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Team Canada Game Day Preview: Game Two vs Slovakia – Oilers Nation

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Well, Canada’s tournament got off to a bit of an ugly start. Yes, they won their opening game, in an almost historic fashion, but I’ll be honest, it was tough to watch. Germany was playing for the second night in a row and had just 14 skaters due to COVID-19 issues. On the best of nights, they likely wouldn’t have been very competitive but even I didn’t think that this game would go the way that it did. 

Canada’s 16-2 drubbing of Team Germany sparked a debate around sportsmanship. Should Canada have taken their foot off the gas and not racked up 16 goals? The simple answer to that question is no. This isn’t a house league tournament and while Canada should certainly have respect for their opponents, they also need to prioritize winning, getting their goal differential up, and making sure they shake off the rust that comes with only having played a handful of games over the last ten months, which most of their players have.

For me, it’s pretty hard to find something bad to say about Canada’s game. Yes, you could say took too many penalties, including a major penalty from Braden Schnieder, but when a team wins by 14 goals, it’s hard to critique them. It’s also hard to pull specific positives from a game where they dominated the way that they did. Still, there are a few things that stood out to me.

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It seems like every year Canada has a player who comes from the bottom of the lineup and finds a way to make a big impact. In last night’s game, it was Phil Tomasino, who was a healthy scratch in their pre-tournament game against Russia but was added in after Kirby Dach was injured. Tomasino, who finished fourth in scoring last year in the OHL, made an immediate impact in the opener, scoring Canada’s second goal of the game while adding another goal and an assist later on.

The scoring depth of Canada is just incredible and that was certainly on display in the first game. I thought Dawson Mercer, who was the extra skater at points during training camp, was excellent as well. He ended up with four points on the night.

Dylan Cozens was fun to watch as well. He had six points and made finding the back of the net look rather easy.

Confidence should not be an issue as they head into their second game of the tournament tonight against Slovakia and while their opponent tonight will have a full lineup, I don’t think tonight’s game will be very close. It likely won’t result in a 14 goal lead for Canada at any point, but I’m expecting to see them dominate once again tonight.

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THE OPPOSITION

Slovakia opened up their tournament by upsetting the Swiss 1-0. Not a major upset, which is what they’ll be looking to do tonight against Canada, but a win nonetheless. Of course, the star of a 1-0 win is often the goaltender and that was the case on Friday for Slovakia as Simon Latkoczy was very good, making 28 saves.

Offensively, Roman Faith got the lone goal while both Simon Nemec and Michal Mrazic grabbed assists. I suspect that creating offence is going to continue to be a struggle for Slovakia as we move through the tournament. 

Their opening game win will go a long way in making sure they don’t play in the relegation round, but they aren’t much of a threat to do more than just make the medal round.

WHAT I’M EXPECTING

Honestly, I think we’ll see something similar to what we saw yesterday in Canada’s opener against Germany. I really don’t think Slovakia has the ability to keep this game close. Canada just should by at least more than five once again, unless we get a legendary goaltending performance from whoever’s between the pipes for Slovakia.

THE OILERS PROSPECTS

Dylan Holloway didn’t really stand out too much. He almost got a goal early in the first period and ended the game with one assist. Aside from a few moments where he zipped up the ice and showed off his speed, I really didn’t notice him too much.

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Phillip Broberg had an incredible tournament-opening performance in Sweden’s 7-1 dismantling of the Czech Republic. The Oilers first-round pick picked up three assists and was clearly one of the best players in both the offensive and defensive zones. Whether he was carrying the puck around the perimeter of the offensive zone, or breaking up a rush, he was noticeable and impactful. Team Sweden has the day off but Broberg will look to pick up where he left off on Monday when they play Austria.

Canada wasn’t the only team to blow out their opponent on Boxing Day. In fact, every game was a blowout. The Swedes started off the day by winning 7-1 against the Czech Republic, while Team USA took down Austria 11-0. Trevor Zegras had four points and eight shots on goal while Brett Berard, Matthew Boldy, and Alex Turcotte all had three points. Dustin Wolf had to make just ten saves in the shutout.

Today, we should see some closer games. At noon, Finland will look to improve the 2-0 when they face Switzerland. The late-game tonight, which starts at 7:30 pm, will see Team Russia, who’s 1-0-0 on the tournament, face the Czech Republic.

