For the fifth time in their last six, and ninth in their last 12, San Jose's scuffling offense couldn’t eclipse the two-goal plateau in a 3-2 defeat.

Coach Pete DeBoer said giving up the first two scores, like they also did on Wednesday in a similar loss against Ottawa, “is not optimal, obviously. But we battled back, and I thought the game could have gone either way. 

“I give our guys credit for battling back. … We didn't hang our head, we battled, and we're just finding a way to lose right now instead of win, which, we've been winning games like that."

For the second straight game, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski had numerous prime chances but couldn’t find a way to get one. An early third period opportunity stood out among the rest, though, when Pavelski was staring at a wide open net in a 2-2 game from close range.

Typically that’s an automatic score for Pavelski, who led the league in game-winners last season. But this time, it went five feet wide.

“Kind of rolls up, catches the blade, and it’s not even close,” Pavelski said. “Those are the moments you’ve got to cash in on. I haven’t done that.”

The Sharks’ best stretch came early in the second period, when they outskated the Ducks and peppered Jonathan Bernier while trailing, 2-1. The Ducks goalie turned them all away until Labanc squeezed one through at 8:40 after the rookie was nicely set up by linemate Logan Couture.

“He didn’t give me much room. You just want to get that off as quick as you can,” Labanc said. “Just took a quick shot, and it went in the net.”

In a game of momentum swings, though, the Ducks outplayed San Jose in the third. They took the lead when Joel Ward gave Lindholm a little too much room to pick his spot on a wrist shot from the top of the circle.

After looking like they were in good shape after two periods, Labanc thought the Sharks were “a little too confident” headed into the third.

“We stopped skating, stopped dumping the puck in, and working hard in the corners,” he said.

Pavelski bemoaned the fact that for the second straight game, a regulation loss in the final minutes, that the Sharks didn't even manage to get the point in the standings for forcing overtime despite fighting back.

"The last few games you have a chance to at least push it to the end," he said. "We're not giving up a whole lot."

The Sharks nearly did tie the game with Martin Jones pulled for an extra attacker, though. After Burns made a pair of remarkable shot blocks on Andrew Cogliano bidding for an empty netter, DeMelo and Ward each had whacks at the puck, but somehow it remained out. 
 
“A bunch of chaos, really,” is how DeMelo described it. “It was really tight. I think we were just inches away from getting the equalizer.”

Again, though, they just couldn’t find a way to get that third score.

“We were close,” DeBoer said, “but not close enough."