Sports Briefs

Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2003

KPSC competes at Kristiansen tourney

The Kenai Peninsula Soccer Club enjoyed a successful run at its first tournament of the year, with three teams making the finals of the Ina Kristiansen Memorial Cup. A total of 12 KPSC teams traveled to the tournament, which was held Friday through Sunday in Anchorage.

The U-15 Raptors boys squad was the one KPSC team to come away with a title, compiling a 4-0-1 record over the course of the tournament. In Sunday afternoon's championship game, the Raptors defeated the Flaming Lizards 3-1 to secure supreme position amongst the 11 U-15 boys teams at the tourney.

The U-12 Riverhawks girls team and the U-12 Spitfire boys team finished second at the tournament. The Riverhawks went 5-1 in the 10-team bracket, losing 2-1 in the finals to the AYSC Arsenals. The Spitfire went 5-1 in their 11-team bracket, losing 4-2 to the Flaming Lizards White team in Sunday afternoon's championship game.

Both the U-11 Flaming Hot Dogs and the U-13 Riverhounds took third at the tournament. The Flaming Hot Dogs finished 2-2 in their six-team bracket, while the Riverhounds finished 1-1-2 in their 10-team bracket.

All the other KPSC teams did not make it to the semifinals. On the girls side, the U-13 Conquest finished 0-3, the U-14 Renegades finished 0-3-1, the U-15 Avalanche finished 1-2 and the U-16 Pyros finished 0-3.

On the boys side, the U-14 Eagles finished 1-2, the U-16 Fusion finished 0-3 and the U-19 United finished 2-1.

The tournament is named for Ina Kristiansen, who died of leukemia May 22, 1992. The tournament is dedicated to the spirit and enthusiasm with which Kristiansen lived her life, played soccer and battled leukemia.

On some teams at the tournament, one player is awarded for best exemplifying Kristiansen's spirit. From KPSC, the awards went to Shana Powell of the Riverhawks, Kaylee Grant of the Conquest, Jordan Love of the Renegades, Dani Donaldson of the Avalanche, Kassi Kiel of the Pyros, Eric Johnson of the Flaming Hot Dogs, Brad Duwe of the Spitfire, Taylor Jackson of the Riverhounds, Garrett Redford of the Eagles and Tyler Smith of the Raptors.

Big sprint car event comes to Kenai

The Kenai Peninsula Racing Lions-Circle Track Division will be having a Sprint Invitational featuring cars from throughout the state Friday at Twin Cities Raceway.

Time-ins at the three-eights-of-a-mile dirt track begin at 6 p.m., while racing starts at 7 p.m.

General admission will be $10 for those 12 and up and $5 for seniors and children from ages 6 to 11. Those 5 years old and younger get in free. All pit passes will be $15.

If the event is rained out Friday, the event will be held Saturday with time-ins at 1 p.m. and racing at 2 p.m.

For more information, call Chet Soares at 283-9078 or Mike Young at 283-8321.

Van Gundy introduced as coach of the Rockets

HOUSTON Jeff Van Gundy was pleased with his appearance. He promised it wouldn't last.

Van Gundy, whose hard-driving approach to coaching often causes him to look haggard, was introduced as coach of the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, less than two years after he abruptly left the New York Knicks.

''I don't know, this is probably as good as it gets,'' Van Gundy said, flanked by Rockets owner Les Alexander and general manager Carroll Dawson. ''I'm going to look as good as I can today and then it will be all downhill, the bags under the eyes, the worry, but I'll be fine. I never quite feel as bad as I look.''

Penguins' hiring enough to bring Olczyk to tears

PITTSBURGH Ed Olczyk was teary-eyed minutes after being hired Wednesday as the Pittsburgh Penguins' coach, and it wasn't because he is taking over a team that could easily be the NHL's worst next season.

Olczyk understands the tremendous gamble the Penguins are taking by hiring such an inexperienced coach. A Penguins broadcaster for three years, Olczyk hasn't coached at any organized level since ending his NHL playing career in 2000.

With the uncertainty hanging over the franchise the fire sale of veteran players, the minuscule payroll, dwindling attendance and the lack of a new arena deal Olczyk realizes that if he can't win, it could doom hockey in Pittsburgh. He doesn't plan to fail, and doesn't want anyone around him thinking that the Penguins' limited talent pool, lack of financial resources and decrepit arena are insurmountable obstacles to success.

The Mighty Ducks, he pointed out, were 15th in the 15-team Western Conference last season and 13th the season before that, yet reached Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals this season.

''People are going to doubt you and question what goes on, and that's all right,'' Olczyk said. ''This is the opportunity of a lifetime. It doesn't matter what other people think or say.''

Olczyk knows that it will be argued that youthful players need a veteran coach to guide them, not one as inexperienced as they are. At 36, Olczyk is the first coach in Penguins history young enough to be born the same year the franchise came into existence.

''In a perfect world, I'd love to have some experience, but it's not going to take me long,'' Olczyk said.

Olczyk is convinced that the speed and quickness the Penguins acquired in their long succession of trades over the last two years can be harnessed into a hard-playing, quick-strike team that scores off turnovers.

''We're going to be relentless, I can promise you that,'' Olczyk said. ''We're going to create offense by being relentless.''

Olczyk's personality, ability to communicate and enthusiasm convinced general manager Craig Patrick he was right for the job. Assistant coaches Randy Hillier and Joe Mullen will be retained from former coach Rick Kehoe's staff, and another veteran assistant likely will be hired.

Patrick pointed out a number of current or former NHL coaches had little experience before being hired, including former Islanders coach Al Arbour and current Colorado coach Tony Granato.

''I know there are going to be skeptics because he has no bench coaching experience, but a lot of guys in the NHL have stepped out of their equipment and behind the bench and have had great careers,'' Patrick said. ''He's the perfect guy to do what we're asking.''

The Penguins are asking Olczyk to find a way to win without any players comparable to the stars they've had for 20 years Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis, Kovalev and, likely, owner-player Mario Lemieux, who is expected to retire again.

Even with Lemieux around last season, the Penguins lost all but two of the final 21 games to finish 27-44-6-5. They have won only 58 games in two seasons since reaching the Eastern Conference finals in 2001.

Olczyk is the Penguins' fifth coach in five years. Kehoe followed former Czech Olympic coach Ivan Hlinka, who was fired four games into the 2001-02 season despite taking the Penguins to the conference finals the previous season. Hlinka succeeded Herb Brooks, who finished the 1999-2000 season after Kevin Constantine was fired in December 1999.

Olczyk, who is nicknamed Edzo, played for the Maple Leafs, Blackhawks, Winnipeg Jets, Rangers, Kings and Penguins, getting 342 goals and 452 assists in 1,031 games.

Drafted No. 3 overall by the Blackhawks in 1984, two spots behind Lemieux, he played three seasons in Chicago before scoring a career-high 42 goals during a 75-point season with Toronto in 1987-88. He 118 goals in a three-season stretch with the Maple Leafs from 1987-90.

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