Sports Briefs

Posted: Sunday, February 03, 2002

Alaska-Anchorage tops Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. -- Dallas Steward scored early into the third period to cap a two-goal rally as Alaska-Anchorage snapped a six-game winless streak by defeating Wisconsin 3-2 in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game Saturday night.

Steward was not initially credited with the goal. Referee Derek Shepherd initially ruled the puck was frozen in the crease by Wisconsin goaltender Bernd Bruckler. But after conferring with the goal judge, who had turned on the red light, he reversed his call.

Replays indicated the puck was trapped momentarily under Bruckler's skate but came free and crossed the goal line behind his back and out of Shepherd's line of vision.

Chris King made 31 saves for just his second win in 10 starts for the Seawolves (8-13-5 overall, 7-11-4), who salvaged a series split after losing 5-4 Friday night.

Anchorage is one of three WCHA teams that have not been swept at the Kohl Center, which opened in 1998.

Jake Heisler scored two goals for Wisconsin (12-3-3, 10-8-2), which had its four-game unbeaten streak snapped.

A series of altercations began at the buzzer.

Anchorage's Gregg Zaporzan cross-checked Wisconsin's Brad Winchester in the back at the horn, and Winchester skated into a pack of Seawolves, touching off more tension. No fewer than seven separate incidents ensued, resulting in a combined 118 penalty minutes.

Six players received 5-minute majors for fighting and game disqualifications, which means they must sit out their team's next game: Zaporzan, Mike Scott and Vladimir Novak of Anchorage, and Heisler, Brian Fahey and Jon Krall of Wisconsin.

The teams combined for just nine shots in the first period as Anchorage took a 1-0 lead behind Eric Lawson's power-play goal at 8:36.

The Badgers answered with two goals in 28 seconds, both from Heisler. He deflected a drive from defenseman Dan Boeser at 16:58 and stayed on the ice to poke home a loose rebound in the crease at 17:26.

Anchorage responded with a two-goal binge of its own at the outset of the third period to take a 3-2 lead.

Matt Shasby's flip on net glanced off the leg of Badgers defenseman Fahey and went in 14 seconds into the period and with just one second left on a Seawolves power play.

Bruckler, who made 31 saves, lost for the first time in his career at the Kohl Center, falling to 4-1-1.

Kelly, Stallworth, Hampton, Casper, Allen make Hall

NEW ORLEANS -- Jim Kelly had one word and one wish when told Saturday he had been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on his first try.

''Wow,'' the quarterback who took the Buffalo Bills to four straight Super Bowls said. ''This is extra special for me because my son Hunter will be 5 years old on Valentine's Day. I said I would love to have my son with me when this day does happen, and I will keep my fingers crossed and pray when it comes to Hall of Fame day that he will still be with me.''

Hunter Kelly has the rare and deadly Krabbe's disease. Doctors had told Kelly his son wouldn't live past 14 months with the disease, which attacks the white matter of the brain.

''I've learned a lot through my son,'' said Kelly, who is a motivational speaker and runs Hunter's Hope, a foundation dedicated to heightening awareness about the disease and raising money to find a cure. ''It's my lifelong commitment.''

Kelly, the first USFL player to make the Hall of Fame, will be inducted on Aug. 3 in Canton, Ohio, along with John Stallworth, Dave Casper, Dan Hampton and the late George Allen. Kelly also is the first of the vaunted class of '83 quarterbacks selected.

NFL unanimously approves Falcons sale

NEW ORLEANS -- NFL owners unanimously approved the sale of the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday to Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank, who immediately said Dan Reeves would remain as coach.

Blank needed 24 votes to make the purchase official.

Reeves, who was in New Orleans for the announcement, also confirmed earlier reports that Wade Phillips, a former head coach with New Orleans, Denver and Buffalo, would join the Falcons as defensive coordinator.

Blank, paying $545 million for the Falcons, said Reeves' contract would be extended by three years. The deal reportedly is worth between $7.5 million and $10 million. Reeves declined to get more specific about his salary Saturday.

Reeves, also an executive vice president, will see his focus shift more to coaching, Blank said, while he and Reeves recruit a new general manager.

''I personally will not rest until I have the opportunity to wear a Super Bowl ring on behalf of everybody in Atlanta and everybody in the state of Georgia,'' Blank said. ''For those of you who say that can't happen, all I have to say is look at the New England team this year... That will be the story of the Atlanta team as well.''

New England, which plays in the Super Bowl on Sunday, was 5-11 in 2000 and was not expected to be a playoff contender this season.

The sale marks the end of NFL team ownership for the family of Taylor Smith, whose late father, Rankin Smith Sr., paid about $8.5 million for the rights to start the team in Atlanta 36 years ago. When Rankin Smith died in 1997, the team was placed in trust for Taylor and his four siblings.

Blank and Bernie Marcus founded The Home Depot in 1978, building it into the world's largest home-improvement retailer. Both have retired from the Atlanta-based company.

Blank, 58, who's fortune is about $1.9 billion, said he began talking with the Smith family about buying the team in 1995. Blank said he played high school football and has always had a passion for the game.

The Smiths were not sure they wanted to sell the team until part way through the 2001 season, Blank said. But Blanks persistent overtures led to a friendship with the Smith family and gave the Smiths confidence that Blank was sincere in his desire to ensure a healthy future for the team in Atlanta, the new owner said.

Blank said he would run the team with the same emphasis on customer service that made the Home Depot a success.

''I'm reading every e-mail from the fans,'' he said.

Reeves, 58, blamed himself for Atlanta's failure to make the playoffs in the three seasons since its only Super Bowl appearance and thanked Blank for keeping him.

''I know he had choices, and it seemed like every day that rolled around there became more and more coaches that were available,'' Reeves said. ''I didn't get the job done the way I wanted to over the last five years and now I have a (second) chance.''

Reeves and Blank said they both hoped that running back Jamal Anderson, who has been injury-plagued since 1999 and was not protected in the expansion draft coming up this off season for the Houston Texans, will return to Atlanta and play in 2002.

They were more vague about the future of Chris Chandler, who started most of the 2001 season at quarterback while fans clamored for an opportunity to see Michael Vick, the team's first-round draft pick last year.

''In terms of Chris, we have some tough choices to make,'' Blank said.

''We do have some options and thank goodness we don't have to make those decisions right now,'' Reeves said.

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