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Jacobs rink vows to ‘fight, fight, fight’ possibility of missing playoffs



KINGSTON, Ont. – The No. 1 ranked team on the planet has their backs against the wall at the Tim Hortons Brier.

Northern Ontario skip Brad Jacobs and his team were the hottest rink in curling this season heading into the Canadian men’s curling championship after winning back-to-back-to-back events on the Grand Slam circuit. Their week in Kingston has been a different story.

The Sault Ste. Marie skip could be in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2012 after a handful of frustrating results at Leon’s Centre. Even an appearance in the championship round isn’t guaranteed at this moment.

Team Jacobs lost their opener to Alberta after their skip Brendan Bottcher shot a blistering 98 per cent. They handled Prince Edward Island before losing to Manitoba on a somewhat controversial 10th-end measure and then blew a 4-0 lead to Newfoundland’s Brad Gushue Monday night, dropping to 1-3.

But they improved to 3-3 after a 6-2 win over Nova Scotia Tuesday night and a 9-2 victory over the youngsters from Quebec Tuesday afternoon. They still need to beat winless Nunavut in their final round-robin game Wednesday afternoon to book a likely spot in the championship round.

“It was kind of a funny start for us. Things didn’t quite go our way. We didn’t play poorly. We’re throwing the rock very well.” Jacobs told the media after their victory over Quebec. “We were just on the wrong side of the inch. That’s in the pass. We’ve got to focus on what lies ahead.”

If they get there, Team Jacobs might have to sweep their four contests in the championship round (or at least go 3-1) to be in contention for the final four as teams with three losses heading into that portion of the event haven’t fared very well. Then again, most teams in this position don’t have Olympic gold medals in their back pockets.

‘We’re not out of this event’: Jacobs not prepared to give up Brier hopes

Despite a rough start for his Northern Ontario team, skip Brad Jacobs explained that he and his teammates have not lost any hope and will continue to fight for wins.

“Everybody feels like there’s hope so just keep trying,” Jacobs said.

If anybody can run the table to get into this weekend’s playoff showdown, it’s Team Jacobs.

Their slow start might just be a reversal of fortune Jacobs needs at the national championship. Since winning his first and only Brier Tankard in 2013, the 34-year-old has a 46-9 record in the round robin, but a 1-7 showing in the playoffs.

Tim Hortons Brier: Draw 8 – Newfoundland and Labrador 7, Northern Ontario 6

Brad Jacobs made a great shot in the first end to put Northern Ontario up 4-0 early. But Brad Gushue and his team battled back and made a perfect blank in the ninth to keep the hammer and they would complete the comeback in the 10th to improve to 3-1.

Could this early adversity be a blessing in disguise?

“A little bit of adversity early on in events is never a bad thing. We’ve been a pretty resilient team all year. We welcome that, to be honest with you. The harder it is, that’s good. That’s means you’re going through some growth,” explained Jacobs. “You know what, if good things start to turn our way, we’ll remember the beginning of the Brier and probably say it was because of how we started that we were able to just keep moving and keep going.”

Head coach Rick Lang says the team might have to go undefeated to make the Page Playoff 3 vs. 4 game.

“You [would] rather not be in this position, but I’ve seen this team in a lot of 9-0 situations at the Brier and not finish off,” said Lang. “You never know. Fight, fight, fight.”

Jacobs started slow at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, as well and we know how that turned out.

“We’ve got a lot of fight in us. A lot of grit and we’re just going to keep plugging away,” he said.

Kennedy Returns

One major difference in this year’s team is the man throwing third stones. Long-time vice Ryan Fry parted ways with Team Jacobs at the end of last season and was replaced by three-time Brier champ and Olympic gold medalist Marc Kennedy.

Minute with Muddy: Marc Kennedy

In his latest Minute with Muddy, Bryan Mudryk welcomes in Marc Kennedy to discuss joining team Northern Ontario, what it would mean to win another Brier title and he also looks back on his Olympic gold.

