Team Canada practiced inside the Edmonton bubble on Friday.
Team Canada centre Alex Newhook missed practice and is “probably 50-50” to play in Saturday’s quarterfinal against the Czech Republic, per head coach Andre Tourigny.
“If it was [Friday] he would not play, but we’ll see [Saturday],” Tourigny said.
The Boston College product left Thursday’s game against Finland late in the first period after a shoulder-to-shoulder check by Eemil Viro.
Connor Zary, who started the game as the 13th forward, moved up to take Newhook’s spot alongside Cole Perfetti and Peyton Krebs and the Calgary Flames first rounder remained on that line at Friday’s practice.
“Z has been really good,” Tourigny said. “He had been put in a tough situation. When you’re not playing a regular shift it’s tough to stay in the game and every time I put him out there he did a really good job [Thursday] and the game before so he earned it.”
It’s been an emotional couple of days for Zary who signed an entry-level contract with the Flames only hours before puck drop on Thursday. That piece of unfinished business had been on his mind during the World Juniors.
“Honestly, that gives you a little bit of a second wind,” the Kamloops Blazers centre said, “a little bit of adrenaline knowing that’s over with and that can be out of your head.”
Zary, who picked up an assist in the 4-1 win over Finland, credits Blazers co-owner Shane Doan for helping him be ready for this promotion.
“I was on the phone with Shane Doan the other night and he said he’s been through this a lot of times and on different occasions with Team Canada. He said, ‘No matter what you do, you got to keep telling yourself you’re going to be ready. You got to write things down and remember those things and those little things are the things you’re going to do when the opportunity arises. That is something I took to heart … and when that chance did happen I was ready for it.”
Zary’s teammate and close friend Daylan Kuefler lived with Doan for a year, which is how he got to know the retired NHLer, who represented Canada at the 2004 World Cup, 2006 Olympics and several World Championships.
One day after watching his team throttle the Finns, Tourigny identified at least one area that can be improved.
“The big thing is the box out in our zone,” the coach observed. “We were not hard in our box outs so in the third period they had a few deflections and rebound situations. They [did] not get the right bounce, but it could’ve been dangerous.”
Tourigny warned against complacency as Canada prepares to play the Czech Republic, who finished fourth in Group B and got blown out by the Swedes (7-1) and Americans (7-0).
“People don’t give enough credit to the Czechs,” Tourigny insisted. “They’re a really good five-on-five team so we need to make sure we are humble and go into that game knowing it will be a tough match.”
The coach pointed out that most of the Czech line-up has a positive plus-minus rating despite some of the lopsided scores. And the Czechs already pulled off one big upset in this tournament by shutting out Russia 2-0.
“The Czechs did us a favour by beating the Russians,” Tourigny said. “They showed us how good they can be. There’s no way we’ll take them lightly.”
Although Canada has looked really good so far in outscoring opponents 33-4 in the preliminary round, the pressure of an elimination situation is going to be a new sensation for this group.
“You play Finland and you want to win, but it’s not do or die,” Tourigny said. “Now, we need to get down to business and make sure we’re focused on the task, urgent with the task and patient with the outcome and not focusing on stuff we cannot control.”
If Canada gets its forecheck game going against the Czechs on Saturday then they should be in great shape. All four of Canada’s lines were coming in waves at the Finns.
“They’re getting in really quick,” observed defenceman Thomas Harley. “They’re not giving them a chance to set up or turn around and even look. They are forcing rims and finishing their hits, which makes it a whole lot easier in the third period because those D don’t want to go back and get pucks any more.”
“We came out and played our best game so far,” said Canada’s leading scorer Dylan Cozens. “Reloading on pucks is our biggest thing. They’d move it up the wall and we’d have our high guy reload and create turnovers and then we’d go back at them and get good changes in the offensive zone and get fresh legs out and just keep dominating them by cycling the puck.”
Tourigny described Team Canada’s forecheck as “beautiful” and praised his players for keeping their shifts short so they could maintain the pressure most of the night.
