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Alex Law Ava Murphy Canada Finland Women’s Under-18 Hockey Championship

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ÖSTERSUND, Sweden — Alex Law scored twice, including the overtime winner, as Canada edged Finland 3-2 in a women’s world under-18 hockey championship semifinal Saturday.

Canada will face Sweden for the gold medal Sunday.

Law’s OT winner at 7:32 was first credited to defender Ava Murphy, although it was Law’s wrist shot that sneaked under Kerttu Kuja-Halkola.

Murphy skated the puck from the defensive to offensive zone and dished to Law in open ice. Law’s shot got underneath Finland’s goalie, who kicked the puck into her own net to end three-on-three overtime.

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Law and Abby Stonehouse scored in regulation time for Canada with assistant captain Emma Pais contributing a pair of assists for the defending champions.

Canadian goaltender Hannah Clark stopped 24 shots for the victory.

Sanni Vanhanen and Paulina Salonen scored for the Finns. Kuja-Halkola made 38 saves in the loss.

“I think we came out a little flat. The Finns came out flying, had a great forecheck going that really took away our speed,” said Canadian coach Courtney Birchard-Kessel. “It took us a while to settle in and get our feet under us, but we found a way to win.

“This is such an amazing experience with your family watching back home, it is so exciting. Heading into the gold-medal game, I think it is an incredible experience; it is going to be packed playing against Sweden. It is something our players will remember for the rest of their lives.”

Canada is chasing repeat gold in the women’s under-18 tournament after beating the U.S. 3-2 in last year’s final in Madison, Wis.

The Canadians killed off a too-many-player penalty starting at 2:10 in overtime in Saturday’s semifinal. Canada took eight minor penalties in the game to Finland’s one.

Canada trailed 2-1 in the third period when Law scored an equalizer at 12:39. She drove in from the wing and slung a wrist shot over Kuja-Halkola’s right shoulder.

Salonen scored a go-ahead goal for the Finns just eight seconds into the third period.

Finland won the faceoff and pushed the puck into the offensive zone, where Salonen took advantage of a broken play to beat Clark with a low shot stick side.

The Finns trailing 1-0 after the first period, Vanhanen drew her team even at 11:56 of the second. She converted a rebound following Julia Schalin’s effort driving the net from the corner.

Stonehouse scored her second goal of the tournament tipping a Pais shot from the point by Kuja-Halkola at 9:47 of the opening period.

“As a team it was not a perfect performance, but through the 60-plus minutes we had perfect effort at least,” said Law. “We gave it our all, worked as a team, moved the puck and it ended up working out in our favour.

“We have put so much work into this, (playing for gold) is something we have all dreamed about. We need to move the puck quickly, skate hard and have positive energy on the bench and I think we can take home gold.”

Sweden doubled the U.S. 2-1 in Saturday’s earlier semifinal to advance to the championship game for just the second time in the 15-year history of the tournament.

The U.S. fell short of the final for the first time and plays Finland for bronze Sunday.

Canada topped Pool A at 3-0 to earn a bye to Saturday’s semifinal.

The Canadians had lost 4-3 to the Finns in a pre-tournament game, but thumped them 8-0 in the preliminary round.

Felicia Frank made 37 saves in Sweden’s net in the semifinal win over the U.S.

Defenders Mira Junkager and Astrid Lindeberg scored for the Swedes, and Lucia Digirolamo countered for the U.S.

Sweden reached the final in 2018 when they lost 9-3 to the Americans in Dmitrov, Russia.

Czechia doubled Slovakia 6-3 in the fifth-place game.

Slovakia’s Nela Lopusanova, who is just 14 years old, was the tournament leader in scoring with nine goals and three assists in five games.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2023.

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Canada Soccer has hit the big time with coach John Herdman

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John Herdman, Head Coach of Canada, reacts during a press conference at the Main Media Center on Nov. 30, during the World Cup in Doha, Qatar.Mohamed Farag/Getty Images

In every team’s final news conference at a World Cup, it’s tradition to ask the head coach if he plans to stick around.

Someone threw it up at Canadian national men’s coach John Herdman following this country’s measured success in Qatar.

Herdman gave a meandering answer of 1 minute 15 seconds that ended this way: “[Belgian assistant coach] Thierry Henry told me this team played [Belgium] off the park. I’ll take that. Because if that’s our foundation? We’ve got a great four years ahead, and I can’t wait to get after it.”

Though that reply didn’t contain the crucial word, people took it for a “yes.” Because what else would it be?

