Featured

NHL Top Three: Toronto/Montreal, Laine Lands in Ohio, and the Devils COVID Scandal

Three weeks into the NHL season and teams are beginning to find their right places in the standings. The restructuring of each of the divisions this year makes it difficult to test each teams true potential, as each team plays the same few teams throughout the season, but it’s becoming more and more apparent who will be a playoff contender come May.

With the NHL season ramping up, we’re here to break down three highlights from this week that showcase the exciting things continuing to happen around the league.

Toronto and Montreal Continue to Light Up the North Division

It’s no question that the North Division was the most anticipated division coming into this shortened season. The two teams that had the highest standards set to them prior to opening night were the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, and they’re certainly living up to those expectations.

Toronto currently has a 7-2-1 record, their two losses coming from the Ottawa Senators and the Edmonton Oilers. Mitch Marner currently leads the team with 14 points in 10 games, trailed by Auston Matthews and John Tavares with 10 points. The Leafs sit at second in the North Division and look to continue their momentum, especially adding notable players Jimmy Vesey, Joe Thornton, and Wayne Simmonds over the offseason.

Likewise, the Canadiens sit at first in the North Division with a 7-1-2 record; their only loss coming from a 2-0 shutout against the Calgary Flames. Players acquired in the offseason have had a huge impact on the team so far; Tyler Toffoli not only leads the Canadiens in goals, but the entire NHL. Anderson has been a key asset as well with 6 goals in 10 games.

While both Toronto and Montreal have been incredible through their first 10 games respectively, they’ve only faced off against each other once, in which Toronto took the win in overtime. Many anticipate their next matchup, which will take place on February 10th at the Bell Center.

Laine Makes his Debut with the Blue Jackets

After a blockbuster trade that sent Pierre-Luc Dubois to Winnipeg and Patrik Laine to Columbus, Laine finally managed to make his debut with the Blue Jackets, sporting their reverse retro jersey. Laine’s been on injury reserve since the beginning of the season, only playing one game with Jets, before being traded. That game, played against the Calgary Flames, Laine put up 2 goals and an assist.

Laine started the game alongside forwards Alexandre Texier and Cam Atkinson. Laine, a one time 44 goal scorer, looks to fill gaps within in the Blue Jackets that they desperately needed coming into this season. Although he went without a point in his Columbus debut, he looks to continue to develop chemistry with his new linemates.

Since going second overall in the 2016, the Finnish forward has played 307 career games, accumulating 140 goals and 110 assists. He’s been key to the Winnipeg Jets and looks to bring that talent and skill to an in need Blue Jackets roster.

New Jersey Devils COVID-19 Scandal

The New Jersey Devils recently announced that they have 14 players in the leagues COVID protocol including:

Jesper Bratt, Jack Hughes, Damon Severson, Ty Smith, Matt Tennyson, Connor Carrick, Aaron Dell, Andreas Johnsson, Janne Kuokkanen, Michael McLeod, Kyle Palmieri, Sami Vatanen, Pavel Zacha, and Travis Zajac.

It’s unclear whether any of these players listed have tested positive for COVID as the league has not disclosed that information. There is a possibility that any of these players had an initial false positive test, but again, the league has yet to disclose any of that information to the public.

The Buffalo Sabres chimed into this situation, stating that the Devils knew about these players needing to be on COVID protocol, but wet ahead with their game anyways. This has led to the Sabres getting shut down by the NHL through February 8th, postponing any of their games during that time period. Taylor Hall and Rasmus Ristolainen, of the Sabres, were added to the COVID protocol list.

The list of teams that have had games postponed due to COVID protocol continues to grow. This then poses the question, are the restructured divisions really working the way the NHL was hoping to? Everyone was impressed with the NHL Playoff Bubbles in both Edmonton and Toronto as there were nearly zero cases throughout the two months.

It’s only been three weeks and we have seen multiple teams from multiple divisions be forced to shut down for days while players remain on protocol. Will there be more postponements next week? Stay tuned here at NHL Top Three and find out!

Featured

Believe in the Magic of NBA Christmas Games: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

We had Christmas games this year as usual, except that they came 3 days into the regular season, which was a little more unusual. You could feel the excitement among the basketball community, and some teams really showed out. In case you missed it, here are the recaps of yesterday’s NBA Christmas Games!

Game 1: (W) Miami Heat vs New Orleans Pelicans [111-98]

MICHAEL REAVES/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA VIA GETTY

Although the Pelicans seem to be an interesting team that can be a lot of fun, the Miami Heat were able to power out some good runs on both defense and offense. On the offensive side, Duncan Robinson shot lights out. He shot 7 threes, leading the board in that area. 21 of his 23 points came from behind the arch, and it helped Miami take control late in the second half. Miami’s defense also helped them keep the Pelicans from regaining their lead. Rookie Precious Achiuwa and Bam Adebayo had a block each, working hard on the defensive side. Goran Dragic also had 4 steals, topping the board. Although Jimmy Butler had to sit out for the second half, the Miami Heat showed that they could close out the game without him.

Although the Pelicans lost, there seems to be some promise with this team. The Pelicans defeated the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, and before Miami’s hot streak during the final stretch, they were giving them a fight. Keep your eye on this team, because they look a lot better than they did last year.

Game 2: (W) Milwaukee Bucks vs Golden State Warriors [138-99]

GARY DINEEN/NBAE VIA GETTY

The Warriors just can’t seem to get any luck this season. With Klay Thompson being out due to injury, Steph Curry can’t do enough with his team to last the whole game. Although they kept up with the Bucks for a small portion of the game, it wasn’t long before the Bucks took full control and put on a show on Christmas day. Khris Middleton led with 31 points, while his teammate Giannis led in rebounding, putting up 13 boards. 

