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Canada defeats Finland to advance to final at world juniors

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Canada was looking for payback.

The national team got it, and then some, in a dominant wire-to-wire performance Saturday at the world junior hockey championship.

The Canadians scored three times before their semifinal with Finland was four minutes old in cruising to a 5-0 victory that sets up a mouth-watering gold-medal showdown with Russia on Sunday.

Alexis Lafreniere scored twice, while Connor McMichael, with a goal and an assist, Jamie Drysdale and Ty Dellandrea provided the rest of the offence.

Joel Hofer picked up his fourth straight win and first international shutout. Barrett Hayton, who was hurt in the third period, and Aidan Dudas chipped in with two assists for Canada, which lost in last year’s quarterfinals to the Finns on home soil.

Justus Annunen, who entered with a tournament-best .936 save percentage after blanking the United States 1-0 in the quarters, took the loss for shell-shocked Finland.

Russia, which embarrassed Canada 6-0 in the preliminary round, beat Sweden 5-4 in overtime to take the other semifinal. Finland will meet its Scandinavian rival Sunday for bronze.

Canada beat Russia in the 2015 gold-medal game in Toronto.

The Finns crushed Canadian dreams at the 2019 world juniors on the way to winning their third gold in six years, tying their quarterfinal with under a minute to go on a ridiculous carom to silence the crowd in Vancouver.

Canada had a couple of glorious chances to secure the victory in overtime, but captain Max Comtois was stopped on a penalty shot before Noah Dobson’s stick broke as he stared at a yawning, empty cage.

Finland immediately broke the other way, and shutdown defenceman Toni Utunen took a drop pass and wired a shot upstairs on Michael DiPietro to shatter Canadian dreams.

There would be no repeat on this night at a jam-packed, boisterous, beer-chugging Ostravar Arena.

Canada, which hasn’t won gold when the event’s been played in Europe since the Czech Republic last hosted in 2008, got off to a flying start just 1:48 in when McMichael — a late injury addition to the team’s summer camp — wired his fourth goal of the under-20 tournament past Annunen’s glove.

The projected No. 1 pick at the 2020 NHL draft, Lafreniere made it 2-0 with his third at 3:05 when he took a nice feed from Nolan Foote, who returned to action after getting ejected 53 seconds into Thursday’s 6-1 quarterfinal victory over Slovakia, and roofed a backhand shortside with a flick of the wrists.

The vocal, well-lubricated Canadian fans who made the long trek to the eastern Czech Republic were on dream street, and the deluge continued just 50 seconds later when Drysdale, a 17-year-old draft-eligible defenceman pushed up the lineup with Bowen Byram out sick, moved into the slot before ripping his first to make it three goals in just over two minutes.

Hofer, who had never played internationally at any level before grabbing the reins from Nico Daws in the Russia loss, made a nice save later in the period to keep things at 3-0.

Black-clad Canada got its fourth with 5:11 left in the period when Dudas poked the puck away from Annunen and Dellandrea pounced for his third.

Saturday’s game included five players that suited up for Canada in last years quarters — Lafreniere, Hayton, Joe Veleno, Jared McIsaac and Ty Smith — while Finland had three returnees in Utunen, Ville Heinola and Anttoni Honka.

The calm, cool Hofer snagged Finnish captain Lassi Thomson’s shot on a 2-on-1 in the second period.

Moments after Veleno bit the post, Lafreniere scored his fourth on a bullet shot to make it 5-0 with 2:07 left in the period for the 17-time gold medallists.

The only downside on an otherwise perfect night for Canada came early in the third period when Hayton, who is tied for the tournament lead with 11 points, appeared to injure his left arm or shoulder after crashing into the end boards as he battled with Thomson.

Having punched above its weight on the international scene in recent years after winning just two of the first 37 world juniors, Finland wound up being no match for its opponent’s speed, structure and desire.

Canadian fans started chanting “We Want Russia!” midway through the third.

They’re going to get their wish.

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Schwarber hits grand slam, Red Sox hammer Astros to take ALCS lead – Sportsnet.ca

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BOSTON — Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez walked off the mound with a six-run lead and a message for Carlos Correa and the rest of the Houston Astros:

Now it’s Boston’s time.

Tapping his wrist to mimic Correa’s Game 1 celebration, Rodriguez rode four more Boston homers — including Kyle Schwarber’s record-setting grand slam — to a 12-3 victory Monday night as the Red Sox took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series.

The taunt drew a rebuke from Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who reminded his pitcher that they still need two more wins to advance to the World Series for the fifth time since 2004. Games 4 and 5 are at Fenway Park on Tuesday night and Wednesday.

“It’s not that I’m mad at him,” said Cora, who was celebrating his 46th birthday. “We don’t act that way. We just show up, we play, and we move on.”

One game after J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers each hit grand slams, Schwarber hit a second-inning 3-0 pitch 430 feet into the right field grandstand.

Boston is the first team ever with three slams in a postseason series.

“Electrifying. It’s unbelievable,” outfielder Alex Verdugo said. “You can have a big swing and get four runs in on just that one play — it’s huge.

“It’s one of the best plays in baseball, man. You give up a grand slam, it takes a lot out of you,” he added. “And just to kind of keep stepping on their neck and adding the pressure, it’s huge.”

Martinez and Devers each homered again, Christian Arroyo also hit one, and Kike Hernandez had two more hits for Boston, which opened 9-0 leads and coasted to victory in back-to-back games. Right fielder Hunter Renfroe ended it with a diving catch of Correa’s sinking line drive.

