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Schmidt set to breach 200-match barrier for Canadian soccer team at SheBelieves Cup

Sophie Schmidt isn’t sure what makes her more excited — earning her 200th cap for her country or just getting back on the pitch with her Canadian teammates for the first time in almost a year. Either way, the 32-year-old midfielder is on the verge of joining a very exclusive club at the upcoming four-team SheBelieves Cup in Orlando this month. She will become just the third Canadian player to reach 200 national team appearances, joining Christine Sinclair (296) and Diana Matheson (206). The milestone could come as early as Feb. 18 when the Canadians play their longtime rivals, the United States. “Gosh, 200. I think I’m more excited to go back on the field with my teammates, but with the 200 caps, it’s been such an honour to represent Canada time and time again,” Schmidt told reporters on Wednesday. The native of Abbotsford, B.C., has been a fixture with the Canadian squad for the last decade and a half. In that time, she’s played in four FIFA Women’s World Cups and been to three Olympics — winning back-to-back bronze medals — with one more in Tokyo on the horizon. WATCH | Sophie Schmidt finds net with wonder strike: She could have never imagined such a career when she first suited up for the senior team back in 2005 as a 16-year-old. “I just remember coming in and being so grateful that I was called up. I was so scared,” she said. “I remember just looking around and having Andrea Neil, Amy Walsh, Charmaine Hooper, these huge names of soccer, not to mention Christine Sinclair … and they see me as one of them and they’re holding me to the same standards, it was just incredible. “That was definitely a special moment and it gave me a hunger for more, I was like, ‘I really like this, I want to stay and come back.'” And come back she did. Game after game. At one point in her career playing 76 straight matches from 2011-2015. Many national team players don’t reach that many caps in their playing careers. ‘Durability and adaptability’ Schmidt credits her longevity to “durability and adaptability.” “I’m not the fastest player, I take care of my body, I’m not prone to injury, so that adds to being able to have longevity and durability,” she said. “Also hats off to the people taking care of me off the field.” Her adaptability is on display almost every game. She plays multiple positions in the midfield, attacking mid or defensive mid, often in the same game depending on the situation and opponent. On occasion she’s also played centre back. Everything is done with the team in mind. “I think [what’s] been a huge asset to my success is being able to be adaptable and support players in different positions and play what is needed of me,” she said. WATCH | Schmidt converts game-winning penalty for Houston Dash: Schmidt can be found delivering a steady presence in the middle of the pitch, whether it’s going forward in support of an attack, switching the point of play or backtracking defensively to support her fullbacks. “Her passing ability is fantastic,” head coach Bev Priestman noted on a recent call. “I can recall when we played them [when I was with] England before the World Cup and I felt that Sophie played outstanding in that game. She’s proven that on a day she can compete with top nations. Sophie’s passing ability is something this team needs.” When she’s not wearing the Maple Leaf, she plays for the National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup champion Houston Dash, with whom she recently signed a two-year extension with an option for a third year. Her professional team duties are on hold for the moment as she prepares for Canada’s first trip to the SheBelieves Cup, an invitation-only tournament featuring four of the world’s top nations. After the U.S. game, the eighth-ranked Canadians play No. 31 Argentina on Feb. 21 and conclude against the Brazilians, also ranked eighth, on Feb. 24. Before then, it’s about getting the most out of Canada’s first training camp together in 11 months and first game action since the Tournoi de France in March 2020. Schmidt said the team has been working out the kinks in training and that Priestman and her staff were uber-prepared coming into camp, having done pre-camp Zoom meetings going over tactics and philosophies they hope to implement moving forward. WATCH | Canada coach Priestman targeting podium finish at Tokyo Games: Practices aside, there is nothing better to get you ready for your first match in 11 months than a game against your fiercest rival. “Every game against the U.S. is a battle, a fight tooth and nail to the end. We don’t like them, they don’t like us. I think nothing changes in that regard,” Schmidt said. “What an opportunity. They’re No. 1 in the world, see where we’re at right away heading into this Olympic year.” And that very first game is where Schmidt likely reaches that 200-match milestone, and when she does, she’ll be sharing it with all the people who have helped her along the way. “For me, it’s teammates, it’s coaches, family members, friends, my husband,” she said. “Being there for the highs and lows and just allowing me to pursue my passion, my dreams, no matter what. It’s definitely not a sole endeavour.”

