Canada survives major hockey scare, reaches semis

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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.

John Shuster, 30 pounds lighter, rallies for 4th Olympic curling berth

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John Shuster is going to a fourth Olympics. It’s one more chance to prove Urban Dictionary wrong.

Shuster, 30 pounds lighter since his second straight Olympic failure in Sochi, led a team that beat Heath McCormick‘s squad at the U.S. Olympic Trials finals in Omaha on Saturday night.

Shuster, Tyler GeorgeMatt Hamilton and John Landsteiner lost the opener of a best-of-three finals series on Thursday.

They came back to deliver in a pair of must-win games, 9-4 on Friday night and 7-5 on Saturday, after spending each day at the Omaha Zoo.

The new-look Shuster — leaner and, at least this weekend, clutch — would astonish those who know him by scenes at the last two Olympics.

After taking bronze in 2006 as a role player, he led the last two U.S. Olympic teams to 2-7 records in 2010 and in 2014. Last place in Vancouver, where he was benched after an 0-4 start. Next to last place in Sochi.

After the last Olympics, the former bartender from Chisholm, Minn., was left off USA Curling’s 10-man high performance team.

He took it as motivation to get in shape.

Shuster, a father of a 2- and a 4-year-old who once said, “If I don’t have pizza three or four times a week, I’m not happy,” now totes meal replacement shakes. He’s starting to enjoy Olympic lifting.

Shuster, George, Hamilton and Landsteiner, all absent from that USA Curling high performance list, formed their own team. They became Team USA in their first season together and represented the Stars and Stripes at worlds in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Their results — fourth, third and fifth —  marked the best string of U.S. men’s or women’s finishes at that level in a decade.

Shuster is set to join Debbie McCormick as the only Americans to curl at four Olympics. The sport was part of the first Winter Games in 1924, then absent as a medal sport until 1998.

“I don’t think it’s about the four Olympics for me,” Shuster said on NBCSN. “What this is about — and what I’m about — is getting my teammates to now. I have two new Olympians on this team, and I know how special that is.”

George, the 35-year-old vice skip for Shuster, led a team that lost to Shuster in the 2010 Olympic Trials final. The liquor store manager from Duluth, Minn., is going to his first Winter Games.

As is the 28-year-old Hamilton, whose younger sister qualified for PyeongChang earlier Saturday.

Landsteiner, a 27-year-old corrosion engineer, played with Shuster since 2011, including in Sochi.

Alternate Joe Polo can go 12 years between Olympic appearances after taking bronze on that Torino team.

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MORE: U.S. Winter Olympic Trials broadcast schedule

Katie Ledecky wins race by 54 seconds, breaks record

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Katie Ledecky is back at Stanford and back to pulverizing distance races.

The sophomore and five-time Olympic champion won a 1,650-yard freestyle by 54.45 seconds at a meet at Texas A&M on Saturday night.

The runner-up was in a different heat; Ledecky won her heat by 1:02.16.

Ledecky lowered her own American record, clocking 15:03.31. She had the previous mark of 15:03.92 set last Nov. 20.

Ledecky had every swimmer lapped in the 25-yard pool before the halfway point and ended up lapping everyone twice.

The men also raced a 1,650 on Saturday. The winner clocked 15:18.95, which was 15.64 seconds slower than Ledecky’s time.

Full results are here.

The 1,650 is the longest race on the NCAA program, while the longest race at the Olympics and world championships is the 1500m.

The No. 2 woman all-time in the 1,650 is triple 2008 Olympic medalist Katie Hoff, a full 21.04 seconds slower.

Ledecky owns the 1500m world record, too, 13.4 seconds faster than any other woman in history.

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MORE: Michael Phelps’ discussion with Katie Ledecky after 2017 Worlds