During his three seasons with Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL, Barrett Hayton never lost to London winning all nine games he played against Dale Hunter and the Knights. That perfect record was a point of discussion during Team Canada’s summer camp at the World Junior Showcase.
“He was on me a bit about that,” Hayton said with a smile. “He actually brought it up. I don’t have that in me to throw that out there. He just brought it up and it was a funny, little joke.”
Hayton scored four goals and added three assists in two games against London last season.
“I said, ‘Take it easy on us,'” Hunter recalled with a laugh. “It’s a good thing he didn’t come back.”
Instead, Hayton made the Arizona Coyotes. Canada has five returning players at the World Juniors, but only Hayton has NHL experience on his resume.
“It makes a big difference,” said Hunter. “He’s one of those kids who absorbs so he’s watching everything and he’s here and he’s working his tail off and he’s ready to go. On and off the ice he’s a character kid and everybody looks up to him.”
In a team meeting before Wednesday’s practice, Hunter officially named Hayton captain of Team Canada with Flint centre Ty Dellandrea, Grand Rapids centre Joe Veleno and Spokane defenceman Ty Smith serving as alternates.
“Just incredibly honoured,” said Hayton, who wore the ‘C’ with the Greyhounds last season. “This is the tournament you grew up watching and you idolized the guys who played here so to be able to lead this team and lead the group we have is a special feeling. Having that responsibility is something I love and have a lot of pride in.”
The 19-year-old from Peterborough, Ont. possesses the blend of skill and grittiness that Hunter hopes will become the identity of this year’s Team Canada.
“He’s hard to play against,” noted Dellandrea. “He has that skill and poise with the puck, but what is underrated is how hard he works and how aggressive he is too. So, a lot of people think of him as a skill guy, always playing with the puck, but he’s tough and aggressive and I think that’s underrated about him.”
The NHL experience also carries a lot of weight inside the dressing room.
“His presence,” said Dellandrea when asked what stands out, “the way he carries himself, everybody listens to him.”
Hayton scored a goal and recorded three assists in 14 games with the Coyotes before being loaned to Hockey Canada for the World Juniors. Those months spent in the NHL accelerated his development.
“It’s the best league in the world,” Hayton said as his eyes lit up. “It’s an incredible league. The biggest thing for me was just the guys I was surrounded with. There’s so many tremendous leaders, it’s a great group there, there’s a lot of older guy and some young guys and they’ve all been incredible for me in learning how to carry yourself, learning how to take care of yourself, learning how to play on the ice, it’s really everything. It’s a whole package of learning.”
Hunter didn’t name a starting goalie on Wednesday, but whoever gets the call – Guelph’s Nico Daws or Portland’s Joel Hofer – will be playing for Canada at an international tournament for the first time.
Does the lack of experience matter?
“It’s a big setting, very intimidating, I guess you could say, but I’m just here to stop pucks,” Daws said. “I don’t think it really matters too much aside from the bigger ice. No matter what jersey you’re wearing you’re still doing the same thing.”
Daws has done that thing very well this season posting a .939 save percentage in the OHL and carrying that into Canada’s camp where he has a .942 save percentage in his four appearances.
As for intimidating settings, Daws has some experience with that thanks to the Barrie Colts, who visited Guelph on Dec. 6 and seemed determined to get under his skin.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Daws said. “They just came into the game and they were hitting me. I got hammered behind the net when I was playing the puck, they were yelling at me and trying to get in my head. I was told before the game even started that the first shot was going to go in. It didn’t really work out too well for them.”
Daws stopped all 39 shots he faced and was the first star in a 4-0 Storm win.
“It didn’t really faze me,” he said. “You know, obviously, a little bit more motivation so it probably helped me.”
Emotions will likely run hot on Boxing Day as Canada and the United States renew their rivalry and that’s fine by Daws.
“It’s something I’ve watched my whole life,” the Burlington, Ont. native said. “It’s one of those things, you always have it out for the States and it would be cool to be a part of one of those games.”
Unlike last year when Canada throttled Denmark 14-0 in a breezy opener, this year’s first tournament encounter is full of intrigue. The United States has won a medal in four straight World Juniors and, like Canada, has five returning players.
“Playing each other I think grabs both teams’ attention right away,” said Team USA coach Scott Sandelin.
“There’s no putting your foot in the water,” said USA centre Shane Pinto. “You got to go full in and it’s going to be a tough one.”
The battle will happen on the ice and between the ears. Discipline is key and trash talk is expected.
“The boys are really hyped up,” said Veleno. “Going to be a lot of chirping and some physicality going on. It’s going to be a real good game to watch and real fun game to be a part of. We like playing in those types of games, it’s kind of the Canadian way a little bit so we’re excited.”
