Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Diamondbacks defeat Arizona State in exhibition tune-up before Cactus League play

The Diamondbacks got a jump on the rest of the Cactus League on Wednesday, meeting Arizona State’s baseball team in a seven-inning exhibition game as part of the annual Collegiate Baseball Series and defeating the Sun Devils 6-2 at Salt River Fields.
First baseman Christian Walker went 2 for 2 with a two-run single in the first inning for the Diamondbacks, and shortstop Tony Renda hit an RBI triple to right field for the go-ahead run in the fifth. Arizona added four runs in the sixth, two by way of bases-loaded walks.
Taylor Clarke threw a scoreless first inning for the Diamondbacks, who also got clean innings out of Ryan Atkinson, Michael Dimock, David Carpenter, Parker Markel and Taylor Grover. Left-hander Yuhei Nakaushiro, who signed with the Diamondbacks as a minor-league free agent in 2016, got roughed up during a two-run second inning, which included walking in a run.
ASU had five hits in the game, including Scott Mehan's RBI single in the second inning. ASU starter Ryan Hingst faced eight batters over two innings and allowed four hits and two earned runs.
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo didn’t use any of his everyday major leaguers, relying mostly on minor-league talent, especially younger players in Arizona’s farm system.
“We knew that this would be a challenge for us, but it was on the schedule and we had plenty time to prepare for it,” Lovullo said in regards to playing two days earlier than the rest of the Cactus League. “We did our best to prepare for it by having some of our players come in and do some base running and just get themselves ready to go.”

Es ist ein Wunder!

Sweden rallies from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits but loses in overtime. The loss is the greatest upset in Olympic hockey since 2002 when Belarus beat Sweden, also 4-3.

Patirck Reimer drove hard to the goal, skated around three Swedes in the process, and banged his own rebound past goalie Viktor Fasth just 90 seconds into a 10-minute four-on-four overtime to give Germany an improbable victory over Sweden.
To add to the drama, the play went to video review to determine if the puck had crossed the goal line. It had.
The win is the greatest for the country since February 14, 1976, when it beat the United States, 4-1, to earn its only Olympic medal, a bronze. But that was as West Germany.
But since Germany became one country in 1990, there is no result that comes close to tonight's shocker. The team raced to a 2-0 lead, fought hard to make it 3-1 midway through the third, and blew a two-goal lead before Reimer's heroics.
'I’m proud of the guys, how they played, how they worked," said Marcel Goc. "We had a couple of huge blocks from our guys. We tried everything we had, and it was enough today. In OT, everything can happen. One lucky bounce or one deflection and the puck goes in and the game is over. Reimer made a really nice move, I thought, took the puck to the net and put it in."
This was not vintage Tre Kronor of Forsberg and Sundin and Sedins and Backstrom. This was more like Tva Kronor (two crowns) or Ett Kronor (one crown). Sweden si going home, and Germany will play Canada in the semi-finals, the winner going for gold, the loser for bronze.
Either way, Germany will play for a medal, a possibility no one could have taken seriously two weeks ago.
"It’s huge for our sport," Goc continued, "especially at the Olympics. It’s not just World Championships, where it’s just hockey or hockey fans. It’s a big platform for us. This game was live in Germany, too. It was a good time. It’s a good advertisement for us. I hope we got some more fans."
"We’re really just excited that we have a chance to play for a medal," Goc summed up. "This is a dream come true for us. We might need a few minutes here or a night to let it set and understand what we did here."
For us, it’s a huge step forward. Four years ago we didn’t qualify to go to Sochi. This time, I thought we played a great qualification. It’s started to pay off, the work we put in.
Sometimes number can be deceiving. They don’t tell the whole story even while they appear to. Consider the shots on goal totals for the first period. The numbers show the Swedes outshot Germany 15-10. Nothing special, right? Wrong.
The Swedes got 13 of their shots before Germany got its first. Sweden had an early power play and several great scoring chances, but they couldn’t bulge the twine.
Then, inexplicably, as if a switch went off, Germany gained some confidence, and then got a power play. They took 10:10 to register their first shot, but at 13:48 they opened the scoring when veteran Christian Ehrhoff’s floating point shot drifted under the arm of Viktor Fasth for a stunning goal.
Just 29 seconds later, they scored again! This time it was Marcel Noebels, who was in the right place at the right time to flick a loose puck past a scrum at 14:17 to make it 2-0 Germany.
In all, Germany had ten shots in a row before Sweden got a couple of late ones on Danny aus den Birken, but the shots totals didn’t tell the story of this improbable 2-0 lead for the massive underdog Germans.
One would think a team like Sweden, with such a long and rich history of winning would have re-grouped in the first intermission and came out flying to start the second. Well, that didn’t happen.
In fact, Germany had a good chance early, and then at the three-minute mark had a most extraordinary flurry of five shots at goal in about as many seconds. Fasth made two great saves and three shots narrowly missed the target, but it was clear by now the Swedes just didn’t have that high gear to switch to when they needed it.
Shots on goal in the second was a conservative 5-4 for the Germans, who protected their lead well without falling into a defensive shell.
In the third the tne changed as soon as Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg put out 17-year-od Rasmus Dahlin for his first shift of the night. The Swedes had good pressure, and on Dahlin's third shift his point shot wound up ni a scramble in front where Anton Lander put it in. 
Two minutes later, though, Dahlin was caught up ice on a rush and Dominik Kahun beat Fasth from a distance with a wrist shot going the other way. That gave the Germans a 3-1 lead with 11:32 remaining.
But Sweden came back on a power play a minute later, Patrik Hersley wiring a one-timer to cut the lead in half.
The Swedes completed their comeback at 11:37 when Mikael Wikstrand's long wrist shot went all the way past a screened aus den Birken. That set the stage for overtime.

