Canada survives major hockey scare, reaches semis


It was one of the most one-sided games you’ll ever see.

And it was also one of the closest.

In a contest that viewers almost had a hard time believing, Canada avoided one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history with a 2-1 win over Latvia at the Bolshoy Ice Dome on Wednesday. Victory did not come easy for the Canadians despite carrying the play for extended stretches while out-shooting the Latvians by a staggering 57-16 margin — and that was all thanks to one man, goalie Kristers Gudlevskis.

Gudlevskis, the 21-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning farmhand, turned in an absolutely phenomenal performance for the overmatched Latvians, setting a tournament high for saves in a game with 55.

The only Canadians to beat him on the day were Patrick Sharp and Shea Weber — who notched the game-winner with less than seven minutes remaining. Lauris Darzins replied for the Latvians, converting a long stretch pass from Sandis Ozolinsh for a breakaway goal.

The story of the game, though, starts and ends with Gudlevskis. It was an effort that pushed him to the point of exhaustion as, immediately prior to the Weber goal, the Latvian trainer was called onto the ice to tend to Gudlevskis, who looked to be either exhausted or injured, or a combination of both.

As for Canada, the team will undoubtedly be disappointed with its lack of finish, but hard pressed to complain about generating chances and keeping puck possession. Canada fired 16 shots on goal in the first period, 19 in the second, 22 in the third and has now out-shot its opponents 168-73 over five tournament games.

Latvia also had some puck luck go its way in the third period, when a diving save by Kristaps Sotnieks kept a would-be Canadian goal out of the net. Just one problem — Sotnieks was a skater, not a goalie, and putting his hand on the puck in the crease should’ve resulted in a penalty shot. The referees missed the call, though, and play continued after a brief video replay.

They’ll now play the United States in the semifinals on Friday.

Mikaela Shiffrin wins Aspen World Cup slalom

Mikaela Shiffrin
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With a slalom win today in Aspen, Colo., Mikaela Shiffrin broke some of the barriers she had been chasing.

En route to her fourth consecutive slalom World Cup title – which would tie the record for the most with Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider from 1992-95 – she became the first female skier to win four World Cup slalom races in a row since Austria’s Marlies Schild did it in the 2011-12 season.

In addition, Shiffrin became the first female skier from the U.S. to win a slalom World Cup race in Aspen. And she’s now tied with France’s Perrine Pelen for sixth overall with total slalom World Cup victories.

“I was pissed after I made that ridiculous mistake yesterday,” Shiffrin said to media, referencing yesterday’s giant slalom crash. Both her and Lindsey Vonn crashed and did not finish in Aspen’s giant slalom. “I tried to use that anger today.”

Shiffrin called the mistake a “brainfart” and Vonn dismissed it because “giant slalom isn’t [her] strongest event.”

Slovakia’s Veronika Velez Zuzulova was second behind Shiffrin, followed by Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter.

By finishing behind Shiffrin in Aspen, Zuzulova extends her slalom World Cup podium finish streak to four.

Hansdotter has the second-most second place World Cup slalom finishes at 13 total, including today’s race. Only Pernilla Wiberg, of Sweden, has more with a total of 14.

MORE: Shiffrin, Vonn discuss friendship and rivalry

Fencing great Valentina Vezzali fails to qualify for Rio 2016

Mario Monti, Valentina Vezzali
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TURIN, Italy (AP) – Six-time Olympic champion fencer Valentina Vezzali has failed to qualify for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Games.

The 41-year-old Vezzali was eliminated in the second round of the foil event at the Trofeo Inalpi meet Saturday, while Italian teammate Arianna Errigo reached the semifinals and gained the necessary points to qualify.

Vezzali won at least one gold at the last five Olympics in either individual or team foil. She has a total of nine Olympic medals and 25 at world championships.

Her second son was born in 2013, the year in which she also became a member of Italy’s parliament.

Vezzali told the Gazzetta dello Sport this week that “I had another son and it was really difficult to come back. … I don’t think I have anything else to prove.”

MORE: Hanyu, Miyahara win NHK; Wagner into Grand Prix Final