How does Veleno rate his chirping skills?
“Not very good,” he said with a laugh. “I just like being a part of it, hearing the other guys chirp cracks me up a little bit, but I’m not really that type of person. I don’t really talk too much on the ice.”
So, who will lead Canada’s verbal barrage?
“I got to say (Aidan) Dudas is the best one,” Veleno said. “You can speak to him and he’ll probably tell you the same thing. He’s just a tenacious little guy, who likes to stir the pot.”
When the United States finalized their roster on Monday night, Canadian defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker sent a congratulatory text to Pinto, a fellow Ottawa Senators prospect and his teammate at the University of North Dakota. But there will be no more communication between the pair until after Thursday’s game.
“We aren’t really going to talk right now,” Pinto said.
Bernard-Docker and Pinto did speak about the World Juniors back at school, but they didn’t get too deep into it, because neither guy felt they had a spot secure. Fast forward to Christmas and Bernard-Docker is skating on Canada’s shutdown pair with Kevin Bahl while Pinto is skating with Nick Robertson and Oliver Wahlstrom, a top-six unit on Team USA.
“He’s just so poised with the puck,” Pinto said of Bernard-Docker. “He’s very mature in his game. He’s very good defensively.”
“He’s a two-way guy,” noted Bernard-Docker of Pinto, “big, has a great shot and has great vision as well.”
The mutual admiration will be put on hold as of 1 pm ET on Boxing Day.
“I know his tactics up at the point,” said Pinto, “but I don’t know if he knows mine so hopefully he kind of gets surprised by that. We’ll see.”
“I know everything he’s going to do,” Bernard-Docker said with a chuckle. “He thinks he has stuff up his sleeves, but I’m pretty sure I know his moves.”
Pinto isn’t about the slow up on the forecheck just because he’s playing against a teammate.
“I’m going to hit him,” Pinto vowed. “USA versus Canada, it’s going to be intense so, yeah, I’m going to hit him.”
Lines at Wednesday’s practice:
Power play units at Wednesday’s practice:
Lafrenière – Veleno – Hayton
Byram – Lavoie – Foote
Chiefs defeat Bills to set up meeting with Buccaneers in Super Bowl – Sportsnet.ca
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It took the Kansas City Chiefs five frustrating decades to make their second Super Bowl appearance.
Now, the defending champs are headed there for the second straight year.
Showing no lingering effects from his concussion, Patrick Mahomes sliced up Buffalo’s secondary with ruthless efficiency Sunday night, helping the Chiefs roll to a 38-24 victory over Josh Allen and the Bills in the AFC championship game.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP finished with 325 yards passing and three touchdowns, most of it to favourite targets Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, who complemented their star quarterback with a record-setting night of their own.
The Chiefs will face a familiar foe — Tom Brady — and the NFC champ Buccaneers in two weeks in Tampa, Florida.
“It was just trusting each other. The best thing about this team is we believe in each other,” said Mahomes, who was also dealing with a toe injury. “But the job’s not finished. We’re going to Tampa; we’re trying to run it back.”
Kelce finished with 13 catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns, and Hill added nine catches for 172 yards, becoming the first duo in NFL history with consecutive games of at least 100 yards receiving each in a single post-season.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams added short TD runs for the Chiefs, who will try to become the eighth franchise and first team since the Brady-led New England Patriots in 2003 and ’04 to defend the Lombardi Trophy.
“So glad to get to do it again,” said Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt, whose father Lamar founded the franchise. “Thought a lot about my dad tonight, thought about my family and how excited my father would have been that we got to do it again in Arrowhead Stadium. That’s what he would have liked the most about it.”
Allen, who had his worst game of the season in a Week 6 loss to the Chiefs, again struggled against the blitzing Kansas City defence. He finished with 287 yards passing with two touchdowns and an interception, but a big chunk of his numbers came as the Bills tried to rally from a 38-15 deficit in the final minutes.
Their frustration boiled over with 3:19 to go, when Allen was getting sacked by Tanoh Kpassagnon. Alex Okafor finished off the tackle, and Allen pitched the ball in his face in resentment. Offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Dion Dawkins rushed in and levelled Okafor, resulting in a flood of offsetting personal foul penalties.
“Obviously a lot of emotion,” Allen said. “Any time you don’t finish the season with a win, that’s the type of emotion you’re going to have. The way it ended doesn’t sit right with me with how chippy and ticky-tack it got. I’m disappointed in myself. I let my emotions get to me there. That’s not how you’re supposed to play football.”
