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Maple Leafs season at crossroads after Rielly goes down with injury –



In a bitter slice of irony, it was a crisply fired puck that never reached the Toronto Maple Leafs’ net Sunday that wrought worlds more damage than the eight that bulged the twine.

Morgan Rielly was trying to do the right thing when his left foot ended up in the precisely wrong spot: directly in line with an Aleksander Barkov blast at close range that, thanks to Monday’s afternoon’s CT scan, we now know fractured his foot.

The most-used, longest-serving Maple Leaf will be sidelined a minimum of eight weeks, and by the time he’s fit to return to action, Toronto’s now-tenuous playoff fate could already be settled.


Rielly joins regulars Ilya Mikheyev, Jake Muzzin and Trevor Moore on a crowded injured reserve that, yes, is clearing salary-cap space but clouding the hopes of talent-rich roster than has been dealt repeated rounds of adversity.

Will this young core allow themselves to be defined by this rash of hard-luck injuries, or will they, like Pittsburgh has this season, grow stronger for persevering through it?

Many a critic has questioned the Leafs’ grit, a characteristic whose definition can be subjective in hockey circles.

But since Christmas, two Leafs defenders have now finished out the majority of a road game on a fracture foot (Muzzin did so in New Jersey on Dec. 27) and hobbled out of the rink on their own power.

“He’s a team-first guy and he’s out there doing everything he can for us,” coach Sheldon Keefe said only a few days ago, recognizing Rielly had already been pushing through the pain of a lingering, unspecified, lower-body ailment.

“He’s an important guy for our team, and we’ve seen the improvements with his game.”

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Today, Keefe is staring directly into the maw of his first crisis in his new gig, just a week after setting a franchise record with 15 wins in his first 20 games.

So perhaps he was in denial or holding out faint hope when his most trusted defenceman was standing in pain and getting checked over by the team’s medical staff post-game Sunday. At the time, Keefe said he thought Rielly was “fine” but didn’t sound certain.

Suddenly, little is.

In the midst of a three-game losing skid that has seen two quick (and justifiable) goalie pulls, odd-man rushes galore and 17 goals allowed, Rielly is the last player (outside of No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen) the Leafs can afford to lose.

He plays in all situations, contributes to both special teams, and holds a strong voice in the dressing room. He’s been munching minutes (24:15, both a career and team high) and driving offence.

The injury to Muzzin — who was still walking around with a boot on his foot in Florida — has already exposed the Leafs’ weakest position, with call-up Martin Marincin seeing some top-four nights.

The left side of Toronto’s D corps has lost its two best components, and we expect the relatively inexperienced Justin Holl and Travis Dermott to be leaned on even more heavily.

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 optimist, however, spots two things.

One: That the forced rest will serve Rielly well in the long run. After scoring more goals (20) than anyone else at his position last season and finishing fifth in the Norris vote, he’d taken his first step backward in years. Despite consistently downplaying it, he’s been hurting.

Two: Hope arrives in the form of a teenage Swede named Rasmus Sandin, full of confidence and fresh off wowing at the world juniors, claiming a bronze medal and the tournament’s top defenceman honours.

GM Kyle Dubas won’t hesitate to burn the first year of Sandin’s entry-level contract now. There’s no choice anymore.

So, Sandin runs right into the fire Tuesday versus the New Jersey Devils, as the season of turmoil takes another drastic turn.

Two months of life without Rielly: It’s either going to steel them or do them in.

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Jubilant Latvians given national holiday after shock ice hockey win over USA



Latvians woke up to go to work Monday morning, only to find they didn’t have to. Their parliament had met at midnight to declare a holiday after the national ice hockey team chalked up its best result at the world championship.

Latvia, where hockey is hugely popular, co-hosted the men’s championship with Finland, and the country’s 4-3 overtime victory over the United States for the bronze medal on Sunday was greeted with jubilation.

A plane bringing the team home from Finland flew at low altitude over central Riga on Monday to greet thousands of fans who had gathered to welcome the squad.

At quarter to midnight on Sunday, members of parliament, sporting red-and-white national team jerseys, convened for a 10-minute session to unanimously declare the holiday.


It was “to strengthen the fact of significant success of Latvian athletes in the social memory of the society,” according to the bill’s sponsors.

The bill was introduced by a smiling member of parliament with her face painted in the colors of the national flag. Another giggled while trying to read out the names of absent parliamentarians, to laughter from many in the hall. There was an ovation from everyone present after the final vote.

But as dawn broke, there was confusion about who was working and who was not. Court hearings were canceled and schools and universities were closed, but national exams for high school students went ahead, with staff paid at holiday rates. Several hospitals chose to stay open to honor doctor appointments.

Businesses found themselves in some disarray, with Aigars Rostovskis, the president of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, telling public broadcaster LSM: “It will be chaos for many.”

