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Three Stars from Day 3 of WJC: Parik delivers shutout victory vs. Russia –



Underdog teams held their own against tournament powerhouses on Day 3 of the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship.

Switzerland hung around for most of the game against Finland, who remained calm and eventually used their power play to pull away for an eventual 4-1 victory.

Slovakia outplayed Canada for large parts of their round robin game, forcing the latter to dig deep in the third period, hold off a late Slovak surge, and win their second game in as many nights.

The Czech Republic shocked Russia with a 2-0 upset win, the most shocking result of the World Juniors so far. The Czechs shut down the Russian offence, kept them to the outsides, and played one of their most complete games in recent memory.

Although there weren’t as many goals scored on this day, there were still several players who stood out for their respective countries. Here are the three best performances from Day 3.

Third Star: Devon Levi, Canada

After exploding offensively in their first game of the tournament, Canada’s second game was almost the complete opposite. Though they didn’t necessarily play poorly, Canada struggled to get anything going against Slovakia after Jordan Spence scored to make it 1-0.

Canada’s second goal didn’t come until under five minutes left in the game, and even then, Slovakia scored late afterwards to make things more interesting.

As Slovakia turned up the gas and forced Canada to defend on the cycle, Canadian goaltender Devon Levi had to be sharp in net. Canada’s defenders were passive in their own end, allowed Slovakia to set up in the offensive zone without much pressure, and at one point in the third, forced Levi to bail out his team on a Slovak power play that nearly saw them tie the game 1-1.

Levi was nearly perfect, though, as Canada escaped for an eventual 3-1 win after playing with fire for most of the game. Levi, who celebrated his 19th birthday with the win, stopped 18 of 19 Slovak shots.

Although the Canadian skaters will likely look to improve their play for future games, it was a relief to see Levi remain dialled in and focused against Slovakia. Levi has cemented his status as Canada’s starting goaltender for the rest of the tournament, and Canada will re-group before facing Switzerland in a couple of days.

Second Star: Anton Lundell, Finland

For the most part, Finland played very well against Switzerland, defeating them 4-1. However, Switzerland opened the scoring first, and Finland could have sat back and let them take over at that point. Instead, Florida Panthers prospect Anton Lundell responded with a goal 36 seconds later to tie the game back up.

The Finnish captain put the team on his back and guided them through the remainder of the game. Finland shut down any more potential offence from the Swiss, and Lundell added another assist on the game’s final goal.

Had Lundell not responded with a tying goal so quickly after Switzerland took the lead, this game could have gone very differently. Instead, Finland took advantage of the tied game to get settled in, get back to playing their game, and dominate the Swiss for their second win of the tournament. Now, Finland will get a couple of days off before wrapping up their round robin with back-to-back games against Slovakia and Canada.

First Star: Lukas Parik, Czech Republic

Ahead of the final game of the night between Russia and the Czech Republic, it was obvious who the underdog would be. However, the Czechs have won three of the last five round robin meetings between them and the Russians, and surely they would make things interesting.

After arguably outplaying Russia in the first period, the Czech Republic managed to keep the game scoreless, in large part to the spectacular play of goaltender Lukas Parik. Parik did not play in the Czechs’ first game, and likely cemented himself as the team’s starting goaltender for the rest of their games with his shutout Sunday.

Parik stopped all 30 Russian shots to deliver the Czech Republic their first win, and stood his ground during multiple Russian power plays, including one in the last minute with Russia down two goals.

He refused to bend after the Czechs were hemmed in their own end for almost a minute and a half in the second period, and maintained his focus after Filip Koffer scored to give the Czech Republic a 1-0 lead.

Tonight was a huge win for the Czech Republic, as they put themselves in a better position to earn a more favourable quarterfinal matchup. It was one of their strongest performances at the World Juniors in recent memory, and it started in goal with Parik.

Parik’s performance gave the Czech Republic the rebound performance they desperately needed after their loss to Sweden. The Czechs’ victory also guarantees a messy finish to Group B, with Russia losing this game but having beat the Americans a few nights ago. The Czech Republic will have a day off before facing off against the United States on Tuesday, a game that suddenly has significant stakes for how Group B will shake out.

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



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?



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



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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