“When you have that depth you have to exploit that depth,” Tourigny said. “You have to play with a pace where you push the game.”
The coach noted that when you’re playing at that level it can only be sustained for 30-40 seconds and not 40-50 seconds.
“The energy was phenomenal,” Tourigny noted.
Jan Mysak lets out a laugh when asked what he thinks about Team Canada.
“They’re pretty good,” the Czech captain said. “It’s going to be a tough game. I know that. Every player on that team is really good. We have to be a very tough team. We want to beat them. We’ll see. Nothing is impossible.”
Mysak, a forward who played for Hamilton in the Ontario Hockey League last season, said the Czechs will look to replicate their performance against Russia.
“We played as a team,” he noted. “We played hard. We played together. We blocked a lot of shots and our goalie [Lukas Parik] had a good game so that’s going to be key points.”
Mysak scored two goals and added an assist in the four preliminary round games. What’s it look like when he’s at his best?
“I lead the team,” he said.
With the OHL still on pause, Mysak is playing in the top Czech league for his hometown team Litvinov and has received advice on how to be a good leader from general manager and coach Jiri Slegr.
The Canadiens second round pick in October’s draft has also been texting with Tomas Plekanec throughout the tournament. The best advice from the long-time Hab?
“When I asked him how he made the NHL, he told me he did everything they told him.”
If you attend a Team Canada practice, you’re going to notice Jakob Pelletier. The Val d’Or Foreurs winger is, of course, a talented player, but he is also a loud one. Pelletier will often be heard yelling out something after nice plays or even just at the start of a drill. It sounds like, “Yi! Yi! Yi!”
“I’m kind of like the guy who wakes up in the morning and is on,” Pelletier explained. “I kind of love to scream and to talk and, not disturb people, but to be a morning sunshine.”
Pelletier said the yell is something he thought up during the selection camp in Red Deer, Alta.
“He’s an amazing guy,” said Krebs. “He brings a lot of energy to the group. I think every time I talk to the guy I laugh a little bit just because he’s got good jokes. He’s a beauty and he’s a big part of our team and a lot of guys look up to him.”
Pelletier is an emotional guy on the ice and after banking a puck in off Dylan Holloway on Thursday night he kissed the Oilers first rounder on the helmet while on the bench.
“I’m a touch-able guy,” Pelletier said with a laugh. “I like to hug people and be close to them and it was kind of in the moment. A lot of joy.”
Bowen Byram has incredible offensive instincts and the ability to make jaw-dropping plays. And while the Vancouver Giants defenceman does have three assists so far at the World Juniors, it has been the well-rounded nature of his game that’s been most notable.
“I don’t need to be wowing anybody or anything like that,” he said of his performance. “I just got to play solid at both ends of the rink and contribute offensively when I can. I feel like I’m doing that.”
The Colorado Avalanche prospect, who posted 52 points in 50 Western Hockey League outings last season, seems to control the game whenever he’s on the ice and that’s why Tourigny is playing him more than anyone else. Byram leads the team in ice time (21:06 per game) and is tied with partner Jamie Drysdale for the tournament lead with a plus-13 rating.
“I want to make the NHL this year and I think that’s how you do it,” he said. “So, just trying to make sure I have good habits, being underneath the puck, making a good first pass, moving the puck quickly and trying to play a detailed two-way game.”
Lines at Canada’s 20-minute practice on Friday:
Holloway – McMichael – Cozens
Perfetti – Zary – Krebs
Quinn – Byfield – Pelletier
Mercer – Suzuki – Tomasino
Byram – Drysdale
Harley – Schneider
Guhle – Barron
Korczak (R) – Spence
Injured: Kirby Dach (wrist, out for the tournament), Alex Newhook (upper body, day-to-day)
Milanovich resigns as Edmonton's head coach – CFL.ca
EDMONTON — The Edmonton Football Team is now without a head coach.