What’s next for the Warriors? Here’s what Steph Curry had to say about his team:

The message is loud and clear for Curry, they need to find a way to win, and they need to find a way to win now.

Game 3: (W) Brooklyn Nets vs Boston Celtics [123-95]

OMAR RAWLINGS/GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA VIA GETTY

There’s definitely a recurring theme today, and if you don’t see it yet, stay with me and find out what it is.

The new and improved Brooklyn Nets are here to stay. The Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving duo have started out strong, combining for 66 points in a 28 point win over the Boston Celtics. Kyrie Irving had 7 three pointers, including this one from deep:

Many thought that the Celtics would be able to keep up with the Nets, making it a close game but the Nets had other plans. There is no doubt that the Celtics will bounce back, but the rest of the league should be wary about the Brooklyn Nets. A matchup that might interest a lot of viewers will be Nets-Lakers, coming up on February 18, but until then, who will challenge the Nets? Let us know in the comments or on social media @unbenched_

Game 4: (W) LA Lakers vs Dallas Mavericks [138-115]

ADAM PANTOZZI/NBAE VIA GETTY

Mavs-Lakers was an interesting matchup choice. They were able to hang on to the Lakers until the second half, when the Lakers really took off. 

Highlights from the Lakers-Mavs Games/Via NBA

The absence of Kristaps Porzingis is getting more obvious for the Mavericks, and Doncic needs better support if the Mavs want to create some serious impact. Doncic had 27 points, but these numbers won’t be enough until the Mavericks add more star power.

Game 5: (W) LA Clippers vs Denver Nuggets [121-108]

BART YOUNG/NBAE VIA GETTY

Probably the biggest highlight to come out of this game was a crippled Kawhi Leonard, lying on the floor after an unfortunate elbow to the face by fellow teammate Serge Ibaka. Leonard needed 8 stitches for a mouth laceration, but the team says that he will be okay. 

TW // Blood, Distress

Even though it was less of a blowout than the previous teams that played, the Clippers were able to top the Nuggets. As they did last season, the Clippers have started out strong. The question will be whether Paul George and the rest of the team can step it up in the playoffs when it really matters. Hopefully they won’t be blowing any 3-1 leads anymore. The LA Clippers faced the ghost of Christmas past in the Nuggets, and they passed their test. 

The Christmas games may not have been as tantalizing as they have been in the past, but after everything that the world has endured this year, I am grateful that the NBA can start their season safely.

The team here at Unbenched wish our viewers a happy and safe holidays! Make sure you follow us @unbenched_ on Instagram and Twitter for the latest updates and articles in the sports world. Thank you for all your support throughout the first 6 months of our network! There is more to come in 2021.

CFL Files: 5 Stars, From the Familiar to the Fresh

It’s no secret that the easiest shot for haters to take at the CFL is that it’s missing the star power; and to that I play them the Week 2 tapes. Sure the week had its share of bloopers (yes I’m looking at you David Côté and your 21 yard miss to lose the game for Montreal) but the best of the best of the CFL shone brightly across the latest quartet of games. Keep reading for the Files’ Five Stars of the Week. 

5. Defence, Montreal Alouettes

Is this cheating? Maybe but let’s just roll with it. The Alouettes clearly have some offensive woes that need addressing sooner rather than later (for the sake of a certain head coach’s job) but what’s keeping them out of the league’s power ranking basement is the defensive prowess displayed through two games. Just like last season, Montreal’s pass defence is one of the league’s stingiest, allowing just 7.5 yards per attempt which is good for the league’s lowest. Combine a shutdown secondary with a monstrous defensive front that has already amassed six sacks, you’ve got a unit that can almost compensate for its counterpart’s inconsistent performance. A small caveat to this one is that they do have one of the most porous run defences, allowing an average of five yards per carry. 

4. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Blue Bombers’ entire defensive unit put up a monster game for the second consecutive week against a pesky Redblacks offence but it was Jeffcoat who rose above the rest. The 6’3, 243 pound Texas native landed two crunching tackles through the intermittent rainfall that aided Jeffcoat and his team to put the fire out of any Redblacks’ hope at a home and home split. The defensive end also forced a key fumble that allowed Winnipeg to build momentum to put the go ahead score on the board. Sure, Jeffcoat may not be the highlight reel type of star but for anyone that’s a fan of sound and technical defence on the gridiron, this was a textbook all-star display. 

3. Kenny Lawler, WR, Edmonton Elks

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but that doesn’t matter when the old dog’s tricks are as sharp as ever. Lawler looked as young as ever in a game the Elks needed to have a better showing in, racking in 12 receptions for 149 yards and an acrobatic AF touchdown. The near doubling in production from his previous week’s performance is a hopeful sign for Elks fans as the schedule doesn’t exactly get any easier with a showdown in Calgary next on the docket. It’s become clear that Lawler, though he may be surrounded by guys working on their new tricks, he’ll be leaned on to anchor the receivers’ room to stability. 

2. Bo Levi Mitchell, QB, Calgary Stampeders

Mitchell came into the season with nothing left to prove in this league except maybe that he still had it; and well after leading his team to overcoming a 21 point half-time deficit I would say that latter has been accomplished. A better part of sports writers could have felt confident submitting their post game pieces at the break and spending the second half of the game scrolling through Netflix, but Bo and Co made sure that those who stayed through until the end of the game got a show. It’s odd to call a Week 2 game a statement, but judging by Mitchell’s reaction to the OT win that’s what this seemed to be for the Stamps; telling the league that yes they’ve been there and done that, and they can very well do it again. 

1. Jamal Morrow, RB, Saskatchewan Roughriders

There’s nothing quite like some good ol’ Prairies football and that’s exactly what Morrow was serving up against Edmonton. From swaying and swerving to lowered pads ploughing through, the Roughriders back was beating the Elks’ defence every which way, none of which seemed to cause the young gun to break a sweat. Morrow’s 126 yards and touchdown bode well for Saskatchewan as they move on to a Montreal opponent who ranks last in the league on stopping the rush. CFL Fantasy players may want to take a look at the 5’8 205 pound California native to give them a jumpstart out of the back field. 

