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Hunter waited a long time to coach Canada — and he wants more – Toronto Sun

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Dale Hunter finally got to be a part of the world junior roller coaster ride.

He wants more of it.

“Oh, yeah,” the Canadian coach said after a dramatic 6-4 tournament-opening victory over the United States Thursday in Ostrava. “Right now, a lead’s never safe. I’ll tell you that. Whoever has the break and buries at the right time (wins).”

Hunter made the right call when he put Alexis Lafreniere on the ice after the Americans rallied to tie it late. The Quebec league star played the hero role.

But one of Hunter’s two London Knights on the team, sniper Connor McMichael, scored Canada’s first goal of the tournament.

“It was awesome to see him get his first world junior win,” the Capitals first-rounder said. “It was a dream to play in a game like that. I hope we can keep it rolling.”

Canada picked Dale Hunter to be its coach for his track record as the third-winningest coach in OHL history. But it was also because of his calm demeanour behind the bench, something he didn’t always display in his 19-year NHL career.

It was evident the Canadian players were anxious early, but they figured it out in time to storm back and, eventually, gutted out an emotional victory.

“It’s nice playing a game,” Hunter said. “We’ve been playing exhibitions and practising. The kids just wanted to play. It’s not just our kids. It’s every team. They’re eager. They’re kids and they want to play meaningful games. (The first two — Czech-Russia and Canada-U.S.), they were.”

MATCHING UP: Scott Sandelin has been entrusted to keep USA Hockey’s record streak of four straight world junior medals alive. Starting 0-1, it will be a major achievement to finish on top of a difficult pool now. The 55-year-old Minnesotan matched wits with Hunter Thursday and will test himself against Russian kingpin Valeri Bragin Sunday. “They’re great coaches,” Sandelin said. “For me, I probably don’t consider that yet. I’m honoured to be the coach of this team and be a part of this tournament. It’ll be fun to learn some things from the way do things, too, within a game.” Sandelin need not sell himself short. He’s on a tremendous run at one of the better programs in the U.S. college ranks. His Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs have won the past two NCAA titles and three in the last decade.

PLAYING COY: On Thursday morning, Dale Hunter wouldn’t reveal his starting goaltender. He went with Guelph Storm goalie Nico Daws in the opener, but hasn’t even talk much about them on an individual basis. “Our goalies have been sharp through the whole process,” he said. “It’s not an easy choice, which is a good thing. They deserve to be here. They played well and you have to give the kids credit because they’re battlers. That’s what you want in this type of competition.” In other words, be ready. The No. 1 goaltender title was up for grabs all season and that’s how Daws became a candidate in the first place. Only the Canadian goaltenders went on the ice in the morning. The rest of the team didn’t skate. It paid off. Canada won and the Americans, who did use their ice time, lost.

SEASON OF GIVING: Every Canadian player opened one Christmas present on Wednesday. “We handed out gifts (as a team),” defenceman Ty Smith, the New Jersey prospect and Spokane Chiefs captain, said. “You didn’t buy one for a certain guy. You just bought a gift and you picked one, so you get what you get. I ended up with a bag of snacks, which was pretty good.” Smith, as a returning player, is one of the ties that bind Canada’s blue line. He played on the team last year. He and big Kevin Bahl are both Devils prospects and he even has a long-time connection the Senators first-rounder Jacob Bernard-Docker, the only U.S. college player on the Canadian team. “We played together in the Brick (atom invitational summer) tournament when we were nine or 10,” the Lloydminster, Sask., native recalled. Their team lost in the semifinal to Toronto Pro, which featured Canadian teammate Akil Thomas. “He was the tournament MVP,” Smith said with a grin. “We’ve heard it a few times (the last few weeks).”

