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Team Bottcher finally Brier champs after beating Team Koe in final – TSN

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CALGARY — Brendan Bottcher knew it would require a near-flawless performance to deny Kevin Koe a fifth career title at the Canadian men’s curling championship.

He was just about perfect Sunday night to finally end a three-year silver streak at the Tim Hortons Brier.

Bottcher shot 97 per cent to lead his Alberta side to a 4-2 victory. Koe’s Wild Card Two conceded in the 10th end with no options available to score a game-tying deuce.

“It’s just such a good feeling when you know you’ve worked so hard and then you come out and play your best at the biggest game there is,” Bottcher said. “That’s just really a cool and a special feeling.”

With about 30 seconds left on the clock, Koe and teammates John Morris, B.J. Neufeld and Ben Hebert briefly studied the house. Facing three stones and with no real chance at pulling even, they decided to call it.

Bottcher and teammates Darren Moulding, Brad Thiessen and Karrick Martin enjoyed a celebratory team hug by the side of the sheet in the odd silence of the spectator-free Markin MacPhail Centre.

“I don’t remember life ever not dreaming and wanting this,” Moulding said. “It’s my whole life’s work. It’s kind of overwhelming actually. But this is what I always pictured for sure.”

The Edmonton-based foursome made their Brier debut together in 2017 and remained intact through three stinging final losses.

“Losing in this game sucks, for lack of a better word,” Bottcher said. “It really sucks. It sucked the first time, it sucked the second time and it sucked just as much the third time.

“We all show it differently but (the win) just means so much to us and I think that was really on display here tonight when we closed it out.”

The teams blanked five of the first six ends, with Alberta forcing Wild Card Two to a single in the third.

The game finally opened up in the seventh end as Koe flashed a stone after it picked. He also missed a double-takeout to set up Bottcher for a draw for three.

Bottcher kept the pressure on by forcing Koe to make a tough double-takeout against five to salvage a single in the eighth. Bottcher missed a double for two in the ninth and settled for one.

“If there was ever going to be a guy that was going to catch you late, it was going to be Kevin,” Bottcher said. “I really thought we hung on, we did what we needed to do and we were able to capitalize on that.

“That’s something that we should be proud of.”

Down two with hammer, Koe was unable to build the end he wanted for the necessary pair to force an extra.

“We just didn’t take advantage,” he said. “They had two misses in 10 and we should have been able to come out of that with at least a deuce. Capitalizing on your opportunities when there isn’t many out there (is key).”

Koe finished at 74 per cent and his team shot 84 per cent overall. Alberta threw at 91 per cent.

The Brier was the second of seven competitions to be held in the Canada Olympic Park bubble. The Canadian women’s championship kicked things off last month.

Earlier in the day, Bottcher hit a game-winning angle-raise for a 6-5 semifinal win over Saskatchewan’s Matt Dunstone.

Bottcher removed the Saskatchewan stone from the button and stuck around to score two points for the victory.

“Obviously it was a super-difficult shot,” Bottcher said. “But those are the moments we’re playing for, for those kind of shots.”

Koe, from Calgary, defeated Bottcher in the 2019 final. He represented Alberta that year and Bottcher’s side was Team Wild Card.

The field was expanded from 16 to 18 teams for this season to accommodate teams that didn’t get a chance to compete in provincial/territorial playdowns due to the pandemic.

Bottcher was selected to represent Alberta and Koe got the second of three wild-card entries based on the Canadian rankings.

Koe finished first in the championship pool with a 10-2 record. Dunstone and Bottcher were next at 9-3.

Dunstone was hoping to reach his first career Brier final after winning bronze last year.

“There’s nothing to hang our heads about,” he said. “It was a world-class game. They played awesome and we played awesome.

“The curling gods were wearing a blue sweater today. That’s all there is to it. It totally stinks but this isn’t the end of us.”

The last Saskatchewan team to win the Brier was skipped by Rick Folk in 1980.

Koe continues to share the record of four Brier wins as a skip with Ernie Richardson, Randy Ferbey and Kevin Martin.

He was also trying to become the first hometown winner since Brad Gushue won in St. John’s, N.L., in 2017. Gushue defended his crown the following year and also won last season.

Bottcher will represent Canada at the April 2-11 world men’s curling championship in the same venue.