Canada into SF

An unstoppable slap shot from Maxim Noreau and a shut-out shared by Ben Scrivens and Kevin Poulin saw Canada edge past Finland in a tense quarter-final game.

Canada's dreams of a third successive Olympic gold are still alive after a narrow victory over Finland. For the Nordic nation, though, defeat in this quarter-final match-up means there's no chance to improve on its Sochi bronze. 
For these teams, it was the biggest meeting since the 2016 World Championship Final in Moscow. On that occasion, Canada claimed a 2-0 verdict inspired by Connor McDavid in a performance that announced the youngster on the world stage.
Tonight offered the chance for Eeli Tolvanen to do likewise. In a clash of two teams relying on solid defence, his pace and flair had the potential to forge the breakthrough for the Finns. Indeed, in a first period that produced few incidents of note, Tolvanen provided one moment of excitement when he got away from Marc-Andre Gragnani with a scintillating burst of speed down the right. However, he ran out of space to get his shot away and Ben Scrivens was able to smother the chance. It was the brightest moment the 18-year-old Jokerit Helsinki prospect could produce all night. The Canadian defence was at its smothering best, chances were hard to come by.
In the end, though, it was a very different player – and a very different play – that decided a hard-fought battle between two teams with genuine medal ambitions. Noreau, a 30-year-old defenceman who has spent the bulk of his career in Switzerland after making a handful of NHL appearances, smashed home the winning goal of the game early in the third period. If Tolvanen’s game promises rapier-like thrusts, Noreau’s is built around the power of the blunt implement. He’d already tested his slap shot against Switzerland, and tonight he unleashed it again in fine style to smash an Eric O’Dell feed past Mikko Koskinen.
O'Dell, who won the face-off to set up the vital goal, was full of praise for his colleague.
"Playing with Max is just awesome," he said. "He's a hard-nosed guy, we kinda read off each other, we've got some good chemistry, same as Klinker [Rob Klinkhammer] and I think we'e been really effective in the last couple of games and coach likes putting us out there. It's fun playing with the guys.
"Max just plays confident out there, he knows what to say on and off the ice to spark the boys. It definitely really helps us."
Noreau’s defensive contribution was also huge as Canada battled from start to finish to stifle the Finns. At times, it made for a difficult game to watch. The first period was almost bereft of goalmouth action save for that Tolvanen rush and a couple of misjudged glove saves. First, Scrivens failed to hold on to an effort from Jarno Koskiranta, forcing Mat Robinson to make the clearance. Then, right at the end of the period, Mikko Koskinen fumbled a Chay Genoway effort. In fairness to the goalies, there were so few shots on either net that it would have been hard to maintain concentration.
Canada began the second period in more aggressive fashion, but it was Scrivens who faced the first real emergency. The Canadian goalie took a pounding when O’Dell’s check sent Veli-Matti Savinainen crashing into him. By the time everyone had disentangled from the net, and each other, Scrivens needed a moment to gather himself before continuing with the game. However, after making one more save, the Salavat Yulaev Ufa man went to the bench, replaced by Kevin Poulin. The two goalies combined to turn away 21 Finnish attempts and bring home the W. Like O'Dell said, hard-nosed.
"When you see guys going down, getting crazy blocks on shots, it gets the whole bench up," the HC Sochi forward said. "That's just the Canada way, that's how we play. We're a hard-nosed team and when it comes down to it we're going to do anything we can to get the win and it paid off tonight."
Finnish forward Oskar Osala endured a frustrating evening. "Our game plan was the same as it always is: play active, forecheck hard, get turnovers and create chances off those," he said. "I thought we did that well. Especially in the second period we had some great chances and if we could have buried one of those it would have been a different story."
Poulin’s first meaningful action was to block an angled Petri Kontiola shot, but Koskinen was the still the busier of the goalies. Even so, Finland’s defence was adept at keeping the Canadians on the outside, and apart from one link-up between Derek Roy and Rene Bourque there was relatively little beyond the routine for the SKA St. Petersburg netminder to contend with as Canada kept getting bodies on the line and blocking the puck at every turn.
Once Noreau broke the deadlock, Finland needed to raise its attacking game in the final frame. But too often its raids crashed on a red wall of Canadian defence, with Poulin well-protected by his team. Even Finland's final surge, withdrawing Koskinen with 90 seconds to play, could not find a crack in the armour as Canada moved into the last four once again.

