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Newfoundland's Mercer, Newhook fuelled by provincial pride at World Juniors – TSN

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William Nylander


Team Canada held an optional morning skate and media availability on Sunday​.

Dawson Mercer and Alex Newhook are feeling the love from back home in Newfoundland.

“It’s unmatched,” said Newhook, a centre from Boston College. “I don’t think anywhere else in the world would have that support. Myself and Dawson, we’re feeling it first hand and we’re super proud to be from Newfoundland. The support we get, it’s been crazy.”

What was Mercer’s phone looking like after he scored twice last night?

“It was blowing up, honestly,” the Chicoutimi Sagueneens forward said. “I love seeing the videos of my friends and how hooked they were and everything.”

Even the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Andrew Furey, tweeted his support, telling Mercer and Newhook, “your home province is cheering you on.”

This the first time since 1992 that two players from the province have made it to the World Juniors. Mercer and Newhook actually grew up as rivals. Mercer is a “Baymen” from tiny Bay Roberts while Newhook is a “Townie” from St. John’s.

“There was always a rivalry, for sure,” said Newhook. “It was always the town against the bay. We played a lot against him and that helped both of us. Usually there’s not too much competition once you get older and to have a lot of great players in our age group back home has helped us both get here today.”

“I only played with him when it was Team NL tournaments and a lot of time was against him,” Mercer said. “It was very competitive, especially for our age group. It was, honestly, a pretty good year in Newfoundland so the competition was decent.”

Who had the edge growing up?

“I remember we took it my first year of bantam before I moved away,” said Newhook, who left home at age 14, “so that will probably give me bragging rights.”

“Yeah, they got the best of us there,” Mercer recalled with a chuckle, “but we had it the year before, though.”

Newhook and Mercer may be from the same province, but they bring different elements to Team Canada. Mercer is often listed as the 13th forward and described by coach Andre Tourigny as a “flex player” who can bounce around the line-up. One of his goals last night came shorthanded.

“Every team needs a guy like that,” said Newhook. “He’s a guy that can be put in every situation and excel.”

Meanwhile, Canada prefers to keep Newhook at centre and also feeds him some power-play time. Newhook’s skill was on display on his opening goal last night as he wheeled around the German defence with some fancy footwork.

“He’s a very explosive and powerful player,” Mercer observed. “He showed that on his goals. You could see he really went by that defenceman with ease. He has a lot of skill and offensive ability, but he’s also a big guy and hard to knock off pucks. He’s a strong player and he’s always been like that growing up against him.”

So, Newhook and Mercer are different players from different parts of Newfoundland, but in the end that shared heritage means more than anything else.

“It was a great game last night and to have us both here makes it that much more special,” Newhook said.

After getting the third period off last night, Devon Levi will be back in net tonight for Canada.

“Today we will face an opponent who will bring a little more offence, so we wanted Devon to have a chance to play more minutes,” Tourigny explained.

The Northeastern University freshman turns 19 today.

“We’ve all been giving it to him a bit,” Newhook said with a smile. “All we can really get for him is a win so hopefully that will come through.”

Levi stopped nine of 10 shots against the Germans and continues to impress his new teammates.

“He’s been really composed and he plays really safe,” Mercer said. “He’s always in the right position and plays with confidence. He’s always zoned in. He’s so serious and determined in all aspects whether it’s warming up or in practice. I go out there to shoot on the goalies [before practice] fairly often and he’s always dialed in so I think that’s something that’s important.”

Slovakia will start Samuel Hlavaj, who posted a sparkling 33-3-2 record with Sherbrooke in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season.

“He’s a big body,” said Mercer. “He had a good team last year that had a lot of success and he was a big part of that. We will move the puck side to side and get quick shots on net.”

The IIHF issued a one-game suspension to Team Canada’s Braden Schneider for checking to the head and neck area. The Brandon defenceman was ejected from last night’s game in the first period after catching Jan-Luca Schumacher up high.

Here’s the explanation from the IIHF:

“In an attempt to gain possession of an incoming puck from his teammate, German forward Jan-Luca Schumacher slowed down and decided to chip the puck outside of his defensive zone. At no time during this sequence did Schumacher establish control of the puck. At the same time, Schneider skates towards Schumacher. Without any regard to the puck at any time and seeing his opponent in a vulnerable position, Schneider delivers a body check to the head of Schumacher. Schneider delivers the check slightly elevating his shoulder, hitting his opponent directly in the head … while Schneider’s elbow was down and while there was a size difference between the two players – because Schneider slightly elevated his shoulder into Schumacher’s head resulting in the player’s head snapping back, Schneider actions were extremely dangerous, created a serious risk of injury to Schumacher … Schneider could have easily avoided the check.”

Tourigny was asked about the play this morning before the decision came down.

“It’s a hockey play,” Canada’s coach said. “The size between the two players is a big factor. I won’t lie, I didn’t review the clip 22 times, just saw it and moved on, nothing we can do about it. We don’t want, obviously, a hit to the head, but I think it was a hockey play. I don’t think he meant any harm to the opponent.”

Moncton’s Jordan Spence, a healthy scratch against the Germans, will draw into the lineup.

Despite the 16-2 win last night, Tourigny still highlighted areas where he feels Team Canada can improve.

“We have a lot of little things, little habits from our face-off routes to our net presence to our reloading, a lot of details we need to get better at during the tournament,” Tourigny said. “The spirit of the players this morning is really good. The players have good energy. I like their focus. They’ve stayed grounded so that’s important.”