Come back to the files next week after Saskatchewan pays a visit to Montreal for what promises to be a battle of coaching schemes on Thursday night. Friday Night Football will feature Hamilton staying home to welcome the Blue Bombers in what needs to be a gut check for the Tabbies. The rollover bad blood from the Battle of Alberta is sure to spill over to Saturday evening when the Stamps play host to the Elks and the weekend ends with the Boatmen rowing out to B.C. to clash with the Lions. Week 3 promises to answer some big questions and could vault new faces into the stars.

CFL Files: 2022 First Impressions

There were strikes, threats, rejected CBAs, but alas we had kickoff on the 2022 CFL season. It’s no secret that the league needs to go after new fans, with the opening week TV ratings dropping 15% over the last two years, more games like the battle between Calgary and Montreal could go a long way in drawing attention to the game. 

Now, for the breakdown. They say first impressions aren’t everything, but this is my article so this week they are. With four games in the book, here are the first impressions given off by the eight teams to have kicked off their year. 

Calgary Stampeders

A perennial powerhouse, the Stampeders are looking to reassert their dominance over the Western conference after the Blue Bombers made the West look like child’s play last season. Calgary opened the season at home against Montreal with the face of the franchise chasing down history. Coming into this season, Bo Levi Mitchell needs 1661 passing yards to pass the great Henry Burris for first in franchise history, a mark he’s well on his way to after last Thursday, going 21 for 34 for 199 passing yards despite missing a couple of series with an injury. Mitchell also seems to have found a new favourite target in Richard Sindani who racked up 101 yards. Completing the package of the Stampeders’ threat level is their defense who, after a sleepy first half, turned on the jets when it mattered appearing in mid-season form. 

Montreal Alouettes

You could argue that this is a make or break year for Alouettes’ starting QB Vernon Adams Jr, and I would be hard pressed to tell you you’re wrong. While, like most Montreal teams, the Als are prone to beating themselves, Adams has yet to prove that he and he alone can win a game for Montreal which would come in really handy when you’re trying to win a championship. This pivotal season may have started on the losing foot for Adams and company, but the quarterback shone brightly in his 2022 debut with 250 passing yards and a highlight reel hurdling touchdown. The two picks on his stat line speak more to the ferocity of the late game Calgary defence than anything else, but still show where the room for improvement is with regards to synchronicity in the Alouettes’ offence. Defensively, Montreal showed some inconsistencies that could be easily exploited as opposing offences hit their stride if not addressed soon. 

Winnipeg Blue Bombers 

The reigning champs left it a little too close for comfort in Week 1, and that’s even after you consider that Zach Collaros wasn’t on the field to end the game. But you know what, that makes them even scarier. Winnipeg looked monstrous last season and made a habit out of beating teams one way: badly. What their 2022 opener showed is they’ve found a new way to win: scrappy. Backup quarterback Dru Brown engineered the winning drive that was capped off by a 25-yard field goal by Marc Liegghio with six seconds left on the clock. While there is an Andrew Harris sized hole in the Blue Bombers’ backfield, the team’s ability to gut out a win of this nature without one of the league’s best backs is a testament to their overall strength. 

Ottawa Redblacks 

If you’re like me, keeping track of Ottawa’s starting QB over the years has become a task far too arduous for what it’s worth. This season it’s Jeremiah Masoli’s team, with the former Tiger Cat logging 380 yards in his debut for his new colours. Other than the new face under centre, the thing that stood out most about these 2022 Redblacks was their physicality. While on the road against the most prolific offence of 2o21, Ottawa laid out hit after hit after hit, making it clear that if they weren’t going to beat you, they weren’t scared to beat you up. New head coach Paul LaPolice acknowledged that his newly assembled team did have stuff to work on, but said he was encouraged by what he saw. This is a hard team to get a feel for because of how many new pieces are involved but if Week 1 is any indication, this Redblacks team knows no fear. 

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Teams facing Saskatchewan this year now know what to fear the most: that defensive line. The Canadian Green Monsters piled eight sacks on the Tiger Cats QB duo of Dane Evans and Matthew Shiltz and looked hungry for more. Add that to the fact that their offensive line allowed no sacks on Cody Fajardo proves that games against the heartbeat of the CFL will be a hard fought trench battle. As for their aerial attack, star pivot Fajardo went 22 for 32 for 311 yards and a touchdown after suffering a devastating blow from Simoni Lawrence. The more you watch the hit, the more you think there’s no way Fajardo could have passed concussion protocol but whose really to say. If those two factors weren’t enough to strike fear into upcoming opponents, the depth of receiver talent should do the trick. The Riders proved they can and will spread the ball around, with six receivers racking up double digit yardage. With every game that unfolded, the Western conference teams just seem to get scarier…

Hamilton Tiger Cats

For every ounce of impressive that Saskatchewan was in the trenches, Hamilton was underwhelming in the area. Across the line on both sides of the ball, there were glaring holes for the Tiger Cats that, namely on the offensive side, Dane Evans will really hope gets cleared up. Speaking of Evans, the newly minted starting QB spent the majority of his time on the field either running for his life or getting up off of his bum, with very little time spent making an impact offensively. The decision on which QB would stay in the Hammer was the talk of the town during the offseason but if Week 1 was any indication, it would be a hard sell to local fans that the right call was made. The slightest glimmer of hope was Hamilton’s defence who did make life as hard as they could (except on the line of scrimmage) for their opponents, and hey, defence wins championships, right?

BC Lions

It’s really hard to gather any first impression other than fear when you watch a team put up 59 points while hardly breaking a sweat, so congratulations BC, we all fear you. Next!

