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Alberta

‘Learning moment:’ Embarrassing loss to Flames was catalyst for Oilers’ playoff push

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EDMONTON — It was not the Edmonton Oilers’ finest hour, but a big loss to their Battle of Alberta archrivals might have been instrumental to their playoff push.

The Calgary Flames pumped nine goals past the Oilers, in what could have been Edmonton’s most embarrassing outing of the season, when the teams last met on March 26.

Yet the Oilers went on a 13-2-1 tear after that game to close the regular season, and then rallied to beat the Kings in seven games in the first round of the playoffs.

The Calgary blowout was a look-in-the-mirror moment. Their rivals might have actually done the Oilers a favour.

“It allowed the coaching staff to use it as a learning moment for our group,” said Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft.  “For us, it was an opportunity to focus our group on the type of game we needed to play in order to have some success. And here we are.”

The Flames and Oilers split the four-game regular-season series, but Calgary won both games on Saddledome ice, where the two teams will start Wednesday.

“We played them at different times in the season, and our season has been a little different than most years,” said Oilers winger Zach Hyman, who scored twice and added a couple of helpers in the series win over Los Angeles. “We were a different team earlier on in the year. And, later on in the year, they caught us a couple of times. But I think they helped us grow as a team, to face adversity.”

Winger Zack Kassian, who had a goal and an assist in the first round, admitted that there were some red faces in Oilers jerseys after the nine-goal bonanza at the Saddledome.

“Whenever you get spanked, no matter who it’s against, you want to have a bounce-back game,” he said. “We got embarrassed, and we bounced back. I think we showed perseverance all year; if we had a bad game, we came back with an even stronger effort.”

The 9-5 score from March 26 was a throwback to the glory days of the Battle of Alberta of the 1980s and early 1990s, when the likes of Gretzky, Kurri, Messier, McDonald, Fleury and MacInnis used to fill the scoresheets.

Hyman suggested several times during his time at the podium that this series, in contrast, would be tight-checking and a battle of wills. In fact, playing against a Kings team that liked to clog up the neutral zone should prepare the Oilers well for the Flames’ big defensive unit.

“We learned a lot from the L.A. series,” Hyman said. “We understood where we had the most success. When we got caught and were turning the puck over in the neutral zone, that’s when we were having trouble.”

Hyman said the Oilers would need to get pucks deep, get into the corners and work the cycle despite the physicality the Flames will bring to the games. He said the Oilers will need to “play heavy.”

“It’s different than the regular season, it doesn’t matter what happened in the regular season or what the record was… the playoffs are a different game. It’s a different style of play. It’s tighter, it’s harder to play, there’s more emotion.”

To illustrate Hyman’s point, the Oilers swept the Winnipeg Jets over the course of the regular season in 2020-21, only to be swept by the Jets in the first round of the playoffs.

“I don’t read too much into the regular season, to be honest,” Kassian said. “As you guys can see, the hockey is completely different than it was in the regular season. There’s so much more going on.”

Oilers 55-goal man Leon Draisaitl, who is labouring through a lower-body injury suffered in a Game 6 scrum in L.A., was not on the ice for practice Tuesday.

Also absent were forwards Evander Kane and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Woodcroft was vague when it came to accounting for their absences and talked about the players who were there, rather than addressing the big names who were away.

“I thought we had a really good practice today. I thought some of the people who might not be in the everyday lineup provided a little bit of a boost and a little energy… We’re well-prepared heading into Game 1.”

Oilers general manager Ken Holland said on Edmonton radio station 630 CHED that Draisaitl, Kane and Nugent-Hopkins would play Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 17, 2022.

Steven Sandor, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Canada stays undefeated at world juniors with 6-3 win over Finland

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By Gemma Karstens-Smith in Edmonton

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.

“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.

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 quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Switzerland clinched its spot in the quarterfinals 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.

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.

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.

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 quarterfinals 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 quarterfinals.

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

NOTES: McTavish leads the tournament in scoring with 13 points (seven goals, six assists). … Canada outscored its opponents 27-7 in the preliminary round. … The 2022 tournament is being played in August after the original event 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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Alberta

Premier Jason Kenney kicks off campaign to attract skilled workers to Alberta

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CALGARY — Premier Jason Kenney kicked off a campaign to lure skilled workers from Toronto and Vancouver as he doubled down on his criticism of a so-called Alberta sovereignty act pitched by one of the candidates running to replace him.

Kenney held a news conference Monday to announce the United Conservative government’s plans to start recruiting workers to Alberta as the provincial economy grows.

“Alberta is back in a big way, but one of the biggest challenges to sustaining that amazing growth is having enough people who are filling the jobs that are being created,” he said.

“As far as problems go, that’s a pretty good one to have.”

The campaign comes after Kenney called a key platform promise of one of the candidates to succeed him as leader and premier “nuts.”

Candidate Danielle Smith has said if she wins the leadership, she would bring a bill this fall to give Alberta the power to ignore federal laws and court rulings deemed not in the province’s interest.

Legal scholars say such a bill would be illegal, unenforceable and a dangerous dismissal of respect for the rule of law.

Kenney said he’s certain that even if the legislature passed the law, the lieutenant-governor would refuse to give it royal assent and Alberta would become a “laughingstock.”

Smith chastised Kenney in a statement Sunday for “interference” in the leadership contest, saying his comments were “ill-informed and disrespectful to a large and growing majority of UCP members that support this important initiative.”

“If elected to replace him as leader and premier, I will work closely and collaboratively with our entire UCP Caucus to ensure the Sovereignty Act is drafted, passed and implemented in accordance with sound constitutional language and principles,” Smith said in her statement.

Kenney said Monday that he’s not interfering in the leadership campaign, but restating his position on an important public policy issue.

“This government was elected on a commitment to create jobs, grow the economy and get pipelines built,” he said. “This so-called sovereignty act would be a body blow to all three of those things.

“It would massively drive away investment, it would cause people to leave the province, businesses not to come here just when our economy is experiencing fantastic economic investment.”

Kenney said it could also hurt the campaign to attract people to the province.

“Here we are launching a campaign for Canadians to move to another part of Canada,” he said. “If Alberta were to decide effectively to launch a separatist project, I think that would automatically exclude a lot of Canadians.

“To the contrary, instead of being able to attract people, we would start hemorrhaging people.”

He said that’s not theoretical because of what happened in Quebec in 1976 when René Lévesque and the Parti Québécois were elected on a separatist platform.

“Quebec overnight began to hemorrhage people, money and investment,” Kenney said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 15, 2022.

Colette Derworiz and Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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