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Joel Hofer turning Americans into Team Canada fans at World Juniors – TSN

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OSTRAV​A, Czech Republic — Ian Walsh is one of the few, the proud – one of just five Americans currently working as a full-time referee in the National Hockey League.
 
But Walsh will find himself in an unfamiliar position on Boxing Day when Team USA clashes with Team Canada to open up the 2020 World Junior Championship (12 p.m. ET on TSN 1/4/5).
 
“Tough to admit it, but I think this is the first time in my life I’m ever going to be rooting for Canada,” Walsh said, laughing.
 
That’s because Walsh and his family have developed a bond with Team Canada goaltender Joel Hofer, who billets with them in Portland during his season with the WHL’s Winterhawks.

Team Canada coach Dale Hunter did not name his starter for the tournament opener on Wednesday, leaving it up in the air between Hofer and Guelph’s Nico Daws.
 
“There’s going to be a lot of nerves for me. I’m sure for him, too,” Hofer said, smiling. “He pays attention to all of our games. I hope he’s on our side. It’s a really nice family. I’m really lucky to be there.”
 

Clarke Walsh (left) with Joel Hofer (right)
Clarke Walsh (left) with Joel Hofer (right). Photo courtesy of Ian Walsh

But it’s not luck that got Hofer, 19, to the Czech Republic as part of Team Canada’s triumvirate in goal. The Winnipeg native was not really on Team Canada’s radar last season when he finished 23rd in the WHL in save percentage, working through a mid-year trade between Swift Current and Portland.
 
His start to this season raised plenty of eyebrows, though. Hofer was twice named the WHL’s goaltender of the week, followed by goaltender of the month in November. He leads the Western League in wins (20) and goals against-average (1.81) and is second in save percentage (.937).
 
Then Hofer closed out the CHL Canada-Russia series in net for the WHL squad, planting the seed that pulling on a Team Canada sweater might be a real possibility. The St. Louis Blues’ fourth-round pick (107th overall) in 2018 had not represented Canada at any level prior to last week’s pre-tournament tune-up against the Swiss in Brno.
 
Hofer led Team Canada out of the tunnel to start the exhibition, where he posted a shutout in his half of the game, needing only to stop four shots.
 
Walsh said he didn’t talk about the World Juniors with Hofer, but could tell it was on his list of goals for the season.
 

Joel Hofer(left) with Clarke Waslh (far right) photo courtesy of Ian Walsh
Joel Hofer(left) with Clarke Walsh (far right). Photo courtesy of Ian Walsh

“He is such a mature kid. He is very focused,” Walsh said. “He knows what he wants and then works to go out and do it. He is quiet, but he is confident. He has a calm presence. I think his mentality and mental strength could really be a big asset for him in a tournament like this one.”
 
When he signed up to billet last summer, Walsh had no idea he would be taking in a player about to skate onto the world stage. He and his wife, Margo, talked it over and thought it would be a good idea to have another role model around for their 7-year-old son Clarke while Walsh is criss-crossing the continent to call games.
 
Walsh has learned two things about Hofer since he arrived in late August.
 
Even at home, Hofer is competitive – and he is respectful.
 
“It’s been great. He is a wonderful kid,” Walsh said. “He is not the type of kid to just eat dinner and run. He helps clean up, he sets the table. Then when dinner is over, we have an ongoing game of soccer every night.”
 
Walsh said the game of footy, which takes place just off the family kitchen, is Clarke’s equivalent of mini sticks in the house.
 
“It’s been awesome to see the bond between Clarke and him,” Walsh said. “The one thing though is that Joel is competitive and he likes to win. There are some games where he just takes it to Clarke. But he isn’t a father. I know that sometimes I have to let a few in for Clarke to win and feel good. Joel is still working on that.”
 