Edmonton Elks

The Toronto Argonauts looked like a more competent football team in Week 1 and they spent it on their couches but that is how deplorable the effort from the Elks was. While Edmonton’s defence missing the memo that the season started was confusing, Chris Jones’ decision to bench his starting QB Nick Arbuckle a half into the season was dumbfounding. It wasn’t as if Arbuckle was the one letting the Lions run up the score, and while yes he wasn’t a shining star through two quarters, the message sent by not even giving him a chance to finish the game certainly caused some eyes to role for fans of the Green and Gold and has some saying “here we go again” which isn’t a great sign just four quarters into the season. 

Week 2 of the 2022 CFL season kicks off this Thursday where we’ll get our first look at the Argos as they welcome Montreal to BMO Field. BC gets a week off after their beat down of the Elks who have to pick themselves up to face Saskatchewan. Hamilton will attempt to hit their stride against Calgary and Ottawa will get a second crack at the Blue Bombers in as many weeks.

Athlete Spotlight: Donovan Carrillo

The Olympic Games are always full of incredible moments as athletes who have trained their entire lives finally get to accomplish their dreams. Perhaps one of the most heart-warming stories from this year’s Beijing Winter Olympics is that of Donovan Carrillo. The 22-year-old from Mexico became the first to represent his country in figure skating since 1992! If that feat wasn’t enough, Carrillo also managed to break his own personal record in the men’s short program and progressed to the free skate, becoming the first Mexican to ever qualify for the free skate at the Olympics.

Although he finished on the lower end of the rankings in 22nd place, Carrillo’s accomplishments for himself and his country are massive. Coming from a country that doesn’t even have an Olympic-size ice rink, Carrillo sometimes practices at a rink in the Plaza Mayor Mall amidst other people who are there for recreational skating.

When he was 13, he had to move from Guadalajara to León with his coach Gregorio Nuñez because the rink where he was living had been shut down. Given these factors, Carrillo’s skating career has not been as traditional as his North American and European figure skating peers. Whilst others grew up having access to state-of-the-art facilities and renowned coaches as young skaters, Carrillo’s background is very humble. Yet, he has managed to earn himself a competition spot amongst the best skaters in the world.

Carrillo represents his nationality with great pride, and he showcases this through his music and costume choices. Skating in the short program to Carlos Santana, and wearing a costume by Mexican designer Edgar Lozzano, Carrillo puts his Mexican heritage front and center through his artistry. Although his scoring is far from the leaders, Carrillo has made strides for Mexican figure skating. Especially coming from a nation that often views figure skating as an unmasculine sport, Carrillo is truly breaking barriers.

Hopefully, his achievements will inspire a new generation of Mexican youth, particularly boys, to pursue skating, as it is far from a female-only sport.

The Danger of Playing Through Injuries in the NBA and How It Contributes to Hegemonic Masculinity

In the midst of the first round of the NBA Playoffs, narratives and asterisks get slapped and labelled on a multitude of teams. Many predictions ablaze, emotions run high, and the reactions go wild. It’s an exciting time, really. But as the games start to roll along, the grittiness of it all reveals how injuries become a problem. They can change the direction of a series, especially if your star player is affected. It’s out of our control, but there seems to be a common trend of “playing through it”, just to make sure teams keep winning. Why do players feel like they need to power through an injury? Why is it that we call them “soft” when they go through load management? Believe it or not, all of this can be linked to the hegemonic ideals of masculinity.

“Hegemonic masculinity thus symbolizes and enacts power over other masculine identities as well as over women. It constitutes the most socially valued form of masculinity to which individual men can aspire, notwithstanding that it does not necessarily reflect the lived identities of many, or indeed of any, individual men.”

Chris McVittie, … Karen Goodall, in The Psychology of Gender and Health, 2017

So what does this actually mean? Well, language plays a big role in the heteronormative ideologies that are normalized throughout our entire lives. Phrases like “man up” or even passing off homophobic slurs as “jokes” are things that boys (especially those in sports) hear from the moment they step out onto the court. With a dash of a lack of accountability and a bit of “boys will be boys” sprinkled on top, you create a recipe for fragile masculinity that carries on through adolescence and eventually, adulthood.

Now, I’m not trying to be overly harsh, but I am critical. There are multiple studies being done on both toxic masculinity as well as hegemonic masculinity, and the traditional male model always seems to include: “being strong physically, driven to succeed, and finding ways to achieve goals despite obstacles” (Neibergall & Sánchez, 2020). All three of these criteria bring me to the NBA.

The first incident that made me start to ponder this was Toronto Raptors PF Pascal Siakam playing through “flu-like symptoms” against the Charlotte Hornets at the end of February. The fans weren’t even made aware of this until after the game, as if the Raptors felt the need to justify being blown out by the Hornets in a 125-93 loss. I remember finding out and thinking, why did he even play? Especially since this was a team that had been hit by COVID hard previously, sitting out one of your star players with flu-like symptoms probably would have been a good idea.

