Golden again: Canada tops Sweden for men’s hockey crown

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source: AP
Photo credit: AP

Four years ago, Canada was anointed king of the hockey world.

On Sunday, it retained the crown.

Canada became the first team in over 20 years to win back-to-back Olympic hockey gold medals, beating Sweden 3-0 in the tournament finale at the Bolshoy Ice Dome. With the win, Canada also became the first three-time gold medalist since NHLers began participating in the Olympics at Nagano ’98.

Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz scored the Canadian goals — the first of the tournament for each — while Carey Price was fantastic once again, stopping all 24 shots faced for his second consecutive shutout. With the win, Price finished the Sochi games boasting a 971. save percentage, allowing just three goals the entire tournament.

Price’s counterpart, Henrik Lundqvist, was equally solid in the Swedish goal. Lundqvist was the busier of the two — facing 36 shots to Price’s 24 — and did well to keep the Canadian attack at bay, especially during the opening two periods when Canada fired 23 pucks on goal.

The team in front of Lundqvist, though, failed to offer much support.

Sweden was shut out for the first time this tournament and failed to capitalize on the few chances Canada’s stifling defense allowed. The team was also dealt a major blow prior to the game when Nicklas Backstrom was ruled after reportedly testing positive for a banned substance — already down the services of centers Henrik Zetterberg and Henrik Sedin, Sweden lacked major depth down the middle with Backstrom sidelined.

That said, it’s hard to think any lineup would’ve generated much offense against the Canadians.

As was the story all tournament long, Canada’s team defense was outstanding. It kept the Swedes mostly to the perimeter and prevented them from generating offense through the rush, something Toews said was the plan heading into Sunday. As a result, Canada finished these Olympics with some staggering defensive statistics — three goals allowed over six games (two at even strength), outscoring opponents by 14 while outshooting them 241-129.

As mentioned above, the back-to-back golds put Canada in some rare Olympic company. The country hasn’t won back-to-back since the ’48 Games in St. Moritz and ’52 in Oslo; the last nation to win consecutive gold medals was the Soviet Union in ’84 and ’88 (and in ’92, though under the Unified Team moniker.)

Canadian ice dancers overcome hair-raising wardrobe malfunction

Piper Gilles, Paul Poirier
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Ice dancer Piper Gilles‘ hair got caught in partner Paul Poirier‘s costume during the Canadian Championships rhythm dance, but the couple still posted the top score in Mississauga, Ontario, on Friday.

As they spun together, Gilles’ hair appeared to catch on one of Poirier’s shirt buttons. It stayed that way for about five seconds as the couple nearly came to a stop before Poirier untangled it. What was Gilles thinking?

“Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap,” she said later. “It’s probably more swear words to that, but crap at that moment.

“It was like one of those pure panic moments, like, what do I do? Do we stop? Do we keep going? Paul’s like, just keep moving.”

Gilles and Poirier scored 88.86 points, taking an 11.6-point lead into the free dance.

The couple eyes their first national title after finishing second or third seven times in the last eight years behind Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

Gilles and Poirier rank fifth in the world this season.

The panicky moment Friday was reminiscent of the PyeongChang Olympics, where French ice dancer Gabriella Papadakis‘ dress strap broke, exposing her breast. Papadakis and partner Guillaume Cizeron took silver and have been undefeated since.

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Allison Schmitt opens 2020 in fast form, bidding to join U.S. Olympic legends

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Allison Schmitt, after failing to qualify for world championships teams, revealing a battle with depression and taking nearly two years off competition post-Rio, has a chance to swim at her fourth Olympics this summer. And to do it in an individual event for the first time since 2012.

Schmitt won the 200m freestyle in 1:56.01 at the Tyr Pro Swim Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday night.

The time would have ranked second among Americans in 2019 behind Katie Ledecky. Ledecky is not swimming in Knoxville, but the 2012 Olympic champion and American record holder Schmitt beat Simone Manuel by 1.24 seconds.

“Wish I could say I was tapered, would make it feel a lot easier,” Schmitt said on NBCSN. “Getting better every time I jump in the water and swim in finals.”

Schmitt’s time marked her fastest outside of a major summer meet since the 2012 London Games. She’s bidding to become the third U.S. woman in her 30s to swim an individual event at an Olympics, joining 12-time medalists Dara Torres (who swam in her 40s) and Jenny Thompson.

Full Knoxville results are here. Broadcast coverage of the meet continues Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Swimmers are preparing for June’s Olympic trials, where the top two per individual event qualify for the Tokyo Games, plus extra 100m and 200m free swimmers for relays.

In other events Friday, 18-year-old Carson Foster took the men’s 200m free in 1:47.74, beating the U.S.’ top 400m freestyler, Zane Grothe, by 1.33 seconds.

Foster, younger than any U.S. Olympic male swimmer since a group including Michael Phelps in 2000, is better known for his individual medleys. But the 200m free offers up to six Olympic spots when including the 4x200m free relay.

“Any event where there’s more spots on the line this summer is an event I want to train for,” said Foster, who ranked outside the top 10 in the U.S. in the 200m free in 2019 and beat a field Friday that included none of the six fastest.

Annie Lazor won the 100m breaststroke in 1:06.68, a time congruent with her No. 2 ranking in the U.S. last year behind Olympic champion and world-record holder Lilly King. King, who trains with Lazor, is not competing in Knoxville.

In the 100m butterfly, 29-year-old Amanda Kendall upset top-ranked American Kelsi Dahlia in 57.65 seconds. Regan Smith, the fastest backstroker in history, was second in a personal-best 57.86, followed by Dahlia.

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