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Ticats kicker: struggles 'almost humorous'

When he signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in February, Sandro DeAngelis was prepared to move into a new stadium, and he was ready to work with a new snapper and a new holder.

It was the new problem that caught him by surprise.

The 29-year-old became the most accurate kicker in CFL history following a productive career with the Calgary Stampeders. He had never connected on fewer than 83 per cent of his field goal attempts since his rookie season, and had become known as much for his confidence as his ability in the clutch.

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That accuracy, an immovable reliability that helped the Stampeders win a Grey Cup two years ago, appeared to get misplaced in the move. DeAngelis entered Hamilton's bye this week still looking for the consistency that made him one of the most significant free agent signings of the winter.

He hit the upright in a close game against the Toronto Argonauts last week, a game Hamilton salvaged only with a late offensive spark. DeAngelis has hit on only 70 per cent of his attempts this season, leaving him among the bottom third of kickers in the league.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I feel I'd struggle this bad coming back home," said DeAngelis, who is from Niagara Falls, Ont. "It's been borderline disgusting for me, because you want to come to a new team, to a new organization and a new city, and you want to start off on the right foot."

He missed two of four attempts in his second regular-season game with the Ticats, a bad day made more agonizing by the fact Hamilton lost that game by a point - 23-22 - to the Stampeders. DeAngelis missed his only two attempts the following week in a win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

His struggles were amplified by the team's record as the Ticats went on to lose four of their first five games to tumble into the East Division basement.

"It's almost humorous that a team this talented started off 1-4," DeAngelis said. "And it's almost humorous that I've been kicking the way I have been."

His team has rebounded. The Ticats beat the Argos 16-12 to enter the bye week on a three-game winning streak, sitting third in the division, two points behind Toronto and four behind first-place Montreal.

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DeAngelis is still waiting for signs of his definitive resurgence. He had not missed a kick in three games heading into last weekend's game against the Argos, but he sent a 43-yard attempt off the right upright to plant a fresh seed of doubt in the minds of his coaches.

"Where it gets tricky for us is between the 40 and 50, you know?" Hamilton head coach Marcel Bellefeuille said. "Do you want to kick a 48-yarder, or a 49-yarder, especially with the returners they have? That's where you've got to kind of weigh the pros and cons of it."

DeAngelis would rarely have faced those questions in Calgary, where he hit 85.7 per cent of his attempts last year. He hit 86.2 per cent in 2008, lifting the Stampeders to the CFL title with five field goals in a Grey Cup win over Montreal.

He was named the game's outstanding Canadian.

"Adversity doesn't build character, it reveals it," DeAngelis said. "I've been fortunate in my career to not have many slumps, and what are you going to do? It happens in life sometimes, and the way you respond to it is the more important thing."

Life has been a little hectic this season. DeAngelis did not take possession of his Hamilton home until the season was already a week old. He has a young son with another child on the way.

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DeAngelis was thrust back into the spotlight in July when former Stampeders teammate Nik Lewis alluded to strained relations by telling TSN: "I don't have to look at him every day, so it doesn't matter where he is or what he did."

"It's a team sport," Ticats centre Marwan Hage said. "We've got to back each other up, compensate for each other and cover for each other. He's an excellent kicker. His numbers speak for themselves. He'll be all right."

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