If you’re on Twitter, you’ll know that the discourse around Pascal Siakam can be extremely tiring and problematic at times. The criticism he faces is unfair and has reached points in the past where people have very clearly crossed the line. It’s fair to assume that if Siakam had taken that night off, comments like “he’s soft” or “he’s not a good leader” would have come into play. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this.

via Twitter

There’s a lot to unpack here. It’s also a good place to transition to the purpose of this piece. Currently, the Toronto Raptors are in a first-round battle against the Philadelphia 76ers. After going down 3-0, the Raptors have crawled their way back to 3-2, hoping to make it 3-3 and force a game seven Thursday night. During the series, Embiid has had his thumb/hand wrapped in tape, looking considerably in pain after aggravating whatever injury he appeared to have following a statement dunk during one of the earlier games of the series. Embiid then said that if an MRI reveals that he needs surgery on his thumb, he will wait until the playoffs are over before doing so. Otherwise known as, “playing through it.” Well, lo and behold, that is exactly what happened:

via Twitter/wojespn

Now let’s go back to those fan tweets from before. Tweet #1 is professing their love and respect for Embiid playing through a torn ligament, saying that Embiid “gets a pass from me” (whatever that means). It would not have been outrageous if the 76ers (or Embiid for that matter) had decided to take care of the injury because long-term health is what is most important here. Additionally, Embiid has clearly struggled since aggravating the injury. His aggressiveness has tapered off a bit with fewer free throws and field goals made and attempted. Embiid also hasn’t hit a three since his game-winner in game three, with his shooting hand hurt. Toronto has won the last two and Philly is getting a big shake in confidence here. Even if they do progress to the next round, how much longer can Embiid keep playing while he is this uncomfortable?

Why does he feel the need to have to “power through it?” Sure, we can understand the history behind the “failed process” and the window of opportunity just closing faster and faster for the 76ers, but we can also understand that Embiid may feel like he needs to “power through it” or “play through it” in order to prove something. His masculinity, perhaps?

This isn’t a piece to slander Embiid. Rather, it is to make us aware of why NBA players feel the need to play through injuries and how hegemonic masculinity has been enforced in their lives since they started playing sports. Language is deliberate and powerful, and if we want to start shifting the ideologies that men need to be strong and dominant even when they feel most vulnerable, then we need to start with changing the language that we use.

If these two cases weren’t enough to prove it, just look at the entire discourse around Ben Simmons. The speculation around whether he is lying about his mental health has been unnecessary, and this piece perfectly outlines why. Not to mention that Simmons had an epidural for his back injury and yet was still being rushed back to the court and ridiculed when he wasn’t ready. Look at the Kawhi Leonard situation that occurred in San Antonio, where he ended up demanding a trade because the situation surrounding his injury wasn’t being respected. We need to stop forcing players to “power through” and realize the harm in that rhetoric.

For a league that likes to say it’s “bigger than basketball,” it (and WE) need to start acting like it.

The Boston Pride are Back-to-Back Isobel Cup Champions

The Boston Pride defeated the Connecticut Whale 4-2 to become back-to-back Isobel Cup Champions on Monday night. 

The Premier Hockey Federation’s (PHF) Isobel Cup Final took place at the Adventhealth Center Ice Arena in Wesley Chapel, Fl. which was filled with fans from both Boston and Connecticut that made the drive south. 

Pride captain, Jillian Dempsey, scored first to give Boston a 1-0 lead, four minutes into the game. After a few close calls, the teams headed to their locker rooms all tied up, with the equalizer coming from Amanda Conway, three minutes before the period ended.

The Whale took a quick lead in the opening moments of the second period with Taylor Girard scoring 33 seconds after the puck dropped. Soon after, the Pride killed a five-minute major penalty for cross-checking, and the team was able to end the period unscathed and only down by one. 

Evelina Raselli scored the tying goal seven minutes into the third period, which was followed 17 seconds later by Taylor Wenczkowski netting another goal to put the Pride up 3-2.

The Whale fought hard, pulling their goalie Abbie Ives in the final minutes to push for the equalizing goal but with 90 seconds to go, the Pride scored in an empty to secure their third Isobel Cup and second in two seasons. 

Premier League Rundown Postponed Matchday

On this week’s postponed matchday, Tottenham take a much-needed victory over Brighton to stay in the race for the top four, Liverpool go within a point of Manchester City for the top spot in the league and Everton score a dramatic goal in extra time to put distance between themselves and relegation.

Brighton (0) vs. Tottenham (2)

It was a bounce-back for Tottenham after a heartbreaking loss to Manchester United on the weekend. Cristian Romero opened the scoring for the Spurs eight minutes before the halftime whistle. Harry Kane scored the second goal for the Spurs. His goal at Amex Stadium is his 95th goal on an away ground. It gives him the Premier League record for most away goals. Brighton continued their struggles. They are winless in five matches and have only won once in seven matches.

Arsenal (0) vs. Liverpool (2)

Liverpool took advantage of a misstep by their rivals at the top of the table, Manchester City. Their victory over the high-flying Arsenal squad puts them within a point of City. It was the marquee match of the postponed matchday and of the week ahead. Both teams had something important to play for but it was the offensive prowess of Liverpool that got the better of Arsenal. Both of Liverpool’s goals were scored by their secondary offensive weapons in Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino. Despite the defeat, Arsenal remains in the fourth spot in the table with two matches in hand on United.

Everton (1) vs. Newcastle (0)

Everton scored a dramatic last-minute goal to put distance between themselves and relegation. They faced a formidable opponent in Newcastle that was recently defeated by Chelsea after a double-digit undefeated streak. Everton went down to ten men in the 83rd minute and had to dig deep to be victorious. Alexander Iwobi, the hero of the match, scored in the 90 + 9′ in the bottom corner putting Everton three points clear of Watford.

Premier League Rundown Matchday 29

On matchday 29, all eyes were on the two teams at the very top of the table. Liverpool has been on a run of positive results tracking down Manchester City at the top. At the beginning of the matchday, there were six points separating both teams. Liverpool was up first and they took care of business against Brighton. All the focus was on the final match between Man City and Crystal Palace. It was a frustrating performance by City in which they could not score. The draw to Palace now brings the gap between both teams to four points.

Brighton (0) vs. Liverpool (2)

Liverpool continues their League undefeated streak of 2022. Luiz Diaz gave Liverpool the opening goal of the match when he managed to head the ball past just before being clotheslined by the keeper’s leg as he was trying to challenge the ball with a high foot. After their first goal, Liverpool had difficulty solving Brighton’s defence but a handball by Yves Bissouma gave Liverpool a spot-kick in the 61st minute. Mo Salah stepped up to take the shot and drove it into the middle of the net. Salah scored his 20th goal of the season, reaching that mark for the fourth time in five years.

