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Capital City Challenge pits Canadian women’s national team vs. U17 men – Sportsnet.ca

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In the past 20 months of a global health crisis, most of the world has learned to adapt and move forward.

The world of hockey is no different.

And so it is that a one-time only tournament known as the Capital City Challenge has been launched at TD Place in Ottawa Nov. 26-Dec. 1 to serve two basic functions:

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1. Give Canada’s national women’s team an opportunity to engage in some high-level pre-Olympic competition while breaking up the pattern of playing Team USA.

2. Provide a showcase for Canada’s elite under-17 male players who have had to endure a second year of a cancelled World U17 event because of the pandemic.

Et voila: The end result is this six-day tournament involving the Canadian women’s squad and a pool of 66 U17 players split up among three rosters — Team Black, Team White and Team Red. The round-robin gets underway at noon Friday and will finish with semifinal and final games Tuesday and Wednesday.

Canadian hockey legend Cassie Campbell-Pascall, a management consultant for the women’s team, is among those bullish on this experiment, a creative change of gears in a lingering pandemic.

“This is a unique format that comes about because of COVID-19, but playing against the U17s gives us a chance to improve our game,” Campbell told Sportsnet.ca. “They have a skill set and a longer reach that helps make the details in our game better. Our priority is to make our game better, and also continue to grow the game.”

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Tenacious Canadian forward Jamie Lee Rattray concurs.

Rattray’s return to her hometown for a Tuesday game against the USA (a 2-0 American win at a sold-out TD Place) and now this extended tournament have allowed her some rare, albeit brief time with her Kanata family. Between events, she was able to fit in a leisurely walk with her father.

Now, it’s back to business.

“I think for us, it’s just fun finding a new challenge,” Rattray, 29, said over the phone, after an off-ice workout Thursday. “It’s really important for us to be able to adapt our game to different styles, and I think that’s what this week is going to be.

“We’ve been able to play some international games (part of the Rivalry Series) the last couple of weeks and I think the boys are going to give us a different look. When we played the Junior A teams out in Alberta, we learned a lot about ourselves. This will be no different.”

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Rattray views it as the best young Canadian males under 17, thrown together for a single series versus an elite women’s group that has played together for years in some cases, and has been assembled for an entire season in the run-up to the Olympics. Who wins out? Exceptional young individual talent or a cohesive, motivated unit? Both sides have skill to showcase.

“I expect the pace will be very high,” Rattray said. “I’m sure these guys know how to move around the ice very well, and our games against the U.S. are always high-paced, very intense, and your adrenaline’s always running. So, I think it will be similar.”

If the teenage boys were disappointed that the U17 challenge has been cancelled yet again, the disappointment doesn’t show. It could be worse than hanging out with a bunch of talented peers for a look-at-me-now series of games.

“They’ve been really responsive,” said Team White head coach Rob Wilson, whose day job is to coach the OHL Peterborough Petes.

“I think they’re all excited to be here. It’s been a lot of fun. So far, we’ve had a couple of days on the ice — we’re trying not to overload them — but we’ve had a lot of fun with them.”

Since March of 2020, everyone in the game, from the NHL level to minor hockey has had to change schedules and accept postponements. As Wilson says, we’re past the point of thinking about “what could have been” and on to making the best of what is available.

And what is available to this group of young men is an opportunity to play against Canada’s very best female players, including Marie-Philip Poulin, who may be the best player in the entire women’s game.

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“I think both groups are excited,” Wilson said. “I think it’s a good challenge for everybody. Let’s face it, you’re playing against Olympians, you’re playing against a team that’s getting ready to go to Beijing. It’s an awesome opportunity.”

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

And if the male teens have to adapt a bit to the rule against “body checking,” they are nevertheless being encouraged to engage in body contact and gritty play.

“I’ve watched a fair bit of women’s hockey and it’s pretty physical,” Wilson said. “I know that big body check (into the boards) or the open ice hit isn’t supposed to be there, but they battle hard.

“We’ve got to come battle here. We’re not looking to make massive hits, but if you think the women aren’t going to battle in front of the net and they’re not going to battle for position and for pucks, you’ve got another thing coming.

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“I don’t think it’s that big of a change (for the guys) because I think the compete level from both teams will be high.”

There’s plenty at stake for every player involved here.

The U17s are getting a taste of wearing Canada’s national sweater and would like to wear it again in the U18 program and onward to the world juniors. This is an important showcase with plenty of scouts looking on. Since 2001, 10 U17 Canadian players have gone on to be drafted first overall, including Connor McDavid, John Tavares and Nathan MacKinnon.

For the Canadian women, roster spots are up for grabs and players are trying to set themselves up for an Olympic tournament that looms larger on the calendar with each passing week. Winning is not necessarily the end goal, here. The Canadian women were 0-5 in games against BCHL and AJHL Tier 2 teams in October and November, but should benefit in the long run from being pushed.

“All the games we’ve played, and the practices — we’ve talked all along about it being a body of work,” said Canadian head coach Troy Ryan.

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“There’s no emphasis on any one part of the centralization process, it’s the body of work. And each one of these is just a stage in that whole process.”

