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The Oilers hang around long enough to make it interesting in St. Louis but ultimately fall 2-1 – Edmonton Journal



The Oilers came within a post of a point in St. Louis Wednesday, on a night when the Blues were the better team on-balance.

Both Mikko Koskinen and the Oilers penalty kill were terrific. But the Edmonton power play had the game on it’s collective stick no less than 4 times and came up empty…including a 6-4 man advantage that continued right down to the final buzzer.

The Blues dominated in the 2nd frame in particular. But an 18-8 Oilers advantage in shots down the stretch sure made this one interesting.

Ultimately, make the final 2-1 Blues. Here’s the tale of the tape:

Edmonton Oilers Player Grades

MIKKO KOSKINEN. 8. Mikko Koskinen was nothing short of tremendous versus the Blues, stopping 42 of 44 shots. Stoned former Oiler David Perron on an excellent 1st Period chance and then denied him yet again with a spectacular blocker save in the 2nd. A late save short-side on Schenn in the 3rd kept the game close. Koskinen was not picked as a star by the St. Louis media. Shame on them. We may be seeing him claim the 1st job from between he and Mike Smith.

CONNOR McDAVID. 5. Frustrated all night long up against Ryan O’Reilly (played nearly half of his TOI against 97) and the Blues shutdown pair of Colton Parayko and Jay Boumeester. That’s different than McDavid not playing well offensively. He did manage 3 shots in 22:19. And set up Draisaitl for a good 2nd Period chance. However McDavid was also one of the players principally responsible for the 2-0 goal when he let the late man drift unchecked into the slot.

JOAKIM NYGARD. 4. Often over-matched by the far more physical Blues. Managed 1 shot in 13:24…a lot of that alongside McDavid. Yes, he can skate and forecheck. But he’s miscast in the Top 6.

ZACK KASSIAN. 5. Played a key role in the 2-1 goal as Kassian led the forecheck into the zone and then created a large diversion that took the St. Louis goaltender out of the play. Awarded with an assist for his efforts. Kassian was also guilty of failing to get the puck deep into the offensive zone in what turned out to be the 2-0. Leveled a crushing hit on Oskar Sundquist. His 500th career NHL game deserves a nod as well.

DARNELL NURSE. 6. Failed to shoulder check at the offensive blueline as Ethan Bear was changing behind him on the 1-0. But to be fair, even if he had I’m not sure he would have had a chance to catch Brayden Schenn. 2 shots and a block in 21:21 including 3:31 shorthanded. Probably the Oilers best 2-way D-man tonight.

ETHAN BEAR. 4. Drew a 1st Period PP. A big clear in the slot mid-way through the 2nd. Was he a little slow getting off the ice on the change that handed St. Louis a breakaway? I say yes, although I certainly don’t hang the goal solely on him. Did lose his check below the goal line on the 2-0 though. A dangerous shot on a 2nd Period PP. Played 20:29. Generally played well but a couple of his mistakes were costly.

LEON DRAISAITL. 7. Centered the Oilers best line over the first 2 periods in between Gagner and Neal and was the Oilers best skater. Re-united with McDavid and Kassian for most of the 3rd. Hit the post with 19.3 seconds left. Assisted on the Neal goal to draw within a point of league-leading McDavid in the scoring race. Had 8 shots and fought through a really tough physical battle against the Blues in order to do so. A terrific stick broke up a 2nd Period PP effort by St. Louis and turned into a short-handed chance. Didn’t stop in front on the 2-0 but I thought he was supporting the D-man on the play. Played 23:41. 50% in the faceoff circle.

SAM GAGNER. 6. All 3 players on the 2nd line were well above 50% in CF% on the night, Gagner 14-8, 63%. 2 shots in 11:53 as well as a post. Set up Neal for a very good 1st Period opportunity. Next shift he set up Draaisaitl for another. But he and James Neal also had a malfunction just inside the St. Louis blueline that turned into a breakaway in the other direction for the 1-0. But the puck was headed in the right direction for a majority of his shifts.

JAMES NEAL. 6. His 18th of the season drew the game close at 2-1. It was a terrific shot as most of Neal’s body was behind the goal line but he still found twine with Jake Allen down and out in front. That was one of 4 shots for Neal. But he and Sam Gagner were also partially at fault on the 1-0.

