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George Strait sets record Saturday for second-largest attendance at a U.S. Bank Stadium concert

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George Strait sets record Saturday for second-largest attendance at a U.S. Bank Stadium concert

For a couple of hours Saturday night, one of the most consistently successful musicians of any genre held a sold-out U.S. Bank Stadium crowd in the palm of his hand – or, rather, in the back pocket of his boot cut Wranglers.

George Strait, the King of Country, played the metro for the first time in more than eight years and the pent-up demand was clear. Some 51,030 people showed up, the second-largest crowd ever for a USBS concert after Garth Brooks, whose pair of 2019 shows drew a combined attendance of more than 140,000. (It’s worth noting, though, that Brooks played on an in-the-round stage, allowing him to sell seats around the entire bowl.)

Strait, 69, announced he was retiring from full-scale touring back in 2013, but noted that he’d still perform live and release new music, just at a slower pace. He has lived up to that promise and typically plays a handful of Vegas gigs and a few massive one-off shows each year.

The schedule seems to be agreeing with him, as he was in top form Saturday night, tackling more than 30 songs backed by his crackerjack 11-piece Ace in the Hole Band. To be sure, Strait isn’t really a showman, at least not in the sense of the aforementioned Brooks or the Rolling Stones, who played USBS last month.

As usual, Strait didn’t really talk much to the audience. Early on, he noted “It’s cold up here. Damn.” Later, he gave a shout out to former Vikings quarterback Tommy Kramer, who was in the crowd. Strait also didn’t offer much theatrics beyond standing there and singing. One can imagine if Brooks or the Stones had done the same, concertgoers would have been demanding refunds.

So what’s the guy’s appeal? His songs. For three decades, Strait maintained a constant presence on country radio, scoring more than 80 Top 10 hits, more than half of which went all the way to No. 1. And judging by the crowd, plenty of people still love all those songs, which largely avoided trends and gimmicks of the time and sound just as straightforward and honest now as they did back in the day.

While longtime followers will surely note a few favorites Strait skipped, they did get to hear a generous and deep selection of songs from throughout his career, including “I Saw God Today,” “Check Yes or No,” “She’ll Leave You with a Smile,” “Every Little Honky Tonk Bar,” “Somewhere Down in Texas,” “Amarillo by Morning,” “Troubadour,” “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” and the song that’s become his retirement anthem, “The Cowboy Rides Away.”

If Strait’s solidly entertaining performance wasn’t enough, he gave fans something like a mini festival. Gates opened at 3 p.m. and newcomer (and Minnesota native Caitlyn Smith) wore Prince Purple for her opening set. The venerable Little Big Town, country music’s answer to Fleetwood Mac, followed.

But the big news was the presence of Chris Stapleton, who just took home four (or six, if you count his production nods) Country Music Association Awards Wednesday night, more than any other act this year. Noting that he was “proud to be on this bill,” the 43-year-old Kentucky native delivered passionate outlaw country rockers to a rapt audience that cheered whenever he played one of his hits (“Parachute,” “Broken Halos,” “Starting Over,” “Millionaire”).

Stapleton and his nimble band played pretty much the same set he’s been doing on his current headlining tour, minus three acoustic songs and the encore. Not that anyone was complaining about a truly memorable evening of country music performed by two of the genre’s major talents.

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Charlie McAvoy’s last-minute goal lifts B’s to win over Caps

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Charlie McAvoy’s last-minute goal lifts B’s to win over Caps

The Bruins on Thursday not only produced the right response after Tuesday’s 7-1 loss to Carolina, they got the result that was desired — and in thrilling fashion. But the vibes from their 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals at the Garden weren’t all positive.

Charlie McAvoy scored a power-play goal with 45 seconds left in regulation to lift the B’s to what had to be a dig-down-deep victory. The B’s had lost Anton Blidh (upper body) in the first period, and then top scorer Brad Marchand to an apparent shoulder injury on a hit that had coach Bruce Cassidy angered after the game, labeling it “cheap.”

Beyond the hit and possible loss of their best player, there was plenty to like about this victory. While they were playing against a depleted Washington club (no T.J. Oshie, John Carlson, Conor Sheary or Dmitry Orlov), the B’s faced a third period down two left wings and their goaltender Linus Ullmark not having his best night. But they managed the victory.