CROWD ADVANTAGE: Though Canada’s pre-tournament games were played largely in front of nobody, the atmosphere at Ostravar Arena on Boxing Day — if sustained — will make for an energetic and electric tournament. The attendance for two premiere games — Czech-Russia and Canada-U.S. — was at near capacity and it was a loud and knowledgeable gathering. The Czechs, obviously, have the most support but Canada is well-represented, too. There are hundreds of Canadians who made the trip, many in large travel groups, to cheer the red-and-white and sample the Czech culture the next two weeks. There wasn’t a lot of rooting for the Americans, who, like the Russians, will have to generate their own momentum here.

rpyette@postmedia.com

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In Maple Leafs' talks with Oilers about Hyman, Dubas isn't bending the knee – Sportsnet.ca

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Kyle Dubas is in no mood to be doing favours.

Still smarting after a difficult first-round loss by his Toronto Maple Leafs, and limited in the ways he can reshape the roster by cap space and a lack of draft capital, the generally affable general manager took a firm stance when approached over the weekend about facilitating a sign-and-trade agreement involving Zach Hyman.

The benefits of the arrangement were clear for two of the parties at the table — it would have allowed Hyman to add an eighth year to his rich free-agent contract while giving the Edmonton Oilers a chance to lower the winger’s annual cap hit by more than $400,000 per season.

As for the Leafs?

Well, Dubas didn’t view the late-round pick Edmonton was offering as being worth the trouble. Cap space is king in this league. And there’s a cost to wriggling free of cap obligations even if it’s part of a sign-and-trade scenario rather than a more common contract dump.

“We’ve been in that situation before at the trade deadline and when you’re in that spot the other GM’s aren’t helping you out. They’re pulling the pin from the grenade and they’re throwing it to you,” Dubas said Saturday. “I know that there’s a narrative that we should just get something, but when you’re saving a team significant dollars on the salary cap that comes with a cost and we’re not going to bend on that.”

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We’re starting to see a hardened public edge forming around a man who has watched his organization take a lot of bullets since squandering a 3-1 series lead against Montreal in May. The Leafs were even roundly mocked during Wednesday’s Seattle Kraken expansion draft, the brunt of jokes about the long gaps since they’ve last won a playoff series and Stanley Cup.

Dubas is meeting the criticism head-on.

He’s started speaking openly about attaching his own job security to the core of players he refuses to break up and even acknowledged that those players are guilty of being too passive in elimination games: “We’ve been in those moments now the last five seasons and we’ve fallen short in those moments.”

It had been his hope to keep Hyman in Toronto, extending a max term eight-year offer after the season. But he couldn’t get close to the kind of money on the table in Edmonton. That prompted Dubas to grant Hyman’s agent, Todd Reynolds, permission to speak to other teams and set the table for the possibility of the NHL’s first ever sign-and-trade agreement.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

The Leafs understand the value of cap flexibility as well as anyone — having surrendered the 13th overall pick in the 2020 draft to Carolina to rid themselves of the final year of Patrick Marleau’s $6.25-million annual contract and sent fourth-round picks to both San Jose and Columbus for double salary retention on Nick Foligno at the trade deadline.

They also added a 2020 fifth-round selection as a go-between in the Robin Lehner deadline day trade with Chicago and Vegas, absorbing $1.1-million of the goalie’s cap commitment.

What Edmonton stood to gain in a potential Hyman sign-and-trade eclipsed each of those precedent-setting trades in total value. The pending unrestricted free agent is believed to be in line to receive $5.075-million annually on an eight-year deal or $5.5-million per on a seven-year contract from Edmonton should he get to the open market.

“In terms of compensation, I think it’s fairly simple,” said Dubas. “There’s a big benefit to me of adding the eighth year on in terms of the cap savings to the team that’s going to sign him. … So we know what the value is of that retention, of going to the eighth year, the cap savings, and so if there’s a fair deal to be made to do that we’ll do that.”

The challenges of the cap system are one of the main reasons why Dubas had only three selections to make during the NHL Draft — taking forward Matthew Knies at No. 57, forward Ty Voit at No. 153 and goaltender Vyacheslav Peksa at No. 185.

