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Bedard shines, host Canada downs Latvia 5-2 at world junior hockey championship

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EDMONTON — Team Canada needed some time to shake off the rust as they embarked on a late-summer campaign for gold.

Coming into their first game of the world junior hockey championship in Edmonton, many on the squad hadn’t laced up their skates for a competitive bout in several months.

The time away showed at moments, but Canada held on for a 5-2 victory over Latvia to open the tournament on Wednesday.

“I know a coach is never happy with the game, but considering the time of year and where we’re at in this tournament, I think it was good.” said head coach Dave Cameron.

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.

Teen phenom Connor Bedard hasn’t played a “real game” in three months, and said getting back to competition felt good.

The 17-year-old was quick to show his offensive prowess, opening the scoring in the first period and adding an assist on a second-period power-play goal.

“It always feels good to score, especially that first one of the tournament,” said Bedard, an early favourite to go first overall in the 2023 NHL entry draft.

“I think it’s always exciting no matter who gets it. So definitely felt good. And it was cool to kind of be going to the corner and seeing some fans.”

Ridly Greig and William Dufour each had a goal and a helper for Canada (1-0-0), while Lukas Cormier and Olen Zellweger also scored. Captain Mason McTavish notched two assists.

Rainers Darzins and Bogdans Hodass put away goals for the Latvians, who were coming off a 6-1 drubbing by Finland on Tuesday.

Canada’s Sebastian Cossa made 22 saves and Patriks Berzins stopped 39 of 44 shots for Latvia (0-2-0).

The Canadians broke out with a three-goal performance in the second but found themselves in trouble in the final frame due to a series of undisciplined penalties.

Latvia got nine seconds of five-on-three play midway through the third when Greig was called for hooking after Kent Johnson had already been sent to the box for delay of game.

The Canadians weathered being down two men and Cossa preserved the advantage with a collection of timely stops.

Earlier in the period, Latvia cut the deficit to 4-2 on a power play after Greig was called for tripping.

Just four seconds into the man advantage, Hodas — a Medicine Hat Tigers defenceman — ripped a shot off from the top of the faceoff circle, sailing the puck over Cossa’s pad.

Dufour gave the Canadians some breathing room with 5:16 to go in the third period. The New York Islanders prospect collected a slick pass from Greig and sent a quick shot in past Berzins to give his side a 5-2 lead.

Greig capped a big middle frame by collecting a pass from Dufour along the boards for an odd-man rush and streaking up the ice, using one arm to hold back Latvia’s Peteris Purmalis. With his free hand, the Ottawa Senators prospect poked the puck in past Berzins at the 17:16 mark to give Canada a 4-1 lead.

“It was a pretty lucky bounce,” Greig said. “And the tracker was right on me so I just tried to get it on net with one (hand).”

A power-play goal gave the Canadians a three-goal lead after Latvia captain Ralfs Bergmanis was called for slashing.

Bedard set up the play with a no-look backwards pass to Zellweger at the blue line. The defenceman wound up and fired a rocket through traffic, finding the back of the net 16:17 into the second.

Minutes earlier, Cormier scored with the man advantage after Dans Locmelis was called for roughing.

Joshua Roy calmed a bouncing puck and dished it to Cormier, who sent it sailing past Berzins from the top of the faceoff circle.

Canada’s power play looked to be in trouble on its first attempt of the tournament earlier in the period.

The man advantage saw Cossa nearly send a puck into his own net while trying to clear and Johnson come within inches of scoring an own goal. The host nation turned the puck over multiple times and Latvia registered a pair of short-handed shots.

“That was just to give the fans their money’s worth,” Cameron said.

“That was at the time where we were in their zone for a period of time five on five and we thought that was going to carry over into the power play and we got too comfortable and we thought it was going to be easy.

“We stalled in our execution and hats off to Latvia, they didn’t give up.”

The Canadians went 2 for 4 on the power play Wednesday and Latvia was 1 for 5.

Canada kept Berzins busy across the first period, outshooting Latvia 18-4.

The host nation dominated play but Latvia scored the equalizer with less than two minutes to play in the opening frame. Darzins chipped a shot up and over Cossa stick side to make it 1-1.