Scott Milanovich has resigned to pursue NFL opportunities, the team announced on Monday.
Milanovich was hired as the club’s 22nd head coach on Dec 12, 2019. Prior to his appointment, he was the quarterbacks coach for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars from 2017-2019 with a brief stint as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2018.
“Scott informed me this morning that he was resigning as the head coach of the Edmonton Football Team to accept a position in the NFL,” GM/VP of football operations Brock Sunderland said. “It’s disappointing that he was never able to coach a game for our organization due to the pandemic. We wish Scott and his family all the best in his future endeavors.”
The team also stated in the announcement that the search for the club’s next head coach will begin immediately.
Milanovich began his CFL coaching career in 2003, when he joined the Calgary Stampeders as a QB coach. After spending some time in Europe, he returned to Canada in 2007, this time as a QB coach in Montreal.
He moved quickly up the coaching ranks while with the Alouettes. Ahead of the 2008 campaign, he was promoted to the team’s offensive coordinator on top of fulfilling his other duties. In 2009, he also picked up an assistant head coach title.
He’d stay with the Als until the conclusion of the 2011 season, when he was named the head coach of the Toronto Argonauts. In his first season as a head coach, Milanovich led the Argos to a 9-9 record, finishing second in the East Division. They’d make it to they 100th Grey Cup and beat the Calgary Stampeders to take home the title.
Alongside his first championship in the CFL, Milanovich also earned 2012 Coach of the Year honours.
He’d spend another four seasons at the helm in Toronto. Over that span, the team made the playoffs twice and missed out on another two occasions.
Following the 2016 season, Milanovich would step down as the head coach of the Argos and joined the Jacksonville Jaguars as their QB coach, a position he held until he joined Edmonton in 2019.
Chiefs’ Mahomes overwhelms Bills to set up Super Bowl vs. Brady, Buccaneers – Sportsnet.ca
It’s hard not to get excited about the quarterback matchup waiting for us in Super Bowl LV.
On one side, Tom Brady – the best to ever play the position – will suit up for his first NFL title game without Bill Belichick, and he’ll do it for a Buccaneers team that will become the first team to ever compete for the Lombardi Trophy on home turf.
On the other, Patrick Mahomes – the heir apparent – who after a week of major question marks guided the defending-champion Chiefs to one their most impressive wins of the season and now gets a chance to become the first quarterback to lead his team to back-to-back titles since … Tom Brady.
It’s a matchup we’ll have plenty of time to break down over the next two weeks, so let’s dive into the takeaways from another eventful Conference Championship Sunday in the NFL.
CHIEFS’ DYNAMIC WEAPONS SIMPLY TOO MUCH TO HANDLE
This is far from a new take, but it’s one that’s hard to ignore after an offensive game like the one the Chiefs put together on Sunday in their 38-24 win over the Bills.
How are opponents supposed to stop this Kansas City team? Outside of Jon Gruden’s Raiders in Week 5 of this season, no team has had an answer to that question against these full-strength Chiefs.
That Oct. 11 loss to Vegas is the only one the Chiefs have suffered with Patrick Mahomes starting under centre over the last 14 months.
And on Sunday evening, the reasons why were fully on display.
Kansas City had 94% DVOA for the game tonight. By far their best game of the year. Their best offensive performance and second-best defensive performance behind Week 3 against Baltimore.
— Aaron Schatz (@FO_ASchatz) January 25, 2021
Not only are the Chiefs coached by one of the greatest offensive minds in league history in Andy Reid, and quarterbacked by the best player in the game in Patrick Mahomes (who put on a show against Buffalo), but the supporting cast is just ridiculous.
Travis Kelce set yet another record with his 13 catches, the most in a conference championship in the Super Bowl era. The All-Pro tight end had 118 yards and two touchdowns to go along with those 13 catches.
Tyreek Hill didn’t find the end zone against the Bills, but Cheetah did rack up 172 receiving yards on nine catches, including a blazing 71-yard run that set up K.C.’s fourth touchdown of the day to make it 31-15.
