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“We’re doing our best to be prepared for anything”

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Little more than a month ago, members of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference – and the fans and parents who care about this under-valued level of college sport — were seriously focused on next week – specifically a Monday morning meeting in Medicine Hat.

For many years, interest and intensity have grown at this time of year. The month of May marks the formal start of preparation for the coming season, primarily soccer and golf and cross-country. A lot of details are needed to have everything ready when the first flag flies.

This year is bound to be different. Possible change, everywhere, is set for debate during the five-day annual general meeting.

Mark Kosak, the ACAC’s chief executive officer, made clear his belief that the major issues, time and money, must be faced head-on. Several outlines will be considered in a virtual meeting – “lots of protocols and requirements in place.” All participants have some insight to his combination of caution and aggression.

“So many complexities, so many variables,” Kosak said. “We’re doing our best to be prepared for anything.” He specified the pressure of dealing with COVID-19, of course, but also dealt with an ongoing issue in minor and amateur sports at all levels: “Everybody has financial troubles” that existed long before the pandemic arrived.

Front and centre is the need for the Augustana Vikings to complete the elimination of men’s soccer (the women’s program will survive) and to continue the community- and alumni-led bid to keep men’s hockey alive despite intense financial pressures. An interesting conundrum presented by Kosak: the backlash faced by Keyano College officials when they eliminated their Huskies hockey team a few years back and resulted in an about-face. “We have a proposal from Keyano to enter both men’s and women’s hockey; now, Keyano has agreed to wait until next year for a decision.”

“Honestly, there’s no real chance to tell what’s going to happen,” Jason Richey, head of the NAIT Ooks athlete program, said in a brief recent discussion. “As far as I can tell, the only way to avoid cutting some of our early sports is if, somehow, the distancing regulations are changed in time, but it’s too early to count on that, I think.”

Three options – all tied to the paced of reopening the economy — will be discussed in Medicine Hat. One Saskatchewan team, the Briercrest Clippers, may face regulations different from the bulk of ACAC members.

Kosak’s proposals:

* Start on schedule, Sept. 15 or thereabouts, with first-term sports such as soccer, cross-country and golf;

* Prepare for a potential Oct. 1 start, requiring less play in those three sports but maintaining full activity in the others.

* Eliminate the early events if necessary and prepare to begin remaining sports after Christmas. keeping them at the busiest possible level: futsal indoors rather than the outdoor game; maybe one full golf tournament in the fall; possibly a series of indoor track meets.

Kosak and others have been somewhat successful, in building fan interest in the ACAC, whose sports have been attended for years by mostly small crowds. Some growth in regional and national interest has shown in college-level championships, although crowds still remain far below the level of attendance for Canada’s national university playoffs.

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Alberta

Pastor, candidate under restraining order arrested for allegedly breaking COVID laws

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CALGARY — A Calgary mayoral candidate who is under a restraining order and a pastor both face charges for allegedly violating COVID-19 laws over the weekend.

The Calgary Police Service alleges Kevin J. Johnston was in violation of a court order when he attended an illegal gathering Saturday morning.

The injunction, obtained by the province’s health delivery agency on May 6, mandates that event organizers comply with public health restrictions, including masking, physical distancing and attendance limits.

Police also say Pastor Tim Stephens was arrested Sunday afternoon for organizing a church service that was held earlier in the day at Fairview Baptist Church, which police allege did not comply with public health orders.

Police say they received repeated calls from concerned citizens about services at Fairview Baptist Church in recent weeks, and that Stephens was proactively served a copy of the May 6 order last weekend.

On Friday, Alberta Health Services said the Court of Queen’s Bench imposed a restraining order on Johnston, requiring that he stay at least 100 metres away from health officers and must not publish any threats or hate speech directed at them.

Johnston is running in this fall’s municipal election and has been a vocal supporter of anti-lockdown protests.

“We are at a critical point in our province’s response to the pandemic and citizens must comply with public health orders in order to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being,” police said in a news release announcing Johnston’s arrest.

They didn’t say what event he allegedly attended.