Clarke Waslh: Photo courtesy of Ian Waslh
Clarke Walsh.  Photo courtesy of Ian Walsh

Walsh said Hofer has just been “part of the family” for the last four months. When they go to dinner parties, Hofer tags along. Hofer is an avid golfer, so they took a trip to the nearby TopGolf one night with Clarke – even though Walsh isn’t much of a golfer.
 
When Walsh is home and the schedule allows, the two will go out for lunch in Portland. Hofer loves the big-city feel after parts of two seasons in Swift Current, the smallest WHL outpost.
 
“He doesn’t say a whole lot, but we have the hockey bond,” Walsh said. “We watch a lot of hockey, talk about hockey. He will show me clips of his games; I will show him clips of mine. I ask him for his opinion about different calls. We talk about goalie interference penalties.”
 
Hofer said spending time with Walsh has opened up his eyes to what it’s like to be a referee in the NHL.
 
“You definitely have a different perspective on it now,” Hofer said. “I love it. I always ask him questions: ‘Who is the nicest guy? Who is a pain in the ass?’ I like asking him questions.”
 
Walsh said he has discovered that his job as referee and Hofer’s job in net are similar.
 
“I think everyone looks at goalies. They could not be a factor all game, but one goal and that’s all anyone wants to talk about. There is a similar singular pressure there,” Walsh said. “Just as he probably wishes he could have a shot back, it’s the same with referees and a blown call.”
 
Walsh will be feeling that same pressure watching his favourite tournament all the way back in Portland – or whatever NHL city he is in. The Philadelphia native has put his allegiance aside, at least for two weeks, and Santa might have even brought Clarke some Team Canada swag.
 
“I never thought I’d see the day,” Walsh said, laughing. “I told Joel to go over there and get a medal. I just didn’t say which colour.”
 
Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli

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LeBron Saves Team USA in Thrilling Exhibition Against South Sudan at O2 Arena

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LONDON — In what could have been one of the most monumental upsets in international basketball history, Team USA narrowly escaped with a 101-100 victory over a spirited South Sudan team at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday night. This exhibition match, serving as a tune-up for the 2024 Olympics, showcased the rapid rise of South Sudanese basketball and the indomitable spirit of the American team led by LeBron James.

The atmosphere at the O2 Arena was electric, with fans witnessing a game that turned out to be far more competitive than expected. South Sudan, a team composed largely of refugees and players from the diaspora, pushed the heavily favored Americans to their limits.

First Half Highlights:

  • South Sudan came out firing on all cylinders, building a surprising 16-point lead in the second quarter.
  • Team USA struggled with their three-point shooting, missing 12 of their first 13 attempts from beyond the arc.

Despite the odds, South Sudan’s players, many of whom have overcome significant personal and professional challenges, played with remarkable cohesion and determination. Their performance was a testament to the rapid progress the team has made under the guidance of former NBA star Luol Deng.

With the game hanging in the balance, LeBron James demonstrated why he remains one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Benched at the start of the third quarter, James returned to the floor with a determination that was palpable.

Key Moments:

  • Third Quarter: Anthony Davis’ defensive prowess helped shrink the deficit. LeBron’s return brought stability and focus back to Team USA.
  • Final Minute: With just 20 seconds left, JT Thor of South Sudan scored over LeBron, giving his team a one-point lead.
  • Game-Winning Shot: LeBron drove to the basket, scoring the decisive layup with eight seconds remaining.

South Sudan’s journey to this point has been nothing short of inspirational. The country gained independence from Sudan in 2011, and the basketball program, still in its infancy, has quickly become a source of national pride.

Notable Contributions:

  • Carlik Jones: Delivered a triple-double with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists.
  • Wenyen Gabriel: LeBron’s former teammate with the Lakers, contributed 11 points.
  • Marial Shayok: Led South Sudan with 24 points.

The team’s formation and rise have been spearheaded by Luol Deng, who played a pivotal role in recruiting and funding the program. His efforts have culminated in South Sudan qualifying for the Olympics, marking a historic achievement for the young nation.

