We are on our way in the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championship. Starting us off on Boxing Day; Russia against the home team from the Czech Republic. This immediately meant a duel between two of the tournament’s top goalie prospects; Yaroslav Askarov and Lukas Dostal.
The hosts, backed by a frenetic audience in Ostrava, got off to a hot start when they scored on the first power play of the game a little more than two minutes in. Simon Kubicek, usually playing in the WHL with the Seattle Thunderbirds and an eligible for next year’s draft, shot from the blue line and surprised Askarov with his quick release.
Minutes later the crowd had another reason to celebrate as Jan Mysak, another 2020 draft prospect, made it 2-0 for the Czechs.
The home team’s impressive start was surprising considering they were already without one of their top players, forward Jakub Lauko, who was helped to the locker room early with a leg injury after being on the receiving end of an unfortunate mid-ice hit.
Things looked bleak for the heavily favoured Russian team. However, they would manage to claw their way back and tie the contest thanks to penalties to their opponents. Even if none of the goals came on the power play, both of them were results of a heavy two-minute domination ending with the puck in the net seconds after the teams became equal in strength again.
First, Anton Khovanov and captain Grigori Denisenko assisted defender Yegor Zamula, who waited in the right shooting lane and took advantage of heavy traffic in front of Dostal. Minutes later, another long offensive sequence ended with Vancouver Canucks first-round pick Vasili Podkolzin finding the puck in the crease with no chance for the Czech netminder to react. This goal also meant the first point of the tournament for last year’s top defenceman, Montreal Canadiens prospect Alexander Romanov, who was attributed with the second assist.
It was an aggressive and fast-paced first period, where seven players received minor penalties and Russia dominated the shots, outshooting their opponents 18-5, with just one of the home team’s shots registered during the last 12 minutes of play.
Russia was working on taking the lead, but Matej Blümel surprised everyone, including Askarov, with a well-timed shot from a bad angle. Czech Republic regained the lead and Askarov, who has been as highly touted as any goaltending prospect in the last decade, had conceded three goals on a single-digit number of shots.
If Russia’s coaching staff at the time was pondering a goalie change, they immediately got other, better things on their mind when Zamula tied the game with his second of the day only 45 seconds later.
Late in the period, a penalty on Nikita Rtishchev gave Czech Republic a formidable chance to go on top yet again with a 40-second five-on-three. Jan Jenik immediately demonstrated his skills to slap one past Askarov and make it 4-3.
Seconds later and still a man down, Anton Malyshev took his second penalty of the day. This gave the home team yet another, longer chance to play two men up. Russia eventually weathered the storm to make sure that the Czech advantage remained just one goal.
Before the start of the third period, head coach Valeri Bragin decided that he had seen enough of Askarov and replaced him with Bars Kazan’s Amir Miftakhov.
Russia spent most of the third period chasing that fourth goal to tie it up, without creating any first-class chances. With a few minutes left, the already undisciplined Russian team became desperate and irritated, taking their seventh and eight penalty of the game and giving the Czechs yet another opportunity to play five-on-three. The last of the penalties gave the culprit, Russian defender Danila Galenyuk, a one-way trip to the locker room with three-and-a-half minutes left.
Russia extracted the last of their energy trying to come up with a game tying goal, removing Miftakhov and playing six-on-five once they had survived the penalty kill, but to no gain. To the joy of the home crowd, the Czech Republic won their first game of the tournament against their rivals.
Both teams will now recharge for Saturday and their second outing of round robin, where the Czechs will face off against Germany, and Russia will try to overcome the difficult challenge of playing Canada.
Mixed Martial Arts-Door is open for YouTube’s Paul brothers in MMA
Logan and Jake Paul would make great Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters, Bellator president Scott Coker has said as he targets exhibition matches featuring the YouTube personalities such as the former’s boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather.
Logan Paul went the distance, surviving eight rounds against unbeaten (50-0) five-division world boxing champion Mayweather in an exhibition on Sunday at Miami’s Hard Rock stadium.
USA Today reported the fight brought in one million pay per view buys with $50 million generated from sales in the United States.
It was only the second fight of Paul’s career, while his brother Jake has fought in three professional boxing matches, beating former MMA fighter Ben Askren in April.
Critics have labelled the bouts a sideshow due to the lack of sporting credibility of the duo, who made their names as social media personalities and have millions of subscribers on YouTube.
However, Coker told Reuters the brothers have impressive physiques and the door is open for them to move into MMA.
“I met with Logan Paul about two years ago and I’ve spoken to Jake Paul’s manager and Jake on a zoom call recently… The one thing I said was hey, if you want to do MMA we would love to promote you guys,” the 58-year-old said in a Zoom interview.
“These guys are young, athletic, strong and you saw the fight on Sunday night these guys they came and did their work.
“Mayweather couldn’t finish him and I know he tried, I heard he wanted to knock this kid out so bad,” he added.
“When I heard both had high school wrestling backgrounds in Ohio, which is a prominent wrestling state in the U.S., it really made me interested in pursuing them in some super fights in Mixed Martial Arts – and that door is continually open.”
Bellator, owned by Viacom, is gearing up for a busy month of events, starting with Bellator 260 on Friday with the headline fight between reigning welterweight world champion Douglas Lima and the undefeated Yaroslav Amosov.
However, super fights and exhibitions are where Coker is targeting a younger audience.
“My 14-year-old niece, I told her I was going to the Logan Paul fight and she thought that was the greatest thing,” he said.
“She asked me who he was fighting and I said Floyd Mayweather and she said ‘who’s that?’ – I thought wow, she doesn’t know boxing, she doesn’t know MMA, she’s just a 14-year-old girl on the internet doing what they do.”
As the sporting world gears up for the delayed Tokyo Olympics starting in July, Coker believes MMA will feature in future Games.
“When you think about mixed martial arts, what you’re talking about is boxing, wrestling, judo, taekwondo, karate – those are all Olympic sports,” he said.
“Why wouldn’t mixed martial arts eventually get into the Olympics because six out of the seven disciplines MMA is known to use really is already there.
“There’d be a lot of details to work out but to me I think it will happen, it’s just a matter of time.”
(Reporting by Christian Radnedge,; Editing by Ed Osmond)
Montreal will host the 2024 world figure skating championships
The championships will return to Montreal from March 18-24, marking the 11th time Canada has staged the event.
“Skate Canada has a proven track record of holding successful ISU events and we are looking forward to bringing the world’s best skaters to the fantastic Canadian city of Montreal,” said Debra Armstrong, CEO of Skate Canada, in a statement.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)
Andreescu splits with coach Bruneau after French Open exit
World number seven Bianca Andreescu on Tuesday announced she has split with longtime coach Sylvain Bruneau, a week after falling in the first round of the French Open.
The pair had worked together for four years as Andreescu made her breakthrough with three titles in 2019, including the U.S. Open.
“It is with a heavy heart that I would like to inform my fans that my long time coach, mentor and friend, Sylvain and I, have mutually decided to end our incredible coaching relationship,” Canadian Andreescu wrote on Twitter
“Our friendship will live forever … I am very grateful for everything we accomplished together and all of our great memories.
“Sylvain was more than a coach… he is family.”
Andreescu, 20, returned to action at this year’s Australian Open, having missed 15 months due to a knee injury.
A positive COVID-19 test subsequently ruled Andreescu out of both Madrid and Rome before an abdominal injury forced her to pull out of Strasbourg at the quarter-final stage.
Her most recent appearance at Roland Garros ended with a 6-7(1) 7-6(2) 9-7 defeat by Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)