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U.S. retakes edge in Canada rivalry at pre-Olympic tournament

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WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (AP) — The Americans showed off their special teams skills in beating Canada for the second time in three games as part of their pre-Olympic exhibition tour.

Kendall Coyne and Megan Bozek each had a goal and an assist and the U.S. beat Canada 4-2 on Wednesday night in a physical game at the Four Nations Cup.

Cayla Barnes and Alex Carpenter each had power-play goals as the Americans went 3 of 5 with the advantage. Brianna Decker had two assists, and goalie Maddie Rooney made 20 saves for her second win in two nights with the Americans trying to win this event for a third straight time and eighth overall.

“We did so many things right, it’s a great thing to build off of,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said.

Rebecca Johnston and Meghan Agosta scored for Canada, which went 1 of 9 on the power play. The Canadians did not dress Jennifer Wakefield, who had a hat trick and an assist Tuesday night in a 9-0 win over Sweden. Coach Laura Schuler said Wakefield usually is a part of the power play, but Canada still is busy evaluating players before roster cuts for the 2018 Winter Games.

“Our special teams didn’t get the job done tonight,” Schuler said. “Our power play didn’t produce like how we would like them to, and our penalty kill at the same time wasn’t as successful as we have been in the past. I think we need to shoot more and get more pucks through.”

The Americans took the first game 5-2 in Quebec City, and Barnes was in the stands watching when Canada evened it up with a 5-1 win in Boston on Oct. 25.

Since the Canadians rallied to win the 2014 Olympic gold medal 3-2 in overtime, the Americans have been on a tear winning five of six international events and now 10 of 13 games overall against their rivals. They are poised to meet again Sunday in the cup championship.

Rooney from Andover, Minnesota, has been in net for both wins over Canada.

“Maddie played really well for them I thought,” Schuler said. “At the same time, I thought we missed a lot of opportunities, missed the net when we had some pretty good chances. Obviously, that affected the outcome of the game.”

Barnes, the youngest player on the U.S. roster at 18, was only called up Oct. 28 and withdrew from Boston College to chase an Olympic berth. She scored in the first period of Tuesday night’s 8-2 win over Finland and scored her second goal in as many nights at 15:03 of the first skating into the left edge of the right circle to beat goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens for a 1-0 lead.

Bozek, who didn’t dress against Finland, made it a 2-0 lead with a slap shot at 17:50 of the first.

The Canadians answered by taking the first seven shots and outshooting the United States 15-9 in the second. Johnston got Canada on the board with a power-play goal 3:07 into the second. That was the only time Canada made the Americans pay for being short-handed in a game with lots of shoving between teams that know each other so well.

The United States went up 3-1 when Coyne scored a power-play goal off a rebound 50 seconds into the third. Agosta pulled Canada within 3-2 with 4:29 left on a short-handed goal, but Carpenter answered with the Americans’ third power-play goal from the left circle 36 seconds later.

In the other game Wednesday, Linda Valimaki scored the game-winner as Finland rallied with three goals in the third period to beat Sweden 3-1. Finland will play Canada on Friday followed by the United States and Sweden.

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Erin Hamlin nears end of historic U.S. luge career

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Erin Hamlin is looking forward to normalcy. She is getting married next summer in her hometown. She is thinking about career moves. She is trying to figure out the rest of her life.

It is probably her last luge season. It is definitely her last Olympic season.

As such, it would be easy to fall into the trap of saying that winning a gold medal at PyeongChang in February would be the only thing that makes this season a success.

It’s important, sure, but Hamlin is entering her 13th year of World Cup racing with a much broader view and insisting that she’s going to enjoy whatever time she has left on her sled.

“I’m not going to hyperfocus myself on one result or bust,” Hamlin said. “Very likely, it’s going to be my last time in a lot of places, sliding on a lot of tracks. So I think more so, it’s going to be a lot of soaking it all in.”

That process starts Saturday, when the World Cup season opens in Igls, Austria.

Hamlin, who turns 31 on Sunday, is coming off the finest year of her career — she won a gold medal and two silvers at the world championships for the biggest haul ever by an American luger, got two World Cup wins and finished fourth in world rankings.

She might be going out, and there’s a chance she can go out on top.

“We’re working hard to convince her to stay,” longtime U.S. teammate Emily Sweeney said.

Sweeney knows that’s probably futile.

Sliders always tend to cycle out after an Olympics, no matter if it’s bobsled, skeleton or luge, and the Americans will see plenty of veterans take their last rides this winter.