“They count as one (loss),” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We come back and win tomorrow and the series is even. You don’t like it tonight, but you come back in the morning.”

Rodriguez gave up five hits, including Kyle Tucker’s three-run homer, and struck out seven. He retired Correa to end the sixth and let the Astros shortstop know that his gesture in Game 1 was not appreciated.

Cora chastised Rodriguez before giving him a hug when he reached the dugout.

“He just told me `Don’t do that,’” said Rodriguez, who said he would apologize to Correa if he sees him. “It was something that was part of the moment. But (Cora) just told me, ‘We don’t do that here. Stay humble. Just go out there and play hard every time.”’

“Besides that,” Cora said, “he was outstanding.”

Correa said he “loved every single bit of it.”

“It’s just the way baseball should trend, moving forward,” he added. “You need to let the players have fun.”

Boston matched a franchise record with its seventh straight postseason win at home. The Red Sox had 11 hits in all, becoming the first team in major league history to reach double digits six straight times in a single postseason.

Hernandez, who has 18 hits during the playoffs and is batting .500 — both leading the majors — left the game after six innings.

Asked why, Cora said with a smile: “He has been running the bases a lot in the last few days, or weeks, or whatever.”

The Red Sox capitalized on two Astros errors and the struggles of Houston starter Jose Urquidy, who gave up six runs, five earned, on five hits and two walks, striking out one in 1 2/3 innings.

Rodriguez, who missed all of last season with COVID-related heart problems, retired the first six batters before running into the trouble in the third, when Tucker made it 9-3.

His outing enabled Cora to keep Nick Pivetta fresh for a Game 4 start.

ERRORS

To the delight of the Fenway fans, who targeted him with profane chants for his role in the Astros 2017 cheating scandal, Jose Altuve struggled at the plate and in the field.

A Gold Glove and AL MVP-winner, the three-time batting champion went 0 for 4 and let Arroyo’s chopper bounce off his chest for an error with the bases loaded in the second inning. One batter later, Schwarber hit Boston’s third grand slam in 11 innings.

The Red Sox, who only had three grand slams during the regular season, matched the 1998 Atlanta Braves as the only clubs to hit three in a single postseason. Boston has 20 homers this postseason, matching the 2004 Astros for the most through the first eight games of the playoffs, per MLB.com.

Altuve also waved at a throw from Martin Maldonado on Hunter Renfroe’s stolen base in the third; the error went to the catcher. The throw to third was also wild, but the Astros were saved another error when the ball missed the dugout and bounced off the padding back toward the field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: Baker said outfielder Jake Meyers, who injured his left shoulder crashing into the wall in Game 4 of the Division Series, is doing better and could start as soon as Tuesday.

UP NEXT

The teams play Game 4 on Tuesday night. The Red Sox are expected to rely on Pivetta, who was 9-8 with a 4.53 ERA in the regular season. Houston will call on RHP Zack Greinke, with RHP Cristian Javier ready to follow the veteran. Greinke has been limited over the past two months due to a neck issue and a positive COVID-19 test.

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Canada's women's team drops third straight game with 8-0 loss to Drumheller Dragons – The Globe and Mail

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The Drumheller Dragons held Canada’s women’s hockey team off the scoresheet Monday, blanking the national squad 8-0 in a tune-up game.

Adam Raesler scored a hat trick for the Alberta Junior Hockey League side, while Luke Fennig added a pair of goals. Ty Daneault, Grayson Dietrich and Ty Whitford all scored singles.

Canada’s Kristen Campbell stopped 19-of-22 shots in two periods of work and Emerance Maschmeyer made six saves in relief.

Eric Ward saved all five shots he faced in 29 minutes of play for the Dragons and Garrett Fuller finished out the game, making six stops.

Neither side capitalized with the man advantage, with Team Canada going 0 for 3 on the power play and Drumheller going 0 for 2.

Canada has now lost three games in a row to junior-A hockey teams as it prepares for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

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Olympics-Small minority of U.S. Olympians oppose COVID-19 vaccine mandate, say officials

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The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said on Monday its decision to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for those competing at next year’s Beijing Olympics has been met with some resistance.

In a bid to create a safe environment and restore some level of consistency in planning, the USOPC announced last month that Team USA athletes hoping to compete in the Beijing Olympics will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The response is as you would expect: Within our general population, there are some people who are extremely happy that we introduced this policy,” Jonathan Finnoff, the USOPC’s chief medical officer, said during the virtual Team USA media summit.

“And there are others that are upset and would like to not have any mandate regarding vaccinations.”

According to Finnoff, it is only a “very small minority” of Team USA athletes who oppose the mandate and the USOPC is having one-on-one conversations with each one to discuss their feelings and explain why the decision was made.

Last month’s announcement by the USOPC came days before the International Olympic Committee said the Beijing Olympics would have tight COVID-19 measures in place to ensure the safety of all participants during the Feb. 4-20 event.

Finnoff said the “more stringent” Beijing measures, which he added unlike the USOPC’s rules will not grant religious exemption, would supersede the  U.S. policy.

Any athlete who is granted a medical exemption will have to go through a 21-day quarantine in Beijing before they can begin training ahead of their event.

“These are challenging times but the vaccine policy that we’ve put in place and that China has put in place is going to make the Games as safe as possible,” said Finnoff.

USOPC Chief Executive Sarah Hirshland said the COVID-19 mandate is all about the safety and health of the team.

“The presence of this virus makes the challenge greater for all of us in a Games environment but we are committed to doing everything we can to mitigate illness and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” said Hirshland.

 

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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