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'I honestly never saw myself being in this position' – NHL.com

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EDMONTON – It’s safe to say that prospect Kieran Ruscheinski will never forget attending his first Canadiens game.

Back in his hometown of Calgary while his Salmon Arm Silverbacks (BCHL) were on break, the 18-year-old defenseman hit up the Scotiabank Saddledome press box on Thursday night to see Claude Julien’s squad battle the Flames.

Ruscheinski was treated to a memorable affair, of course, with Max Domi settling the score in overtime to send Habs fans home happy.

“I honestly never saw myself being in this position, but it’s pretty cool,” said Ruscheinski, who was selected in the seventh-round, 206th overall this past June in Vancouver. “It’s even better that the game is on home turf at the Saddledome. Ten times better.”

Since being drafted by the Canadiens, Ruscheinski has made a point of keeping a close eye on their games and the play of several defensemen in particular.

“I watch a lot of their games. I’m watching guys like [Shea] Weber and [Cale] Fleury. I just watch each shift from each guy and try to take little pieces of their game and learn from it so I can make myself a better hockey player,” explained Ruscheinski, who has three assists and 25 penalty minutes in 30 games during his first BCHL campaign. “I’ll watch Fleury and [Victor] Mete because they play hard and they’re the younger guys. And Shea, he’s big like me. He plays more my style of game from a defensive standpoint, so he’s good to follow.”

Photo Credit: Pure Life Photography

Like Weber, Ruscheinski is most definitely a towering figure. The left-handed shooting blueliner stands 6-foot-6 and tips the scales at 210 pounds.

Knowing full well that size isn’t everything in hockey and that skill development matters, however, he’s making the most of his time with Salmon Arm to take his game to another level.

“It’s a learning process, but I feel I’ve gotten better with each game,” said Ruscheinski. “We have a really good team this year and a really good coaching staff. I kind of got put in the perfect position to succeed and grow. And it’s also a very competitive league. If you’re not bringing your best, you’re going to lose. You’ve got to make sure that you’re ready every night.”

Photo Credit: Pure Life Photography

With the help of head coach Scotty Atkinson, the Canadiens’ hopeful is focusing his efforts on polishing his stick skills and learning the intricacies of getting pucks through to the net.

But in their short time together, the Silverbacks’ bench boss has become a mentor for Ruscheinski with respect to off-ice matters, too.

“He’s probably the smartest person I’ve ever talked to. He knows a lot about the game and about life,” praised Ruscheinski, regarding the former longtime head coach at Mount Royal College and the University of Calgary. “He knows what it takes to be successful as a person and as a player, so I make sure to listen to him.”

A significant switch

How has life changed for Ruscheinski since joining the Canadiens’ fold? 

“I guess I’m getting a lot more attention, and I’m still learning how to deal with that attention,” confided Ruscheinski. “Everything I’ve been doing from that point of bring drafted has been about preparing to hopefully one day make it if I keep working hard.”

With that in mind, Ruscheinski spent six weeks in Montreal over the summer training at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard and living with fellow prospects Josh Brook and Cole Fonstad.

It proved to be another motivating experience for last season’s Alberta AAA Midget Hockey League (AMHL) MVP, and only strengthened his resolve to achieve his long-term objective.

Photo Credit: Pure Life Photography

“I learned a lot, and I keep saying that, but I really did,” insisted Ruscheinski. “Getting to experience that and watch how things operate, it taught me a lot about what I’ve got to keep doing and what it takes.”

And as far as going late in the Draft is concerned, Ruscheinski isn’t going to let a simple number pre-determine his future.

“There’s guys playing in the National Hockey League that didn’t even get drafted. They just kept working and grinding and perfecting their craft,” concluded Ruscheinski. “As excited as I was to get drafted, I know it doesn’t really mean much at the end of the day until you make it, so I’m taking it as it is, making sure that I come prepared every day, and I just bring that effort and intensity.”

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Astros shut out Red Sox, advance to World Series for third time in five years – Sportsnet.ca

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HOUSTON — Rookie Luis Garcia showed the poise of an October ace, Yordan Alvarez stayed hot at the plate and the Houston Astros earned yet another trip to the World Series, beating the Boston Red Sox 5-0 Friday night in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series.

The Astros advanced to the World Series for the fourth time overall and the second time in three seasons. They won the championship in 2017, a crown tainted by the team’s sign-stealing scandal, before losing to the Washington Nationals in seven games in 2019.

Manager Dusty Baker’s team will open the World Series on Tuesday night, either at Dodger Stadium or home against Atlanta. The Braves lead Los Angeles 3-2 in the NL Championship Series going into Game 6 Saturday night.

Garcia pitched no-hit ball into the sixth inning, leaving to a huge ovation with two outs after a triple by Kike Hernandez. It was an impressive bounce-back performance for the 24-year-old, who started Game 2 and gave up a grand slam in the first inning before leaving with no outs in the second because of discomfort in his right knee.