The 38-year-old from St. Albert, Alta., took most of last season off following a gruelling four-year Olympic run with Kevin Koe to get his body and mind back on track. However, Kennedy did spare for Fry at the Canada Cup in Estevan, Sask., last December and the foursome found instant chemistry to win the talent-laden event.

“I got to know what they were all about. They’re all family guys. We have a lot in common and they do the right things when it comes to the game. They have a professional approach which I really respected,” Kennedy told “I left Estevan thinking, ‘Wow, that’d be a great group to play with if I could.’ ”

Once it was determined that Fry would not be coming back for 2019-20, Kennedy was on top of Jacobs’ list. The feeling was mutual.

“There’s not a lot of opportunities I would have said yes to, but these guys with their skill level, talent, experience and the chance to come back and win and be 100 per cent refreshed,” said Kennedy. “More importantly, I really get along with these guys. It was kind of a no brainer once I knew I was 100-per-cent healthy.”

Jacobs says his new third has meant a lot to their team’s success this season.

“He’s a great guy. Awesome friend. Great teammate. Brings a ton of experience. He has phenomenal mechanics on his delivery. He’s just a great third and helps me out a ton on the back end,” said Jacobs.

Prior to his time with Team Koe, Kennedy served as second for the great Kevin Martin, winning two Briers, a world championship and of course Olympic gold in 2010. Kennedy had his fair share of success at the Grand Slams with Martin as well, once winning five in a row. But he knows that success doesn’t mean anything is guaranteed going forward.

“The impressive thing with this team is that we haven’t let it go to our heads. We know we’ve gotten a few breaks along the way and there’s always room for us to improve and that’s kind of been our focus the whole way through,” said Kennedy. “You start getting in trouble when you start thinking you’re as good as your results. It’s been a big thing for this team to just keep getting better and not believe the hype about us.”

Let’s see if Team Jacobs can find their groove from earlier this season and get back into contention at the Brier.

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Rocket advance with win in 3OT thriller | – American Hockey League



The Laval Rocket are off to the Eastern Conference Finals after a wild 6-5 triple-overtime victory over the Rochester Americans on Wednesday night.

The Rocket completed a three-game sweep of the Amerks and will face either Charlotte or Springfield in the next round.

Working on a power play following a delay of game penalty against Rochester, former Amerk Jean-Sébastien Dea wristed a shot that beat Aaron Dell at 1:51 of the third OT period to give the Rocket the victory. It was the second goal of the night for Dea, and came on Laval’s 60th shot of the evening.

Rochester nearly escaped with a Game 3 victory, scoring three times in the third period to take a 5-4 lead before Jesse Ylönen netted the equalizer for the Rocket with 1:07 remaining in regulation.

Back home in front of an energetic crowd of 10,662 fans at Blue Cross Arena, the Amerks struck quickly when Mark Jankowski pounced on a loose puck and scored his sixth goal of the playoffs just 1:04 into the contest.

JJ Peterka made it 2-0 in favor of Rochester with a power-play goal at 8:05, and that lead held until late in the second period, when Laval scored four goals in a span of 3:56 to swing the game in their favor.

Brandon Gignac started the comeback with 6:08 to go in the second period with a nifty deflection of a Corey Schueneman shot from the point. Danick Martel tied things up 55 seconds later, taking Gabriel Bourque’s pass from behind the net and snapping home his fifth goal of the series.

Just 76 seconds after that, the Rocket took their first lead of the night as Xavier Ouellet floated a shot from the left point through traffic that found the top corner over the glove of Aaron Dell.

And with 2:12 to go before intermission, Dea put Laval in front by two, hitting an open cage with Dell out of position following a collision with a teammate in front.

Rochester regrouped during the break and needed just 1:32 to tie things back up. Brett Murray scored 13 seconds into the third period to pull the Amerks to within 4-3, and Peterka got his second of the night 1:19 later off a slick feed from Peyton Krebs.