“I thought it was a resilient effort by us. We showed good character going down two guys up front,” said McAvoy. “I’m sure those (forwards) were pretty tired by the end of it. They gave their best all night.”

With Marchand out, Jake DeBrusk bumped up to play with Patrice Bergeron and Craig Smith and he made the most of it. The winger, his trade request still pending, scored a deflected goal to give the B’s a brief lead in the third period. And then, with Nic Dowd in the box for tripping, he made a patient centering pass to McAvoy, who snapped home the winner past Vitek Vanecek.

“He was flying tonight. He was all over the ice,” said McAvoy. “All night he seemed to be pushing the pace and when he has his legs, he’s a very dangerous player. He’s the fastest guy on the ice pretty much any night … we’re always cheering for him and when he pulls the rope, we’re a much better team.”

The B’s broke a 2-2 tie at 9:41 of the third on a goal when DeBrusk threw a puck into the crease from the side boards and it eventually went off Evgeni Kuznetsov. It was originally credited to Bergeron but later changed to DeBrusk’s goal.

But the Caps tied it again just 36 seconds later. Brandon Carlo’s pass intended for Urho Vaakanainen was picked off by Tom Wilson and he fed it out front to Nick Backstrom, who buried it past Ullmark.

It appeared as though the teams might be headed into OT until Dowd got his stick between Derek Forbort’s legs with 2:34 left in regulation. With 11 seconds left on the advantage, McAvoy made them pay.

That ended a back-and-forth game.

Washington got on the board first on a Kuznetsov goal from a tough angle at the bottom of the left circle. Ullmark left a little space over his short-side shoulder and Kuznetsov deftly slipped it through for a 1-0 lead at 4:07 of the first period.

But the B’s answered just 50 seconds later.

David Pastrnak led the rush and, after gaining the blue line, he dropped it for Taylor Hall and headed for the net. Hall sifted it back to Pastrnak through a couple of Washington sticks and he had an open net behind Vanecek for his first of two goals on the night.

As is often the case with the Capitals, they got their pound of flesh before the period was out. On a penalty kill, Blidh cut back into the middle and just after he dropped the puck, Wilson blasted him with an open-ice hit that was brutal but legal. Blidh needed some assistance to get off the ice and went straight to the locker room. He did not return. Cassidy did not have a problem with that hit.

The B’s took a 2-1 lead on their first power play in the second, but it would be a costly one. After Marchand competed for a puck in the left corner in the Washington zone, Garnet Hathaway nailed him from behind, driving him into the boards. It could have been called a number of things — hit from behind, boarding — but ref Kyle Rehman settled on interference. Marchand was in obvious pain, but he tried to make a go of it on the power play. He could not finish his shift, however. He tried another shift after the power play, but he had to head to the bench. He tried icing it, but it was a no-go.

The B’s took a 2-1 lead on that hard-earned man-advantage with Matt Grzelcyk sending Pastrnak on a breakaway for his 18th of the year. But Marchand, who winced in pain on the bench as he tried to lift his arms to celebrate the Pastrnak goal, did not return for the third period.

“The March (hit) I didn’t like at all. The official (Kendrick Nicholson) was right there in front of it and didn’t call it. The trail official called it. I’m not sure why the guy watching it didn’t,” fumed Cassidy. “He hit a guy in the numbers in a vulnerable spot. Seen that from that player in the past, too. So I didn’t like that one at all. I guess the league may or may not look at it. When it comes to Marchie, they kind of move on. But in this particular case, seemed like a vulnerable spot, against the boards, in the back, high. But at the end of the day, we were able to overcome it. Guys got an opportunity to step. An opportunity for DeBrusk to get some extra minutes and he came through for us. Hopefully Marchie is OK.”

Despite being the better team most of the night — they held a 33-17 shot advantage — they coughed up the lead later in the second period. The Caps tied it on a soft goal with 3:48 left in the period. On a Lars Eller shot from outside the left circle that Ullmark saw all the way, the goalie couldn’t handle it with his glove — the shot may have been going wide before it hit Ullmark’s mitt — and it was all evened up.

