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Transcript – Kyle Dubas speaks in post-deadline press conference – Pension Plan Puppets

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On Monday afternoon, once the trade deadline had passed and it was clear the Toronto Maple Leafs were not making any more moves of consequence, Kyle Dubas held a brief press conference. He answered questions from the media relating to the deadline, their (in)activity, and the state of the team following an extremely tough week full of embarrassing losses.

You can find the full video here, but it was interesting enough for me to write out a transcript of the full Q and A. I think Dubas does his usual press release, corporate-cleansed non-answers like normal… but only to some extent. When you hear and read his answers outside of those, I’d say it’s pretty clear that the organization is not pleased with the level of play from his players and want them to dig themselves out of it rather than throwing them any rope.

He also confirmed that it’s more likely we’ll see a trade of significance in the off-season when it’s much easier to, and I gather their cap situation made swinging anything big right now overly complicated anyways.

Here’s the full transcript:

MEDIA QUESTION

Did you end up having a quiet day, today?

DUBAS ANSWER

I just think that things change as the season progresses, and the way they operate on the deadline I think is a byproduct of a number of things: cap space being one function, the performance of the team being another, and then how different player injuries and their return to the lineup will impact the cap space in the remainder of the year and how we have to manage that.

I think the confluence of all three of those things led to just some depth moves, and I think more than that we kind of took our shot earlier in the month with the Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford transaction. Unfortunately for everybody here, isn’t as exciting as you’d like. Sorry about that.

MEDIA QUESTION

How much did the past week with pretty disheartening losses to Buffalo, Pittsburgh and then Saturday to Carolina play into the decision to be quieter today?

DUBAS ANSWER

I think it goes back beyond that, Dave. Just call it what it is, I think there’s no reason to dance around it, in here. Everyone watches the team and is around the team every day. We’re in the lower part of the league when we made the coaching change. Then we had a great run in the beginning of January, since then we’ve been uneven.

It’s easy to look at the recent past to look at Saturday, in Pittsburgh and in Buffalo, and then make things look a bit brighter by looking back against Pittsburgh here. But I think the reality is you take it all, in its totality rather than react to one or two games. I think we show enough in our run since Sheldon that gives a great sense of optimism, then we also have some games where we rightfully, I think, draw the doubts of a lot of people.

I think the best way to put it, to use a Jekyll and Hyde type of way to describe it, I think it’s up to our entire program – starting with me and on to Sheldon and the players – to find our way out of it, to be the best version of ourselves that we can every single day for our organization, for the fanbase, to get where we want to go.

MEDIA QUESTION

Why do you think that they don’t deliver the best versions of themselves on a more consistent basis?

DUBAS ANSWER

That’s a good question, the truthful answer is we don’t know. If we knew, we’d go about it — and that might draw some criticism to say I don’t know. But I’m not going to come up and bullshit and tell you I have some magical solution. We have to go through this, we have to find a way to be our best on a daily basis.

It’s interesting, you can go back and look at different teams in different sports, there are very few that right from the minute they acquire their talent through the draft, just suddenly reach their potential and win championships and play at a consistent level every day. We’re clearly not there yet, but we also show signs of what we can be when we get there. It’s not really what people want to hear, but it’s the truth. It’s that we have to keep at this every day, we can’t waver when things don’t go well, we have to keep marching towards the way we want to go.

We know what everyone says and sees on the ice, it’s the problems that we face. We have to be more consistent with our focus, with our mindset, with our effort every single night to get where we want to go. I know we have the character and the leaders on the team, some of those guys are still younger and they’re finding their way as leaders within the group as well. We have to help them get there, and in time we will. It might just not be as quick or as easy as everyone wants, but this is not the type of business that is quick and easy for a lot.

MEDIA QUESTION

Did you have anything with Tyson on the front burner?

DUBAS ANSWER

There was nothing on the front burner. I talked to Tyson Barrie this afternoon, following practice to update him. I’ve been in touch with his representation on Thursday at our game against Pittsburgh. I think the reality is because of the way things had gone, we started to get some interest in him. Because of how things had gone I felt it was good practice to listen and start to envision what the return would look like from our end.

