Ex-BC defenseman Cross makes most of AHL chance

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Ex-BC defenseman Cross makes most of AHL chance

PROVIDENCE - Tommy Cross admits that it was disappointing when he was dropped down to the East Coast Hockey League a few months ago. The former Boston College standout defenseman was stuck in a numbers game with a large group of defensemen vying for six spots with the Providence Bruins, and he was the odd blueliner out.

So after Cross played in a pair of AHL games after signing with Providence last April, but couldnt break training camp this fall. So, rather than Cross sulking when he went down to the South Carolina Stingrays, he threw himself into the hockey and stood out from the crowd. Cross put up 17 points in 22 games for South Carolina to put him in a tie with former Northeastern forward Tyler McNeely for the team lead in scoring, and included six goals scored for a defenseman not known so much for offensive prowess.

Some of it was skating in the wide open world of the ECHL, and some of the point barrage was simply due to good, old-fashioned puck luck.

It might be a little more wide open down there, and you might have a little more time and space, said Cross. But its also still a pro hockey league and I played 22 games in about 35 or 40 days. That was good experience for me.

It certainly wasnt a lot of highlight reel goals down there. It was being solid defensively with a lot of good first entry passes and we had a couple of good games. But anytime you go down a level of minor league hockey you want to do what they tell, and they told me to make plays with the puck. When you do that youre going to get points.

Of course, some of the high-level performance is also due to Cross immediately having something to prove when his season started in disappointment in South Carolina.

Nobody wants to get sent down or demotedor whatever, said Cross. But you also realize that its part of your development as a player. It was a matter of looking at myself in the mirror, and asking what I needed to do to get a call back to the AHL. You have to take the positives out of it, and the positive was that I got to play a lot of minutes in a lot of different situations.

I did as best as I could and now Im back here. Im just trying to use what I learned down there to help me out. Its still good hockey down there, but its not the AHL especially with the raised quality of players this year.

The consistently high level of play for Cross led to the defenseman getting called up by Providence for this weekend when injuries hit the defensemen corps, and he jumped right into the P-Bruins fray.

Providence took five out of a possible six points in three games, and Cross snapped off a pair of assists while featuring a heavy shot from the point position. Providence Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said much of Cross improvement comes in simply stepping onto the ice with more confidence and surety than he had while a job was on the line in training camp.

Hes played with a lot of composure, hes made some plays and hes done a good job of getting his shot through, said Cassidy. He played his off-side pretty well. Weve got a lot of left sticks and the game is changing pretty well so its tough to play your off-side. But he told us he did that growing up and he did a pretty good job over there.

Physically down low he was good. Its just some gap control stuff and just making sure he can play at the AHL level with some pace. But I liked him. Hes a better player now than when he went to the ECHL in October. Hes playing with a little confidence and swagger in his game. He showed that he can play in the league this weekend, and its a matter of consistency now.

If Cross keeps up that swagger and keeps playing games like he did this weekend, it could be a long, long time before he ever has to worry about any return trips to the South Carolina home of the Stingrays. That would be just fine with him.

Ratto: Kaepernick controversy touches on hot-button issues in an ugly political year

Ratto: Kaepernick controversy touches on hot-button issues in an ugly political year

Ray Ratto joins Chevrolet SportsNet Central to discuss Colin Kaepernick's decision to not stand during the national anthem before the San Francisco 49ers preseason game.

Bryan Holaday: David Price 'takes a lot of pride in what he does'

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Bryan Holaday: David Price 'takes a lot of pride in what he does'

BOSTON -- There have been a significant amount of question marks surrounding David Price throughout his inaugural season with the Boston Red Sox.

Is he an ace? Is he mentally tough enough? Can he handle Boston?

Just to name a few.

Much like any player imported to Boston, the claim “He can’t handle the pressure in Boston” arises every so often.

And Price hasn’t always been his own best friend, frequently relying on the line “It’s me going out there and making pitches,” in addition to the claim that he’s never satisfied.

Price’s mellow demeanor isn’t something Boston fans are accustomed to -- they prefer Rick Porcello snarling at opponents.

Sometimes it might have seemed as if he lacked a killer instinct or didn’t have a sense of urgency, but Bryan Holaday, who played with Price in Detroit, has seen that’s not the case.

‘I’m sure he [pressing], it’s the nature of this game,” Holaday said about Price’s struggles earlier in the season. “Everybody wants to be at their best all the time and it’s not easy to do.”

However, he says that knowing full well that Price won’t display those emotions -- to anyone.

“He does such a good job on the mental side of things that even if he was, you wouldn’t be able to tell,” Holaday said before Price’s start Saturday night. “He’s never going to express anything like that. If he was [pressing], it’s nothing that anyone would be able to notice.”

There’s a lot to be said for that, too. Although baseball is driven on analytics, there’s no question that mental game is crucial, especially in the clubhouse. And a fly on the wall can easily see that Price’s presence is not only respected, but enjoyed by his teammates in the clubhouse.

“Everyday he gets up he wants to get better and that’s what makes him so good,” Holaday said. “He has that drive to be better everyday and come out and do his job. He takes a lot of pride in what he does and works his ass off. That’s why he is who he is. Any pitcher at that level, you don’t get that way by luck.”

Price may never be Boston’s favorite pitcher.

He may never be the “ace” in everyone’s eyes.

But based on Holday’s interpretations from his time in Detroit and Boston, Price will work hard to turn his first few months with the Red Sox into a minor footnote of his career.

Belichick says all three QBs could use more game reps

Belichick says all three QBs could use more game reps

Bill Belichick was expansive Saturday when asked on a conference call how he'll split the quarterback reps for the Patriots final preseason game Thursday in New York.

"I think that’s a good question, it’s a fair question, it’s one that we really have to give some good consideration to," Belichick began. "As I said before, I think whatever we do will benefit whoever does it. We want to get Jimmy [Garoppolo] ready for the Arizona game. Tom [Brady] isn’t going to be playing for a while, so it’s kind of his last chance to play until he comes back after a few weeks. Jacoby [Brissett] certainly could use all the playing time that he can get. I think that whichever players we play will benefit from it and it will be valuable to them. We could play all three quarterbacks a lot next week and they’d all benefit from that and it would all be good, but we can’t."

Since they can't, Belichick said there will be situational work done with whoever isn't going to get the game reps.

"We only have one game and so many snaps, so we’ll have to, between practice and the game, put them in some situations that are somewhat controllable like a two-minute situation or things like that that you know are going to kind of come up one way or another," said Belichick. "You can sort of control those in how you want those broken down, what’s best, what does each guy need and how can we get the best we need for each guy. I need to let them get the reps that they need, but it’s how do we get the team ready for what they need to be ready for. They all need to get ready for different things.

What Jimmy’s role is in a couple weeks is going to be a lot different than what Tom’s is, and it’s going to be a lot different than what Jacoby’s is. At some point later on, those roles are going to change again. So again, there’s no perfect solution to it. We’ll just do the best we can to try to have our individual players and our team as well prepared as possible at whatever point that is that we have to deal with, and whenever those situations come up."

As I wrote earlier today, this is the sticky and uncomfortable situation arising from Deflategate. It's not a Tom Brady penalty. It's a team penalty when one considers the ripple effects. And there's no handbook to consult.