Bruins spread holiday cheer despite lockout disappointment

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Bruins spread holiday cheer despite lockout disappointment

Bruins President Cam Neely and head coach Claude Julien areno different than the rest of the NHL-loving public. Just as the fans andplayers want to get back on the ice as soon as possible, executive and membersof NHL coaching staffs are chomping at the bit for a resolution to a lockoutthat passed 80 days in length last week.

So when it appeared things were close to a resolution duringthe meeting between the group of six owners and players last week duringmeetings at the Westin Hotel in New York City, naturally Neely and Julien gotexcited that theyd be headed back to work soon.

Like everybody else, emotions run high and then they go lowdepending on how everything turns out, said Neely. I think everybody wasfeeling cautiously optimistic at the Board of Governors meeting that we weregoing to get something done. Unfortunately it didnt happen. Ive been a glasshalf-full guy this whole time and Im going to stay half-full.

Im not going to lie. Its difficult to keep morale up whenwere not out doing what were supposed to be doing. I know people are going tobe upset that were not playing. Thats a given. But its days like this when wereally want to get staff out and show everyone what this organization is trulyall about. You try and make sure that everybody stays as positive as possible.

Instead things fell apart in spectacularly ridiculousfashion last Thursday with dueling Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman pressconferences. Then the NHL announced that all scheduled games through Dec. 30have now been cancelled as the two sides continue their war of labor attrition.

So it was refreshing that Neely and Julien were among agroup of Bruins employees, front office staff, coaches and media personalitiesthat spent Monday morning shopping for thousands of dollars in toys at theTarget in Woburn. The carriages full of toys, games and stocking stuffers are beingpurchased to be donated to kids stranded in local hospitals during the holidayseason in the coming days.

I certainly enjoy this. It puts all in perspective, and noteven because of the hockey things, said Julien. But to see the smiles onthose kids faces in the hospitals in the next few days or the next week willbe a very special day for me. Those kids are what its all about. It not onlyputs you in the Christmas spirit, but its about spreading joy and happiness.Weve got an opportunity to do that.

Its an outstanding Bruins tradition that started back in1990 by Ray Bourque, was passed to P.J. Axelsson in the early seasons in thisdecade, and has been organized by Zdeno Chara in recent years.

Everybody isnt happy with the lockout situation that wereinvolved in. But that doesnt mean we cant help others out around theholidays. Its fantastic to be involved with this, said Neely. To havechildren that arent able to be home for Christmas and you can shed a littlelight on them. I think its important for the organization to do that whetherits the front office and coaches, or its the players.

Regardless of how other athletes feel, were in a positionto give back and were obligated to do just that. Were fortunate to be able todo what we do for a living. For us to get out and get involved in thecommunity, in various ways, is something we should be doing."

Neely, Julien, assistant GMs Jim Benning and Don Sweeney andassistant coaches Doug Houda, Doug Jarvis and Geoff Ward were among thefriendly faces that lent their time and shopping acumen. They replaced theBruins players that normally organize the toy drive, and insured that someneedy Boston area children will have a joyful Christmas.

The event is just part of an ongoing excellent job theBoston BruinsTD Garden staff has done staying active in the community even ifthe hockey season is in limbo.

Weve always maintained a strong relationship with thecommunity in a number of ways and were always going to continue to do that,said Neely. The lockout doesnt mean that we cant keep getting involved asan organization like we always have.

Of course the Bs executives and coaches are looking forwardto handing the charitable endeavors back to the players eventually. The returnof the NHL players would mean that the business of the NHL is back up to fullefficiency, and that the fans are cheering instead of berating both the NHL andNHLPA.

Bruins officials clearly expect the fans to return in ahockey hotbed like Boston with a Stanley Cup-caliber hockey club, but they alsoknow that it might be as easy for places like Florida, Dallas, Anaheim,Carolina, Phoenix and Nashville among others.

Were bystanders just like everybody else. I can just tellyou that Im looking forward to getting back to work. I know that everybody inthere negotiating feels that same way, said Julien. Recovering from thelockout depends on the areas. Some areas bounced back more quickly than othersin 2004-05. We know hardly any Canadian cities have the NBA or Major LeagueBaseball, so hockey is the famous Canadian sport.

There were also some traditional cities in the US that hadtheir fans back. But there were some cities that had a struggle to get theirfans back, and I dont think its going to be any different this time around.We just hope that it will get resolved quickly, that the fans understand it andthat theres a real positive message there at the end.

Collateral damage from the lockout is a sad reality of thislatest work stoppage in an NHL thats had too far many of them over the last 20years.

But Monday was not about that at all. It was about a Bruinsorganization doing something tangible to improve the lives of kids looking fora lift around the holiday season just as theyve done for years.

Syracuse uses late 99-yard drive to beat UConn, 31-24

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Syracuse uses late 99-yard drive to beat UConn, 31-24

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. - Syracuse receiver Amba Etta-Tawo is making the most of his final year of college eligibility.

The graduate transfer from Maryland caught 12 passes for a school-record 270 yards and two touchdowns and the Orange beat UConn 31-24 on Saturday to snap a two-game losing skid.

Etta-Tawo scored twice in the game's first five minutes on touchdown receptions of 57 and 30 yards. His 59-yard catch from the shadow of his team's goal line highlighted a 12-play 99-yard fourth-quarter drive that put the game away for the Orange (2-2).

It was his fourth straight game with at least 100 yards receiving.

"It goes back to chemistry with the quarterback and the coaches trusting me," Etta-Tawo said. "They trust that I'll make the plays and they keep on giving me opportunities to make the plays."

Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey completed 26 of 40 passes for 407 yards and those two scores. He also scored on a 6-yard run to complete the length-of the field drive.

"We had to do it," said Etta-Tawo. "We had to drive down the field and try to put the game out, and that's exactly what we did. Everybody dug in, dug a little deeper."

Noel Thomas had 14 receptions for 111 yards for UConn (2-2). Huskies running back Arkeel Newsome ran for 81 yards and a touchdown.

It took Syracuse just 51 seconds on its first drive and 92 seconds on its second for Dungey and Etta-Tawo to make it 14-0. Etta-Tawo had five catches for 115 yards in the first quarter.

"I think he's already passed his previous career high as a collegian in the first four games with us, (more than) his whole entire career he had at the other school," coach Dino Babers said. "I think, if you asked him, I think he might have made a good choice (to transfer)."

The Huskies responded by scoring twice in the second quarter and for the second straight week, the Orange couldn't hold the early double-digit lead.

"We can't just go up 14-0, 17-0 in the beginning of the game and then put ourselves back in a dog fight," said linebacker Zaire Franklin, who was in on 14 tackles. "Some of these games we've got to have it over by the beginning of the second quarter."

Cordell Hudson pickup off a tipped pass from UConn quarterback Bryant Shirreffs and ran 22-yards down the left sideline for a touchdown that gave the Orange a 24-17 lead. It was just the second interception for the Orange this season.

The Huskies had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter after holder Tyler Davis, a former high school quarterback, hit tight end Tommy Myers with a 17-yard pass on a fake field goal to set the Huskies up at the Syracuse 8-yard line.

But Syracuse's defense held, and linebacker Franklin stopped Shirreffs on a fourth-and goal from the 2-yard line with just over 6 minutes left. The Orange marched the length of the field to put the game away.

"Going back, I would probably buy some more time and throw it to the back of the end zone," said Shirreffs, who threw a 24-yard touchdown to Davis with 33 seconds left to make the final score close. "I came up short. The linebacker made a good play and I didn't."