But because we were in the position that we’re in, where we’ve acquired him and he’s played very well especially since the coaching chance, we were totally fine with him running it out and continuing to grow as part of our group.

I know it was stressful couple of days for him, which is not something we want to put anyone through. I talked to him about a half an hour before the deadline, he was on the way to the airport, and we had a good discussion about where things are at and where we want to go, and we are excited to have him as part of it. But we were under no rush, or because of where we’re at, any real impetus to have to do something with him.

MEDIA QUESTION

Do you see him as part of this team beyond July 1?

DUBAS ANSWER

That’s a question I don’t have the answer to right now, other than to say that we’ll use the remaining time we have together to see if there’s a fit. As you know with our cap situation it’s never so simple, I wish it were but it’s not. So we’ll see where it’s at and where he’s at. He’s a great member of our program off the ice and adds a lot to our room, as our players communicated to everyone in here over the last number of days. We really value that, what he brings on the ice and off.

As Sheldon talked to earlier today, the way he conducted himself Saturday night when he was injured in the game and then came back in the game speaks a lot about what he’s all about and how he values being here as well as we value having him.

MEDIA QUESTION

How would you describe the market for defensemen with term on their deals the last few days? Was there one? [Dubas clarified that the question referred to acquiring such a defenseman, not trading one of the Leafs’ own players]

DUBAS ANSWER

Yeah I think we’re in an interesting situation, because as you saw today with Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci back skating it looks like they’re going back well before the end of the year. How soon, we don’t know yet and they’re still a ways a way. That complicates the amount you can bring in without a big amount of dollars going out.

We didn’t feel compelled to act on any of the things out there, and frankly I think they are more things that are closer to the draft. We need to see how our own guys develop. In a perfect world your own guys develop and quell your concerns you have about the roster and that people on the outside may have about them as well. We’ll continue to be on the hunt for that and on the lookout from there.

MEDIA QUESTION

For Calle Rosen, how important was it for you to know what you were getting in the player to make that deal?

DUBAS ANSWER

It’s a big help, we didn’t really want to give him up in the first deal but we did. Once Hutch cleared waivers a few weeks ago we started to have some discussions with them then it quieted a little bit. We also wanted to do right by Michael and get him into a good situation, it’s not been an easy one for him here. He’s a high quality person and family that he’s got with him.

When they were willing to put Rosen into the deal for our depth purposes, and in knowing him and what he can bring and how far he came with us in the previous two seasons before he was part of the deal with Nazem Kadri, Alexander Kerfoot and Tyson Barrie, we were excited to bring him back. It just eases any transition back, he knows our people and he hasn’t been gone for very long.

MEDIA QUESTION

What about Jake Muzzin, is he someone that you wanted to keep around and how did you arrive at a four year term?

DUBAS ANSWER

We obviously wanted to keep him around, otherwise there would be no question. Yes we wanted to keep him around, and the term is a byproduct of where he’s at. He just turned 31 years old, Brandon Pridham and Joe Resnick worked on it mostly and did a great job on it, and Joe’s a very staunch advocate for his client but also something who is very realistic and great to deal with. Brandon and [Joe] did a lot of the work over the last number of months to find something that Jake was comfortable with, and we were comfortable with, and it ends up being a deal that will be very fair to both.

Jake’s importance here, because a lot of people have seen especially have things haven’t gone well, is immense on and off the ice. It was very apparent when he was out of the lineup that we missed him deeply, and that just at the time that we started to really come out of the stretch we were playing well. He got hurt in New Jersey, I think it was one of the key points to us starting to get out of the form we were in. We’re thrilled to have him for what he brings on and off the ice.

MEDIA QUESTION

I imagine it’s frustrating at times watching some of the games, how have you managed your emotions in this stretch?

DUBAS ANSWER

[Laughs]. Yes, every single description you could come up with probably describes it. That’s also one of the great things about the business that we’ve chosen. The realism and the fact that it isn’t going to be easy and it isn’t going to be over night. Where we’ve put ourselves into a position that I don’t think we want to be in, which is battling for our lives.

