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Alberta

Last week our nation ran into a spree of high-profile miracles

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To become a true sports fan, everyone must understand the day-to-day definition of miracle.

League championships count, of course. So do record-setting performances and, rarely, the sort of team or individual success that stamps itself on the viewer’s memory for many years.

Last week, in this humble view, our nation ran into a spree of high-profile miracles:

* Felix Auger-Alliasime, Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil became the first Canadians to reach the fourth round of the U.S. Open, among the world’s most iconic tennis tournaments;

* Little-known goaltender Thatcher Demko, a San Diego product who was virtually unknown in the NHL, constructed an amazing goaltending streak that carried the underdog Vancouver Canucks all the way to a seventh game in a Stanley Cup playoff quarter-final;

* Our best-ever basketball player, Steve Nash, accepted a contract to coach the Brooklyn Nets of the National Basketball Association.”I knew I wanted to pursue coaching if and when the right chance came.”

* Occasional starter Ogi Anunoby combined with team leader Kyle Lowry on a buzzer-beating, three-point shocker with a half-second remaining — repeat, a HALF-SECOND remaining — to keep the Toronto Raptors alive in their bid to repeat as NBA champions.

Probably the worst thing about sports miracles is that they sometimes fade at painful speed.

Apart from Shapovalov’s victory over Belgian vet David Goffin and the fact that Nash signed a long-term coaching arrangement, that’s exactly what happened this time.

After spotting Goffin the first set in a tie-breaker, the 22-year-old lefty took total control of the next three sets. Pospisil and Auger-Aliassime — known to most of his fans simply as “Double-A” — each played well but lost in the first set. There was little excitement for Canadian fans as they failed to win another set, and probably didn’t reach another break point.

Arguably, the most exciting moments, win or lose, were split between Anunoby and Demko. They also shared immense “cool” when discussing their feats.

Demko, a San Diego product who spent three years in goal at Boston College, made several references to teammates who sacrificed their bodies numerous times in the three games he played at Edmonton’s Rogers Place — two of them victories — against a bigger, stronger, faster Las Vegas team.

Anunoby was even more succinct: “I took the shot because I thought it would go in,” the budding star said without a smile. “I don’t take a shot and expect to miss it.” Later, experts compared his moment of brilliance with Kawhi Leonard’s unforgettable four-bounce shot to defeat Philadelphia on the way to last year’s title.

The future is bright for all of the young players — AA is the baby, just turned 20 years old — and for the 46-year-old Nash, as well as for Demko’s Vancouver Canucks allies, a collection of solid journeymen and fast-improving youngsters.

But things don’t look so good for the Raptors. After Anunobi’s stunner in that 104-103 victory over Boston, they posted a second win and squared the series. Unfortunately, miracles do not always carry long guarantees: the Raptors were humiliated in the fifth game of the series and could be on the sidelines for good by Thursday morning.

If another miracle arrives in Orlando tonight (Wednesday), Nick Nurse and his players are sure to make it welcome.

Edmonton’s connection to the defection of Baltimore Orioles’ superstar Jose Iglesias

Alberta

Tampa’s Steven Stamkos returns, Lightning beat Dallas 5-2 in Stanley Cup final

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EDMONTON — Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos returned — very briefly — from a seven-month injury layoff, and scored on his first shot on net as the Lightning beat the Dallas Stars 5-2 Wednesday in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final.

Victor Hedman had a goal a two assists. Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point also scored for Tampa Bay.

The Lightning lead the best-of-seven series 2-1. Game 4 is set for Friday and Game 5 just 24 hours after that on Saturday night.

Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 21 shots for his 16th win of the playoffs.

Jason Dickinson and Miro Heiskanen replied for Dallas. Anton Khudobin turned away 24-of-29 shots and was replaced by Jake Oettinger for the start of the third period when the score was 5-1. Khudobin is 13-8 in the 2020 post-season.

Stamkos, a two-time winner of the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s goal-scoring leader, last played Feb. 25. He underwent core muscle surgery in early March.  

The 30-year-old from Markham, Ont., started the game on the fourth line with Cedric Paquette and Pat Maroon and didn’t skate on the power play.

He played less than three minutes in the first period, then stayed in the dressing room until well into the second and didn’t leave the bench for the rest of the game.

Nevertheless, he made the most of his 2:47 in ice time, scoring less than seven minutes into the game to make it 2-0 for Tampa.

He took a cross-ice pass from Hedman and, with a burst of speed, slipped through a tiny space between the boards and Dallas defender Esa Lindell, flew in and fired a wrist shot from the right face-off circle top-shelf far side on Khudobin.

Kucherov opened the scoring just over a minute earlier when Heiskanen lost the puck at his own blue-line. Kucherov pounced on it and fired a low missile blocker-side on a breakaway.

Kucherov, with seven goals and 30 points, is the league leader in 2020 post-season scoring.

The Tampa bench erupted in cheers after the Stamkos goal, but it was Dallas that caught fire. Roope Hintz stole the puck in the Tampa end and dished it to Dickinson for a short-handed one-timer from the top of the left face-off circle.

Tampa took control for good in the second period, outshooting Dallas 21-4 and adding three more goals.

Hedman scored on the power play, firing a shot from the slot through traffic for his 10th goal of the playoffs. Kucherov then fed a streaking Point on a 3-on-1 for Point’s 11th goal of the playoffs. Palat then tucked in the puck on a goalmouth scramble.

In the third period, Dallas made it 5-2 when the puck bounced in on a goalmouth melee. Heiskanen got credit.

Stamkos is in his 12th season with the Lightning. He produced 29 goals and 66 points in the regular season, which was cut short on March 12 due to the spread of COVID-19.

The final is being played in front of no spectators at Rogers Place, and players are isolating between games to prevent contracting the coronavirus.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2020.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Searchers find bodies in Jasper National Park, remains believed to be missing couple

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JASPER, Alta. — Alberta RCMP say searchers have found two bodies in Jasper National Park.

Investigators believe the bodies are the remains of a couple who were reported missing after their vehicle was found in a parking lot at the Mount Edith Cavell Roads trail.

Matthew Kozak and Zabrina Ferrier were last seen on Friday.

Relatives had driven to the area to help with the search.

RCMP say Parks Canada staff in a helicopter found the bodies just before dark on Tuesday night near Verdant Pass.

Jasper RCMP and Parks Canada staff recovered the remains on Wednesday morning.

“It is believed the couple were hiking and succumbed to their injuries after falling from a steep bank in the area,” RCMP said in a release.

RCMP along with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner continue to investigate.

Police say family members have been notified.

 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2020

The Canadian Press

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