But the B’s were able to gut out the win in the third. Now it’s just a matter of crossing their fingers and hoping Marchand won’t be out too long.

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Norwood’s Kristen McDonnell, Walpole’s Jenna Galster make MIAA history on sidelines of boys basketball game

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Norwood’s Kristen McDonnell, Walpole’s Jenna Galster make MIAA history on sidelines of boys basketball game

WALPOLE — In recent years, it has become more and more common to see women taking on lead coaching roles across the MIAA’s boys basketball landscape.

What we hadn’t seen, however, were games in which they’ve stood on opposing benches. That was until Thursday night, when Kristen McDonnell and Jenna Galster led their teams onto the court at Walpole High School.

In the first recorded MIAA game featuring two boys basketball programs helmed by female coaches, McDonnell’s unit emerged victorious behind the performance of Noah Beaudet. The junior captain erupted for 30 points, propelling Norwood (6-0) to a 66-54 victory over Walpole in front of a packed house.

“I think regardless of what it means, you just want to come out with a win no matter what,” said McDonnell. “But it’s nice. I have so much respect for Jenna, and what she’s done with this program, and what she did with her last program.”

Both coaches had embarked on long journeys to get to where they were last night. The paths there were drastically different, however.

Galster, for one, has only coached boys teams. She started her career guiding the freshman team at Holliston, before eventually working her way up to the title of head coach in 2013. She later went on to serve as an assistant on Rick Grady’s staff at Dover-Sherborn, before being selected to lead Walpole in 2021.

Meanwhile, McDonnell enjoyed years of success with Braintree’s girls basketball program, establishing a dynasty by capturing four state titles. She was later tabbed as Norwood’s newest boys hoops coach in June 2019.

Once McDonnell received the exciting news regarding her next endeavor, the legendary coach picked up the phone.

“(Galster) was the first person I called when I got the job,” McDonnell said. “Just to pick her brain about things. She’s a phenomenal coach and a phenomenal person. I think she has made it so much easier for any of us that are following to feel comfortable jumping onto the boys side.”

As for the game itself, Norwood used a 23-9 run to pull away in the second quarter, taking a 36-19 lead into intermission. The sequence proved to be the difference in the contest.

As the fans exited the gymnasium, Galster fondly looked back on the phone conversation she had with McDonnell a few years ago.

“She asked me, ‘Is there anything different?’” chuckled Galster. “I said, ‘Well, first of all, I don’t know. I’ve never coached the girls.’ She would have to tell me that, at the end of things. But you’re coaching an athlete. It doesn’t matter what the gender is. It doesn’t matter who it is. You are coaching an athlete, and an opportunity to do so is always a good opportunity. My God, has she seized it, and she’s run with it. I’m very happy for her.”

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Cape Cod Academy’s Jaeden Greenleaf joins the exclusive 2,000-point club

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Cape Cod Academy’s Jaeden Greenleaf joins the exclusive 2,000-point club

Cape Cod Academy senior guard Jaeden Greenleaf became the 77th player in state history to reach the 2,000-point plateau earlier Thursday evening. The Boston Herald All-Scholastic scored 34 points, including a 3-pointer with 4:38 remaining to go past 2,000 points in a 79-50 win over Dennis-Yarmouth to improve to 7-0.

