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Alberta

Weird. Wonderful. Mesmerizing. Fantastic.

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Weird. Wonderful. Mesmerizing. Fantastic.

Each of those words can be applied — and probably will be, for many years — to the first round of the best-of-seven NHL playoffs in a season already shaken, but not broken, by COVID-19.

It can be guaranteed that the five overtime periods needed before the Tampa Bay Lightning could stun the Columbus Blue Jackets will be in the record books for years. Brayden Point’s winning goal in the marathon victory will be forgotten long after other details are etched in sports history.

That’s the way it happens when a game in a “hub community” lasts more than six hours, total shots on goal reach record levels and another scheduled playoff game is delayed for almost a full day.

When the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes were ordered to reschedule Game One of their quarter-final showdown, it was not the first official delay of a playoff game — just the first time that the only available ice surface was already in use

Boston and Carolina were installed as the first act in a run of five consecutive series openers on Wednesday. Fortunately, the Lightning and Blue Jackets will have a full day off, as will the Calgary Flames, who edged Dallas 3-2 in the only other match completed on Tuesday.

Columbus vs. Tampa Bay was in many ways.a classical matchup: power against finesse, labour against sheer talent. Joonas Korpisalo faced a few dozen more shots than winning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy but the buzzing Blue Jackets defeated every challenge except Point’s ultimate point (pun intended).

It had been expected that the Lightning might win easily. Assured of a berth among the final 16 teams, they cruised through an unimportant round-robin series while the Blue Devils were fighting for their playoff lives in a bitter five-game elimination war with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For Tampa Bay, the victory was essential in the organization’s bid to shake off their miserable 2019 playoff, when they bowed in the first round after running away from all opposition.

The Calgary Flames went through similar miseries at the same time, dominant for most of last season before they won only a single playoff game and headed meekly to the golf course.

This year, the Flames survived at least one major problem: head coach Bill Peters resigned after an ugly racial incident was exposed. Individual on-ice performances faded, too, amid growing claims that the team was made up of casual performers quite content to win the easy ones.

Well, there was nothing easy in beating the Winnipeg Jets to qualify for the final 16 and nothing came easily in the 3-2 victory over Dallas on Tuesday. The Flames have flaws — every team has flaws — but these guys proved again that lack of character is not one of them.

Was the quick evolution of Draisaitl from prospect to standout THE biggest on-ice element in this positive building project?

Alberta

Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

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DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast was found in a field not far from where it was taken.

According to Jane McMullin, co-owner of Hand Hills Crafts in Delia, Alta., “Morgan the Mystical Unicorn” had stood, embedded in the ground with spikes, outside the business for two years and had become a bit of a tourist attraction.

But McMullin says a neighbour phoned her Friday on morning and told her that her unicorn “had run away.”

RCMP issued a news release Saturday saying the statue was found about 15 kilometres from the village, damaged, with its bronze-coloured horn broken off.

The release says police are still looking for suspects, and have called in their forensics experts to help.

McMullin says “friendly people” have transported Morgan back to Delia, but she says he’s got scratches and dents that will need to be repaired along with the horn.

“It was heartbreaking to see the damage,” she said. “He’s going to be down and out for a while.”

Investigators say that between 1:00 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. on Friday, they believe a vehicle was driven to Delia where suspects loaded the statue in the box of a large utility truck.

The statue, which measures more than three-metres high and weighs more than 270 kilograms, is worth $10,000, police said.

McMullin said the unicorn statue was given to her and her partner as a gift and once stood in Iricana, Alta. Originally, she said, it came from Texas.

“He was a great landmark. People would say, ‘When you get to Delia, turn right at the unicorn,'” McMullin said.

“We’ve had hundreds of people stop to get pictures of him.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Unbeaten Brad Gushue into Champions Cup curling playoffs in Calgary

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CALGARY — Brad Gushue won a third game in a row Saturday to qualify for the playoffs in the Humpty’s Champions Cup Grand Slam curling event in Calgary.

Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., scored two points in the seventh end and stole one in the eighth for a 6-5 win over Switzerland’s Peter de Cruz, who won a bronze medal at the recent men’s world championship in the same arena.

Gushue tops the men’s Pool A at 3-0 in the five-day event at WinSport’s Markin MacPhail Centre.

Gushue was to face Scotland’s Bruce Mouat, the world championship silver medallist, later Saturday.

The Champions Cup is the first of two Grand Slams in Calgary featuring two dozen men’s and women’s domestic and international teams.

The Princess Auto Players’ Championship starts Tuesday. The combined prize purse of both bonspiels is $560,000. 

In other morning-draw games, Matt Dunstone edged Brad Jacobs 6-5 to put both teams at 1-2 in Pool A.

Russia’s Alina Kovaleva got to 2-1 in the women’s Pool A with a 9-7 victory over winless Briar Hurlimann of Switzerland.

Japan’s Satsuki Fujisawa downed Tabitha Peterson of the Unites States 5-2 to put both at 1-2.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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