Bedard opened the scoring 7:31 into the game, blasting a shot through a pair of Latvian defenders and over Berzins’ glove from the top of the slot.

With a different roster than the December tournament and a short training camp, Canada is still trying to build chemistry as the world juniors get underway, Cossa said.

“We’ve been practising but nothing’s really game speed,” he said. “So it was nice getting into the game now and just kind of fix things coming up here, practice and get ready for the rest of the games.”

Earlier Wednesday, Winnipeg Jets prospect Daniel Torgersson scored twice as Sweden (1-0-0) took a 3-2 victory over Switzerland (0-1-0) in Group B play.

In the final game of the day, Germany (1-0-1) defeated Austria (0-0-1) 4-2 for its first win of the tournament.

The Canadians will continue round-robin action Thursday when they take on Slovakia (0-0-1).

NOTES: Greig turned 20 on Monday. The world juniors are a showcase of the best under-20 players across the globe, but the International Ice Hockey Federation has allowed athletes born in 2002 who have already turned 20 to play in this summer’s championship. … Cossa was playing on familiar ice, having helped the Edmonton Oil Kings to a WHL championship in June. … Canada’s goal song is “Can’t Stop” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 10, 2022.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

 

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Alberta

‘Ludicrous’: Prosecutor questions testimony of teen in Calgary hit-and-run cop death

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By Bill Graveland in Calgary

A prosecutor suggested Wednesday a teen charged with first-degree murder in the hit-and-run death of a Calgary Police Service officer had no reason to believe he was in danger.

Sgt. Andrew Harnett died in hospital on Dec. 31, 2020, after being dragged by a fleeing SUV and falling into the path of an oncoming car.

The alleged driver, who cannot be identified because he was 17 at the time, has testified he was scared when Harnett and another officer approached the vehicle during a traffic stop and he saw Harnett put his hand on his gun.

But during cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Mike Ewenson played the body-camera footage of the stop. He asked the accused, who is now 19, if there was any proof Harnett was being threatening or insulting during the routine traffic stop.

“You brought up George Floyd in your direct examination. Do you remember what happened to George Floyd?” Ewenson asked.

The accused replied: “He got pulled out of the vehicle and I think they stepped on his neck … and he said he couldn’t breathe.”

Floyd was a Black man who was killed during an arrest by Minnesota police on May 25, 2020.

During testimony Tuesday, the teen testified he and his friends had discussed the Floyd case on social media.

“Let’s talk about what we just saw with Sgt. Harnett if we could, because you’re bringing this up at a trial that involves his death,” said Ewenson. “Any abusive language from him?”

“No,” the teen replied.

“Anything that was insulting to your age, your race, your ethnic background or religion,” Ewenson asked.

“Not necessarily, no. Actually, I felt like I was being racialized, right? Just the fact that the door opened and the fact that he asked for my phone number. I’ve never been asked for my phone number.”

Ewenson said any talk of the traffic stop being racist was just something the teen wanted the court to “take his word for” and there’s nothing that would be considered racist from Harnett’s behaviour.

“That’s how I felt,” the accused replied.

The teen repeatedly told Ewenson that he wasn’t sure how he ended up in the neighbourhood. He said he was following his GPS to get to a party. He also said he didn’t know who the third person in the back seat of the vehicle was, who had come with a friend.

Ewenson said it’s unlikely there would be memory lapses after an event that was the “most traumatic, powerful” and “consequential” night of the teen’s life.

“So looking back on it, you realize the story is ludicrous? The story doesn’t make sense, does it?” Ewenson asked. “Everything for you is a mindless reaction.”

The suspect said at the time he panicked and just decided to take off because he was afraid. The teen said looking back, he wishes his decision had been different.

“Look, to be frank to you, I’ve sat for two years in jail and I’ve thought about this over and over and over again,” he said. “It’s different when I think about it now and what I was going through at the moment.”

Ewenson suggested it was more likely something illegal was inside the suspect vehicle that made fleeing a simple traffic stop worth the risk.

Closing arguments in the trial are scheduled for Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2022.