But I’ve said this before and I’ll continue to say it, because it is true regardless of how it all plays out this season and moving forward and how it impacts me and the team and everything like that: our group that we have here has to go through this. We have to develop the ability to weather the storm when it comes and to thrive going through it. That’s the only way we’re going to be at our best.

I think you can look at the team, and I think a lot of people are right when they look at the team Saturday or in Pittsburgh or in Buffalo and think, what’s the matter with them? They just don’t have it. And on those nights they’re right, but then on Thursday night, or when we go into St. Louis or when St. Louis comes here, we also show what we can be. It isn’t a zero sum thing where we’re no good or we’re great. It’s in the middle and we’re trying to get to that point where we’re great every night.

The only way that I know we’re going to get there, is we’re going to have to go through and come out of it with great lessons learned and with our players and our staff and everybody around our program knowing that this is what we have to go through as a group to reach our full potential. I fully believe that.

You can look at countless teams in every sport, and businesses that have gone through the same thing and it’s necessary. As much as I know people don’t want to hear that, and will roll their eyes at that, it’s just the truth. I think it’s exciting for us to find out where we’re at, and it’s exciting to see the response of our guys. Not just tomorrow night, but the rest of the way to April 4th and how we come out.

MEDIA QUESTION

How difficult it is for you to stay patient through this process to reach that?

DUBAS ANSWER

[Laughs]. I have my moments where impatience goes to the top of the list, but I don’t think the consequence of every bit of fortune or the consequence of misfortune is as stark as it seems in the moment that it happens.

I think Saturday night was an embarrassing night not because our team lost a game and the goaltender of record for the other team was the zamboni driver from Mattamy Event Center who happens to be a wonderful guy. It was embarrassing because of the way we played that put us into the position where we were down to them 4-1 when we actually started generating shots on him.

At those moments, impatience and frustrations boils – there’s no BS about that. But in the end, we’ve set ourselves up on a journey that it’s going to be difficult, and it’s going to be hard, and we’re going to have moments like that where we question what we’re doing, and we question each other, and we question ourselves.

But you get up every day and you can switch your plan every single morning but you’ll get through this having changed your plan 100 times and look back and say you’ll think jeez we should have just stayed on the course were at and we would have served us so much better in the end.

That’s what we’re committed to, we’re committed to working our way through the adversity and coming out on the other side. As long as we stick with it and keep marching on no matter what’s ahead of us we’ll get there.

MEDIA QUESTION

Kyle I wanted to ask if I can about David Ayres, if you’re aware of the huge media spectacle. Is that just a huge confidence crush for the guys? Or what was the response for it? Was it a turning point?

DUBAS ANSWER

I don’t know the answer. I know that everyone here has to be in the very binary, zero sum game of making the next day this is what happened and this is how it’s going to impact things.

I don’t know how it’s going to impact us, I think it was an embarrassing night not because of David Ayres – everyone here loves David Ayres, he’s great. It’s a wonderful story and he’s a wonderful person. He shows up every day, and as Sheldon said he faces hundreds of shots a day from our guys, so he just comes out and he’s great. If we won the game, it would be embarrassing as well. Because you were down 4-1 and then it would be a whole other controversy that would come up, it’s the Maple Leafs and it’s their own employee. I think everyone here can imagine what that would have been like as well.

So we were in a no-win situation in that game, and we were in a no-win situation because we put ourselves there. We did it three of the four games last week. I don’t know what the outcome is going to be. My hope, and what we’re working towards is that we’re going to use not just that game but the three of the four games last week and see how embarrassing it is.

And also the game we played great, and work towards being great three out of four teams instead of being poor three out of four times. Because we have to get there eventually, so that’s what we’re working towards and that’s what we hope the outcome would be. But to sit today and say that I know I can project my optimistic or my pessimistic version, but we don’t know.

It’s going to be on the players to respond in the absolute best way, and it’s going to be on myself and Sheldon and our staff to lead them in the right direction. And in the end if we don’t get there it’s on me, as it always is when things don’t go well.

MEDIA QUESTION

Was there disappointment, Kyle, when you talk about the adversity the team is going through when you happen to be fighting for your playoff life. Many of us in this room and yourself included probably didn’t expect this sort of thing back in the summer before the season started. So we’ve heard from the players that have been here, that young core that have been through the Bruins losses, this will give us resolve and this will make us stronger. We haven’t seen that. Disappointment would be my word, but how would you determine where the group is considering what the expectations were before the start of the season?