— NFL (@NFL) January 25, 2021
Throw in some big-time plays from Mecole Hardman, who more than made up for his first-quarter muffed punt with a touchdown and a 21.5-MPH run for 50 yards, plus rushing scores from Darrel Williams and rookie Clyde-Edwards Helaire, and this Chiefs offence somehow feels more menacing than last season’s edition.
It makes for a fascinating matchup in 13 days against a Buccaneers defence that did real damage against Aaron Rodgers in the NFC title game.
Also, shoutout to Steve Spagnuolo and the Chiefs defence, which smothered a Bills offence that, despite its struggles over the last two weeks, was one of the most dangerous in the league this season.
Speaking of the Bills offence …
SETTLING FOR FIELD GOALS JUST WON’T CUT IT
It was a tough night for the Buffalo Bills.
Not only was it nearly impossible to slow down Patrick Mahomes – the Bills defence forced just one punt, and it came on K.C.’s first drive – but Josh Allen and the Buffalo offence just wasn’t good enough.
Allen missed throws, the rhythm of the offence felt off (similar to last week against Baltimore) and, as a result, a unit that shredded opposing defences consistently over the final weeks of the regular season struggled to put any significant drives together when it mattered.
A gifted first-and-goal opportunity from Mecole Hardman gave the Bills an early 9-0 lead, but the score was deceiving of the actual success Buffalo was having offensively: in their first five possessions, the Bills accumulated just 88 yards on 25 plays – 42 of which came on the 10-play opening drive that ended in a field goal, a precursor of what was to come.
The Bills were finally able to manufacture a prolonged drive late in the second quarter, putting together 12 plays for 73 yards to get to the Chiefs’ two-yard line. But, trailing 21-12 with time expiring in the half and K.C. set to start the third quarter with the ball, the Bills choose to kick a field goal on fourth down rather than go for the touchdown.
Then, after holding the Chiefs to just three points on the opening drive of the second half, Buffalo put together another promising drive – 10 plays for 67 yards – which again led the Bills inside K.C.’s 10-yard line. Again down to a fourth-and-short inside the Chiefs’ 10, trailing by 12 with the most potent of offences on the opposite sideline, the Bills decided against going for six and once again settled for a chip-shot Tyler Bass field goal.
On the next drive, the Chiefs drove 75 yards in just over two minutes to stretch their lead to 16. Josh Allen threw an interception on the Bills’ ensuing possession, and the game was essentially in the bag.
Against a team as deadly as the Chiefs, field goals deep in enemy territory won’t cut it – especially when the team settling for those three-point kicks is led by a quarterback in Josh Allen who had been a killer inside the opposing 20 and was facing the league’s worst red-zone defence.
The future is bright in Buffalo because of what the team has built on offence, but on Sunday it was the decision against trusting those players that likely decided the Bills’ fate.
BRADY BAILED OUT BY BUCS DEFENCE AFTER RARE PLAYOFF MISTAKES
The first 37 minutes the NFC title game in Green Bay couldn’t have gone any better for Tom Brady.
By the time the Buccaneers scored their fourth touchdown of the game early in third quarter to extend the lead over the Packers to 28-10, the 43-year-old future Hall of Famer had three touchdown passes – giving him 80 total in his post-season career, 35 more than the next closest QBs – and had cemented himself as the Buccaneers’ leader in playoff touchdown passes in less than three games.
The Buccaneers were rolling and Brady was only further solidifying his legacy as the best playoff performer the sport has ever seen. And then he threw interceptions on three consecutive drives, an incredibly rare string of gaffes for the GOAT.
The mistakes allowed Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to claw back into a game they had trailed by 18 at one point — but fortunately for Brady, Tampa Bay’s stout defence stepped up.
Rodgers was able to take advantage of Brady’s first pick, turning it into six and cutting the Bucs’ lead to just five after a failed two-point conversion. But the other two interceptions were followed immediately by Green Bay three-and-outs, two drives in which the Packers recorded a combined minus-five yards.