It capped a bitter night for the Bills, who had reached their first AFC title game since beating Kansas City at home on Jan. 1, 1994. They had won 11 of 12 since their loss to the Chiefs earlier this season — in fact, they hadn’t trailed in the second half since Week 8 — and were riding a wave of confidence that this might finally be their championship year.
Instead, after finally conquering the Patriots in the AFC East, the Bills have a new roadblock to the Super Bowl.
“It stings to get this far,” said Bills coach Sean McDermott, who once worked under Chiefs counterpart Andy Reid in Philadelphia. “Sometimes the further you go, the harder it is to lose. It’s a learning experience for us as an organization.”
The Chiefs actually spotted the Bills a 9-0 lead, thanks in large part to Mecole Hardman’s muffed punt inside their 5 that gifted Buffalo a touchdown. But the reigning champs were hardly rattled; the Chiefs, after all, rallied from double-digits in each of their post-season wins last season, including their Super Bowl triumph over San Francisco.
Mahomes and Kelce soon found their groove. And the rest of the Chiefs offence followed suit.
They surgically took apart Buffalo’s defence on a 14-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a short TD throw to Hardman — no hard feelings over that fumble. Then, the Chiefs cruised 82 yards in just five plays, the big one Hardman’s 50-yard end-around that set up Williams’ touchdown tumble. Finally, they made it three TDs in three possessions when Edwards-Helaire — in his first game back from an ankle injury — capped a 77-yard drive with a short plunge.
The only answer from Buffalo was Tyler Bass’s chip-shot field goal that made it 21-12 at the break.
You don’t beat Kansas City by kicking field goals from the 3-yard line, though. Or from the 9, where the Bills settled for another one to close within 24-15 late in the third quarter.
That became painfully clear on the ensuing drive. Mahomes hit Hill in stride and the All-Pro wide receiver promptly made the Bills secondary look downright foolish. Weaving in and out of woebegone defenders, Hill was finally caught inside the 5-yard line after a 71-yard gain, ultimately setting up Kelce’s short TD catch a few plays later.
“You watch him on film, you see what he’s doing. It’s like he’s running at a different speed compared to everybody else,” Bills safety Micah Hyde said. “And tonight, we saw first-hand for the second time. He’s fast.”
Any hopes the Bills had of a comeback were dashed when Rashad Fenton picked off a tipped pass deep in Kansas City territory. The Chiefs breezily marched the other direction, and Mahomes and Kelce kicked off the celebration of another trip to the Super Bowl when they connected for their second score of the game.
“I’m proud of these guys,” said Reid, who moved into a tie with Joe Gibbs for fourth on the career list with his 17th playoff win. “They did a phenomenal job, and hats off to the Buffalo Bills and the great job they did all year, and most of all, listen, we have the Lamar Hunt Trophy back in Kansas City.
“Now we have to get the big one.”
Chiefs: RG Andrew Wylie hurt his knee early in the second half and LT Eric Fisher limped off in the fourth quarter with an injury to his Achilles’ tendon. … CB L’Jarius Sneed and SS Armani Watts were evaluated for concussions.
The Chiefs and Buccaneers have only played 13 times, and Kansas City had lost five straight before a 27-24 win in Tampa on Nov. 29 — a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. Brady is 5-5 in his career against the Chiefs, including an overtime victory with the Patriots in the AFC title game at Arrowhead Stadium two years ago.
Maple Leafs attempting to out-sprint competition with condensed schedule – Sportsnet.ca
Heavy hearts inside the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. Heavy legs in all four corners of the dressing room.
It was a sombre Sunday with news of George Armstrong’s death and a quirky 2 p.m. game to be played under conditions that screamed “schedule loss.” The Leafs landed in Calgary some 20 hours before puck drop and hadn’t had a chance to come up for air since training camp began three weeks ago. The Flames hadn’t played in six days.
“It was our seventh game in 12 days and travelling out here and then having to play a 2 o’clock game, it’s a tough ask. And then you’re playing against a rested team,” said Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe. “This one we felt would not be pretty.”
The only beauty to be found in a 3-2 victory was the two points it added to their total in the North Division standings and the strong play of backup goalie Jack Campbell, who continues to build a case for giving Frederik Andersen more nights of rest.
But what was even more telling than the game itself was the way Keefe, in particular, approached the circumstances of the day.
He broke from tradition in the typical pre-game meeting to honour Armstrong rather than focusing on finer points of the Flames attack or details of defensive emphasis. Keefe is 40 and never came close to seeing the man known as “Chief” play. Many of his players are a generation younger than that and may not have even realized that Armstrong spent 75 years with the organization, captaining the Leafs during their last Stanley Cup win in 1967 but also serving as a coach, assistant general manager, scout and community ambassador.