DUBAS ANSWER

I think the group is in a challenging spot, but with that comes the opportunity to do something special and something great, which is… let’s speak bluntly about it, there’s a lot of people that are writing the obituary for the team and putting the team in the ground right now. And that’s fine, that’s fair. When you play that way, that’s what you get. Especially in a market as passionate as this, with the type of following we have, that’s what’s going to happen.

But I think from that, and I know from that, comes the opportunity… you can go meekly into the night and just accept and build the excuses that you want for why it didn’t work out the way you wanted it to work out… or fight your way back. It’s not to prove people wrong because I think the criticisms that are levied are largely fair, but it’s a chance to show what your best self can be.

We’ve shown that in flashes, and we’re capable of it in long stretches as we’ve shown through December. And capable of it in really difficult games in various difficult games in the year. But it’s getting to that point now when there’s a large amount of doubt around the team, largely earned, that we can do something special as a group and really earn some of the experiences and the lessons that we want in the end.

Poll

Do you feel any different about the state of the Leafs after Dubas’ answers?

  • 36%

    NO. STILL MAD. WANT BLOOD.

    (78 votes)

  • 14%

    A bit, I’m still pretty peeved though.

    (32 votes)

  • 48%

    Yes, it makes sense and it’s clear Dubas doesn’t like this crap any more than I do.

    (105 votes)



215 votes total

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Eugenie Bouchard happy to feel the burn after successful return to tennis – Sportsnet.ca

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Her first match left her exhausted physically and mentally, but Eugenie Bouchard couldn’t be happier.

After a 17-month layoff recovering from right shoulder surgery the native of Westmount, Que., is back playing tennis at the Odlum Brown VanOpen.

“The goal of surgery and coming back is to be able to play exactly how I want to and how I was playing before,” the 28-year-old former world No. 5 said Monday.

“This is what we do as athletes. The point is not to practice all the time, the point is to play.”

Bouchard opened the tournament Sunday night, teaming up with fellow Canadian Kayla Cross to defeat Italy’s Lucia Bronzetti and Elisabetta Cocciaretto in a doubles match.

“I was exhausted,” Bouchard said with a smile. “I started feeing tight in my body, my muscles were getting sore.

“It’s just that mental focus. To play in a match is different than practice. It’s about getting those reps in over and over again. I’ll get the endurance from that and be able to get back to playing matches totally normal, but it’s one baby step.”

Bouchard plays her first single match Tuesday against Arianne Hartoro of the Netherlands, a player she knows nothing about. Bouchard knows there may be bumps along the road and accepts being an underdog.

“Expectations are really low, expectations are on the floor,” said the two-time Canadian Press female Athlete of the Year. “My actions and my personal standards are high but in terms of results, we don’t know what to expect.

“I’ve never had to come back from surgery before, I’ve never had such a big injury. For me, it’s really ground zero.”

The Odlum Brown VanOpen ends Sunday. The tournament, which returns after missing two years due to COVID-19, has attracted 135 players to the Hollyburn Country Club battling for a combined purse of over US$274,360.

The men’s tournament, which has a top prize of $21,600, has been an ATP Challenger Tour event for several years. For the first time this year the women’s competition is a WTA 125 tournament with a $15,000 top prize.

Bouchard, who received a wild-card entry into the tournament, last played March 2021 at the Monterrey Open where she hurt her shoulder in a first-round match against Zhu Lin.

Bouchard became the first Canadian to advance to the singles final at Grand Slam in 2014 when she lost in the final at Wimbledon to Petra Kvitova. She also reached the semifinals of the Australian Open and French Open that year.

Since then, Bouchard has battled multiple injuries, including suffering a concussion after a fall in the dressing room at the U.S. Open.

Dealing with the injuries and time away from the game has been a learning experience.

“I’ve learned a lot in life and been through some really hard moments,” she said. “It’s really tested my patience having to be out for so long. It’s not like when you retire and you’re at peace with stopping. This is like a forced step. It’s hard to accept mentally.