Stephen Curry: “Wild game. They played really intense. It was nice to see how we responded. LeBron with a great finish down the stretch.”

Steve Kerr: “The whole team was embarrassed at halftime. We were challenged today, and it was good for us to feel that now. This was a reminder that we need to bring our best every game.”

Luol Deng: Expressed immense pride in his team’s performance, emphasizing the significance of their journey and the obstacles they have overcome.

This exhibition game was more than just a pre-Olympic warm-up. It highlighted the potential for underdog stories in sports and underscored the global reach and impact of basketball. Team USA, despite the narrow escape, was reminded of the importance of every game and the challenges that lie ahead.

South Sudan, on the other hand, has cemented its place on the international stage, showcasing that with determination and the right support, even the newest teams can compete with the best in the world.

As both teams prepare for the Olympics, this game at the O2 Arena will be remembered not only for its thrilling finish but also for the remarkable stories of resilience and ambition that played out on the court.

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UFC Vegas 94: Amanda Lemos vs. Virna Jandiroba – Main Event Recap

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In a thrilling main event at UFC Vegas 94, strawweights Amanda Lemos and Virna Jandiroba faced off on Saturday night. After an evenly matched first round, Jandiroba secured a dramatic submission victory in the second round, just moments before the bell.

Fight Summary:

  • First Round: The opening round was highly competitive, with both fighters showcasing their skills and maintaining a close contest.
  • Second Round: In the final seconds of the second round, Jandiroba managed to secure a submission, forcing Lemos to tap out. The win marks an impressive fourth consecutive victory for Jandiroba.

Post-Fight Remarks:

  • In her post-fight interview inside the Octagon, Jandiroba confidently called out UFC President Dana White, declaring, “Dana, I’m the next one. Dana, I’m your next champion.”

Future Implications:

  • With this victory, Jandiroba has positioned herself as a strong contender for the strawweight title. Tatiana Suarez, who was the rightful next contender for Weili Zhang, has been sidelined due to an injury. Jandiroba’s current four-fight win streak and her dominant performance at UFC Vegas 94 make a compelling case for her title shot.

Stay tuned for more updates as the UFC strawweight division continues to evolve, and see if Virna Jandiroba will indeed become the next challenger for the championship belt.

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Jake Paul vs. Mike Perry: Fight Night Updates

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Jake Paul is back in the ring, and he’s promising fireworks as he takes on former UFC star Mike Perry at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. The fight will be broadcast live on DAZN. Originally, Paul was set to fight Mike Tyson, but Perry stepped in after Tyson suffered an injury.

Fight Details:

Jake Paul (9-1, 6 KOs)

  • Paul is coming off a first-round TKO of Ryan Bourland in March.
  • He has promised that Perry won’t survive the second round.
  • Paul is more experienced in boxing but still relatively new to the sport.

Mike Perry (0-1)

  • Perry, known as “Platinum,” brings over a decade of fighting experience, mainly in MMA and bare-knuckle fighting.
  • He believes Paul is still green in the fight business and intends to use his experience to pull off an upset.

Main Event:
Jake Paul vs. Mike Perry

Live Updates: Follow DAZN for all the live updates, results, and highlights from the Paul vs. Perry pay-per-view main card.

Main Card Results:

Amanda Serrano def. Stevie Morgan via TKO

  • Round 2, 0:38
    • Watch the finish

Lucas Bahdi def. H20 Sylve via knockout

  • Round 6, 2:27
    • Watch the finish

Corey Marksman def. Tony Aguilar via majority decision

  • Scores: 76-76, 77-75, 78-74

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. def. Uriah Hall via unanimous decision

  • Scores: 59-55, 59-55, 58-56
    • Recap

Stay tuned for the main event updates and see if Jake Paul can deliver on his promise of another highlight reel knockout or if Mike Perry will teach him a lesson and pull off a major upset.

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