OSCAR KLEFBOM. 6. Good clear on a 1st Period PK. A terrific steal and clear in a 2nd Period PK. His line at the end of the night included 2 shots, 2 blocks, 2 giveaways and a healthy 26:02 TOI. However, he was also part of a power play that came up empty over 4 opportunities and 6:33 of ice-time.

ADAM LARSSON. 7. His best play of the game was a shot block with the net wide open. Larsson managed to get his heel on it and direct it wide. Played a hard-working 19:49 including a close-to-perfect 5:40 shorthanded. Has really found his game of late.

RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS. 5. Had 5 shots on net. Did set up 97 for a chance on a 1st Period deflection-pass. Good clear on a 2nd period PK. The effort was there but not a lot went his way. The best example of that was a 2nd Period back-check that likely saved a goal only to inadvertently tick the puck over the glass to put his club on the PK.

JUJHAR KHAIRA. 5. A good D-zone takeaway in the 1st. A very good block and clear on a 2nd Period PK. Contributed to the penalty kill in a meaningful way overall, logging 2:42 TOI with St. Louis on the man advantage. 2 shots, 3 hits and a block.

ALEX CHIASSON. 4. 2 shots and a hit in 12:14. I didn’t mark him with a single defensive miscue but in a physical game against a big team I thought Chiasson did not make the impact they need him to.

KRIS RUSSELL. 5. A 1st Period giveaway. A good clear on a 2nd Period PK. Over-all played a pretty low-event 12:50.

CALEB JONES. 5. Battled hard, if not always successfully. But the majority of the time the kid bent but did not break. Unfairly nicked with a -1 as he was just coming onto the ice when the 1-0 was going in. A Dangerous shot from the point was 1 of 2 on the night.

RILEY SHEAHAN. 5. This line was hammered in possession at 5×5. Sheahan was 3-11, 21% CF. 5×4 was a different story, though, where Sheahan and crew sparkled in 3:12 worth of shorthanded work. Great clear on a 1st Period PK. Being just 22% on face-offs contributed to the puck chase that too often ensued on his watch.

GAETAN HAAS. 4. Did draw a 1st Period PP. And he and Nygard had a very effective 2nd Period 4×4 shift. But Haas spent too much effort trying to go through that St. Louis D rather than dump & go around. 0 shots in 8:34.

JOSH ARCHIBALD. 4. Very effective on the PK with a clean slate over 2:58 of work. But crushed 5×5 and managed a lone hit in just 9:38. Not the spunky Archibald we’ve seen the past couple.

The Oilers sit 3rd in the Pacific at 19-14-4. They host the Penguins Friday.

Follow me on Twitter @KurtLeavins

Cult of Hockey David Staples

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Andreescu eliminated from National Bank Open after loss to teenager Zheng –



TORONTO — Canada’s Bianca Andreescu lost to China’s Zheng Qinwen 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, as she was eliminated from the National Bank Open on Thursday.

Andreescu, from nearby Mississauga, Ont., was the last Canadian playing in the women’s tennis tournament.

Felix Auger-Aliassime is the only Canadian left in the men’s event in his hometown of Montreal.

Zheng will play Karolína Plíšková of the Czech Republic on Friday in the WTA tournament’s quarterfinal.

It was the first time the 53rd ranked Andreescu had played world No. 51 Zheng.

Andreescu won the 2019 edition of the event when it was last held in Toronto, earning the victory after all-time great Serena Williams retired from the match due to injury.

Trailing 5-4 in the first set, Andreescu dropped a volley well out of Zheng’s reach to go up 40-0 in the match’s 10th game. The smart play drew loud cheers from the partisan crowd at Sobeys Stadium and then Andreescu’s first ace of the match tied the set 5-5.

The crowd included Toronto Blue Jays infielders Santiago Espinal and Bo Bichette as well as Olympic sprinter Andre De Grasse.

A Zheng ace made it 6-5 and then, after a lengthy rally, the Chinese player used an overhead smash to win the set 7-5.

Andreescu made the most of her home court advantage, egging the crowd on after critical points in the second set.

She pumped her fist and yelled after Zheng’s return on game point was well past the baseline. Then Andreescu threw her hands up, encouraging fans to cheer when Zheng’s return was long on set point.

That momentum did not carry into the third set, with Andreescu quickly falling behind 3-1.

