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


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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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

Andy Murray‘s grasscourt return was cut short in brutal fashion at Queen’s Club as Italian top seed Matteo Berrettini dished out a 6-3 6-3 defeat to the former world number one on Thursday.

The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.

Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.

Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.

Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.

He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.

Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.

“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.

“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

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Be Like the King of the North Division and Develop Skills

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North Division

It’s been a year unlike no other for Canadian hockey teams, with COVID-19 travel restrictions forcing the creation of a new NHL division made up entirely of Canadian teams. The previous generation of NHL hockey was known as the “Dead Puck Era” because referees tolerated slowing down the game with clutching and grabbing.

The leading scorers today score in jaw-dropping fashion and routinely pull off stickhandling dangles that were unimaginable until only recently. The Canadian team that will win the North Division will be the one with the most skill.

Here are the training aids that will help you develop your skills all year long.

Passers

Innovators like HockeyShot Canada make “passers” so that players can develop pinpoint accuracy and the soft hands necessary to cradle and control a pass when it lands on your stick. The high-quality rubber bands return the puck with the same force which passed it, so you can give yourself one-timers or work on accuracy.

Whether you’re on a two-on-one, sending a breakout pass from the defensive zone, or holding down the blue line on the power play, every positional player needs to pass accurately.

Shooting

A player is lucky to get a few shots on net each game, and they can’t let them go to waste. Until recently, players needed to rent ice in the off-season to practice their shots in realistic game-like conditions.

Now, players can use shooting pads at their home that let pucks glide as they do on real ice. Shooting is perhaps the one skill that requires the most repetition because one inch can be the difference between going bar-down and clanking one wide off the post.

Practice your quick release and accuracy and develop an arsenal of shots, including wrist shots, slapshots, one-timers, and more. The more tools in your tool kit, the deadlier a sniper you’ll be.

Stick Handling

Having the puck on your stick is a responsibility, and you don’t want to cough it up to the other team and waste a scoring chance or lose possession. The ability to stickhandle helps you bide time until a teammate is open, so you can pass them the puck and continue attacking.

If you’re on a breakaway, you may want to deke the goalie rather than shoot if your hands are silky enough. Develop stickhandling skills, and you’ll keep goalies and opponents guessing – being unpredictable helps make a sniper’s job easier.

Of course, you also need to handle the puck in your own zone without causing a turnover. Stickhandling is a crucial skill in all areas of the ice.

When the coach sends you over the board, you need to be prepared for whatever comes your way. Maybe you’ll get the puck in the slot or somewhere else, but when it’s playoffs, you always need to be ready. The Kings of the North Division have all of the above skills and more, and you can too if you practice all year.

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Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards

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Australia swim trials calendar shift to reap Tokyo rewards

Australia broke with tradition to hold its swimming trials just six weeks before the start of the 2020 Olympics and former world champion Giaan Rooney said the move could reap rich rewards in Tokyo after disappointments at London and Rio.

Australia has typically held its trials up to six months before an Olympics but that gap has been drastically cut this year with swimmers vying for Tokyo spots this week in Adelaide.

Rooney, who won individual world titles at Fukuoka and Montreal and a relay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said Australia is gearing up for a much improved Games after its swimmers flopped at Rio and London.

“I think we needed to make it work,” she told Reuters. “The shift started about a year ago to bring the trials into line with the rest of the world and qualify five or six weeks before.

“In sport and swimming, six months is a long time,” Rooney added. “From a coaching perspective, it’s much better to know you have chosen the team in form.”

After winning five gold medals at Sydney 2000 and seven in Athens, the Australian team was rocked by accusations of disruptive behaviour by some of its top sprinters at the 2012 Olympics.

Australia won just one gold medal in the London pool and three in Rio five years ago.

Australia knew something had to be done if it was to close the gap on the powerful Americans and moving the trials is part of the strategy.

“I think it’s to make your swimmers more resilient to change,” Rooney said.

“In the USA they get to race every week regardless of illness or breakups and under all circumstances. Nothing rattles them.

“Australia doesn’t have that racing continuity. This is about making sure you are prepared for anything. I think our swimmers are more resilient than they have been in the past decade, COVID is part of this.”

Rooney said there might even be an “upside” for Australia with the Olympics postponed by a year due to the global health crisis, with the emergence of swimmers like teenager Kaylee McKeown, who broke the women’s 100m backstroke world record on Sunday.

“We are now talking about athletes who are not only going to make the Olympics but are medal chances,” Rooney said.

“We wouldn’t have been talking about her this time last year. She might not have been ready for a position on the team. She is now a legitimate gold medal chance in Tokyo once she gets there.”

For all her confidence about Australia’s performance in Tokyo, Rooney was wary of making predictions about a gold rush for her compatriots.

“I think this will be a more successful Olympics for us than Rio in the pool but individual goal medals will still be difficult to come by,” said the 38-year-old.

“The biggest challenge is to make the jump from minor medals to gold.”

 

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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