Murray then scored his second of the period at 8:35, getting a piece of Ethan Prow’s shot from the point and deflecting it home to put Rochester back in front.

Laval outshot Rochester 24-12 during sudden death and killed off two Amerks power plays before converting on their own for the winner.

Cayden Primeau (6-1) made 34 saves and earned his fourth consecutive victory in net for the Rocket. Dell (5-5) stopped a career-high 54 shots for Rochester.

North Division Finals (best-of-5)
N3-Laval Rocket vs. N5-Rochester Americans
Game 1 – Sun., May 22 – LAVAL 6, Rochester 1
Game 2 – Mon., May 23 – LAVAL 3, Rochester 1
Game 3 – Wed., May 25 – Laval 6, ROCHESTER 5 (3OT)

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Bozak scores OT winner, Blues rally vs. Avs to stave off elimination –



DENVER (AP) — Tyler Bozak and the St. Louis Blues experienced just about every emotion imaginable over the course of a win-or-season-ends game in which they fell behind by three goals.

Ultimately, they landed on this improbable one — elation.

Bozak scored 3:38 into overtime and the Blues fended off elimination in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals, overcoming a pair of deficits in a 5-4 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.

Bozak, a fourth-line center, unleashed a shot from near the blueline that got past Darcy Kuemper, capping a remarkable comeback for St. Louis.

“It was an amazing hockey game,” Bozak said. “I’m sure everyone that was watching thought the same thing.”

Robert Thomas had two goals, including the tying tally with 56 seconds left in regulation, for a resilient Blues team. It’s the latest game-tying goal for the Blues when facing elimination, according to NHL Stats. Vladimir Tarasenko and Justin Faulk also scored, Nick Leddy had four assists and Pavel Buchnevich had two.

They never doubted — even down 3-0 late in the second period and 4-3 late in the third.

“You’ve got nothing to lose, you might as well throw it all out there,” Thomas said. “That was our mentality.”

The comeback offset a hat trick from Nathan MacKinnon, who looked like he might have just turned in a signature moment with goal No. 3. He went end-to-end, working his way around Blues defenseman Leddy with nifty stick work and lifting a shot over goaltender Ville Husso for a 4-3 lead. It was his second career postseason hat trick.

Hats hit the ice.

“Doesn’t matter,” MacKinnon said of his feat. “Looking to get a win.”

Thomas tied it up with Husso on the bench for an extra skater, setting the stage for Bozak, who played college hockey down the road at the University of Denver.

To think, he didn’t play much down the stretch of the third period, with the Blues rolling out just three lines. When he got his chance in OT, he made the most of it.

“There’s definitely no such thing as a bad shot,” Bozak said. “So just tried to get it through the traffic and it went in. So that’s awesome.”

Game 6 is Friday in St. Louis.

The Blues have rallied from a 3-1 deficit to take a playoff series twice in their history _ 1999 against Phoenix and 1991 versus Detroit.

They’re looking to write another chapter.

“This team’s come from behind quite a bit this year in games so they don’t give up,” Blues coach Craig Berube said.

Captain Gabriel Landeskog also scored and Bowen Byram had two assists for the Avalanche, who were on the verge of advancing to the Western Conference final for the first time since 2002.

Instead, they have to wait — and wonder. The second-round has proven to be a big hurdle for the Avalanche. They’ve been eliminated at this stage in each of the last three postseasons.

“You sulk for three minutes and you move on. Simple as that,” Landeskog said. “It’s playoff hockey. It’s not supposed to be easy.”

Husso made 30 saves for St. Louis. He took over in Game 3 when Jordan Binnington was injured following a collision between Nazem Kadri and Blues defenseman Calle Rosen that caused Kadri to crash into Binnington.

Afterward, Kadri received racist death threats on social media, which led to increased security to protect him. He responded in Game 4 with a hat trick. On Wednesday, fans along the boards held up signs that read “Stand with Naz.”