“It made me realize how much I love tennis. There are so many other great things in life beside tennis, but it’s what I want to do now and for the next few years.”

Vancouver resident Rebecca Marino, who is also playing in this year’s tournament, understands the challenges Bouchard faces.

Marino burst onto the WTA Tour and reached a career-high No. 38 in 2011 before quitting the sport in 2013 due to depression. She returned to tennis in 2017 then missed another 18 months with an injury.

“To come back, not having competed in a match, it’s really hard to replicate that match feel from practice to competition,” she said. “There’s a lot of nerves in your first event, there’s a lot of challenges.”

Bouchard played at the Odlum Brown event as a junior in 2012, the same summer she won the Wimbledon junior girls’ title.

Other tennis stars who have played at the event include Marino, Milos Raonic, Maria Sharapova, Andy Murray, Leylah Fernandez, Johanna Konta, Kevin Anderson, Vasek Pospisil, Marion Bartoli, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Bianca Andreescu, Taylor Fritz, Naomi Osaka and Karolina Pliskova.

Bouchard knows she’s at the start of a new journey, but isn’t sure where it will end.

“The goal of the surgery and coming back is to be able to play exactly how I want to and how I was playing before,” she said. “It (the first match) went well, and everything is great. Now the goal is to just accumulate matches and hopefully everything stays fine with my shoulder.

“The journey is as long as it needs to be. I love playing tennis. I’m just here to do what I can.”

BASELINES: Two seeds in the women’s singles draw were uprooted Monday. Heather Watson of Britain eliminated eighth-seeded Elisabetta Cocciaretto of Italy 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, while Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra bounced seventh-seeded Misaki Doi of Japan 6-3, 6-2. … Rebecca Marino of Vancouver will play American Emma Navarro on Tuesday in her first singles match at Hollyburn Country Club. … Gabriel Diallo of Montreal is the first Canadian men’s player to advance to the second round of singles after he knocked off world No. 154-ranked Belgian Zizou Bergs 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5). Diallo is ranked at 553rd in the world. … Vasek Pospisil of Vancouver will play his first singles match on Tuesday against Felipe Meligeni Alves of Brazil.

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Canada finishes preliminary round undefeated, top of group with win over Finland at world juniors – CBC Sports

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Ridly Greig was a little banged up after helping Canada to a big win at the world junior hockey championship on Monday.

Not only did the Ottawa Senators’ prospect score and contribute an assist in the 6-3 victory over Finland, he blocked some big shots when the Canadians ran into third-period penalty trouble.

“Whatever it takes to win, whatever it takes to do anything for the boys or kind of get some momentum, I’m going to do it,” Greig said. “Whether it’s stand in front of a slap shot, I’m going to do it.”

Special teams were the difference maker on Monday, with the Canadians going 2-for-2 on the power play while Finland was 1-for-5.

The Finns got their second stretch of five-on-three hockey with less than five minutes left on the clock when William Dufour joined Ethan Del Mastro in the penalty box.

Finland pulled goalie Leevi Merilainen just as Del Mastro’s penalty expired and with the extra man Roby Jarventie put a puck in off the glove of Canadian goalie Dylan Garand to make it 5-3.

Dufour sealed the score at 6-3 with an empty-net strike 18:13 into the third.

The Finns had a prime opportunity to eat into Canada’s lead with a minute-long two-man advantage midway through the final period.

Donovan Sebrango was sent to the box for high-sticking and less than a minute later, teammate Will Cuylee was tossed from the game for a knee-on-knee hit.

Canada weathered being down two men, then chewed through the four remaining minutes of the major penalty without conceding a goal.

WATCH | Bedard, McTavish lead Canada past Finland: 

Bedard and McTavish stay hot in Canada’s win over Finland

14 hours ago

Duration 1:06

Mason McTavish set up Connor Bedard for a first period goal in Canada’s 6-3 round robin win over Finland at the world juniors.

“I thought our penalty kill was elite today, so many guys blocking shots. And that’s a great sign for a team that’s trying to win something,” said Canada’s captain Mason McTavish, who had a goal and two assists in the win.