Brentford (2) vs. Burnley (0)

A tight match that came down to five minutes plus stoppage time to determine the result. Ivan Toney opened the scoring for Brentford heading Christian Eriksen’s remarkable cross. In stoppage time, Nathan Collins denied Toney an opportunity at goal and was sent off and awarded Brentford a penalty kick. Toney took the penalty kick and made no mistake putting his team up by two.

Manchester United (3) vs. Tottenham (2)

Cristiano Ronaldo turned back the clocks in his performance against the Spurs willing United to a victory. Ronaldo’s first goal of the match was a brilliant long-range shot from outside the box that put United up a goal. Spurs responded in the 35th when they were awarded a penalty kick from a handball in the box by Alex Telles. Harry Kane stepped up and made no mistake blowing the ball past De Gea. Ronaldo scored his second goal of the night three minutes later with a tap-in goal on the counter-attack. An own goal by Harry Maguire levelled the Spurs for a second time. But, Ronaldo came to the rescue again with a magnificent header from Alex Telles’ pass. This record-breaking goal has Ronaldo surpassing the all-time goal record of 807 for club and country. His hat-trick was only the second he’s scored in the Premier League since 2008.

Chelsea (1) vs. Newcastle (0)

Kai Havertz’s late goal ends Newcastle’s undefeated streak. Chelsea came out hungry early putting some good chances on goal but couldn’t get find the back of the net. Newcastle responded with their own chances but all couldn’t capitalize. The breakthrough for Chelsea came in the 89th minute when Havertz took Jorghino’s ball over the top and slotted it in goal.

Everton (0) vs. Wolves (1)

Both teams played a highly contested match trading chances throughout but it took an unlikely goal-scorer to determine the result. Everton was the closest to scoring the first goal of the match in the 6th minute when Richarlison had a close-range opportunity at goal but was denied by José Sá. João Moutinho and Raúl Jiménez both had opportunities at goal before the half but they could not get past Jordan Pickford. Four minutes after the second-half kickoff, Rúben Neves found a running Connor Coady with his cross who headed the ball into the goal. That was all that was needed for Wolves to walk away from Goodison Park with a victory.

Leeds (2) vs. Norwich City (1)

Leeds find their first win under new manager Jesse Marsch in stoppage time. Rodrigo Moreno put Leeds ahead in the fourteenth minute and it looked as if Leeds would have their first victory in the bag. But, Norwich found their equalizer in the first minute of stoppage time from Kenny McLean. Now, it looked as if both teams would walk away with a point but Joe Gelhardt tapped in Raphina’s centring pass. It was a crucial victory for Leeds to stay out of relegation but also to snap their losing streak.

Southampton (1) vs. Watford (2)

Watford takes advantage of a slumping Southampton to take the victory and important points to get out of relegation. Cucho Hernández scored twice in the first half giving a two-goal lead. Just before the half whistle, Mohamed Elyounoussi cut the deficit to one goal. Ben Foster stood tall in his goal in the second half, not allowing any goals past him to give his team a crucial victory.

West Ham (2) vs. Aston Villa (1)

An emotional victory by the Hammers keeps them within striking distance of fourth place. A deadlocked first half led to an important second half. West Ham was the first to break the deadlock in the 70th minute when substitute Andriy Yarmolenko took Said Benrahma’s pass cleverly spun around to put it in the goal. Yarmolenko, a Ukrainian player, was brought to tears during his goal celebration. His teammates rallied around him consoling him after his emotional celebration. Pablo Fornals put the Hammers up by two in the 82nd minute. Aston Villa got their goal in the 90th minute but it was too late to surge a comeback.

Arsenal (2) vs. Leicester City (0)

A dominant victory by Arsenal continues their stranglehold of the fourth spot in the Premier League. A goal by Thomas Partey in the eleventh minute put the Gunners ahead early. Leicester put some pressure on Aaron Ramsdale when Harvey Barnes challenged Ramsdale twice, once off a shot on target and the second a header on goal. A second-half foul in the box by Leicester gave Arsenal a penalty kick. Alexandre Lacazette scored the penalty kick providing Arsenal with a two-goal lead and breaking his scoring slump. The Gunners take back the fourth place spot from Man United and still have three matches in hand.

Crystal Palace (0) vs. Manchester City (0)

Crystal Palace frustrated Manchester City throughout the 90 minutes plus extra time of the match. The team in white could not penetrate the team defence of Palace and when they managed an opportunity Vincente Guaita was there to stop the chance. The frustration was evident in the final minutes of the match when mistakes were made by City, the players would look around to look for someone to blame or they were crying out in frustration. Pep Guardiola seemed to have made up his mind that the players on the field put out that disappointing performance that they would need to solve it themselves. He made no substitutions in the entirety of the match. On the other hand, Palace got the better of City in both matches, at home and away, not allowing Man City to score in either match. The result for City is incredibly disappointing because Liverpool is breathing down their necks and are only four points behind.

Oksana Chusovitina: A Gymnastics Icon

Gymnastics is an extremely difficult and demanding sport, requiring strength, flexibility, stamina, and balance. As such, the athletes competing at an elite level are generally younger in age. For women’s gymnastics in particular the typical age range is very finite, as Olympic athletes are most often between age 16 and their mid-20’s. Given these demographics, Oksana Chusovitina’s accomplishments in the gymnastics world are quite extraordinary. Chusovitina, who is currently 46 years old, is still competing in 2022! She has competed in eight Olympic games and has represented the Soviet Union, Germany, and Uzbekistan.

