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Canada overcomes two-goal deficit to beat U.S. at world juniors – The Globe and Mail

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Canada’s Dylan Cozens (centre) and teammate Alexis Lafreniere react after the third goal on the United States goaltender Spencer Knight. Canada beat the U.S. 6-4 at the world junior hockey championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic, on Dec. 26, 2019.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Canada and the United States usually save their fireworks for later.

Huge goals, big saves, moments of both triumph and heartbreak have peppered the intense rivalry at the world junior hockey championship through the years.

With some deft hand-eye coordination and a sweet move in tight, Alexis Lafreniere wrote his own chapter Thursday.

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The projected No. 1 selection at the 2020 NHL draft scored seven seconds after the U.S. tied the game late in the third period as part of a stunning four-point performance, lifting Canada to a wild 6-4 victory over its North American neighbour in the tournament opener for both countries.

“He’s unbelievable,” said Canadian captain Barrett Hayton, whose two power-play goals came on Lafreniere setups. “He brings so many different facets out there. It’s underrated. He brings a ton of energy.

“You see his skill set … really couldn’t ask for better passes.”

Connor McMichael, Nolan Foote and Ty Dellandrea, into an empty net, also scored for Canada, which got 28 saves from Nico Daws in his international debut.

“He’s an amazing player,” McMichael added about Lafreniere. “The way he carried the team today and did the things he did was incredible.”

After watching Shane Pinto bury his second of the night — and third goal on the man advantage for the U.S. with 3:18 left in regulation — Lafreniere responded in the blink of an eye to push his team back in front.

One of five returning players from the Canadian roster that finished a disappointing sixth at last year’s under-20 event on home soil, the 18-year-old batted down an aerial pass by American defenceman K’Andre Miller before moving in alone and deking to the forehand on Spencer Knight.

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“I got lucky to knock it down,” said Lafreniere, who grabbed the crest on his jersey in celebration. “I just tried to get it to the net. I was lucky enough to put it in.”

Nick Robertson, with a goal and an assist, and Arthur Kaliyev also scored for the Americans, who got 26 saves from Knight as their streak of 12 straight victories to open the world juniors came to an end.

“It’s one game,” said Pinto, who added an assist for a three-point night. “It’s the beginning of the tournament, so we’ve just got to have a positive mindset.”

The countries tend to face off later at the world juniors when placed in the same group — often on New Year’s Eve — but instead met on Boxing Day in front of a pro-Canadian crowd of 8,963 that included hundreds of travelling fans at Ostravar Arena.

“The atmosphere was unbelievable,” Hayton said. “It felt like we were almost in Canada.”

In Group B’s early game, the host Czech Republic upset Russia 4-3. Next up for Canada is Saturday’s tilt with the Russians, while the U.S. goes right back at it Friday versus Germany.

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Down 2-0 after the first, the Canadians came out flying in the second with three goals in just over 10 minutes.

McMichael got things started for the 17-time gold medallists at 3:31 when he took a pass from Akil Thomas off the rush and beat Knight.

Hayton, who was loaned to Canada for the tournament by the Arizona Coyotes, tied it on a power play at 6:34 when Lafreniere found him for a one-timer just seven seconds after Pinto, a second-round pick of the Ottawa Senators, went off for holding.

Foote, whose father Adam won two Stanley Cups with the Colorado Avalanche and also captured gold at the 2002 Olympics, gave Canada its first lead at 13:03 on another man advantage.

“We just tried to keep it simple and get pucks to the net,” said Lafreniere, who leads the Canadian Hockey League with 70 points in 32 games this season. “That worked out pretty good. Our power play was good. We’ve got to keep working, keep getting better.”

Pinto appeared to score the Americans’ third power-play goal in three chances late in the period, but time expired before the puck entered the net.

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Daws made a couple big stops in the third to keep his team ahead before Hayton found the back of the net on another power play on another slick Lafreniere delivery at 10:47 to make it 4-2.

But Robertson, a Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect, got the U.S. back within one with 7:45 left in regulation. Pinto then tied it with the Americans’ third with the man advantage to set the table for Lafreniere’s heroics.