Finns edge OAR for bronze

Hear those Lionesses roar! The Finns beat the Olympic Athletes from Russia 3-2 in Wednesday's bronze medal game. It's Finland's third Olympic bronze all-time.

This represented a major bounceback after a disappointing fifth-place finish four years ago in Sochi. It was a joyful moment for coach Pasi Mustonen's team, which came to Korea expecting to medal and came through in the end.

"Winning a medal was our goal coming into the Olympics, and we know on a good day we have a chance even against the U.S. or Canada," said Finnish captain Jenni Hiirikoski. "But the U.S. was really good [to beat Finland] in the semi-final, so this was what we wanted to win today."

The Finns also came third in the inaugural Nagano 1998 tournament and in Vancouver 2010.

Susanna Tapani set the pace with a goal and an assist. Her 2-0 marker, just 10 seconds into the second period, set a new Olympic record for the fastest goal from the start of a period. The old record of 19 seconds belonged to Slovakia’s Janka Culikova, who scored in the third period of a 5-2 loss to Switzerland on 17 February, 2010.
Petra Nieminen and Linda Valimaki also scored for Finland. Top Finnish netminder Noora Raty, who played every game, outduelled her counterpart Nadezhda Morozova. Shots were even at 22 apiece.

"This is awesome!" said Raty. "It's one of the best days of my life. We've been waiting for this for four years, ever since Sochi. We beat Sweden in overtime in Vancouver, and that was a great feeling to beat your biggest rival. But we were underdogs in that game; we were favourites today, I think, so there was more pressure."

"We played together, and we played as a team," said Valimaki. "That's the main reason we won. It's an amazing feeling, and now we can celebrate the medal."

Lyudmila Belyakova potted a goal and an assist for the OAR team and captain Olga Sosina had a single.

"In a way, the tournament was still successful for us, but if I had a medal around my neck I'd be a lot happier now," said Sosina.
Indeed, it wasn't all bad news for the red-and-white squad, which played better than in the 5-1 group stage loss to Finland. Fourth place marks the best Olympic finish ever for a Russian women’s team. Russia came fifth in Salt Lake City in 2002.

Finnish forward Riikka Valila is the last remaining active player from the 1998 Olympics, which she led in scoring. At 44, she continues to excel. Her top line with Tapani and Michelle Karvinen was dangerous throughout the game.

