Date: September 21, 2016

Canada clinches top spot in Group A with win over Europe

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By Canadian Press

Jonathan Toews scored a pair of goals and added an assist as Team Canada easily rolled past Europe 4-1 on Wednesday evening in their final preliminary round game of the World Cup of Hockey.

Canada clinched Group A with the victory and will face either Team North America or Russia in the first semifinal on Saturday night.

Sidney Crosby and Logan Couture also scored and Corey Crawford made 19 saves.

Marian Hossa scored the only goal for Europe and Jaroslav Halak stood tall with 42 stops.

Heavy favourites entering the tournament, Canada has met expectations thus far, stomping three foes en route to the semis. They outscored the Czechs, Americans and Europeans by a combined 14-3, trailing only once and for less than two minutes. All but two players have produced at least a point, led by Crosby and Matt Duchene with four points apiece.

Victory has yet to be in doubt for the Canadians.

Whether the North Americans or Russians, the upcoming single elimination semifinal will present a much bigger challenge. Led by Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, North America is loaded with young fire and about the only team in the tournament with the speed to contend with Canada. The Russians, meanwhile, are flooded with dangerous offensive players, including captain Alex Ovechkin and Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov.

A win for Russia in their preliminary round finale with Finland on Thursday afternoon will seal a date with the Canadians.

The early surprise team of the World Cup, Europe just didn’t have the horses to run with Canada. Much like the two that preceded it, this game was not particularly close even if the scoreboard briefly suggested so.

The Canadians struck first four minutes into the opening period and led the rest of the way.

After winning an offensive zone faceoff, Crosby scooped up Alex Pietrangelo‘s deflected point shot and zipped around the net for the wrap-around marker. It was his second goal of the tournament and looked similar to the first, in which Crosby swooped behind the Czech goal and fired a shot off netminder Michal Neuvirth.

Canada kept it coming, flooding Halak with shots and chances.

The European No. 1 goaltender withstood some of the onslaught and at one point late in the first frame stopped Marchand three times on the doorstep. Thirteen seconds later though, Halak’s clearing attempt found its way to Matt Duchene along the boards. Duchene spotted Toews, who slipped a shot into the European goal for the 2-0 lead.

Shots favoured Canada 17-4 after the first 20 minutes.

Crawford wasn’t tested much early, though Tobias Rieder did race in for a partial breakaway only to slide a backhand wide. It was the first and likely only start of the tournament for the 31-year-old Crawford, starting in place of Carey Price.

Canada opted to give Price, Shea Weber and Ryan Getzlaf the night off against Europe with all expected back in the weekend semifinal.

Surprising the United States with a 3-0 win in their World Cup opener, the Europeans pushed the Canadians some early in the second. They scored four-plus minutes into the frame on a weak shot from Hossa that slipped somehow under Crawford’s right leg.

That made it 2-1 for Canada, though tension was never really apparent. The Canadians upped the lead back to two about 10 minutes after the Hossa goal on the second of the night from Toews. He raced in for an odd-man rush with Couture before snapping a shot under the glove of Halak.

Couture added the fourth Canadian goal late in the period.

Canada out shot Europe 46-19, holding the lead for least 50 minutes in each of the first three games.

How We Play Hockey In Norway

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By The Players Tribune

US Women’s Hockey Aims for Continued Success in 2016-17

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By Dan Scifo – USAHockey.com

Reagan Carey believes the upcoming season is a critical one in the process of the continued development of the perennial powerhouse USA Women’s Hockey program.

Carey, the director of women’s hockey for USA Hockey, said the talented player pool is deep with many established veterans and promising newcomers, generating energy and excitement as the players prepare for the season.

“We’re going to put all of our best out there and see how the season pans out in regards to who will be there at the end and named to our national team,” Carey said. “The stakes are high, our players know it and they’re prepared to battle for spots. It’s going to be a really exciting year for us.”

Carey touched on this week’s mini-training camp for post-graduates, noting the player pool is deeper than ever with 24 post-graduates who are currently active with the U.S. Women’s National Team and that includes 13 who are previous Olympians.

The first event of 2016-17 will be the Four Nations Cup tournament that will take place November in Finland, followed by a Dec. 17 showdown against Team Canada, a game that isn’t traditionally on the schedule.

“It’s a great opportunity for players, it’s exciting for fans, and it’s one more game to see how the player pool does,” Carey said.

That all leads to the upcoming IIHF Women’s World Championship, April 1-8, at the USA Hockey Arena, the first time the U.S. Will host the event since 2012 in Burlington, Vermont.

“Seeing the international level of players is something that’s rare, and for us to be able to do that, have a home crowd and see U.S. flags waving as we compete for a world championship is going to be special for our players and very important for our program,” Carey said.