“That was really fun,” McMichael said. “You can tell we had a lot of nerves in the first period, but we got back to our game in the second and third.”

Canada, which according to the website eliteprospects.com is icing its youngest-ever roster at the world juniors with an average age of 18.6 years, found itself in an early hole.

Pinto opened the scoring on a deflection at 3:10 with Hayton in the box as Canadian fans were in the process of passing a giant flag across the lower bowl.

Canada started to get going midway through the period with an energetic shift capped by hulking six-foot-six defenceman Kevin Bahl using a 10-inch height advantage to lower the boom on Bobby Brink.

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But the Canadians didn’t really threaten Knight’s goal, and the U.S. doubled its lead with 1:28 left in the first on a power play when Kaliyev found the range.

Canada, however, would respond in impressive fashion.

“It’s that kind of a tournament,” Hayton said. “You get those swings. You have to stick with it.”

The U.S. came in having won four straight and six of its last 11 against Canada after picking up just two victories — albeit in the 2004 and 2010 gold-medal games — in the countries’ 10 previous meetings dating back to 2000.

While none of the players on the ice Thursday had ever suited up against one another on this stage, there’s plenty of familiarity at lower age groups, including at the under-18 worlds and the annual Hlinka Gretzky Cup summer showcase.

One of the players with zero familiarity is the undrafted Daws, who came out of nowhere with a banner start to the his junior season to grab the starting job despite having never played for Canada before Thursday.

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“A crazy first international game for me,” Daws said. “It was special.”

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Rafael Nadal announces he will not be playing at the Canadian Open

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Montreal, Canada- 22 Grand Slam champion, Rafael Nadal, has announced that he will not be playing at the Canadian Open which kicks off this weekend.

Nadal cited that the reason to abandon the Canadian Open was a result of an abundance of caution regarding injury concerns.

“From the vacation days and my subsequent return to training, everything has gone well these weeks. Four days ago, I also started training my serve and yesterday, after training, I had a little discomfort that was still there today.

We have decided not to travel to Montreal and continue with the training sessions without forcing ourselves. I sincerely thank the tournament director, Eugene, and his entire team for the understanding and support they have always shown me, and today was no exception.

I hope to play again in Montreal, a tournament that I love and that I have won five times in front of an audience that has always welcomed me with great affection. I have no choice but to be prudent at this point and think about health,” said the Spaniard.

Last month, Nadal was forced to withdraw from his Wimbledon semifinal against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal injury.

Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has also withdrawn from the Canadian Open as his status as unvaccinated against COVID-19 means he cannot enter the country.

Djokovic is also unlikely to play at the US Open after organizers said they would respect the American government rules over travel for unvaccinated players as the United States (US) requires non-citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter.

“Per the Grand Slam Rule Book, all eligible players are automatically entered into the men’s and women’s singles main draw fields based on ranking 42 days prior to the first Monday of the event.

The US Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, but it will respect the US government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-US citizens,” read a statement from the US Open which is set to take place in New York from the 29th of August to the 11th of September, 2022.

Nevertheless, Novak Djokovic will be joining Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to play for Team Europe in the Laver Cup.

The event, which pits six European players against six from Team World over three days, will take place in London between 23 and 25 September 2022.

“It’s the only (event) where you play in a team with guys you are normally competing against. To be joining Rafa, Roger and Andy, three of my biggest all-time rivals, it’s going to be a truly unique moment in the history of our sport,” said Djokovic.

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Canada beats Sweden to claim gold in Hlinka Gretzky Cup – Sportsnet.ca

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RED DEER, Alta. — Canada scored early and often and also stayed out of the penalty box en route to a 4-1 victory over Sweden in the gold-medal final of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Tanner Howe, Ethan Gauthier, Calum Ritchie and Brayden Yager scored for the Canadians, who held period leads of 2-1 and 3-1 at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Saturday. Riley Heidt also chipped in with two assists for the champions.

Hugo Pettersson scored for Sweden, who were outshot 36-26. Each team received eight minutes in penalties.

Canada had beaten Sweden 3-0 on Aug. 3.

“Three weeks ago, we put this roster together and I felt right away this was a tight group,” said head coach Stephane Julien. “It’s not easy when you have this much talent, but everyone accepted their role and I’m so happy for them.”