With single game tickets as low as $5, it’s an opportunity to see some of Canada’s best talent, male and female, in a fan-friendly junior hockey rink.

The U17s include CHL first-overall draft choice Ethan Gauthier (Sherbrooke, QMJHL) and defenceman Oliver Bonk, the son of former Ottawa Senators centre Radek Bonk. The leading point producer in the U17 group is 6-foot-3 forward Matthew Wood of the BCHL Victoria Grizzlies. Wood has 14 goals and 26 points in just 12 games.

Poulin, Brianne Jenner, Natalie Spooner and Kanata’s Rattray are just a few of the many recognizable names on the women’s roster.

“We can’t wait to have this new experience,” Jenner said. “We have played against several Junior A teams lately, but this challenge will certainly allow us to prepare and improve for the Olympics.”

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The Warriors Are Reportedly Open To Some Big Trades

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(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

 

The Golden State Warriors are the current champions of the NBA but they aren’t looking like it.

They are the seventh team in the West and finally have a record above .500 at 28-26.

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But that is a far cry from the top of the standings and they will need to make some changes if they wish to redeem themselves.

Despite their problems, they have multiple stars they see as off-limits, so who would they be open to trade?

NBA writer Matt Moore is reporting that the Warriors are willing to include players such as James Wiseman and Moses Moody in trade offers but they will not budge on Jonathan Kuminga, who is untouchable in any negotiations.

The idea of Wiseman or Moody moving from the team isn’t surprising.

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Moody is averaging 5 points and 1.7 rebounds a game, which is a step up from his rookie season but still not substantial.

He gets an average of just about 14 minutes a game and has only started in three games.

As for Wiseman, his story is a bit more complicated.

His 6.9 points and 3.5 rebounds are clearly disappointing especially when you consider the hype that was around him.

He sat out of the game during all of last season due to injury and there was hope that he’d return in 2022-23 and again produce more than 11 points and 5.8 rebounds a game, as he did in his first season.

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Although the team and fans wanted a lot from Wiseman, it quickly became clear that he wasn’t going to perform as they wished.

Therefore, a trade for him wouldn’t shock anyone.

But which teams would be interested in grabbing either Wiseman, Moody, or both of them?

The Warriors are willing to offer them but is any team eager to add them?

The post The Warriors Are Reportedly Open To Some Big Trades appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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MLB Insider Shows Off A Legendary Padres Trio

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The San Diego Padres made it all the way to the National League Championship Series last year.

That’s not their ceiling as an organization, and they made an emphatic statement about that in the last calendar year by adding Juan Soto and Xander Bogaerts.

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They want to make the World Series and win their first trophy in franchise history, and are making all the moves to put themselves in the best possible position to fight for it.

They have put together an incredibly talented trio of Latino hitters, perhaps the best and most impressive in MLB history.

Many people in the comments said that Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez on the 2004 Boston Red Sox was the most talented Latino trio, but as far as position players go, Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, and Soto have a really strong case.

We have seen lots of excellent Latino trios such as the one in Boston in the year they broke the Bambino curse; Ivan Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro and Alex Rodriguez from 2001-02, and plenty more.

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However, Soto, Machado (who was born and raised in Miami but has Dominican heritage and has played with the Dominican national team), and Tatis all have MVP potential.

All of them can win the award any given year.

They are all incredibly talented, and although they haven’t won their first World Series as a trio yet (Soto has, four years ago with the Washington Nationals) they will be one of the strongest contenders in the National League this year.

If the three (plus Bogaerts) remain healthy, San Diego will be very tough to beat and very fun to watch.

The post MLB Insider Shows Off A Legendary Padres Trio appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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Top Mets Prospect Is Learning From A Key Veteran

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The New York Mets have certainly made sure to prioritize the catching position at all levels.

They signed Omar Narvaez this offseason, who has several years of MLB experience, they have a solid backup in Tomas Nido, and drafted Kevin Parada in the first round last year.

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The most exciting catcher in the Mets organization, however, is Francisco Alvarez.

The young Venezuelan made his MLB debut last year after hitting 18 Double-A home runs and nine at Triple-A.

He didn’t get much playing time in the majors, but sure made his presence and his power known.

With Narvaez and Nido in the fold and several options to be the designated hitter, it’s unclear if Alvarez will open the season on the active roster.

He is, however, preparing like a major leaguer: he started his routine earlier, and he is working on his skills as a catcher with Narvaez, his countryman.

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Most scouts agree on the fact that Alvarez has the bat to be a major leaguer, at any position.

However, there are conflicted reports about his ability to stay behind the plate.

Obviously, he will have more value to the Mets if he can stick as a catcher, and he is working with Narvaez to make sure he is prepared for spring training.

Scouts grade Alvarez’s raw power as a 70 in the 20-80 scale: that’s an incredible grade.

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His catching skills, however, are more like a 40, which would be a hair below-average.

With work, reps, and discipline, he could become an asset behind the plate.

That would be a dream scenario for the Mets.

The post Top Mets Prospect Is Learning From A Key Veteran appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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