WJC CONTENT IS SPONSORED BY HOCKEY CANADA

The 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship is back in Alberta from December 20th – January 5th, and for the first time ever, the tournament will feature a province-wide online 50/50 raffle in support of the Hockey Alberta Foundation. Albertans will have the chance to win jackpots that are bigger than ever with every game day having a maximum of up to $20 million! Tickets can be purchased online or from your mobile device within Alberta starting at 9am each day at hockeycanada.ca/5050 with the winning ticket being announced daily. The World Juniors tournament and online 50/50 program will give Albertans an opportunity to leave a historic legacy with all proceeds staying in the province and supporting Hockey Alberta Foundation and the Hockey Canada Foundation.

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Felix Auger-Aliassime first-round upset Tokyo Olympics – TSN

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TOKYO — It was far from the performance Felix Auger-Aliassime was hoping for in his Olympic debut.

Playing on centre court of Tokyo’s Ariake Tennis Park on Sunday, Auger-Aliassime was eliminated in just under two hours by a player ranked 190th in the world who was not even scheduled to compete.

Australian Max Purcell, replacing the injured Andy Murray, upset the 15th-ranked Canadian in straight sets 6-4, 7-6 (2) in the first round.

The 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime never got into any kind of rhythm, except for a three-game winning streak that saw him go from down 1-3 to up 4-3 in the second set.

The Montrealer’s performance otherwise did not live up to expectations.

“It’s difficult to explain,” said the ninth-seeded Auger-Aliassime a few minutes after the loss. “You have to give credit to Max for playing such a good match. Even if he’s more of a doubles player, he’s dangerous, he serves well.

“Despite everything, I still had chances to do better in this match. I had a very bad service game in the first set, which cost me. After that, I did not find ways to get back into the match. A little in the second set, but it was not enough.”

Purcell broke the Canadian to take a 4-3 lead in the first set and won all four points in the next game to go up 5-3.

“I played with confidence,” said Purcell. “I just had two great tournaments in singles. I won a Challenger just last week.

“I need to make the most every time I get in. I went out there thinking I could win, and I think I had just as much to lose as Felix in my mind.”

The Australian earned another break early in the second set to take a 3-1 lead. Auger-Aliassime then strung together his best tennis of the encounter, winning three games in a row to give renewed hope to his team gathered around the court.

But it was short-lived. The two players exchanged serves until the tiebreaker, where Auger-Aliassime fell flat.

“You always have to try to find solutions, to adapt,” said the Canadian. “It’s difficult, we don’t always play our best tennis. That was the case today.

“My first service game has been good. There was no reason (to struggle today). In training (Saturday), I served well. (Sunday,) I didn’t have a lot of good first serves, I couldn’t find the right pace.

“In the second set I started to serve better, but it was almost too late. He had gained confidence, he was leading the game and I was going through it. I tried to find solutions, but it didn’t work out.”

Auger-Aliassime was supposed to face Murray, but the two-time defending Olympic champion withdrew a few hours before his clash with the Quebecer.

Murray, 104th in the world, suffered a quadriceps injury in his right leg. He is still lined up to play the doubles portion of the tournament with teammate Joe Salisbury.

“It’s not easy for anybody, adjusting at the last second,” said Frank Dancevic, Auger-Aliassime’s coach. “You think you’re going to play one guy and somebody else comes, a different game style than Andy. So it was just a little bit of mental adjustment.”

Auger-Aliassime now turns his attention to mixed doubles, which kicks off later this week, with teammate Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa.

“It doesn’t change that much for me. Whether I play against Andy or Max, I had to play a good game” said Auger-Aliassime. “I would have had to find solutions.

“It for sure hurts. Coming here, I had the possibility of having a better tournament. Leaving so early is a bit unexpected and I am very disappointed. I have to accept it and I will try to bounce back in the mixed doubles.”

Purcell will next face Germany’s Dominik Koepfer, who downed Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2021.

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Canada's first medal of the Olympics is silver: Women's 4x100m freestyle relay team edges U.S. for second place – National Post

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Showstoppers at the Rio Games five years ago, Canadian women swimmers are back in a big way

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Showstoppers at the Rio Games five years ago, Canadian women swimmers are back in a big way serving notice they are driven to be a world powerhouse in their sport.

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Anchored by yet another brilliant swim from 2016 superstar Penny Oleksiak, the 4 x 100-metre relay team claimed their country’s first medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday night, finishing second in the final.