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Alberta

Incredible luxury homes and vehicles seized in massive international $55 million drug bust with Alberta roots

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Niagara-On-The-Lake home seized by police in Project Cobra operation

News release from the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT)

Project Cobra intercepts $55 million worth of drugs

More than an estimated $55 million worth of methamphetamine and cocaine has been seized following a cross-border investigation by ALERT, RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Project Cobra is a nearly three-year organized crime investigation into transnational drug importation, drug trafficking, and money laundering.

Halifax County home seized by police in Project Cobra operation

As the result of enforcement initiatives on both sides of the border, 928 kilograms of methamphetamine and 6 kilograms of cocaine were intercepted. In addition, approximately $7 million worth of assets have been seized or placed under criminal restraint.

Project Cobra relied on the assistance of a number of police agencies and specialized units, including: Calgary Police Service, Edmonton Police Service, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Niagara Regional Police, Canada Revenue Agency, Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), and RCMP units in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Saskatoon, North Battleford, Sask., and Osoyoos, B.C.

Lamborghinis and Porsche seized by police in Project Cobra operation

Mercedes-Benz seized by police in Project Cobra operation

Police agencies collaborated to make numerous large-scale drug seizures during the course of Project Cobra. These were shipments destined for Alberta, and included the following seizures:

  • 342 kg of meth in Wyoming;
  • 308 kg of meth in Los Angeles;
  • 137 kg of meth in Calgary;
  • 84 kg of meth in Los Angeles;
  • 50 kg of meth at Lake Koocanusa, B.C.;
  • 7 kg of meth and 1 kg of cocaine in Calgary; and
  • 5 kg of cocaine in North Battleford, Sask.


Nineteen firearms were also seized, which included handguns, rifles, submachine guns, and suppressors.

Seven million dollars’ worth of property, bank accounts, luxury vehicles, and other suspected proceeds of crime has been seized or placed under criminal restraint. This includes a $3.5 million home in Niagara-on-the-Lake, two Lamborghinis, a Porsche, classic cars, and $200,000 cash.

Project Cobra began in 2020 and a series of 11 coordinated search warrants were executed in December 2021. Homes, vehicles, businesses, and storage locations were searched in Calgary, Bedford, Nova Scotia, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., and Leduc County, Alta.

Fifteen people and one business have been charged with 80 criminal offences ranging from participation in a criminal organization, to importation of a controlled substance, to laundering proceeds of crime, to drug trafficking.

The suspects were arrested and charged between May 2022 and August 2022:

  • Elias Ade, 38-year -old from Calgary, charged with 12 offences;
  • Abdul Akbar, 37-year-old from Calgary, charged with 8 offences;
  • Tianna Bull, 25-year-old from North Battleford, charged with 1 offence;
  • Lina El-Chammoury, 50-year-old from Calgary, charged with 2 offences;
  • Russell Ens, 39-year-old from North Battleford, charged with 2 offences;
  • Talal Fouani, 46-year-old from Calgary, charged with 3 offences;
  • Belal Fouani, 44-year-old from Calgary, charged with 3 offences;
  • Kari-Lynn Grant, 51-year-old from Calgary, charged with 4 offences;
  • Scott Hunt, 33-year-old from Calgary, charged with 3 offences;
  • Ricco King, 50-year-old from Bedford, N.S., charged with 5 offences;
  • Jarett Mackenzie, 32-year-old from Calgary, charged with 6 offences;
  • Jesse Marshall, 52-year-old from Calgary, charged with 4 offences;
  • Daniel Menzul, 32-year-old from Calgary, charged with 4 offences;
  • Sean Nesbitt, 44-year-old from Calgary, charged with 3 offences;
  • William Whiteford, 39-year-old from Leduc County, charged with 20 offences; and
  • Fouani Equity Funds Ltd. charged with 1 offence.

Fouani Equity Funds Ltd. is a Calgary-based investment company and was charged with laundering proceeds for an organized crime group.

Members of the public who suspect drug or gang activity in their community can call local police, or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers is always anonymous.

ALERT was established and is funded by the Alberta Government and is a compilation of the province’s most sophisticated law enforcement resources committed to tackling serious and organized crime.

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