His team already has a berth in the Olympic Trials in November so the spot for the Brier win will be made available at a pre-trials event this fall.

Bottcher’s rink earned $100,000 of the $300,000 total purse. Koe’s team earned $60,000 for the silver.

Bottcher was named the winner of the Ross Harstone sportsmanship award earlier in the day. Thiessen was named a first-team all-star along with Gushue, Saskatchewan third Braeden Moskowy and Wild Card Two lead Ben Hebert.

Koe was named to the second-team all-star list with Neufeld at third, Canada second Brett Gallant and Northern Ontario lead Ryan Harnden.

Manitoba-based Kerri Einarson is the reigning Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion.

She’ll represent Canada at the April 30-May 9 world women’s curling championship. That event is slated to be the seventh and final event in the Calgary bubble.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 14, 2021.

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Boston Bruins Add Offense With Solid Taylor Hall Trade – Boston Hockey Now

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The Boston Bruins clearly understood they had serious deficiencies on their NHL roster this season and credit them for going and doing something about it.

The B’s finished off their Sunday night fireworks ahead of the NHL trade deadline by sending a second round pick and Anders Bjork to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for top-6 winger Taylor Hall and bottom-6 forward Curtis Lazar. TSN’s Darren Dreger, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and ESPN’s John Buccigross were the first to report about the completed deal between the Bruins and Buffalo Sabres in the hours following the B’s getting stomped by the Washington Capitals, 8-1, at TD Garden.

The Buffalo Sabres retained half of the $8 million salary that Hall signed for prior to the start of the 2021 hockey season.

The 29-year-old Hall is having a terrible season in Buffalo with just two goals and 19 points in 37 games along with a minus-21 rating after he chose to sign a one-year deal with the Sabres during the offseason. But he brings legitimate offensive talent as a former No. 1 overall pick and Hart Trophy winner to a Boston Bruins team that’s ranked in the bottom third of the NHL offensively all season.

The Bruins were one of the suitors for Hall prior to him choosing the Sabres months ago, and now they get him for a deep discount while keeping their own first round picks after making their deadline deals.

Holding onto their own first round pick was a priority for Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney after spending first rounders at the deadline in two of the last three deadlines in trades for damaged goods Rick Nash and Ondrej Kase.

The 26-year-old Lazar has five goals and 11 points in 33 games as a bottom-6 forward for the Sabres this season and is signed for $800,000 for next season. It seemed clear that something was going on with the 24-year-old Anders Bjork over the last couple of weeks as he was a healthy scratch for five straight games, including Sunday night against Washington, and heads to Buffalo hoping to further develop a game built on speed and skill level that hasn’t translated into offense as of yet.

Hall should fit right into the top-6 with the Bruins as a skilled winger for playmaking center David Krejci, but it remains to be seen how he’s going to fit as another left winger on a team with Nick Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk.

Either Ritchie or DeBrusk is going to have to play the off wing with a Krejci/Hall combo, but that’s a problem that Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy will gladly figure out after being forced to piece together lineups all season due to injuries and offensive inconsistency. With the acquisition of Hall, Lazar and left-handed defenseman Mike Reilly on Sunday night, it would appear the Boston Bruins are largely done with deals ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

Interestingly enough, the Boston Bruins are set to play the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at TD Garden.

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Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca

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It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.

“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.

It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.

But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.

It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.

“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”

Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.

Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.

“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”

But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.

When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.

Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.

“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.

Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?

It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.

“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.

“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”

It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.

But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.

You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.

What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.

“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?

“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”

Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.

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Scioscia to lead U.S. baseball bid for spot at Tokyo Olympics

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(Reuters) – Mike Scioscia, who won World Series both as a player and manager, was named manager of the U.S. men’s national baseball team on Tuesday, as they seek a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

After 19 seasons as manager of the Anaheim Angels, guiding them to their only World Series win in 2002, Scioscia will make his international coaching debut in June when the United States hosts the Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida.

For the tournament the U.S. will be grouped with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua in Pool A while Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela will make up Pool B.

The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Super Round, where the country with the best overall record will earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic tournament.

Second and third-place finishers will advance to a final qualifier, joining Australia, China, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

“Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler in a statement. “More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family.”

The Olympic tournament will take place from July 28-Aug. 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama.

Hosts Japan, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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