Alvarez continued his scorching streak, a year after watching at home after surgery to both knees as the Astros came one game shy of reaching the World Series. The slugging designated hitter had four hits, including a triple and two doubles. He led a Game 5 win with three hits and three RBIs.

Catcher Martin Maldonado made the defensive play of the game on a strikeout-throwout double play to end the seventh with Houston ahead 2-0.

It will be the 72-year-old Baker’s second trip to the Fall Classic as a manager and first since leading the San Francisco Giants to the NL pennant in 2002. As a player, he made three trips with the Dodgers, winning it all in 1981.

Boston’s best shot to score came in the seventh. They had runners at first and third with one out in after a single by Alex Verdugo. But Kendall Graveman struck out pinch-hitter Travis Shaw and Maldonado made a perfect throw to Carlos Correa, who was covering second, to beat Verdugo there and end the inning.

Maldonado beat his chest with glee as Graveman and Correa both pumped their fists in celebration to roars from the crowd of 42,718.

Kyle Tucker broke it open with a three-run homer with two outs in the eighth. Television cameras flashed to Houston’s Hall of Fame duo of Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, who stood together and cheered as Tucker rounded the bases.

Ryan Pressly closed it out in the ninth. The Red Sox, who looked so formidable at the plate at the start of the season, were held to two hits in their final game.

Alex Bregman singled with two outs in the first before the double by Alvarez put the Astros up 1-0. Hernandez was in position to make the catch, but it hit off his arm below his glove and dropped in for the hit.

Consecutive romps by Boston and its bashers made it appear that the Red Sox were in complete control of the series after Game 3, but as the long fly by Alvarez proved, they didn’t have a firm grip on things.

The Astros, buoyed by their young pitchers and rediscovered offense, won the next two games by a combined 18-3 to return home a win away from a World Series. Then their rising 24-year-old stars, Garcia and Alvarez, did the rest.

Houston had a chance to add to the lead in the fourth when Bregman singled and another double by Alvarez left him at third with no outs. But they came up empty after Nathan Eovaldi worked out of the jam.

Alvarez tripled with no outs in the sixth to chase Josh Taylor and Tanner Houck plunked Correa. Tucker then smacked a grounder right at first baseman Kyle Schwarber who tagged Correa for the unassisted double play as Alvarez slid safely into home to make it 2-0.

Eovaldi got the win in a solid Game 2 start but was charged with the loss in Game 4 after giving up the go-ahead runs after coming in with the game tied in the ninth.

On Friday, he permitted five hits and one run as the Red Sox lost a playoff game where he started for the first time after entering the game 5-0 in his starts.

Garcia is the first pitcher to take a no-hitter into sixth of a potential playoff clincher since the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard got two outs in sixth against the Giants in 2016 NL wild-card game.

Garcia allowed Schwarber to reach on a wild pitch after a strikeout to open the game and walked Verdugo with one out in the second. He settled in after that, sitting down the next 13 with five strikeouts, before Hernandez got Boston’s first hit on a triple with two outs in the sixth. Garcia finished with seven strikeouts.

Phil Maton took over and retired Rafael Devers to end the inning.

SIGN OF THE TIMES

Boston manager Alex Cora has heard the speculation that the Astros are relaying signs from the bases and said the Red Sox protect themselves against that.

“It’s not about technology or other stuff,” Cora said. “There’s stuff that happens on the field that you have to be guarded. The same way that teams play defense against us, we play defense against other teams. Not only them we did it against the Yankees, we did it against the Rays. It’s the nature of the game. We’re prepared for that.”

Cora knows better than most about Houston’s sign-stealing history having been the team’s bench coach during the 2017 season when they were found to have violated rules by using a television camera to steal catchers’ signs.

UP NEXT

Game 1 of the World Series is Tuesday night where the Astros will host if the Braves advance or Houston will travel to LA if the Dodgers win the NL pennant.

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Bruins lines vs. Buffalo: Blidh, Moore draw in – Stanley Cup of Chowder

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You’d expect a few lineup changes after a 6-3 loss, and the Bruins confirmed today that tonight’s lineup will look a little different.

The main updates:

  • Nick Foligno won’t play. Anton Blidh will draw into the lineup on the fourth line, with Tomas Nosek moving up to the third.
  • Connor Clifton will be a healthy scratch, with John Moore taking his place.

So basically, you have Blidh in for Foligno, Moore in for Clifton.

Here’s what to expect on your streaming service tonight:

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Taylor Hall – Charlie Coyle – Craig Smith

Jake DeBrusk – Erik Haula – Tomas Nosek

Anton Blidh – Trent Frederic – Karson Kuhlman

Matt Grzelcyk – Charlie McAvoy

Mike Reilly – Brandon Carlo

Derek Forbort – John Moore

As mentioned in the preview, former Sabre Linus Ullmark will get the start in net.