"After Sochi, everything was chaos, but then we started to build our team, both the players and the organization," said Valila. "Our goal was to win a medal for the last four years. "

This was a tightly contested affair after both teams lost their semi-finals 5-0, Finland to the Americans and the OAR women to the Canadians.
Facing the tournament's most-penalized team, the Finns drew first blood on their first power play. Minnamari Tuominen stepped in from the centre point to loft a backhand and Nieminen deftly tipped it in mid-air past the Russian netminder for her third goal of the Games at 2:23.
It was the second time Finland’s youngest player has opened the scoring in these playoffs. The 18-year-old Nieminen also did it in the 7-2 quarter-final win over Sweden.

"We had a lot of good scorers in the tournament, and we have a new generation coming, like Nieminen and the younger girls," said Hiirikoski. "It's nice to see them step up as well."
The Russians had their chances as the period went on. Raty came out to block Belyakova on an OAR outnumbered rush. Later, Alevtina Shtaryova wristed one that hit Raty’s glove and then the post. In the last minute of the first, Ronja Savolainen capitalized on a Russian pratfall to go one-on-one with Morozova, but the puck drifted off her stick.
To start the middle frame, Finland got a two-goal lead thanks to its top line. Off the opening faceoff, Karvinen and Tapani executed a lovely give-and-go, and Tapani scored high to the stick side.
The Russians didn’t capitulate. At 2:40, Sosina one-timed Belyakova’s cross-ice pass over Raty’s glove to cut the deficit to 2-1. The Finns overcompensated with physicality and the OAR team hemmed them in with an extended power play, including a 5-on-3 for 0:39, but couldn’t tie it up.
Finland grabbed a 3-1 lead at 12:18. Venla Hovi went cross-ice to a streaking Valimaki and she cut to the net made a great backhand deke to beat Morozova.
With just over two minutes left in the second, Belyakova’s hip slammed into Raty’s head as she split the Finnish defence on a wild rush. The Finnish netminder was all right, but Belyakova headed off for goalie interference.

At 6:03 of the third, Belyakova executed the play she wanted when she got in for another solo rush and tucked a backhand home to make it 3-2 on a Russian power play.

"They played well, especially in the third," said Hiirikoski. "They did everything to score but we just needed to move the puck and control the puck in their zone."

With five minutes left in regulation, Finland's Isa Rahunen took a bodychecking penalty on Anna Shokhina in the corner. It could have proved costly, but since Shokhina promptly bopped Hiirikoski with a high-stick, the Russian advantage was nullified.

Assiduous Finnish checking kept the OAR team from pulling Morozova until an icing call on Finland with nine seconds left. Off the faceoff, the Finns tied the puck up along the boards, and celebrated with gloves and sticks cast away when the horn sounded. Karvinen leapt into the taller Mira Jalosuo's arms for a hug while the goalies exchanged chest bumps.

Shokhina was assessed a major and game misconduct for kicking at the end.

All game long, Russian supporters among the Kwandong Hockey Centre crowd of 3,217 fervently chanted their country’s name. However, while the OAR men’s team was busy demolishing Norway 6-1 in a quarter-final, the women weren’t able to defeat their own Nordic opponents. Russian women's hockey still needs the right kind of support to hit the next level.

"We have a very good team, a very young team with a lot of potential," said Sosina.

It was the first Olympic bronze battle between these two sides. At the Women’s Worlds, Russia beat Finland for third in the 2001, 2013, and 2016 bronze medal games. Finland returned the favor in 2011 and 2015.

Finland owns 12 Women’s World Championship bronze medals, more than any other nation. Despite losing 3-1 to the U.S. and 4-1 to Canada in the group stage prior to a 5-0 quarter-final loss to the Canadians, the Finns remain the team most capable of challenging North America's hegemony. They will host the 2019 IIHF Women's World Championship and hope to take that next step in front of their loyal fans.

"We want to be the best," said Karvinen. "We've been trying to catch up with the U.S. and Canada. Some games we do, but we couldn't in the semi-finals. But the future will change. We're hungry and we have the support."