Although Andreescu won a game point, earning her chants of “Let’s go Bi-bi!” she gave up three break points as Zheng took a 4-2 lead. A hard forehand smash to the opposite court by Zheng added to that advantage.

Zheng put the match away on a double break point when Andreescu charged the net and the 19-year-old Chinese player put the ball deep but in.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland was stunned by Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 earlier in the day. The unseeded Haddad Maia had already upset 13th-seeded Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que., on Wednesday.

Haddad Maia will face the winner of the Round of 16 match between Belinda Bencic and Garbine Muguruza in a quarterfinal on Friday.

Serving was an issue for Swiatek with nine double faults to Haddad Maia’s one. The top-ranked player from Poland said that the swirling gusts in the bowl-shaped stadium were an issue for her.

“Right now it’s hard to say if it was more her game or the wind that really messed up my first set,” said Swiatek, who was playing Haddad Maia for the first time. “I think she just used the conditions better than me.

“When she was playing with the wind she was playing really strong balls and sometimes I was late for them.”

The wind was also a factor in Coco Gauff’s win in the afternoon. The American moved on to the quarterfinals with an entertaining and error-filled 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (4) win over Aryna Sabalenka.

Both players struggled with the conditions at Sobeys Stadium, with Sabalenka committing 18 double faults and Gauff hitting into 15. Sabalenka had 42 unforced errors overall, while Gauff had 32.

Gauff will face Romania’s Simona Halep in the quarterfinals. Halep, a two-time Canadian Open champion, defeated Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann 6-2, 7-5 to begin the day’s slate of matches at Centre Court.

Later, seventh seed Jessica Pegula of the United States came back from a set down to defeat defending champion Camila Giorgi of Italy 3-6, 6-0, 7-5.

Pegula saved match point to tie the third set 5-5, then broke to take the lead on Giorgi’s sixth double fault of the match. Pegula served to love in the final game to move on to the quarterfinals.

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Quebec's Olivier Rioux, world's tallest teen, chasing hoops dream at Canada Games – Yahoo Canada Sports



Olivier Rioux landed with a size-large exclamation point on Michael Meeks’ radar when the Canada Basketball coach opened a photo in his inbox seven years ago.

Rioux was attending a kids basketball camp in Montreal, and posed for a photo alongside then-Detroit Pistons and Canadian team centre Joel Anthony, who stands a formidable six foot nine.

“Ron Yeung (Canada Basketball’s manager of domestic development) sent me this photo of Olivier and Joel, and Olivier is about the same height, give or take an inch. Ron says, ‘This kid is nine years old,'” said Meeks.

“I was immediately on the phones, finding out who he was and what was going on and what we can do to help.”

In the years since, Rioux has sprouted to a full seven foot six. He can dunk on an NBA hoop while barely leaving his feet.

Guinness World Records recognized him as the world’s tallest teenager when he was 15 and seven foot five. If he played in the NBA now, he’d be tied with Cleveland’s Tacko Fall as the league’s tallest player.

But Rioux is playing for Quebec at the Canada Summer Games this week in Ontario’s Niagara Region with kids at least his own age, if nowhere near his size.

Quebec was scheduled to face Saskatchewan on Friday after dropping a 72-70 decision to Alberta in Thursday night’s semifinal.

Meeks, who’s at the Games to keep an eye on Canada’s young players, said he’s seen improvement in Rioux even over the past few weeks, but cautions that like any super tall player, he’s a long-term work in progress.

“People see his size and their expectations are pretty high,” said Meeks. “For me, it’s the little things like his mobility and agility, how he’s moving, how he conceptualizes the game — how much fun is he having competing and playing?

“This is important because we’re in uncharted territories with Olivier, there’s never been anybody that big at that age before. So, we’re kind of cautiously optimistic that he’s definitely moving in the right direction.”

Rioux, who’s from Anjou, a borough in east Montreal, will begin Grade 10 in the fall in Bradenton, Fla. He moved there to attend IMG Academy — a school that counts superstar tennis sisters Serena and Venus Williams among its alumni — a year ago.

“It was nice,” Rioux said of his first year away from home. “I was calling my parents almost every day, and the school year was good, my grades were up.

“Back in Montreal I used to go to school every day for at least eight hours. Now I go to school for three hours and practice in the afternoon, It’s different,” he added with a deep-voiced laugh.