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Flames plagued by inconsistent play again in loss to Senators – Sportsnet.ca

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You could see it in Mark Giordano’s strides as he successfully chased down a player 15 years younger on an overtime breakaway.

You could see it in the diving leg save made by Juuso Valimaki late in a 3-3 game.

Unmistakable signs of desperation.

Finally, after two periods.

It was almost as if players started hearing reports that a combine driven by an infuriated farmer was spotted racing south on Hwy 2.

Darryl Sutter’s actual arrival at the Dome is slated for Tuesday’s practice, at which time nothing can be done about the Flames’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.

However, you can bet the latest in a season of inconsistent outings will be brought up by the 62-year-old holding the straight-bladed Sher-Wood.

“That’s the tough part – you want to see that all the time,” acting coach Ryan Huska said of the team’s inspiring third period play, which erased a 3-1 deficit.

“There were a lot of good showings from a lot of different players (in the third), but at this time of year you can’t just be talking about one good period.”

But we are. Again.

And that’s why Geoff Ward was fired Thursday, to be replaced by Sutter on Tuesday, following two more losses and an odd handful of days without him courtesy of COVID-19 protocol.

As Calgary’s third loss to last-place Ottawa illustrated, the Jolly Rancher can’t get here quick enough to try saving a season rapidly getting away from the Flames.

“Obviously it’s a unique situation when you have a coach who’s not there, but we’re trying to control what we can,” said Noah Hanifin, whose second goal in as many games completed an emotional comeback with eight minutes left in a final frame in which the Flames enjoyed a 16-3 shot advantage.

“Obviously he demands success and everywhere he’s went he’s won. That’s something we’re looking forward to having in our locker room. I’m excited to see what he brings and what he expects from us. It’s going to be good for our team.”

As part of the team’s precipitous drop in emotion and intensity from Saturday’s 3-2 loss in Edmonton, the Flames failed on three first-period power plays in a game led 2-0 by Ottawa after one.

Zac Rinaldo’s fight with Austin Watson injected some life into the Flames, who scored soon thereafter when Giordano’s point blast tipped off a defender’s skate and found its way through traffic.

Jacob Markstrom made several big saves in the second but surrendered a goal to Colin White, setting up a third in which Johnny Gaudreau’s power play goal (the only conversion in eight tries) kick-started the comeback completed by Hanifin.

“Marky stops two breakaways in the second that help us get the point, but we’ve got to find a way to get two,’ said Giordano, who tracked down Drake Batherson in overtime to help send the game into a shootout eventually won by the 22-year-old Senators sensation.

“It stings right now — we know how important every point is. In the third we had a great push, but we’ve got to find a way to come out with two points. The effort is there and guys’ hearts are in the right place. But the desperation really has to be from the drop of the puck.”

Valimaki helped preserve the lone point late in the third after Markstrom misplayed a puck behind the net that squirted out to a wide-open Connor Brown, whose shot at the empty net was stopped by the diving defenceman, earning a hug from his netminder.

However, after Matthew Tkachuk and Tim Stutzle traded goals in the shootout, Batherson cast another pall over the Flames’ season with the winner as Ottawa’s fourth shooter.

We’ll start to find out Thursday, when Montreal comes to town, if Sutter’s arrival has come too late.

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Batherson’s shootout winner lifts Senators over Flames – TSN

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CALGARY — The Ottawa Senators emerged victorious in their fifth battle of the season with the Calgary Flames Sunday night.

Drake Batherson scored the game-winner in a four-round shootout to give Ottawa the 4-3 decision at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.

“I thought we played a good game even when (the Flames) made their push in the third,” Senators forward Colin White said.

“We hung in there and won it.”

The Sens have now won three of five against the Flames this season. Ottawa also has five wins in their last eight contests.

Calgary earned just one point from the game, leaving them three behind the Montreal Canadiens for fourth place in the North Division.

“It stings right now,” Flames defenceman Mark Giordano said. “We know how important these points are. We’ve got to come out better than we did. Obviously, in the third we had a great push. But we’ve got to find a way to get two points in games. That’s the bottom line right now.”