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Few coaches in the world have a gig this sweet. Herdman is such a big fish in Canada’s soccer pond that he essentially runs the program. He’s got a guaranteed spotlight in the next World Cup, which Canada will be in by virtue of being a co-host. He’s still young (47), says he loves living here and is signed for the long term.

Maybe he’d like to coach at a sexier program in Europe. Wouldn’t anyone in his position?

But with that caveat, from the outside looking in, Canada is a great job. It wasn’t always, but Herdman (with a major assist from Alphonso Davies’s parents) turned it into one.

Which makes it curious that reports out of New Zealand on Wednesday claimed that Herdman was about to be appointed the coach of that country’s men’s national team.

In a report from the NewsHub network, Herdman was described as “the clear top pick” for the job. To hear this story tell it, it was just a matter of fussing with details.

Canada is the 53rd-ranked team in the world and on the rise. New Zealand is 105th and just barely treading water. New Zealand is Canada 10 years ago, and not in a fun, preinflation sort of way.

A complicating factor – Herdman’s son, Jay, plays for New Zealand’s under-19 national team. An even more complicated one – money. Some people love their job, but everyone loves money.

That said, judged from the perspective of social capital, the New Zealand job is not a promotion. It’s not even a lateral move. It’s trading the big leagues for the bush leagues.

So what’s going on? Does Herdman want out of Canada? And if so, why? Does he want more money? Is he a secret Lord of the Rings superfan?

This is what happens when a story like this is loosed into the world and not recaptured immediately – people begin to wonder all sorts of fantastical things.

As usual, whenever a story about it is breaking, Canada Soccer was caught in a blank stare on Wednesday morning. It wasn’t until early afternoon that an official denial was put together.

Three people commented in that statement – Herdman, Canada Soccer general secretary Earl Cochrane and Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis.

Bontis affirmed the “full confidence” of the board in Herdman, which is weird. He just took Canada to its first World Cup in 40 years. Why wouldn’t the board have confidence in him?

Cochrane noted first and foremost that Herdman is under contract until after the 2026 World Cup, which is also weird. That’s not news.

Herdman was unequivocal: “I’m not going anywhere.” But he also felt the need to mention that he’s got “several offers” recently, including one from New Zealand, which is super weird. If you’re happy where you are, why do so many people think you aren’t? And why do you feel the need to share that information?

Another oddity – no one mentioned anything about the story out of New Zealand being wrong. Actually, none of them mentioned the story at all.

If there were no truth to any of this, all that was required was a straight denial. That should have taken 15 minutes to put together.

Instead, it took hours to wrangle all the top decision-makers at Canada Soccer to patch up a complex, interwoven, multiperson denial. That has the whiff of an organization protesting o’ermuch.

So no fire, but plenty of smoke and lots of time left to sit around doing a paranoid arson investigation.

Nothing has come of this little fizzle, but something’s coming. That’s how this works. Not always, but often enough to make it a rule. It’s just a matter of figuring when, where, who and how it can hurt the most.

Can the Canadian men’s program survive without Herdman? Of course it can. Every graveyard is full of indispensable men, but none are as chock-a-block as the crypts of sports. Herdman’s done the hard work of stitching the Canadian team into a unit. All the next person has to do is hold that group together until 2026.

A better question is can the men’s team thrive if we’re going to spend the next three years trying to figure out when John Herdman is leaving, and where he’s going, and who’s to blame for that, and what does Alphonso Davies think about that, and why is Canada Soccer always like this, and exactly how long is a regulation pitchfork?

Those questions are a lot more interesting, and the people who care about them – it’s a small group, but it’s growing – will spill barrels of virtual ink interrogating them.

Uncertainty is an enemy of successful sports organizations, and intrigue is its accelerant. From player strikes to spats over pay to people rubbishing the organization after they’ve left, Canada Soccer has always had these twin weaknesses much worse than most. The difference is that now people have started paying attention.

At the very least, making the World Cup in Qatar was supposed to graduate Canada out of this high school state of affairs. Canada was a big-timer now, with a big-time coach with big-time plans. Well, I hope Canada Soccer is happy. Because now it has a big-time HR headache, and shouting at people that you feel fine, fine, totally fine is not going to make them believe you.

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Marner shows off custom All-Star Game skates at Maple Leafs practice

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Mitchell Marner is going to be skating on sunshine.

The Toronto Maple Leafs forward has some custom skates with a distinct Florida feel for the 2023 Honda NHL All-Star Game at FLA Live Arena on Saturday.