He’s having fun at the Games, he said, and has taken in some of the boxing competition.

Rioux was 5-2 in kindergarten. His dad Jean-Francois is 6-8, his mom Anne is 6-2.

He first became an unsuspecting internet star at age 12, while playing at a tournament in Spain. He stood out like a maypole among the other players on the court. It caught the eye of Golden State star Steph Curry, who tweeted: “So many questions … “

Jamal Murray posed for a photo alongside him that summer. He already towered over the Denver Nuggets star guard from Kitchener, Ont.

Joey Mckitterick, who’s coached Rioux at Montreal’s AAU program Brookwood Elite since he was 12, echoed Meeks in that he’s seen huge improvement in Rioux this year, particularly as his growing has slowed and his co-ordination is catching up.

But perhaps most important is that Rioux is enjoying the game, which is key since huge expectations come with being super tall.

“I think this year you could see that he enjoyed everything about it, the basketball, the travelling, everything like that. He’s definitely falling in love with it,” Mckitterick said.

Mckitterick said part of his responsibility coaching Rioux was being a buffer between the teen and curious onlookers.

“When we travel, we could be sitting in a hotel lobby and random strangers will come up to him and ask him for a picture. It’s challenging even getting through the airport to make a flight on time because people are constantly stopping him: ‘Can I take your picture? Can you hold my baby?’ Can you do this, can you do that?

“When I met with our players at the end of the year. I told him ‘I can’t imagine being you. But the best I can do is just kind of guide you and help you and be here for you for anything you need, because I can’t put myself in your position.’ Nobody could.”

That uniqueness makes it difficult to gauge where basketball might take him.

“When you see Olivier, every three to six months he’s doing things quicker, faster, stronger, more balanced, he’s got more agility, his game is getting better, his understanding of how to impact the game is getting better,” Meeks said. “This is important, because usually taller players are a little bit slower (to develop), and he’s moving at the right rate in terms of a super tall player.

“Usually guys that stopped growing at about 6-3, 6-4, you could begin to see exactly what they’re going to be by the time they’re 16 years old. But these tall, tall players, it’s 24, 25 before it all starts coming together.”

Rioux, who likes to study the games of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic, who are both 6-11, is well-proportioned for his size and hasn’t had any major physical issues such as sore knees that can come with fast growth.

Among other NBA giants, Gheorghe Muresan is listed as the tallest ever at seven foot seven. Yao Ming and Shawn Bradley were 7-6. Canadian Sim Bhullar was 7-5, but his weight — he was listed at 360 pounds — was a limiting factor.

Canada at least has some experience with super tall players. Zach Edey, a 20-year-old from Toronto, is seven foot four. Edey made his debut with Canada’s senior men’s team in a World Cup qualifier in May. The IMG Academy product is heading into his junior season for the Purdue Boilermakers, who’ve also expressed early interest in Rioux.

“There are a lot of Division 1 schools that are very familiar with him already,” Mckitterick said. “The schools that are really focusing in on him are ones that value the size and want to use it. Because basketball has kind of gone in the direction of smaller (multi-position players), but there’s still a lot of programs that still value that size.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2022.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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McTavish puts up six points, Canada crushes Slovakia at world juniors –



Four goals and a pair of assists from captain Mason McTavish powered Canada to a dominant 11-1 victory over Slovakia at the world junior hockey championship Thursday. 

Brennan Othmann and Joshua Roy each scored and contributed a pair of helpers for Canada (2-0-0) while Connor Bedard, Will Cuylle, Logan Stankoven and Olen Zellweger added one of each. Zack Ostapchuk also scored. 

Matej Kaslik put away the lone goal for Slovakia (0-0-2) midway through the second period. 

Making his first start of the tournament, Canada’s Dylan Garand registered 22 saves. Tomas Bolo stopped 33 of 44 shots for Slovakia. 

The Canadians were coming off a decisive 5-2 win over Latvia on Wednesday while Slovakia dropped a 5-4 decision to Czechia on Tuesday. 

Canada will continue round-robin play against Czechia (1-0-1) on Saturday. 

With just seconds left on the game clock, Ostapchuk picked up a loose puck at the side of the net and slid it around the front, in past Bolo to seal the score at 11-1.