The message that came with a video about Armstrong’s life is telling about the mindset of the club in the here and now.
“What we talked about is just how efforts like [those from Armstrong] back in the 60’s in particular — the last time the Leafs won the Cup — that’s the reason why Leaf Nation is as strong as it is,” said Keefe. “That’s why generations of families grow up as Leaf fans, because of those efforts, and we have a role to play to continue to build upon that.”
There was nothing scripted about the way Auston Matthews paid tribute to Armstrong in his post-game availability with reporters. He actually interrupted a member of the team’s public relations staff running the Zoom call to make sure he could get in a few words before the questions started.
“First off, I just want to extend my condolences to the Armstrong family,” said Matthews. “Obviously George was an incredible ambassador for the city of Toronto and the Maple Leafs. He paved the way for guys like us that are obviously trying to accomplish something big here.”
This is not a group hiding from its aspirations.
When it was revealed recently that their season is being documented by behind-the-scenes cameras for an upcoming series on Amazon Prime, a couple players mentioned that they welcomed it because of where they expect to go.
Keefe is pushing hard, too.
The Leafs expect to have a great regular season and are putting the pedal down during this 5-2-0 start. Under different circumstances, Matthews may have been given another precautionary game off after sitting out Friday’s win over Edmonton because of a hand injury and not having skated with any purpose since Wednesday.
Instead he logged 21:42 against the Flames despite both he and the coach acknowledging that he was missing some explosiveness in his stride.
“I think that first period I just tried to get my legs going and then I kind of felt a little bit better towards the second half of the game,” said Matthews.
A trend is developing here. No NHL forward is averaging more minutes than Mitch Marner (24:03) so far and beyond that only Anze Kopitar (23:52) and Mark Scheifele (23:32) are getting more playing time than Matthews (23:07).
With a Cup on their minds and a compacted 56-game schedule inside their agendas, the Leafs are attempting to sprint ahead of the competition.
They needed some good bounces to beat Calgary on Sunday, seeing all three pucks that got behind Jacob Markstrom go in off a piece of equipment other than a stick. Campbell took care of the rest with 31 saves.
“Soup was an absolute rockstar for us,” said Matthews.
The Leafs have now beaten every team in the division except Vancouver and won’t see the struggling Canucks for the first time until Feb. 4. Given the binary nature of results in a season featuring only intra-division play, that’s a fantastic start.
There are process-related objectives they’ll need to improve upon, including finding ways to more consistently generate quality chances from their time in the offensive zone and ideally creating a mix on the fourth line that can be trusted to play.
But you won’t find them chopping apart their victories right now, particularly with the challenging pace of the schedule.
Results are what matter when your goal is to hang another banner beside the one Armstrong and Co. put up 54 years ago. The standard needs to be set high. That’s why Keefe made sure not to allow Armstrong’s death to pass without special mention on Sunday afternoon.
“When you’re in this every single day, you’re in the moment, you’re taking care of what you can control,” he said. “I do think it’s important to stop and pause every now and again just to look at the bigger picture and recognize that what we’re doing here every day is for a greater purpose beyond ourselves.
“And we have a role to play within how we prepare and how we play and people like George showed the way.”
Justin Poirier and Conor McGregor show mutual admiration during backstage meeting following UFC 257
Despite his first knockout loss in the UFC, Conor McGregor was all class in defeat.
McGregor returned to action for the first time in a year when he faced Dustin Poirier in a rematch in the main event of Saturday’s UFC 257 event in Abu Dhabi. After a competitive first round, Poirier started to take over in the second, landing a series of hard low leg kicks to McGregor that put him in a compromised position.
“The Diamond” would take advantage of his brilliant strategy, dropping and finishing McGregor at just over the halfway point of the round to complete the biggest victory of his career.
While it was all class in the octagon and at the post-fight press conference, Poirier and McGregor shared a moment backstage following their second battle.
Poirier evened up the series at a win apiece on Saturday. McGregor knocked out Poirier in the opening round of their first meeting at UFC 178 in September 2014.
A trilogy fight is of interest to both competitors, but it seems that Poirier will move ahead to compete for the lightweight title, which is currently held by the retired Khabib Nurmagomedov. UFC President Dana White hasn’t lost hope that “The Eagle” will return for at least one more fight. It appears as if those chances are fading away by the hour, though an official decision on the title has yet to be announced.
Source:- MMA Fighting
Chiefs defeat Bills to set up meeting with Buccaneers in Super Bowl – Sportsnet.ca
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