The women’s world championship, a 22-game tournament that features the top female hockey players in the world, will be held in the U.S. for the fourth time in history, as the Americans seek their first gold medal on home soil. The U.S. fell 5-4 in overtime during the 2012 gold medal game against Canada.

“It was a tough loss in Burlington and I know our players are eager to get back out there and have the opportunity to earn a world championship on home ice,” Carey said.

The event will run in conjunction with the USA Hockey Girls’ and Women’s National Championships. The Tier I girls and the women’s championships will take place in Farmington, Michigan, while the girls’ Tier II event is at Troy, Michigan. Both are less than an hour from the USA Hockey Arena.

According to Carey, approximately 20,000 girls were registered in the U.S. and played within USA Hockey programs in 1998 when the Winter Olympics took place and impacted awareness of the women’s game. That number has since spiked to more than 70,000 today.

“It’s a testament to the focus from USA Hockey, determining how to best align the events because our goal is to showcase female hockey in the best way possible,” Carey said. “To host a world championship is special, but to do it in conjunction with girls’ and women’s nationals jump-starts interest and enthusiasm, not just for Michigan, but all of USA Hockey to be proud of how far the women’s team has come.”

The USA Hockey women’s program is currently a powerhouse. Americans have won gold or the top spot in the last five events, including a pair of IIHF U18 and Women’s World Championships. The U.S. won, or finished second, in 18 of 19 events since Carey became involved with the program in August 2010.

“Certainly there’s a full commitment from our veterans, and we’re so grateful to have such terrific leaders in our program,” Carey said. “Our core of leaders sets the tone for any incoming players, as well as the mainstays on the roster. That’s a huge factor for us.”

Carey said the U.S. program has remained dominant thanks to the structure of USA Hockey and the work at the district level. She added that the internal focus is on the program and the players to progress daily to ensure the U.S. remains at the top.

“There’s a lot to be said for the grassroots level, how deep, strong and capable the player pool is,” Carey said. “That starts before we get to national team camp. As a foundation, that is critical for us and a huge reason why we’re at the top of the pile. Certainly, as NCAA programs grow, that’s a big part in preparing players, too.

“We’re in a really great spot, seeing the benefit of our U18 development programs and how prepared our younger players are to have an impact on the senior level at an early age.”

Players can perhaps make the biggest impact soon as the women’s program prepares to begin its season.

In addition to the tournaments that will take place, there are annual camps and festivals for the active player pool that are being considered for spots on upcoming rosters. The next major camp will be in December when a U.S. Women’s National Team development camp is held at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan. 

“Knowing all the players in the pool are all battling for the final spot on the national team roster, the energy around that alone is exciting,” Carey said. “To have these big events we get to host is going to be great. We’re looking forward to a great season.”

MacKinnon lifts North America over Sweden in OT

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By The Canadian Press

When Nathan MacKinnon deked Henrik Lundqvist out for a highlight-reel overtime goal and got mobbed by teammates, he couldn’t be happier.

Minutes later, MacKinnon found out that the 4-3 victory over Sweden on Wednesday wasn’t enough to get Team North America into the semifinals at the World Cup of Hockey. The most exciting show on ice has two victories and a one-goal loss but needs Finland to beat Russia on Thursday to advance.

“Maybe we shouldn’t have celebrated so hard,” MacKinnon said.

Everything the 23-and-under Team North America does is over the top, most importantly the skill that has made it the focus of the World Cup. Despite playing the two most entertaining games of the tournament, North America is in wait-and-see mode while Sweden is the winner of Group B after getting the point it needed.

Henrik Lundqvist stopped 45 of 49 shots to get Sweden into the semifinals after a horrendous start by the skaters in front of him.

“We gave him a rough start,” said two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, who fell victim to the speed of North America’s Connor McDavid and Johnny Gaudreau early. “As a goaltender, I don’t think I can even imagine how it feels to be that kind of left alone and let in two quick goals. How we can rebound from that I have no idea.”

Auston Matthews scored on a 2-on-1 with McDavid 30 seconds in, and Vincent Trocheck made it 2-0 North America 95 seconds in. Lundqvist stopped a few breakaways and Gaudreau’s penalty shot to keep it from getting out of hand.

Sweden eventually got a handle on North America’s blazing speed, which made the best defence in the tournament look pedestrian.

“We had no choice. We had to. Otherwise it was going to be a disaster,” Karlsson said. “They gave us a slap in the face right away.”

North America is one big slap in the face to unsuspecting opponents, who know how fast the mix of U.S. and Canadian players is but can’t possibly adjust to it before seeing it. Gaudreau later scored for North America, but Sweden got goals from Filip Forsberg, Nicklas Backstrom and Patrik Berglund to get to overtime.