It was a buoyant performance on the first medal night of the meet, immediately backing up the breakout six-medal heist the Canadian women extracted out of the pool in Brazil. The silver medals the four Canadian women placed around each other’s necks during the post-race ceremony were a shiny update from the bronze they captured in Brazil.

And the legend of Oleksiak continued as she won a fifth Olympic medal, tying middle-distance runner Phil Edwards and rowing coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie for the most summer Olympic medals among Canadian athletes.

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Based on the form the foursome flashed, Saturday’s effort set the tone for more success to come in the nine-day meet. Medal opportunities could come almost nightly and the confidence created from the opening silver could be huge for the Canadians who had far less racing opportunities than most of their competitors.

First-time Olympian Kayla Sanchez swam the opening leg of Saturday’s event, held at a spectator-free Tokyo Aquatic Centre. Sanchez was followed by Maggie Mac Neil and Rebecca Smith. Those three kept the medal pursuit alive, even if the favoured Australians were sprinting away to a runaway gold.

And then it was Oleksiak – the four-time medallist from 2016 – who brought it home, sending an early indication that she’s returned to top form by doing what she does best. The 21-year-old once again showed her pure racing prowess, a trait that earned her gold in the 100-metre freestyle event at Rio.

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Kayla Sanchez, Maggie MacNeil, Rebecca Smith and Penny Oleksiak celebrate after winning the silver medal REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Kayla Sanchez, Maggie MacNeil, Rebecca Smith and Penny Oleksiak celebrate after winning the silver medal REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

“If you are going to want someone racing the 100 free or anchoring your relay, you probably want it to be Penny,” Sanchez said in an interview prior to the Games. “She knows how to finish those last 50 metres. She knows how to do anything in her power to touch that wall first.”

Favoured Australia took gold, as expected and set a world record in the process while U.S. with Simone Manuel anchoring took bronze.

Emma McKeon of Australia, Meg Harris of Australia, Cate Campbell of Australia and Bronte Campbell of Australia celebrate after setting a new World record REUTERS/Marko Djurica
Emma McKeon of Australia, Meg Harris of Australia, Cate Campbell of Australia and Bronte Campbell of Australia celebrate after setting a new World record REUTERS/Marko Djurica Photo by MARKO DJURICA /REUTERS

Gunning for Canada’s first medal of the Games, the Swimming Canada braintrust juggled the lineup from the heats to the final, a strategy it has employed in the past for big event relays. Taylor Ruck, who like Oleksiak was part of the 4 x 100 bronze medal relay squad in Rio, was replaced by Mac Neil for Saturday’s final and inserted in the second spot, following leadoff swimmer Sanchez.

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“I’m so proud to be part of this team,” Sanchez said. “We did what we needed to do. We’ve been saying all afternoon: ‘it’s Game 1 and Canada has so much more to go.”

It was the first Olympic medal for Sanchez, Mac Neil and Smith, who are all making their Games debut.

Smith, Sanchez, and Mac Neil react after winning the silver medal in the Women’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Final.
Smith, Sanchez, and Mac Neil react after winning the silver medal in the Women’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Final. Photo by Tom Pennington /Getty Images

Despite limited racing opportunities over the past four years, the Canadians have kept their competitive drive engaged, something Oleksiak unleashed yet again on Saturday.

“Honestly, we are already one of the most dominant countries in the world in swimming and all the girls are working so hard every single day,” Oleksiak said. “I’m really excited to see these specific girls make a mark on the world again.

“Hopefully we can get a few more going.”

And in every event they have been called upon to leave the blocks.

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Swimmers dive off the blocks in the final of the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay. (AFP/Jonathan NACKSTRAND)
Swimmers dive off the blocks in the final of the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay. (AFP/Jonathan NACKSTRAND) Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND /AFP via Getty Images

The focus on strong relay teams is a huge part of the Canadian program under head coach John Atkinson. With an emphasis on depth, Canadian women showed their strength in that area at the 2016 Rio Olympics where they captured a pair of medals.

  1. Canada's Kylie Masse competes in a heat of the women's 100M Backstroke during the swimming competition at the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest

    Kylie Masse’s Olympic journey: How the 25-year-old became one of the swimming world’s best backstrokers

  2. Among the 16 first timers are Summer McIntosh, a 14-year-old Torontonian who beat Oleksiak in the 200-metre freestyle at the Canadian trials. Another Toronto teen, Josh Liendo, is an up and coming prospect that could help key the resurgence of the men’s arm. 