He mentioned that his lack of draft capital and cap space also kept him out of the rampant trade discussions during a wild weekend of activity across the league.

The impending Hyman departure only adds to the challenge of getting his group over the hump, but Dubas trudges forward: “It’s a loss, but we have to pick up and move on and do all that we can to put the team in the best position possible for next season.”

They will be looking for a depth defenceman or two that can play with snarl and won’t break the bank when free agency opens Wednesday. They also need a goaltender to play alongside Jack Campbell and another left-winger to fill out their lineup.

Ideally, those needs will be addressed on the open market but Dubas isn’t boxing himself in if it doesn’t happen. He remains open to trades.

“We’ve got our high picks next year and our prospect pool, plus players on our roster that teams are always circling around and asking about,” said Dubas. “We’ll get to work here on Wednesday or prior to Wednesday and see what’s available. We’ll try to use every avenue we can to improve the team.”

That could still involve a sign-and-trade for Hyman if the Oilers come around to his way of viewing the situation. But there doesn’t appear to be a compromise.

Right now Dubas isn’t bending the knee for anyone.

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Canadian divers Abel, Citrini-Beaulieu win silver in women's 3m synchro – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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The Canadian Press


Published Sunday, July 25, 2021 6:59AM EDT


Last Updated Sunday, July 25, 2021 7:06AM EDT

TOKYO — Jennifer Abel did everything she could to ensure the Tokyo Olympics were not a repeat of Rio.

The 29-year-old from Laval, Que., spent a lot of time over the past five years going over her two fourth-place finishes at those 2016 Summer Games.

Sunday’s Olympic silver medal in the women’s three-metre synchronized springboard, alongside teammate Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu, was like a weight off her shoulders.

“Actually, I think I may have added a weight, because this thing is really heavy,” said a laughing Abel, holding up her silver medal moments after the medal ceremony.

“Today we accomplished everything we wanted. We thought about the present moment, not the future or the past. We lived the moment together. I find it beautiful what we have achieved together.”

Added Citrini-Beaulieu: “It’s been a dream since I was young. I kept believing I could do it and now I’m by Jenn’s side and we won a silver medal at the Olympics. I am proud of what we achieved.”

Abel had saidthat she had experienced a certain “identity crisis” after Rio. Because she set the bar so high for herself, she says she left Brazil with a sense of failure. And while she’s since made peace with that moment in her life, the pressure was still high Sunday.

“In Rio, my biggest mistake was focusing on the medal,” said Abel. “But it was not easy to come here and not think about the medal. Especially since Melissa and I have finished second at all the world championships and World Cups since 2017.”

The Canadians started the competition with some difficulty, sitting sixth out of eight teams after two dives. But they quickly climbed the leaderboard by executing higher-difficulty dives.

“We both knew that our first two dives weren’t necessarily the best,” said Abel. “We knew we had to get more points from our last three.

“At the same time, in synchronized springboard, things become very important as of the third dive. That’s when anything can happen. We didn’t get sidetracked with the little mistakes we made at the start because we knew we still had a lot left.”

Abel and Citrini-Beaulieu, from of Saint-Constant, Que., finished the competition with a total score of 300.78.

The Chinese pair of Shi Tingmao and Wang Han finished first with 326.4 points — a fifth straight Olympic title for China in the event. Germany’s Lena Hentschel and Tina Punzel were third with 284.97 points.

“Before our last dive, I knew we were in a good position for a podium finish,” said Abel. “When I entered the water, I knew I had had a good dive. My first reaction then was to look at Melissa and she looked at me with big eyes and she said, ‘I got it’. I turned around and watched the reaction of the coaches and immediately knew that we had won the silver medal.”

On the podium, an emotional Abel wiped away a few tears.

“It’s not easy to come here,” she said. “Everyone talking about the potential of getting the medal. I’m already putting enough pressure on myself and I’m putting some on Melissa too.