“Finland, they’re a great team. I think they were 3-0 coming into this, their power play is ridiculous. So the fact that our PK stood up there with one of the best power plays in the tournament is huge for us.”

Connor Bedard scored and contributed an assist for Canada (4-0-0), while Dufour, Brennan Othmann and Tyson Foerester also found the back of the net. Olen Zellweger tallied three assists.

Joakim Kemell scored and contributed an assist for Finland (3-1-0) and Samuel Helenius rounded out the scoring.

Canada’s Garand made 22 saves and Merilainen stopped 31 of 36 shots for the Finns.

Important result

The result was an important one for Canada, who finished the preliminary round atop Group A. They’ll face Group B’s Switzerland (1-3-0) in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.

Switzerland clinched its spot in the quarter-finals earlier on Monday with a 3-2 win over Austria (0-0-4).

Finland was disappointed with Monday’s result, said head coach Antti Pennanen.

“It was OK but it wasn’t enough. And we were angry after the game, that’s for sure,” he said.

A big goal early in the third whittled the Finns’ deficit to 5-2.

Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospect Topi Niemela fired a shot from the point and Kemell tipped it in from the slot for his third goal of the tournament.

Canada called for a coach’s challenge, arguing that the puck had gone off the netting before falling back to the ice ahead of the goal.

“The guys on the ice are generally the ones who can tell you what’s going on,” said head coach Dave Cameron. “My players were 100 per cent sure it went in [to the net]. So you trust your players.”

After an extended video review, officials determined the goal was good. The Canadians did not receive a delay-of-game penalty because officials said the review was “inconclusive.”

The Canadians dominated the middle frame, outshooting the Finns 20-5 and taking a 5-1 lead.

McTavish gave his country its second power-play goal of the game 16:17 into the period after Finland’s Rubin Rafkin was called for interference.

WATCH | Johnson scores highlight-reel goal:

Kent Johnson scores beautiful lacrosse-style goal at World Juniors

3 days ago

Duration 1:16

The Port Moody, B.C. native and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect put Canada up 2-1 against Czechia just before the end of the 1st period in their preliminary round matchup.

Zellweger sent the Anaheim Ducks’ prospect a pass from inside the blue line and McTavish uncorked a one-timer that flew over Merilainen’s shoulder stick side.

Thirty-one seconds into the second, Canada went up 4-1 after the Finnish goalie bobbled a shot by Joshua Roy.

Greig slid in on one knee to put the rebound in the back of the net with his third goal of the tournament.

Canada went into the first intermission up 3-1 after a late Finland goal.

A knot of players battled for the puck behind the Canadian net and Finland’s Kalle Vasisanen came up with it. He sent a pass to Helenius at the high hash marks and the L.A. Kings’ prospect got a shot up and over Garland’s shoulder with 57 seconds left in the period.

17-year-old phenom

Bedard put away his third goal of the tournament in memorable fashion 17:19 into the first.

Canada was penned in its own zone for an extended period, but the 17-year-old phenom showed no signs of exhaustion when he collected a cross-ice pass from McTavish at the blue line and sped into the faceoff circle.

He then ripped a blistering shot past Merilainen, pinging the puck off the inside of the crossbar to make it 3-0.

A power-play strike boosted Canada’s lead to 2-0 midway through the opening frame after Helenius was called for slashing.

Greig’s shot ricocheted off Merilainen’s pad but Foerester was in position to poke the rebound in from the top of the crease as he slid past the net.

Finland got off to a strong start, outshooting the host nation 4-0 across the first five minutes of the game.

It was Canada that opened the scoring, though, 6:21 into the first.

Defenceman Zellweger fired a long bomb from inside the blue line and Othmann batted it in past Merilainen.

The play was reviewed for a potential high stick but the goal — Othmann’s second of the tournament — was determined to be good after officials reviewed the video.

Reigning champion Americans also undefeated

The preliminary round wrapped Monday night with Group B’s Sweden (3-1-0) registering a 4-2 victory over Germany (2-2-0).

Sweden will battle Latvia (1-2-1) in the quarter-finals on Wednesday while Germany will face Finland.

The reigning champion Americans (4-0-0) also went undefeated in round-robin action and will play Czechia (1-2-1), the country commonly known as the Czech Republic, in the quarter-finals.

