Ben Bishop can’t seem to catch a break.
During the Tampa Bay Lightning’s run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring, a groin injury hampered the former University of Maine goaltender and his Lightning fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
As Tampa Bay opened the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night in Pittsburgh, Black Bear fans held their collective breath as the 6-foot-7 Bishop tumbled to the Consol Energy Center ice in the first period, writhing in pain after his leg twisted under him after a scramble in front of his net.
Lightning fans subsequently watched in agony as the Vezina Trophy finalist was wheeled to the locker room on a stretcher, fearing that Bishop’s playoff run would come to a far-too-soon end.
The news got better as the night went along, as Tampa Bay won the game 3-1, taking at least one game in Pittsburgh, which the Lightning needed to do. Game 2 is tonight in Pittsburgh.
Fortunately, Bishop’s injury isn’t as serious as it appeared to be when he went down, and it’s possible he could return to the Lightning cage later in the postseason.
That certainly is great news for UMaine hockey fans. Even being a Boston Bruins fan, there is no reason for Bruins fans to dislike the Lightning, even though they play in the same division.
Bishop was a very likable person when he played at Maine, and helped lead the Black Bears to the 2007 Frozen Four. You never like to see top goaltenders like Bishop go down in the heat of the Stanley Cup playoffs. This is a time of year where everybody is playing through nagging injuries.
Bishop’s backup, Andrei Vasilevskiy, is a very capable backup, and he kept the explosive Penguins at bay in Game 1 after Bishop went out. But I can speak for Maine hockey fans everywhere that we are wishing Big Ben nothing but the best, and that he is back in Tampa Bay’s cage later in this series.
MAINE SOFTBALL NCAA BOUND
On Saturday afternoon, I turned on a softball game and a Boston Red Sox game broke out.
The University of Maine softball team put on a hitting exhibition that would’ve made David Ortiz proud in winning their first America East championship in 12 years, pounding out a tourney-record 18 hits en route to a 14-1 pounding of Albany.
The subsequent NCAA Tournament berth will send the Black Bears to Athens, Georgia, to take on the Bulldogs of the SEC in a four-team regional on Friday. Northwestern and Oklahoma State round out the Athens field.
This is a UMaine team that got hot at the right time, as coach Mike Coutts’ team has won eight of their last nine games heading into the NCAA tournament.
The Black Bears’ well-rounded offense erupted for 24 runs in three games in the America East tourney, and South Portland’s Erin Bogdanovich was lights out in the circle, picking up two wins, including a 3-0 shutout of top-seeded Binghamton that sent the Black Bears to the championship round.
In a way, Saturday’s win over Albany offered Black Bear fans some payback after the Great Danes edged UMaine for the AE’s women’s basketball championship.
Can UMaine pull an upset or two in the NCAA tournament? We’ll see come Friday.
SOX TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS
The last two summers of baseball have been irrelevant in New England thanks to a pair of last-place finishes from the Boston Red Sox, and part of the problem was that the Sox could not take care of business against other bad teams.
Well, this year, the Sox have a pretty darn good team, and they are doing what good teams are supposed to do, and that’s beat up on mediocre competition.
A 6-1 homestand in which the Sox hammered the Oakland A’s and the Houston Astros all over Yawkey Way and pushed across 73 runs (10.4 runs per game) was proof of that.
Boston will head into a road test against defending world champion Kansas City tied for first place in the AL East before coming home to another favorable homestand featuring the Indians and the Rockies.
As great as the offense was over the last homestand, ace David Price finally announced his arrival, shutting down the Astros on Thursday night.
Price appears to have finally found his velocity. Knuckleballer Steven Wright struggled against Houston in his last start, but the juggernaut Sox offense bailed him out. Clay Buchholz is, well, Clay Buchholz. But, baseball will be relevant in New England this summer, which is something we haven’t said since the 2013 world championship team.