Her gymnastics career began in 1982 at the age of seven. By the time she was 13, she won the all-around gold medal at the USSR National Championships (Junior Division). Her first Olympics was in Barcelona in 1992, where she won a team gold medal. She also won a silver medal in vault at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. To date, she has participated in 17 World Championships and has earned 11 medals at Worlds between 1991 and 2011. Throughout her career she has become a vault specialist, with the majority of her medals being earned on this apparatus.

After the London 2012 Olympics, Chusovitina stated that she would be retiring from gymnastics and would spend her time coaching from then on. In London, she had not earned a medal, coming in fifth place in the vault finals. The London Olympics marked her sixth appearance at an Olympic Games. Given how many times she had already been to the Olympics, it is only natural that she would be considering retiring from gymnastics at age 36. However, Chusovitina decided to return to competition, despite her earlier announcement. She went on to train for the Rio 2016 Olympics and broke multiple records by participating in these Games. She officially became the oldest athlete to ever take part in an Olympics at that point (41 years and 2 months), and also became the first athlete to compete in seven consecutive Olympics. She placed seventh on vault in Rio. After the 2016 Olympics, Chusovitina once again announced that she would continue her training for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

In Tokyo, Chusovitina unfortunately did not qualify for the vault finals, coming in 14th place. At this point, she declared that she would be retiring at the culmination of these Olympics. Chusovitina cannot seem to keep herself away from gymnastics though, as she again came out of retirement just a few months after the Tokyo Games. Most recently, she competed in the 2022 Artistic Gymnastics World Cup in Doha, Qatar where she won gold on the vault just this month. She has also stated that she will be training for the upcoming Asian Games in September. It is mesmerizing to watch Chusovitina as she continues on her accomplished and lengthy career. Her commitment to gymnastics and her ability to remain competing at such a high level for so many years is an unprecedented and remarkable achievement. She truly is a gymnastics legend.

UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final Draw

The Round of 16 had many ups-and-downs throughout. The top three teams advance with (almost) no issues. Bayern Munich dominated RB Salzburg in the second leg to take it 8-2 on aggregate. Manchester City’s first leg drubbing of Sporting CP was more then enough to advance.

Liverpool had a bit of a nail biter situation in their second leg match. They were going into the match with a two nil score on aggregate when Inter Milan scored the first goal in the 61st minute. They had a lot of time to find the second goal but a unadvised second yellow for Alexis Sánchez dashed Inter’s hopes.

Solid victories by both Chelsea and Atlético Madrid advanced them both the quarters. Upsets by Benfica and Villarreal allow their Cinderella stories to continue for another round.

The story of the round was Real Madrid putting the comeback of the Champions League on PSG. PSG looked poised to walk into the quarter-finals after Kylian Mbappé scored his goal in the first half, but a choke job of epic proportions by PSG and a stunning performance by Karim Benzema sealed a late victory of the match and on aggregate to advance Real Madrid to the next round.

The draw took place on Friday to determine not only quarter-finals and the bracket to the finals. As there are no seedings and country protection in this draw. All eight teams could be drawn against any of the other seven teams.

There was no controversy in this draw and the match ups go as followed:

  • Chelsea vs. Real Madrid
  • Manchester City vs. Atlético Madrid
  • Villarreal vs. Bayern Munich
  • Benfica vs. Liverpool

The marquee match up of the quarter-finals will be Chelsea and Real Madrid. Two heavy weights looking to book their tickets to the next round. Chelsea are the defending champions and moved past LOSC Lille with ease and Real Madrid are up against another “big” team for the second round in a row.

On the same side of the bracket, Manchester City will take on Atlético Madrid. Atléti will travel to the north-western city of Manchester in back-to-back rounds but will be looking at a more formidable opponent then the struggling United team. After an easy dismantling of Sporting CP in the previous round, City will take on a team that they hope they can handle as easily.

This bracket could create a two enticing match ups in the semi-finals. It could be a rematch of last year’s final between Chelsea and Manchester United or it could be an El Derbi Madrileño (or Madrid Derby).

On the other side of the bracket, it seems like both high profile teams were lucky to get a tilted draw. Both Bayern Munich and Liverpool drew Villarreal and Benfica respectively. It’ll be two David vs. Goliath match ups. If everything goes as planned, it will be a highly anticipated match up between two teams that are at the top of their domestic leagues and also top teams in Europe. But, we can also have Cinderella stories if either Villarreal and Benfica were to advance to the semi-finals.

Fixtures

Chelsea vs. Real Madrid

  • April 6 @ Stamford Bridge (UK)
  • April 12 @ Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (Spain)

Manchester City vs. Atlético Madrid

  • April 5 @ Etihad Stadium (UK)
  • April 13 @ Estadio Metropolitano (Spain)

Villarreal vs. Bayern Munich

  • April 6 @ Estadio de la Cerámica (Spain)
  • April 12 @ Allianz Arena (Germany)

Benfica vs. Liverpool

  • April 5 @ Estádio da Luz (Portugal)
  • April 13 @ Anfield (UK)

UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Second Leg Wrap Up

A rule change was created for this year’s Champions League knockout rounds, the removal of the away goals. Surprisingly, after the first leg, there are only two teams that would prefer to have that rule back in place for this campaign. Sporting CP is taking a five-nil score on aggregate into the Etihad Stadium in their second leg match. Scoring three goals rather than five would be a much more manageable task for the Portuguese champions. The other team would be Inter Milan, the reigning Italian champions who are carrying a one-goal two-goal deficit on aggregate into Anfield and would prefer to only score one goal to bring the match into penalties and two goals to move onto the quarterfinals.

