HELSINKI — Auston Matthews had a hat trick to lead the United States to a 7-0 victory over the Czech Republic on Saturday in the quarterfinals of the world junior championship.
"Everybody on the ice helped me. My linemates played unbelievably," said Matthews, 18, who plays professionally in Switzerland and is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft in June. (See Tom Jones' 10 athletes to watch in 2016, 1C)
The United States faces Russia in the semifinals Monday, and Finland faces Sweden. Russia beat Denmark 4-3 in overtime, Finland edged defending champion Canada 6-5, and Sweden beat Slovakia 6-0.
Nick Schmaltz, Christian Dvorak, Scott Eansor and Alex DeBrincat also scored for the Americans, and Alex Nedeljkovic made 28 saves for his first shutout of the tournament. Schmaltz plays for North Dakota, Dvorak for London in the Ontario junior league, Eansor for Seattle in the Western junior league, DeBrincat for Erie in the Ontario League, and Nedeljkovic for Niagara in the Ontario League.
"Couldn't ask for a better game," Nedeljkovic said.
For once, a typical EPL day
Normality was restored in the most unpredictable of Premier League seasons as Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United won to kick off 2016, with two of English football's biggest stars grabbing winners after lean spells.
But victory didn't come easily for the three heavyweights as the hectic holiday schedule closed.
Host Arsenal dispensed with its typically silky football and toughed out a 1-0 win over Newcastle, through a goal from defender Laurent Koscielny, to move into first, two points ahead of Leicester.
Manchester City scored twice in the final eight minutes in coming from behind to beat Watford 2-1 for its first road win since September. Sergio Aguero, last season's top scorer and the most lethal striker in the division, scored the winner with his first goal since Nov. 21.
That was the date Man United last won in the league before a 2-1 win over visiting Swansea, sealed by a moment of brilliance by Wayne Rooney. The England captain flicked in a deft finish for his first United goal in two months, which put him second outright in the all-time scoring lists at United (238) and in the league (188).
"It is amazing," United manager Louis van Gaal said, "and that at the age of 30."
Leicester failed to keep pace with Arsenal after being held to a 0-0 tie at home by 10-man Bournemouth and is now without a win in three games, fulfilling many pundits' predictions that its surprisingly strong start to the season wouldn't last. Riyad Mahrez missed a penalty for Leicester, which is a point ahead of Man City.
United — owned by the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs — stayed in fifth place, two points behind Tottenham, which visits Everton today.
Horses: Flexibility dominated the $200,000 Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct, kicking off the New York road for 3-year-olds heading to the Triple Crown. Flexibility earned 10 qualifying points toward a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby. The colt trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. rallied four wide to earn his second win in four starts.
Tennis: The leadup tournaments to Australian Open begin today with the Brisbane International, which includes defending champions Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova. The the Australian Open starts Jan. 18.
We met 2016 holding sparklers in the garden, trying to get them to light up at the precise moment the clocked ticked twelve and we could say for sure that 2015 was behind us. Over the fence, beside our property near the bay, a man fired two red signal flares used by sailors in distress. They arced upward in a blaze and come back to earth slowly, like burning leafs.
Someone pointed at the sky and said something maudlin about the possibilities of 2016 and where this new air should take us, but nobody was much interested in that. The first hour of the New Year was spent doing what we’d done for most of the year previous, drinking at nighttime and talking about the things that went wrong during the day.
The distress flares worked as a glowing allegory for this new age in which so much is about shooting for greatness, for wellness, and often finding a natural anti-climax. And ours being a sporting bunch, the flares preceded a discussion about the anti-climaxes of 2015 according to the field of dreams.
Of my favourite misfires, the first happened early in the year at the Australian Open. An enthusiastic manager at Rod Laver Arena was informed that Kenny Rogers, the ailing country singer, would be in attendance at Andy Murray’s match. He cued the Gambler to play over the speaker system upon Rogers’ arrival, which coincided with Murray’s bluster, talking into the palm of his hand and wearing the expression of a tired child. He missed a forehand to lose a tight game and it was then, at the change of ends, that Rogers began his journey down the stairs.
The Gambler rang out and the big screen drew our attention to Rogers’ struggle. It was embarrassing for Rogers, who took about two minutes to reach his seat. A few people clapped him but Murray was not among them. He turned to face Rogers with his hands on his hips, letting the old boy know whose show this was. Kenny gave him a little wave but Murray was bouncing a ball on his racquet, far away inside the crazed mind of a tennis star where the universe moves around him and his routine, and the strange etiquettes of his sport.
Someone else nominated the Ashes series, and Michael Clarke’s retirement, which was among the neatest anti-climaxes of 2015. Clarke’s was a rapid descent to the finish line, followed by the tasteless rumours that his presence would not be missed. The English preyed on his late batting fragility, then Clarke resided over two of the more definitive Ashes defeats in memory and retired. Maybe it was a bitter taste of the real world calling him on, his back pain a signal flare for a new era.
Jarryd Hayne’s first moment in the NFL was another beautiful anti-climax. The dropped punt return is among the worst and most visible mistakes a player can make in the NFL. His parade into Americana, the "Hayne Plane", the hash-tagging and the fulltime coverage of his efforts lead, perhaps inexorably, to that outcome – a lost chance in prime time and then a cascade of "Shake it off" references on Twitter.
Then there was Roger Federer at Wimbledon, after all this time, managing again to lose the final after playing some of the most harmonic tennis I’d ever seen against Novak Djokovic. Watching Federer lose on grass is like watching money burn. It had me thinking of the rich boys on a yacht near San Sebastian I’d seen, opening thousand-dollar bottles of Champagne and pouring them into the sea just because they could afford it. What a glorious waste.
Naturally, the AFL Grand Final found its place around the table, but I was there, and I did see something inspiring in Hawthorn’s performance despite the one-sided nature of the game. It was like being shown the inner makings of a Swiss watch, every tiny movement the result of another, equally fine and well measured.
But I think by way of definition, and since he was the highest paid athlete in the world in 2015, Floyd Mayweather’s fight against Manny Pacquiao has to reside near the heart of the topic. The fight was delayed for years, deliberately to maximise the obscene money it generated, and when at last it happened there could only ever be disappointment.
It was one of those peculiar cases in which one felt compelled to watch but somehow repelled at the same time by the trick of paying for it, for contributing to that great wealth, in the way one can feel about watching Star Wars at the cinema.
I cannot say honestly I didn’t enjoy anything about that bout, since Mayweather’s defence and timing was still remarkable at his ripened age. But according to the International Business Times, he made something in the air of $220 million that night, without getting hurt or hurting his opponent. That fight said something to me about the sporting age we’ve entered, the one of extreme business moves, of advertising and exaggeration.
What I anticipate most in 2016 is the athletics at Rio, and the sight of Usain Bolt crouched in the lights, waiting for the gun to send him into the climax of his running life.