Team OAR thumps Norway

The Russians have been dominant lately at the Olympic tournament and Wednesday was no different against Norway.

The Olympic Athletes from Russia put the lights out on overmatched Norway in the first period, and later completely cut the power with a smooth 6-1 win in Wednesday’s second quarter-final at Gangneung Hockey Centre.
Nikita Gusev contributed the game winning goal and had two assists, while Vasili Koshechkin stopped 13 of 14 shots sent his way.   
It will be Team OAR and the Czech Republic in a semi-final.
The Russians arrived to the first period on-time with their skill and ingenuity packed.
But it was a random bounce that led to their first goal.
The helpful Ilya Kablukov whipped a dump-in attempt off a cringing linesman, dropping the puck in Mikhail Grigorenko’s lap. He launched a score upstairs at 8:54 of the first period.
Grigorenko said there was intent behind his team's quick start, "We prepared seriously for this game. In the locker room before the game you could feel that everyone was pumped for it, ready for a tough game."
At 13:25 of the first, with the Russians on a power play, Nikita Gusev spotted an open net and forced a sharp angle shot behind Lars Haugen to make it 2-0.
Then, with 40 seconds left in the first period, Vyacheslav Voinov snapped one in to continue the onslaught.
The Russians owned the shot clock 19-2 after the first 20 minutes.       
Alexander Bonsaksen, Norway’s overtime hero from a night ago, found the back of the net at 7:21 of the second period by beating a confused Koshechkin.  
Norway went win-less in the preliminary round, but enjoyed their first Olympic victory in almost 24 years by eliminating Slovenia in overtime on Tuesday.
Less than a minute after the Bonsaksen tally, on a power play, Sergei Kalinin jammed in a feed from Ilya Kovalchuk to restore the three-goal margin.
Bonsaksen looked back on the tournament after the game, "It's been a good experiene for all the guys," he said. Previous to his overtime winner against Slovenia, the Norwegians had lost 11-straight Olympic games. 
"When you reach the quarter-final you want to move on to the next round," said Norway's Patrick Thoresen, "But we came up against a big contender today and we couldn't hold off their offence, they were too strong for us." 
Nikita Nesterov and Ivan Telegin would also score for Team OAR, which had six different goal scorers, and for each of them, tonight was their first goal of the tournament.
The Russians now have 20 goals in four games.
The OAR dominated Slovenia and the USA after a first game slip-up against Slovakia. Observers believe they have improved each game. 
"We're a very hungry group of guys, so we just need to prepare and take one game at a time and the next game will be the biggest one," said Kovalchuk, whose set-up on the Kalinin goal was his sixth point.

Czechs shoot into SF

The Czechs are on their way to the semi-finals for the first time since Turin after edging the USA in a shootout. Petr Koukal settled it after a 2-2 tie.