The semifinals are scheduled for Friday and the medal games will go Saturday.

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Three Stars from Day 6 of WJC: Bergmanis steals the show in Latvia’s historical win – Sportsnet.ca

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In a slate of games featuring the likes of Sweden, Finland and the United States, the showstopper of Day 6 at the World Juniors was Latvia.

The tiny country notched its first ever win in WJC preliminary round play and by the same token hopped over Czechia and Slovakia into third place in Group A.

Latvian captain Ralf Bergmanis scored a hat trick and his team downed Czechia 5-3. They will play a World Juniors quarterfinal game for the first time in the country’s history.

Needless to say, the young men in burgundy were quite thrilled.

Finland had no pity for Slovakia and continued their solid run in the tournament with a 9-3 win. The Young Lions were 5-for-7 on the power play, sending their next opponents Canada a message to stay disciplined for their final preliminary round game on Monday.  

Slovakia saw their chances to play a quarterfinal game crumble before their eyes in the next game. Sitting in the stands, Slovak players held their heads in their hands as Bergmanis scored his third goal from across the ice into an empty net.

The Americans outpaced Sweden for most of their battle for first place in Group B. Goaltending woes allowed the Junior Crowns to hope for a comeback but the red, white and blue weathered the late storm to clinch a 3-2 win.

The Swedes will play Germany on Monday and the winner will end the preliminary round in second place.

Here is a look at the top performances from Day 6 of the World Juniors:

3rd star: Matt Coronato, USA

Coronato’s scoring ability is more than evident. If you give an inch, he’ll take a mile.

The five-foot-10 winger added two goals to his World Juniors tally and helped the Americans finish atop Group B. Coronato is now tied with his country-mate Carter Mazur as the tournament’s second-leading goalscorer with four.

The Calgary Flames’ 13th overall selection in the 2021 NHL Draft showed his eye for goal with his second marker of the night. Off a Swedish turnover, Coronato bagged the eventual game-winner with a sniper’s goal.

Coronato notched his first goal of the game in the second period when he pounced on a rebound from a shot by Logan Cooley. The soon-to-be Harvard sophomore made Sweden goalie Jesper Wallsted look bad by lodging the puck under his blocker and into the net.

2nd star: Kasper Simontaival, Finland

There’s no shame in being opportunistic, especially if it earns you points in return. Simontaival did exactly that to bridge the gap between the Finns and Slovaks. The winger finished the game with three points (two goals, one assist) including one assist on the power play. 

The LA Kings third-rounder in 2020 stood by the slot and pounced on a rebound to give Finland a power-play goal 34 seconds into the second period. The goal was later given to Roni Hirvonen, who had touched the puck last. 

Both players also combined in the first period, this time Hirvonen found Simontaival in the slot for the goal. 

Simontaival notched his second goal of the game in the third period when he was, once again, in front of the net. He redirected Aatu Raty’s pass in the back of the net and gave Finland an 8-3 lead. 

The 20-year-old even screened goalie Tomas Bolo for Finland’s ninth goal of the game courtesy of Kasper Puutio. Bottom line, sticking around dangerous areas is paying off for the five-foot-nine winger.

1st star: Ralfs Bergmanis, Latvia

Captain Latvia came through for the motherland. Charles and Nikolaj Boyle from Brooklyn’s 99th precinct would be proud.

Bergmanis opened his tournament account and finished the game as the hat trick hero, lifting his country into the knockout round. 

Bergmanis completed his hat trick in an empty net, from behind his own net. A rink-long shot sealed his team’s victory, as the disillusioned Slovak players watched their elimination from the stands.

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Latvia took a first-period lead and right as Czechia attempted the comeback with an equalizing goal in the second, the University of Vermont commit got to work. Bergmanis regained Latvia’s lead when his shot from the point in traffic found the back of the net. 

Bergmanis then gave his country a two-goal lead on the power play. From the point, the blueliner broke Frantisek Nemec’s ankles before beating Czech netminder Jan Bednar with a wrister. 

The 20-year-old is still undrafted but he sure made a lot of eyes look his way in one of the biggest games in Latvian junior hockey history. 

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