“I was really emotional because I couldn’t have had a better partner than Melissa, a person who supports me. I am not always easy to manage. I am very picky. Melissa has always been there for me. It was just doing this together that made me really emotional.”

For Abel, this is a second Olympic medal. She won bronze with Emilie Heymans in London in 2012.

“In 2012, I was young,” said Abel. “With Emilie, she was the one with all the experience and the opportunity to do something huge for her career and for the Canadian team.

“I was in the position where I didn’t want to be the one preventing her from having that title. Here, I wanted to do it for Melissa, it was for our team. We are two very demanding girls, we work hard, we are always ready to do more to reach our goals and that is what we did today.”

Abel will try to apply the same recipe next Sunday in the individual three-metre springboard final.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2021.

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Canada earns first medal in Tokyo with silver in women’s 4×100 freestyle swimming – Sportsnet.ca

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Canada has earned its first trip to the podium at the Tokyo Olympics, claiming silver in the women’s 4×100-metre swimming freestyle relay Saturday night.

Penny Oleksiak, the decorated swimmer who anchored the Canadian women to the nation’s first medal of these Games, earned her fifth career trip to the podium in the process, tying the all-time record for a summer Olympian from Canada. Rower Lesley Thompson-Willie and sprinter Phil Edwards are Canada’s other two five-time summer Games medalists.

“I think it’s kind of crazy,” Oleksiak said after the race. “I think we were all hopeful that we would get a medal. We didn’t know what medal it would really be. I think we all just wanted one. For it to be a silver, it’s pretty crazy I think.”

Kayla Sanchez, Maggie Mac Neil and Rebecca Smith rounded out Canada’s medal-winning crew. Sanchez took the lead position in the final, giving Mac Neil and Smith a chance to inch Canada closer to its eventual silver.

Then, in the final length, Oleksiak took over, propelling Canada out of what could have been a fourth-place finish and onto the podium.

“I just knew I wasn’t going to touch third,” Oleksiak said. “And when I make a decision in the race I have to execute it, so I wanted a silver medal for these girls and I wanted it so bad I wouldn’t accept anything else.”

Taylor Ruck, the fifth member of the team, didn’t swim in the final but competed in the preliminary heats and also received a medal.

Earlier in the night Mac Neil, who replaced Ruck in the final, placed third in her semifinal of the women’s 100-metre butterfly, earning a place in Sunday’s final and a chance to earn an individual medal for Canada.

In that semifinal, Mac Neil, the 2019 world champion and Canadian record holder in the event, posted a time of 56.56 seconds. She finished behind world record holder and Olympic champion Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden, and Yufei Zhang of China, who finished first with a time of 55.89 seconds.

“I know from experience my second swim is usually better because I’m warmed up already,” Mac Neil said. “I was really looking forward to it. Having these girls with me definitely gave me that extra boost to get silver.”

The Australian women’s team earned gold in Saturday’s 4×100-metre freestyle, shattering the previous world record with a time of 03:29.69. Canada managed to beat out the USA by a mere three one-hundredths of a second, as the Americans finished with bronze.

The Canadian relay team secured its place in tonight’s final by posting the third-fastest time in yesterday’s semifinal with a combined time of three minutes 33.72 seconds, narrowly behind the Netherlands and Australia.

This relay team kicking off the nation’s Olympics success isn’t new. Five years ago, during the Rio Games, it was the Canadian women’s 4×100-metre freestyle relay team that earned Canada’s first medal with a bronze.

Canada’s women will seek to secure a podium position in all three relay events during the Tokyo games after achieving three bronze medals during the world championship in South Korea two years ago.

“I have a lot of faith in these people,” Sanchez said. “If you want someone to anchor it’s Penny. And if you want someone to swim second it’s Maggie. And Rebecca is a great trainer and consistent. We just did what we needed to do.”

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