Four years ago these teams met at this stage in Sochi, and the USA's NHL-powered roster eased to a comfortable 5-2 victory. In Korea, things were very different: two rosters dominated by European-based players battled each other to a standstill before Petr Koukal won it for the Czechs in a shootout.
Koukal was the only player to find the net after the teams tied 2-2 over 70 minutes of hockey, claiming the game-winner here after also scoring in his country's shootout success over Canada in the group phase.
At the other end, goalie Pavel Francouz denied all five American attempts and secured the victory when he got behind Bobby Butler's final shot for the USA.
"I just try to stick with the guy," Francouz said. "I don't make any moves and wait for the shot or the deke. I had a little luck there too, so I'm happy that we won."
Watching on from the bench, defenceman Vojtech Mozik described is as unbelievable when Francouz closed out Butler to secure the victory.
"It's something you dream of, it always is," he said. "You just want to keep moving through the tournament and here we are in the semi-finals. It's an unbelievable feeling, and we're so happy."
It was also a revenge win for the Czechs, stopped at this stage four years ago by the Americans, and took the team to the final four for the first time since 2006. Coincidentally, that was the last time the USA failed to reach the medal games.
Ryan Donato admitted that the loss - and especially the manner of it - was hard to take. "It's tough to watch everything that you've worked hard for come down to one goal in a shootout but that's hockey and at the end of the day hopefully we'll learn from our experiences and come back better hockey players."
Goalie Ryan Zapolski, at the opposite end of his career from the college player Donato, was more philosophical after a tight loss. "Being at the Games was an amazing experience for all of us and something we should all be really proud of," he said. "I think maybe in 10, 15 years when we're done playing this is something we'll look back on and say it's probably the best moment of our careers."
But it was never plain sailing for the Czechs. They had to come from behind before tying 2-2 in regulation, and might have lost it all in the closing minutes when Brian O'Neill rattled Francouz's crossbar with seconds left to play. However, Josef Jandac's team has plenty of experience in tight games here - a 2-1 victory over Korea, that shoot-out against the Canadians and a 4-1 margin over Switzerland that was bolstered by two empty-net goals - and played with great composure, even after going behind early on.
Traktor Chelyabinsk netminder Francouz added: "It was hard for us when they tied the game. We had a lot of pressure in that second period, they just had one breakaway and scored on us. We just kept working, we had some luck in the end because they hit the bar, but that's hockey."
The USA’s Terry-Donato axis did the damage for the opening goal. The duo, both still playing college hockey, got to work around the left-hand circle, with Troy Terry feeding back to Ryan Donato. His shot flashed through a screen inadvertently created by the Czech duo of Roman Horak and Ondrej Vitasek and beat the unsighted Pavel Francouz.
That rocked the Czechs back after an early, needless U.S. penalty had given Josef Jandac’s team a platform for its offence. But gradually the pressure began to build in front of Ryan Zapolski in the American net, with Roman Cervenka finding a couple of opportunities to menace. His first chance came after the defence clumsily turned over the puck to Tomas Mertl, and he fed Cervenka for a shot that Zapolski pushed away. Soon after, Cervenka had a second shooting chance, but this time the goalie saw it all the way and made a comfortable glove save.
That flurry lifted the Czechs, and the tying goal was not long in coming. Jan Kovar won a face-off on the left, fed the puck to Jan Kolar at the point. His shot crashed in off the far post, with Zapolski unable to respond.
The Amur Khabarovsk D-man paid tribute to his team's resilience in the competition so far. "It's like every game we get into a difficult situation, but we find a way to win," he said. "But, yes, we were nervous. Every game is so tight, and it's always about just one goal. But we still believed in ourselves."
Tempers spilled over at the end of the frame. John McCarthy was assessed for a boarding call after an incident in the corner, and players from both teams converged to debate the matter further. The subsequent power play at the start of the second period set the tone for what was to follow- plenty of Czech pressure, and limited opportunities for the Americans.
That paid off for the Czechs when a Martin Ruzicka effort was only cleared as far as Tomas Kundratek on the point. The Torpedo Nizhni Novgorod defenceman punched a slap shot through a crowded slot to give his team the lead for the first time in the game as Tomas Mertl made a nuisance of himself in front of Zapolski.
And it seemed that the Americans, limited to a solitary shot on goal through 10 minutes of the frame, would face further problems when Mark Arcobello was sent to the box. Instead, a short-handed goal drew the USA level. It started with a wild Tomas Repik shot flashing well over the bar before the puck bounced kindly for Brian O’Neill. He produced a defence-splitting pass from blue line to blue line to release Jim Slater and, with the Czech D-men scrambling to get back, the Swiss-based forward advanced to zing a wrist shot through the gap between Francouz’s pad and blocker.
That was the end of the scoring in regulation, but the Americans were millimetres away from victory in the 58th minute when Brian O'Neill rushed down the left and rattled the crossbar before seeing the puck bounce just beyond Broc Little as he looked for a rebound. The Czechs could not find such a clear opening, although Lukas Radil drew a good pad save from Zapolski and a late, late Michal Birner raid set nerves jangling around the USA net.
Overtime began with the USA on a power play, but the team failed to get a shot at Francouz as the Czech PK ran down the clock. Back at four-on-four play, the clearest shooting lanes opened up for D-men, with Bobby Sanguinetti firing wide when well-placed for the USA before Zapolski got behind a solid effort from Jakub Nakladal at the other end. But there would be no winner until Koukal wrapped it up in the shoot-out.