Bayern Munich (7) vs. RB Salzburg (1) – Aggregate (8-2)

Bayern Munich showed that the first leg match-up was a fluke. The last match was a 1-1 draw in which RB Salzberg scored first and held the lead until the final minute when Kingsley Coman found the back of the net. In this match, it was all Bayern all the time. Robert Lewandowski re-wrote the Champions League record books in the first half an hour of the match. He scored the fastest hat trick in UCL history, scoring his three goals in 9 minutes. Gnarby, Müller and Sané joined the party scoring their own goals giving the Bavarian squad seven goals. RB Salzburg could only manage a single goal on the night off a brilliant top bins strike by Mauritis Kjaergaard.

Liverpool (0) vs. Inter Milan (1) – Aggregate (2-1)

Inter Milan had some work to do in this second leg after a miserable performance in the first leg. They were down two-nil on aggregate. Unfortunately, the rule change that UEFA implemented this year removes the away goal advantage and therefore, Inter would need to find two goals to get a draw. At the beginning of the match, it would prove difficult for Inter to find two goals as Liverpool had decided to play the match using a mostly defensive tactic throughout. But, Liverpool was sloppy with their play and gave Inter chances to capitalize on goal. It took until the 61st minute for Inter Milan to get their much-needed first goal but they immediately dashed their chances for a second one when Alexis Sanchez received his second yellow and a red card two minutes after their goal was scored. Liverpool could breathe a sigh of relief and hold onto the lead on aggregate until the final whistle.

Real Madrid (3) vs. PSG (1) – Aggregate (3-2)

A total meltdown by PSG in the final half-hour of the match cost them an opportunity to move onto the quarterfinals. The match began with a goal by Kylian Mbappé, who was the storyline for the first leg in Paris. He is also rumoured to be going to Madrid in the summer on a free transfer. All signs pointed to another showcase of what’s to come for Real Madrid. In the second half is when the collapse began, it started with a mistake by Donnarumma, who mishandled the pass back from his defenders because of the pressure from Karim Benzema. Vinicius Jr. was the recipient of the mistake and fed Benzema in the area to tie the match and bring the disadvantage on aggregate to one goal. It was not over for Benzema, he found the back of the goal again in the 76th minute to bring Real Madrid to a draw on aggregate. Less than a minute later, he iced the series for Madrid with his sensational hat trick goal.

Manchester City (0) vs. Sporting CP (0) – Aggregate (5-0)

It was an insurmountable feat for Sporting CP to have any opportunity to move on to the Champions League. They conceded five goals at home in the first leg and without the “away goals rule”, they had to score five goals to bring it to penalties and six goals to move on. Unfortunately, they could not even find a single goal on the night. They actually conceded a goal in the second half that was later disallowed by VAR due to an offside.

Machester City (0) vs. Atlético Madrid (1) – Aggregrate (1-2)

In this first of two matches of the evening that were tied on aggregate after the first leg, Manchester United and Atlético Madrid were both looking to a positive push to their disappointing season as of late. United are in a heated battle for the fourth spot in the Premier League but have been struggling in their performances and have turmoil in their dressing room. Atlético, the current LaLiga champions, have struggled to replicate their form of last year falling down the table due to poor performance. Since the first leg, Atléti has been on a positive upturn moving up to fourth in the LaLiga table. In the first half of the match, the play was tight with both teams trading chances. It was the 41st minute when the deadlock was broken by Atlético. Antoine Griezmann fed Renan Lodi with a brilliant cross that needed a simple header to find the back of the goal. In the second half, United played poorly and constantly argued to the referee as Atlético were working their time-wasting tactics. This result marks the first time that Cristiano Ronaldo was eliminated from the Champions League by Atlético Madrid.

Ajax (0) vs. Benfica (1) – Aggregate (2-3)

Benfica only needed one shot on goal to advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Ajax dominated every aspect of this match; possession, shots and shots on target. But, they could not get score a goal that counted. Early in the match, Ajax found the back of the goal but it was called back due to an offensive offside. After this chance, their shots either went wide of the goal or were saved by Odysseas Vlachodimos. It was in the 77th minute that Benfica broke the hearts of the Ajax faithful. A free-kick at the side of the box led to a set play that Darwin Núñez perfectly timed his run to just beat Ajax keeper Onana to the ball with his head. Benfica was able to hold on the rest of the way for a victory. Ajax will be ruing their chances in both legs that they could not capitalize on that would have pushed them over the edge and into the quarterfinals.

Lille (1) vs. Chelsea (2) – Aggregate (1-4)

Lille needed to find two goals in this leg to draw on aggregate and force overtime. They made a positive step towards that goal when they were awarded a penalty kick after Jorginho used his elbow to block the ball in the area. Burak Yılmaz lined up for the shot and found an opening past Mendy. Unfortunately for Lille, Christian Pulisic scored in extra after forty-five minutes to tie the match. In the second half, it was back-and-forth play with Lille desperate to score another goal to minimize the deficit. César Azpilicueta had other ideas in the 71st minute putting the dagger in Lille’s chances to move on. Despite the chaos surrounding Chelsea due to the sanctions the UK government has put against their team and their owner, they proved that they are a resilient bunch and move onto the quarterfinals.

Juventus (0) vs. Villarreal (3) – Aggregate (1-4)

Juventus were all over Villarreal for roughly seventy-eight minutes of the match but a penalty kick awarded to Villarreal completely turned the tables. Dušan Vlahović and the rest of the Juve squad were pressuring Villarreal almost scoring in the first few minutes of the match but it was the woodwork and Gerónimo Rulli that denied Juve. In the 78th minute, Villarreal was awarded a penalty after Juventus defender Daniele Rugani stuck his leg out tripping Francis Coquelin in the box. Gerard Moreno took the penalty kick putting Villarreal ahead with twenty minutes to go. A second goal seven minutes later gave Villarreal a two-goal lead and finally a hand-ball penalty in stoppage times by Juve extended the lead to three. A complete collapse by Juventus caused a shocking result in Turin allowing the underdog team in Villarreal to advance to the quarters.