Kuemper stopped 25 shots.

MacKinnon came out flying in the first period, taking five shots and scoring twice to give the Colorado an early 2-0 lead. Those were the first two goals of the series for MacKinnon, who has seven in the postseason.

The speedy MacKinnon also had an assist to give him 82 career playoff points. He became the fourth player in franchise history with 80 or more postseason points, joining the company of Sakic (188), Peter Forsberg (159) and Peter Stastny (81).

After Landeskog made it 3-0 just over 4 minutes into the second period, Tarasenko knocked in his first goal of the series 10 1/2 minutes later to jumpstart the Blues.

“We got on our heels a little bit,” said MacKinnon, whose team is 4-0 on the road in these playoffs. “We wanted it so bad, I guess. … Win the third, go to the conference finals, whatever. It’s one period. Got to keep our game going, stay aggressive. That’s what we’ll do.”

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Canada Soccer cancels men’s national team friendly vs. Iran in Vancouver –



TORONTO — Canada Soccer has cancelled a planned friendly with Iran in the face of growing criticism.

In a one-paragraph statement, the governing body gave no reason for the cancellation of the scheduled June 5 game at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver.

But the idea of hosting the Iranian team, ranked 21st in the world, has drawn fire since it was first announced.

At issue is whether Canada should be hosting Iran given the Canadians who died on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 when it was shot down on Jan. 8, 2020, minutes after taking off from Tehran, by an Iranian surface-to-air missile. The Canadian government says 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents were among the 176 people killed.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week the game “wasn’t a very good idea,” pointing the finger at Canada Soccer. The Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims called for Canada Soccer “to cancel the game immediately.”

Association spokesman Hamed Esmaeilion, whose wife Parisa and young daughter Reera were among those who died on Flight 752, said in an interview last week. “What kind of friendship do we have with the Islamic Republic of Iran?

“We want the (Canadian) government to take them to international court. And instead of that, we get humiliated by them … I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the back — (as well as) the other family members. After 28 months we don’t see any sign of seeking justice here. We don’t see sign of taking Iran to any international forum. And instead of that they invite the (Iran) soccer team here.”

Conservative MPs added their voice to the protest on Wednesday. And the PM said this week that it will be up to the Canada Border Services Agency whether the Iran team is allowed into the country.

The Iran game was to be the first of a two-game Vancouver homestand. The Canadian men open CONCACAF Nations League A play there against Curacao on June 9 before closing out the FIFA international window with another CONCACAF Nations League game against Honduras in San Pedro Sula on June 13.

Canada, ranked 38th in the world, and Iran are both preparing for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar this November.

For Canada Soccer, the Iran contest was a rare chance to test the Canadian men against a team outside of their CONCACAF confederation, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.

The Canadians have played just two teams from outside their region since John Herdman took over as coach in January 2018: a 1-0 loss to Iceland in January 2020 and a 1-0 win over New Zealand in March 2018.

The FIFA International window opens Monday, with players arriving from their clubs from around the world. Now they will get extended training time rather than a match ahead of the CONCACAF Nations League fixtures.

Canada has not played on home soil since qualifying for the World Cup in a 4-0 win over Jamaica at Toronto’s BMO Field on March 27. The Canadian men last played at B.C. Place in March 2019 when they beat French Guiana 4-1 in CONCACAF Nations League qualifying.

The Canadians topped the final round of CONCACAF qualifying with an 8-2-4 record. Their last game was a 1-0 loss in Panama on March 30.

Canada has a 1-2-0 all-time record against Iran, winning the most recent encounter 1-0 in April 2001 in Cairo. Iran posted 1-0 wins in 1997 and 1999 games in Toronto and Edmonton, respectively.

Canada opens World Cup play Nov. 23 against No. 2 Belgium before facing No. 16 Croatia on Nov. 27 and No. 24 Morocco on Dec. 1.

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