    The pandemic disrupted their training, but Canada’s swimmers aren’t afraid of Tokyo

The emphasis for most swimmers such as freestyle ace Oleksiak, backstroker Kylie Masse and butterfly speedster Mac Neil is their individual events. But Atkinson is determined to parlay that talent into relay success.

“It’s a nine-day competition in the pool,” Atkinson said. “We have selected a team that can compete in six relays and be competitive through all nine days, in individual events as well as relays.”

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Naomi Osaka beats Zheng Saisai in Tokyo Olympics debut – Sportsnet.ca

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TOKYO (AP) — Naomi Osaka is back playing, still winning, and also talking to the media again.

The Japanese superstar who lit the Olympic cauldron defeated 52nd-ranked Zheng Saisai of China 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday in her first match in nearly two months.

Osaka hadn’t played since she withdrew from the French Open in May to take a mental health break, revealing that she has dealt with depression. She then sat out Wimbledon.

Osaka stopped to talk with reporters afterward, having said in Paris that she experiences “huge waves of anxiety” before meeting with the media and that she would be skipping news conferences.

“More than anything else I’m just focused on playing tennis,” Osaka said. “The Olympics has been a dream of mine since I was a kid so I feel like the break that I took was very needed. I feel definitely a little bit refreshed and I’m happy again.”

She added that she was “happy” that reporters were asking her questions, then added: “I feel a little bit out of my body right now.”

“There’s nothing wrong with my body, I just felt really nervous,” Osaka said. “I haven’t played since France so there were definitely some things that I did a bit wrong but I think I can improve in the matches that I continue playing.”

The second-ranked Osaka was sharp from the start, serving an ace down the T on the opening point of the match and and racing out to a 5-0 lead.

Wearing a bright red dress and a red visor and with her hair styled in red-and-white braids to match the colors of the Japanese flag stitched onto the left side of her chest, Osaka served six aces in all and produced 25 winners to Zheng’s 10.

Osaka’s match was originally scheduled to open the tournament on Saturday but then was pushed back a day before her starring role in Friday’s opening ceremony.

“I feel very very proud,” Osaka said, revealing that Olympic organizers asked her to handle the cauldron honors back in March.

“When I lit the flame I was super honored,” she added. “I think that’s a position that you dream about and not anyone can do it so for me when they asked me if I wanted to I was very surprised but very honored and I’m just very happy to be here and very happy to play — especially in Tokyo.”

Osaka will next face 50th-ranked Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland.

For other top players in the tennis tournament at the Tokyo Games, it wasn’t so straightforward.

Top-ranked Ash Barty was upset by 48th-ranked Spanish opponent Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4, 6-3 and two-time defending gold medalist Andy Murray withdrew from singles because of a right quad strain.

Both still remain in the doubles competition.

Barty won with Australian partner Storm Sanders on Saturday while Murray and British partner Joe Salisbury beat the second-seeded French team of Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.

Barty’s singles defeat came 15 days after she won Wimbledon for her second Grand Slam title.

She struggled with a whopping 55 unforced errors to Sorribes Tormo’s 13 and got in only 54% of her first serves compared to her opponent’s 83%.

Murray pulled out shortly ahead of his scheduled opener against ninth-seeded Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada on Center Court.

“I am really disappointed at having to withdraw but the medical staff have advised me against playing in both events, so I have made the difficult decision to withdraw from the singles and focus on playing doubles with Joe,” Murray said.

It’s the latest setback for the 34-year-old Murray after only recently returning to the tour from a three-month absence because of a groin problem. He has also had serious issues with a bad hip that wound up requiring two operations.

Murray has a total of three Olympic medals. He also won a silver in mixed doubles at the 2012 London Games with Laura Robson.

Max Purcell of Australia was to play Auger-Aliassime instead.

Heat and humidity were issues again with the temperature rising to 91 degrees F (33 degrees C) and the sun baking the hard courts at Ariake Tennis Park.

Also advancing was Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, who beat Alize Cornet of France 6-1, 6-3, while third-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus eliminated Magda Linette of Poland 6-2, 6-1.

Carla Suarez Navarro, the Spaniard who plans to retire this year, beat Ons Jabeur of Tunisia 6-4, 6-1 for her first victory since recovering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Camila Giorgi of Italy eliminated Jennifer Brady, the American who was this year’s Australian Open finalist, 6-3, 6-2.

Among the men advancing were fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany, seventh-seeded Hubert Hurkacz of Poland and 12th-seeded Karen Khachanov of ROC.

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