Connor Brown, Ryan Dzingel and Colin White each scored for the Senators (9-17-1) in regulation. Tim Stutzle also tallied a shootout goal.

Mark Giordano, Johnny Gaudreau, and Noah Hanifin scored for Calgary (11-12-3), while Matthew Tkachuk added a shootout goal in the loss.

Matt Murray made 31 saves for Ottawa, earning his seventh win of the season.

“He was solid. He looked calm back there tonight. He was seeing everything. The only goals (Calgary) got were a deflection and a rebound goal that came right back to the guy. He gave us every opportunity to win,” Senators head coach D.J. Smith said post-game.

Jacob Markstrom made 19 saves for Calgary.

Brown scored the first goal of the game with 6:12 to play in the first. He fired the puck from behind the right face off circle. The puck redirected off a Flames defenceman before sliding through Markstrom’s legs.

Dzingel scored for the second consecutive game to give Ottawa a 2-0 advantage before the intermission. He finished a two-on-one play, taking a pass from Chris Tierney before tapping the puck past Markstrom.

Senators forward Austin Watson and Flames forward Zac Rinaldo dropped the gloves within the opening three minutes of the second period, in hopes of sparking their respective teams.

It worked, briefly, for the Flames. Giordano scored his third of year 88 seconds later, firing a shot that deflected off Sens’ forward Josh Norris before beating Murray.

But Ottawa would restore their two-goal advantage thanks to Colin White‘s seventh goal of the season less than four minutes later.

Gaudreau scored in the third period to bring Calgary, once again, within a goal. It was his 11th of the season. The Flames would finally even the score thanks to a goal from Hanifin with over eight minutes left in regulation. It was the second goal in two games for the defenceman.

Calgary thought they had the game won later in the third as Brown tried to give the Senators the lead with his second of the night. With Markstrom out of position, the puck struck the right leg of Flames defenceman Juuso Valimaki and missed the net.

“It was an important time to keep the puck out of our net,” Valimaki said.

The Flames and Senators hoped overtime would decide things, but to no avail. Batherson’s shootout winner finally ended the battle in Ottawa’s favour.

NOTES: The Flames had eight power play opportunities Sunday night, but only scored once with the man advantage. The Senators were 0-for-2 on the man advantage…Sunday night’s game once again saw Ryan Huska coach for the Flames. Calgary hasn’t yet won a game since firing head coach Geoff Ward before the weekend. Incoming head coach Darryl Sutter will officially take over Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021.

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Team LeBron beats Team Durant as Lillard hits game-winning three – Sportsnet.ca

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ATLANTA — In the midst of a pandemic, this was assured of being an NBA All-Star Game like no other.

The stands were mostly empty. The crowd noise was largely piped in. There were no A-list celebrities sitting courtside. Two players had to sit out after getting haircuts.

But in the end, it had a familiar feel.

Team LeBron won again.

Knocking down shots from all over the court, LeBron James’ powerhouse squad closed the first half with a dominating run to set up a 170-150 romp over Team Durant in the league’s 70th midseason showcase Sunday night.

The top vote-getters in each conference have picked the teams the last four years, a duty that James has earned every season.

He’s now 4-0, having defeated Stephen Curry’s squad in 2018 and teams selected by Milwaukee’s two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo the previous two years.

This time, James drafted his two former adversaries and blew away Kevin Durant’s team.

“I think he’s got a future as a GM,” said Damian Lillard, another of James’ inspired selections. “He always gets it right.”

Antetokounmpo was the game’s MVP after shooting 16 of 16 for 35 points, even making all three of his attempts beyond the 3-point stripe. It was the most baskets without a miss in All-Star Game history.

“I’m just having fun,” the Greek star said. “Sometimes when you’re having fun and not thinking about the outcome, you just let your instincts take over.”

Curry chipped in with 28 points, while Lillard had 32.

James spent most of the night admiring his drafting skill from the bench. He played less than 13 minutes, scored just four points, and didn’t return to the court in the second half.

Instead, he munched a snack on the bench.

“I know he was managing his minutes tonight,” Curry said. “We had a great time, representing him as captain. It was a memorable night for sure.”

