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U.S. shows plenty of respect to Canada ahead of World Cup qualifying showdown

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The U.S. takes the field Sunday with plenty of respect for the Canadian team that awaits them in Hamilton.

For one, the second-place Americans (5-1-3, 18 points) are looking up at Canada (5-0-4, 19 points) in the CONCACAF World Cup final qualifying round standings.

“We know that they’re going to be fired up,” said U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter. “We know they’re playing in front of their home fans. We know they’re going to be confident and it’s going to be a competitive game. And if we can embrace that, we’ll be OK. And it’s a good opportunity for us to move up in the standings.”

Both teams are coming off wins Thursday.

The 40th-ranked Canadians recorded their first victory in Honduras since 1985 with a 2-0 decision over the 76th-ranked Hondurans in San Pedro Sula while the 11th-ranked Americans downed El Salvador 1-0 in Columbus.

Canada closes out the international window on Wednesday at No. 70 El Salvador. Just three matches remain for coach John Herdman’s team after that.

Thee top three sides come March will represent North and Central America and the Caribbean at Qatar 2022 with the fourth-place country taking on an Oceania opponent to see who joins them.

Canada is leading the way in the region, muscling past traditional CONCACAF heavyweights Mexico and the U.S.

“They have a talented group of players, make no mistake about it,” said Berhalter, listing off Alphonso Davies, Jonathan David, Cyle Larin, Tajon Buchanan and Jonathan Osorio.

“They’re a well-coached team. They know how to play. They’ve a clear philosophy and they deserve to be where they are,” he added. “So for us it’s an opportunity, that’s all it is, an opportunity to try to get first in the group and that’s where we want to finish.”

Added U.S. defender Walker Zimmerman: “I think there’s been a shift in their mentality. They play with a chip on their shoulder. They play with something to prove and they play with an intensity that is very high. So they’re a confident group.

“And so whenever you go out there, you know that they’re going to compete and that you have to match that level of intensity and desire. I think that’s something that John has brought to that group. And that’s a strength of theirs. We’ll have to be up for it.”

The Americans will be without two players at Tim Hortons Field.

Berhalter said defender Brooks Lennon has returned to Atlanta United to have a “slight” ankle injury evaluated while Lille forward Tim Weah was unable to get into Canada due to his vaccination status.

Weah had his first vaccine dose and then contracted COVID-19 while awaiting his second shot, a combination that meets full vaccination requirements in France but not in Canada, Berhalter explained.

“This was a nuanced technicality that we were hoping was going to get pushed through and unfortunately it didn’t.”

Canada is without Davies, the Bayern Munich star who has been sidelined by myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, after testing positive for COVID. The 21-year-old from Edmonton was an enthusiastic observer of the win in Honduras, however, livestreaming on Twitch as he watched the game.

Influential midfielder Stephen Eustaquio missed the Honduras match in the wake of Portuguese reports that he had tested positive for COVID. Herdman said he still hopes Eustaquio will play some role in the window.

Berhalter and Herdman are colleagues as well as rivals, with Herdman acknowledging in the past that he shares notes with his U.S. counterpart.

“He’s done a great job with the program. I’ve said this over and over,’ said Berhalter. “I think it’s the talented players that the group has, but it’s also his strong leadership and painting a vision for where the Canadian program can go. And once you have people buying into that vision, it’s no surprise that they’ve had the success that they’ve had.

“We’ve been able to bounce some ideas and some notes off each other through qualifying. We’re pulling for the Canadian team to qualify, there’s no secret about that. It’s only (Sunday) that I want them to lose. And then every other game, I’m happy that they win.”

Sunday’s game originally sold out in hours with Canada Soccer expecting a capacity crowd of 24,000. But stricter pandemic-related restrictions capped attendance at 12,000 with the first ticket sale voided.

Canada and the U.S. tied 1-1 when they met Sept. 5 in Nashville in the second game of the final qualifying round.

The U.S. won 1-0 when they met at the Gold Cup in July in Kansas City where the Americans scored in the first minute and then held off a Canadian charge the rest of the way.

While the Americans lead the overall series between the two North American rivals at 16-9-12, Canada has a 6-4-4 edge in World Cup qualifying.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 29, 2022

Neil Davidson, 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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Glenn Anderson adds some colour to the “Day of Golf”

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Last week, the 32nd edition of the Glenn Anderson Day of Golf raised an incredible amount of money … in fact more than $832 thousand dollars!  Chances are as the numbers are tallied up, that total will be near $900K!  That’s a big deal and the money raised will fund cancer research. Congratulations to the organizers and a shout out to the Derrick Club who did an amazing job of hosting the event.

But today’s story is more about Glenn Anderson.  A class act, Anderson travels up to Edmonton from Florida each year to help make this event a roaring success.  He told some great stories at a reception the night before the tournament. If you’re an Oilers fan, you’ll enjoy this video!

Click here to watch the video. 

 

 

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