Marner, who will play for the Atlantic Divison team on Saturday, helped dream up the design, which is a beach theme over a pastel pink boot. On each tongue is the All-Star Game logo and inside each boot is the Eastern Conference logo.

Marner’s big customization? Adding his dog, Zeus, to the mix.

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“(Zeus) riding a croc, one riding a shark and then just the city outlines,” Marner said. “The white look I think looks sick though. That’s just kind of the idea of them. I wanted to do something cool for the All Star game, don’t really get to customize a lot of stuff as hockey players.”

The True brand skates were on display at Maple Leafs practice on Tuesday. Were they a hit? Well, it depends on who you ask.

“A couple guys said it was pretty juicy looking, a couple guys were chirping me but that’s what usually happens with our team,” Marner said. “I think everyone probably likes them but they’re never going to say it to your face because it’s better just to make fun of you and chirp you. That’s how this team rolls.”

While he won’t be wearing them for a regular season game, trying them out at practice was a must, but did come with it’s challenges.

“(Alexander Kerfoot) and (Justin Holl) were trying to get some scuff marks on them early,” Marner said. “It’s going to happen eventually but I’ll try to keep them as white as possible until Saturday or Friday.”

– NHL.com Independent Correspondent Dave McCarthy contributed to this report.

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Tom Brady retires from NFL, insisting this time it’s for good

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Tom Brady, who won a record seven Super Bowls for New England and Tampa, has announced his retirement.

Brady — the most successful quarterback in NFL history, and one of the greatest athletes in team sports — posted the announcement on social media Wednesday morning, a brief video lasting just under one minute.

“Good morning guys. I’ll get to the point right away,” Brady says as the message begins. “I’m retiring. For good.”

He briefly retired after the 2021 season, but wound up coming back for one more year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He retires at age 45, the owner of numerous passing records in an unprecedented 23-year career.

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A year ago when he retired, it was in the form of a long Instagram post. But about six weeks later, he decided to come back for one more run. The Buccaneers — with whom he won a Super Bowl two seasons ago — made the playoffs again this season, losing in their playoff opener. And at the time, it begged the question about whether Brady would play again.

Only a couple weeks later, he has given the answer.

“I know the process was a pretty big deal last time, so when I woke up this morning, I figured I’d just press record and let you guys know first,” Brady says in the video. “I won’t be long-winded. You only get one super emotional retirement essay and I used mine up last year.

“I really thank you guys so much, to every single one of you for supporting me. My family, my friends, teammates, my competitors. I could go on forever. There’s too many. Thank you guys for allowing me to live my absolute dream. I wouldn’t change a thing. Love you all.”

Brady is the NFL’s career leader in yards passing (89,214) and touchdowns (649). He’s the only player to win more than five Super Bowls and has been MVP of the game five times.

Famously underrated coming into the NFL — he was picked 199th in the 2000 draft by the Patriots, behind six other quarterbacks, three kickers and a punter — Brady certainly wasn’t expected to become synonymous with greatness. He played in one game as a rookie, completing one of three passes for six yards.

The next year, it all changed.

Brady took over as the Patriots’ starter, the team beat the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl that capped the 2001 season, and he and New England coach Bill Belichick were well on their way to becoming the most successful coach-QB duo in football history.

More Super Bowl wins came after the 2003 and 2004 seasons. The Patriots returned to football’s mountaintop for a fourth time in Brady’s era a decade later to cap the 2014 season, the start of three more titles in a span of five years.

In 2020, he joined the Buccaneers and won his seventh Super Bowl. He spent his last three years with Tampa Bay, getting them to the playoffs in each of those seasons.

3-time NFL MVP

“I think I’ve been on the record dozens of times saying there’s no quarterback I’d rather have than Tom Brady, and I still feel that way,” Belichick said in 2021 — shortly before Tampa Bay, with Brady, came to New England and beat the Patriots in a game dubbed “The Return.” “I was very lucky to have Tom as the quarterback, to coach him, and he was as good as any coach could ever ask for.”

Brady has won three NFL MVP awards, been a first-team All-Pro three times and selected to the Pro Bowl 15 times.

Brady and supermodel Gisele Bundchen finalized their divorce this past fall, during the Bucs’ season. It ended a 13-year marriage between two superstars who respectively reached the pinnacles of football and fashion.

It was announced last year that when Brady retires from playing, he would join Fox Sports as a television analyst in a 10-year, $375 million US deal.

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