It sure was for Curry, who won the 3-point competition beforehand, then went 8 of 16 from beyond the arc in the game.

Lillard matched him, also making 8 of 16 from 3-point range.

This All-Star Game sure was different than the previous 69.

Determined to pull off an exhibition that is huge for TV revenue and the league’s worldwide brand, the NBA staged the game in a mostly empty downtown arena, a made-for-TV extravaganza that was symbolic of the coronavirus era.

Despite extensive safety protocols in place, two players didn’t even make it to tipoff. Philadelphia stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were ruled out because they got haircuts from a barber who tested positive for COVID-19.

The only good thing for Durant: He didn’t have to participate in this shellacking, sitting out the game with an ailing hamstring.

Bradley Beal led Team Durant with 26 points.

On a night highlighting Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Team LeBron swept the first three quarters and cruised to the final target score, earning a total of $750,000 for its charity, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.

The game got out of hand late in the second quarter.

With scant defence being played, Team LeBron took turns dunking off alley-oop passes. Chris Paul delivered back-to-back lobs that Lillard and Curry slammed through. Then, it was Paul on the receiving end of a payback pass from Curry.

After showing it could handle shots up close, Team LeBron headed outside in the final seconds of the half.

Lillard pulled up for a 3-pointer from the half-court line. Not to be outdone, Curry knocked down one from virtually the same spot.

“It was a lot of fun,” Lillard said. “Me and Steph shoot a lot of 3s. We shoot deep 3s. It was 3, 3, 3, 3, 3.”

Amid the joyful moments, the atmosphere at State Farm Arena was downright eerie compared to a normal All-Star Game.

Instead of a packed house, with A-list celebrities crammed into prime courtside seats, this game was attended by a smattering of hand-picked guests. They had plenty of room to spread out in a 17,000-seat venue that was essentially transformed into a giant television studio, with socially distanced spectators kept far from the court.

Towering video screens were set up behind the benches. Vegas-style lights flashed around the arena. Recorded crowd noise blared over the sound system. The entertainment was provided by the host Atlanta Hawks, who didn’t have any players in the game but were represented by their cheerleaders, drum line and DJ.

To address fears that one of its biggest events would become a super-spreader for a virus that has killed more than a half-million Americans, the NBA pared down its usual weekend-long ritual of extravagant parties, gridlocked streets and people watching

This All-Star Game was a one-night-only event, with a pair of skill competitions held shortly before the game and the Dunk Contest squeezed into the halftime break. The players flew in Saturday afternoon and were largely confined to a nearby hotel except for their time on the court.

“This is when everyone in basketball all over the world comes to one city,” James said before the game. “We’re able to sit back and go, `Wow, this is the game we have built.’ It’s a beautiful weekend for all walks of life, on the floor and off the floor.

“But I’m sitting here in my hotel room, isolated. My family’s not here. I’m by myself. It’s just different, to say the least, compared to previous years.”

OTHER WINNERS

All-Star Weekend was crammed into a few hours.

During the pregame, Indiana forward Domantas Sabonis defeated Orlando centre Nikola Vucevic in the Skills Challenge, redeeming last year’s finals loss to Bam Adebayo. That was followed by Curry knocking off Utah’s Mike Conley to capture the 3-Point Contest for the second time. The Warriors star added to the long-range title he won in 2015.

At halftime, Portland’s Anfernee Simons defeated New York Knicks rookie Obi Toppin in the Slam Dunk Contest, nearly kissing the rim with his winning throw-down. Cassius Stanley of the Indiana Pacers was eliminated in the opening round.

TIP-INS

Team Durant: Zion Williamson of New Orleans started the game in place of Embiid. The Pelicans forward had 10 points. … Durant’s team heaved up 72 3-pointers, but made only 27 (37.5%).

Team LeBron: Paul had 16 assists, passing Magic Johnson’s record for most career All-Star assists with 128. … Lillard ended the game with another long 3-pointer. Curry was waiving to the spectators before it even went in. … James’ team shot 63.6% from the field, including 31 of 61 from 3-point range.

UP NEXT

The 71st All-Star Game will be held Feb. 20, 2022, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. The 2023 game is set for Salt Lake City, followed by Indianapolis in 2024.

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