Slovakia, meanwhile, is feeling confident after shutting out Switzerland 1-0 on Christmas Day.

“We battled hard for a whole 60 minutes,” said coach Robert Petrovicky. “We played for each other and especially at the end of the game we blocked lots of shots. It was a team effort.”

What’s the key tonight against Canada?

“We got to be concentrating as soon as the puck drops, especially early in the game,” he said. “The boys are ready. They’re excited. They’re prepared. We got to keep the spirit up and play hard for every shift.”

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Sinclair to lead Canadian women’s team in her fourth Olympics

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Christine Sinclair, the all-time international goal-scoring record holder, was named to her fourth Olympic squad on Wednesday and will headline a Canadian roster at the Tokyo Games that features a mix of veterans and youth.

Led by Sinclair, whose 186 goals for her country are the most by a female or male soccer player worldwide, Canada won medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and was the only nation to make the podium in both competitions.

“I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to help take this team back to the podium and make history again,” said Canadian captain Sinclair. “Our team is in a good spot, we are excited, we are hungry and we are ready to go.”

The 18-player roster features 12 members of the squad that competed at the 2016 Rio Games while a quintet including Vanessa Gilles, Jayde Riviere, Julia Grosso, Adriana Leon, and Evelyne Viens will be making their Olympic debuts.

Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan travelled to Rio in 2016 as an alternate.

Canada will kick off their Tokyo 2020 journey when they face Japan on July 21 and continue Group E play against Chile on July 24 and Britain on July 27.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Which of the Canadians Picked in the 2021 NFL Draft Will Thrive This Season?

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It was a good NFL Draft for Canadian players in 2021.

Some four stars from north of the border were selected by NFL franchises in the free agency pick ‘em, and that is tied as the highest number of Canadians drafted in the 85-year history of the event.

Of course, the hope is that these young talents are more than just filler and roster depth, but can any of the quartet make the breakthrough into the big time?

Here’s a look at which of the NFL’s newest Canadian additions can shine in 2021/22.

Jevon Holland

The defensive back was the number 36 pick in the Draft by the Miami Dolphins, who beat off a number of rivals in the hunt for the Coquitlam native.

A versatile defender, Holland is a former Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist thanks to his exploits in the NCAA back in 2019 with the University of Oregon.

He sat out the 2020 campaign, but representatives from dozens of NFL teams were in town to watch Holland go through his paces at the Oregon Pro Day.

The 21-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Robert, who turned out for the Detroit Lions, and he is expected to force his way into the starting line-up at the Dolphins. And, who knows, maybe Holland could go all the way in his first season, with Miami priced at +2500 in the Super Bowl 2022 American football odds.

Benjamin St-Juste

When you’re six foot three, 205 pounds and still able to run 40 yards in 4.51 seconds, it goes without saying that you have the physical credentials to succeed in the NFL.

Benjamin St-Juste is the man that can, and he will bolster the roster at a Washington Football Team that will be looking to improve upon their playoff showing in 2020.

The 23-year-old may only have been a third-round pick, but he comes with a burgeoning reputation thanks to a successful time at the University of Minnesota. An All-Big Ten special mention in 2019, more than 50 NFL recruitment personnel attended the college’s pro day – largely to catch a glimpse of St-Juste going through his paces.

Both Brian Gutekunst and Jon Robinson made the trip but, in the end, it was Washington who snapped up the powerhouse from the Draft.

Chuba Hubbard

The third Canadian to be drafted in 2021 was Chuba Hubbard, who became the first Canadian running back to be selected from the Draft in 25 years.

It’s the Carolina Panthers who have taken a chance on the 22-year-old and with his credentials, you can see why. Hubbard finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 after a stellar campaign – he served up 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, an NCAA best. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

While running backs are not the hottest of properties in the Draft, Hubbard provably has the talent to cross into the end zone with regularity – the Panthers might just have got their hands on an unheralded gem here.

With these three Canadians taking the step up to the NFL, the future of the sport north of the border looks in safe hands.

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Berrettini ends Murray’s comeback at Queen’s

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Andy Murray‘s grasscourt return was cut short in brutal fashion at Queen’s Club as Italian top seed Matteo Berrettini dished out a 6-3 6-3 defeat to the former world number one on Thursday.

The 34-year-old two-time Wimbledon champion, playing in his first singles tournament on grass for three years, could not handle the ferocious pace of Berrettini as he slid to defeat.

Murray eased past Benoit Paire in his opening match on Tuesday but world number nine Berrettini was too big a step up.

Berrettini’s huge first serve and forehand did most of the damage but the Italian also showed plenty of silky touch on the slick lawns to register his first career win over Murray.

Berrettini, 25, finished the match off with a powerful hold of serve, banging down four massive first serves before sealing victory with a clubbing forehand winner.

He faces British number one Dan Evans in the quarter-final after Evans beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Murray, a five-time winner of the traditional warm-up event but now ranked 124 after long battles with hip injuries including resurfacing surgery in 2019, has been handed a wildcard for the Wimbledon championships.

Apart from a slight groin niggle, Murray said he was reasonably happy with his condition, considering this was only his third Tour-level tournament of the year.

“I think obviously I need to improve,” Murray told reporters. “I actually felt my movement was actually quite good for both of the matches. My tennis today was not very good today. That’s the thing that I’ll need to improve the most.

“I felt like today that that sort of showed my lack of matches.”

Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, who won the singles title in 2019 and the doubles alongside Murray, was beaten 6-2 6-3 by Canada‘s Denis Shapovalov.

(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)

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