With starting goalie Matt Murray out with a thumb injury, John Gibson stopped 35 of the 38 shots he faced. He looked shaky at times but stopped Daniel Sedin on a breakaway in overtime as one of a few memorable, important saves.

Not down at all about the loss, Sweden went into the game with a full understanding of what it needed to do.

“Always when you step on the ice, you want to win the game, but obviously mission accomplished,” coach Rickard Gronborg said.

It’s the opposite for North America, which went from euphoria to uncertainty. A loss to Russia in the game of the tournament means it’s on the wrong side of a head-to-head tiebreaker and now must hope for Finland to pull off the upset.

“We’re happy we won,” forward Mark Scheifele said. “Winning two games in this tournament is a big step. Hopefully we get some help from Finland.”

Even if North America bows out, more fans will remember this team for its unmatched pace and excitement level than its 2-1 record. Each game featured more than a handful of did-you-see-that moves, and North America left a lasting impact on the sport.

“I think we definitely have turned some heads,” McDavid said. “People didn’t know what to expect when we came into this tournament, but we’ve beat two good hockey teams, and ultimately maybe even should have beat the Russians. I think we’ve definitely turned some heads and opened the eyes of everyone what the future of the NHL is like.”

MacKinnon provided one last highlight with the overtime winner. All alone, the 2013 No. 1 pick beat Lundqvist top shelf like he has been doing that to goalies for decades.

“I saw his stick came up for a poke check and managed to beat that and get it up,” MacKinnon said. “It was fun, a fun goal.”

Early World Cup exit may lead to big changes for USA Hockey

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By The Associated Press

Phil Kessel was quick to note he wasn’t on the United States’ roster for during a disappointing World Cup of Hockey.

He wasn’t the only one to point out problems with the team’s construction.

In the moments after the Americans’ 4-2 loss to Canada that eliminated them from contention, the questions cascaded: John Tortorella as coach? Too much grit? Not enough skill? What might change after another all-too-familiar early exit from an international tournament?

U.S. management doubled down on the sandpaper style that almost resulted in a gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics but hasn’t worked since. Kessel, centers Tyler Johnson and Paul Stastny, wings Kyle Okposo and Bobby Ryan and defensemen Justin Faulk, Kevin Shattenkirk and Cam Fowler were among skilled players left off the World Cup roster, generating criticism months ago and even more with the U.S. bowing out after going 0-2.

”To come here and flop like we did is extremely disappointing,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. ”Obviously we have to examine ourselves and what more could we have done and how can we get better for future tournaments.”

The American’s two-and-out revealed they brought too much physicality to a skill game. Canada, Russia, Team North America and others have thrived with fast-paced, entertaining hockey. Speed has been king at this international tournament.

With the aim of beating Canada, U.S. general manager Dean Lombardi built a big team with an edge to neutralize the talent of the top hockey power in the world. Instead, the World Cup showed depth of talent is everything. Leaving more skilled players at home proved detrimental.

Kessel, a Conn Smythe candidate as playoff MVP when the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup this spring, took to Twitter after the U.S. loss to make light of being not selected.

”Just sitting around the house tonight (with) my dog,” Kessel tweeted. ”Felt like I should be doing something important, but couldn’t put my finger on it.”

Kessel was the Americans’ leading scorer and best player at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but he was left off the initial and then final World Cup rosters. Hand surgery after the playoffs may have put his availability in doubt, but USA Hockey’s management team clearly overlooked him and others.

The U.S. opted for old-guard players like forward Brandon Dubinsky, defensemen Jack Johnson and Erik Johnson and grinder Justin Abdelkader. Tortorella, as old-school a coach as there is left, wanted to play his brand of hockey and stood by his roster construction and style.

”It’s disappointing, frustrating, all different types of emotions,” Tortorella said. ”I think we let some people down. It’s on my watch. I certainly feel responsible for that.”

Patrick Kane, who did not score a goal in two games after winning the Hart Trophy as the NHL MVP last season, wouldn’t blame his coach for this failing.

”Tortorella is just one of the most passionate guys I’ve ever seen about hockey,” Kane said. ”I’ll never say a bad thing about him. He’s just a great coach. We didn’t show up for him.”

Lombardi and other executives will take heat for the World Cup debacle, though it might lead to philosophical changes about how to beat Canada and win elite tournaments.

It will help at future events to have players like Auston Matthews, Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel, Brandon Saad and Seth Jones, all of whom played on the 23-and-under Team North America and weren’t eligible for the U.S. team.

”There is definitely a fantastic future coming here,” Tortorella said. ”There are some good young kids there that I think they’ll bring some juice to the program.”