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Mikaela Shiffrin set to clinch World Cup overall title

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Mikaela Shiffrin is on the verge of clinching the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in Alpine skiing. It should become official on Saturday.

Shiffrin will clinch at the World Cup Finals slalom in Aspen, Colo., if she finishes in the top 15, or if Slovenian Ilka Stuhec does not win. NBC Sports will air coverage (broadcast schedule here).

This is a near certainty, given Shiffrin has won seven of nine slaloms this season, and Stuhec has only finished one slalom in her career (placing 10th). In fact, Stuhec may skip Saturday’s slalom altogether.

Stuhec stayed in mathematical contention by finishing first and second in the first two of four World Cup Finals races this week. The Aspen series is the conclusion of a 37-race season that began in October.

Shiffrin has won 11 of those races, four more than anybody else, plus three-peated as world championships gold medalist in the slalom.

Shiffrin, who turned 22 on Monday, will become the youngest men’s or women’s overall champion since Croatian Janica Kostelic in 2003.

Previous Americans to take the overall title were Phil MahreTamara McKinneyBode Miller and Lindsey Vonn.

Shiffrin could go into the 2018 Olympics with a chance to become the first U.S. woman to win three gold medals at a single Winter Games, given she has won World Cup races in slalom, giant slalom and super combined this season.

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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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