CAREER 2,000-POINT LIST
1. Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir New Leadership 2004-09 3,070
2. Rebecca Lobo Southwick 1987-91 2,710
3. Jermaine Watson L-S, Thayer, Tabor 1997-01 2,665
4. Kristin Feldman Learning Center 1993-00 2,659
5. Kelsey O’Keefe Quaboag 2000-06 2,650
6. Bryan Edwards Cohasset 1983-88 2,563
7. Sarah Behn Foxboro 1985-89 2,562
8. Wayne Turner Beaver CD 1991-95 2,542
9. Ronnie Perry Catholic Memorial 1972-76 2,481
10. Sean Connolly Bishop Fenwick 1994-98 2,473
11. Mike Bradley Worcester Burncoat 1993-97 2,444
12. Keri Flynn Rockland 1995-00 2,405
13. Ayla Brown Noble & Greenough 2000-06 2,358
14. Katie Kerr Marian 1992-96 2,352
15. Adam Harrington Pioneer Valley 1994-98 2,347
16. Robin Christian Jamaica Plain 1981-85 2,332
17. Kendall Currence Falmouth Acad. 2015-2018 2,310
18. Marvin Safford Holy Name 1969-73 2,289
19. Jake Jason Old Colony 2016-2019 2,273
20. Ron Teixiera Catholic Memorial 1961-65 2,250
21. Matt Palazzi St. John’s (S) 1980-84 2,239
22. Emmanuel Bangandozou, Bancroft 2013-17 2,236
23. Lekia Cowen Hopedale 2003-08 2,210
24. Nicole Boudreau Andover 2008-12 2,200
25. Jessalyn Deveny Westford Academy 1997-01 2,195
(tie). Luke Dagley South Shore Christian 2012-17 2,195
27. Carla Berube Oxford 1988-95 2,190
28. Scoonie Penn Salem 1991-95 2,189
29. Azar Swain Rivers 2014-17 2,185
30. Jillian Danker Minnechaug 1994-98 2,179
31. Casey Arena Bishop Fenwick 1988-92 2,166
32. Nicole Wolff Milton Acad./Walpole 1998-02 2,164
33. Shaquana McDonough Learning Center 2004-09 2,163
34. Jon Garrity Duxbury 1968-72 2,156
35. Gerry Corcoran Norwell 1999-03 2,155
36. Katie Benzan Noble & Greenough 2011-16 2,153
37. Maddie Mullin Beaver Country Day 2013-17 2,142
38. Brianne Stepherson Masconomet 1992-98 2,139
39. Naomi Graves Hampshire 1973-78 2,137
40. Lynne-Ann Kokoski Smith Academy 1999-04 2,124
41. Michelle Edwards Cathedral 1980-84 2,121
(tie). Gwendolyn Carpenter, Mt. Everett, 2013-19 2,121
43. Kevin Miranda Avon 2003-07 2,116
44. Fiona Mannion, Latin Academy, 2016-2020, 2109
45. Colleen Hession Williston-North. 1996-02 2,096
(tie). Lenworth Williamson Pingree 2005-09 2,096
47. Jen Moussette Hampshire 2000-05 2,094
48. Caroline Ducharme, Noble & Greenough, 2017-2021
49. Chris Vetrano Andover 2000-04 2,090
50. Anthony Taylor NCC 1990-94 2,089
51. Duane Anderson Worcester Voke 1986-90 2,086
52. Chris Herren Durfee 1990-94 2,083
53. Tajanay Viega-Lee Fenway 2009-13 2,082
54. Jimmy Sullivan Dom Savio 1974-78 2,081
55. Ghared Boyce Everett 2005-08 2,073
56. Glenn Gariepy Bellingham 1962-66 2,070
57. Jes Hambley South Hadley 1994-99 2,069
58. Menel Lamadzema Mystic Valley 2013-17 2,067
59. Heman Honore St. Clement 2002-06 2,056
60. Samantha Herrick Lenox 1987-92 2,055
61. Justin Bennett Learning Center 1993-98 2,047
62. Paul Moran Swampscott 1981-85 2,043
63. Shaleyse Smallwood O’Bryant 2000-04 2,037
64. Deric McCottrell Avon/St. Sebastian’s 2006-11 2,035
65. Steve Zieja Hopkins Academy 1995-99 2,033
66. Tom Donahue St. Mary’s (B) 1971-75 2,031
67. Saleek Marshall Avon 2006-12 2,027
68. Necole Evans Springfield Central 2002-06 2,025
69. Caitlin Fisher Beaver Country Day 1996-00 2,024
70. Kerri Downs Everett 1995-99 2,019
71. Anna Kelly Lexington 2013-16 2,015
72. Shante Dezrick Avon 2004-10 2,013
73. Karen Walsh Old Colony 1992-96 2,009
74. Thad Broughton St. Mary’s (L) 1997-02 2,007
75. Bruce Seals Natick/Ashland 1994-98 2,001
*(tie). Jaeden Greenleaf Cape Cod Academy 2019-2002 2,001
77. King Gaskins Catholic Memorial 1968-72 2,000

* – still active

 

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