For Buffalo, Craig Anderson will be in net.

Also, the Sabres will be wearing their white jerseys at home tonight as part of a White Hot Friday promotion — don’t get confused.

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Hickey on hockey: Canadiens made it easy for Kotkaniemi to leave – Montreal Gazette

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Sitting the Finn during the playoffs and not signing him before he was available for an offer sheet set in motion his departure for Carolina.

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I felt a little sorry for Jesperi Kotkaniemi when he stepped on the Bell Centre ice Thursday night and was greeted with boos and an obscene chant.

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I felt happy for Kotkaniemi when he tipped a shot from Sebastian Aho for his first goal as a Carolina Hurricane even if it elicited the loudest boos of the evening. The goal gave Carolina a 3-1 lead and some breathing room en route to a 4-1 victory.

The booing was to be expected. When players leave a team, the fans feel betrayed and, with ticket prices reaching astronomic levels, they need a way to vent their frustration in the wake of one of the Canadiens’ worst starts to a season.

But if you look at the circumstances of Kotkaniemi’s departure, you will see the 21-year-old Finn is not the villain in this saga. It’s not a case of a greedy, ungrateful player turning his back on Montreal and following the money. The Canadiens made it easy for Kotkaniemi to switch allegiance.

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Kotkaniemi’s development in Montreal didn’t go as planned. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft had highs and lows and finished his second pro season in the AHL. He didn’t live up to his high draft status and there were questions whether he could meet the demands of an NHL centre.

Head coach Dominique Ducharme set Kotkaniemi’s departure in motion when he had Kotkaniemi in the press box for the opening of the playoffs this year. He was inserted into the lineup for Game 2 vs. the Leafs and scored a crucial overtime goal to force Game 7 in that series.

Kotkaniemi had a good playoff run. He was tied for fifth in team scoring with five goals and three assists in 19 games, he was a shade under 50 per cent in the faceoff circle and he had the second-best shooting percentage among players with 10 or more shots.

But he wasn’t dressed for the final two games. His minus-5 rating played into the decision to bench him, but Cole Caufield and Corey Perry were also at minus-5, while Tyler Toffoli and Nick Suzuki were minus-6.

We can presume that Kotkaniemi was not happy with the way the season ended. And we can also presume that he wasn’t happy with the way his contract negotiations with general manager Marc Bergevin were going. If you thought enough of a player to draft him third overall and you are planning to have him as your No. 2 centre, you’re going to lock him up before he’s available for an offer sheet.

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Bergevin has made some shrewd trades and some good free-agent signings, but the only Canadiens first-round pick playing for the team is Caufield. And Kotkaniemi joins Phillip Danault, Andrei Markov and Alexander Radulov on the list of valuable players whose negotiations were mishandled.

The Hurricanes overpaid for Kotkaniemi, but they seem committed to bringing him along slowly and helping him reach his potential. In the meantime, his appearance in Montreal provided them with another chance to snipe at the Canadiens on their Twitter feed.

They posted a picture of Sebastian Aho — who received an offer sheet from Montreal two years ago — with the question: Did the Canadiens lose again? YES.

Female officials on the way: It’s only a matter of time before women are officiating NHL games. The AHL, which serves as a testing ground of NHL rules and procedures, has hired 10 women referees and linespeople this season.

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The inaugural group includes Elizabeth Mantha of Longueuil, who has hockey in her blood. Her grandfather, André Pronovost, was part of four Stanley Cup teams with the Canadiens and her brother, Anthony, is a forward with the Washington Capitals.

Mantha, who refereed at the women’s world championship this year in Edmonton, played in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League after a university career that included a national championship with the Université de Montréal Carabins.

Chip off the old block:  The U.S. college season is getting underway and one player who has been making waves is Carson Brière who is the nation’s leading scorer, with seven goals and an assist in four games. The Mercyhurst College sophomore is the son of Daniel Brière, who played one season with the Canadiens late in his career.

phickey@postmedia.com

twitter.com/zababes1

  1. Hurricanes' Jesperi Kotkaniemi celebrates his third-period goal with teammate Sebastian Aho Thursday night at the Bell Centre. Kotkaniemi signed a $6.1-million contract with Carolina during the off-season.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi helps pile on Canadiens’ woes with triumphant return

  2. Montreal Canadiens Jake Allen, left, Ben Chiarot and Brett Kulak sit through the last minute of their loss to the Carolina Hurricanes during National Hockey League game in Montreal Thursday October 21, 2021.  Equipment manager Pierre Gervais watches at rear. (John Mahoney / MONTREAL GAZETTE) ORG XMIT: 51429 - 4115

    About Last Night: Canes claim first round in offer sheet cup vs Habs

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    Canadiens GM Bergevin has one foot out the door | HI/O Bonus

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