A few U.S. sliders already retired this fall, in part because they weren’t going to have a shot at an Olympic berth.

For her part, Hamlin hasn’t officially said this is the end.

“There’s never really as concrete of a plan as you hope there would be, because you never know what can happen,” Hamlin said. “But at the moment, what I’m excited to do is see what other opportunities are there and what other adventures await.”

Hamlin has been in the world’s top 10 in each of the past 11 seasons — the second-longest current streak of any woman in luge, one year behind German legend Tatjana Huefner.

She won a World Cup each of the past three years, took the world title in sprint last winter and became the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medalist in 2014 with a bronze.

A lesson learned that season: Not expecting much can work wonders. That’s one of the reasons why PyeongChang isn’t taking up all the bandwidth in her brain.

“That’s the nature of winter sports in a Winter Olympic year, there being so much focus on the Games,” Hamlin said. “How I went into the last Olympics taught me a lot. I had no expectation of walking away from the last Olympics with a medal. At this point, goal No. 1 is to make the team and beyond that, I know if I slide as I’m capable of I can be pretty fast and I can do well.”

The schedule this season is hectic.

This weekend’s stop in Austria starts a run of five races in five weekends, with the next two in Germany followed by another in Calgary, Alberta, and then on home ice in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Dec. 15-16.

When that Lake Placid World Cup is over, the U.S. Olympic team will be named.

So when Hamlin needs an escape from all that, the wedding is there to bring her back to reality.

It will be at her parents’ home in July. It will, without question, be the social event of the season in Remsen, N.Y., where the one-time high school soccer player has annually left her tiny hometown brimming with pride.

“Pretty exciting,” Hamlin said. “It’s definitely adding a whole new aspect to an Olympic year, planning a wedding, but it’s cool. It gives me a good distraction when I need to think about something other than sliding.”

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Kaetlyn Osmond leads Grand Prix France as co-favorite falls (video)

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Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond topped the Grand Prix France short program, moving closer to another Grand Prix Final berth on Friday.

The world silver medalist was flawed — performing a triple-double combination rather than a triple-triple and putting a hand down on another jump landing.

She goes into Saturday’s free skate with a 1.26-point lead over Russian Maria Sotskova. Japan’s Yuna Shiraiwa is third, while the lone American Polina Edmunds is ninth.

Co-favorite Alina Zagitova of Russia fell and dropped to fifth place in Grenoble.

In the short dance, France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron improved on their personal best with 81.40 points, the third-highest all-time in an eight-year-old system.

Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead French Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres by 4.66 going into Saturday’s pairs free skate.

The event continues later Friday with the men’s short, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA.

GP FRANCE: Full Results | TV Schedule

Osmond, 21, was a revelation last season, winning her first Grand Prix medals in four years, making her first Grand Prix Final and finishing second to dominant Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva at worlds.

She’s continued that this fall, winning her first two events in Canada to solidify Olympic medal favorite status. One Canadian woman has won an individual Olympic medal in the last 25 years — Joannie Rochette‘s emotional bronze in 2010.

Zagitova, the 15-year-old world junior champion, fell on her opening triple Lutz. Zagitova won her Grand Prix debut in China two weeks ago and ranks second to training partner Medvedeva in top scores this season.

Medvedeva, Zagitova and Sotskova are the favorites to claim Russia’s three Olympic women’s spots. Sotskova, 17, made the podium in all three of her Grand Prix starts but was a disappointing eighth at last season’s worlds.

Edmunds tallied 56.31 points Friday, stepping out of the landing of her opening triple-triple jump combination.

Still, she improved on her short program from her earlier event this season, where she scored 49.62 with errors on all of her jumps.

Edmunds, the youngest U.S. Olympic competitor across all sports in Sochi, went 20 months between competitions, missing the entire 2016-17 season due to a bone bruise in her right foot.

She is an underdog to make the three-woman U.S. team for PyeongChang that will be named after nationals in January.

Russian Elizaveta Tuktamysheva continued her string of underwhelming programs since her 2015 World title. She fell on a triple Axel attempt and singled a Lutz, plummeting to last place of 11 skaters.

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Internationaux de France
Women’s Short Program
1. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 69.05
2. Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 67.79
3. Yuna Shiraiwa (JPN) — 66.05
9. Polina Edmunds (USA) — 56.31

Short Dance
1. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 81.40
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 73.55
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 70.02
6. Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit (USA) — 60.64

Pairs
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 77.84
2. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA) — 73.18
3. Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (ITA) — 70.65
6. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 58.99