Ilka Stuhec beats Lindsey Vonn in World Cup Finals downhill

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Slovenian Ilka Stuhec spoiled the day for Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin by dominating the World Cup Finals downhill in Aspen, Colo., on Wednesday.

Stuhec won by a comfortable .66 over Vonn, adding the World Cup downhill season title to her world championships gold medal last month. Italian Sofia Goggia was third, 1.03 behind.

Stuhec won half of the eight World Cup downhills this season after needing 113 World Cup starts before notching her first podium in December. She was 25th in the downhill standings last season.

Vonn finished runner-up at her third straight World Cup race on Wednesday. She actually fell crossing the finish and slid into a soft barrier, but Vonn walked off smiling.

Vonn, who came back in January from crash-caused knee and arm fractures last year, raced Wednesday with a chest cold and her right glove taped to her ski pole. She has dealt with a lack of feeling in her hand resulting from breaking her right upper arm in a November training crash.

“I think it cost me a couple of tenths, but I should have been a lot faster than a couple of tenths today to beat Ilka, so probably didn’t really matter,” Vonn said on NBCSN.

She remains stuck on 77 career World Cup wins, nine shy of the record held by retired Swede Ingemar Stenmark.

Vonn, 32, has averaged about 10 wins per season when fully healthy, but six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller says she is now facing the toughest two rivals of her career in Stuhec and Goggia.

“Lindsey hasn’t seen that type of competition in the last several years,” Miller said on the NBCSN broadcast. “She’s definitely going to have to buckle down in the offseason and get things figured out. For me, Lindsey at her best and over the course of a season is going to have several wins in the downhill and super-G. She just is that strong.”

Stuhec’s win also kept Shiffrin from clinching her first World Cup overall title. Shiffrin, who didn’t race Wednesday, will clinch Thursday if Stuhec finishes third or lower in the super-G.

If not, Shiffrin will clinch Saturday or Sunday if she finishes in the top 12 of the slalom or giant slalom, or gets help from Stuhec, who is not strong in those disciplines.

Full Results | Broadcast Replay

Earlier, Italian Peter Fill repeated as men’s downhill season champion despite not winning any of the eight races this season.

Fill placed second, .08 behind countryman Dominik Paris, in the race on Wednesday. That was enough to make up a 33-point standings deficit on Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud, who finished 11th in Aspen. Full results are here.

The World Cup Finals continue with men’s and women’s super-Gs on Thursday, expected to be Vonn’s last race of the season. NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app will air coverage from 12-2 p.m. ET.

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MORE: Bode Miller says ‘a lot of pieces’ necessary for possible comeback

USA Hockey to start reaching out to potential replacement players

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USA Hockey will begin reaching out to “alternate players” to determine their interest in playing for the U.S. at the women’s world championship next week amid a potential boycott by its national team.

The contact is taking place in the event a resolution cannot be reached between USA Hockey and the women’s national team in a wage dispute.

“It’s important for everyone to understand clearly that our objective is to have the players we named as the U.S. women’s national team be the ones that compete in the world championship,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, in a statement. “Productive conversations have taken place this week and are ongoing in our collective efforts to reach a resolution.”

The alternate players are in the professional NWHL and college, according to USA Today, a report that USA Hockey would not confirm.

U.S. captain Meghan Duggan has said every player in the U.S. national team player pool, plus under-18 national team players, committed to not playing at worlds unless the wage dispute is resolved.

The world championship tournament starts March 31 in Plymouth, Mich.

As of Thursday evening, no resolution has come between USA Hockey and its women’s national team. They met formally on Monday for more than 10 hours, with both sides calling it productive.

Neither side has said when its next scheduled meeting will take place.

On Tuesday, USA Hockey said it postponed a pre-worlds camp that was to run through next Tuesday in Traverse City, Mich., and canceled a scheduled Friday exhibition against Finland.

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NHL asked for decision on Olympics by end of April

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International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.

NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.

The head of the NHL Players Association, Donald Fehr, says the players want to participate and hopes the league will take advantage of the chance to market the game in Asia.

However, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says without “material change to the current status quo, NHL players will not be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics.”

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MORE: 2018 Olympic hockey groups set