Todd Bowles’s defence was also stellar inside its own 20 against one of the league’s top red-zone offences, twice holding the Packers to field goals from inside the 10-yard line – including the controversial three-point kick Matt LaFleur opted for late in the fourth quarter (more on that later …).
It’s another incredible performance from a Bucs defence that had done it to the Packers once before in 2020, and were really the only team to cause Rodgers serious problems at all during his MVP-calibre campaign.
Including Sunday, Rodgers threw six interceptions all season – three of them came in two games against the Bucs. Rodgers was sacked 25 times – nine of which came against the Bucs.
By no means should we take away from what Tom Brady has accomplished; 10 career Super Bowl appearances is a mind-blowing accomplishment.
But Brady and the Bucs wouldn’t have got that 31-26 win on Sunday without the play of that defence.
HEAD-SCRATCHING COACHING DECISION COSTS PACKERS
There are a lot of reasons the Packers lost Sunday’s NFC title game at Lambeau – a failure to capitalize on Tampa turnovers, committing their own costly turnovers and a very bad defensive call in a very big situation.
Despite all of that, Green Bay was in the game in the final minutes until an inexcusable call on fourth down deep in Buccaneers territory essentially sealed the Packers’ fate.
After an incomplete third-down pass to Davante Adams in the end zone, on which Aaron Rodgers appeared to pass up a chance to run in for a score, the Packers faced fourth-and-eight with 2:05 left in the game trailing by eight points.
Rather than trust the presumptive league MVP under centre and go for the touchdown in an attempt to tie the game, head coach Matt LaFleur elected to kick a field goal to move within five points and hope the Packers defence would get a stop to provide one last possession.
Given the personnel the Packers boast and the situation the team found itself in, going for the touchdown was a no-brainer: trust Rodgers, Adams and one of the league’s best offensive lines to get the job done. And if they don’t? The Buccaneers take over deep in their own territory and Green Bay’s defence gets its chance to make a stand.
Three points made no difference.
It’s a decision LaFleur expressed some regret for post-game – “Any time it doesn’t work out, you always regret it” – but ultimately one he defended.
But it’s more than just a head-scratching call from LaFleur that robbed his team and its Hall of Fame quarterback a chance at the Super Bowl – it’s one that could define his career as Green Bay’s head coach.
Conor McGregor ‘harassing’ UFC for Dustin Poirier rematch, might ‘drift off into boxing’ instead – MMA Mania
Conor McGregor, much like he did after losing to Nate Diaz at UFC 196, is harassing the promotion for an immediate rematch, hoping to avenge his loss to Dustin Poirier in the UFC 257 main event last weekend on “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi.
After all, the score is tied one apiece.
McGregor stopped Poirier when they first went to war at UFC 178 more than six years back, but “The Diamond” fought a smarter, more technical fight the second time around, leading to a convincing technical knockout finish in the second stanza.
“He’s already harassing everybody to get the rematch,” coach John Kavanagh told ESPN reporter Ariel Helwani (transcribed by TheScore). “We would love the rematch. I don’t think Dustin is against that. If we could get the rematch before the summer, that’d be amazing. If it’s not to be, I guess I don’t really know. Maybe he drifts off into boxing.”
McGregor is 0-1 as a professional boxer, losing to Floyd Mayweather after nearly 10 rounds of action back in summer 2017. There was talk of a Manny Pacquiao showdown at some point later this year; however, the loss to Poirier has likely spoiled those plans.
Poirier is the frontrunner to challenge top contender Charles Oliveira for the UFC lightweight title assuming Khabib Nurmagomedov vacates the 155-pound strap. Michael Chandler is also in the conversation after laying waste to Dan Hooker in the UFC 257 co-main event.
The next few weeks are going to be very, very interesting.
Milanovich resigns as Edmonton's head coach – CFL.ca
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