The win is Canada’s first gold medal since 2018, the last time this tournament was held in Canada.

“I’m so happy for this group,” added Julien. “They haven’t had it easy in their careers the last two years with the pandemic, but now they have this, a gold medal and something they are going to remember for the rest of their career.”

Canada advanced to the final with a 4-1 win over Finland, while Sweden defeated Czechia 6-2. Finland beat Czechia 3-1 in Saturday’s bronze-medal final.

The Hlinka Gretzky Cup will shift to Europe in 2023, returning to Breclav and Piestany, Czechia for the first time since 2021. 

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Hockey Canada’s board chair Michael Brind’Amour steps down

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CALGARY — The chair of Hockey Canada’s board of directors has resigned.

Michael Brind’Amour has stepped down effective immediately, Hockey Canada said Saturday in a statement.

The organization is under intense scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault allegations against members of previous men’s junior teams.

“I have listened carefully and intently to the comments of Canadians about the culture of our sport and our organization, and about our actions and leadership,” Brind’Amour said in the statement. “I understand that the actions we have taken in recent weeks are part of the solution.

“My final term ends in November 2022, and I know that there is no need to wait for a new era. Immediate action is essential to address the important challenges facing our organization and our sport, which our Action Plan works to accomplish.

“I would not be able to see this renewal through.”

Brind’Amour was elected board chair in 2018.

The federal government froze Hockey Canada’s funding after it was revealed the organization had quietly settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by members of the 2018 men’s junior team at Hockey Canada gala in London, Ont., that year.

Since then, Hockey Canada has said members of the 2003 junior team are under investigation for alleged sexual assault in Nova Scotia.

Canada’s sports minister Pascale St-Onge is withholding funds until she’s satisfied Hockey Canada meets her conditions, which were a financial audit of the organization, producing the recommendations of a third-party law firm review and an action plan for change, as well as signing onto the office of the new sports integrity commissioner.

Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL player and victim rights advocate, was among those calling for Hockey Canada leadership to step down.

Brind’Amour is the first to do so.

“We’re starting to see cracks in the fortress, and that’s how the light gets in,” St-Onge said Saturday in Niagara Falls, Ont., where she met with provincial and territorial sports leaders on the eve of the Canada Games.

“Canadians have sent a clear message to Hockey Canada that real leadership change is needed and this is at all levels within the organization.

“I agree also with Michael Brind’Amour’s statement today . . . that there is no need to wait for a new era and immediate action is essential.

“I still believe, as many do, that more diversity is needed to address the culture of silence and toxic masculinity within the organization and the sport.”

Brind’Amour’s resignation also follows Hockey Canada’s appointment Thursday of former Canadian Supreme Court judge Thomas Cromwell to review the governance of the country’s governing body of hockey.

The review is expected to provide interim recommendations before Hockey Canada’s annual general meeting in November.

Brind’Amour said he leaves confident that Cromwell taking on that work “will help us make the changes that are needed. I am confident the recommendations will guide the organization into a future of desired change.”

Also, Canada’s 13 provincial hockey federations requested earlier this week an “extraordinary meeting” with the embattled national body.

Led by Hockey Quebec, the 10 provincial and three territorial associations want more information on the handling of the sexual assault allegations.

Hockey Canada had maintained a fund drawing on minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims.

The organization has stated it will no longer use its “national equity fund” to settle sexual assault claims.

The provincial and territorial hockey associations have threatened to withhold payment without answers.

“It’s not my job to speak on behalf of the Ontario Hockey Federation,” Ontario minister of tourism, culture and sport Neil Lumsden said at Saturday’s news conference.

“But it is as (St-Onge) said, it is our jobs to eliminate unacceptable behaviour of any kind in sport. Our job, and as we’ve spent a lot of time talking about, is to find ways to do that and to do it in the right way.”

Hockey Canada’s board of directors will meet in the coming days to determine next steps following Brind’Amour’s resignation, and appoint an interim chair, the organization said in its statement.

The next board election is scheduled for November’s annual general meeting.

“The board needs to reassess whether the people that are on the directors board are the right people to implement that change,” St-Onge said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 6, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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