Alberta Health Services has said Johnston has been aggressive and threatening towards two particular health workers as well as to the general AHS workforce.

Johnston appears regularly online, promoting far-right ideology.

Premier Jason Kenney tweeted Saturday that he was glad the restraining order was issued, calling Johnston a “nutbar.”

Police, meanwhile, said they did not enter Fairview Baptist Church during Sunday morning’s service, and that Stephens was arrested in the afternoon.

“The Pastor acknowledged the injunction, but chose to move forward with today’s service, ignoring requirements for social distancing, mask wearing and reduced capacity limits for attendees,” police stated in a news release.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Big third period lifts Vancouver Canucks to 4-1 victory over Edmonton Oilers

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EDMONTON — Matthew Highmore scored twice in the third period Saturday as the Vancouver Canucks topped the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. 

Travis Boyd and Bo Horvat also had goals for the Canucks (22-28-3), and J.T. Miller registered a pair of assists.

Oilers defenceman Adam Larsson opened the scoring with his fourth goal of the season midway through the first period.  

Thatcher Demko had a big performance for Vancouver, stopping 31 shots, including a breakaway chance by Connor McDavid. Mikko Koskinen had 37 saves for Edmonton (35-19-2). 

The result ended a two-game losing skid for the Canucks, who linger at the bottom of the North Division standings with three games left to play. 

With their final playoff tune-up complete, the Oilers will turn their attention to Wednesday’s first-round playoff series opener against the visiting Winnipeg Jets.

The Canucks broke the game open midway through the third period.

Highmore’s second goal of the afternoon came with 6:33 left to play. He sent a backhand shot towards the Edmonton net from the top of the slot and Koskinen fumbled with the puck before it dribbled over the goal line.

The goal, the Vancouver forward’s third of the season, sealed the score at 4-1. 

An odd-man rush saw Highmore blast a shot up and over Koskinen’s glove 9:13 into the period. Just 16 seconds later, Boyd snapped a shot past the Edmonton netminder from the middle of the slot to make it 3-1.

The Canucks outshot the Oilers 17-5 in the final frame on Saturday. 

McDavid had a prime chance to add to his NHL-leading 105 points in the third period when he picked up a Canucks turnover in the neutral zone and sped away for a breakaway. 

The Oilers captain attempted to put a wrist shot in from the top of the crease but Demko made a blocker save.

The Canucks netminder kept the score tied at 1-1 with a stellar stop midway through the second period. 

The Oilers were awarded their second power play of the game when Zack MacEwen hauled down Joakim Nygard. Alex Chiasson’s snapshot from the bottom of the slot nearly restored Edmonton’s lead, but Demko swept it off the goal line with his right pad. 

Edmonton’s first power play of the afternoon didn’t go as planned. Vancouver’s J.T. Miller was called for holding 1:12 into the second period and 15 seconds later, the puck was in the back of the Edmonton net. 

A shot by Leon Draisaitl went wide and was picked up by Tanner Pearson. He streaked up the ice and sent a backhanded pass across the top of the crease to Horvat, who popped it in to tie the game at 1-1. 

It was the Canucks’ fifth short-handed goal of the season and Horvat’s 18th goal of the year. 

Still stationed in the penalty box, Miller tapped his stick against the glass in appreciation. 

Edmonton was 0 for 3 on the power play and Vancouver went 0 for 2. 

Larsson opened the scoring 12:45 into the opening frame, blasting a slapshot past Demko from above the right faceoff circle. 

McDavid and Draisaitl had assists to extend their point streaks to eight games. McDavid has 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) over the stretch and Draisaitl has 17 points (7-10).  

Edmonton still won the 10-game season series with six victories over Vancouver. 

The Canucks will host the Calgary Flames on Sunday, kicking off a three-game series that will close out the season for both sides. 

Notes: Slater Koekkoek returned to the Oilers lineup after missing 20 games with a broken collarbone. … Canucks defenceman Jalen Chatfield turned 25 on Saturday. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2021. 

The Canadian Press

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