Canada won the gold medal, the team’s record 28th world title, by defeating Germany 5-2 on Sunday.



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Kamloops Blazers rout Peterborough Petes 10-2 in Memorial Cup – ESPN – ESPN India



KAMLOOPS, British Columbia — Logan Stankoven had a goal and four assists, Connor Levis had a goal and two assists and the Kamloops Blazers routed the Ontario Hockey League champion Peterborough Petes 10-2 in the Memorial Cup on Sunday.

The win came after Kamloops defenseman Kyle Masters was taken off the ice on a stretcher after he was hit and fell backward into the corner boards with less than seven minutes remaining. There was no immediate word on Masters’ condition.

Ryan Michael, Fraser Minten, Ashton Ferster, Matthew Seminoff, Dylan Sydor, Jakub Demek, Matthew Seminoff and Ryan Hofer each scored goals for the Blazers, who bounced back from an 8-3 loss to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Quebec Remparts on Friday night.


Caedan Bankier and Olen Zellweger also added two assists each for the Blazers, who scored four power-play goals and improved to 1-1 in the four-team, 10-day tournament.

Peterborough dropped to 0-2 and must beat Quebec on Tuesday to advance.

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IIHF Hockey: Canada downs Germany 5-2



TAMPERE, Finland –

Sammy Blais scored twice as Canada beat Germany 5-2 to capture gold at the men’s world hockey championship today.

Lawson Crouse, captain Tyler Toffoli and Scott Laughton also scored, and Peyton Krebs pitched in two assists for Canada.

“It feels really good,” Blais said. “We’ve been in Europe for a month and we’ve all waited for that moment to play for the gold-medal game. And we’re lucky enough to have won it.”


JJ Peterka and Daniel Fischbuch scored for Germany, which was in the gold-medal game for the first time since 1992 when the playoff format was introduced at the world championship. Moritz Seider added two assists.

Goaltender Samuel Montembeault made 21 saves for Canada, while German netminder Mathias Niederberger turned away 23 shots.

Canada won gold for the second time in three years after losing to Finland in overtime in last year’s world championship gold-medal game. It’s Canada’s 28th title at the event, the most of any country. Canada also has 16 silver and eight bronze medals from the tourney since 1931.

“I could not be more proud of this group. We battled through a lot of adversity and doubt to get to this point, and this win is so special,” Toffoli said. “We have such a close-knit team that came together quickly, and we always believed in each other.

“Everyone bought in and we played a great game today, and I am incredibly happy to be going back to Canada with a gold medal.”

Peterka opened the scoring for Germany at 7:44 of the first period with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle off a breakout that beat Montembeault.

Blais responded three minutes later, scoring in his third consecutive game after finishing off a pass from centre Peyton Krebs on a two-on-one to tie the game at 1-1.

Fischbuch gave Germany the lead again on a one-timer from the slot that trickled into the net 13:47 into the second period.

Canada replied with Crouse deflecting a pass from Krebs on the power play with 2:32 remaining in the second frame.

Blais then buried his second of the game 4:51 into the third period with a backhand off a rebound to put Canada ahead.

Toffoli added an insurance marker with eight minutes left, scoring with a wrist shot on a two-on-one to make it 4-2 in favour of Canada.

Laughton scored into an empty net with two minutes left to put the game out of reach.

“The commitment of everyone on our team was unbelievable. We knew we had to come here and play for each other and commit to a team game. We came here to represent Canada and make our country proud, and I am so blessed to be a part of this group,” said head coach Andre Tourigny.

“Our players wanted to win so bad. They wanted to bring a gold medal back to Canada, and when you have that mindset you can accomplish great things, and we did that tonight.”

Following the gold-medal game, MacKenzie Weegar was named best defenceman of the tournament and was selected to the media all-star team. Crouse, Montembeault and Weegar were also named Team Canada’s three best players of the tournament following the semifinals.


Defenceman Kristian Rubins scored his second goal 1:22 into overtime to lead Latvia to victory over the United States and earn a bronze medal earlier Sunday.

It’s the first top-three finish for Latvia at the tournament. Its previous best was a seventh place it managed three times.

The U.S. lost in the bronze-medal game for the second straight year. The U.S. team was cruising through the tournament with eight straight wins until it was defeated by Germany in the semifinal, 4-3 in overtime.

Rubins rallied Latvia with his first with 5:39 to go in the final period to tie the game at -33 to force overtime.

Roberts Bukarts and Janis Jaks also scored for Latvia.

Rocco Grimaldi scored twice for the U.S. in the opening period to negate Latvia’s 1-0 and 2-1 leads.

Matt Coronato had put the U.S. 3-2 ahead 6:19 into the final period.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2023.



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