Life of a young hockey pro: Devante Stephens of the Cincinnati Cyclones a ‘living suitcase’

Photo taken by Mike Noyes, originally published on
This story originally ran in The Cincinnati Enquirer on May 10, 2018

Other than the grounds crew sweeping puddles from the thawing ice, U.S. Bank Arena sat quietly three days after the Cincinnati Cyclones’ first-round playoff exit.

The only noticeable commotion was inside the tunnel to the locker room, where players arrived for their end-of-season exit interviews and exited both the arena and the 2017-18 season with their hockey bags around their shoulder.

Among them was Devante Stephens, a 21-year-old defenseman who just finished his first season of professional hockey and his entry-level contract.

“It was good,” Stephens said April 25 of his rookie year. “It wasn’t what I planned out because I was injured for a lot of it. But when I was playing, it was my first year as a pro and a good development year for me.”

For Stephens, it was a year of movement.

After his exit interview, he had a 2,500-mile, 38-hour drive home to Vancouver, Canada. Throughout the season, constant call-ups to the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League meant the defensemen often felt like he couldn’t unpack before another call to go play in another city.

“I’m literally a living suitcase,” he said with a smile. (continue reading here)

McNicholas loses 21-7 to Goshen in first home game under the lights

Photo taken by Tony Tribble, originally published on
This story originally ran in The Cincinnati Enquirer on Aug. 24, 2018

Mike Orlando said there were plenty of times when he wondered if it would ever happen.

After all, when he got to Archbishop McNicholas High School, the field was dirt. When the team practiced, he called the field a mud hole. As for the practice field, there were rocks.

But on Friday night, there were no rocks. There was no dirt and no mud hole. Instead, the football field that used to not have stands had packed bleachers, and for the first time in school history, lights illuminated the Penn Station Stadium turf field, where McNicholas lost 21-7 to Goshen to open the new season. (continue reading here)

No. 1 NKU upset 89-80 by No. 8 Cleveland State on Saturday night at Motor City Madness

Photo taken by Same Greene, orginally published on

This story originally ran in The Cincinnati Enquirer on March 3, 2018

Northern Kentucky spent all season preparing for five days.

It was always about March 2-6 in Detroit, when the Norse would play their “best basketball,” win Motor City Madness for a second-straight year and play in the NCAA Tournament again.

Approaching the Horizon League conference tournament, NKU head coach John Brannen said he didn’t want his team to think it could just “flip on the switch” and play great basketball. But then March 2-6 arrived and on March 3, in NKU’s first game, that switch never came on.

NKU lost 89-80 to Cleveland State on Saturday night at Little Caesars Arena in the Motor City Madness quarterfinals. The No. 1 seed after securing their first Horizon League regular season title in program history, the Norse had an early 15-point lead and lost to the No. 8 seed. (continue reading here)

Ben Rhodes wins Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway

Photo taken by Albert Cesare, originally published on

This story originally ran in The Cincinnati Enquirer on July 12, 2018

Ben Rhodes grew up at the Kentucky Speedway.

He drove past it going to go-kart races. He’s raced on it, and when the gate’s unlocked and no one’s watching, he sneaks in to look around and occasionally send selfies.

For Rhodes, a Louisville-native, the track might not be his literal home, but it’s as close as it gets in the racing world. And on Thursday night, Rhodes won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Buckle Up Your Truck 225 at the Kentucky Speedway.

As he crossed the finish line, fans in the bleachers above roared beneath the sound of his engine. The local kid won his second career race, and to this point, his self-proclaimed biggest win yet. (continue reading here)

Fatai Alashe and FC Cincinnati are equally important for one another in USL and MLS

This story originally ran in The Cincinnati Enquirer on July 30, 2018

His introduction was quiet.

On Friday, he stepped out of the Futbol Club Cincinnati locker room, met his new teammates and took in the atmosphere. The next night, he went unnoticed sitting beneath The Bailey while those teammates signed autographs for hundreds of fans on the field.

Photo taken by Sam Greene, originally published on

Even Monday afternoon, when he was publicly unveiled as an FC Cincinnati player, Fatai Alashe settled for a supporting role in the press conference while Fanendo Adi was unveiled as the club’s first Major League Soccer Designated Player.

Perhaps it’s Alashe’s personality, or perhaps Cincinnati supporters are unaware of the young talent their club just signed. Maybe it’s a mix of both.

Regardless, head coach Alan Koch knows he might have a signing with untapped potential who can provide a foundation for Cincinnati’s looming MLS franchise. (continue reading here)

U.S. women’s soccer team to play at Nippert Stadium

taken from wikimedia commons
This story originally ran for The Cincinnati Enquirer on July 7, 2017

If Cincinnati truly is on the forefront of soccer in this country, Futbol Club Cincinnati President and General Manager Jeff Berding wanted to make his message clear:

“There’s no backseat to the boys.”

On Friday morning at Nippert Stadium, Berding announced the reigning FIFA World Cup champion U.S. Women’s National Team will host New Zealand on Sept. 19 at Nippert in a friendly match. This will make the national team’s fourth visit to the city and first since 2008.

“We’ve had the opportunity to put Cincinnati on the national stage,” Berding said. “This is strong proof, soccer, our sport, strives in our city.” (continue reading here)

FC Cincinnati announces friendly with Spain’s Valencia CF

taken from wikimedia commons
This story originally ran in The Cincinnati Enquirer on June 5, 2017

Spanish futbol is coming to Futbol Club Cincinnati.

FC Cincinnati will host Valencia Club de Fútbol, better known as Valencia CF, in its summer international friendly this July, Cincinnati officials announced Monday.

The match is scheduled for Monday, July 24, at the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium. (continue reading here)

Carter shines in Ohio’s gloomy loss to Toledo

taken by Carl Fonticella
This story originally ran in The Post on Jan. 25, 207

Jason Carter walked into the press conference and lowered his head.

Five minutes removed from the best night of his career — 20 points and seven rebounds in only his second start — Carter sat silently, frustrated with the only shot he’ll remember in Tuesday evening’s 79-76 loss to Toledo in The Convo.

With seven seconds remaining and midway through a broken play, Carter managed to slip free of his man and stood alone behind the 3-point line. His shot clanked off the back of the rim. The Bobcats never took another attempt.

“I just gotta get over it,” Carter said. “I can’t let it hang over me.”

Then Jaaron Simmons spoke up. “He’ll make the next one.” (continue reading here)

Greg Windham shines in gloomy loss in conference title game

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photo taken by Matt Starkey

DETROIT — Greg Windham sat with eyes fixed ahead.

There was so much he could’ve said. Instead, he quietly took responsibility for a loss that was far from his fault.

Put into a freefalling situation — a 9-0 deficit — Windham reached for a conference title and was left crouched over, heartbroken and defeated.

In a 29-23 loss to No. 17 Western Michigan on Friday in the Marathon Mid-American Conference Game, it was Windham above every other Bobcat who looked the most defeated — a self-inflicted condition entirely undeserving.

If anything, perhaps it was Windham who had been the most unappreciated all along. (continue reading here)

Despite late comeback, Ohio falls 29-23 to No. 17 Western Michigan in MAC Championship Game

DETROIT — Greg Windham kneeled alone at midfield, eyes glued to the turf. Behind him, the Western Michigan crowd roared.

His preseason dream was to win a conference championship. With 84 seconds left, Windham had 75 yards to end his team’s 48-year conference title drought.

And then it was stolen away.

In its best game this season, Ohio had its worst loss: a 29-23 defeat to No. 17 Western Michigan on Friday night in the Marathon Mid-American Conference Championship Game. (continue reading here)