Roy gave Canada a 10-1 lead with less than five minutes to go on the game clock. 

William Dufour’s shot hit Bolo’s pad and Roy picked up the rebound at the top of the crease, firing it in over the netminder as he fell to the ice.

McTavish barely celebrated after giving Canada a 9-1 cushion 3:44 into the third period. 

He found space between Bolo and the post for his fourth goal of the night, a strike that tied a Canadian record for most goals in a single game at the world juniors. 

Other players who have accomplished the feat include Mario Lemieux (1984), Brayden Schenn (2011) and Maxime Comtois (2019).

McTavish completed his hat trick with 35 seconds left in the middle frame. 

Bedard took a hit in the neutral zone and sent a puck up the ice to give his teammates a two-man breakaway. Roy put a crisp pass on McTavish’s tape and the 19-year-old Anaheim Ducks prospect fired a shot past Bolo to give the Canadians an 8-1 lead. 

About a dozen hats floated to the ice. 

It was McTavish’s backhanded flick from the top of the crease 15:16 into the second that gave Canada a 7-1 cushion. 

Just 36 seconds earlier, Slovakia finally beat Garand after a battle down low. 

Kaslik got the puck and unleashed a shot that hit the goalie’s pad and the crossbar on its way into the net. 

A three-man breakaway set up McTavish’s first goal of the night 6:25 into the second. Donovan Sebrango sent him a lead pass and, handling the puck, Team Canada’s captain skated in, sending a rocket soaring past Bolo stick side to boost the lead to 6-0. 

The second period was just over a minute old when Stankoven put away Canada’s fifth goal of the night on a five-on-three. 

Kent Johnson sent a shot into Bolo’s pad and Stankoven, stationed at the side of the net, popped a shot in before the goalie could get back into position. 

Canada was 1 for 4 on the power play and Slovakia went 0 for 3.

After a slow start in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over Latvia, Canada was a force in the first period Thursday. 

The host nation took a 4-0 advantage into the first intermission after Zellweger scored with 43 seconds left in the opening frame. 

The defenceman got a shot off from the hash marks and the puck appeared to tick off another player in front of the net before pinging in off the post. 

Slovakia challenged the play for being offside but a video review determined Zellweger’s goal was good. 

A scuttled Slovakian clearing attempt set up Canada’s third strike of the night. 

Bolo tried to send the puck out from deep in his own end but Cuylle picked it up at the blue line and sent it to Othmann in the faceoff circle The New York Rangers prospect sailed a shot in past the goalie 15:57 into the game. 

Cuylle gave Canada a 2-0 lead less than three minutes earlier. 

Ridly Greig stepped out of the penalty box and chipped a pass up the boards to Cuylle, who skated in alone on a breakaway and put a quick blast through Bolo’s pads. 

Slovakia had a breakaway of its own earlier in the first, but Garand read the play perfectly and the shot thudded off of his pads to keep Canada up 1-0. 

For the second game in a row, Bedard opened the scoring for the Canadians. 

The 17-year-old Regina Pats centre dished the puck to McTavish, who sliced it back across the slot. Bedard capped the give-and-go by ripping a blistering shot past Bolo from the bottom of the faceoff circle 6:16 into the first period. 

The early game Thursday saw Finland (2-0-0) battle Czechia (1-0-1) to a 4-3 shootout win. 

“During the game, we got better and better. And that’s the most important thing,” said Finland’s head coach Antti Pennanen.

Czechia and Canada will both be off Friday before going head-to-head on Saturday. 

The Czechs know they’ll need to elevate their game for the matchup, said forward Jiri Kulich.

“We just want to keep our game,” he said. “It’s a big challenge, of course, and a big game. So we’re just going to do our best.” 

Switzerland (0-1-0) was set to battle the reigning champion Americans (1-0-0) in the final game of the day on Thursday. 

Friday will see Austria (0-1-0) face Sweden (1-0-0) and Slovakia take on Latvia (0-2-0).

NOTES: McTavish leads the tournament in scoring with eight points (four goals, four assists). … The preliminary round continues through Monday, with the quarterfinals set for Wednesday. The semifinals are scheduled for Aug. 19 and the medal games will be played on Aug. 20. … The 2022 tournament is being held in August after the original iteration was called off on Dec. 29 after just four days as rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials forced games to be forfeited.

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