OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Team Canada’s road to gold at the World Junior Championship took a dark turn on Saturday night.
Canada’s brightest young star, Alexis Lafreniere, left the game in the second period with a left knee injury, adding injury to insult in a 6-0 shellacking at the hands of Team Russia.
The lopsided defeat, coupled with the feared significant injury to June’s projected No. 1 overall NHL pick, made this one among the worst losses in Team Canada’s 43-year history at the World Junior Championship. It was the first time Canada lost by six or more goals at the World Juniors and it was the first time Canada was shutout since tying Slovakia 0-0 on Dec. 27, 1998.
It may not have had the same game significance as Canada’s blown third period lead to Russia in the 2011 gold medal game in Buffalo, or the 6-3 loss to Kazahkstan in 1998 when Canada was gunning for a sixth straight gold medal – but it was at least in the conversation.
On this night, Team Canada’s sixth loss to Russia in the last nine World Junior games, Canada was simply run over by a Big Red Machine desperate to avoid a 0-2 start to the tournament. Canada’s loss blew the doors wide open in Group B, putting all five teams back on level footing with equal 1-1 records.
The onslaught was fast and furious with six different Russians filling the net over the first 36 minutes. Russia’s first strike came less than two minutes into the contest, a shot that bounced up into air off Nico Daws, over him and into the net – setting the tone for an ugly evening.
Daws barely lasted two minutes into the second period before coach Dale Hunter replaced him with Joel Hofer.
Daws allowed four goals on 18 shots – giving him just an .840 save percentage over his first five periods and change of the tournament – leaving a significant question for Hunter to answer in net with Canada’s Game 3 starter on Monday against Germany (8:30 a.m. ET on TSN 1/4/5).
Nonetheless, Lafreniere’s injury was the talk of the tournament post-game in Ostrava, casting a pall on a seemingly perpetually grey Czech Republic city.
Lafreniere left Saturday’s contest early in the second period after a collision with goaltender Amir Miftakhov on a take to the net.
Lafreniere, 18, writhed on the ice in considerable pain while clutching his left knee. He needed to be helped to the dressing room by teammates and did not appear to put any weight on his left leg on the way off.
An update on Lafreniere’s status was not immediately available from Team Canada. A source confirmed to TSN that Lafreniere indeed injured his left knee and that he was still undergoing testing to determine the severity.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say Hockey Canada was holding its collective breath waiting for the news.
Lafreniere was the star of Team Canada’s thrilling 6-4 win over Team USA to start the tournament, collecting one goal and three assists, including a game-saving response seven seconds after Canada blew a two-goal lead in the third period.
Lafreniere netted an impressive 70 points (and 23 goals) in just 32 games for the Rimouski Oceanic in the QMJHL before leaving to join Team Canada in early December. He even spent time with fellow Oceanic star and his boyhood idol Sidney Crosby at the start of the season, as his journey to June’s Draft in Montreal began.
Now, depending on the severity of Lafreniere’s injury, not only may Team Canada’s hopes to break an 11-year medal drought in Europe take a significant hit – but so could his stranglehold as the consensus No. 1 pick.
Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli
Olympics-Canadian snowboarder Parrot eyes Beijing gold after cancer battle
Canadian snowboarder Max Parrot said on Friday that the mental toughness he gained during his battle with cancer carried over to the slopes where the slopestyle Pyeongchang silver medallist now hopes to go one better and win gold at the Beijing Olympics.
Parrot’s career was put on hold when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in December 2018. Two months after being declared cancer free in mid-2019, Parrot won an X Games big air gold medal in his return to competition.
Showing no signs of rust, Parrot also won a World Cup gold later that year and started off 2020 with another big air gold at the X Games in Aspen.
“Every year I become better and better physically and mentally, and especially going through such a big challenge as cancer you get really more mentally tough,” Parrot told a virtual news conference.
“If you look back at my season right after my cancer … It was pretty much my best year ever.”
Parrot finished fifth in his Olympic debut at the 2014 Sochi Games before a runner-up showing at Pyeongchang.
The 27-year-old Canadian pre-qualified for the slopestyle/big air team headed to Beijing based on his results from the 2020-21 winter season and is not shy about his intentions.
“Of course my goal is to go for the gold, that’s for sure,” said Parrot, whose cancer battle is chronicled in a documentary called “MAX – Life as a Gold Medal” that was released this week on his website.
“But I am really happy as well that if I don’t get the gold I won’t have any regrets because I did everything in my power over the past couple months and that was something important for me as well, just to not have any regrets.”
While there were some days during Parrot’s cancer battle where he wondered if he would ever return to the sport he loves, he said he never let those thoughts take over.
“When I had cancer it was ‘OK, I’m going to do treatments, I am going to do them as best as possible’ and even if I didn’t know if the treatments would work or not, in my mind cancer had no chance against me,” said Parrot.
“I had a lot of determination and motivation and the whole time I just wanted to get back to my passion as soon as possible. But never getting back to it was not really an option in my head.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
Canada's Denis Shapovalov is on to the fourth round of the Australian Open – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, January 21, 2022 7:28AM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 21, 2022 6:40PM EST
MELBOURNE, Australia — Canada’s Denis Shapovalov has a spot in the fourth round of the Australian Open for the first time in his career.
He beat Reilly Opelka 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Friday to set up a showdown with third-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany.
The Canadian has been pushed hard at Melbourne Park, averaging three hours 37 minutes of court time per win so far.
“I’ve gotten very familiar with the ice baths the last week,” Shapovalov said with a smile in an on-court interview. “We’ve become very good friends.”
At six foot 11 and 225 pounds, Opelka is an imposing force on the court. He had a 17-10 edge in aces on the 14th-seeded Shapovalov but made 46 unforced errors.
“Early on I actually found a rhythm on his serve,” Shapovalov said. “I was able to chip quite a lot back, so I was happy with that. I think I did a really good of just taking the chances today.
“Obviously it’s really tough to get the rhythm against a guy like that so I’m super happy.”
It was the first career meeting between Shapovalov and the 23rd-seeded American. Zverev, meanwhile, has a 4-2 edge in head-to-head matchups against the Canadian.
“Hopefully I can win,” Zverev said. “It’s going to be a great match.”
Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., previously reached the third round at Melbourne Park in 2019 and 2021. The 22-year-old’s best Grand Slam performance was a semifinal showing last year at Wimbledon.
Zverev defeated Maldova’s Radu Albot 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in third-round play.
“Radu is in great form right now … 1/8I’m 3/8 happy to be through in three sets,” Zverev said.
Ninth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal was scheduled to play Britain’s Daniel Evans in third-round play Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2022.
Defense trade targets for the Maple Leafs, Sheldon Keefe's "soft" comment, and how many games should Petr Mrazek start the rest of the way? – MLHS Podcast Episode 38 – Maple Leafs Hot Stove
Founded in 2008, Maple Leafs Hotstove (MLHS) has grown to be the most visited independent team-focused hockey website online (Quantcast).
Independently owned and operated, MLHS provides thorough and wide-ranging content, varying from news, opinion and analysis, to pre-game and long-form game reviews, and a weekly feature piece entitled “Leafs Notebook.”
MLHS has been cited by: ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CBC News, USA Today, Fox Sports, Yahoo! Sports, NBC Sports, TSN, Sportsnet, Grantland, CTV News, CBSSports, The Globe & Mail, The National Post, The Toronto Star, The Toronto Sun, Global News, Huffington Post, and many more.
Olympics-Canadian snowboarder Parrot eyes Beijing gold after cancer battle
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