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'GONG SHOW': Revenge-seeking Maple Leafs lose bitter battle to Jets – Toronto Sun

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‘A snowball effect’ after Rasmus Sandin had to be helped to the dressing room after a knee-on-knee hit from Neil Pionk

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WINNIPEG — Auston Matthews dismissed the late stages of Sunday’s 6-3 rowdy result to the Jets as “not really hockey … a bit of a gong show.”

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But a stumbling start was just as difficult for him and the Maple Leafs to watch, falling into a four-goal hole that made their attempt at back-to-back rallies near impossible.

While the loss was a missed chance to retrieve top spot in the division from idle Florida, leaving just one point from their Central Time Zone road trip, there were added damages. Defenceman Rasmus Sandin had to be helped to the dressing room after a knee-on-knee hit from defenceman Neil Pionk, a player who has a history of such incidents with the Leafs.

Coach Sheldon Keefe could provide no immediate update on Sandin before the team flew home, and Sandin’s Sunday night defence partner, Morgan Rielly, could only add he was in a lot of pain when they talked post-game. Sandin was a little off balance after shooting wide during a frantic 4-on-4 play around the Jets’ net and the replay showed Pionk’s attempt to impede him by sticking his leg out.

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“It looks to me like it’s a five-minute major,” Keefe said. “Knee-on-knee, a guy gets carried off. But I didn’t get much from the officials in terms of how they saw it. Obviously, they didn’t see it, if they did, they probably would’ve called it differently.”

Before that, the stripes let Matthews and Pierre-Luc Dubois wrestle before eventually sending both off, while post-Sandin, Jason Spezza took a run at Pionk. Wayne Simmonds came out of the box for a crosscheck and 10-minute misconduct to engage Jets’ giant Logan Stanley, who exited the game like a WWE character, exhorting the crowd at Canada Life Centre. Kyle Clifford and Brenden Dillon had the only true fight of the night, but eight roughing minors and four cross checks were called throughout.

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“There was a snowball effect, things spiralled out of control a bit,” said Matthews, who rarely takes penalties.

Captain John Tavares said Pionk lit the fuse.

“Obviously, we didn’t like the hit on Sandy. Any time you see a teammate go down like that and have to be carried off, we’ll stick up for one another.”

In the end, the thirst for revenge came back to bite them. Simmonds was in the box when Pionk and Kyle Connor set up Mark Scheifele for the insurance goal, the Jets’ third on the power play, after Matthews scored for the sixth straight game (a 5-on-3) and Ondrej Kase then cut Winnipeg’s lead to two.

It was the first loss for rookie goalie Joseph Woll in four starts relieving Jack Campbell and even he was shaken up, an accident when he came out of his crease to cover a puck from an on-rushing Jet with a glancing blow to the head. Woll finished the game but was not made available to the media.

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“The first two periods, so many odd-man rushes, we didn’t give him any help,” Matthews said. “That’s on us. And he still made some pretty amazing saves (on 41 shots). The way we let them fly through and have all these odd-man rushes, that’s not yhe way you want to play.”

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Matthews, Tavares, Rielly and William Nylander (injured Mitch Marner was kept out a second game, but due to return) were unable to cash their first power play, leaving it to Michael Bunting and the second unit to tie it after Dubois scored with Simmonds off. Ditto when the No. 1 unit had another opportunity late in the first. Then came wave after wave of Jets, goals by Andrew Copp, Evgeny Svechnikov, Kyle Connor and Nikolaj Ehlers. The guy everyone in the house wanted to score, captain Blake Wheeler, settled for two assists after a pre-game ceremony with his family on the ice.

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Keefe’s team arrived around 1 a.m. local time after the shootout loss in Minnesota, but he was reluctant to go down that avenue of excuse.

“We did have lack of attention to detail, lack of structure, lack of purpose in the things that have made us (16-5-4). It would be easy to go to the fatigue factor, but that’s not good enough. This is the reality of the schedule; you have to play back-to-back. So you just have to be that much more focused, that much more detailed.”

As they did the night before in Minnesota down three, the Leafs didn’t break. They made the most of a 5-on-3, after some initial stick squeezing, isolating Matthews for a high snap on Connor Hellebuyck, giving him 15 on the season. Kase struck next with 24 minutes still to play.

As well resting Campbell, Keefe put Clifford in for Joey Anderson and Timothy Liljegren for Travis Dermott, though he tried splitting the Swedes up, putting Liljegren with Jake Muzzin.

lhornby@postmedia.com

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Soccer-Brazil to stop unvaccinated footballers playing in top leagues

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The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) said on Friday players must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to take part in this year’s league championship,

The CBF said it was in constant contact with health bodies and had sent an updated list of requirements to member clubs.

“One of these is the obligation to present a full vaccination certificate against COVID-19 to the CBF’s Medical Commission,” it said in a statement.

The top four national divisions kick off in the second week of April.

Brazil coach Tite has said he was not selecting Atletico Madrid defender Renan Lodi for his squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers because he was not fully vaccinated.

The issue of athletes’ stance on vaccines has dominated sports headlines recently after tennis player Novak Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, was deported ahead of the Australian Open.

 

(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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Olympics-Canadian snowboarder Parrot eyes Beijing gold after cancer battle

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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)

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Canada's Denis Shapovalov is on to the fourth round of the Australian Open – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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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.

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